The walk from Santo Domingo to Belorado is 22km, mostly on gravel roads along the N120, a highway in northern Spain. On this stage of the journey, pilgrims leave La Rioja and enter Castilla y Leon—farmland, small towns, charming cafes, chorizo.
At this stage, more than a third of the way through the journey, but with such a massive part remaining, pilgrims might begin to doubt their ability to keep going.
At this stage of my blog, more than a third of my way through this non-journey journey, I’m wondering if I can keep going.
It’s not like my life is particularly difficult now. I’m on summer vacation from my teaching job, and since I was supposed to be on the Camino, I have literally nothing scheduled—a calendar of blank days that I’ve been filling with books and blog posts and Yoga with Adriene and (when Will isn’t home or when he’ll agree to tolerate it) a slow binge of America’s Next Top Model.
The backyard, my project for May, is done. I’m tackling small things: a new curtain over the kitchen window. I have plans for new throw pillows, a new coat of paint. I’m watching over my dear dog’s slow decline.
And yet, somehow things feel overwhelming. I’ve woken the last few days with a weight on my chest that wasn’t my nine-pound rat terrier, but something less definite, more troublesome that has been hard to shake during the day.
Things feel uncertain, on macro levels and micro ones.
Our world feels like it’s in chaos, moving in giant but bumbling lurches toward change, voices drowning each other out, reflection at a minimum. I keep trying to slow it down, to digest, to mentally tackle one thing at a time, but that doesn’t happen. The crawl keeps scrolling, keeps giving me more than I can handle.
In my small world, I’ve been chipping away for four weeks on my teaching portfolio, which is due July 1 and which will amount to more than a hundred pages of reflective writing. Philosophy statement. Contextualization of evidence. Frequent references to PLOs and CLOs and SLOs. (If these acronyms are gibberish, stop and be thankful for a moment that you don’t work in education.) Evidence of student learning. Teaching evaluations. I’m nearly there; a day of hard editing and I could be hitting ‘send’.
In my small world, I’ve sent a draft of a novel out into the world, and I’m waiting to hear back. I always feel this way at the end (at least, for the moment) of a project—great relief followed by a hollowness, the realization that I won’t be waking every morning to spend two hours inside the narrator’s mind, seeing the world through her eyes. The sense of a project being finished always leaves me at a bit of a loss. Now what? I have the time to dig into something new, to really get some words down and do the hard part of sketching out a plot and experimenting with a character’s voice.
Things are uncertain, unsettled.
I’m trying to be positive right now. There (very likely) will be a teaching job for me this fall, even if I’ll be waving hello over Zoom all semester long and wondering what my students actually look like. At some point there will be news on the book front, and one day I’ll have a new idea knocking around inside my brain.
Right now, I’m in the in-between, the long, quiet stretch of the journey.
I was going to end there, but it feels pretty bleak. Or maybe just real.
But then I thought about what it would take to be settled now, to feel firmly rooted, on course. The world would have to be a different place—less hurt, less division, less talk, more action. We’re just not there.
Maybe the weight on the chest, the lump in the throat, that caught in-between feeling is where I (we) need to be right now.
Nothing ever changed by being content.
Paula Treick DeBoard