In Which I Start Worrying

Deep breaths now.

Today it is two weeks until I leave. In fact, by this late in the day, my plane will already have left Toronto. (Stopover in Montreal, then land in Paris the next morning.)

People have made several comments to me about how I must be getting nervous, and I have countered that I wasn’t really. And I don’t think I really was. Partly that was because I was procrastinating on several tasks that really needed to be done, and therefore procrastinating the worry, too. But today, waking up and realizing that departure day is getting really close… I kind of panicked. I still had a lot to do!

I have now spent too many hours scouring the Internet looking for plane or train tickets, hotel rooms, RER and metro information. I have resisted the urge to call my older sister at each turn to ask for advice on travelling through Paris. I have reminded myself that I am brave and I can do hard things, no matter how scary they seem. I have reminded myself that I have lived in France and travelled through Paris when I was 11 years younger and less wise than I am now (I hope).

 

I spent a lot of time worrying while looking for various details. I wanted the best trip, time-wise and price-wise. I wanted someone else to give me some advice so I didn’t have all the responsibility lying on my own shoulders. Despite earlier delight at a trip that really requires little planning ahead (mostly walking however far you want and then stopping in whatever albergue you can find), I bemoaned having so many options. Take the TGV? Fly? Leave Paris right away? Stay for a day to see favourite places? How long does it take to get across Paris on the RER/metro? How long should I factor in for making it through customs and collecting my bags when I first land in Paris?

Eventually I realized I had to let go of “the best way” to do things and settle for “a good way”. In the end, the smaller details won’t make enough difference to stress over like I was. And my time has got to be worth factoring in here, too.

And so, praying over the choices and committing my way to the Lord, I bought a plane ticket and a hotel stay. The train and bus ticket will be purchased along the way – I’m confident that I can do those ones easily!

 

I’m thankful for God’s reminders today:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7 NLT)

 

I just got a fortune cookie.

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I laughed when I first read it – my upcoming vacation is what is causing my worries. But this fortune is like a little inside joke from God. Don’t worry about your worrying – I’ll teach you not to worry!

In Which I Drink a Lot

I am so thirsty. Walking 30 kilometres through the middle of the day will do that to you, apparently!

I have a 2 litre bag for water that fits nicely into a special pocket in my backpack. A tube with a bite valve lies right along my shoulder, and getting a drink is the easiest thing in the world while I’m walking. Spending money getting something “fancy” (fancier than my water bottle!) was important to me because I found on my earlier training walks that I just wouldn’t bother to stop when I was thirsty. It was a production – unclip the belts, set down the backpack, drink, haul the backpack on again, clip and adjust everything.

Nice as the hydration pack is, it doesn’t solve the thirst problem completely. About 20 kilometres into my walk this past Saturday, I was sucking as hard as I could on my bite valve, but not getting any water. I figured it had a kink in the hose somewhere and found a place to sit and put my pack down. Everything was working perfectly – I had just finished all the water already. Well then. (When I was telling my parents this story, my dad found it necessary to point out that I “get” 10 kilometres out of 1 litre, which is the same mileage that my parents’ van gets – 10L/100km. Thanks, Dad.)

Since I’m not a hiking aficionado, I don’t know the best way to solve this problem. If I can find a place to refill my water, it seems to me like I will need to haul a bunch of stuff out of my backpack just to get the water bag out and then back in. I’m not quite dumb enough to try to refill it while it’s in my backpack… Any experienced hikers have good advice for me?

My walk is more than 48 hours over as I write, and yet five minutes ago I went to the kitchen yet again, filled up my water bottle, and gulped down the contents. It seems I can’t catch up with rehydrating. I drink and drink and drink, until I do not want to drink any more. But I wake up each morning so parched, and need to drink often. I suppose this isn’t really a big problem. There are lots of worse things in the world than drinking a lot of water.

 

As I continually go to refill my water bottle, I keep thinking of Jesus’ words from John 4:13-14 (MSG): Everyone who drinks this water again will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst – not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.

Mmmm. Sounds amazing!

 

And I’m off to the kitchen again to refill my water bottle.

In Which I Practice Blogging

See below for my report on today.

Now I am practising blogging from my phone, since that will be the method of the summer. So far so good, right?
I took some pictures along the way; let’s see if I can successfully post those!

Roy Thomson Hall bringing back good memories with Kair:

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That’s where I’m headed:

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Humber Bridge:

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I looked, but didn’t see Sheldon:

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On the way home, I pass a Dairy Cream…

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… a Dairy King…

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… and a Dairy Queen. Where I stopped for an ice cream cone! Which did not make up for the fact that I’d run out of water several kilometres before. Note to self: thirst + ice cream = thirst.
Still, a little sugar to get me the last three kilometres home, which are always the hardest.

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In Which I Practice Walking

Last night I packed up my backpack with everything I’m taking to Spain. Well, everything except my passport, which I left on purpose, and my nail clippers, which I left accidentally. I doubt that extra weight will be the straw that broke the camel’s back. (I guess you never know, though!)
This morning, after a terrible, restless sleep, I took the train downtown and started walking home. This has become my regular Saturday schedule, but today was significant because my backpack was finally at its full weight for the summer. I made it home successfully, without collapsing, without crying, without wishing for a swift and sudden death, AND without a sunburn. Yippee! I CAN do this!
30 kilometres is farther than I’ll walk in the average day on the Camino, so that makes me feel good about the summer. That helps balance out the knowledge that today’s walk was quite flat and on smooth sidewalks, as opposed to, say, up the Pyrenees. And it was just one day. Not 35 days in a row of walking. Woohoo! (Why do I take weird vacations?)

In Which I Make a Difficult Decision Regarding Hair Gel

Somehow, when deciding to walk the Camino this summer, it never occurred to me that I would be backpacking.

Please understand: I am pretty much the least outdoorsy person I know. My small group drags me camping most years, and I do begrudgingly enjoy it, but it is never something I would choose to do for fun if I were the one choosing the activity. Hiking and backpacking are something I NEVER would have imagined doing. But the dream of the Camino drew me in, and I had bought my airline tickets already before I realized that I would essentially be backpacking across a country.

What followed was a huge learning curve about all things outdoorsy.

Now I am all outfitted with my outdoorsy belongings: hiking boots, backpack, water pack, hat, trekking poles, good quality clothing… it’s a new experience.

I began training – walking to work and back each day was not nearly enough mileage, so long walks on weekends have become a staple. 25 kilometres on a Saturday is now a new normal. On a Saturday when I only walked 12 kilometres, I marvelled at how short that seemed, AND at how I have become a person who says things like, “I ONLY walked TWELVE kilometres yesterday.”

Amidst the training, I quickly learned how weight in a backpack is relative: the longer you walk, the heavier it gets. Walking with a backpack weighted at 25 pounds is a good way to realize that I only need to take the absolute necessities and nothing else. For the most part, this is easy to discern – one change of clothes, my hat, sunscreen, the barest of toiletries (seriously: comb, nail clippers, toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, hair elastics), flip-flops, and headlamp.

 

And then there is this tiny bottle of gel that keeps making it into the box where I’ve been gathering my supplies.

Hair gel.

My hair is a little uncontrollable if I don’t do something with it. This is what I tell myself when I put the bottle in.

Then I remind myself that this trip is definitely not about what I look like, and every bit of extra weight is dumb. I take it back out.

A few hours or days later, I think about how nice it would be to feel like I look presentable after a long day. The bottle goes back in.

Again, after a while I tell myself how ridiculous it is. I will wear my hair clipped up or in a ponytail. It’s a pilgrimage, for goodness’ sake.

 

This is such a dumb story, right? A bottle of hair gel – it’s almost inconsequential. And yet even though I know how inconsequential it is to have with me, I can’t help but keep trying to pack it, against all logic. This has made me wonder how much of my life and my decisions are controlled by, essentially, vanity. In the Case of the Hair Gel, vanity over my appearance. But in life in general, vanity of all sorts – how I appear to others. I want to appear like I’ve got all aspects of my life together, to look perfect to any outsider.

I can’t help but remember God’s words to Samuel: “For people look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

 

May I continue to learn to be unconcerned about how I appear to others, and learn to be right before God!

 

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down… (Hebrews 12:1)

In Which I Learn How to Walk

I need to learn to walk.

 

That sounds ridiculous, right? I’ve been able to walk for decades.  How hard can it be, after all?! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other!

The problem is, though, I have all these bad habits I’ve picked up over those decades of walking.  I have suffered through a knee injury and the resulting arthritis, and back issues.

As a result, I hyperextend my knees, hunch my upper back, and carry tension in my pelvis.  None of these things are too noticeable on a short walk.  I can make it through regular life without my knees or back giving me too much trouble on a regular basis.

That all changes on a long walk.  I’ve been walking 25-30 kilometre walks as part of my training the last few Saturdays.  Those long walks have been the diagnostic of what’s wrong in my gait. On a long walk, there’s no way not to notice the knee pain from constant hyperextension.  And that very naturally leads to a desire to solve the problem! (This, by the way, has led to a fascinating foray into the field of biomechanics to investigate and try to solve what’s wrong!)

 

I’ve been thinking of the parallels to spiritual life.  Over time, habits and ideas creep in, and I don’t notice them in my daily life.  They’re doing damage, but I just don’t see how in the short term.  I need a spiritual diagnostic to show me what needs correction.  A pilgrimage seems like a great way to do this – a lot of thinking time while walking, to reflect on my life, my decisions, my habits, my thinking.

 

Psalm 139 ends with these words (from The Message):

Investigate my life, O God,

find out everything about me;

Cross-examine and test me,

get a clear picture of what I’m about;

See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong –

then guide me on the road to eternal life.

 

 

What are some of the ways that you do spiritual diagnostics in your life?

 

 

One last by the way: Teen Missions friends, I think that serving on a TMI team is another fantastic spiritual diagnostic!

In Which a Destination Girl Learns to Enjoy the Journey

Walking is life at a different pace.

 

So much of my life has been spent rushing from one task to the next, one giant to-do list that is never completed.  Walking has changed that.

At the end of last summer, I bid adieu to my car, and began walking as my main mode of transportation.  Not having a car means no more excuses. I actually have to walk if I’m going to get to work. I have to walk to church.  I walk to most things I do – at least in part.  Even if I hop on a bus to run errands, at least some of the trip is done by walking.

When I walk, I am not in a rush.  It doesn’t matter how quickly I want to get somewhere, it still takes time to walk.

Walking has changed my mindset. I have begun noticing things that I never noticed in the three years of commuting from my present home to work. I can actually see things I’m passing.  Birds chirp around me.  Snow falls on me.  I get wet when it rains. People pass and greet me. I participate in the moments unfolding around me, instead of being wrapped up in road rage or contemplating the next tasks on my never-ending to-do list.

I discover a Canada goose up on top of an industrial building I pass. I actually notice it because its honk sounds like a dog barking, but I can’t see a dog around. The goose is clearly proud of itself up there, and I laugh out loud.  It is like a private joke God has made, and placed at just the time and place for me to notice and delight in his sense of humour.  Two days later, I see another goose up on top of a statue along the lakeshore. Again, I delight and laugh.

There is a place in the sidewalk where bird footprints were imprinted when the concrete was still wet.  I wonder about this – how was that bird heavy enough to leave its imprint? What happened? Why was the bird so curious about a new sidewalk? Did it survive the experience?

I meet many people as I walk.  Sometimes this is no more than eye contact and a smile as we pass.  Sometimes it is several friendly words.  Sometimes it becomes a conversation. Again – it has changed me from observer to participant in the world unfolding around me.

 

I had been pondering these thoughts for a while, and they were particularly coalescing yesterday over my long (25 kilometre) walk.  Then I ran into my newest friend Agnes on my walk home from church. Agnes lives a street over from me. I first met her about ten days ago while walking home from work.  She was bringing her groceries inside from her trunk, and I offered her a helping hand. She is a friend I would not have made while driving from place to place.

Agnes is turning 84 this summer.  As we chatted today, she said to me, “I have worked too hard all my life, and now I am too tired to enjoy what’s left of living.”

Her words stopped me short.  I am in danger of this very thing.  I am task oriented, celebrating my accomplishments and looking for meaning in success. I desperately need the reminder that life is more about the journey than the destination.

 

Maybe that is another reason why I am looking forward to this summer so much.  I need to relearn how to walk – to enjoy the journey instead of already looking to the next task on my to-do list. I will keep my mind on the destination, but I will participate in and enjoy the journey.