As you walk the Camino, you pass pilgrim graffiti – thoughts, advice, and quotes scrawled on walls, bridges, and signs by those who have passed before you. Like this:
I saw one the other day that said “Camino de Santiago: The first third heals your body, the second third heals your heart, the last third heals your soul.”
I don’t know yet about my heart and soul, but I really hope it’s right about the body. The first week was basically non-stop physical suffering, which is not what I had expected at all! I thought I was a pretty fit, healthy person, who could coast through 15-20 miles a day thanks to generally being in shape. And I thought I had read enough blogs and planned carefully for blisters, sunburn, rain, cold, or whatever else might come my way. Probably all of that has helped – who knows how much harder this would be if I didn’t have the gear I do, or if I hadn’t been running marathons and doing triathlons the past few years. But there is really nothing that can prepare you for walking the Camino de Santiago other than… walking the Camino de Santiago.
So… I am in pain. I thought I had experienced every body pain possible from running, but my muscles are sore in a totally different way, and I have chafing in places I didn’t know existed.
What is causing me the most suffering, though, is one deep blister on the back on my left heel. I kept popping it, and it kept returning. My planning and preparation wasn’t as complete as I had thought. Every pilgrim along the route gave me their opinion, and I tried many of them, but nothing seemed to work. I had to hobble along using a stick as a support, and felt like a huge failure. Finally, in a fit of rage, I took a knife to it. A bunch of blister gunk rushed out, the pressure was released, and it started to heal.
The same day, an emotional blister seemed to pop, as well. I found myself inexplicably crying all day long. I had had to rely on others for help, which is really hard for me, so that had me feeling vulnerable. I was simultaneously struggling with loneliness and with the stress of being around so many other people. I was dealing with feelings of failure and inadequacy. There was a lot going on, and I don’t totally understand it all. Maybe this marks the beginning of the second third, and the healing of my heart? For the sake of my chafed, blistered, and sore body, I sure hope so.