Last week, Justin shared about his most challenging parts of our journey. It’s true that no two Caminos are the same, and as Justin mentioned, our perspectives on the challenges of our journey differ. Here are my thoughts on my most challenging moments of our wheelchair journey through Spain.
Struggles come in many shapes and sizes. The challenges of life sometimes push us to our physical limitations, others have us questioning our purpose, and still others bring us to the brink of emotional or mental depletion. The Camino generously provided all of the above for me.
As we travel, we often participate in Q and A after we speak. Anytime someone asks me what the hardest part of our journey was, my first answer is always the Pyrenees. Day one we faced a total of 17 miles with 4000 feet of elevation gain and a 250-pound fully loaded wheelchair. Half way up the 13-mile ascent I felt pain unlike any I had experienced. Three knee surgeries had left little to no cartilage in my right knee and the constant abuse I was putting my body through was more than I was prepared to face. But the stretches of mud we hit set all my muscles on fire. Every inch of my arms, body, and legs felt the burn from the constant strain. I still don’t know how Justin, Ted and I made it to Roncesvalles that first day.
While the Pyrenees presented the greatest physical challenge, the amount of self-reflection I experienced on the Camino forced me to take a serious look at who I was and I didn’t like what I saw. For years I viewed my self as a provider for my family. I had put bread on the table and helped make sure the bills were paid. My kids had clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads, but for several years I had failed to visibly express my love to my wife and kids in a way that left no room for doubt. I hadn’t provided in a way that met one of their most basic needs. My purpose, first and foremost, is to love and I hadn’t done that well.
Shortly after I came to terms with who I was for my family, versus who they deserve and who I want to be; I faced a moment where I realized my constant need for control, my obsession with perfection had actually prevented me from experiencing more in life. This same need for control and perfection had prevented me from letting others step in and freely help. That is until we reached a moment where the only way to move forward was through the strength and will power of others carrying Justin up a mountain.
Just as Justin had to embrace my help and the help of many others to do what he could not do on his own. One of the greatest gifts I could give my friend was to allow others to do what I could not do on my own. This was the only way we were going to make it to Santiago, and it’s the only we can make it through life.
As tough as the journey was I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The hardest moments of the Camino showed me that I had more strength than I thought I possessed. They held a mirror to my face showing me who I could be versus who I was. The struggles gave me the strength to let go of the reigns of what I thought was safe and the wisdom to let others carry what I am not equipped to carry... when we do this; we experience more than we ever could on our own.