In 2017, in Santa Fe, I was hiking up a steep incline, almost to the top of the mountain, when I felt a surge of energy, like a bolt of lightning, charge through me, starting with my feet, moving up and out the top of my head. Dumbstruck, unable to move, I stood in the path, wondering what the hell just happened. A man and his dog soon appeared. The man asked if I was okay. I couldn’t speak but I motioned for them to walk past me. The man did, but his dog, big and shaggy, stopped and began to gently nuzzle me, as if it wanted to do what it could to comfort me.
The man stared at his dog moving around my body. “I’ve never seen him do anything like this.” He called the dog but the dog continued his soothing rubbing, offering me comfort and caring. The man called the dog again, but the dog ignored him. Not wanting him to leave, I stroked his fur. When it seemed pretty clear the dog wasn’t going to stop any time soon the man came over to him and said, “Time to go,” and nudged the dog up the path.
I couldn’t get my body to move. Hikers passed, asking if I was all right. “Fine,” I answered though I was anything but fine. Then, with no conscious decision to do so, in my mind’s eye I began seeing friends who had hurt me, family members who blamed me, people with whom I continued to interact despite being treated unkindly. No matter who I thought about, what incident I remembered, there was no charge of energy—no anger, no bitterness, no frustration—only calm.
Confused, still not able to get my body to move, I consciously remembered insults, accusations, offensive remarks and actions. Nothing. More people passed me. Then, somehow, without conscious effort, I began hiking, feeling lighter, free of negativity, sensing a new inner spaciousness. My feet moved faster despite the increasingly steep incline. I felt a rare sense of joy and wonder as I reached the top, but it also felt mysterious and unexplainable.
I don’t know what happened in that moment as I hiked up the mountain. What I do know is that pent-up difficult feelings dissolved and disappeared. In the past, if I thought about how my family refused to talk about incidents, claiming it was my imagination or my fault I would feel a mixture of emotions—anger, frustration, helplessness . . . Unable to defend myself, I would shrivel into muteness. Now, I could think about them and others with whom I had troubled relationships and feel peaceful. I could wish them well, but no longer want to interact with them.
In the days and weeks that followed, I found loving and caring ways to cease contact with people who felt toxic, with whom I could not be myself. It was as if we had been on one path up until the incident on the mountain. After that, our paths diverged; I moved on to a healthier way of being in relationship. Now, when someone is angry at me, I more often than not have the wherewithal to ask, “Can we talk about what happened?” instead of going inside myself and not saying anything.
Years later, I look back at the incident on the mountain with astonishment and wonder. How could decades of negative feelings dissolve in seconds? I can’t explain it and yet, they did.
Are you open to unexpected shifts in how you deal with difficult relationships?
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.