Walking through the chaos

I took a long walk this afternoon. It’s Mother’s Day, and this walk was my gift to myself. I feel rusty and out of practice, between the long Chicago winter and short days, not to mention the foot injury that’s sidelined me for weeks. But new music on the iPod got me moving as the late afternoon sun shined through the trees. There was a late-fall chill in the air, but the leaves and grass were so brilliantly green it hurt to look at it.

Nothing clears my head like a good walk and the sun on my face. I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other, trying not to trip on sidewalks buckled up by tree roots. Recently, a string of bad news has left me feeling more uncertain than ever. It’s been hard to focus, hard to keep one foot in front of the other. My foot literally aches. But a walk brings me back to where I belong.

My mind meanders over events and people, decisions made and not made or not made well. Soon it contemplate new ideas: should I go back to that old novel or let it go once and for all? Can I help my son get through this new transition? Am I strong enough? Can I help a relative fighting cancer? Am I strong enough to crack a joke when she needs it and hold my tears for later? Have  I been a good friend? Have I done enough? Am I enough?

When I walk, I feel closer to something bigger than myself. I feel connected to the world and to people I’ve known and loved, some here and some gone. I think about the car accident I saw just a few hours earlier. It had just happened, and I pulled over and got out to see if everyone was OK. A young man was sitting in the blue car, staring at his hands on the steering wheel, stunned. A white SUV was smashed into his driver’s side door. Inside, several people looked bewildered. The driver, another young man, looked confused, as if wondering why he was no longer moving. Smoke trailed up from both engines. It smelled like burnt rubber. The drivers got out of their cars. Their hands shook. Two older women emerged from the back of SUV. Each one touched her neck and head, as if checking for blood. Their eyes were wide and frightened. Other cars slowed down to pass, navigating around broken pieces of glass and chunks of fender and bits of tail lights. I close my eyes and see shaking hands touching the face, the heart, the head, confirming that yes, I am still here. Yes, I am alive. Yes, I am shaken but not broken.

That is what walking is to me. It is my way of confirming that I am still here. I am still alive. I am shaken, but not broken. The broken bits of glass will be swept away, tomorrow will come, and no one will be the wiser.

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