The Gifts Behind the Gifts

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.

Instead, I sat on the porch swing and I rocked back and forth and felt snowflakes lighting and melting on my face. I watched my breath flow out my nose in a white vapor and disappear. I listened to One Republic in my ears (…“I’m sick of all the insincere, so I’m gonna give all my secrets away…”) and felt the muscle buzz in my thighs.

I felt it all and understood the gift of the walk, that of clarity and time alone.

When I was driving to Cassie’s this morning, before the hubbub, I heard a song I hadn’t heard in ages: “Hold On Hold Out” by Jackson Browne. Listening to it with my 47-year-old ears (as opposed to my 16-year-old ears) and as someone who’s been up and down the damn scale a number of times, brought a whole new perspective to it. I’ve posted the first few stanzas of the lyrics below, and when you read them, think of how they apply to you.
Are you someone who is losing weight or thinking about losing weight? In maintenance or looking for goal? Newly in love or looking for love? Forming or achieving a goal? It’s one of the most thought-provoking songs I know, and the gift of hearing it this morning is one I will not forget.

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

9 thoughts on “The Gifts Behind the Gifts

  1. What a wonderfuly Christmas post, Lynn. As I arrived home after a wonderful day spent with family and friends, I feel so blessed–and your post reminds me that we don't need material things to make us happy. Really what your post makes me think about is how important our physical health is. I love how all you needed was a walk to make you enjoy your day.

    This year I want to lose weight and get out more with my friends. I think I am losing weight for the right reason: because I am beginning to like myself, I want to be more active, and I am sick of letting the weight hold me back. And I want to get out more with my friends because whenever I am with them, I have fun, they make me feel loved, and they are very special people!

    Well… this has been a long comment, and I want to read and get to bed. Merry Christmas to you!

    PS I love your pictures, and you make me want to get outside and go for a walk even in the cold!


  2. Thanks for the music tip – I was given an ipod gift card for xmas, so far I've only uploaded 'I can see clearly now' by Jimmy Cliff – and I was looking for some more inspirational stuff.
    Hope you are having a lovely xmas and the weather is not too cold (although I've always wanted to have a white xmas) – we spent our xmas day at the beach.
    Merry Xmas from Australia

  3. Merriest Christmas to you & yours, Lynn! Glad you gave yourself a nice gift – sure can't beat the price! I, too, enjoyed nice evening walks yesterday and today – much needed with all the bounty of the season! It was great to look at the stars, breathe fresh air, see the neighbors' lights, and have some quiet time.

  4. Glad you were able to get that walk in Lynn. We sure do take the simple things for granted. Don asked me to put him (and I guess me too) on a diet for Christmas so I think we've reached our Waterloo. I said- if he was really serious we would go on a life plan instead-so I'm back to reading the whole blog instead of just the FB version. Thanks for welcoming me home…lol…Have a wonderful day.

  5. I call these times gifts of creativity. Taking time to really see – with my eyes wide open. As of late, I've been too busy or hurried to really take them, but I also realized how important they are – they put me on top of the to-do list and that is where I need to stay if I'm going to take care of myself in the way in which I deserve. Here is to a wonderful new year ahead.

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