Life, health, families. So much potential for happiness. So much potential for pain and disappointment. When we set our expectations too high, we can become disappointed when they aren't met. When we set our expectations too low, we can fall prey to cynicism or distrust. Most of us set them high.
I deliberately built in rest days on my Camino pilgrimage so that I could handle injuries. That's worked so far but I needed a couple more. Fortunately there are ways to cope. The difficulty is being flexible with others and myself.
Because I was worried that the blisters had gotten infected, I went to urgent care in León. They weren't infected but the doctor did work on them and instructed me to stay off the Camino for 2-3 days. There were a couple of ways we could handle this. Stephen and I chose for me to stay off my the Camino for three days to make sure I'm ok.
We will take the 9am bus to Hospital de Orbigo (a village past the industrial area) where he gets off the bus and walks to Astorga. He should get into the small city in 3.5-5 hours. I stay on the bus and continue to Astorga. I check into a hotel. Monday we rest. We continue Tuesday from Astorga as planned. I rest and Stephen gets to walk without me.
Though this can be disappointing, I'm not. I get to spend just as much time with someone I've missed for the past month. It's just plans have changed a little.
Life's not a race or game, nor is the Camino. We shouldn't worry about rules we've made for ourselves that don't actually affect our ability to do what we want. We can change plans. But we can become disappointed if we fixate on the original plans or compare ourselves with others.
My pilgrimage continues. A reading I gave myself months ago for Sunday morning feels amazingly appropriate. Philippians 4:10-13, Paul is explaining why we shouldn't worry about him.
"At last you are concerned about me again. That makes me very happy. We belong to the Lord. I know that you have been concerned. But you had no chance to show it. I'm not saying that because I need anything. I have learned to be content no matter what happens to me. I know what it's like not to have what I need. I also know what it's like to have more than I need. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what happens. I am content whether I am well fed or hungry. I am content whether I have more than enough or not enough. I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength."
His love is such that nothing else matters. Paul's learned that life is a process that he has to learn to trust. That's tough. But it's what I've been working on with myself. This pilgrimage is a process I've got to trust.
We spent a delightful couple of days in León. I had an easy walk from Mansilla de las Mulas though my blisters gave me new concerns. I picked up Stephen at the train station and we checked into the León parador, the San Marcos Hostal.
Paradors are former monasteries or palaces turned into hotels. This one is spectacular. You'll recognize it in the movie The Way. Originally 900 years ago it was a humble albergue and hospital for pilgrims. Then it expanded to house Friars. Then it expanded to become a full blown monastery including a large church and facilities for the Order of Santiago. It grew to its present form by 1700. In the 1970s it was turned into a hotel. But the church still functions: We sat in a mass and saw a wedding.
It was also during the Spanish Civil War a place where up to 20000 people were jailed and as many as 3000 of whom ordered executed. I walked past a monument several days ago where many bodies were laid during that civil war. I said a prayer here as I did there.
We toured the cathedral and its spectacular stained glass. We attended the Basilica de San Isadore pilgrim mass and watched Silvia translate the blessing to English for the priest at the end. We sat around the cathedral and ran into many fellow pilgrims. Stephen met Lin from Canada, Dominique and Patric from France, Mike from Long Island, among others.
On our second day, we got the bus tickets and enjoyed the river park. We rested in the hotel and made a movie celebrating our reunion. We got his hiking stick and then people watched in Plaza Mayor. We've had some nice non-pilgrim food.
We may not always get what we want on a pilgrimage but that doesn't make it any less transformative. The gift of life is not a gift of plenty, of stuff, of checkboxes on a list, but the gift of an experience, a process. May we all enjoy that gift with each other as long as we are able.
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