Each Christmas, I buy a gift for myself. Just a little something I pick up on a whim while shopping. One year it was a small ceramic elf, another was a Christmas cactus, and one year, while looking for a sweater for my daughter, I found the most perfect-fitting pair of pants on sale for $10. Best. Buy. Ever.
This year’s gift, though, didn’t cost a thing. In fact, I’d forgotten about this yearly tradition until I was fully engaged in it this afternoon.
My gift to me this year was…a walk.
I haven’t taken a walk since the hike in October (see “Recovered”) because it took my knee three days to get back to some semblance of normal. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d torn my medial meniscus. While it felt OK during and right after into the hike, afterwards my knee hurt like a son of a gun. I haven’t tested it since.
When I was diagnosed last month, my doc shot me up with cortisone. My knee is still iffy (it may still need to be scoped), and the way it feels varies day to day. Yesterday I was limping. Today I felt like I could climb Algonquin (a beautiful mountain in the Adirondacks). Instead I did the next best thing. I explored my neighborhood.
Earlier this morning, I was with my daughters and their SOs and my grandkids and Larry. We exchanged gifts, ate eggs and chocolate and potatoes, and when I got home, I was hepped up on sugar and feeling like a slug. My mind said, “Take a nap!” but my body said, “Go outside!” I decided to follow the advice I give here ad nauseum: “Listen to your body!”
I was a having a rockin’ hair day, which alone would usually preclude me from doing anything to mess it up. But I was alone (and besides, who really cares?), so I put on my new Buddy the Elf hat that my darling daughter Carlene knitted for me; layered a long-sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt and shell underneath my coat; put on my serious walking boots and my gloves; and I headed out.
I live in a working-class town north of Pittsburgh. It’s safe and quiet and much closer to the Allegheny River than I realized. I walked up my street toward the cemetery and turned north onto a road I’d not been on before. I wound around the back streets, admiring the Christmas decorations some folks had on their lawns, when then I saw in one large picture window a leg lamp. A “Christmas Story” leg lamp. Man, I laughed for half a block!
I turned another corner and was struck by the familiar western PA hill-river terrain. I knew the Allegheny wasn’t far away, but I had no idea it was just four blocks from my house. As I got closer to the homes that bordered the hill’s ledge, I felt just how cloistered I’d become in my apartment and in my routine. Since moving here, I haven’t thought outside the box of where I need to be. I get in my Jeep and I go to the store or I go to see the grandkids or I go to a doctor’s appointment or some such. I go with purpose and not with curiosity. Today’s walk shook out all the dust that had settled since my last hike. I love walking. I love looking around. I love the peace and solitude of a long steady pace. When I got back to my house, I didn’t want the walk to end, but my knee was getting quiet insistent after 45 minutes. So I compromised and didn’t go inside right away.
I felt it all and understood the gift of the walk, that of clarity and time alone.
Merry Christmas 🙂
Hold On Hold Out by Jackson Browne (For complete lyrics, click here)
Hold on hold out, keep a hold on strong
The money’s in and the bets are down
You won’t hold out long
They say you’ll fall in no time at all
But you know they’re wrong
Known it all along
Hold on hold out, keep a hold on still
If you don’t see what your love is worth
No one ever will
You’ve done your time on the bottom line
And it ain’t no thrill
There’s got to be something more
Keep a hold on still
You know what it is you’re waiting for
Now you just hold on
Hold on hold out