My morning walk, my life walk...
I went out for a walk this morning. Blessedly alone. When I parked next to the greenway, the skies were ominously dark. I wondered to myself, "Is it going to rain? Should I set out on a walk with the threat of rain? Should I leave my purse in the car or take it with me? Perhaps I should leave my bag but take my phone."
You get the drift; I was overthinking it as I seem to overthink most things in my life.
I stopped the mindless fear flow with a succinct: "Enough, G. Just get out of the car and walk."
So off I went. Car keys in hand. Everything else tucked under a blanket in the back of the minivan.
More thoughts set in immediately: "How far should I walk? What if something happens to me and I need my phone? I hope no one is riding their bikes too fast on the path. It gets so crowded in there and bikes just make it more dangerous than necessary... Enough, G. Just walk."
The following is an account of some of what I saw and what I thought as I walked.
Families walking: babies in strollers, kids on scooters and bikes and pull-behind bike trailers.
(Did that woman give birth to those tiny little twins? They are so cute. She is in such great shape. Wow! I didn't look nearly that good when my kids were that young, and I didn't even have twins... What a great looking family. The American dream: two kids and a dog. So cool. Wait! I've got two kids and a dog; why aren't I more satisfied with my life?... Why isn't that kid wearing a helmet? I'd hate for him to fall and hit his head... There is something so beautiful about seeing families together, walking, talking, and growing closer - and there is something wonderful about being here without my family, walking, thinking, praying, dreaming, and experiencing this glorious morning all by myself.)
Dogs: great danes and yorkies, huskies and the occasional mixed breed.
(Dogs are great companions and even better teachers. They seem to love every minute of their lives. They are so trusting, so hopeful. It seems like they are always looking forward to the next adventure, the next walk, the next meal, but also perfectly contented with where they are right now. Maya teaches me that lesson every single day: a sunny spot to lie down is all she needs until she needs 30 seconds outside to pee until she needs a few nibbles of food. Every little bit is enough for her. No big plans. No big dreams. In this moment right here right now with me or without me, she is fine. When am I gonna learn to live that contentedly and happily and gratefully?)
Runners, walkers, bikers.
(Will he drink all the water in all of those bottles hanging around his waist? What does it feel like to have all that stuff bouncing up and down on your hips while you run? It sure looks weird, but if it helps you get thru your run, then who am I to judge? Look at that woman's legs. She is clearly a regular runner. Those thighs and calves and arms and shoulders do not have one ounce of fat on them. Wow! I bet she's a triathlete or an ultra-marathoner. I could have legs like that if I started running every day and stopped drinking my soy peppermint white mochas at Starbucks. I wonder how long it would take me to lose these extra pounds and be able to run a marathon. I should talk to a trainer at the Y and see what the first step should be. What the heck are you thinking, Gail? You are not a runner. You are a walker. Be grateful to be able to walk; stop fantasizing about a way of life that doesn't interest you in the least. Now pay attention to where you are walking or you might slip and fall off the path and wish you were wearing a helmet!)
Men with men. Women with women. Men with women. Lots of people alone.
(They look like they are having a great conversation. Are they married to each other or just friends out for a walk? Who wears flip flops on such a long walk? I guess she does. What country are they from? What language are they speaking? Are they talking about me? I greeted them; why didn't they greet me in return? They act like they didn't even see me walking past. Am I invisible this morning? Is there something on my face that they are trying to politely ignore? Gail, are you planning to say "hello" to everyone you see? Why bother? Just leave them alone so they can enjoy their time outside. It's not all about you, babe. Why does it feel like, no matter which way I am walking on this path, most of the people are going the other way? I am glad I'm here alone, so glad I came out this morning. People are so interesting and fun to watch. And your thoughts are quite interesting to observe too. Why do I sometimes think in the first person and sometimes in the second person? Why am I such a geek that I think about which subject and what form of the verb I use when I'm talking to myself? Maybe I should just stop talking to myself and watch where I'm walking.)
Ipods and cell phones in action, and the unconnected and unplugged.
(I cannot imagine walking with my ipod on. The sounds of birds and squirrels and frogs and even the deer captivate me and move me more than any prerecorded song or sermon. It's scary enough to have the bikes and joggers pass me when I can hear them coming; with my ears plugged, I'd have a series of heart attacks or small strokes everytime someone passed me unexpectedly. But then again, I prefer silence over noise in almost every situation. I don't usually turn on the music in the car and almost never turn it on in the house. It is in the car and out for walks that my best thinking happens, my best prayers are raised, my biggest dreams are incubated and hatched, and most of my blog topics bubble to the surface of my mind. Walking is my favorite form of exercise and worship and meditation. It is so good to be out here this morning.)
This morning, as my thoughts wandered, so did my feet; I ended up walking farther than I ever had before. I didn't get rained on. I listened to people as they passed me and as I passed them. I laughed at what I heard and saw. I was awed by the varied beauty of the people I saw: their faces and hair and thighs and arms. I marveled at their determination to be outside, moving, breathing, stretching, and giving themselves the gift of better health. I wondered who was training for an event of some kind and who was in recovery from one. I wondered who was in financial difficulties, whose children were sick, whose parents were ailing, whether or not some wished for more children or fewer. I wanted to know what it felt like to be such an elite athlete, to own such a large dog, and to wear such short shorts in public.
In between all those thoughts and questions and all that wondering along the trail, I was pondering the many ways in which this morning's walk was similar to my life walk. Sometimes I walk my life journey with others and sometimes, most times, I am alone. Sometimes there are storms and falls and frights, and sometimes, most times, all is perfectly well. Sometimes people go running past me with deeply chiseled and taut spiritual muscles while I feel more and more like a novice athlete running this spiritual marathon trying to figure out the pace at which I will move and the intensity of the training I am willing to endure. Sometimes I get caught up in the comparison game - I am better or worse than... I am more fit or less fit than... I am smarter or denser than... I am kinder or meaner than... Sometimes I take myself out of the equation and simply applaud the successes of others and give thanks for simply being able to even live and breathe and move at all. Sometimes I am alert to the sounds and voices and music that are all around me, and sometimes I do my best to shut everyone and everything out and tune in to all that is being spoken into and within me. As fit and strong and determined as I sometimes feel along this ultramarathon of life, I know that there are miles to go before I sleep, so very many miles to go before I sleep.
This is my life journey. I am taking it one mile at a time.
One prayer at a time. One journal page at a time.
One morning walk at a time.