all of the selves we Have ever been
Following my usual route along a nondescript section of urban bike trail,
I spot something new! A row of tall banners blows in the breeze and forms a lively parade along the guardrail. I look for the cause of such celebration. Beyond the guardrail and down a small slope on the far side of an enormous parking lot, a new establishment is open for business.
One of the signs unfurls on an east-to-west wind, and I see the words, “Dry Needling” displayed on a banner that looks like a boat sail. I repeat the words to myself as I move along the path: Dry needling? What can that be?
I scour my mental glossary and come up with an ancient parental rebuke, “Quit needling your sister!” The tone made it clear that continued needling came with consequences. And needle each other in public? A girl better be prepared to grow her hair out like Rapunzel if she ever wanted to leave her room again. These needling memories increase my curiosity, and I imagine a business built on a model developed by kids in junior high school. If only I had known then that I could build a profitable empire on those sarcastic, uninspired, and mean years!
Making my way home with the words dry needling still jabbing my brain, I look up the word needling and find that it is “a teasing or gibing remark.” But then I have to dig into the word gibing – “to make someone the object of unkind laughter, deride, jeer, laugh at, mock, ridicule, skewer, scoff, or make fun of.” Yep, my parents knew what they were talking about.
I dig deeper. What can dry needling be? My parents were not that explicit. Perhaps they assumed that at age 12 there was no alcohol involved in these exchanges of psychic puncture wounds. Therefore, I assume that despite the fanfare, this new establishment along the bike path is not a bar. I guess people of any age can needle while sober.
I walk the short distance home and think of how long it has been since my parents scolded us for needling. If only they had lived a little longer, they would have seen that those junior high skills and the art of needling can have a big pay-off. Today, we call it Twitter.
The Paths Taken
I push myself out the door
for a morning walk.
The sky is dark and dreary. The air is moist, and it is cold. Gusts of wind sting my eyes. Within a few yards of my home, my fingertips begin to tingle inside my gloves,
I walk along an urban bike path past clusters of office buildings. Tucked between the newer constructions and further back from the bike path, there is a small, nondescript structure that is home to a substance abuse treatment center.
As I proceed along the path, I pass a young man walking with his head down, pressing into the wind. On this cold, wet day he wears worn jeans and a sweatshirt. He has no coat, no gloves, no hat. He walks with purpose. He does not look up or speak when we pass.
On my return, I again walk by the treatment center. A woman who appears to be of middle age is coming from the parking lot toward the bike path. She is dressed in leggings and a hooded sweatshirt. The hood is drawn up tight around her face. She passes by me, her expression is blank. I wonder how far she has to go. I think about how cold she must be. I wonder if the young man I passed earlier made it safely to his destination, if he will suffer consequences of being unprotected in the cold.
I wonder more about where they each are headed on this path we share, and I wonder about their lives before substances tricked them into giving up all reason and judgment, before they were robbed of health and happiness.
Passing this clinic today, I realize that I have been lucky. All of us are just one drink, one pill, one snort, one naïve and reckless day away from walking a different path.
I walk for enjoyment. They walk to save their lives.
For all those traveling the same path, may the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind be always at your back.