So, every now and then I get the urge to run. I think Renee Zellweger does it in New In Town. When I was in Chicago, there were people doing it along Lake Michigan – LOTS of people. Jennifer Aniston was a runner when she was in Chicago, too, I think. It’s something I should try. And I put on my clothes least likely to make me look like a fraud, and I turn on the iPod to distract me from distractors, and I jog. Soon what felt like Renee Zellweger in New In Town feels more like Po in Kung Fu Panda. All my bones and joints are flopping around, crashing against the pavement, shouting at me, WHY ARE WE MOVING SO QUICKLY? Once I did this three days in a row. That was my streak. And then I totally bail on it and cease to move at all really except from the house to the car when I have to drive people around again.
But lately I felt I needed some forward motion. I needed to walk away from things that were stressing me out and toward a goal that was only in my hands – something like basic heart health. So one day I just put on the shoes and walked. Dr. L told me once a brisk walk will do it – brisk as in you can still have a conversation but you’re quite above a stroll. And some guru said on tv the other day that you don’t start burning fat until twenty minutes in, so I go with that advice too and shoot for more. And I put it all together, along with the iPod and a charming little walking trail, and I became a walker.
And besides the fact that my foot bones aren’t crashing against the pavement and my parts aren’t flopping around, I like walking because I feel like I belong to life again. That I’m part of it. My street looks totally different on foot than it does from my car. The trees are gigantic, and the houses too really. The colors are brighter, and the details richer, like I’ve been living my life in Google Maps but never in street view before. It’s sort of pre-winter in my car right now, but on the street it’s totally still fall.
Also? People are nicer to me when I’m on foot. I get a lot of glares when I’m in my car. Sometimes honking. Yes, I am that driver, the one who was looking down when the light turned green because it never turns green that fast. The one who pulled out in front of you but was really sorry because I didn’t actually mean to, the one you thought was being rude by demanding the right of way in the parking lot recently but who actually just didn’t notice we were both pulling out of our parking spaces at the same time.
I’ve actually been stressing over this phenomenon lately, wondering, “Am I getting worse at driving?” And then I started noticing glares ALL OVER THE PLACE from inside a hundred different cars toward a variety of drivers that weren’t me, and I’ve decided the problem is part my distraction and part People Are Grouchy. You don’t get this so much on foot. It’s mostly nod-and-smile, let me get out of your way, Isn’t it Beautiful Out?, and Oh Hey Fancy Meeting You Here Again Only Now We’re Each Going The Other Way.
Anne Blythe once said that she was never so afraid of darkness than when she tried to push it out with a light. She felt embraced by nature in the dark, but once she put herself in the path cast by lantern light, she could only wonder what might be lurking outside it. It’s the same when we turn on the lights in our homes and suddenly can’t see out, though we know anything outside can certainly see in. I use my car to escape the world sometimes. I like to feel alone inside its quiet. But when I walk, I’m not shutting anything out, and it all feels so much friendlier.
It’s a wholly different, delightfully visceral, breath of literal fresh air, and it’s soul food. I think I’ll keep it up.