What The Psychic Told The Pilgrim by Jane Christmas
This is the second "Camino" book I've read and it's the one I was looking for. It begins in France where the authour begins her pilgrimage and ends in Santiago de Compostela, where pilgrims finish their trek and pick up certificates confirming they've done it. This is the realistic story of life on the trail with all it's beauty and ugliness, the great people and the jerks, the thrill and the heartbreak. It's most assuredly the closest I'll ever get to actually experiencing the real thing.
Jane Christmas gave herself the Camino as a fiftieth birthday gift. She said she craved something "spiritual, challenging, unstructured, nomadic, something that would quiet the mind, give me a little quality time with God, and let my gypsy spirit out on a run". I'm sure most women who pass the 50 mark can relate to some or all of that. For most of us, by that age life has become structured - it has to just to survive that long - and our "gypsy spirits" have been pushed down so far we don't even know they're still there. We all want something to "wake up my senses and astonish my jaded middle-aged eyes". Even reading about somebody else's adventure breathes refreshment into our lives and I think it pushes us that little bit closer to embarking on one our our own.
Faith is a big part of the authour's life and she's as straightforward about her struggles with that as she is about everything else. She says "...the Camino offered a safe haven for people like me - people who periodically question and doubt their faith but who stick with it anyway, people who want to express the spiritual side of themselves without being harassed or viewed as some quaint oddity of the modern age, people who pray and believe in god but who occasionally use profanity and listen to heavy metal". You gotta love that honesty. In our society it seems as soon as you say you believe in God, you're expected to be either perfect or a lunatic, so it's nice to hear about a real person, with a real faith and real struggles.
She comes to some very liberating conclusions on her journey - liberating for her and for any of her readers who are ready to claim those conclusions for themselves. Here's one thought whose time has come: "As women, we constantly set the bar higher and higher for ourselves and then we wonder why we get so exhausted, cranky and defeated. It is time to celebrate our blessed, yet ordinary lives, to boldly embrace mediocrity as a virtue".
About three quarters of the way through the book she says something that probably wasn't that big a deal to her, but it blew me away. She is talking to a fellow pilgrim, Brigitte, about taking a bus to the next stop, something frowned upon by purists who insist that every step must be walked. They are both exhausted and not looking forward to the next stretch which will take them along a busy highway. Brigitte says "we are pilgrims, not martyrs, right?". Then Jane writes: "She had a point. A pilgrimage is not about punishment, but about making an intentional decision to look at the world with fresh awareness and to consider your place in it. A pilgrim defines her own pilgrimage; maps are guidelines, not prison sentences. If I walked every step of the Camino's route, it would not make me a better pilgrim or a better person. It could make me a superhero, but I had already traveled that road and found it to be highly overrated."
What a profound realization. I wish I had back all the time I've spent trying to do things perfectly, making sure there was nothing anyone would find fault with, trying all the time to prevent any cause for future guilt. I think it's time to face the truth about superheroes: they can't ever relax, they are forever playing defense, and they exist...only. in. fiction.
Such are my thoughts on "What The Psychic Told The Pilgrim". I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who is ready to let their "gypsy spirit" out for a run.