Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Strolling Along

Strolling along is not something I do well. It means slowing down and slowing down happens when I'm walking with my mom, who is still pretty spry.

This is a photo of Mom (Riki) in Cape Breton last year. She's the short one.

We're driving along and there is a moose and she says “stop the car” and out she hops and starts chasing it down the road. The moose won, but Mom nearly caught it.

Slowing down also happens when my knees hurt or when the sidewalks are crowded and my path is blocked. This last one annoys the heck out of me and I either try to deak around people or I fume behind the slow pokes. The objective of strolling eludes me. The intellectual idea of resting and seeing while on a journey is at odds with getting an aerobic work out into my day.

While I am on a quick trot to where ever I am going, my mind is racing along with me. I am either solving a logistical problem, or going over a list or sometimes, having a conversation with someone who isn't there. When I do walk with someone, we are often talking as fast as our feet are going. Listening well is difficult when the objective, after getting somewhere and talking my head off, is breathing. Listening well comes fourth on the list of things to do while rocketing along.

Today on the way to class, I passed by a woman who was pushing a double wide stroller along. Both kids inside were asleep and she was talking a mile a minute about where they were headed and who they were going to see. I remember doing this when I had children in a stroller. Any voice would do, any conversation was adequate, even if both were my own. Talking is a form of keeping isolation at bay.

Today on the walk to class, I overheard two girls: “Christmas is just around the corner.”, “No WAY. I am so not ready for THAT”, “Why not, it will be fun.”, “I'm just recovering from summer being over.” What does all that mean in the world of myth and metaphor? Well, it either means two young women are equally disconnected from the seasons since Christmas is a good ways away and summer is a ghost. We have the harvest season to go through before we start considering the implications of the winter and equinox. Or it means that the summer sales are still going on and the pre-Christmas sales haven't taken over everyone's imagination yet. Or perhaps, more meaningfully, it means we live in a world where the passage of the seasons and time are significantly removed from our daily experience. We rarely see time passing in terms of the real seasons, the month of the "Hunter moon", or the month of the red leaves.

Today, as I walked to class I also thought about a conversation I had with a dear friend. She had done something that gave her regret and had turned to three trusted friends for advice. They in turn listened and gave advice that meant that the dear friend chose a path of behaviour that left a fourth friend hurting. She chose the easy way. Her friends helped her choose the easy way. Everyone but the fourth friend was comfortable and not until the fourth friend expressed her pain, did the dear friend realize that sometimes regular friends are not the best resource. Why not? Because we choose our friends based on similar values or interests and backgrounds. Friends want us to be happy and comfortable and so often give advice that they think is what is wanted. A person who is a real barometer of what to do in an uncomfortable situation will usually give advice that is hard to hear.

A good friend hardly ever tells you that yes, you need to apologize to someone else, or that you need to ask forgiveness or that you need to make amends. Usually they help you to rationalize your own behaviour so that both you and they end the conversation satisfied that all is well with the world and as a group, we are all terrific people. Sometimes we do need to hear this, because let's face it, life is tough and we often boob things up. Sometimes making things right is overwhelming. But sometimes, we simply have to accept that we have a hard task ahead of us to do the right thing. The right thing is often the one action that feels wrong, because it disturbs us. Did your mom ever make you go back to a store where you had snuck some penny candy and apologize or knock on the neighbour's door and confess that is was you that broke a window. Ouch! (I'm not saying I had to do that.... I had to confess to worse things, let's not go there.)

I yabber on about sustainable practices related to the environment and food and oil and inequitable powers but probably the most important practice of all is sustaining relationships. If we practice a discipline of listening well, thinking deeply, examining our motives for our behaviour then, tough and time consuming as that all is, we begin to reduce the number of boob-ups we make. Eventually we can feel a boob-up in process and that allows us to stop in the middle of some stupid action and say, “Hey, I'm out of line, I'm sorry.” Hopefully the other person hears you and all is well, but sometimes, it just can't be fixed. In those cases, we all need to learn from our mistakes and accept our role in the mess. Yup, dear friend, you need to make amends, even if friend four is still pissed. Maybe wait till she's a little less mad so she isn't tempted to throttle you.

And then I arrived to class. Exhausted. That was a heck of a walk and class is only 12 minutes from my front door. If I had strolled, my head would have exploded.

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