At least a couple times a week, I’ll walk to the grocery store. It’s not that impressive, really. It’s about four miles, round trip, (though the return trip – with heavy bags slung over my shoulders, bumping against my sides – always feels like five).
I get some looks, and sometimes, I wonder if cars passing-by are considering whether or not they should pull over and ask if I need a ride. Because, really, what person takes that much time from their day to grocery shop. She probably needs help.
The mentality of it, of most things in our lives, is to be quick, to be fast enough that you can then go on to the next item of busy-work on your never-ending To-Do List.
“I’m just going to run _______” (to the store, to the bank, to pick up x,y or z) is a daily, task-by-task mantra.
And so, in the face of that, I like to walk to the store.
It forces me to have time outside of my own busyness. It gives me the space to shake nagging thoughts from my brain and to kick away any unnecessary muck from my spirit, like so much gravel and dirt from the bottoms of my sneakers.
And on the route home, when I dip down from main roads to the side streets, I weave through small neighborhoods and smell barbecues. I see a dad walking slowly down the road with his toddler. I smile at a young man with a bushy pile of blond hair, rolling passed me on a skateboard while walking his dog. I catch a glimpse of an elderly couple holding hands down the short stretch of their driveway.
With bags of salad greens and blueberries and hummus and carrots, I am a walking witness to life…to so many lives, and they me how very much I am not the center of anything, I’m just a passerby, making my way back home.
By the time I get there, I’m not frazzled. I’m not hectic. Sure, I’m ready to put down the bags that feel like they’ve gone from twenty to fifty pounds in the span of 40 minutes – but ultimately, I’m energized and refreshed in a way that I never am, when I’m “just running to the store,” and come home with a minivan, full of bags upon bags.
Fourteen years ago at this time, I was puttering around my parents’ house, anxious and getting ready to walk down the aisle of a garden and marry Vinnie. I was a twenty-two year old kid, who really had no idea what marriage was, or what it would become, or how many steps there would be between saying an optimistic and over-simplified “I do” and a lifetime of learning to live as one, whole and complete, unit.
Yesterday, as I walked, (dripping raspberry juice from my bag and onto my very white t-shirt…sigh) I thought of how everything felt so rushed, fourteen years ago, ten years ago, five years ago…I thought of how many times I’d been the one pushing, racing, hurrying on to whatever the great next thing was (or was supposed) to be.
I can’t wait to get engaged.
I can’t wait to get married.
Just wait until we buy that house!
Then we can have babies!
I can’t wait to be done having babies.
I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to wipe themselves.
I can’t wait until they’re grown up.
I can’t wait to retire and travel.
All of these voices, these feelings of anticipating, longing for, wishing we could just get to whatever great thing (supposedly) comes next – and if only we were there now – they’re just happiness detractors.
I don’t want to rush through life, with Vinnie.
I want to walk. I want to stroll. I want the patience to not race ahead, but to enjoy the only moment that we’re guaranteed, which is the one that we’re in – here and now – today.
It only took fourteen years of busyness and breathlessly rushing through – four kids, a dog, multiple cats, multiple homes, friendships, vacations, ups and downs, hardships and happinesses, to reach that realization. But, it’s a good one.
And as much as I enjoy walking to and from the store, or around the block to catch a glimpse of a beautiful full moon, or up a quiet mountain or along a boardwalk, bustling with life – the best steps I ever took, will ever take, were down that garden path, fourteen years ago, to the man who took my hand and never let me go.