"She'd drive to the bathroom if she could get the car in the house." So said an old boyfriend of mine about me, and he was so right. He loved walking. I just wanted to set a spell, smoke a cigarette, and read. If we had to go someplace, I wanted to get there as soon as possible so I could sit down, smoke a cigarette, and read. Of course, at the time I was also the size of a #2 pencil, so I didn't really feel the need to monitor my diet or take up anything strenuous. I had tried running a few years previously, inspired by one summer's Olympics, but before I could experience the euphoria of the endorphin, I contracted severe tendonitis. Years went by.
Then I quit smoking.
And I, who hadn't weighed much more than 125 pounds for the last 40 years, started bulking up.
I wasn't too worried at first. I'd done some birdwatching years ago in Chicago and Wisconsin, and for years, on the road to yet another Dead show, had noticed the signs that pointed to Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, just this side of Olympia. "Ooh, look! Mudflats!" I would sigh, but nobody seemed inspired to stop. So when I noticed my weight creeping up into the 150's - what with menopause and all I had finally acquired a bit of an actual body over the previous ten years - I thought it was time to buy some binoculars and a bird book and hit the trail. Which I did. Which trail was five miles long. And when I put my sore feet on the floor the next morning, I screamed. Plantar fasciitis, the doctor said. How did that happen? Primrose path to health, I told her. It took about two years to heal. Oh, I kept walking, but once again I was only too happy to sit and read for a while. Only this time, I didn't smoke a cigarette. I ate a little bit of chocolate.
Now, I tried to be sensible. I joined Weight Watchers. I joined a gym. I watched my points. I worked out. The scale went down. I got bored. It went up. Life intervened. No more Weight Watchers. No more gym. No more rigorous monitoring of my lifestyle. Life was now comfort food and TV. To be fair, I did finish two novels during this time, but now the character I had made my future self out to be in my first novel, a snappy skinny old lady, had become in real life a pleasantly plump version of my mother. Whose round Norwegian Lutheran face I began seeing daily in my mirror. I tried to convince myself that I was fine with that, but I wasn't. I'm not. I didn't adjust well.
Working out hadn't really worked out.
Then a few years ago, I ordered a set of lectures on Chaucer from The Learning Company, and discovered that the best way to listen to them was to take a walk. Some people walk to music, others walk to books on tape. I walk to Early Medieval History, History of the English Language, and currently How to Listen to Opera.
So now I try to eat sensibly, indulge once in a while, and walk for at least half an hour at least five days a week. I'm coming to terms with mom. Weightier people are warmer people so I can cut down on heating bills. And giving your ego a roughing up once in a while is said to be good for the soul. If you believe in souls - but that's another story.
In the meantime, walking out is working out just fine.