One month after Sarah’s funeral, the healer I was seeing in my chiropractor’s office suggested I read a Pathwork lecture called Love, Eros and Sex. This came up after I shared with her about my struggling marriage. The mere fact that I was working with this healer was a miracle. At that point, I was a regular visitor to a chiropractor, having first gone to one when I was in middle school and my hip popped out doing the straddle over the horse in gym class.

The second time was in college after my boyfriend Tim got a new motorcycle, complete with a nice new Bell helmet for his girlfriend. The weight of it though, caused a piercing pain in my back, just inside my left shoulder blade. When the chiropractor took x-rays, he immediately identified the problem: There was a curve in my spine, shifting it to the right in that area. Then he asked if I had ever been in a car accident. No, I had not.

“That’s strange,” he said. “Because you also have whiplash.”

I do?”

In fact, all those years on the pom-pom squad, we had whipped our heads around pretty good, all in the name of precision. And truth be told, I could be a bit of a drill sergeant. When I was working at Data Transit, I had picked up the nickname Jilla the Hun from a colleague who didn’t take kindly to my insistence that the trade show booth not be littered with coffee cups and other trash. (OK, so I guess I’ve been given more than one nickname along the way.)

After college, I searched out a new chiropractor in every city I lived in, otherwise my neck and back would be in perpetual pain. I lost count somewhere around twelve on the number of different doctors I’ve seen over the years. At that time, my chiropractor Linda was also attending Barbara Brennan’s School of Healing, and her friend and fellow-student Mary had joined her practice.

Mary was a hands-on healer, and I had no idea then what that meant. But Linda suggested I see Mary, as I was wanting to get pregnant again, and Linda thought Mary would be able to help. So I would talk with Mary, and then I would lie on her table and she would do whatever energy healers do with their hands, moving them as they are guided. For quite a number of sessions, I laid there and thought, ‘I don’t understand what she’s doing, but I don’t think she’s making this up.’

At one point, as she held her hands over my pelvis, she asked what I sensed in that area of my body. I don’t recall the exact words I used, probably “cold” or “frozen” or “dead,” but I remember seeing dark grey, and I told her that. Working slowly, she guided me to imagine scraping off that grey gunk and handing it to her. As we did this, I started seeing a deep, glowing orange color. The more grey I scraped away, the more orange I could see in my mind’s eye. Not long after that, I did become pregnant with Jackson.

The lecture Mary had suggested was included in a book called The Pathwork of Self-Transformation by Eva Pierrakos. I read the whole book and was instantly smitten with the teachings. Part of the beauty of the AA program was its simplicity, but I wanted more. I needed more. I was ready for more. And here it was. Mary connected me up with a woman named Cynthia, a Pathwork Helper who was the head of the Pathwork of Georgia. I spoke with her on the phone and she suggested I join a small group, led by a fellow-Helper named Jack, that would meet every two weeks to study this material.

I would participate in a group with Jack for the next five years, each year with a different composition of people meeting in a different space, and with a one-year hiatus in the middle when Rick and I moved houses. One area I needed to do a lot of work was around my sense of myself as a woman. I remember Jack making a comment one time that I was a “beautiful woman,” and I couldn’t take that in. His words ricocheted off me like a quarter bounced off a drum.

I had come to one session wanting to work on my resistance to ever seeing my parents again. This was a few years after Sarah had died, and her younger brother was graduating from high school. As we went around the room, others in the group worked on their own deep issues. One, a man in his 50’s, had recently just met his birth mother for the first time, and a woman had recently been present as her sister had died. ‘Jill,’ I said to myself as I walked to my car afterward, ‘there are big deals in this world, and you seeing your mother isn’t one of them.’ I went to Brian’s graduation and was happy I could be there to see him walk across the stage. Sometimes, it turns out, our work involves simply getting our heads out of our asses.

The summer after starting Pathwork, some things in my life started shifting as my hazy inner landscape became more clear. For one thing, I had laser eye surgery. I had worn glasses since second grade, switching to contacts when I was a freshman in high school. Unfortunately, I have always had very dry eyes, and at times it would feel like I had manhole covers in my eyes. During a visit to the U of M the spring of my freshman year in college, the doctor noticed my red, sore eyes and got me in for an exam by an ophthalmologist.

My contacts had been really bothering me that spring. I was diligent with the nightly heat treatment, but disposable lenses hadn’t yet been developed. The protein buildup on my lenses made the dry-eye problem worse, and long hours studying followed by weekend nights partying didn’t help the situation.

 So when the doctor turned my eyelids inside out, he was impressed: “It looks like a cluster of grapes under there!” Somewhere in a medical journal is a picture of my inside-out eyelids, because when a teaching hospital sees something this extreme, they want to capture it for others to learn from.

But vanity being what it is, and the thickness of my lenses being what they were, I continued wearing contacts once my eyes healed up. Around the time Jackson was born, though, something exciting happened: European eyeglass frames became popular. Remarkably small in size, they were an answer to my problem of coke-bottle lenses. Because the smaller the lens, the thinner the edge.

Note, I had tried previous versions of “new, improved, thinner lenses.” My personal favorite was the one impregnated with lead to get a higher refractive index (and therefore thinner lens). They were not a hit, and here’s why: lead is very heavy. I had traded off thick lenses for dents in my nose.

For the previous three years, then, I’d happily gone back to wearing glasses. Because when you have two little kids and a fulltime job, there’s often not enough sleep to go around. And on little sleep, my eyelids felt like sandpaper. In my office at Data Transit, I had situated my desk so that when sitting at my computer, I faced the door. The desk was a solid wall of wood on the backside, so one day, bleary-eyed from a short night of sleep—despite my lifetime ritual of lights-out by 10pm—I realized I had the perfect set-up for doing a George Costanza. More than once, I balled up on the floor under that desk and took a refreshing nap that allowed me to be far more productive for the rest of the afternoon. Wearing glasses, it turned out, only went so far.

I’d been talking with my eye doctor about the possibility of eye surgery for years, and he kept advising me to wait. Radial keratotomy had some downsides and there was a better technology not too far off, he’d said. That summer of 1998, I’d heard that the new laser eye surgery was ready for prime time, and eye doctors themselves were now lining up for it. I got a referral and in short order, had my first round of surgery.

The thing about being on the bleeding edge of technology is that there might still be some kinks. At the time, after the first surgery, a second round was needed because, at least in my case, my vision regressed as my eyes healed. So they corrected me to 20/20 vision, but a month later I was back to -3. Still way better than the -10 where I’d started, but not ideal.

Even after round two, my eyes had backed up a bit when they healed, settling at about -1. I could tell it was less than the doctor had hoped for when he walked into the exam room selling it hard: “This is great! Instead of needing reading glasses at 40, you won’t need them till you’re almost 50!” On this, he’d been right. I got my first bifocals—can we call them progressive lenses instead?—at 53.

Relatively speaking, -1 really was miraculous. But realistically speaking, what a pain that I still needed to wear glasses. I have a ridiculously small head, making it hard to find glasses that fit my narrow face. As an adult then, I haven’t done a whole lot better picking out attractive frames than I had when I was younger. Most days, I preferred to go without and just tolerate a little blur. At least now I could see the time on my alarm clock when I woke up.

When I got to DC a few years ago, I was overdue for an eye exam. I’ve been cautioned about my increased chance for having a detached retina due to the elongated shape of my eyeballs. Annual eye exams, then, complete with deluxe dilator drops that open my pupils out to my ears, are necessary to give the doctor a good look at the back wall of my eye.

“You need to start wearing glasses,” my doctor said.

The automated machine had pegged me at -3 when my actual prescription was closer to -1. The difference reflected how hard my eyes were working to see clearly. In short, I was wearing my eyes out.

So off I went to every frame store within 30 miles of Georgetown. I was bound and determined to find a frame that truly fit me. I finally did, in the kid’s section, so my color options were turquoise, lilac, or pale lilac. Plunking down a king’s ransom, I walked out of Mykita wearing the best fitting bright purple eyeglasses money can buy.

Not long after the laser eye surgery, I went in for another elective surgery: liposuction. My two caesareans together with my propensity for carrying fat over my lower belly—a reaction, I believe, to not liking being a female—had left me with what could only be called a cat-hang. Recognizing that there are some things we just need to live with and that there are others we can do something about, I chose to take a swing at this one.

The place I had it done was in what looked like an office park in Alpharetta, a suburb north of Atlanta. The nurses were an odd bunch and the doctor was as old as the hills. I think this was his final act and he just wanted to make it a lucrative one. That said, the price was reasonable for a fairly short procedure you could drive yourself home from.

The results weren’t as good as I’d hoped, but at least much of the cat-hang was gone. So while things still didn’t feel perfect afterwards, it felt much better than being mad at my stomach all the time.

Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

Next Chapter
Return to Walker Contents