By Robert L. Cain, Copyright 2021
I wish I could plan for it, ensure it, and experience it every time—the perfect walk. But I can’t. The universe might be in the right mind for it, a day the walk gods promise a walk-memory I will treasure forever. But then, in their own treacherous way, turn the tables on me. I have checked off all the boxes of perfect-walk criteria, weather, feeling great, mind clear and even clearer after the walk, excitement—met all the requirements as a candidate for perfection. But I can’t fool serendipity and the walk gods. Both have been lying in wait, ready to bushwhack me, testing my walk resolve. All that said, I’ve come to a conclusion about the perfect walk. I’ll tell you about that later.
The perfect walk, of course, is unique for each person. Moreover, because of their malleability, the criteria can change day to day or even minute to minute. The fact is, one person’s perfect walk might well be another person’s perfect meh. I can only speak for myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up on ever walking the perfect walk. Since I love walking so much, I anticipate that every walk will end up good, even if not perfect. Because planning for it is subject to the vagaries of serendipity and the walk gods, you can’t know if a walk is anything approaching perfection until after it’s over.
It may start out with a “yes!!! this will be great.” And all checked boxes hold up for several hundred steps, or a few blocks, or even a mile or so. It started with perfect weather—75 degrees or so—with some shade to walk in, a forest path well laid out and smooth, many beautiful sights to see and the mood to enjoy them, a place to sit and soak in the glorious day, a route with just enough effort to get my heart rate up but no so much to wear me out for the rest of the day, and peace and quiet. Is that enough? Well, you’d think that if a walk met all those requirements, it would be nigh on to perfect. But you can count on the unexpected and the angry walk gods. I always wonder what I did to incur their wrath this time There’s always something, isn’t there?
The walk crumbles like loose dirt on a precipitous hillside when that unexpected, unplanned for, undesired entity jumps out and bites it. It could be anything, but whatever it is affects the glorious glow of a promising walk. (Of course, the unexpected might mean a better walk.) Did I have all the boxes checked and did I anticipate an exceptionally good experience that day only to have it crumble because of the unexpected? One day’s interesting and memorable is another day’s irritating and memorable.
But is it as bad as I am making it?
At the risk of sounding Pollyannaish, my mindset at the moment determines how I get the best out of a walk. For example, today’s walk was good maybe because I expected nothing of it. I just felt the obligation to set foot out the door and go for a “short” walk. My walk a couple of days ago ended up more strenuous than I would prefer, so my keenness for another involved not exerting myself too much. Today’s walk more than met my expectations because I had none. And mentally checking off the boxes when I got home, the walk turned out rewarding. I thought about this column and the ideas gushed like a fire hose. The short walk rewarded me with four pages of notes, almost all on point.
One of the last things I wrote down is that the event itself is neither good nor bad but what you make of it. That’s one thing every motivational speaker repeats almost ad nauseum, so often you can anticipate when he or she will say it. It’s true, of course, but they don’t need to tell me over and over. Just as most events in our lives can be considered neither good nor bad, they depend on how we approach them. It leaves each event with the opportunity to be turned to either good or bad in our minds.
That’s the hard part for me when it flies in the face of an expectation I had for the walk, I let it dump cold water on my mood, make me growl with displeasure, suffer disappointment. The cold water could be I got over-tired, had to deal with people’s damn dogs, endured too much traffic, or even saw too many people, or even more walk-unsettling such as the day I slipped and sprained my knee. Some days I don’t want to see any people even to say hello, and every day don’t want to have to deal with anybody’s damn dog, or have to wait for traffic before I can get to nature. After checking off the boxes for the near ideal walk, I have my plans for the walk ravaged. The perfect walk spoiled.
Other days, though, it’s a good walk made even better. It all depends on where my head is. Even when the walk gods turn on me, often I turn the table on them, and my walks are worthwhile. I get new ideas, refresh my brain, get my blood moving, enjoy the day (well, mostly unless it rains on me—a rarity here).
Here’s the conclusion I came to: Maybe there’s no such thing as a perfect walk. There may be a walk you remember fondly, think couldn’t be better, that gets put on your 100-year list. A walk is as good as I make it. Every walk has its benefits and in its own way might deserve to be adjudged perfect. After all, since adjectives have no objective meaning, if someone wants to call a walk perfect, that’s his or her choice and definition and it’s right for him or her. No matter how I remember a walk, I can be grateful for the opportunity for the walk itself. The real question is, do I have to judge every walk? A walk is a wonderful thing, even if all the boxes aren’t checked, or some get unchecked.
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