It's the second week of January and already it's been a long, cold winter. In the mornings Zeke and I walk down through Riverside park where the palette is steel, slate, frost and ash. We walk along the water, the New Jersey side of the riverbank extends beneath and beyond the George Washington bridge, up the Hudson and out of sight. The sailboats are gone, the wind is cutting, Zeke runs like a puppy and my fingers tingle with cold through my gloves. The white sky and colorless ground feel symptomatic of my emotional state; on hold, waiting, brittle.
Row upon row of leafless trees reach crackled brown branches up like gnarled, ancient, hands. Reaching up, always up; motivated by the desire for something unattainable, knotted, aching, cold. Exposed and empty for all to see.
I'm waiting too. Anxious, aching, empty, cold.
In the meantime I try to take the next right action, do the next right thing. I know that self-esteem is increased by doing esteem-able acts so I pray to be good, to be helpful, to be kind. Often I become impatient and irritable and am forced to return to willingness only after the familiarity of discomfort reminds me that self-righteousness and self-pity are a corrosive thread that sour all they touch.
I get tricked into believing that a material thing will bring me relief; food, sex, an article of clothing, something. Always I am wrong. There is no material solution to a spiritual problem.
Still, I submit to the idea that something outside of myself will make me feel better and I engage in familiar, old behavior. Compromised, vulnerable, I try to invite God to be present. God is present. I ignore Him.
"If you see me on the street with someone don't say hello. I have a boyfriend."
How is it I'm here again? Can I actually be hearing this again? After all the years, the lessons learned, how is it I am still here, at this place? Perhaps I only thought I had humbled myself. The lessons of the past had not taught me enough honesty, enough humility.
I'd been told that humility will bring strength out of weakness, that pain will be the price of admission to a new life and that as I cross the threshold of this new life I will begin to fear pain less.
Like the trees, my activity is suspended, temporarily in abeyance. Fatigued by the weight of what's not there I'm exposed and brittle. I carry with me an empty space and though blessed with the fellow travelers I have on this journey I feel alone in a wintry landscape. Fragile, misunderstood, I thirst for the first signs of spring. The return of birds, sailboats on the water, a crocus and most eagerly, a relaxed knowledge that something will blossom, color will return and I will finally thaw.