The night air is just cool enough that I don’t break a sweat, even at a 15-minute mile pace – brisk for walking, and it is soft with the possibility of rain. Maybe it will come later while we sleep. As we stride through the hushed car-less streets, our voices seem loud and somehow uncouth, and we keep having to lower them further. Every once in a while, my husband reaches for my hand, and I remind him, with equal parts affection and exasperation, that I don’t handhold during power walks. I need my hands swinging free, helping to propel me forward. I know I must look a little ridiculous, but I’ll take every bit of momentum. No one is looking.
We giggle like teenagers who’ve snuck out on a school night because we have. With grandmother and kids fed, the little one tucked away in bed, and the teenager ensconced in a corner of the living room with his homework and his headphones, we decide to slip out for a walk. You have to steal time when you can, we’ve learned. As often as you can, so you don’t drift away from each other. These walks tether us.
The conversation always starts out the same – life maintenance topics. Children, work, remember to put that thing on the grocery list, don’t forget to call so-and-so. And then, right around the first mile, when my breath finds its rhythm, so do we. This night, we’re talking about school friends who committed egregious sins against us as children who now want to reconnect on Facebook. “She probably doesn’t even remember doing that to me,” I say. “I think she was just like that to everyone. But it really hurt.”
“Isn’t it funny,” my husband muses, “how that sticks with you, but you probably forgot a ton of nice stuff people did for you? Not the big things, but all the little kindnesses that people showed you that you barely noticed at the time?” He pauses. “What a great super power that would be. If you could remember all that.”
I am struck, arms swinging, legs stepping, mouth slightly agape. How amazing that would be. I feel a prickle on my skin that has nothing to do with the slightly dewy air. What if you could know about all the kindness you have ever experienced, whether you realized it at the time or not? “Can you imagine?” I say. “How utterly loved you would feel. It wouldn’t change the shit you’ve been through or who you are now, but you’d suddenly have this knowledge of the goodness you’ve been shown. Goodness you never even noticed. How powerful that would be.”
“Yeah,” says my husband. “Like, think of all the times you’ve done something nice for someone else, just because.” I think of all the people I’ve ever encountered. Some of them held doors open or let me go ahead in line or offered up a smile when maybe they were having a terrible day. Some of them took extra care making my plate before it left the kitchen or they pushed my chair in or they picked up something I dropped and handed it back to me.
What if I could replay those moments? Cue them up and pause at the critical point. See here, the drugstore clerk notices your panic and says, “Honey, did you lose your mommy? Let’s page her on the P.A.” Here, the woman rushes to process your financial aid form so you meet the deadline, even though she gets paid just the same if she lets it slide. Here, the man slows to let you enter his lane so you make it on time to pick up your daughter. There is kindness everywhere if you will notice.
We continue walking in silence for a while, in and out of the puddles of light thrown by the street lamps, past the houses with glowing, curtained windows. I feel connected to them somehow. Maybe I’m developing a super power.
3 Things That Were Good:
1. I finished the book Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion, and it is gorgeous. I love when a book changes the way I think about the world.
2. Fuzzy writing slippers. The slippers don’t write, but I wear them in my office and I’m convinced they help in the process.
3. This new mug.
2 Things I Did Well:
1. I can now exercise at a moderately intense level on the elliptical for an HOUR. And not feel as though I need both medical attention and some sort of medal of honor afterwards.
2. I haven’t been swallowing my exasperation but I do hold it in my mouth until it tastes a little more like understanding, and then I try to let it out in a slow hiss.
1 Thing I Am Looking Forward to:
My children being out of school. Not just because of the slackening in pace, but because we all get to be more present with each other.