What Now? Here is what:

Back from the Camino I have seen my life seen through new eyes! It is a crazy time in life.  I feel as if I am starting over again.  I have seen my life as if for the first time through new eyes informed by what I experienced during the two months in Spain and now afterward looking back on the life lived there. 

There are aspects of my life that have come into focus much more clearly than before I left.   At the same time, there are surprises still popping into view.  Life after the Camino is beginning to take shape.  I still have no clue where it will take me, but here is something of life’s shape now.

There is good news and bad news physically.  I think the good news is better than the bad news is bad.  The foot is still not fully healed.  At least three toenails are still in the process of departing.  The bloody nose is reappearing without warning on occasion. It stops quickly but it is still very annoying. There will probably need to be interventions needed for both nose and foot.  Walking 500 miles with a backpack does have consequences at my age.   The good news is that I had to buy a new wardrobe (thanks for the help Becky, Micah and Chloe) since my belly is gone and I am back to the weight and size I was in my late twenties.  Recent blood work came back with great numbers and my BP was 118/60.  As soon as the foot will allow, I am determined to resume my regular visits to the gym.  Seeing my relatively good health with fresh eyes has made it even clearer to me that the adventures need to continue while I am able.

The last weeks have provided many times of peaceful and secure joy with my Children and Grandchildren.  Seeing those relationships with fresh eyes has made even clearer how important those people are to me.  I feel closer to them than ever.

Fresh eyes have revealed the importance of growing friendships in which I feel completely safe able to share the deepest thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment.  In the past weeks there have been times with many of those people.  Some are long-standing friendships, some are brand new.  Some are people my age and some are young, in the early stages of their lives as Adults.

Fresh eyes have brought into clearer focus some of the things that are important to me.  At a time in life when career accomplishments are mostly in the past, receiving the affirmation of a paycheck has ceased, and feedback on accomplishments is no longer readily available. Worth and value must be located using internal rather external signals.  That has always been true (for all of us) but it is clearer when external sources have diminished.  At the same time there have been some words texted, emailed, messaged on Facebook, posted in comments, spoken out loud, words that have been of immeasurable value to me as I reflect on my life. They have been words from people I respect very much, words  suggesting that my life has been of value.

With fresh eyes, feelings are more vivid. Feelings have a life of their own.  I do not get to decide how I feel, none of us does.  We can enjoy feelings, feel guilty about them, celebrate them, stifle them, deny them, seek them, nurture them, but we cannot create them or keep them from existing.  We do get to decide what we will do with feelings when they come.  We do not have to act on them unless we choose to do so.  That realization is nothing new, but the clarity has been impacted by seeing my life with fresh eyes.  Understanding that allows me to embrace the feelings whatever they are without fear of them.  The capacity to experience life fully seems to have been amplified.

The future, at least measured in months, is revealing itself.  One surprise that I could not have anticipated is the request from the Current Pastor of the congregation from which I retired.  He has asked me to prepare a series of six worship services and sermons emerging from the retreat at the Taize Community in France and walking the Pilgrimage in Northern Spain, the Camino de Santiago.  I have agreed to do so.  I was reluctant at first since I have been retired for five years and I have been refusing all major or ongoing time commitments.  An element of surprise is just how excited I became at the prospect of doing so.  The experience was so rich and filled layers of impact Spiritually, physically, relationally, mentally in almost every dimension of life that it has been difficult to contain and distill into words in casual conversations.  This will be an chance to mine the experience for the benefit of others.

I will soon have the joy of hearing Kristen Watson sing a concert in St. Louis.  She sang at Mary Ann’s funeral. Her voice and her skill as a Lyric Soprano bring joy to all who hear her, certainly me.  I have the privilege of spending time with two young couples preparing for weddings I will be performing.  They are people I like very much.  I will have a chance to speak about my experience on the Camino at a Valentine Fund-raising event in February for Topeka Lutheran School.  I will be spending a week in Northern Illinois with family hearing about an option for future activity.  During the Lenten Season the worships will happen six Wednesday evenings in March and April.  During that time I will visit some very special friends at Grand Lake in Oklahoma.  I am also excited about attending the four day National Gathering of the American Pilgrims outside of St. Louis.  It is for those who have walked or soon will be walking the Camino.  Having interacted with a number of people who have done the walk in the past through a Facebook group made up of 2400 of them, it is clear that all (those who have responded) have been affected by it in significant ways.

Another big adventure is coming this spring.  I will be joining members of a family including Joe who came from Hungary as a young man.  He and his Wife, a Daughter, a Grandson will be visiting for two weeks in Budapest, Hungary. I will spend that same two weeks in Budapest.  Joe is ten years older than I am and in much better physical shape, so I suspect it will be hard to keep up with him.  This is a family with whom I feel very close since we have shared major events in their lives over a span of almost twenty years.

Before going to Budapest I will travel to Southern Germany to spend time with each of my Brother and Sister German Camino Kids, Dragan and Tanja.  They live a number of hours from one another.  I am hoping I will get to see Estella, my Spanish Camino Kid, although she is also in adventure mode so who knows where she will be then.  There is only a remote chance that I might be able to cross paths with a good friend from the coffee shop here who plans to do some traveling also this spring.  I am still trying to decide whether after the two weeks with Joe and his family I will go from Budapest to Prague for a few days before returning home.

That is a sketch of the short term plans while I am trying to reflect on the Camino and get a clearer sense of my purpose in life as a retired 70 year old on his own.  I just know that I am not done yet!

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