The other day I skipped family dinner to go for a long walk, read and write (off of the computer) and visit with a friend.
I recently moved to Montreal—partly to spend more time with family—so I felt a bit guilty that I chose to not go in favour of a walk.
The thing was: I needed to get out.
Having sat mostly inside (working) for the couple of days before that, I could feel myself starting to go stir crazy in body and mind. So I took a bus and hopped off en route to a cafe that I’d wanted to return to. I walked and let the cold air hit my face.
I walked and breathed.
And as I walked, I felt a change inside, an opening; I realized that this shift was me starting to feel human again: energized, clear, open, inspired. Maybe even a bit more capable of feeling love.
I’ve always loved walking—even more so now that I’m (often) alone in a city so rich with flavour and texture. But it hit me, then, as I was recognizing this humanness, how important it is to prioritize this simple activity: it just makes me better.
Same with writing.
Both are simple, free activities that I naturally integrate into my daily life.
So, I thought, what if I made it an outright intention to set aside focussed time each day for just these two things?
It’s not as if I hadn’t thought of this before. I just hadn’t recognized the extent to which these things affect pretty much everything I do and am. In that moment (and this, as I write), I recognized why such a simple but solid action plan is necessary in order for this life to evolve in the direction that it needs to go.
Both seem like such simple things. But they can be hard, too.
Writing has always come easy to me, but of course it’s hard (there are plenty of things written about this!).
But in the same way that writing can come easy, walking can be hard on some days…the ones where you find yourself navigating the murky waters of curb-side slush, for instance. Or stranded a half hour away from the Metro in cute-but-maybe-not-so-comfortable shoes. Or when it’s six am and ten below and the bed is just so cozy.
The activities themselves come naturally enough for me—they are defaults, go-tos, healing actions. But choosing to devote a specific and directed chunk of time to each every day—no matter what else is happening—does not. It’s the practice, the discipline that is so badly needed.
Two things I need to be (a better) human:
1. Walk (move) for an hour every day.
2. Write (create) for an hour every day.
The beauty of these two things is that they fit in flexibly with my regular life. They can be combined with yoga, meditation, and social times. They both preclude and include service, social and creative things.
For instance, a regular writing work shop is one way to get in an hour or two a week and have social time; completing a project like a chapbook means being ‘in’ my writing, still, even if it’s organizing and sharing things I’ve already written; dog-sitting is a combo of service and walking.
Writing can a weekly publication goal and writing real letters to friends. Walking with others can evolve deliciously long conversations and strengthened friendships.
The key to both activities is that they are personally energizing and nourishing in any context.
I think that we can all do this.
Why not pick two lifelong loves that are easy to incorporate into a chunk of time per day?
It could be that we carve out 10 minutes a day to doodle and 30 to spend quality time with our kids; or maybe it’s a half hour of complete alone time just before bed, because what you are needing the most is a good book and some boundaries. The idea is to choose two things that that make us feel whole and at peace in ourselves…enriching, lifelong, self-care practices that can realistically fit with a daily routine.
So after this realization, there was still this little nagging voice inside of me that thought ‘don’t be so selfish…what about service? How is this of benefit to others? Isn’t it selfish?’
But then I remembered that putting these things first makes me feel like a better me. Beyond that, though, being focussed about doing them will ultimately make me a better friend, co-worker, roommate, partner, sister, aunt, daughter.
These two basic things hold so much truth for me, so much possibility. Doing them every day is about more than just being good and healthy—it will probably (continue to) change my life in ways that I can’t even imagine.
For this new year, why not Join me in finding a truth of your own and hitting it even harder than ever before?
Our hearts will thank us.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Renée Picard
Photo: Ludovic Lubeigt at Flickr