The weather’s a little on the hot side this week, so it’s best to take care of the exercise early in the day. Right after breakfast, I pull on a tank top and shorts. The dogs are already watching me. When I sit down to put on socks and my sneakers, their tails start to wag, hopefully. When I finally say, “do you want to go to the river?” their enthusiasm makes me smile.
It’s worth the 15 minutes drive out of the city to get to walk in big, sunny, open spaces. We spend some time in the meadow, where there’s almost no one around. I stop to pick a few blackberries, which are just beginning to ripen.
We head down to the river, find a stick, and my canine buddies go for a swim. Maybe tomorrow I’ll wear a swimsuit and join them. It’s warm enough that when they shake off right next to me, I don’t mind being spattered with water; I welcome it, in fact.
Heading back across the hot meadow, I pay attention to how my body feels. I am walking quickly, my breath speeding up. I’ve had problems with my feet for years, and my ankles are complaining. A bead of sweat runs down my spine. Sometimes a light breeze nudges the trees and cools my skin. I crush a blackberry between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, slowly, savoring the sweetness. A bug tries to fly into my ear. I keep lifting my eyes up to the blue, blue sky. I intentionally pull my shoulders back and lift my chest, willing my heart to open.
I can accept all of this at the same time, I think. I can accept the gorgeous sky and the warm sun and the cooling breeze. I can feel how good it is to breathe hard. I can accept and appreciate these things, even while my feet hurt.
Accepting it all doesn’t mean I don’t care about pain. It doesn’t mean I won’t stretch out my feet and maybe ice my ankles. It doesn’t mean I don’t swat at the bug in my ear. It just means I can allow the experience to carry a mix of feelings, all at the same time, and I can be okay with that.
This is important to me, because in recent weeks I’ve been paying attention to how often I allow myself to go numb in order to avoid some feelings. I’m so afraid that some feelings will be painful that I don’t allow myself to stay present and feel them. Sometimes not any of them.
What if my life were like my walk this morning? What if I were to accept that there will be sun and sweat and bugs and aching feet, that is, there will be contentment and effort and annoyances and suffering? Sometimes, they will all show up at the same time. I can both accept the annoyances and suffering (that is, know that it’s normal they will exist) and I can take care of myself, if I need to (i.e. I don’t have to pretend they aren’t there or don’t matter).
At one level, this all seems screamingly obvious, I know. But at a very deep level, I have not allowed myself to live this way in the past. I wonder if I can change that?