3 Camino Mantras for 2017, Part 2: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose

I spent a lot of time last week trying to sort through how to make 2017 into a better year than 2016. Not having an election is obviously a good start, but I’m looking for things that are a little more personal.

And my most meaningful, personal lessons came from the 79 days I spent walking the Way of Saint James, so that’s my reference.

On Friday I wrote about the first Camino mantra to make it into the new year: practice acceptance. The second, I think, is kind of an extension of that:

 

Mantra 2. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose

This was Eric’s phrase, but we both started using it almost every day.

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Win: when the menu del dia says only that the first course is carne, and then they bring each person a heaping appetizer tray of hams and sausages cured on the premises.

Sure, there was a basic rhythm to the Camino: walk, eat, sleep, repeat. But every day we arrived in a new place and slept in a different bed. The pattern was the same (check in, shower, wash clothes, buy supplies, journal, relax, dinner, sleep), but how well we did it varied. We might find ourselves in a private room with real sheets on the beds and real curtains on the windows, a spotless private bathroom just steps away. And then a few days later we’d be crowded onto flimsy metal bunkbeds that swayed every time either person moved, eight inches from strangers and two floors away from a moldy bathroom where the shower doors wouldn’t close. And somehow we’d paid the same amount for both places.

Eric would look at me and shrug. “Sometimes you lose…”

But we obviously didn’t always lose. Sometimes after a tense morning or steep section of trail we would stumble across a chapel in the middle of an anonymous village (or the middle of nowhere). Sometimes the obscure restaurant in the dusty, stiflingly hot, practically empty town served a gourmet four-course meal. Cutting a day’s walk short because of a blister once left us with a long afternoon in one of France’s most beautiful villages, in a hostel literally carved into the city’s stone walls, and with a Canadian host who helped us understand what kind of adventure we’d walked into.

When we didn’t make reservations soon enough one busy weekend in France, we ended up in an inconvenient gite six kilometers from where we wanted to be in Lauzerte, which seemed like a “lose” until we arrived and discovered it was in a field of glowing safflowers, with a view of the medieval village on a hill rising in the distance. We ended up taking a much-needed rest day there.

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Win: the lovely view from our “last choice” gite outside Lauzerte, which turned out to be the perfect place for a much-needed rest day.

Being the optimist, I would grin at my husband and his half-empty water bottle. “Sometimes you win.”

Eventually I started noticing the pattern…which is that there was no pattern. Things changed. The frustrating experiences always ended. We always moved on. Sometimes things got better. (Usually things got better.)

That, to me, was what our “sometimes” mantra really meant:

Assume that the next thing will be different.

So yes, in 2017 sometimes I’ll lose, and then I’ll practice acceptance. But no matter how bad today’s losses may seem, tomorrow still might be a win.

There’s no sense approaching the future with a sense of doom. (Yes, even after the election, I believe that.) There’s no reason to live as if everything will continue to get worse. And there’s no benefit to expecting to always lose. Bad service, a missed conversation, a setback? If you’re waiting for the loss, you may not appreciate the win.
Sometimes, really, in 2017 we’re going to win.

“Remember that tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it yet,” said Anne of Green Gables.

And if you’re on the Camino, there might also be a castle.

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