“Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.” – Steven Wright
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
I have a close friend from university who went through a roller coaster of emotions stemming from his past trauma. He subsequently tried working with doctors to find a medication that would help. His doses changed. His medications were swapped out for new ones and it culminated in a dysphoria that left his body and mind confused. He graduated, left the city, and moved back in with his parents. By that time, he had detoxed his way off of the medications and started fresh. But memories and feelings were a crisply-starched sheet under that chemical blanket. He took up exercise – first running and then bicycling – and it served as his hobby, community service, and eventually a vehicle for a career change. But most importantly it was his therapy. Alone on the pavement, he started to cycle through years of emotions and build the much-needed skills to heal himself.
So I’ve come to understand the power of movement and motion in regulating one’s mood. And yet, in this journey of growing older, becoming a monogamous partner, and a parent I haven’t really used exercise for the powerful tool that it is. When I first started dating my husband, I would throw my runners on whenever we had a disagreement. He viewed it as escapism while I considered it a cool down period. I don’t (literally) run from confrontation anymore, but I have developed an unproductive habit of doing it metaphorically.
Today I found myself around a block behind the Monday Morning walking club at my daughter’s school. I’d had no intention of venturing out with them, but I had a carrier in tow so I could transport my son and get an extra workout. It took some stamina to hoof it off the property and catch up with them, but my son and I did it! We met the walkers and enjoyed our strides. I peeled off a little early in expectation of the walk it would take to get to the bus stop. However, I just didn’t seem to sync up with the bus schedules today and ended up on a long journey of a walk through the neighborhood.
I wasn’t thinking about troubles on this walk. I wasn’t chewing on a great philosophical question. My son and I were watching the trees for signs of bird life. We looked for interesting artifacts in people’s yards. I had him tuck his mittened hands between our bodies to keep warm. There was something that felt more honest and alive about this walk. So many ideas from my day never had the chance to percolate when I was busied with traffic signals or family schedules. Out here on the pavement, it was right now and we were moving at a pace slow enough to catch more detail.
I offered to take my little guy to a cafe, and he was more than happy to accept the offer of a fresh-baked cookie. We ended up in a soured moment with a couple of the staff members, and usually I would have let that steamroll me but I didn’t this time. I spoke my mind, and hopefully in doing so as pertly and politely it was an opportunity for them to learn more sensitivity in talking to others. I walked out of the cafe proudly holding the hand of my favorite crumb-faced boy, and we skipped the next bus stop to walk all the way home together.
How would you benefit from a good walk? What would you work through during that time?