In our talkative culture, there appear to be many people who repeatedly say they are going to do something, or frequently verbalize frustration with a situation, yet who don’t translate their words into action. Their well-meaning (or fed up) friends might prod them to “walk their talk” rather than continue harping about whatever it is. Talk, as they say, is cheap.
Then there are people like me, with a proclivity for reticence rather than verbosity, who put more stock in action than words. I find that if I talk (or even think) about something too much, I risk inviting doubt into the conversation and diluting the initial energy of the idea, to the point that I might lose interest in actually doing it. Which is why I made the decision to walk the Camino without canvassing others’ opinions.
On the Camino, the walk is the talk. How people moved – slowly, rapidly, easily or injured, hunched or erect, carrying huge or tiny backpacks, in tight knit groups, with a spouse or alone – often said more about them than the words they spoke. While I was in Spain, I walked under vast, sunny skies but also through driving rain, thick fog, biting wind, sleet and snow. Many times my spirits soared at the sight of bold sunrises and sagged under exhaustion, sleep deprivation and foot pain, each day offering a distinct emotional roller coaster. Quitting was a frequent temptation but never a real option since, before I left for the trip, I had stopped walking even my (minimalist) talk; my self-trust had hit a new nadir. Finishing, I believed, would restore my integrity or at least create a fresh foundation to rebuild it.
Now, as I refrain from most exercise while my tendonitis heals, and since I can no longer stride for miles a day, I wonder if I can internalize the Camino by “talking my walk.” Can I, someone who has often failed to express herself in a timely fashion or has been afraid to speak authentically, communicate with the same combination of willingness and vulnerability with which I traversed 520 miles? If so, then however long my recovery is will be worth it.
In the last week I received some e-mails that, in the past, I would have either ignored or, in my reply, glossed over the more substantive issue to avoid conflict or sharing my feelings. While these were well-intentioned missives, they either crossed a boundary that I needed to defend or created an opportunity for greater honesty, a chance to release what I realized I had been holding for a long time. On the Camino, I shed surplus gear very gradually, at first reluctant to let go of items I had purchased and carefully packed, even though the excess weight was slowing me down if not creating pain. And so it was responding to these e-mails. It took me a few days to muster the nerve to reply openly rather than succumbing to the false and deadening security of polite silence and acquiescence. In one case, I spent hours wrestling the words out of my body, dragging them past the mocking inner censors and onto the screen, much as I forced myself many days on the Camino to get rid of something, anything, without worrying I’d regret it later. Despite the time I had invested in crafting this reply, I still hesitated from sharing it with the intended recipient, concerned about how it might land. But in remembering how freeing it felt at Finisterre to finally relinquish my ill-fitting hiking pants and other clothes I no longer wanted, I was able to click “send”.