The Butterfly Effect

Isn’t it funny how one decision, or a series of decisions that lead into each other can change everything. Often at the time it doesn’t seem like a big thing but it throws ripples that become waves that then turn into tidal waves that crash through your existence and the existence of others after which nothing is ever quite the same – like that movie from the 90’s; ‘The Butterfly Effect’.  Decisions like that can have consequences that range from exceptionally good to heartbreakingly tragic but the thing they have in common is that the consequences are monumental.  So far the Camino is looking like it could be one of those decisions.  At least I hope it is, but you often can’t tell right away only afterwards, once the ripples have run their course.  The last time one of those decisions came into my life and the lives of those around me was early January on a cruise.  Fortunately that was a good one too and has resulted in the romance of a lifetime for two very lucky people, sadly I was not one of them but oh well, we can’t have everything!  Actually, if you really want to be pedantic you could say it started much earlier than that, when we first decided to go on a cruise.

My decision to walk the Camino has not been a light one.  It was spontaneous, yes, but I am aware of the issues I could face, the things that could go wrong and I choose to try anyway.  Not to say that I haven’t been a little nervous about how my body will cope with it and to that end I posted a question on a Camino forum I have joined recently asking if anyone had been in a similar situation and tackled the Camino (apart from my original source of inspiration – The Year We Seized the Day); I received a surprising and very uplifting response.  The response was from a girl named ‘Thea’ who has MS (multiple sclerosis) and tackled the last 100km of the Camino last year with the aid of a 4 wheel frame.  Her story was further inspiration and I am more determined to do this now than ever (well, in the last week or so since deciding to do it!).  She wrote a bit of a blog about it and it makes for some rather inspiring reading.

It is now 7.5 weeks until I leave and I am equal parts excited and nervous.  I have only ever been to Europe on family holidays and have never travelled overseas by myself.  I always thought it would be more fun with someone else and I have had some great travelling companions to share amazing memories with.  That being said I also have some not-so-amazing memories, mainly involving travel with mum but hey, that’s what mum’s are for right?  For messing things around, getting lost, amusing language barrier stories, minor camper-van accident stories, billions of unnecessary photos, being late to things and finding them closed and generally being a nuisance or a complete dag (see picture below).  Along with the bad comes the good though; I’ve been to some amazing places with my mum and I wouldn’t trade her for another – camera obsession and tendency towards lateness or no!

I know when I look over all the things I have done there is a lot I have achieved, a lot I have seen and done and a lot of places I have been.  But that’s not the point here.  The point is I don’t feel like I have achieved anything of note, not me personally anyway.  Does that make sense?  You could be sitting there reading this going; what is she complaining about? She’s done all that, I know people who haven’t been out of the state before or never went to university or went and didn’t complete their studies!  I’m not apologising for the opportunities I have had or the work I have done and I’m certainly not making them seem like nothing at all. I’ve had to fight hard for the things I have done, particularly over the last 7 years.  What I’m saying is this; in terms of happiness, life satisfaction, expectations etc I haven’t really gotten anywhere close to where I would like to be, or far from where I was when I finished school and not through lack of trying or lack of desire to do so.  A lot of people my age have the energy and the wellness to achieve what they want to or to not achieve, if that is what they prefer. And that is why this trip, this challenge, this decision is so important to me.

Like most girls (and some boys) growing up I wished that one day someone would come and tell me that I was a princess, that my life would change and become a fairytale.  I had a very vivid imagination.  This dream wasn’t helped by the release of the Princess Diaries or the true fairytale of Mary and Frederik.  Sadly that day hasn’t come for me and I came to the realisation that it would not (ok maybe I’m still dreaming a bit – or just naively holding out hope) and we have to make our own fairytale, our own story – there’s not really anything wrong with dreaming, unless it takes over your life and makes you unhappy in comparison.  Look back over your life and think – if your life was a story, would you read it? would you be happy with it?  It doesn’t have to be extraordinary but it should make you happy.  It should make you proud.  There are moments that could make you sad but there should be more that make you smile.  Life satisfaction is a very important thing but it is also a very subjective thing.  What makes one person happy will not necessarily make another happy.

Achieving happiness can be as simple as changing your attitude – just deciding to be happy seems to work for many people.  For others it is far more complicated and depends a lot on where you are in life.  But one thing I have noticed is; changing something small can make a huge difference to your happiness.  Shifting your attitude or your perspective.  Deciding to do something different.  Taking up a challenge, taking time to smell the roses, smile at the violets or look at the stars.  Sure there will be hard times, it’s part of life, but there will be good too and if you can look at those good times you’ll often find that they were simple.  If that doesn’t work then looking at puppies and kittens can be very entertaining – for example:

Above Left: Dogs of destruction – that green and yellow fluffy stuff once belonged in the blue thing they are sitting on which was once their bed

Above Right: Life saver – well she was there and she didn’t move and looked pretty cute

Left: Yes, that is a small dog in a tree.  His name is Archie and he likes to dream big

This has been a bit of a long post today.  Ding would like to sign off by saying he is still impressed by the amount of room I have left him in my pack although he still hasn’t decided what the most comfortable spot to while I’m walking will be.  Now if you’ll excuse us, I think Ding and I are going to watch the Princess Diaries…

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