With the whole stent business putting me out of running commission and my body nearly twitching with energy, I’ve been delighted to finally find myself in shape to take a short, slow walk. Except, as I’m used to jogging seven miles, the whole idea of taking a quarter mile shuffle felt nearly worthless. It reminded me of why I shy away from playing the French horn now: I used to be good, and I remember how good I was when I play, but when I play I am no longer good. Regardless, I did manage to un-velcro myself from my bed, get outside, and enjoy my absolutely favorite weather: threatening-to-drizzle.
Walking, when done in the same distance as a run (or expending the same energy if you can compute that yourself), is just as good for you as running. I reminded myself of this as I walked out my front door. Other handy go-to pump-up phrases included “Doing something is better than doing nothing!” and “So call me maybe!” (Yeah, I don’t know about that last one either.) I detoured immediately into procrastinationland when I noticed the mail had been delivered but not yet sorted, so after spending some time with the postal service goodies I then walked downstairs and onto the sidewalk.
At first, my walk was very typical. One foot in front of the other. Checked my phone. Scanned the sidewalk for dangers. And I saw my downstairs neighbor – a pretty girl who I don’t see often and who rarely speaks when I do run into her. But I’d seen her doppleganger in an online catalog a few days ago, and wanted to ask if she was indeed a model. (She’s tall, unique and very visually striking.) We paused on the corner as I queried her career, and what started off as tiny chitchat spun into a half hour conversation about opera, making friends with older people, career dreams, travel dreams, writing and art, sewing, love, breakups that lead to crying on BART, and finding yourself when you least expect it in the most unexpected of ways.
We parted, and I thought about how when passing my neighbor on a run, I never got the chance to speak to her. Maybe we don’t chat not just because she seems too busy and preoccupied but because I do as well.
On the other side of my block, I came across a mom, a girl about three, and a pup. The little girl was tugging off and on her rainboot, and when she saw me she pulled in all the way on and ran up to me. “Hi!” she yelled. “Who are you?” I told her my name, and asked hers. Her mom seemed embarrassed, hurrying her daughter along. So I waved goodbye. The little girl turned away from me, ran toward her mom, then ran back to me and hugged my legs. “Bye!” she yelled. I turned again to keep walking when the girl called, “Wait! You forgot your sword!” and she handed me a stick that matched her own. I thanked her and then we really did walk separate ways.
Not more than a hundred feet away I ran into another mother and daughter, the mom with jet black hair piled high on her head and the girl maybe five years old dressed in pinks and purples. We smiled in greeting, and as I passed the daughter said, “Wait! Can I take your photo?” Another embarrassed mom, another moment that made me giggle. “Honestly, the last little girl hugged me unexpectedly, so this seems pretty tame,” I told the mother, and she laughed. The camera clicked as I posed with my sword, and we went on our way.
A lighted window in a shingled house caught my eye, and I looked up to see a very small belly dancing class taking place in a private living room. Three women in leotards were facing forward (a TV? A teacher? I couldn’t tell) and were shimmying. I tried not to look like a Peeping Tom (would a gal be a Peeping Tomette?) for too long and kept walking.
Back on my street just as I started walking up my steps the first little girl and her mom and pup walked by. “You again!” I said, waving my sword at the girl. “Did we already meet?!” she asked, confused. “You have a sword!” She started to toddler babble, and I smiled confused. Still embarrassed, her mom called for her to come.
“You better go,” I told her. “It’s almost time for dinner.”
Her eyes bugged out at me. “Are you eating dinner now too? Are you friends in there? Do you live with a friend?” I told her I did not, that I lived alone and that I have friends but they were not inside. She was baffled at first, worried I didn’t have any friends, then her mom explained my friends just weren’t home right now and she seems calm again.
“Wait!” she yelled as I opened the door. “Do you live alone because you are old?!” Her mom immediately tried to shush her as I doubled over in laughter, wondering if I should explain it’s a choice.
Back in my apartment with a cup of tea, I can’t help but remember what I used to pride myself on: I called it “being a snail watcher” and in fact, I wrote a college entrance essay on the subject of being the sort of person who notices and relishes the little things (no, no idea how I connected that to higher education but I got into the school, so I suppose I wrote something correctly). It’s funny how being a runner has stripped me of that title to some degree, the running being a metaphor for the forward motion I let pulse in my life. Sure, I’m not ready to slow down yet…but maybe there’s something to it.