Break for freedom – Day 21 (Three weeks)

Day 21 – Thursday, August 31, 2017  (Three weeks)

Today marks three weeks since I started morning solo walks, walks without my dog, without a walking stick, without music, without pepper spray, without sunglasses, without anything that served to make me feel safer in a world known to be dangerous. Victims of criminal violence (and that includes rape, for those of you who haven’t fully digested that reality) have their It-can’t-happen-to-me-syndrome destroyed. Not damaged, not hurt, not hobbled – destroyed, permanently. So, in some cases, taking part in life again can be a steep climb, like climbing Everest without a supplemental oxygen supply.

I can’t tell someone facing a personal Mount Everest what to do, or how to do it. I can tell them the weaponry I use in my fight. First, I believe the following observations are facts. Because it feels impossible does not mean it is impossible, it means that’s how it feels, two different things. Both valid, easy to blend. Same thing with hope. Feeling hopeless does not mean there is no hope.  And then there is a sentence I call the fear tool, It’s okay to be afraid, don’t let it scare you. In other words, go through the fear, allow the experience. It feels lethal, but it’s not.

My emotional experience is not the definition of the experience itself, it is the definition of my response to it. Most of the time I keep this reality in view.

7:27 a.m. – Back from the walk. I am learning daily walks are like daily runs. Each has its own personality. Back when I ran marathons slowly (I thought it was neighborly of me to let so many thousands finish ahead of me.) I’d run six days a week – five days in the mid teens, and then one push to 20, 21 miles.

I don’t know if it was because I knew today marks three weeks since they began, or because it is August 31 and I’ve made it through another August alive, who knows. Whatever the reason, I pushed the pace straight through this morning’s walk, without let up. I have one of those pedometers that tells you the number of strides per minute. I’m normally around 100.8 strides a minute, and today I was at 104.7 strides.

Remember to live.

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For my father, Sanford Kahrmann.

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Break for freedom – Day 16 (A writing pause)

Day 16  – Saturday August 26, 2017 (A writing pause)

9:26 a.m. – I home from my walk about two hours ago. It was a peaceful affair, sweatshirt weather, it was 45 degrees this morning early. I completed the entire walk in comfort. I am going to, for now, pause the daily briefs about the walks. No doubt I will be back reporting on how they are going, or how a specific one stands out, and why.

I will, you have my word, report if I take a single day off from walking, and what led me to do so. No doubt I will at some point, but all of me knows, now is not the time.

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For Charley

Breaking Free – Day 13 (Beethoven)

Day 13 – Wednesday, August 23, 2017 (Beethoven)

7:44 a.m. – Home from a walk that came with a gift. I spent most my time with Ludwig van Beethoven, a hero of mine since I was a boy. I was hooked on his music and his story straightaway. That he composed the Ninth Symphony, in 1824, when he was almost completely deaf, just three years before his death in March 1827, is an act of creation that leads me to be still with its truth and grateful for the moment.

I can’t remember its name, or its author, but there was a biography of Beethoven (and one of Geronimo, by the way) that I read over and over again when I was a boy. I remember the kindness he received from the von Breuning family. He needed it. He was 17, his mother had just died, his father had fallen full-tilt into the death-grip of alcoholism, and, he had two younger brothers.

I remember passages in the biography detailing how Beethoven would go for long walks in the woods, by streams, in all weather, and hear the existence of music – meaning – in all he heard.  This brings me back to this morning’s walk. Beethoven was present the moment I stepped out the door. This morning offered a strong shifting breeze, a sky with a mix of dark clouds and sun-backed white ones – the dark clouds had the advantage – and I could hear the water rushing from last night’s downpour through the man-made channel just yards away. There was movement laced with sounds and shadows and colors and birds singing the day awake. The occasional and not unwelcome soft-deep puff of breeze pushed gently into my ear, brought with it sounds of cello and kettle drum.

Every morning is a gift.

************

 

For ADAPT

 

Break for freedom – Day 9 (The wall)

Day 9 – Saturday, August 19, 2017 (The wall)

8:21 a.m. – Back home. It was hell getting out the door today.

I’ve run six marathons in my life, slowly I might add. My fastest was five hours, eight minutes: five New York Marathons and one Marine Corps Marathon. When I began training for my first, I’d hear about this thing every distance runner hits called, “the wall.” Some moment when your body essentially says, You’re on your own, kid, and leaves any further leg movements up to your mind, your will power.

My thought was, how thick could a wall be? I mean, a half mile, a mile maybe? You go through the wall and come out the other side, no? No. No, you don’t. You hit the wall and that is where you stay for the rest of the marathon. My understanding is most hit it between 18 miles and 20 miles. I’d usually hit it around 20 miles, which is why I tell people, the last 6.2 of a marathon, 26.2 miles in length by definition, is 10 times harder than the first 20. It’s all willpower. Which is why, finishing a marathon saturates the finisher with joy, and pride. And so, it should!

When I woke up this morning, I realized I’d hit the wall. I was reeling a bit from nightmares, afraid to even take Charley out. All of me wanted to go back to bed, back to sleep. Just, sleep. And so, I went back to bed and set a timer. When it went off, I got up, and got into the shower. It was the feeling of the hot water on my body and the movements of washing my body that ignited, first the notion, and then the awareness, that I would get out the door.

And so, I went out the door and the walk was, in truth, not so bad. Later this morning I will be in Albany meet with some old friends in the brain injury world and sit in on their workshop. In the meantime, I am going to have another cup of coffee and shoot the breeze with Charley for a while.

************

For Fred Lebow

Break for Freedom – Day 4 (Fabric softener)

Day 4 – Monday, August 14, 2017

7:08 a.m. – This morning feels intensely like a maybe. This is wimpy on my part, but waking up later than usual throws me, and generously offers all kinds of reasons not to walk solo today.

8:14 a.m. – Just as I’m going out the door I’m raging with discomfort, I’m thinking the inside of my sweatshirt is way rough on my skin and how can I walk…

I walked anyway. Next problem. My t-shirt is soaked through in no time at all and, as that too starts to bother me, I remember that when I was a dancer, or playing sports, I loved being sweat-soaked, fully immersed in the task at hand.

There will be no fabric softener for this kid.