One of my favorite weekend rituals in middle school was to walk to McDonald’s, have lunch, then cross the street and head over to Dairy Queen for dessert. To close the afternoon, I would go to the arcade and play Sinistar, which was the only game I set the high score on. When this was over, we would walk back home. I walked more than I rode my bike when I was younger, and walking is a go-to for me as an adult. You will rarely find me in my office; I prefer to walk around and talk to others.
I never associated walking with any sort of significant purpose until recently. During this crazy year, I have begun to appreciate walking more than just a way to get to a destination healthily but as a time of reflection, noticing, and connecting with the beauty of my surroundings.
I was reading a newsletter about how a person found joy in the pandemic. They said that they made 1.2 million dollars during this time and extended an invitation to me to join a course that, if accepted, could put me on the same path to making a significant difference during this time.
There was something that bothered me about the statement “made 1.2 million dollars.” I suppose there is nothing wrong with aspiring to make that much money, to increase your business during the pandemic, but as a source of comfort? Not for me. When I see injustice and suffering daily in my place of employment, it wears on me. I try very hard to contribute, to make a difference, but it hurts to watch people having such a difficult time. This week I discovered what it is that I have been experiencing.
I was attending a workshop on Trauma-Informed Practices for Youth, and the presenter was talking about self-care for professionals who work with At-Risk- Youth. We face three dangers if we don’t take time to care for ourselves- Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and Vicarious ( Secondary )Trauma. I find myself prone to experiencing Vicarious Trauma when you hear about bad things happening to others. You internalize it and believe in thinking it will happen to you, or you find yourself constantly running the situations through your head over and over again.
One tool that I have to combat Vicarious Secondary Trauma is to walk. Walking allows me to slow down and disconnect from the chaos and disaster being churned up in my mind. I can connect with my surroundings, the fruit trees, the people walking their dogs, the Amazon delivery drivers, the murals, the flowers growing, the birds chirping, the cars’ makes and styles along the sidewalk. When I connect with what is around me, the thoughts begin to change. My mind begins to bring back pleasant memories of the past, times with friends, and move me forward to thoughts of the future, creative ideas for my book, future podcast content, and posts for this blog.
What I walk, I realize that the most valuable items available to me are my five senses and not the desire for more money or possessions wither away. I see clearly what is really valuable.
Slowing down and being able to walk more has been a hidden gem of this time. A treasure that is consistently available to me each day.