(Keeping to my pledge to write thirty-four blogs, one every Monday, on how the Camino continues to affect my life– the same number as the days I walked the 500-mile pilgrimage)
Recently someone asked if I had made friends on the Camino and if we were still in touch. The answer is both yes and no– to both questions.
Yes we made Camino friends. It was so easy to share introductions, to compare our journeys, to share our joys and challenges of walking the Way. The path itself was a path of Love, as the priest in San Juan de Ortega told us that night we ate a peasant soup of garlic and bread. I didn’t like everyone I met, but there was an underlying sense of wishing them well, of Buen Camino, of the fellowship of this ancient pilgrimage path. I name so many of those friends in the book, but we did not exchange contact information. Our time of friendship was for the moment and that seems perfect to me now. And yet, each of those Camino friends is still with me. I hadn’t realized this until I sat down to write. They were brief friendships, but not casual. Somehow a whiff of each of their souls lingers in me. It is sweet and precious and authentic. Strange how I only know this now, sense the Love that bound us, and has endured in me. I walk with them yet.
I value friendship so deeply. I have friends from high school, college, P.T. school, spiritual director training, and seminary that have endured as well. And such good friends in my Alaska life. However, I have realized over time that being a good friend for me partly came from an ego need and fear. If I have a lot of friends, I must be a good person. If I am a good friend, I will be loved, safe, and belong. If I felt a friend drifting away, I would feel intense anxiety. If I lost a friendship, I felt adrift, even when I knew it was a friendship that had been good for a time, but didn’t fit anymore. I don’t judge that. But slowly over the years, I learned I can be a good friend, but it doesn’t serve as my identity or as a way of finding love. If I let that baggage fall from my hands, I am much freer to be with my friends just as they are and just as I am. There is such a deeper richness in friendship that feels true to the Love I felt on the Camino.
Perhaps it is best expressed in a card by Amber Lotus Publishing illustrated by Michael Green (michaelgreenarts.com).
A VOW OF FRIENDSHIP
I HONOR YOUR PATH
I DRINK FROM YOUR WELL
I BRING AN UNPROTECTED HEART TO OUR MEETING PLACE
I HOLD NO CHERISHED OUTCOME
I WILL NOT NEGOTIATE BY WITHHOLDING
I AM NOT SUBJECT TO DISAPPOINTMENT
My little Camino is to bring this vow ever more truly into my friendships. Bringing freedom and joy and peace.
I am adding a photo of friends of 40 years, plus or minus, who have helped me with this vow, who don’t mind camping in the rain or listening to my pain, who laugh often, and who hold me with open hearts. And I just can be myself. Blessed Be.