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  • Sydney Bergen


When you are walking the Camino de Santiago, you are not walking alone. Yes I mean that metaphorically, honoring the ghosts of pilgrims past, but also literally. One of my assumed personal challenges on this walk was going to be picking the right direction each day, but I soon learned, in fact straight from the pilgrim's office in Saint Jean Pied de Port, that I would not have an issue, at least not this day. A steady stream of people were all heading the same direction so I followed suit and soon enough saw my first yellow arrow. (OK, I admit, I turned the wrong way out of the train station, so technically I did get lost once).

The next thing I learned is that if you move past the obligatory 'Buen Camino' greeting and strike up a conversation with someone it will inevitably lead to the loaded question, 'So why are you here?' And so begins my story...

The Camino starts to work on you long before you step foot onto its path, in the same vein that plant medicine does. In my case, the Camino hadn't been at the top of my mind in any way, shape or form, until the message became very clear and could not be ignored - it was time for me to get on my path to motherhood, but first I needed to go on a very long walk.

Let me back up, I first learned of the Camino five years ago when Finn did it in the wake of a marriage breakdown and legal battle over the sale of his business. Despite being well traveled, and especially in Europe, I had never heard of this quest. After he returned there was an air around him that I couldn't quite put words to, but knew at some point in my life I wanted that same spirit and would embark on this experience. The 30-40 day time commitment wasn't the thing that kept me at bay, I was simply waiting for the right moment, and I knew I would lean in when it showed up.

The past few years have been a LOT in my personal journey. I'll always say that I'd rather feel all the feels than exist in a state of numbness, however it has been a rollercoaster ride of feels as I've stepped more fully into my self. Five years ago I was watching my own marriage breakdown, and eventually ending in a separation exactly one year from my wedding day. Since then I've been learning a new language, the language of emotions. Just like words are the language of the mind, emotions are the language of the body, and they will tell you exactly what needs paying attention to. Since I had ignored mine for so long they were speaking adamanty and violently in a series of panic attacks, something I had never previously experienced. They would happen in places like Sedona where the energy field is strong, and they would happen on a street corner, just because. I've invested an immense amount of time, money and energy into learning this language and I'd still say I'm not totally fluent, but I'm getting there.

Fast forward to one year ago and I was happily on a two week solo trip in Ecuador. I received a call from my sister that she was going to be having her baby early, and I decided to fly back to help my mom take care of my other niece and nephew while my sister gave birth to her 3rd child. I hadn't seen my mom in over a year and I was excited to be spending time with her, along with the added bonus of playing 'house' since it was my vision that she would be my live-in nanny when I decided to have kids. It was a great few days together, and when I was getting ready to leave I felt a longing for her. I was definitely ready to leave Kansas City, but I was feeling the need to make sure we had more time together.

Two weeks later she tripped and fell down a set of stairs and died on impact.

Looking back it all was serendipitously laid out for a peaceful transition for her, but this was a real shock for me. You are never ready for your mom to die, but this was just inconceivable. I had just made the mental commitment to make sure I had more time with my mom and it was now null and void. It was so unfair.

Grief has had a variety of different faces, none of them consistent and none of them 'stages' contrary to the popular language around it. This summer I found myself on a stroll across a baseball field in Toronto and started to become overwhelmed with despair. Although I have many tools for dealing with uncomfortable feelings, I was resisting the feelings vehemently, along with those tools. While literally throwing an adult tantrum, (you can ask Finn, it was not pretty) I got the message that this was my time, time to walk the Camino.

You know that feeling of relief combined with dread when you know you're making the right decision? That hit me hard and strong. I knew this was a calling to transcend myself, and that this would mean I'd have to step up to the plate. (I guess it's symbolic that this 'calling' happened on a baseball field).

For one, I'd have to truly accept that my mom was dead and stop justifying our spiritual connection as a great replacement. It 100% sucks that she is gone and that I got blindsided in the way that it happened. I can no longer call her when I'm having a rough time, or to tell a funny story, or share an accomplishment. I can no longer hear her laugh or be entertained by her hilarious ways. I've lost my 'homebase' - wow this is really a theme - and I now need to create a new one that comes from within me.

Secondly I'd have to stop playing the victim role. I had played it out in every way possible in my relationship and it still wasn't enough for the part of me that so desperately craves nurturing from outside of myself. My mom was able to give this to me, but she is no longer here. Finn put up boundaries and was no longer succumbing to this plea. It has left me all alone, and that is truly a gift. One of those gifts you repel at first opening, but end up using more than any of the other ones you thought you needed so much.

So my Camino is about ritualizing the death of my mom, becoming my own mother by nurturing myself when my emotions are loud, and preparing to be a mother knowing that I want to take this next step in a year's time. That's a long answer to a short question, but luckily I have 500 miles to share my story.

And so I start my journey on the fall equinox, a time of re-calibrating and restoring balance. I am following my mom’s favorite saying, the way she signed every card and text message


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