Last weekend my husband and I traveled down into central Florida for his 20th high school reunion. I was equal parts excited and nervous -- the word “high school” still triggering nauseating memories of the hair-raising four year competition for grades, popularity, and boys.
So with all of my insecurities stirred up, Shawn drops this dusey of a bomb: “you know, babe, word has it that my ex-girlfriend is going to be there.” He’s learned (from a similar misstep) to tell me these things in advance.
Now, let me be clear -- a lot has changed for me since high school. After a lot of therapy and a lot of yoga and a lot of prayer, I’ve gotten pretty good at this “loving my perfectly imperfect self” thing, more confident in the unique drummer who’s running the Erin show. But that insecure 16 year-old monster who doesn’t know her inherent worth still lives in a small cave on the back of my compound, at the ready in moments like these.
So when Shawn dropped this information right in the middle of the dinner table before heading to meet the gang, this monster -- who recently has made appearances at the gym, the company picnic, and upon seeing herself naked in the mirror -- awoke from her slumber.
“I have to go the bathroom,” I lied, as I promptly found my way to a full length mirror to ensure that my thrown-in-my-bag-without-thinking outfit looked as put together as I had hoped. I checked every tooth crevice for food, noticing the crooked and slightly browning ones with more disgust than an hour ago. I fluffed my hair and caked on another layer of mask as the monster stretched from her long nap in the pit of my stomach.
“What took you so long?” Shawn asked. “And what did you do to your face?” (He’s so good, like really really good at detecting and calling out my bullshit without even knowing that that’s what he’s doing.)
We walked from the restaurant to the bar, hand in hand, as I noticed my belly pooch (which ironically doubled in size over the last half hour) in the window reflections along the way.
Looking back now it’s hard to know exactly what stories I’ve been told about women, and myself, that have created this beast and why she believes that other women are her enemies, that her worth comes from the costume she's wearing, that life is a never-ending competition for the Prom ballot, but I’d like to bet that Walt Disney and the creators of Saved by the Bell have something to do with it.
We entered the scene and I immediately scanned the room to find nothing. I awkwardly made conversation with people I don’t really know about things that I don’t really care about, waiting for the “big moment” to arrive.
About two hours and three drinks later, I had tamed my monster (numbing her with alcohol as I so expertly learned to do in college) when I saw HER across the room: thick, beautiful dark hair, stunning blue eyes, and an air of confidence hanging around her like magic dust.
How did I know it was her, you ask? Oh yee of little Facebook experience, you have much to learn.
We did the half-look thing at each other a few times, my drunken monster now coherent enough to stay mostly aware of where she was in the room as I continued to talk to people I don't know about things that I don't care about.
We did an awkward dance around the bar a few times until there was no other way that we could avoid each other, acting as if this final point of contact had been - oh my GOSH! - totally random all along.
“Hiiiiiii, Liz! So nice to meet you,” I exclaimed, drunken monster now on high alert. I reached out for a handshake, to which she responded with a huge hug -- and not just a tap-tap-tap-on-your-back kind of hug, but the Mama bear kind, the kind that completely and totally bound us together, bosom to bosom; the kind that tucked our respective chins into our respective shoulder creases; the kind that says, I see YOU and I’m so grateful to meet you.
“Erin,” she said, as she pulled away to look me square in the eyes, “you are an answered prayer,” pulling me in for yet another intoxicating, I-really-mean-it hug. “I just want you to know that when Shawn and I broke up I prayed that another woman could love him well and here you are.” Insert yet another super awesome hug.
My eyes welled with tears of joy and relief as I told the monster that, no, no darling, you won’t be needed here any longer. I took another deep breath and let Liz’s magic take over me once more as I morphed from scared, crazed monster back into the perfectly-imperfect Love Warrior at my core, the good witch that I really am beneath my mask.
Like glittery smoke, words of love and light flowed freely from my mouth as I shared my gratitude for HER, explaining that I know full well that every woman who came before me has prepared Shawn for our marriage, feeling relieved that I could genuinely match Liz’s beauty and grace so swiftly.
For the rest of the night, to Shawn’s delight, Liz and I were attached at the hip. We talked about Being the Light, about her ministry with the elderly, about our favorite band, and who we used to be in high school. We were in the same club now, sisters, sharing and laughing and dancing together, bound by the nectar of love and respect as opposed to separated by the toxicity of fear and self-doubt.
This woman made the choice to work her miraculous Love magic upon me, reminding me once again, why the story of my Main Man, the Miracle Worker (aka the Big J or Jesus the Christ), speaks to me so fully and completely. If you don't know it well, this man boldly walked into every effed up, frazzled, falling apart situation and just TRANSMUTED the whole damn place with nothing but a huge-ass magic Love wand.
As a cradle Catholic I was taught that we are supposed to just sit around taking communion, analyzing and talking about how great He was, but instead, I think, He wants us to do the opposite. He wants us to stop watching and to start doing, to get up and DO AS HE DID, carrying our little magic Love wands wherever we go, using them in the classroom, the old home, the dental chair, the gas station, and the dinner table, to light up this darkening scene one tiny act of magic at a time, just as this badass woman warrior did for me.
When we realize that we are all children of God, worthy of love and belonging, and that we are all on the same team, that there's no "us vs them" just one big US, we free ourselves from these terrifying games of prom queen and king, honors-student and dropout, ex-girlfriend and wife, Republican and Democrat: games that separate and divide us instead of binding, connecting, and holding us together.
What if we could all be LIZ, praying for our “enemies” and loving our sisters, no matter who they are or what their story, knowing that we belong to each other and that these small collective acts are the only way that we will heal the big Trump-sized monsters of the world?
The world needs our collective powers more than ever and here, my friends, is the secret that nobody knows: they activate when we can look into the eyes of our sister, and see ourselves looking back at us.
Yoga Therapist, Teacher, Speaker, Writer, Mother