I recently stepped into a new position at work, and find myself in a largely sedentary role for the first time in my career. My first six years of full-time employment have been spent pounding the concrete floors of a grocery store—putting up frozen loads, pulling lines of shopping carts, doing laps on the front end, and connecting with employees in their departments and on the sales floor. My wardrobe is full of “practical” shoes, and my most enduring memories of work are of pure physical exhaustion. 

And so my newfound office job has been quite a change. In many ways I am grateful for the longed-for physical ease that makes caring for this finicky body a little less stressful, and yet, the lack of movement throughout the day leaves me feeling (paradoxically) both mentally drained and physically restless every night. I understand for the first time why people work out in the evenings as they try to right the imbalance. 

The biggest change however, has been the morning, which has me moving a bit too quickly from bed to desk. I didn’t know how much I would miss that early round of greetings and the tantalizing scents of a food market waking up: french vanilla muffins, breakfast sandwiches, cut pineapple, the just-chopped floral load, the almost-metallic salinity of fresh seafood, the day’s buttercream on the mixer, the yeastiness of fresh pizza dough. And with every scent and sight was the greeting of a familiar coworker.

Because I live alone, those coworkers have provided, for the last six years, the inaugural human interaction of each day. Each smile, each wave, each “how are you this morning” was a benediction that coaxed my mind, body, and heart into full awakeness, and I missed it when I started dragging myself out of bed only to tuck myself into a chair. From this place of restlessness came my new favorite habit: a morning walk through my neighborhood. 

My favorite thing so far about the morning walk is its lawlessness and adaptability. Sometimes it’s ten minutes, sometimes it’s an hour. Sometimes I take my tea, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I wear Chacos, other times I put on sneakers. There are only two rules: I go, and I let myself wander. 

The wandering is especially delightful, because it starts the day with a little bit of adventure and curiosity. As someone who fitfully demands astonishing levels of autonomy that are rarely granted by the rigidity of gainful employment, this early morning freedom makes it easier to wrangle my butt into the proverbial chair. I go where I want, without planning or unnecessary judgment. This starts my day with easy self-assurance, and leaves plenty of room for delight. 

The morning air flowing off of Lake Erie dances on my pillow-creased skin, and the sunlight filtered through old-growth city trees clears my bleary eyes, and the gentle padding of feet on the sidewalk reconnects my dreaming mind to the muscles that will take it through the day. Each morning I check on my favorite neighborhood flowers, delighted when I find a new bloom or bud. Sometimes I see a person, which is nearly the same experience. 

I don’t fuss about being “presentable” for the walk. I brush my teeth and swap pajamas for shorts and a t-shirt, but part of coaxing myself out of bed is the promise that this first task will be simple. And so, the few times I have encountered a person, be they a dog-walker or a mailman or a runner, I have been seized by a momentary sense of self-consciousness. The miracle is that not one person seems to mind my frizzy hair or baggy t-shirt. The morning walk reminds me that I don’t have to be “ready;” I just have to show up. 

I would love to hear about your own morning habits and routines (drop a comment!), and if you don’t yet have one, maybe I’ll see you out for a walk on one of these fine mornings.

2 Comments

  1. Kelley Van Matre

    I love your mindfulness, that you appreciate the small blessings and see the deeper beauty and significance in even the ordinary things you encounter on your walks, and that you use all your senses to their full capacity, Ansley! I too love a walk. It fills me up and refreshes me. What a blessing, I think, to be able to use these legs God gave me. Thanks for sharing – you always encourage me to reach further.

    Reply
  2. Dawn

    My morning walk is one behavior I intentionally transferred in our move from PA to FLA. I now thrive on my body and soul awakening to the sun and the sand and the sound of the gentle gulf waves.

    Reply

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