There was a time, not all that long ago, when I'd set my alarm for 5:00am, throw on a pair of sweats and my Nikes, grab my Walkman, and set out to walk a mile around our development in New Jersey. We lived in one of the older developments, where the builders knew better than to level all of the glorious old trees, and I loved seeing beams of sun dancing among the branches and leaves of the huge pine trees and beautiful, mature rhododendrons. My regular walk was exactly one mile, and it took me somewhere between fifteen and twenty minutes to make that loop. Once home, I'd jump in the shower, get myself dressed, get Zack up (grumbling, 'cause he's NOT a morning person!), make his breakfast, feed the cats, drive him to before-school day care, and set off on my own hour-long commute to work. Oh, and then work a full day.
Life has changed a lot in many ways since then, but it occurred to me this morning, as I walked around our little neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, that I chose to live in an area not all that unlike the development in New Jersey, at least in terms of foliage. Of course, everything around the house in NJ was very, very flat (we could never figure out why they called our town "Cherry Hill" since we never really saw anything remotely resembling a hill nearby!). Now we live on a rise, near the West Hills, and it's impossible to reach our home without climbing a steep rise. So the view is markedly different, with the hills rising to the north, and all the dips and rises in the blocks surrounding our home. But many of the trees and bushes are very much the same. Huge conifers, every variety of Japanese maple you could imagine, banks of rhododendrons and azalea bushes -- the kinds of plants that can thrive in clay-y, acidic soil. It's funny how these decisions get made - somewhere in the lizard-brain, I guess, and suddenly I realize that I've managed to repeat a decision I'd made many years before (this time, however, with much better results).
So. Walks, you think? But you have MS, and haven't been able to walk much at all for years, right?
However, at my dear friend Elaine's urging, I made an appointment with an amazing woman, a hypno-therapist who (as far as I'm concerned) does miraculous work. I've seen her five times, and am now able to walk about a half mile every morning. I can even make it up the final hill to our street (which is NOT an insignificant accomplishment, believe me!). It's slow going at the end of the walk, and I need to stop and rest at times, but dammit, I'm WALKING!!
I know you're probably thinking something along the lines of "Big F***ing Deal", those of you who are able to stroll a mile to the nearest coffee shop and pick up a large latte without thinking twice. But lemme tell ya, this IS a BFD for me. I've missed walking more than any of the things I've lost due to MS, more than my work (which I loved), more than the seemingly boundless energy I used to have -- more than anything. And now, miraculously, I am able to step off our front porch, walk out into the street, and make a half-mile loop around our neighborhood. I encounter neighbors and chat with them, pet the dogs they're walking and move on. I notice tiny details about gardens and trees. I chatter to the squirrels and listen to birdsong. I breathe deeply, loving the smell of grasses and trees and flowers.
I think this was the best 60th birthday gift of all.