Monday, I picked the dog up from my in-laws, snapped on her bright pink harness, and took her on a 2 mile walk in the neighborhood. We went down Lake Shore Drive North to Byrn Rd by the dam. We looped our way over to Edward’s Beach where I deposited the bag of poop in the trash can, then returned to Edwards Rd and walked up to Elm. All the way up Elm, across on Plain, and back down Williams, the dog panted, looking back accusingly at me for getting her into this fix. It was a hot day. Halfway through the walk I had to agree with her displeasure, but the only thing to do was to walk toward home. We made it back down Byrn, past the dam, and through the back gate. Lila went straight to the cellar in search of some cool. I grabbed a glass of water and settled down to work.
It’s Wednesday night, and that Monday walk was the last I took this week. Yesterday, there was no time and today I opted to stay home and work rather than walk. Well, I can’t say that I’ve walked or worked. I have checked email, read a few chapters in the novel I’m reading, looked up some Human Resources information on the university website (does that count as work?), picked up Anya from the nurse’s office, and welcomed Thea home from school. Now, my notebook is open beside me, my glass is filled with an iced mocha, and I am set to finish writing my syllabus. Yet, I’m just wishing that I had gone for a walk.
Walking started out as a way for me to get to know my town better. Then, I began to feel the health benefits and challenged myself to walk at least a little bit every day. Walking is my time to decompress after run-ins with pre-teen stubbornness, to reflect on a difficult conversation with my sister, to make a plan to teach the pitfalls of the passive voice to college freshmen. When I don’t walk, I feel as if I’ve let everyone down. I haven’t just missed my cardio-vascular workout for the day, I’ve missed an opportunity to make myself better. Sounds dramatic, I know. But if you are a walker or runner, if you do yoga or spin classes, if you meditate or pray, you know that when you skip these rituals, you are less.
Walking is a choice, but not-walking is happenstance, that’s what I used to tell myself. I would have walked today, but there was a ton of laundry, I needed to bring my Mom on errands, I had phone calls and emails to return, life got in the way. I’m a mom (wife, teacher, daughter, sister, friend, volunteer, writer, etc). I can rattle off dozens of reasons to put something off, just ask. But, I remind myself that my day is my choice. How I spend it, the order and priority put to the various activities, what gets checked off the to-do list and what get copied on to tomorrow’s, those are all my choices. Sometimes, I choose not to walk. On those days, I’m OK with my decision. But sometimes, I just don’t walk. I ride waves of panic about deadlines and responsibilities instead. I get into trouble when I forget that it is always my choice. Because, when I blame soccer practice or suppertime or a call from a friend, and reject my choice-making role, I walk past fatalism and into depression.
So, I have not walked for two days. I have chosen to engage in different activities. No one denied me my choice. Tomorrow, I plan to walk, but I also plan to be aware of every moment and circumstances might change my mind. I’m open to the change. I’m open to the gift of choice.