I finished! I walked to the clocktower in Machynlleth. My steps dragged as I walked down the street, the final 200m of thousands of miles and I was scared of ending. I cried, unexpectedly, as I crossed the road and my friends cheered. Here it was, the finish. I'd done it. I'd set out on a journey, to walk an unthinkable, eyebrow raising number of miles and I, silly, vague, plump, unprepared, determined, stubborn me had actually bloody done it. The point I'd been focused on for so long.
I got drunk and hugged people in a happy, dazed kind of a way. The next day I went to a festival. In some ways it was great, I had no time to think about what I'd just experienced. In other ways it was awful, too much noise and hedonism, I felt very disconnected.
Finally, here I am at my brothers house, two weeks later. I've experienced some sadness but not as much as I expected. I think it helps not to have a home to return to, feeling changed and trying to see how I fit into familiar surroundings. I'm still journeying, in a way, but this time picking up my rucksack and hitchiking from place to place. I have the luxury of my brothers house and then a house sit, places to rest my body and recover my thoughts, angle them towards new plans.
Having direction helps too; I'm not adrift in the absence of an intense and overpowering project, I know where I'm going. I'm aiming for book writing and, long term, I'm aiming to walk across Europe. There is no life to pick up again following the big walk, wondering if I fit it or even want it at all, there's only a life to be lived, time to enjoy until the next goodbye, the next adventure. This feels like a good thing, this wanting to leave again. Cancer made me so weak, so vulnerable I went from being a live, powerful being to a scared and vulnerable one, needing roots and security. When I set out on this 3700 mile walk I wondered what I was doing, leaving Machynlleth, my place of safety and friendship, my community. As I walked I realised I was strong enough again, I'd healed, I could be out in the world again, I could handle it. And so I feel good about leaving again; I am able.
Something else helps too - less walking means less pain. I don't miss the constant pain I experienced every day. My body was ready to stop. Parts of me were ready to stop after 500 miles, I just pushed and cajoled them to keep going, far beyond what they wanted to to. I'm talking to you plantar tendons. I spent most of the walk trying to keep them from ripping further from my heel bones, coping with the damage already done. It feels good to be sitting on this sofa. I don't miss sleeping on the hard ground. I don't miss the heavy bag weighing my shoulders down. I don't miss pain at all.
My body is still incredibly tense. I know from my experiences in previous endurance events (okay, one endurance event) that I need time to bring it down from its active state. My body is an overworked horse, I may have taken the saddle off but it doesn't know that this is truly over, that it doesn't need to keep going. I had three massages last week, each only showing my just how tense many parts of me still are, my shoulders in particular are absolutely solid. I walked yesterday, just a stroll with family, two hours around a closed down theme park, reliving memories. Today my body aches, I am lowering myself, crabwise down the stairs, each joint and tendon shouting their existence, a cacophony of body awareness. There's plenty to do, mainly stretching, something I am not very good at remembering.
I feel as if I could sleep forever, each day is a dazy expanse of hours, mainly spent eating and playing cards and looking at the internet. I'm taking tentative steps into a Kickstarter project, researching self publishing a book. I'm treading a line between adequate rest and keeping up a self-imposed work ethic. I think I'm doing it right. It feels right.