Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What It Means to Not Walk

Two days in a row of not walking due to weather, work and a sore back has produced a serious frustration within me when I sit down to write. The bottom line is that I don’t want to write about not walking. Are there thoughts that I can share and express about what it means to NOT walk?

I have not walked before. I learned a lot from the experience of not walking.

In October 2009, Matt and I drove to Philadelphia for The3Day Walk, and didn’t walk.

It was our 15th 3Day Walk (it was actually his 16th). We had trained plenty and raised over $6000. We know our way around The3Day experience, and it is a vital and central part of our lives. Although we had already crewed in Chicago in August, walking each year is very important to us.

WELL! What a roller coaster of a weekend it was. Not at all what we expected. I returned home to Massachusetts late Wednesday night from a business trip. We spent hours trying to get repacked for the Walk, knowing that the weather geeks were predicting wet and cold all weekend. We drove to Philly Thursday evening. The driving was awful, starting with sleety snow in Massachusetts. A drive that usually takes us 4 1/2 hours took almost 8! We arrived at our friends’ home in Philly at almost 10, visited and reviewed our plans for them to drop us at opening ceremonies the next morning. Just before bed, we checked online to discuss with them the exact timing for the 3Days only to discover that major announcements had been made. Due to the weather conditions, the organizers of the event had determined that the event would be held on Sunday only as a 1Day event. Our hearts crashed into our stomachs and we tried to decide what this meant for us. After a sleepless night, we got in touch with a fellow walker local to the area and decided to join her (and about 300 other clad-in-pink walkers) at a local mall for an indoors Day One Walk. We decided that we would walk at the mall for Day One/Friday and then drive home and recapture the gift of a free weekend. I was scheduled to be out town for most of the coming month and we decided that a weekend at home would do us some good after all. It was a lot of fun walking in the King of Prussia Mall, although it certainly didn't compare to a regular 3Day walk. We spent the day walking the mall, cheered with and for all the other mall-walkers. Then we hugged our friend Jane and headed home.

The drive home that evening was uneventful, although we took turns lamenting our sadness at the loss of the walk. It felt surreal to be driving home without having had our walk.

And then, we woke up Saturday and I felt simply bereft at the loss. Homesick is the only way to describe it. After some discussion, we decided that as crazy as it was, we would drive back so that we could walk the organized 1Day event on Sunday. Back in the car we went. Crazy? Yes. But the minute we were back in the car headed back towards the 3Day, I felt better. We drove to the home of our friend and fellow-walker, had a late dinner with her and her husband, cemented that growing friendship, got up on Sunday and walked our 15-mile 1Day event. That 1Day was just like a 3Day in terms of people cheering and a sense of community gathered around a vital cause, but it wasn't the same as a "real" 3Day.

But in many ways, there was lot more for me to learn from living through that kind of disappointment and reconciliation. In the end, I think I grew more from the walk that I did have than I would have from the walk I was planning on taking that weekend.

I hadn’t planned on driving more hours than walking that weekend. I hadn’t planned on training for months to take a walk that didn’t challenge my body. I hadn’t planned on making choices that weekend about what to eat. I hadn’t planned for any of what happened.

But the walk that I didn’t take can remind me how important it was for all of us to experience that sort of adrift, unfettered, unplanned moment. When my friend Mary Kay was diagnosed with breast cancer 9 months after losing her husband, it definitely was not what she had planned. When my friend Diane was told that her cancer had come back after 10 years, it wasn’t what she had planned. When my friend T’s 26 year-old daughter was diagnosed, it wasn’t what she had planned.

Who plans on leaving their teenagers orphaned? Who plans on shifting from planning her retirement to planning chemo treatment schedules? Who plans on helping her daughter recover from a bilateral mastectomy two weeks after her wedding? Really now, who plans on getting breast cancer?

You really can’t plan everything in life. I didn’t plan a weekend of not walking, but I can be grateful for the weekend I did have.

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