~~I walk every morning. Every single morning. I can’t remember a day that I skipped. I will skip many things, but I dare not skip my walk or I might never get started again – a body in motion and all. I have a love hate relationship with my walk. I’ve learned that I prefer the blazing sun and 90% humidity to cold, for example. And by cold I mean below 55 degrees. I will walk in the rain without a care, but I will not walk in the snow. I walk on the treadmill with a book in the winter but I try to make myself read non-fiction just as an added layer of self-punishment. Because really, I don’t like the walk. I’m old. I’m tired. I would prefer to be in my bed. But what I really hate about the walk is when there are other people out walking at the same time.
I’ve never thought of myself as a competitive person. In fact, I played tennis in high school. Well, at least I tried to. And I love the sport! But if I got down a set to what I knew was a better player I would quietly call them to the net and cede the match. I just didn’t care enough to keep playing when I knew I wouldn’t win. What’s the point? Just end the agony and let’s go get a Coke! So it’s somewhat surprising to me to find that when other people are out walking at the same time I am, I start to measure my pace to exceed theirs. In fact, I can’t walk and listen to music because I will begin to walk in tempo, and that’s a bad thing for 50-year-old feet and calf muscles. I guess when I’m alone I don’t feel the need to prove anything, but when I think someone’s watching I will push myself to the point of needing emergency care to prove that I can do more than keep up…I can beat them! It’s ridiculous.
Funny thing, though. I do the same thing in life. Something, again, that comes as a bit of a surprise, but on self-examination, I know is true. When it’s just me, I’m pretty comfortable with the choices I’ve made and the order to my life, but put me in the room with someone else and I start measuring. Not them, mind you. Me. I measure me. And usually I find me lacking.
I have a friend who has three children between kindergarten and junior high ages. She’s involved in everything known to exist, from PTA to book clubs. She’s on the leadership board at church and works with the local schools providing clothes to kids in need. Oh, and she’s adopting. Watching her exhausts me, but I find myself picking up the pace a bit even though I know I can’t possibly keep up and honestly don’t want to. There’s just something in me that continues to push. "More, Melissa. More, Melissa. More, Melissa. More!!” Like the blessed little engine that could!
You too? I think it’s a common enough phenomenon. The opposite reaction is to throw up your hands and cede the match, and I think that’s pretty common too. We know we can’t keep up, so we don’t try at all. I’d like to tell you that the answer to both is to stop comparing, but you already know that, and if you’re able…well then you should be the one writing here! Since we can’t seem to stop comparing, maybe we could find a healthy in-between: not giving up, but not racing each other to the finish line either. What I’ve tried to do on my morning walks is just tell myself to walk my walk. “Walk your walk, Melissa. Your walk. Not their walk.” I think that works pretty well for life and faith too if you can grasp the metaphor. God has called us each to a different pace, to different work, to different lives and relationships. He has given us different gifts, and focus, and tender spots in our hearts. He has asked us to carry different burdens, to shoulder different pain, to endure different hardships. Only He knows the true extent of our effort and determination and success, because He is the one who called us to it. That person walking 4.5 miles per hour might be doing it with absolutely no effort at all because God has given them the ability. While you and your three seemingly measly miles per hour is actually the full expression of every ounce of resolute effort you can give Him. It's your walk. Not their walk.
No one else is walking your walk. No one else knows how hard it is just to get out there. No one else knows about that charley horse that woke you in agony at two this morning, and the residual fiery pain it left behind that you’re limping through. No one knows that you really are going your top speed with your finger on the auto-dial for 911, and that you’re out here out of sheer determination that you WILL NOT LAY DOWN AND DIE, but you’re giving her all she’s got! There isn’t any more. If the last stretch up the hill does not do you in, you will consider the battle won for another day. And you will determine to rise again tomorrow to walk…your…walk.
If I see you out there and I don’t look up, don’t take it personally. Head down. Arms pumping. Sweat rolling. Feet moving. I’m concentrating. Just trying to walk my walk. It may not set any records, but it's mine. All mine.