Yesterday afternoon, after I got home from teaching, J and I went for a walk around the neighborhood, and for the first time in weeks my body didn’t hurt. The foot I’d sprained last month wasn’t swollen or sore, and my hip (which I’d tweaked when I was limping around, favoring my foot) wasn’t stiff and aching.
It was the first time in more than a month when walking actually felt good. I wasn’t counting steps, looking for shortcuts, or anticipating the end of the walk, nor was I lamenting every step as pain. I could simply walk—and enjoy walking—without worry, as I used to do, my body free and unencumbered. I’m learning that this is one seemingly inevitable part of growing older: you feel grateful for what you used to take for granted as “normal.” A good day isn’t one where something particularly special happens; a good day is when nothing bad happens. “No new aches and pains”—something unremarkable when you were younger—becomes cause for celebration.
I’ve missed walking while I’ve been recovering. Walking has always been one of my favorite pastimes, an exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise. Walking is my favorite way of clearing my head and getting both my blood and creative juices flowing. For me, walking is an intellectual activity, an exercise for the mind as well as the body. Spending more than a month on forced rest, walking only a little here and there while constantly monitoring how either my foot or hip felt, has been challenging, as if the bounds of both my world and my interests had shrunk. When I’m sedentary, I grow sluggish, and I don’t enjoy life as a slug.
One of the things I’m looking forward to now that my body is better is exploring around Framingham State more. On the days I’m in Framingham, I teach in the early morning and late afternoon, with a substantial break in between. For the past month, I’ve been spending that break in my office catching up with work rather than wandering, trying to give my foot the rest it needs to get better. Now that walking is no longer a (literal) pain, I’m looking forward to getting out of my office and exploring a new-to-me campus and town: an excellent way to break up my break.