Unwelcome Walking Partner

Tonight, I went on a walk with sadness. Well actually, it was a walk with my Peachy girl because she refused to take no for an answer tonight, but sadness came along for at least half of our journey.

I had to wait until the sun set and the temperature lowered to a cool 102 degrees before getting her into her harness, and tonight, unlike many other nights, she actually maintained her enthusiasm for our walk well beyond the driveway. For an old dog she still surprises me fairly often.

It wasn’t until we got to her favorite lawn on our route that sadness showed up and decided to take a sweaty stroll with my girl and me. It wasn’t the sadness I knew from a few weeks ago; it had definitely undergone a few changes, changes of which I was genuinely grateful. For one, the ache of it had certainly dulled. It no longer packed a punch that could stop me in my tracks, fold me at the waist, and make me gasp for breath. Instead, it cautiously walked up beside me, then matched my steps, and seemed to shyly ask, “So…what have you been up to?” as if we were friends who hadn’t talked for a while after a silly disagreement.

Another difference was its source, its reason. It wasn’t just the memories of HIM that were sparked by walking the familiar sidewalks and paths that summoned the sadness to my side, but it was also the memories of ME walking those same sidewalks alone just a few weeks ago that allowed this unwelcome tag-a-long to keep pace with us. I thought of the way I felt the last times I had walked with Peaches past the houses with their carriage lights that I envied, how I looked at those lights through tears and wanted to rip them from the stucco, smashing the bulbs and glass sides, extinguishing absolutely anything that shone, just to emulate what I felt was happening to me. Instead of thinking, “Remember that time when *he*………..” I was thinking, “Remember just a few weeks ago when *you* were walking past here, your throat hurting so bad from holding back tears and you were questioning with all sincerity the possibility that you would ever be happy and at peace again?”

I was feeling heartbreak…for me…over my heartbreak. It was simultaneously one of the most selfish and one of the most generous episodes of grief I’ve ever felt. And fascinatingly bizarre.

Thankfully, it was not long lasting, as I had no idea how to handle it, and shortly before our oppressive walk ended, good ol’ shame and anger showed up at the end of my street and shoved my gloom right off the curb, told it to move along and reassured it they’ve got me from here. I don’t know what I would do without those two, hissing in my ears, “Wow, I can’t believe you were really that stupid,” and “Fuck that bastard, fuck the way he treated you and all that he robbed from you.”

I allowed shame and anger to keep Peach and me company on the rest of our walk. If nothing else, they are fantastic motivators, reminding me of lessons I’ve learned and promises I’ve made to myself as a result of those dreadful lessons.

As we reached the driveway and I unhooked the leash from Peaches’ harness, nudging her towards the open garage, I was filled with an intense sense of relief that the walk was over. And then it hit me. Weeks ago, I dreaded coming home from our walks, just as much as I dreaded heading out on them. Every single part of walking my dog had become a chore, one that I despised from beginning to end, because of the internal pain it caused me. But that didn’t happen tonight. While walking through the neighborhood accompanied, unexpectedly, by my recently estranged sorrow, I worried that it would all come back in a flood and that I wasn’t as far along in my healing as I believed. But when I sensed that relief at the end of our walk and felt glad that we were “home”….that’s really all I needed. I realize the sadness, the anger, the shame, and a handful of other moods and emotions triggered by my recent relationship, will make unexpected appearances now and then. But so will relief. And happiness. And peace. And confidence. And they’ll show up more often than those other assholes.

I am reassured now. It took a while. It took much longer than I anticipated, to be honest. But I’m there now. I know it. I can declare it now and actually *believe* it.

I am going to be alright.

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