on the "other" side of the hill, far across the San Fernando Valley, nestled into the foothills beneath the Angeles National Forest is where i go to hike.
where i now feel comfortable hiking.
[La Tuna Canyon.]
unlike the celebrity-littered Runyon or Fryman Canyon tucked inside the hollow heart of Hollywood, you will see no-one skulking under baseball caps or trailing a spritz of their designer perfume.
["Celebrities hike too!"]
it is not 1997, and i do not pass Christina Ricci or Alanis Morrisette; i do not gape and gawk with a mixture of self-disgust and awestruck wonder at my predictable rubbernecking at fame and the surreal nearness of these feted goddesses—while stealthily checking out the size of their asses. Teri Hatcher does not tear by us in a panicked jog—running uphill!—limbs pumping away the final calories of her morning bite of toast. i do not turn to Kevin and gasp, "how much smaller is she than me? he does not answer, "yeah, you'd have to lose about 5 pounds."
[or did he say 10?]
[just. let. go.]
the last time i hiked this trail, it was August 2011. i was 97 lbs. and weeks away from rehab, petering out on the fumes of Oxycontin and self-hatred. even the desperate, insistent beats of Lady Gaga's sophomoric album couldn't get me up the hill. aching arms limp by my side, eyes downcast, downgrading myself from something to nothing with every step i barely took.
nothing could get me to look up and around at the world i was inside.
today, as i panted up the hill, 20 lbs. heavier, Coldplay's U2-inspired "Mylo Xyloto" streamed through my ear-buds; The Edge's ripped-off riffs rippling to the tips of my toes—are you really "honoring your heroes" if every song sounds like a U2 song? but today, nothing could stop me.
i heard my friend C.'s voice as i trekked around a quiet bend, shadowed dank by a queer blend of pines and palms, "aren't you afraid of walking alone?". i turned my face toward the fading warmth of a gloaming sun. i inhaled the thick piney perfume and felt my burden drop away as fronds steadily clipped by a skilled gardener who'd spidered to the top of a California Palm. and i exhaled my fear.
[just for today.]
for no, i am not afraid of walking alone.
for i no longer feel alone.
we are Anonymous, so i should not, do not, shout from the hill's sandy plateau; the vista that peers down to the scuttling 210 freeway below— my friend, M.'s, favorite freeway— that which i have found.
2 and a half years ago, when i last hiked this hill, i was determined to live life on my own, hands defiantly at my side. and i was stuck. unable to climb the mountain in triumph, and unable scale down and admit defeat. i was amputated.
today, a dog passed me. i laughed, able to let go of my grief and look it's owners in the eyes.
and i clapped. loudly.
it has been the greatest gift to learn how to use my hands. they are the only tools i need.
my hands do not hang limply by my side. i take the hand, the hands, that is offered to me.
of friends, fellowship and family. and even Higher.
and hold it.
and greater than that.
i now offer my own.
and don't take it back.
i feel like a toddler with an enormous plate of food in front of me, managing small bites, chewing thoroughly before swallowing as i've been taught. oh, but sometimes, i really want to pick up the entire plate and just whip it at the wall, or better yet, your face.
or still better, my own.
[progress, not perfection?]
it's 2014. it is 4 pm. i am still married and i am sober. i prefer the whiff of the Drakkar Noir-infused sweat on the BMX-biker that just whizzed passed me. i prefer my worn-out, New Balance runners and the size of my ass suits me just fine.
and now i know, if i just reach out my hand, i'll get up that hill.
one step at a time.