I never understood how vital daily exercise is for prisoners until my own home confinement.
With sheltering in place a way of life for the indefinite future, getting out to take a walk and embrace a change of scenery is the highlight of my day. I look forward to my walk, savoring the sense of freedom it brings to our new normal.
I’ve been walking, or “pacing” as one of my brother-in-law’s calls it, since my late ’30s, crediting it with leveling me out when I’m under stress. I walked the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard at dawn every day when dealing with my fussy and colicky infant daughter, finding it the only source of solace in my day.
And I’ve used walking to navigate other stressful times, including the deaths of my father and in-laws within five years of each other. During one particularly bad patch, I remember walking and muttering different mantras, including “I feel out of control.” Somehow, just saying the words in time with my feet helped.
Someone once told me that nicotine is among the hardest drugs to quit because it can relax or stimulate you, depending upon your needs.
Walking is the same thing for me. I can tune out and shut my mind off by blasting music, or tap into my deepest thoughts and come up with startling revelations in silence on my walks. A lot depends on my mood and state of mind, what I need on a particular day. Lots of times, I have no idea what that is until the walk is over.
I do 95 percent of my walking alone, mainly because I want to escape on my terms and my schedule often doesn’t jibe with others. But there are days that I can’t bear the thought of walking alone, texting siblings or friends to keep me company.
The other day, I called my sister Patty to ask if she’d walk with me, confessing “I’m lonely.” That’s a hard thing for me to admit, though a lot of other people feel the same way these days. And though I’d ordinarily feel pathetic saying that about myself, I was being honest. I don’t remember feeling this lonely or polarized in a long time.
I’ve never been a podcast walker, but circumstances sometimes require a change in attitude. Over the past week, I’ve been listening to a lot of James Taylor on my solitary hikes through the woods with the dog. Something about James’ voice and message is what I need right now: mellow, relaxing, soulful, beautiful.
So when a free Audible book by James Taylor popped up on my Amazon home screen, I immediately ordered it. Called Break Point and narrated by Taylor, it tells the story of his early days growing up in Massachusetts and North Carolina, his love of Martha’s Vineyard and his dysfunctional family.
It also tells the story behind many of his most famous hits, which as a lifelong fan, I found fascinating. In addition, he dishes about being discovered by a famous band and his run-in with one of the most notorious killers of our time. I won’t spoil it for you if you plan to listen.
He packs a lot of information and of course, a few strums on his guitar, into his 90-minute Audiobook. Best of all, he’s a great storyteller, managing to get me to laugh out loud several times, and nod my head at his wisdom. Having the ability to amuse and teach is an enormous gift, particularly during these unsettling times.
And seeing the way he managed to survive tough times and flourish is a great reminder of the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity.