“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
It truly was. I started the year in 2015 believing it was, well …, quite shit really. I also believed it was a year that would end well. A year ending well takes effort, it takes striving, it takes the commitment that is equivalent to one of turning the ship around. There were good intervening bits, in amongst the really shit bits. Sorry for swearing. I have started with the drinking early. It is only 3.28 pm where I am.
2015 is for me a year of learning. I learned to forget the past. To forget the past, I learned to create new memories – to jam those memories in so that there are new “pasts” in between the present and “that” past. This is what I learned.
I learned that betrayal hurts – really hurts. Not that I am a cynic, and not that I want to create more stories. I know it happened because I kept diary notes. But I learned that when a friend betrays you, stabs you to your face – well, that really hurts. I’ve known intellectually that something like that hurts. But I’ve really never known how much it actually hurts. And I’ve learned that it takes time to heal – to grieve and to heal. And I’ve learned that betrayal can hurt so much, that when you say “go to hell”, you really mean that. And what’s more what you really mean is “you can fucking GO. TO. HELL.” and if I had a voodoo doll, I would have stabbed it a million times over.
I have learned that there are some really nasty people out there. Not to be too negative. This is my positive take – to remember that there are some really nasty people out there. I used to live in a world where I believed that all people had good intentions and that they mean well, that no matter how disrespectful they have been, that it is possible to keep forging forward, to find a place of commitment that they are coming from. I learned that I was naive. I learned that nothing, that is no thing, is gained when they only stand from their own unconscious place of nastiness. Note, I’m not using the words “good” and “bad”. “Nasty” has it’s own dimension of human behaviour. People can be nasty and they don’t need a reason why. They just find it fun to be nasty. This is the year I learned how nasty people can be and what they would trade their soul for.
So this is the year I learned to stop and do nothing. Well, not completely nothing. I went on a very long walk. Those people were so nasty, they had well and truly gotten under my skin. I had so many showers but I couldn’t scrub them away. So for 1 year, I stopped and did nothing – well, not a lot. And I struggled in my nothingness. It took me a long time to settle, until The Shift.
It is most uncomfortable to stand in nothing-ness, of doing nothing, being nothing and seeing nothing. And of nothing being in your control, nor you in control of anything. SO. VERY. HARD.
I learned about intentional living. Yes, it was hard at first. It was hard to do when your head keeps telling you it is impossible. It is hard to do until the shift happens. The shift is the answer that sits behind a veil – nebulous, difficult to grasp. You can see it, and when you try to touch it, it’s not there. It’s not there, until it’s there. The shift happens only when acceptance happens. This year, I learned to accept that I was betrayed by nasty people.
This all sounds very bad, I know, and terribly negative. It’s not really, when I think about it. I’m just being matter-of-fact now of what was. It was … not good. But I can now write about it, and this is good.
Doing – The Power of Re-invention
This year, I learned the power of re-invention, that it is possible to keep re-inventing yourself. And that the only way to do this is by doing – anything. Just do. Anything. I re-learned my strengths, my focus, my determination. I learned to re-fill the well, and tap into my power. I learned intentional living. From stopping completely and starting again, I learned to only bring into my life the things that I want in my life. I throw everything else out. How I learned this, I know not how. I only know that I started with a long walk, a walk that some of you followed during the year. I just walked. And walked and walked. And as I started to lighten the load in my backpack, so it is that I started to lighten the load in my house. Everything in my house is there because I want it there. And if I’m iffy about it, then I know it is time for me to deal with it.
The Camino de Santiago transformed me from a person lost to a person doing, and through a person doing, a person found. I don’t know that I found God on the camino, though I did find the companionship of comraderie through a cause united. It helped re-energise me, and allowed me access to a method of finding peace in my life. From a person with very little interest in much else, I feel transformed to a new hobby, new friends and to a method of very cheap travel.
This year I learned about digging deep. That though the well is empty, still it’s possible to dig deep, especially if you are saying “Fuck you” as you dig. So sorry for the swearing again. Did I mention? I had started drinking early. Besides, they say that swearing is a sign of intelligence. And swearing helps get the anger out. And yes, I still sometimes feel just a little bit angry.
It would have been so easy to go down the bitter path, but I did not want that. I don’t want an invisible ball and chain wearing me down. I did not want to live a life of avoidance. Eg. I’m going to avoid anyone who wears sunglasses because it reminds me of the ex-entity. You know what, it really takes something to reach a level of peacefulness around not hating anyone who wears sunglasses. It takes something to restore the belief that people are basically good,… Except when they are not. So I’m here to tell you, tell me, that I did that. I found the strength. I have accepted that I cannot change the past. But I can change the future. So I am finding the strength to write a new ending. I think this is where the good bits come in – I am so, so glad to say. Especially because, 365 days ago, I really do not know that I could say that.
So I hope you can be with me, even if it is to say “bravo” for the year that was, and to celebrate with me coming out of the year that was, into the year that is. Because the truth is, I have had great moments, and this year, more than any other year before, I feel grateful for those treasured moments. And it is these moments that also define my year – the result of doing, anything, in order to expand the horizon. And it says a lot (I think) about who I am.
I stepped out of my comfort zone. I walked 820 km on the Camino Frances, from the base of the French Pyrenees to the End of the Earth. Why? Well, if the elephants could do it, then so surely can I. Besides, I wanted to see to botufumeiro swing not as a tourist but as a pilgrim who had walked miles to be there. I climbed a mountain, and walked across a country. I did things I’d never done before like backpack, travel solo and stayed in hostels.
I did it not just once, but 2 other times, though shorter – one week each. I felt so happy to have been accompanied by my son, and for me to have found a way to bond with him as he grows up through his teenage years. But though I walked only a week each on the 2 subsequent journeys, I felt the entire epic journey of the Frances, and I felt good. I felt contentment.
I fulfilled a dream I had forgotten about. Seeing Spandau Ballet was amazing. I felt so happy. I couldn’t believe that I was seeing them live. It was the fulfilment of a dream long ago, so long, I didn’t even remember I had it. It reminded me of youth, of hope.
I spent time with an admired thought leader and author of 3 New York Times number 1 bestseller titles – Brene Brown. My mind expanded and my heart grew. I feel privileged and grateful to have had the opportunity. Amazing, amazing.
I did so many other new things, like go to my first rugby match, first Secret Cinema event which was a Star Wars event, and dined out at a lot of fancy restaurants in London. I’ve come to prioritise experiences in my life- something I think I would not have done before. I spent time with people who matter. (I am still available to be friends with all who want to befriend me. But I am more watchful of their word. You say you want to meet up for lunch but don’t contact to organise? I am observing, word and behaviour. So this is how I’ve changed. I am watchful for the littlest things. It’s not that I’m judgmental about it, but I am observant.)
And as part of this, I’m now doing something which I can’t show you in pictures – which is really trying decluttering the accumulated and thought “less” possessions out of my life. Since my return from the camino, I’ve made countless trips to the op shop, the tip, sales in eBay to move things along. Things that are still good, but take up mind space everyday as low level stress. I’m working through it, grieving each item as it is packed away but determined that it be moved on as it no longer serves a purpose and it no longer brings me joy. I do feel satisfaction when I physically walk these items to their new homes. I only want things in my life that bring me both purpose and joy – Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris.
So, this is the year that was. And for all those wondering whether this is the result of doing the camino, my answer is “it is, and it isn’t”. The desire was there to do better, be better, but the access Unknown. Looking back, I think walking the camino does give the space to think things through, or to practice a thread of thought/behaviour required for the next step. And so, it is true that without the camino, none of this would have happened for me. Or if it had, happened more slowly. So yes, I would say this is what the camino has given me.
I cannot believe 2015 is done. It’s gone so slow, yet so quick. 2016 is here. I am another year older and wiser. I would wish you joy and great things but I know it’s not possible – for who knows what they truly are? I feel now that such wishes are empty, like wishing you will meet the unicorn on your next walk. Life is as life is. A life away from unpleasantness cannot be guaranteed. Instead, I wish you memorable experiences, courage and peacefulness to stand in the face of whatever 2016 will throw at you, and for whatever you throw yourself into.