Weeping this morning as I walked

I still walk most days. I like to swim, but if the sun is shining and it’s not raining, I prefer to walk, even if I have to leave the house at 5:30 AM to do it when it’s comfortable outside. I’ve written a lot about my walks in these pages, but it is probably the single most important practice in my life right now. Roll out of bed, down a cup of coffee, and then 2.5 miles in 42 minutes. Like clockwork.

Sometimes it takes longer. This morning I stopped to see a neighbor’s kitten and to smell the blooms of a magnolia whose low-hanging limbs were heavy-laden with blooms. I know this cuts into the pure exercise value of the walks, but if I can’t play with kittens and smell flowers, I’m not doing it.

Many days, I will listen to an audiobook or, more rarely, a podcast. But sometimes, I need to be alone with my thoughts, and I leave my headphones at home like I did this morning.

Which is why I was weeping this morning as I walked.

I’ve had a lot going on. I know, I know, we all have a lot going on – it’s not just me. But as Thoreau said, I wouldn’t talk about myself so much if there was anyone else I knew as well.

Like many people, the two-year interjection of the Pandemic into my life caused major disruptions. I have friends who lost businesses, changed careers, lost their homes, lost their families, and others who are now just trying to survive.

I know other people who saw their businesses flourish during the pandemic, who sold their homes at the top of the market and retired, who started new businesses, who developed new interests, who met romantic partners as they navigated the world in new ways. For them, the pandemic was the best thing to ever happen to them.

But I suspect that many of us are like me – I had a little bit of both happen. I lost some people, I watched dreams crumble, and I also made new friends and developed new ways to earn an income. It was a mixed bag.

When I was working with people who were experiencing homelessness, I learned early a rule of thumb for knowing who would make it out and who wouldn’t. The people who made it out, who survived, who worked the system and got rehoused were, by and large, the people who talked about the future.

“When I get my new apartment, I’m gonna…”

“When I get the new job, I want to…”

Like that.

On the other hand, there were the 50-year-old men who made sure I knew they had been the starting quarterback in their senior year of high school, or the former soldier or the person who showed you the pictures he had carried in his wallet for 15 years of a kid that was now grown. These people seldom made it.

From them, I learned to think much more about the future than I do the past. But that doesn’t mean I never think about it. Instead, what happens is that eventually I stop moving long enough and then it hits me like a wave, and emotionally, I have to deal with it.

Which is why I was weeping this morning as I walked.

For the last two years and change, I’ve been moving constantly, like a shark that will drown if he stops. Trying to keep my family safe, trying to make money to pay the bills, trying to figure out ways to be useful, trying to learn how to do new things as the old things I knew how to do had become much less valuable in this new pandemic-scarred world.

Maybe it’s the pond and the relaxation that comes as I sit beside it. Maybe it’s that some gambles I took early in the pandemic look like they will pay off. Or maybe I’m just tired of moving.

In any event, it really hit me this morning that a lot of things are just… gone now. People I love. Things I loved doing. Dreams I had. Hell, my whole speaking career. My personality changed. So did my tolerance for bullshit. Friends died. Others moved away.

And this morning, I just found myself mourning it all.

The Buddha tells us that our unhappiness comes from our attachment to a predetermined outcome. That has always resonated with me. It’s not that I’m unhappy a thing happened – it’s that it’s not what I wanted to happen.

And this morning, I just felt all of it wash over me as I walked, alone in my head.

Which is why I was weeping this morning as I walked.