I think I will be well enough to walk on the weekend, but in the mean time, here is the next chapter of my sort-of-memoir I wrote in Melbourne’s FIRST lockdown. Just in case you are interested!
WALK ONE – 6421 steps
In Bella’s book Jog On she wrote a bit about getting up and just going for a run, not bothering with having a cup of tea or whatever. Just hitting the ground running and I thought this might be a good idea for me. Not the running bit, of course, but the get-up-and-go sort of exercise ethos. Usually I get up and have coffee and faff about on my phone and look at my computer and before you know it an hour’s gone down the tubes.
What if I spent that hour walking in the park at the end of my street? I wondered. I vowed to give it a crack the next morning.
I put on the ugly neon oranges trainers that had remained buried under an embarrassingly large pile of colourful clogs and sandals. I even put socks on, which my son will tell you are my least favourite thing. Leggings. Check. Oversized sweatshirt dress with pockets. Check. Audiobook, Ventolin, phone, keys, earphones. Pull the front door closed with a click-bang and off I went.
That day, on that very first walk, I was mostly keen to get the lay of the land again. If you are an active person you are probably chortling into your hot chocolate as you hear my tale of getting out of the house to go for a walk. But for a person who has been trying to manage PTSD, depression and anxiety with some other physical health challenges thrown in (hello asthma, menopause, fibroid pain etc etc.) I’m telling you, it’s totally a big deal.
My muscles and bones and joints had felt like they were starting to atrophy as the months went on. This latest mental health flare-up had made all those things worse. My neck was stiff, my back tense and hard as a rock, my pelvic area (hips, coccyx, abdominal muscles) were achey at best and stabby at worst. Taking a long walk is the last thing you want to do when you feel like that, but I was determined to in the hopes that it might stave off a more serious mental health setback.
I managed a decent number of steps before limping home and sliding into a hot bath feeling one part smug and seventeen parts exhausted.
Day one, done. TICK! I’m doing it, reader!
WALK TWO – 7600 steps
Perhaps having something to do, a purpose for these walks apart from shaking up my mental health and making myself feel better would make these walks even more unmissable, I thought.
I bought a thank you card for my Nan at the supermarket on one of those fervent trips out of the house. It said “thank you for bee-ing so nice” and it had a very happy bee on it. I love bees and had, 6 months before the pandemic, begun planting out a garden full of bee-friendly plants. Borage, gazania, linaria, sunflowers, cosmos, wallflowers and more were by now cheerily swinging in the breeze, providing a pretty and insect-friendly salve when the days were getting hard.
I wrote in the card to thank her for the hand-knitted cardigan and pink pyjamas she sent me for my birthday which had fallen a few days before I lost my job. Sliding it into its envelope and pressing two stamps onto the corner I propped the bee card on the table and vowed to post it on my walk the next day.
Consequently, I carried it with me along an impressive (to me) 7500 step walk and– albeit a little smudged and sweaty … sorry Nan. I fantasised about making exercise-friendly cards big enough to carry easily on my walks. Perhaps they could be the same size as my phone, I thought. Perhaps I could make a special sleeve for them so they don’t get perspired on, I brainstormed. Perhaps I could post one every time I go for a walk, sending these non-sweaty missives out to a different person in my life as I try to catch my breath each day.
As these thoughts swirled, I triumphantly popped Card Number One into the letter box around the corner from my place and limped achily home for a hot coffee and an even hotter bath laced with Epsom Salts and a cap full of pandemic contraband aka Dettol. (I love the smell of Dettol don’t you? Just me. Oh well … )
While I was in the bath, I had a good idea. An idea that is possibly even better than the walking cards idea. So many good ideas are hatched in the bath or in the shower, don’t you think? Why don’t I, I thought, WRITE A BOOK during these hard days instead of doing previously mentioned safety net job of 3.5 years?!!
For starters, self-lockdown is said to be going to last until at least the end of June and I most likely won’t be able to get a real job until after that. Granted I have a small study load and my blog to keep up, I thought, but that leaves plenty of time for long walks and writing a book, I figured.
Previously I have written books around my full-time jobs, working on them in the evenings, early in the morning or over weekends to get them done. Right now, I don’t have those full-time hours. What better time to tap out a 60 000 or so odd words about my precarious mental health and its relationship to walking and isolation? I asked myself.
Totally beats remaining curled up on the couch for the foreseeable future, I answered.
And so here we are, dear reader. Only I’m not just talking to myself anymore which is quite a relief.
These days were not all about good ideas and hopeful walks, however.
I forgot to tell you that a couple of days after I lost my job (which was a couple of days after my birthday and a few days after my new book came out) my cat died. Mike the ginger tabby was 17 years old and was named after Beastie Boy Mike D.
No spring chicken, her death came as no surprise but it was yet another sad chapter in a month I could only describe as a bit of a shit show. The universe was quite keen for me to jump through as many emotionally scarring hoops as possible, it had become clear.
I know, I know, stiff-upper-lippers. I should buck up and count myself lucky that, given the world health crisis, that I didn’t die, that I did not become homeless, that I did not have to work on the frontline. Please know I know this. But I still want to tell my story because perhaps others have had similar feelings or had similar experiences. There’s comfort in not being alone in hard things, whatever those things may be.
But you can’t always buck up, can you? Especially not when your ginger fluffy friend of almost 2 decades slips quietly away.
I was so tense and battle-weary when it happened that I couldn’t even cry. I felt wooden and worried and the only thing that could finally shift me from scared, concrete person to cat-grieving human was watching the film Lion. I can highly recommend that as an excellent release valve if you’ve been being brave or trying to hold in the hard times. I cried all of the stashed away tears during that movie. (My son Ari would recommend the movie Bridge To Terabithia for the very same tear-inducing, tension relieving reason.) Perhaps you have your own excellent tear-jerker for just this purpose?
The walking, I hoped, would help me transform from battle-weary, cat-grieving, job-losing, sad, anxious, stiff and sore lady into someone that was neither of those things. I didn’t want to jinx myself with another setback of any kind by having too many expectations though. I was simply going for a) moving my body and b) getting out of the house …