So I returned home to my Harlington home after walking the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury. I promised to post a few thoughts about how I felt returning and adjusting back to “normal” life and these few words are a short and temporary effort at doing that.
It is difficult to write because at present if I look back on my old blogs and pictures from a couple of weeks ago I am filled with that overwhelming sweet but sad nostalgic feeling that I get from looking at childhood pictures of my son. What a wonderful blessing he was (and is!) but how quickly did the time go. How, in so many ways, do I long to experience it all again. And yet, of course, I know that cannot be. So at present it hurts to look at the old posts, yet I know in time that I will be so glad I kept the record; both for myself and hopefully for my forthcoming grandchild to look at one day in the future – because it was quite an adventure!
Several things were not mentioned in my posts (and I will in time go back and amend them slightly, because I would like to expand them, and turn them into a book – my posts were just a precis of all I experienced). Most importantly that there were two occasions in particular when I got badly lost. I did not write this at the time because I knew that there were people back home worried about me. But on both occasions (one of which involved me walking an additional five miles), someone turned up to show me the way. At one stage I did know where I was (a long way off trail!) and I found myself on a road it was dangerous to walk along, so I flagged a lady down – her home happened to back onto the North Downs Way, so she gave me a lift back to safety. I did not tell her a lot about myself but amazingly she happened to tune in to the “Ramblings” programme and recognised me as the lady she had assisted and tracked me down and e mailed me. I was then able to thank her again properly!
I have for five years had faith in something “out there” much more powerful than myself, that I choose to call God. This pilgrimage has increased my faith a millionfold . Everytime I needed help someone turned up; I met people who told me inspirational stories and passed messages on to me; I met people I was able to listen to and talk to and hopefully inspire and help as well.
I felt a strong sense of history and that I really was travelling along old paths and in others’ footsteps (this has so far stayed with me); so has the strong sense and connection to the power of Nature. It may sound silly, but what complete joy and freedom I felt those days I was singing with the birds. I am much more comfortable in my own skin and in the nicest possible way, really do not care what others think of me, providing I am trying to progress spiritually. I feel more “authentic”.
On several occasions I was outside of what I thought was my comfort zone – crossing the Medway Bridge; negotiating fields of cattle alone; flagging a lady down; asking proprietors for help with Wi Fi and using different keys in different locks; facing dark woods alone; telling someone I had broken their curtain rail; I couldn’t get the bath water out the bath in another place; some navigating without a map! – but each time I faced the fear and got through it and that has increased my confidence no end.
I have noticed a difference in the passing of time. The days are going much quicker at home. I think that is because I was living very much in the present moment in my own company, whilst walking. The meditative quality of walking, particularly alone, day after day, concentrating on the route and all my surroundings and experiences really did take me to a state of connection. It is a wonderful way to live.
So at present I have trust, faith, lack of fear, and an increased physical fitness! I pray never to lose these (well, maybe the fitness a bit!). I think I am still processing some of the experience and I am certainly changed. It will be interesting to revisit these thoughts in another six months. I am sure that another adventure awaits but I have yet to feel led to the appropriate challenge. Despite the nostalgic feelings described above, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to mark my five years of recovery, to raise some money for Mencap and to have a wonderful home and husband to come back to in this beautiful village. Blackberry crumble in the oven!
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My book about my experiences along The Pilgrims’ Way, “The Woman Who Walked Through Fear” has now been published by Sitting Duck Press. I am also available to give talks about my experiences along The Pilgrims’ Way. Further details are available by subscribing to this blog by clicking here or e mailing me at email@example.com