It was dark when I left Triacastella. After a few kilometers I went through a another little village that looked storybook-like. 2016-08-23 20.31.18We’re talking the shire. Well, with modern appliances and wifi I’m sure. After crossing a small bridge, the path climbed out of the village and turned into a dirt road. I caught up with some other pilgrims and passed them by, even with my throbbing ankle. One guy was on his cell phone to someone back in the states, going on about his blisters, so I nicknamed him Mister Blister. Hey- you gotta do something to entertain yourself when you’re walking 785 kilometers across Spain by yourself.

The sun started to peak around the hill it was hiding behind and began to warm things up.2016-08-23 20.34.47 The day crept in as it always does, the universe giving us crazy humans another chance to maybe, just maybe start to get it right. I could see the valley below shrouded in fog. It was beautiful country, and the fog was keeping things coo2016-08-23 20.33.16l.

After another kilometer or two the path went back into an idyllic little forest and I expected to see Bilbo and Frodo knocking back a few pints. Hobbits could be Irish if they were just a bit more caustic, depressed, and ate more potatoes. Hell, they would probably be even be a little bit more melancholy if their weather sucked as much as Irelands’, or if they understood a little better how life can break your heart.  2016-08-23 20.44.57

I passed up a cafe and then had second thoughts, so I turned back and decided to grab a bite and write a little. Partly due to my injury I decided to diverge from my usual routine (I figured I could use the assistance whether it be physical, spiritual, or caffeine induced), so I got a chocolate croissant washed down with a red bull, and finished with a cafe con leche. Uh huh, that’s what Im talkin’ ’bout.

As I was eating, writing and getting my buzz on, who should show up but Asia, along with the California Girls (mentioned in an earlier post). We laughed at, once again, the serendipity of it all. And even though the California girls were young enough to be my daughters, we started cracking jokes and trading sarcasm right off the bat. After speaking less and less with native English speakers, it was kind of funny to meet and talk to fellow Californians. Its almost like you have your own language- Californiaese. Since you have common ground you can communicate at a deeper level without even knowing the person, or so it seems to me.

The girls left while I was finishing my writing. I packed and was probably about 5 minutes behind them. Funny thing, Asia and I had always just stumbled across each other by chance, and as I mentioned earlier, I thought I would never even see her after the bus ride from Pamplona at the very beginning of my journey. Since I was right behind her and the California girls, I figured I would soon run into her again. I never did.

The camino continued out of the hills. The fog was still out, but off in the distance i could see Sarria, the end of the day for many (if you were following the Brierley itinerary) but not me. The camino traveled along the side of the highway for awhile as the fog dissipated, so I stopped and converted my long hiking pants to shorts. I saw this funny sight- a farmer with his little tarrier trotting along side of him:2016-08-23 20.49.36

After another few kilometers I was in Sarria. 2016-08-23 20.57.42 copyThere was no reason to stay in this town- it was another small but “modern” Spanish town, kind of dirty, at least the part I walked through. But things changed after I crossed the river on the outskirts of town.

I sat at a cafe on the river and had a Nestea (a cold and caffeinated option to the Cokes I had become fond of) and finished the breakfast sandwich I had wrapped up earlier. I nursed my throbbing leg at a table while I watched the river roll on, not even stopping to notice the folly that was going on around it.  I was moving on, just wasn’t sure how far.

After leaving Sarria, the path moved along the side of the highway for awhile. Not the most picturesque walk, but easy on my throbbing ankle.2016-08-23 20.51.13

After a kilometer or two, that path moved away from the highway and through small corn fields bordered by tall trees (not the wide open fields of the Meseta back around days 10-13, just after Burgos) and the day warmed up. That question of how far I was going to walk today was answered pretty quickly, in fact after about 3.6 k.

It was when I came across Casa Barbadello. The sign only had to mention one thing- swimming pool! I tarried a bit, knowing my goal was to crawl another 5-7 k or so, but…well…did I mention it had a swimming pool? And it was getting hot. Oh yeah, and my leg was fucked up. So I stopped.2016-08-23 20.53.26

The place occupied a little rise above the camino, with a sort of terrace that commanded a view. I checked in, met an Aussie couple in my room that I had ran across a few times (I referred to them as the Australians, they referred to me as the American) , washed my clothes, soaked my feet in the pool, and then sat down and wrote, and had the best paella thus far on my journey.

I felt so far away from everything I had known, but I didn’t feel alone, which is one of the main reasons I was here. To remind me of something I used to know about myself but, somewhere along the line, I had lost track of. It was reminding me of how to stand on my own two feet, and reconcile the past with what I had set out to do (fumbling and tripping along the way) so many years ago. 

Early in my journey, I met an older gentleman from England. We waked together for a little while, really just a brief cup of coffees worth in the grand scheme of things. Typically, to further the conversation (after introducing ourselves) I asked what had brought them here, to walk the camino.

He told me he was there to think about a friend of his, who had recently committed suicide. He told me he had no idea that his friend was despondent, and that he would ever think of committing such an act. I asked him if he had figured anything out yet. He smiled and said, “not really, but I wish I could’ve brought him here, I think it may have helped him understand a few things about himself and maybe…well…

His voice trailed off and we walked in silence for awhile. Not too long after our conversation, we separated and I never saw him again. I thought about his friend. Some say that suicide is a selfish act. I don’t think I could ever do it. I’m too selfish for that. That may be the first joke written about suicide ever.

Suicide is typically seen as a decision made out of hopelessness, isolation and loneliness. But maybe it can be seen as a great sadness at the very core of one’s emotional being. Is it due to a slow building, gnawing sense of hopelessness that at some point overwhelms you? Or maybe it can be traced to an event, or a series of events. To something that wants to change that emotional core. And let me tell you, the brain don’t like change.

Maybe it’s when something you believed to be true with every thread in the fabric of your being has irrefutably changed forever, has been disrupted, overturned. Or maybe you finally concluded with certainty that something you thought was going to become a reality (a dream, love, finding Sasquatch) was just not going to happen. Maybe it’s when hopes, dreams and wishes die.

So, that voice in the back of your head knows that you’re life will never be the same. And that voice doesn’t like change. Change, even if your capable of it, takes a hell a lot of work, especially if it’s changing the very essence of your being. So if your being, soul, whatever you want to call it, tells you it’s not up to the task (and that voice can be very loud) there aren’t too many options, especially if you’re incapable of reaching out. Unless you can live with the pain every day. But is that really living?

In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail

No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
But no one wants you when you lose
Don’t give up ‘Cause you have friends…

Got to walk out of here
I can’t take anymore
Going to stand on that bridge
Keep my eyes down below
Whatever may come
And whatever may go
That river’s flowing
That river’s flowing
-Peter Gabriel

From Tara J. Palmatier, A Shrink 4 Men:

Does your relationship with your wife leave you feeling bad about yourself?
Do you frequently feel misunderstood, rejected, vilified and devalued in your relationship?
Do you feel trapped or stuck? Do you believe it’s possible for men to be emotionally abused by women?

Believe it. It happens all the time. The stereotype of an abusive relationship is that of a man physically beating a woman. Society has yet to acknowledge the vast number of women who emotionally abuse men.

In fact, the men who are being abused oftentimes don’t realize that their wife’s behavior is abusive. If you walk on eggshells around your partner because you’re afraid she’ll flip out on you for minor transgressions or simply because she’s in a bad mood, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If nothing you do, no matter how hard you try pleases her, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If she regularly puts you down, criticizes or demeans you through name-calling and humiliation,you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If she shuts you out, gives you the cold shoulder or refuses to have sex with you in order to control your behavior, you’re experiencing emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is like a cancer that eats away at your psyche until you’re left feeling powerless, worthless, anxious and/or depressed. Most of the time it happens so gradually that you don’t notice it. You explain away the first few tantrums, emotional outbursts and rage episodes. You take her criticisms to heart because you want to please her.

You can’t fix this. You can’t make her stop. You can’t make your relationship better. You can go to all the therapy sessions in the world and read all the How to Understand Women books on Amazon, but you won’t be able to change her behavior. Why?

First, it’s highly unlikely that your wife will see her behavior as abusive because “everything’s your fault” and, most importantly, her abusive behaviors are how she gets what she wants. It’s a learned and highly effective behavioral technique, which, even if she gains awareness about it, will be terribly difficult (if not impossible) for her to break. The goal of an abuser is control and the way they control you is through emotional abuse.