By the time I reached the peak I was running out of breath. The day was grey and cold and if it weren’t for my persistent, adorable dog I never would have made it out at all. Sometimes Life hands you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it- or perhaps that’s all that ever happens. These hikes were slowly saving me- physically, emotionally and spiritually. That prattling, ever-present voice of doom and gloom would grow quieter during these times, would give me space to be myself and to be alone with God.
My phone buzzed and I decided to sit on a rock and answer it. The screen flashed with Holly’s name and I knew it would be important- she rarely called. The pleasantries were brief. She was distraught.
“I’m freaking out,” she said, nearly as out of breath as I had been. “Mark is being transferred for work. It’s Cleveland! Can you imagine? He has three months to get his shit together and then he’s got to report to Head Office by March 1st. I’m freaking out!”
I told her to breathe. I said we could breathe together- that soothing yogic breath: pushing the stomach out on the inhale, bringing the stomach in on the exhale. Finally, I said: “Cleveland, eh? That’s a big change!”
Holly and Mark had been married for four months- together for ten. It was a whirlwind. She had always sworn she would never marry and yet, now here she was: committed and staring down the barrel of even more change and challenge.
Her voice heavy with emotion she said: “Danielle, I can’t even… I’ve lived in Toronto my entire life. This is home. What on earth?! What on earth…”
“Right, OK. This is big. This is also your life now. I say that not as an admonishment, but as an affirmation. One of the cool things about joining your life with another’s is that neither of you ever has to face anything alone. You share this life now.” My dog was growing restless so I rose and guided him back down the escarpment trail. “What does Mark say?” I asked.
She gave a harsh laugh. “Oh, he thinks it’s the best fucking thing ever. He’s thrilled! Nevermind that I have to leave my job at the consignment shop where I’ve been for ten years, nevermind that all our friends and family are here- he thinks this is going to be amazing.”
“And you don’t.”
“No! What am I going to do in Cleveland? Christ, what have I done with my life?”
I took a deep breath and focused on what I was feeling from her rather than what my thoughts were saying. She was scared, anxious, regretful, questioning herself. Holly had never liked change and yet, she had disrupted her entire life by marrying Mark. He was the level-headed CPA with four different degrees from different parts of the world and a condo in The Beaches. Holly was the drama school drop-out with pink hair and vintage clothes- who always talked about seeing the world, but never left King and Bathurst. This was pushing her to her limits.
“Holls, I am here for you one hundred percent, but we both know you are talking to the wrong person here.”
She was tearing up. “I called you because I want to be strong and excited for Mark when he gets home. I don’t want him to know how fucking terrified I am of all this. He thinks I’m this free spirit, and I am, but not in a ‘pick up and move to Cleveland’ kind of way.”
“I hear you. But Mark wants to know ALL of you. That’s why he married you. Don’t deny him the opportunity to love you through this. Let him soothe you and hear you out. This move is not a foregone conclusion. You are a team: you and he. Let him stand beside you.”
Her breathing started to slow. “OK,” she uttered softly. “You know, I do know how lucky I am. Don’t think that I don’t.”
Smiling, I said: “I wasn’t thinking that at all. I was only thinking about how I love the timing of him showing up in your life.”
“Oh my God, I know! You’re absolutely right.” A silent gratitude hung between us for a moment until she spoke up again. “What the hell is Cleveland famous for anyway?”
“Baseball, beer and rock ‘n roll,” I replied.
I could almost hear her mull this over. “Shit could be worse,” she said.
I laughed out loud. “Most definitely, Holls! Shit could be worse.”
As I hung up the phone, Jax, our dog, led me to a smoother part of the path and looked back at me with satisfaction. “Yes, buddy,” I said. “You’re taking us the right way.”