This morning, I finally pushed myself enough to take a walk. Not walking the dog around the neighborhood, not with my camera in hand, not with anyone or for any real purpose except to move. Perhaps I decided my message about my walking shoes needed to be a more literal one.
A and I used to take long walks together nearly every day. Truth be told, he sometimes (OK… often) had to pressure me to do it, especially when we first started. He liked to use our long walks for long talks, which were sometimes tedious or uncomfortable. He liked to work an idea like a dog with a bone, and was always looking for an answer. A solution. He was the logical mind and wanted to solve things.
I’m the opposite, the creative brain. I like to talk about things, then put them aside and let them marinate for awhile until the answer would come to me. He was Point A to Point B, while I’m Point A to Point B via X, J, Q (and sometimes Y). I dilly=dally while he had a purpose.
When the kids were younger, he would often fool them into having no idea how long a trip might be. While I would give them the honest answer, which might be overwhelming, he would give them an answer that represented smaller chunks of time, ones they could easily swallow. As they got older, they were on to his tricks, and when asking a time-related question would clarify with “is this in ‘Dad time’?” or asking me for the truth.
In any case, some of the hesitation about walking wasn’t the walking itself, but that they could be unpleasant, which defeated their purpose, in my mind. A saw it differently (of course). To him, it was the one time we were truly alone, without distractions, and could truly focus on what the other was saying and feeling.
In the end, we came to a sort of middle ground, where we would talk things through, but we were not allowed to simply rehash the same conversations over and over. If we didn’t have anything new to contribute, we couldn’t talk about it until we did. Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship understands there are always those issues that keep cropping up without any real resolution. To dwell on those, however, can cause resentment, especially when there really isn’t any simple solution.
He also began to understand just how important being grounded was for me. Being out in nature, especially in places where it’s green and lush, is almost a necessity for me. His place to rekindle his spirit was the ocean, mine the forest. So we would walk, talk, then he would oblige me the opportunity to relish in the outdoors. Over the past several years, that led to a fascination with photographing landscapes and wildlife, including insects and snakes, as well as a period of photographing lightning bolts, armed only with a cell phone while my husband stood patiently behind me holding an umbrella over his head and crunching on his ever-present pocketful of unsalted sunflower seeds. We both got what we needed, and our walks became a habit.
Since he passed (and for several months before that due to working full time outside the home and having a commute of 10+ hours per week which limited the time we had to devote to our pastime), it just hasn’t been the same. I cannot bring myself to walk simply for the sake of walking, despite the physical and emotional health benefits.
I keep talking about it, but it never seems to get past that to actually doing it. Until today. Before showering or brushing my teeth. Before breakfast. Even before coffee. I threw a container of Tic-Tacs and my cell phone in a small backpack and headed out on “our” usual route.
Last night, on what would have been the 33rd anniversary of my husband’s and my first date, Lady A and I watched the original Footloose, which was released the same year her father and I began dating. We were having a bit of a Girls Night In, she ordering pizza, and I popping the bottle of champagne I bought for New Year’s but never got around to opening (since I fell asleep somewhere around 10/10:30).
Turns out, I drank more than my share of the bottle, having 3 glasses to her 1, and eventually polishing off the half-glass she didn’t drink. Now my kids have always teased me for my lack of dance moves. I tried to explain that in the 80’s, the “dancing” involved a lot of just hopping around and didn’t require much skill or technique (at least for me), and I’ll be the first to admit I have no rhythm. So at one point when I stood up during the movie, I began to strut my stuff just to annoy her – you know… one of those embarrassing Mom moments.
Well, despite the fact that they (whoever they may be) tell you to “dance like no one is watching”, they fail to mention that in the days of cell phones, social media and instant uploads, there may be many, many people who end up watching. The Duchess sent the video to her sister, sent it to friends on Snapchat, and then posted it on Facebook for the whole world (or at least as many friends as we have combined) to see. While my friends were commenting that it was nice to see me laugh, or that they loved the video, I couldn’t help but notice how heavy I have allowed myself to get.
When she asked my permission to post it, initially I was hesitant because I am embarrassed about my weight. Funny thing is, I’m the only one who didn’t know I was fat. I don’t have to really look at myself if I don’t want to. Everyone else can see. So I told her to “go ahead” and I’m trying to let go and look past the exterior (for now).
So when I woke this morning, I had an internal conversation with myself (at least I think it was me, although it could have been whispers of A, or any one of my other many personalities) and shot down every excuse “I” tried to come up with. I finally strapped on my sneakers and headed out the door.
My intention was to walk the three-mile round trip that was our typical route. After walking for a bit, though, I started to notice that my shoes were rubbing on my heels and if I continued with my original plan, I would end up with blisters on my heels which would discourage me from doing it again “tomorrow”. If I stayed the course “just because”, it would prevent me from making this a more common occurrence.
While I walked, I stopped here and there to take photos with my phone – dark storm clouds rolling in, a startled egret taking flight across a small pond, but when I reached one of the many park benches dotting the walking paths in our community, I stopped to take off my shoes. I’d rather walk barefoot than suffer blisters.
As those who knew me as a child can attest, I spent most of my childhood summers sans shoes, much to my mother’s dismay. She expected her daughter to be a true Southern Belle – dressed in frills, sitting on the edge of a satin pillow, nibbling on her food, and never ever getting dirty. She would carry a plastic bag with a wet facecloth in her purse when we went to parties, and catch me when I ran by to wash my face and hands, and there was always a change of clothes tucked away when the first one inevitably got dirty. She hated the fact that I took my shoes off the first change I got, loving the way it felt to be connected to the earth. She didn’t understand it. And she didn’t understand how her dainty, little girl would rather climb trees and catch frogs than doing more “girly” things.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love getting dolled up in dressed and heels. I love being a girl. But I am also comfortable barefoot in a baseball cap, crawling on my hands and knees to photograph a mushroom or a slug. Rather than many facets to my personality, all parts of the same whole, I have multiple, distinct personalities residing in my brain. They each have a role to play, and are there for a purpose. I’m a walking contradiction, but each piece of me is genuine. I can’t explain it any differently than that. But I digress…
Today, as I took off my shoes, I still intended to complete my walk, but thunder started rolling in the distance. Then the first hesitant drops of rain hit my head and shoulders, which made me decide to call the game and head back home. Rather than walk on the cold, impersonal, concrete sidewalk, I strolled along the edges, relishing in the soft ground and stiff, rough grass. A far cry from the soft, narrow blades of grass I was familiar with growing up, the grass in Florida is sturdier and tougher. It would have to be, I imagine.
It probably doesn’t sound very pleasant, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. As I walked, I simply took in pleasurable feeling that brought me back to my carefree childhood where I spent long hours at family functions with my numerous cousins playing Tag, Red Light Green Light, Mother May I, or Kick the Can. At the end of the day, when it was time to go home, I was often in search of my shoes in the dark because I had forgotten exactly where they had been discarded.
Shoes hampered me… they held me back. I needed to feel the ground beneath my feet, the grass tickling as I ran. Have you ever experienced the squish of mud between your toes? I have an aunt who takes great pride in being the one to introduce each new family member to playing in the puddles after a rain. When they reach a certain age, and there has been a rainstorm, she asks if they’ve ever jumped in the puddles. Whether they have or they haven’t, she’ll say “come on!” and run outside to splash with them. There are no wet facecloths in her purse, I can guarantee you.
It may sound silly, but it’s all part of the grounding process to me. Feeling at one with the earth. Being out there today walking barefoot made me realize how much I’ve missed it. Not for the physical benefits, of which there are many, but for the mental and emotional boost it gave me. It renewed my spirit just a bit more.
Normally “grounded” has a somewhat negative connotation – a flight grounded due to a storm, a loss of privileges and freedom as punishment for some misdeed – but for me, I don’t mind being grounded. In fact, I’m going to need to insist on it from now on.
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