I rode down the snowy streets, my bike navigating through the slush, reflecting on another day at work, going home. It was late, the temperature had dipped below zero long before the sun went down and I was looking forward to a snack and a warm couch. As I hit the halfway point of my ride, there was a deep pulling in my chest, a ringing in my mind, a compulsion of sorts – I needed to stop. Something in me was compelling me to sit. Just sit. I knew that to fight it or to ignore it would be pointless – I needed to be off the road. I happened to be near a parkette that I had ridden past countless times before – a little patch of grass and trees no bigger than a Little League field, nestled between a parking lot and some office buildings. There were benches there. I pulled over and lay my bike against the nearest post.
Before I could even finish sitting down, I felt arising from me a wave of tears that was both unexpected and unwavering. I sat, hands cradling my cheeks, as the tears ran out in waves, each deeper and stronger than the last. As each wave receded, I could hear something come from within me. It was tiny voice that got louder with every moment. “I am where I need to be”, “I love you” and “I forgive you”. Over and over these words came to me, a mantra of sorts, all in between the sobs. I couldn’t understand what it was that was happening to me. One minute I was on my way home, concerned about puddles on the road, and there I was making my own on that frigid park bench.
I sat for several minutes, reciting and weeping, speaking and listening, the air warming around me. As I sat there, wiping my face, I looked up in front of me. Two slight trees, bare limbs looking like broken glass against the faint light of the city stood before me, branches lightly entwined, like lovers grazing fingertips. And in between them, a lamppost, the light blazing between them.
As I stared at those trees, I started to realize why I was there. Sitting there, I felt something that I hadn’t really felt before – that everything was going to be ok. I always knew intellectually that I would be “ok”, but it was the first time that I felt it in my body. The tears I felt were the last vestiges of the war I had waged on myself long ago – for not being the man I was meant to be, for a life that went astray from my drinking, for hating me all those years. And then something broke, like a fever. As the waves receded, I started to feel a peace that I hadn’t felt in a long while. It wasn’t like I just had a good cry and felt better. This was more profound.
You see, I had finally forgiven myself. I gave myself permission to forgive myself – for me. Through my step work and cleaning my side of the street, I had been forgiven by others, and had forgiven others, but I held out on myself. I always knew that I was the last hurdle, but didn’t know how to do it. I had no idea. But for some reason, being open to it all this, time allowed the dam to burst. I was finally free of my own judgements towards myself, free from my own hand striking me down. I could look at myself now and realize I was not a bad man. I wasn’t bad – my alcoholism tried to tell me that, my ego riding shotgun, and in the end, it was all untrue. Truth, my truth, shone through that night.
I looked at those trees touching. I realized that they shared common rootstock, but each branched out in different places. It was like where I was – my two selves, old and new, were coming to meet. The light between – a conduit, a bridge between the two. It was like the old me had gone as far as it could, and was passing through some energy or field to allow the new me to continue the journey. I had met myself. And this place where I met myself was not marked on any conventional map. It was in a little park, but it was way out in another place, deep in me. The place where I met myself was full of love. I could be at peace.
I soon felt it was time to go. There hadn’t been any sounds other than the light wind, but the voices of people passing by and cars sweeping past invaded the silence. I picked up my bike and jumped on. And before I left, I realized one more thing. You see, to get to the parkette, I had ridden over tire tracks and footprints – I had arrived at the place where I met myself by treading where others had gone, following a path that had been laid out before me. But as I clicked into low gear and started off, I noticed a clean sheet of snow beneath and ahead of me. My tire tracks were the first to crunch the snow. I was charting my own path, my own journey now. I was on my way home, from the place that I met myself.