Walking It Off

The flu still hangs about, but now it is disconsolate and whiny. It knows that it is on the way out. I intend to finish it off with a walk on a sunny, mild day. In Minnesota. In January. The end must be near.

Walking seems to be a cure for many things, not the least of which is the malaise that hits in the dead of winter. We’ve had such an odd winter here in Minnesota –  just look at what we’re wearing. Fall wear hasn’t gone out of style and random bright colors mean some people have just said “screw it” and decided it was spring. I bought snow pants in the fall, determined to add more outdoor winter activities to my repertoire.  They still have the new snow pants smell.

Since I work from home, I often feel overwhelmed by my “to do” list. There’s no real down time. If I’m not working, I’m playing the “I should” game in my head while watching reruns on Netflix. It’s a nervous form of relaxation.  Which is to say, it’s doing nothing and it’s not at all relaxing. Walking outside of my home without headphones and a heart rate monitor or a shopping list feels wasteful initially. There’s so much I could be doing. The reality, of course, is that I’m not doing those things. I’m edgy, jumping from text to email to Google with an alacrity that would have given Evelyn Wood seizures.

Stepping outside my back door for the first foray of the day causes a strange sensation, like getting off roller skates and having to learn how to walk again. It’s a reintegration into the physical world – I’m no longer just eyeballs twitching between software applications. Before I had a “busy schedule”, I walked everywhere. Now it’s a rare thing to see someone out on the street just walking for the sake of it. My neighborhood of classic 1950s starter homes was designed, like many suburbs, with no sidewalks.

I’ve walked endlessly many times in my life, marched miles in the Army, walked from a broken down car on the interstate, walked to a 4am job in the dead of winter. I’ve been chased by dogs, pooped on by birds, splattered by speeding car tires. Mostly though, I just walked. I was in motion and whenever I landed back at my starting point, I had a different perspective. It seemed just a little bit easier to dig in or let go of whatever had me stuck in the first place.

We’re in for a mild week and it’s a great opportunity to put some mileage on my walking shoes. They’ll look fabulous with my parka and shorts.

Climbing the Wall

Shortly after I silently declared that I must write or die, I got the flu. Since the mental barriers were not successful in keeping me off the keyboard, my body jumped into the fray. My body has a point. I’ve put off writing anything for a long time. It’s worked like a charm – an editor’s voice isn’t in my head saying “that sounds pretentious” and anxiety attacks have been rare. Until this week. I was in a rock climbing class, halfway up a wall and I froze. My heart pounded so hard that I could hear nothing else. Taking short, shallow breaths, I desperately tried to remember what I was supposed to say to my belay partner on the ground. My first thought was “get out of the way – I’m coming down!”

My fellow classmates were reassuring – they assumed that I had a fear of heights. A fear of heights seems like a human, rational response to being high off the ground and not having wings or a jet pack. I smiled weakly and nodded in acceptance. I am not pathologically afraid of heights. I’m just not fond of them. I am, however, terrified of making mistakes. I was paralyzed by the fear that I could not find the next foothold. In a class that contained mostly, I think, petite spider monkeys, I was intimidated by their agility and boldness. No one has ever described me as bold or agile. I am slow and persistent and in the world of fables, I’d win the race.

Rock climbing is the latest physical venture I’ve undertaken. When I was 43, I started training in Taekwondo. Any time I try something new, I do the research. I read online, I check out books from the library and download to my Kindle. I research a task from every angle. I have a library of Taekwondo books so I can read about how to improve various stances, punches and kicks. Rock climbing, however, is a lot like writing, it’s do or die. No amount of studying can prepare you psychologically for the physical and mental demands or your body’s responses to those demands.

Every article I read on writing speaks to the difficulty, the awkwardness, the sheer torture of approaching a clean piece of paper or screen. This should be my bailiwick. If I can make my unwieldy body do a high front kick or climb, even halfway up a rock wall, I should be up to the challenge of sitting down to write. Like rock climbing, writing requires a level of trust. I have to trust that I can get through it, that I won’t die, that people won’t stand and point and laugh at me. And I have to trust if there is pointing and laughing, I’ll live on to type another day.

I’m going back to that wall to finish the climb – slowly and persistently.  And so, another blogger is born.

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