It was a perfect evening.

As I sat looking around the table, at a group of women who I have known for many years, it dawned on me –  we connect through shared experiences, history, and meals prepared with loving hands.

That evening, it was absolutely the meal that made everything perfect for me. The meal connected us all together and in so doing, reminded me of the stories we all share together.

It was the third pre-birthday bash – one every month celebrated with some special women who have shared my life story with me.

I sat loving there in the crispness of an autumn evening and giggled quietly hearing the banter and the laughter going on. Jokes were being thrown around and one thing I love about jokes is how others react to them, especially when they react with laughter that literally moves them. There is no better type of laughter in my opinion.  

The laughter that makes your shoulders jump up and down.

it reminded me of a pilgrim meal

It’s one thing to have a meal and share an evening with people who hold a space in your heart.

But, having a meal with people you don’t know, in an unfamiliar country while on your biggest adventure, is totally a different story.

And as an introvert – well, it’s completely unchartered waters.

Uncharted waters that got me worried leading into my first Camino.

Now, introverts tend to overthink everything!

Even the basics of things, we think through, plan, replan, rethink through and then we might mull over it a little more. We are indeed deep thinkers, generally speaking.

We don’t necessarily hold our own in a conversation unless, of course, we have insightful things to share. Small talk is a challenge for us, and again, generally speaking, mulling over the weather and pleasantries are not at the forefront of our minds.

So, you can imagine – for this introvert at least – planning to spend evenings in albergues, and planning to have meals in, when provided by the hosts was a massive stretch of my introverted character.

But, as I sat out looking at the familiar faces of my people – I was thrown back in time, to the first meal on the first evening of my Camino in March 2019.

I was as comfortable then, as I was sitting out on the patio on that crisp autumn evening.

the first day on pilgrimage

I left early on a cold morning from Pamplona with directions given to me by a wonderful pilgrim the evening before. I had shared a little of my vulnerability with a group and asked them how on earth I was going to find my way out of the city and along the trail.

I was adamant that I would get lost!

The directions shared weren’t really about the directions. Just voicing a little of my fear and someone holding a space for me made me feel far more courageous than I was.

And off I went – and headed off and plodded along following the bright yellow waymarkers, and I was finally on Camino.

My first real victory was making it to the top of Alto del Perdon.

By then I had had a stark realization that my backpack was way too heavy, and I had decided that I needed to do something about it. But I progressed, and although it was slow, I moved forward.

A huge lesson in just this one thing – it might be slow, but as long as we are progressing forward we are going to be ok.

Finally arriving at the albergue I dropped into the front door. The first day is a stretch for some of us.

But, in a short time, the lovely host had my backpack upstairs, my boots were off safely under the reception chair (with a few other pairs of boots) and I was nursing a steaming hot café con leche. It went down like nectar.

She came over to me, and in her broken English asked if I was going to have the evening pilgrim meal. Looking back, I feel total gratitude for the broken English I heard – when I return to the Camino my Spanish will be much improved.

There it was – the thing that I had overthought for months. The thing that had me concerned about my ability to fully appreciate the Camino – a meal shared with people I didn’t know, and in this unfamiliar place – it all made my heart beat a whole lot faster.

Fixed onto her kind eyes, she told me what was on the menu, and I couldn’t resist, so although my heart was in my mouth, I accepted her offer.

She was happy and said that I would be joining five other pilgrims who were staying with me in the albergue. This made my heart beat even faster – what on earth would I talk about, I wondered in a little panic.

Finishing my coffee, I went off to explore the town and settle my anxiety about the impending evening.

the dinner bell rang

In the life that I had left at home, I had skillfully been able to leverage my introversion. In my corporate job, I aligned well with extroverts who often held the conversation around small talk, and then when business came up I would step into the space with confidence.

Sitting down first, because I thought that I was better placed to arrive at the table quickly I positioned myself facing the door where the others would enter through. And in they came.

No familiar extroverts here for me to leverage on;)

We all settled down, greeting each other fondly and the small talk about how the day of walking began.

And, I was completely in my element!

Finally, small talk that I understood!

It seems that all of us had struggled a little coming down the hill on Alto del Perdon – the loose rocks and using our walking poles were common with us all.  With a little bit of time that had passed, we were able to giggle at how we navigated down the path.

At the time, I thought that I was going to fall on my face and I didn’t find that funny at all!

The evening progressed and there I was, engaging, connecting and just being present.

By the time, we were all heading into lights out with a wonderful meal skillfully and lovingly prepared by our host left in crumbs, we were laughing, and giggling and I didn’t want the evening to end.

Much like I felt sitting with my loving friends and family who have known me for years.

shared stories, history and connections

Between us, we have shared holidays, overseas trips, jobs, careers, hobbies, marriages, deaths, births and everything in between.

With each of these women, I have stories to last a lifetime.

The stories have been joyful and sad, and inspiring and awesome.  In each of us we have a shared connection to one another.

And in these individual connections these evenings celebrating my impending 50th birthday, we are connected even further.

Sitting around the table, having watched some beautiful and mouth-watering Italian delicacies being made and each of us rolling gnocchi and sharing in the spoils it was illuminating to me how comfortable I felt in that space.

Yes, I was around people who I have known for years, but I noticed the connection running even deeper.

The shared meal, and the fact that we had all joined in creating it, solidified my feeling of being a part of a whole.

A small, but integral part of this community of women, whom I love and trust.

our shared pilgrim meal

This is what I felt walking up the stairs to my bunk, that first evening on the Camino.

A small part of a whole thing, where like-minded people had shared a meal together, spoke about our days and then offered each other our vulnerabilities in sharing our life’s hopes and dreams. More importantly, what had brought us to the Camino.

Often that one thing of what has brought us to this place of pilgrimage is the most telling.

Although we all went our separate ways the next morning, the lesson for me was that the pilgrim meals that I would be privileged to share with others while on Camino would be an opportunity to connect and to be present with others who might be aligned with my own purpose for my walk.

That in itself is immensely empowering when we come together with like-mindedness to our goals as well as being able to share stories that are common.

Just in that is an opportunity to grow, to learn, and often to heal.

My wonderful meal, just the other night at the time of writing this, is a lesson such as this.

Being fully present in the moment; simply allowing ourselves to “be”; joining in with laughter and the banter if only just to listen; highlighted the wonderful feeling of being connected.

And certainly, it’s in the connection, and being open to connecting that gives us such wonderful opportunities to heal, mend, grow and understand each other better.

Even for us introverts:)

 

Weekly Blog by Robyn-Lee Nichols aka The Perpetual Pilgrim

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