The Walking Room of Requirement

It’s hard to write when you don’t even want to talk. I was surprised that it had been nearly three weeks since I’d written a blog post, despite the fact that they have seemed interminably long weeks. I’m here, because I’ve been inside my own head for too long and at some point, it makes it hard to be in the world.

canstockphoto2046365Instead of connecting with people, I’ve been reading, gardening, and walking. It’s made me more intolerant of small talk than I already was and I know that is not a good thing. I’m in the middle of reading The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It by Shawn Otto and The Age of Anxiety by W.H. Auden. At breakfast, I pour through the tiny print of the most recent issue of The Economist. At night, I’ve been reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.

I decided a few weeks ago to concentrate on reading and fitness and to let everything else fall by the wayside. On the heels of a lengthy depression, movement has become the antidote. I’ve been walking, biking, and running every day. I’ve dropped some weight, which is a nice gift to my knees. But all the focus and grim determination means that I feel a bit brittle on the inside.

canstockphoto4799180In suburbia, even in the older neighborhoods, walking is one of the most solitary activities there is – no one is outdoors except in transition from house to car and vice versa. On the rare occasion when I pass a walker or biker on the sidewalk, my smile feels strange, the muscles unused for too long. I wonder if it looks as creepy as I imagine it does.

Walking serves as meditation. Thoughts are allowed to come and go as they please. No attachment to outcomes or items to be added to a list. It occurred to me that I’m at a point in my life where I don’t know what I need. That maybe this moment, this padding along the pavement is it for now.

At first all is dark and each walks alone. What they share is only the feeling of remoteness and desertion, of having marched for miles and miles, of having lost their bearings, of a restless urge to find water. Gradually for each in turn darkness begins to dissolve and their vision to take shape.

W.H. Auden, The Age of Anxiety

canstockphoto3578336Each time I return from a walk, I do not return the same as when I left. I remembered someone from long ago. I realized a feeling that I’d been ignoring. I saw where I’d been, like peeking into a series of rooms in a large building, to see if I was in the right place. Been there, never want to go there again, that was a nice visit, maybe the next one.

If I were to look for something specific, I would be thorough and systematic. I am the finder of things in our household. But walking means that I am the discoverer of things and that I have no control over what they might be.

“…it is a room that a person can only enter when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped for the seeker’s needs.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

No great epiphany has hit me. I’m in a time of life of unknowing – who I am becoming, who I will be, what will happen. There are no plans, no driving forces working their will upon me. I’ve done it all before, sometimes repeatedly. Enough to know that letting go is the last frontier, that everything that has weighed me down, made me hold my breath, kept me on the sidelines, no longer carries weight.

I’ve realized that I can maintain my awareness in the world without getting caught in the cycling of outrage and lies. I can positively contribute without lying awake nights wondering how so much hatefulness can exist. I can look into the dark heart of humanity and still choose to embrace joy and love and kindness. I must keep walking until the shadows recede and the light warms my face.

In these hours and days of dual solitude on the river we hope to discover something quite different, to renew our affection for ourselves and the human kind in general by a temporary, legal separation from the mass. And in what other way is it possible for those not saints?

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

22 Comments on “The Walking Room of Requirement

  1. Thank you. I also have discovered that my walking covers the hatefulness of the world with a shroud of hope and peace. Like you I am weary beyond tears with what I see, hear, and read in the daily headlines. This is not my world, it is not where I belong. “Somehow, some day, somewhere” there is a place for us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think, too, just leaving our constant-stream-of-information environments is a way of breaking the spell of misery. Some people are very skilled at compartmentalizing, but I have trouble sorting what’s actually happening in my life from the world-at-large. There is something very grounding about simply walking and seeing the world as it is, rather than what we imagine it could be, for better or worse.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Walking for me has always been a soothing, restful time alone which helped to heal bruises, bring me back to earth and fire up my creativity. Somehow the walking led to….crossfit! And that is where I got more sociable, yes, this crazy old lady does crossfit.

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  3. I just got off the mountain trail carrying 35 pounds on my back. That’s another great way to maintain some sanity in a world of insanity. It’s not for everybody, but strenuous exercise and nature do wonders. (Is your quote from Ed Abbey’s “Desert Solitude”? Great book).

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    • Since I live in a metro area in Minnesota, I’ll have to swap your mountain for 20+ lakes and trails. Four years in the Army cured me of camping, pack-carrying, and being anywhere without toilets. I love a good day hike and being out in the woods. Fortunately we have good city, county, and state park systems. Nature is a curative for so many ills – it’s an immediate way to gain perspective and shake off the malaise of modern living.
      That is from Desert Solitaire, one of my favorite nature books – I’ll add the source to the quote, thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely post. I totally agree – walking is very relaxing and can give you time to reflect. I haven’t been doing as much of it lately. So thank you for the reminder! Wish you the best – speak766

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  5. Sounds as if you are way ahead of me in your “recovery.” I am still hooked to my computer, always wondering what the latest outrage is. When I can manage a day w/out the internet, I’m so much happier (I don’t own a TV). I will have to get myself out walking. That’s a great idea. Thanks! Peace to you.

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    • I’ve had to be pretty forceful with myself about not staying focused on the headlines and taking my news in more benignly (listening to NPR and reading The Economist). Staying away from the more reactive sources like CNN has been useful. I can’t overemphasize what movement does for the brain. I’ve found this while writing, too – that a short walk can get the wheels turning again.

      The question that I have to ask myself often is this: How is my being agitated, angry, and/or depressed helping anything? If anything, it overwhelms and paralyzes me. It’s a struggle to follow up emotions with rational action. But that’s the trick of it – remaining aware without ingesting the toxicity. It’s all a work-in-progress, Melanie, but we’ll find our way.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was reminded today in an article I read in Oprah (free subscription, so I read it) that we need to be about the business of our own lives, and not worrying about others politics, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I think it was sage advice. Your post today seems to be a confirmation of the value of exercising that principle. It’s not easy, I know, but somehow feel it’s absolutely necessary in such times in order to maintain our sanity.
    This was beautifully expressed and the quotes complimented the text perfectly.

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    • I was irritated when a friend said, “But you have to live your life.” Probably because she was right. There is no benefit to grounding oneself in external events. It’s important that we stay in touch with ourselves, our values, and our connections to others, because none of that other stuff matters if we don’t understand ourselves.
      Thanks for the kind words on the post – it felt a little rough coming off a hitch of solitude.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s a bit of a double edged sword, solitude. It can be very healing and provoke us to think things through without outside influence, but it can also be isolating.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been water walking at our aquatic center this summer, first in the evenings after regular hours, now before the center opens also. We get an hour each time to walk the tubing course, which has a current to resist.

    I find myself weeping a lot as I walk. “Wanting” returned this summer, the gorilla on my back that took several simian forms. Pushing through the water helps me acknowledge him, helps me adjust to his weight, helps me be gentle & curious about him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s odd what putting our bodies in motion will bring to the surface. For me, it’s become about recognizing that I’m unsure of a lot of things in my life right now and staying in that place without trying to fix or solve it, which is my wont to do. I’m not sure what will emerge, but I’ll be putting in a lot of miles trying to figure it out. Curiosity is a wonderful thing.
      I envy your water regimen, because I know it would be better for my joints. But we all have our things that we “click with” and mine is walking and running. Take care, friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My days of walking are pretty much over with unless I have someone with me. This is due to physical limitations that have also restricted my ability to be an active part of society. Still, you are right about getting movement into each day so I walk the length of my home inside, usually doing five to ten laps. It does help with the dullness of my mind and my general attitude.

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    • One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is that ability is less important than adaptability. If I have an injury or limitation, I just have to find some way either around it or another activity that provides the same benefits. It sounds like you have the right idea and that can only add to one’s resiliency in the face of any challenge. Thanks for sharing your approach.

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  9. Fascinating and honest exploration … must attempt something like it, though it’s not easy to do. The public world is probably best viewed as a puppet show, full of smoke and mirrors, and anything that gives us a deeper awareness – like walking or being creative – can help redress the balance.

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    • There it is in one, Dave. Redressing the balance. Headlines can make you believe the world is falling apart, until you go about your every day business of living. Thus far, having the ground beneath our feet and the sky above our heads is very reassuring, if we take the time to notice and acknowledge them.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. “I’ve realized that I can maintain my awareness in the world without getting caught in the cycling of outrage and lies. I can positively contribute without lying awake nights wondering how so much hatefulness can exist. I can look into the dark heart of humanity and still choose to embrace joy and love and kindness. I must keep walking until the shadows recede and the light warms my face.”

    This may be the secret to staying human. And staying humane.

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  11. So, for me, being social is not the #1 priority with my depression. Writing is. Exercise is. Glad you’re blogging when possible. And glad to have you in my WordPress network now.

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