Monday Musings: Exploring my neighborhood

Monday musings in paper and ink

I’m trying to make up my mind about where I should categorize this post. In many respects, it belongs to “Monday Musings,” a staple here for quite some time now, and at the same time, it also belongs under my “New York Corona Diaries.” I will settle on the former. I would like to get on with writing about an idea that struck me this morning as I was on my morning power walk before it totally gets lost in the Ethernet.

Noomin’. For the last two months, I’ve been on Noom and dieting and exercising like I had never done before. The dieting was much easier than most other diets I had been on, but that is not to say there wasn’t any effort. The fact that I’ve consistently walked every day except for one day when the rain wouldn’t let up, and that I have topped 10,000 steps EVERYDAY for the last month is a personal achievement for me. See, I was one person who always said you’d have to pay me to make me exercise. I was totally averse to any form of physical exertion. I was just plain lazy.

So although my actual weight is a state secret — I will share that I have lost 15 pounds the last 60 days. I know I would’ve lost more had I not indulged in a treat or two (or three) during this whole course, but I’m not going to beat myself up over this. The point is that I have lost THAT much — in a healthy way that didn’t see any adverse effects like hair loss or rashes or some other reaction that I had suffered with other diets. And so far, it looks like this is a lifestyle change that I can actually live with. This one is working for me.

But today is not the day when I will share with you my favorite recipes from the diet or the learnings from the new eating habits I’ve acquired. I want to talk about how my daily walks have brought me around my neighborhood and made me explore it and see things in a new light.

Reacquainting myself with Mother Nature’s domain. I have lived in this neighborhood for the last 18 years, and yet, I had never gone that deep into the hiking trails in the forest that makes up part of Alley Pond Park. I have always stuck around the periphery, but never really went into the forest.

In My Neighborhood

I had never even fully explored the path around the main park which I had viewed from the street hundreds of times.. until I found myself there maybe after the second week I had started walking. I walked the circular path around and round the main field, but I soon tired of it. I didn’t want to have to walk with my mask on 100% of the time, and so I strayed away and walked the outer periphery on the other side.

In My Neighborhood

I preferred to walk solitary so that I could pull my mask down when no one was around, and I’d pull it back up out of respect to the people I came across. I would even walk off the sidewalk just to keep my social distance — again, out of respect.

I discovered places in the park where people seemed to be so familiar — and I had to pull out Google Maps to bring myself to the right side of the park I wanted to emerge from.

In My Neighborhood

Fortunately there was enough pedestrian traffic deep in the forest that I felt I was never too far from anyone to hear a call for help, should I trip or fall.

Most days, I will walk around the park — not in it. My days are structured around work, so I am not wont to aimlessly wander and explore. Most of the time, I turn on some fast beat dance music to walk to, so that I can make good time. I walk fast, but cannot run. Even with my renewed endurance for physical exertion, I know better than to push myself and punish my feet without further priming. These two gems carry a lot of weight day in and day out and the last thing I want is to suffer some injury because I wasn’t careful. I need to be at my laptop by 9am and logged on to work. Although I can respond to emails on my phone, I don’t want to end up tripping or falling because I dared to text while walking. (Although I must confess, I do.)

I’ve managed to count the steps around and know which routes to take to rack up the numbers I need. I still end up doing it at just over an hour, but I am pretty happy at this pace.

I have come to appreciate my neighborhood more. I’ve actually walked early in the morning, under the searing heat of the midday sun and during the night one particularly busy day. The landscape changes depending on the time of day, and I see and hear things differently now, from the many nights I would find myself walking home from the bus to my doorstep.

In My Neighborhood

I’ve walked to a favorite bakeshop maybe 10-15 minutes away by car, only to discover that it took only 5,000 steps — barely. So when I walked back, I had to make up for what I owed to make 10,000 going around my block.

I have come to realize that exercise will not kill me. I may not be doing much, but given that a 45 minute work out used to be such a dreadful thought, being able to walk for hours on end like I did in Central Park a few weeks back is a feat. It’s a personal accomplishment that I now feel anxiety when I see that it’s going to rain when I look at the weather app. So I’ve taken to walking with a small sling bag with an umbrella — just in case.

I feel good that I don’t get as winded walking fast, and I can actually look at the uphill incline without worry or fear. I actually enjoy the walk and look forward to it in the mornings.

Self love

I always harp on the fact that we must take care of ourselves, too– something we forget when we are so busy taking care of others. Most people find the ideal to be putting others before yourself, when the truth of the matter is, you need to be whole to take care of the people you hold dear. So many lessons I’ve learned through the years come to mind. And these bits of wisdom need some reinforcement even in my own world. Sometimes we need reminding, too. (I do.).

You need to find your balance to help others keep theirs. There is always some chaos in our lives– be it at home, at work, or in the world we live in, in general. I am thankfully past my personal crisis which saw me take my journey to singlehood, but being a single parent to a teen has its challenges. I work in a fast paced and very demanding environment supporting a chief something in our company and there is the everyday stress of getting things done and making things happen.

I find my balance through meditation (which, unfortunately, I have neglected for quite a bit.). I have a subscription to Headspace which I recommend to friends. It’s really not the app — it’s the meditation that I recommend. You can find your own — it just so happens that this one works for me when I get to it. It’s literally a voice in my head.

When I cannot meditate, I try to find some quiet time just to recalibrate. I look at a picture or remember something that brings me to my happy place. Those happy thoughts can do wonders when we are besieged or otherwise in turmoil. Otherwise, our imbalance spills to others. You are human. There is only so much that you can bottle up. Dealing with your own chaos will help you find the calm you will need to bring that calm to others.

Stay beautiful– literally. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. So if “beautiful” to you is no make up– that’s fine. But hold that idea of beauty close and live it. Do what makes you feel beautiful. Hair coloring? Red lipstick? Instagram make up? Wearing your favorite color. Do it for you and not because you want to be pretty in someone’s eyes. Accept your flaws and love yourself in spite of it! Even “simple” can be beautiful — just do what makes you feel like you look like your best “you”.

Be more forgiving of yourself. We are always our harshest critics. We criticize ourselves and mete punishment out as if there was no undoing our mistakes — when the truth of the matter is that we are simply being human. To accept that we make mistakes like everyone else is an act of kindness we owe ourselves. Kindness should begin within for us to be able to give it. Like one of my older mentors kept saying, you cannot give that which you don’t have. You cannot give genuine kindness if you cannot be kind to yourself, and that begins with self forgiveness.

Accept who you are– both the good and the bad. One thing I notice is that most people have a difficult time accepting compliments. It is actually easier to accept criticism because to some, swallowing it all is a form of self-flagellation.

When I was in grade school, we were taught by the nuns that the gracious way to accept a compliment was to say “Thank you,” instead of pulling an excuse out of thin air to deny the compliment. We were taught that that was “fishing” for more compliments because you needed to be convinced you were as good or as pretty as you were being told. Which was actually true.

Now that we’re older, I’ve had to do the same with fellow adults who had a hard time accepting simple compliments — and now they accept those words as truth without being bashful about it.

If someone says something nice to you, just say thank you. That is accepting the good that is in you– and there is a lot of that deep inside if you only let yourself acknowledge it.

Acknowledging we are actually good and beautiful is our way of loving ourselves. When we become comfortable enough in our own skin, we find something to anchor us to the ground when things get rough. Only in loving ourselves can we truly love another.

#10daywritingchallenge Day10