“You can’t pour from an empty cup.“
That phrase. We hear it, we know it, and if you’re anything like me, you grit your teeth at it. “Go take a little time for yourself, some alone time,” my well-meaning husband says as I head out the door to grocery shop. Alone. “Self-care” echoes hollowly in my ears, a platitude that conjures up unrealistic images — plush, white spa robes, eye-cucumbers, and the tinkling sounds of Enya as you sip that long-stemmed glass of wine.
If there’s an antithesis for “self-care,” it’s motherhood, right? Motherhood is sacrifice. It’s a million mundane actions that add up to the “taking care” of other human beings, most typically, in spite of yourself. Days get lost in their familiarity. We’re exhausted and in this era of immediacy and multi-tasking, we take on more at one time than ever before. Mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, chauffeur, entrepreneur, etc., — All of those spinning plates in the air at once, do you dare add another?
Mindy Miraglia is the founder and tour guide of Berkshire Camino. She provides town-to-town guided walks and hiking journeys here in the Berkshires. If the concept of Camino sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile walk across Northern Spain. During a time of uncertainty in her own life, Mindy made a solo pilgrimage on the Santiago. What she discovered there she refers to now as her “super hero self,” an empowering belief and confidence that comes from walking out the door to greet life’s challenges and meeting your new self on the other side. Mindy has gone on to walk the Santiago a second time and it was these soul journeys that inspired the creation of Berkshire Camino.
I didn’t know what to expect. To me, joining a disparate group of strangers for a shared afternoon of walking didn’t seem communal, it was scary and anxiety-inducing. Before we embarked, I mentally planned what I wanted to take away from the experience — a physical challenge, a hiking experience that would push me beyond the 1-milers I’d been getting alongside my kids. I’d focus on pushing my body and shutting off my mind. I’d go inward and let the elevation wind me through canopied forests as the summer sun strobed through the leaves. I’d sweat out the stress, the worry, the exhaustion, all that comes with being a mother.
But what I didn’t realize was that the real magic would happen in the unplanned moments of the Camino — the sharp eyesight of a fellow traveler pointing out a wayward red eft, the first shaky sentences of a new conversation, the peeling back of a small corner of a personal struggle, and the collective appreciation of taking in a vast expanse of pure blue sky.
I had thought looking inwards would be key to the day, but it was in the reaching outwards that gave space for some incremental healing. In those few hours, Berkshire Camino became our own communal mobile sanctuary.
We walked. We talked. We reflected. I finally felt myself let go and walk with no purpose. I walked down the dirt aisles of the forest with no list in my hand, no boxes to check, and it was in that void of purpose, that I found peace.
My sliver of time in this mobile sanctuary left my cup overflowing with gratitude, peace, renewal and connectivity. No, it’s not the imposing trek of the far-off Santiago, it’s the verdant hills and vales of the Berkshire Camino, and that journey is uniquely ours.
“You’ve got to unplug in order to connect.”
This isn’t just a walk in the woods. Believe me, I’ve been on a few. None of those walks have been as uniquely soul-satisfying as Berkshire Camino. I unplugged from my life for 3 hours, and in those hours, I came to understand what Mindy means when she says that, “you’ve got to unplug in order to connect.” We all know that taking a break from screens and getting out into nature is good for us. But unplugging from technology aside, when you manage to shut off the switch of your personal preconceptions, you may find that that is what you really needed in order to truly reboot.
So many thanks go out to Mindy and my fellow travelers on that Sunday afternoon. This introvert never felt so extra-verted and it was glorious.