We relax today in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France. We are finally at the entrance to the Pyrenees Mountains. Our great assent up those fabled hills will begin in two days. We are finally in a town with resources to replenish and/or replace our hiking gear. In particular, I can finally buy an actual pair of hiking boots. I am extremely excited about this, as I have been hiking almost everyday so far in Chaco sandals that have been blister inducing torture chambers for my feet. But other than a bit of shopping, and exploration of this ancient town founded in the Middle Ages, and in the epicenter of the Basque region, I have nothing to do but rest. And think…
And rest… And think.
Something has been nagging in the back of my head since the beginning of our hike, possibly well before. I’m not exactly positive, but I can’t help feeling something is not 100% right between Shannon and me.
I have been putting most (or all) of the cause of the added tension, that I feel that is between us, on the stressors of hiking. We have been putting our bodies through a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pressure. There is no doubt, that, in and of itself, hiking El Camino was undoubtedly going to cause us to fight more, regardless of the positive effects our pilgrimage has.
And there have indeed been positive ramifications on our relationship. We are depending on each other to basically survive the rigors of the trail each day. We are both learning to communicate better. There is no greater stress than being exhausted, hungry, in pain or discomfort, and realizing that it is all being exasperated because of communication woes.
And I feel as if we are both learning a greater level of patience. Speaking for myself, I believe that I am indeed experiencing a new way to deal with some of the frustrations that life throws at me. I am becoming a more patient person.
Is that possible? Can change happen in us as creatures of habit?
Regardless to these seeming forces of good that appear to be washing over each of us and our relationship, I still feel as if there are dark clouds in our future. I don’t know exactly what it is, or what I am supposed to be looking for, or expecting, but I know they are out there.
Shannon and I seem to be fighting slightly more than usual. But more than just that, I feel as if she is sad. I am not exactly sure about what, but I believe she is not herself lately. There is the obvious fact, that she has cried, literally, every single day that we have been hiking. But those tears are from physical pain and sheer frustration. She is dealing with her frustrations of the unknown. I know Shannon well enough to know, that she grapples with “the unknown.” Unknown situations caused by unknown factors affected by unknown details.
And the devil is in the details.
And it’s all those unknown, insurmountable details that are, at least in some minor way, eating away at Shannon. Each morning we wake up, we have to hike. We know our general hiking path and our planned destination. But that is it. The inbetween. There are so many unknowns in the inbetween. Each steep hill or mountain that we have to summit- what’s on the other side? Each unmarked path that we follow- are we going the right way? Each day that we hike and ultimately plan to write- will we succeed?
But Shannon is one of the strongest women I know- truly. And even though I know she is a person that prefers, actually, needs to be in control, I have full faith that no matter the level of difficulty, Shannon will overcome the obstacle. That is why I do not think it is the daily tears and the weekly fears that are what is troubling me about Shannon’s current underlying dispiritedness.
The sadness is underlying, for certain. She smiles all the time, and her laughter, oh her laughter. Shan’s laughter has become one of my favorite sounds in the universe. Well, in my universe. And yet, there is still something there.
We have both had our fair share of trials and tribulations. I imagine all relationships have. I have always believed that something worth fighting for, no, dying for, should probably not be easy to achieve. At least in part, it’s the struggle for that great thing that keeps you vigilant in never wanting to lose it, or let it fail. And if the level of struggle is quantifiable as a value to the strength of our relationship, then we are indeed strong. But if only it were that simple.
Because in love, as in war, even when you wage a battle to keep what you have, you do not always win.
I am not prepared yet to publicly discuss fully many (or even some?) of the foolish decisions I have made, that on my part, have at times caused our relationship to hang in the balance. Shannon and I promised to write honestly, openly, and completely. Love on El Camino is supposed to be a journey. This is a journey into the depths of our souls as much as it is on a trail to Santiago. We are attempting to bear it all. For love. For honesty. For adventure. For each other.
I realize today, for the first time, that there are many things that I will eventually be compelled to write about, if I want to completely be honest with exactly who I am and who is Shannon. And who we are together. We promised the good, the bad, and the ugly, even if the ugly sucks.
The suck. I had not quite considered it before. We can all go on endlessly about the good. And sometimes, even the bad, is not so bad. But it’s the suck that gets us. When the bad is so bad, that it sucks, I guess that is when I am finally grabbing “mi cojones” and dealing with the nitty-gritty of who we are, both as individuals, and as individuals that intertwine.
So I am left here. I grapple with my past, as I struggle with my future. I suppose the only thing I can sensibly do is focus on my present, because that is exactly where I am on this journey. I am here. Now. Today. And I will continue to work on figuring out where I am going. Hopefully that will give me a peek into where we are going.
Distance: Unknown Steps/ Unknown Miles/ Unknown Kilometers
Location: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
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