Saturday, January 18, 2014
Finding the Road Back Begins With Taking Steps
I slipped on my old Reeboks, not the new ones that are still decent to wear out, the grungy ones with the soles coming off; dug my handmade fingerless gloves out of the storage bench; grabbed a toboggan someone gave my husband when he worked at the golf course; put Pa Booker's old orange windbreaker on over my sweatshirt and stepped out the door.
It doesn't take a lot to make dogs happy.
As soon as I got the shoes and windbreaker out, my little house dogs knew there was a walk in the works, although they could only hope they would be included. Their hopes were a bit dampened when I went out the door without them, but their turn eventually came.
My yard dogs, Rebel and Macy, were over the moon immediately. They are used to traveling up and down our long, dead end road with me a couple of times a morning. Lately, however, they've had to make the rounds of the neighbors' houses on their own. And while they've been free to pursue the neighbor's cats and bits of old deer carcasses without me, they've missed the companionship of our walks.
Following through on the promise I made myself earlier in the morning, I pulled out leashes and rounded up dogs until everyone who was seriously interested in a walk had enjoyed one. One group of three larger dogs making a brisk trip down the road and one group of seven small ones wandering at a more leisurely pace. Rebel and Macy were on my heels both times, which is where they've longed to be for five long weeks.
It was a welcome return to a once daily routine that I let slip in early December when I came down with my first cold of the season. I was still in cold recovery mode when Ethan died -- in fact I had stayed home from church that morning because it was such miserable weather and I felt so bad.
Although walking with dogs had been a combination of meditation, therapy, and cardio exercise for years, it fell from my routine as easily as cold rain falls from a heavy winter cloud. It was as hard to pick back up as that same drop of rain would be if one were trying to recover it.
I'd made a few attempts at walking the last few weeks, but only with the bigger dogs who were more eager to get out and move. Each time I would start out with the plan to walk the little dogs as well, but I'd decide I was too cold, or just not in the mood.
Yesterday, however, I followed through. The rhythm of our strides felt good and familiar to my bones, even when I was juggling a few less than cooperative little dogs. The climb up the steep grade at the end of the road, which I normally don't notice, was a stern reminder of how I had neglected my routine as I could feel the burn in my legs. The chill of the weak January sun was still a welcome light to my soul, just as the arch of the cloudless blue heavens spoke to me of depths I cannot imagine.
When I finished the walk, I jumped into day 17 of the 30-day challenge hanging on my refrigerator. I was glad to see those muscles hadn't suffered the same fate as my underused walking legs, although I did have to go for two sets instead of doing them all at once.
No, I didn't book a salon appointment, or get my nails done (any of them), but I ended the day feeling victorious over a lot of the apathy that has consumed me for the last month.
The old routines felt like what they were, familiar old habits that help keep me centered and make me feel alive. They were things I need to do to be true to myself. They won't take the place of what I lost, but giving them up will only make me feel worse not better, and there is no need to punish myself or avoid the simple things that bring me joy.
Perhaps, in time, the morning walks will again be a comfortable communion with God and the world around me. I'll pick up the conversation again on more friendly terms, instead of the brokenhearted discourse I've lately shared. Perhaps as well as peace, I'll find some of the answers I seek in the quiet broken only by footfalls on asphalt and the jingle of a dog's tags.
At least I know I'll begin to find myself again.