Walking Through It

I have broadly sauntered through this pandemic. I don’t say that with any sense of lightness or smugness. I just know this as being true. I am lucky enough to be able to work from home comfortably and to be insulated from the economic impacts. But also, for me it was a vindication that I had over the last few years got my priorities in check. When the shock came, my foundations were strong. For a lot of years I have been nudging myself in a better direction to make sure I was resilient enough to meet any obstacles as they came. Diet, lifestyle, work/life balance, the whole shebang. I had spent time on figuring out what was important and how to manage it. I can sum most of it up by reference to nature. Being outdoors in nature, living more closely to natural rhythms, eating more unprocessed natural foods. It worked. I won’t pretend living through a pandemic was ‘fun’ but I knew myself and my world to push through it.
If I was ever to have had a bump in the road, it came in January 2021. Another lockdown. Juggling homeschooling and work. Short days, long nights. The lack of social connection and gathering had finally got to me. I assume this was the catalyst for me to do something I’ve never done before and organise a challenge on social media. By and large, I am not an instigator of group action. Oftentimes to be perfectly honest, I’m not even a joiner-in. But something stirred in me coming up to the end of January to try to build community around something common. The act of walking. A few conversations with friends who were finding it hard to get out the door was the final straw. And so #28dayswalking was born.

The concept was simple. Go outside and walk every day for the month of February. Stick a picture on social media with a hashtag, let me know. Would anyone join in?  “Yep, I’m in” came the response. It seemed to prompt something in people. And sure enough, people did join in. Friends, acquaintances, strangers. And a dedicated bunch they were too. Day-in-day-out for the four weeks, I would see the messages come in. Trudging through some fairly shitty weathers (blizzards, torrential rain, freezing cold, dark nights) I would smile at the selfies and message back – sometimes silly, sometimes more thoughtful, always with a genuine connection.

What I realised a couple of days in was that January had kind of finished everyone off in the ‘positive pandemic’ experience. We were spent. Mid-winter was tough. Getting outside to do something simple was affirming in its simplicity. The act of putting one foot in front of the other was grounding in not just the literal way. There is a mental processing that comes from the physical act. We were just pounding our way through the difficult days. When the world was feeling small, getting outside was good enough to give space. No fancy equipment, no warm up, just one foot in front of the other. February was a great month to feel the time pass. Seeing the world wake up from winter slumber was a powerful reminder of the age-old wisdom “this too shall pass”. Nature keeps on naturing no matter what else we think is important.
Both online and offline, the connection was important. Online, it was the best example of ‘social’ in social media. In real life, it was also a chance for social engagement – seeing one friend for a walk gave enough connection to mask over the frustration we have at not being able to gather and socialise. The most often used word I heard though was ‘accountable’. It kept people accountable to doing the thing that was good for them but perhaps on any given day really didn’t seem appealing. Never underestimate the power of accountability brought about through connection.
At the end of the month, I sat happily skimming through the photos and the messages and smiled at just how much I love the simple things in life. Get outside. Go for a walk. Feel better.  As always I am reminded that we have to keep doing the small things because we’ll look back and remember they were the big things.
Big up my #28dayswalking chums in all your wrapped up and smiling glory.