We walked the local Rail Trail, my friend and I, an old railroad path connecting Hamilton to Brantford, Canada. The trees were a tall, sheltering canopy from the early September sun above us, leaves still mostly green and rustling in the subdued wind. I was anxious once more after a few calm weeks. I needed to get outside and I needed a friendly ear.
I had allowed myself to be pulled here and there without prayer as an anchor. Of course I pray everyday, but as my life speeds up I need it more. I know this. And yet I forget, and I had forgotten, so now the thoughts were spinning fast.
“I’m heading to New York in ten days,” I told her, tugging my sleeves up my elbows. “I’ve been many times. This is the first time I haven’t wanted to go and it makes no sense.”
My friend sipped her water bottle and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “You love going to New York. What’s the difference this time?”
Danielle, you’re thirty-five years old, I thought to myself. How on earth are you still dealing with this shit?! I rubbed my hand along the back of my neck. I had come this far; I had to say it. “Well, it’s not just to visit friends. I’m going to a training…a master class and my gut tells me it could change my life, but the problem is I just don’t feel like I belong. I feel separate.”
She squinted at me. “You’re gonna have to expand on that, babe. What do you mean by separate?”
“I’m not vegan or cutting out sugar or trying the latest hot yoga or pole-dancing class. I still haven’t fully cut out bread even though I should and I do zumba with sixty-year old women in a small town. I don’t accesorize to meditate in front of some fancy altar. I wear clothes from discount stores and sit my ass down on a meditation pillow that my friend, Cindy, made for me while my kids scream for yogurt and peanut butter sandwiches.”
She laughed and twirled her dark brown ponytail.
“I don’t weigh myself because that triggers my bulimia, but I know what size I wear and it’s been the same size for two years now.” My voice was shaking. It still did anytime I said the “B word” and I wondered how long that would last. “These women are going to have it ‘together’. They’ll be smart and thin and driven. Yes, my spiritual practice is good. Yes, I walk my talk. But my life is still in pieces. Some parts are coming together, but I am still very much a work in progress.”
My friend threw her head back in laughter and then caught my unimpressed eye. “Oh, I’m not laughing at you, love.”
I raised an eyebrow at her in disbelief. “Like hell,” I said.
She took another drink of water. “There was just so much judgment in what you said that I could barely keep up and I couldn’t decide who you were judging more…these imaginary women or yourself.”
I sighed. I was only being honest.
“You were only being honest,” she said to me, dipping her head to catch my eye once more. “We all do this and it’s silly. You know that. And you also know that all judgment is self-judgment.”
“Yes,” I muttered. She asked me to stop walking and look at her so I did.
“You’ve become afraid of Love again,” said my friend gently. “The trip to New York is neutral. It can be a loving experience or it can be fearful. You’ve taken all kinds of stuff from your past, judged it as scary and stressful and then projected it into the future.”
I nodded. She was right.
“You pray every day that God put you where you are needed. I know that you do, so what about trusting in that? What about trusting that each step you take is shrouded in God’s love and intention to help you heal?”
“Yes, I think I can do that.”
My friend took my hand and squeezed it. “You have love for everyone, Danielle. Why would these women be any different?”
I ran my free hand through my hair. “They’re not. It’s like you said: I just became afraid of Love again. Now I need to be honest with Spirit about that and ask for help to see it differently.” I laughed. “The work that has to be done doesn’t change, but we still try our best to avoid it, don’t we?”
She smiled kindly. “We are innocent. We let ourselves become misguided though.”
I hugged her tight and we turned back towards Hamilton. I would be in New York City in just a few short days, but right now I was headed home. Misguided, yes, and often…but I wasn’t alone.