I have officially entered post-Camino-zombie phase. After Camino number one in 2009, I had one full day at home with my family before boarding a southbound airplane and launching into a “getting to know you”-new-job situation. So as strange as I feel now, I am grateful for the silence of my living room, the promise of at-home work (which will hopefully be more than “promise” soon), and the freedom to be a zombie.
There is one part of my mind that is still seeing the rolling hills and endless wheat fields, and another part of my brain that is desperately trying to remember the details of everything that happened there. I attributed my last post-Camino crash to a pretty lousy break up that commenced two days after reaching Santiago, but now I wonder if this feeling happens either way. I just feel lost, confused by the silence around me while I’m home and confused by the chatter when I go out. I’m used to heading into a town square and knowing half the people around me–if not by name, then by nickname–like “the twins with the hats” or “Irish guy with rolling backpack.” We were known as a variety of things as well–Jersey girls, academic girls, and who knows what else.
On the Camino, you can learn the deepest, most intimate details of someone’s life before knowing their name.
I remember all this, and yet it also feels like a distant, emotionless dream. It’s as if my brain is trying to protect me from processing the magnitude of it all. Because at the end of the day, it’s a fiercely difficult trip. Sitting around a bar table with strangers-turned-family balances out the pain, but there still is a great deal of pain. I am still addressing a persistent blister on the back of my right foot that has been holding strong for over two and half weeks now. And yesterday I was only able to loop the block once with knees that refuse to fully straighten. It’s worth noting that I was catcalled a whopping three times during this walk, to which I wanted to yell, “I finally left my house today, don’t ruin this for me!” But alas, I did not.
I have a friend that is walking the Camino right now. She is probably somewhere around Logroño. I can see the terrain she’s dealing with in my mind, the albergues she chooses from. And it’s as if I can always sense that she and fellow pilgrims are currently living the daily life that is behind me.
I don’t want to be back there, but I don’t really know how to be here yet either. I want to walk in those fields with the safe mindset of being home. But you can’t get both, it wouldn’t work. So if you find me hobbling around downtown Montclair looking lost without yellow arrows to point the way, please point me in the direction of my house so I come home and focus on work.
Above all, I am struggling to find the right way to assist in fighting against this past weekend’s horrors. I am disgusted by them, infuriated by them, and aware that remaining temporarily paralyzed is an unbalanced privilege. But I have hope that I will continue to emerge from this fog and find a way to channel the message of the Camino itself and the passionate community of international pilgrims that cared for me for 34 days. Spending time in a Western European country reminded me of the rare blessing we have in the US. While waiting in the JFK, American-citizens customs line, I watched people of all skin tones, all types and characters, women in hijabs, men in yarmulkes, girls in tube tops–all waiting together to go home. I explained to many fellow pilgrims that we are asked in middle school, “Where does you family come from?” We discuss our roots. We learn from each other, we try each other’s food, we build off one another’s rich experiences from different corners of the planet. We are the whole earth in one spot. And I was always met with amazement. What we have here is truly amazing.
I know I am preaching to the choir. I also know I am not currently doing enough to fight this upsurge of white supremacy hatred, but with each day, my energy returns I will look for another opportunity to act. In the meantime, I will be amazed at our rare, beautiful diversity more than ever before and continue to grow from the stunning differences around me. And very soon, I will step up in protecting it with the rest of my inspiring community.