It’s a beautiful day outside. Feels like summer rather than fall, and since my workload at this moment is sparse (and also my coworker gives me subtle pressure against my usual habit of working through lunch), I decided to eat lunch outside. Unfortunately, this rather tree-filled and private business park contains no picnic tables. A month or so ago, while taking what I call a “non-cigarette smoker’s cigarette break,” I had scoped out a little nook set back from the parking lot that I could use for this very purpose. It was a nice spot next to a ditch that actually, in this setting, looks like a little creek if you don’t look to the one side where the pipe going under the parking lot is.
Today I finally decided to brave social stigma and embarrassment to actually try my lunch spot. At noon, I quietly gathered my lunch, keys (so that I could get back into the building), the new book I started, and my blanket, and I left the office to try out my little spot. I was slightly embarrassed because the CEO had walked out ahead of me with his lunch and I wondered if he too was going to take a spot somewhere on the campus to sit (and hopefully not my spot). But he ended up getting in his car and driving off somewhere (some people, I think, like to go to the Brecksville Reservation to have lunch on a picnic table there since it’s only five minutes down the road).
As soon as I had spread my picnic blanket on the ground and sat, slipping my sandals off, I knew I’d made the right choice. The little ditch-creek provided background music as I read my book in the light of the sun streaming through the tree limbs. The world of the little business park slipped away and it was almost as though I were in the Cuyahoga Valley meditating, as I did quite a bit after Mike’s death. I felt really content; it was as though I’d cheated the work day and snuck out somehow to play hooky. It wasn’t the same feeling I have when I leave the office to have lunch with coworkers or friends. In that case, you never really “leave” your environment, per se; you still feel trapped by the busy world and confined by time. In this little nook just feet from the parking lot, I’d felt as though I’d escaped. A few leaves fell onto my lap from the looming trees and little critters scurried through the carpet of dead leaves already on the ground. The warm but slightly crisp air smelled great and I felt my mind clear as I concentrated on my reading.
There’s something about the feeling of the sun’s warmth on my skin that revives me. It’s like love, really–like that all-encompassing feeling of being held in your lover’s arms. I could be aching of loneliness or writhing in emotional pain; when I sit in the sunlight, I feel as though everything broken within me is being mended. On a day when I’m already feeling pretty good, I only feel more alive in the caressing warmth. I find inspiration on a clear, sunny day. And on the precipice of fall, everything seems all the more inspirational in the anticipation of the beauty that awaits in the coming weeks as the leaves slowly begin to change in their eternal life cycle.
The moments outside made me realize how I really need to slow down more often and take to the woods to wander. In lieu of cycling on Sunday, Michael and I chose to go hiking along one of my favorite trails in the Cuyahoga Valley (and I won’t tell you which one lest it would become a more populated place for people to go, which would take something away from my personal enjoyment of it). The weather was great on Sunday and only when I saw cyclists on our way back did I feel slightly guilty about skipping a good day to cycle for hiking. But it was only a momentary guilt because the day was just so perfect for being outside in any way. I found the feelings of centering I only get from hiking when I have more time to notice my surroundings. Not that I don’t enjoy the sights on my bike. It’s just that you can experience different details about your surroundings from each of these modes for enjoying the day and I think I realized I was slightly imbalanced. I’d forgotten how much I like to hike.
I guess I choose cycling often in lieu of hiking because I’m a cardio junkie, meaning that I don’t feel as though I’ve gotten enough exercise unless I’ve been sweating hard and my heart has been pounding. Walking, to me, just does not provide the benefit of feeling as though you had a good workout and, therefore, I feel like I’ve enjoyed myself but gotten no healthy benefit. Then, I spend the rest of the day thinking I’m fat since I have a “no pain, no gain” philosophy to my health (and I’m constantly deriding myself for the fat roll on my abdomen). In my quest for bodily perfection, I have forgotten the spiritual benefits to hiking–the release I feel when I reconnect with nature and take the time to observe my surroundings. Feeling better mentally is just as important as feeling better physically. I know I’ve been out of balance with my emotional health quite a bit lately.
And, yes, I know that walking does provide a physical benefit. It’s just that I don’t see people lose enormous amounts of wait from simply walking. To lose weight and remain in good physical condition, unfortunately, does require some un-fun (to some people) and challenging pain. Plain and simple, you gotta do something you don’t enjoy to gain long term benefits and weight loss. That’s why it’s called a “work out.”
But not everything is about physically challenging myself. Sometimes it’s just nice to get out there on a beautiful day and forget that the rest of the world exists. In my little lunch hideaway spot, I felt I was able to get away from the office while remaining close and not having to lose some of my relaxation time to drive time. I came back into the office feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the tiny bit of work I have to do today. I can see how this little escape plan might work greatly in times when I’m really busy and stressed. Even when I have a lot of work to do, I shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving my desk for my lunch hour and reading a book. I’ve not done this in a long time because I always feel as though I’m not working hard enough. But the mind needs respite and re-centering. You only make more mistakes if you don’t take a breather every now and then.