It was such a breakthrough, to take that massive step back. I found, yet again, my biggest weakness was the strength of my mind, that pushes me beyond my pain barrier in order to get things done. I know how affective it can be, to ACCEPT pain. I know that in the acceptance of pain we go beyond. This was the 'theory' I was applying, throughout those first 5 days. But then I saw how I was overstepping the line, coming out of balance and unnecessarily torturing myself. It started dawning; pain is there to tell us something. It arises to tell us we're overcompensating parts of ourselves; we're bringing ourselves out of balance for reasons that are unneccessary. Physical ailments show up so we can take action for the BETTER and bring ourselves back into balance once again. I know now that the condition of my blistered feet were telling me loud and clear: my mind was pushing me further than my feet were able to handle. Such an important lesson. It made me change my approach once I started walking again on day 7, from Monesterio to Feunte de Cantos.
Day 7, 8 and 9 were all equally tough, even whilst taking more of a gentle approach towards the kilometers my wary feet were letting me travel. Regardless of taking it one step at a time, staying in the moment and just being grateful for being able to walk at all, the challenge hasn't simply vanished. Each day, the first 2 hours of walking are so smooth. The pain isn't there and I can actually SEE and BE with where I am. I absorb Spain, I cherish what I'm doing. The pain starts the creep in though, whilst I intentionally repeat soothing mantras, sing songs and use a connection with nature as a source to keep myself in the moment.
On day 8, I was in tears, after 25 kms and finally bringing myself to the small city of Zafra. That's when I wondered whether or not to continue. But I met a wonderful lady from Ireland, Mary, that day in the hostel. Instantly it was like a part of home was telling me to look after myself. She wasn't advising me to give up, but to simply be realistic and kind to myself. Another helping hand came, when a German walker (fluent in Spanish) offered to help me to find new boots. Because I realized my blisters wouldn't soothe if I were to continue walking in the boots I thought were perfect. The relief I felt was huge, when I sunk my swollen feet into a new pair, in the sports shop. My feet were in heaven. I never realized how important it is to have a light connection with the earth during the hours of walking. Nor did I fully understand how the extreme circumstances we wish to endure can be experienced so lightheartedly with we provide ourselves with the correct material support. On day 9, as I continued the walk from Zafra to Villafranca de los Barros, I became aware of the importance; I had a smile on my face, my heart was open and I wished for lightness to enter as I set out to walk again.
I'm now 10 days into the Camino Via de la Plata. I 'should' be walking today from Villafrance de los Barros to Torremejia. However, even though I've new boots that feel like magic, yesterday evening, as I took a good look at my feet, I knew that all of my blisters, which had accumulated since the start of the walk, needed to heal. My feet were in an awful state. So I let a lovely American lady by the name of Alex, who was also here in the hostel and who I've also done some walking with over the past 3 days, treat my blisters.
For days I was scared to do anything with them, I didn't know how and so I just left them, until yesterday. As I took off all the plasters, compeed and bandages, we counted 10 blisters, some with the potential of becoming infected. As well the nail on my little toe was threatening to fall off. Well, for those who know me quite well, they'll also know how faint-hearted I am when it comes to anything like this. As I burst the blisters one by one letting the water ooze out; as the American lady cut my old damaged skin so as to pour disinfectant into the open wound, I thought I was going to either faint or be sick. It took some deep breathing to get through, but how grateful I was when we were all done. My feet had been properly treated...!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!! The next question then arose, 'Niamh, will you walk tomorrow?' Intially I was adament to, but I woke up this morning and the answer was 'No'. I knew I´d be doing myself unnecessary damage by walking today; I´d be risking not being able to walk anymore.
So, in 2 hours time I'm taking the bus to Torremejia, with 2 other lovely girls (Sasha from Siberia and Lea from Canada) who are also unable to walk. My time here on the Camino isn't unlimited, so I have to keep moving every day, even if it IS bus, taxi or hitch-hiking. Because I do want to get to Salamanca by the 28th of April.
It's actually lovely to give myself some breathing space and to catch up on writing. Not minding so much that I'm missing only this one day of being out on the trail is a huge step forward - even if I'm not physically going to be taking these kms today.
So, for now, I'll sign off. The next days will unfold as they will. I'm taking it one day at a time and giving my physical self the priortiy. Anything else, I need to let-go of for now.