The first mile was awkward. I felt like I was being stared at. There are 2 kinds of people at Greenlake: 1) The Alone People, wearing their jogging shoes, or riding their bikes, moving quickly and dodging between the Not Alone People or 2) The Not Alone People, traveling in their pairs and packs, slowly grazing like cattle around the perimeter. I felt at first as though I was wearing antennae, because I didn’t fit in. I was alone and meandering. I imagined that people were wondering to themselves, “What’s wrong with her? Is she high? Did someone die? Did she just get dumped?” OH! Bingo. Yah, I felt like I had a glowing, light trimmed arrow pointing and flashing at me from above. I hardly noticed my surroundings for that first 30 minutes or so. I mostly paid attention to the feel of my feet taking one lonely step after another. I wanted a hand to hold. I wanted a voice in my ear that wasn’t a stranger’s.
I was creeping into the second mile and had begun to let my thoughts sink into Ben again. That happens pretty rarely lately. I’ve been healing pretty well and letting go of a lot of the residual attachment I had to my life having Ben in it. I was no longer thinking of him first when I woke up in the morning, or last when I went to bed. My chest has lost that ache that had become so familiar with each breath. Hours were passing at the end of which I would realize I hadn’t thought of him at all. I was mending. But as the sun began to set, I turned inward. I was thinking about my future, and how bright it appeared to be, but as so often it does my mind wandered not to my successes but to my failures. Why had I been so disposable to Ben? Why had I been, after so much history, been so easy to throw away? Am I kidding myself in believing I have something to offer? I began to wonder if maybe the idea of me was much better than ACTUAL me. Am I a great interview, but a terrible employee? Am I fun on paper, but just not worth dealing with? Would all of my future relationships be tainted by my willingness to put my ideal self forward, only to disappoint with the reality of what I am? I stopped at a shady spot beneath a tree looking over the lake. I watched the ducks drift by, slipping across the glassy water, and the voices and sounds of the people on the trail evaporated into the ether as I began to cry. It wasn’t an audible cry, it wasn’t that cry in which you bury your face in your arms. It’s that cry where you’re just not sure what to do but crying seems right and so you let it happen. Fat, wet tears rolled down my cheeks, and since I was hidden away from everyone else, I let them fall.
I don’t want to feel broken anymore.
Eventually I stood and walked out from under my tree and when I did, there was a bench in the grass across from me. An old couple was sitting there, quietly holding hands. They weren’t exchanging words, but they were connected. I pondered for a moment the comfort inherent in being still with someone. It’s so much more intimate than talking or gesturing or imposing some idea. You are simply soaking in their presence, the joy of their company. I wondered at the idea of having that with myself. Noiseless and still in my own presence. As I began the rest of my walk, I began to feel a sort of calm come over me. I wasn’t so worried about the other people around me. I focused on the sound of my own breath, of my heart beat in my ears. I paid attention to the way my arms and hips moved in time with my steps. I looked out over the lake, and paid attention to the different trees that were planted around the grassy park surrounding the water. The sun was setting and the air was cooling and it felt good in my lungs. It felt clean. I let the breeze wash over me and paid attention to the feel of it crossing over my skin. It was good.
Again I felt that feeling that I felt with the other steps. It felt… free. I was here alone. I had no one to entertain. My thoughts and feelings were my own. I could laugh, I could cry, I could walk slowly, or speed my pace. There was no one else to consider but myself. Thinking of that pushed my shoulders back, it lifted my chin. I didn’t have anyone here to accompany me, but I also didn’t have anyone to answer to. I felt strong, I felt brave. I felt FIERCE.
Which is probably what brought me to the debacle at the beginning of mile 3. I had poked my phone into my back pocket (I was expecting my kiddos to call, but I didn’t read or answer any text messages while I was there for my alone time. That wouldn’t be very “alone”, now would it?), and my car keys into my hoodie pocket, but I had locked my purse in the trunk of my car for safe keeping. I had forgotten to bring a bottle of water with me. By the time I started the 3rd mile, I was thirsty, but I had no water. There was a small shop by the side of the lake that sold beverages. As I approached it – penniless as I was – I saw that it also sold ice cream. God damn it. Now I wanted ice cream, too.
I had no money, the car was about a mile away so it made no sense to walk there and walk back. Still… ice cream. I looked around me at my surroundings and saw to young men sitting on the grass across the trail. I considered my position carefully, shrugged, and went for it. I was feeling fierce. I could do this.
“Hi!” I said. They looked up at me. I smiled my 100 watt smile, cocked my head to the right.
“Hi…?” They said, almost in unison. They were maybe 19 or 20.
“Could I have 5 dollars?” I asked. That was all. They watched for a moment, as if awaiting elaboration, but I offered none. I felt this was a challenge. The one on the right spoke.
“What?” he said. Obviously he was not my target. I shifted my attention to the one on the left.
“Could I please have 5 dollars?” I asked again. Jacked up the smile wattage to 1,000, head tilt to the left, cute little nose scrunch to seal the deal. There was an almost imperceptible pause before the boy answered, during which I was almost worried.
“I think I have $5…” he said, and dug it out of his wallet. His friend looked at him as though he was buying magic beans, though those would have had a more realistic turn around. I thanked him with another 1,000 watt smile and went to claim my reward.
Mmmm… bottled water and ice cream dipped in crunch bar.
I got a dollar back in change and I returned it to the young man. I’m not sure what he thought when he saw me approach him holding water and an ice cream, but I’m sure a lesson was learned there. Don’t worry, I’ll pay it forward.
Regardless, by the time I got back to my car, I had a smile on my face. I didn’t care that I was alone. I was sharing the inside joke with myself about getting a silly boy to buy me ice cream for no reason. I had enjoyed the sunset, gotten some exercise, and pushed the envelope of my comfort zone, all while being reminded I’m actually still kind of young and pretty.
This trip did more than the others. It encouraged me to do more. I felt confident as I was walking away. I was excited for the next step, and the step after that. I think between the steps, and my growing comfort with the sound of my own footsteps in my house, and sleeping alone every night for so long, that I’m getting a grip on all of this. I feel some long dormant part of me tossing and turning, rubbing its eyes, and taking a long stretch.
My soul is waking, I can feel it.