I’m driving to meet a friend for lunch in Soulard today, as I turn onto Russell, I see the tents set up for Mardi Gras festivities. There’s a big white one that stretches in front of Johnnie’s Pizza. Usually when I go up this hill I’m reminded of the afternoon runs I took when I lived in Benton Park. This was the most challenging hill. I would tell myself, “if you can just make it to McGurk’s, you can slow down a block. Just run to McGurk’s.”
But today the masks glistening in the sun and the beer tents outlining the streets take me back to Mardi Gras 2008. I was walking up this hill alone around 10:30 that night. The girl I spent the afternoon with is passed out in her apartment. I should be passed out. I started drinking at 11 that morning and I’m carrying half a cup of beer now. The streets are practically empty because the bars closed early. I can just walk home. I mean this is my running route. I’m only a mile and half away from my doorstep. I’m a wasted mess, wearing loud, yellow, green and purple tights with a jean skirt and black boots..not sure why I thought this would be cute. I’m half way up the hill, I can see McGurk’s but the site of it doesn’t bring me relief this time. I start to cry.
This was supposed to be a fun day. I was supposed to meet up with a group of people I met out a few nights ago. Thought by now I’d be dancing all my cares away. But I lost the group and I’m alone. My ex husband just called me to tell me a friend told him he saw me out and he wanted to check on me. He sounded happy. Sober. I’m not. But I don’t tell him that. I just keep walking. Crying.
Usually when that memory comes to mind I try to push it away. Think of something else. I’m too embarrassed of the thought of me stumbling around acting stupid and feeling so lonely to let myself go there. But today I’m staying on this page and taking in every detail. And I’m not ashamed. It’s as if that girl stumbling home is another person. I feel so sorry for her. I want to pull over and offer her a ride and tell her she’s not alone and she’s going to be happier than she ever knew possible in a couple years. And that God didn’t disown her for the mistakes she’s made and for running away from Him for the majority of her life.
Because it’s all true. I’ve never felt this kind of peace and love as I do now. Don’t get me wrong. I still have my moments and I’m not 100% happy, lovie dovie all the time. I have a junk drawer full of shame, addictions, guilt, insecurities. It’s stuffed with my medals of “Most Selfish,” “Most Prideful,” and “Biggest Sulker.” The difference is I gave God the master key to that drawer. It’s ok if from time to time I take out some pieces to remind myself of how far I’ve come or for a little show and tell if it comforts someone else. Funny thing is God doesn’t even remember all the crap I have in there because I’ve asked Him to forgive me for it all. And He really does forgive and forget. Problem is I do sneak in there sometimes and let those reminders make me feel bad about myself and I do let some of that baggage come to work with me. It still manages to leak out at home from time to time. I just have to gather it up and stick it back in the drawer. And there’s plenty of room in there for the other stuff that is to come. Because I’m still a mess. I wouldn’t be real if I wasn’t. But it’s a much smaller mess than the one I left at Mardi Gras five years ago.
As I pull up to the intersection of Russell and 13th Street this afternoon, the sun blinds me. Nothing but light in every direction. And I see my girlfriend smiling from down the street. I’m not alone..Not anywhere close.