Birthday Walk in Stanwood, Washington
My Walking Program for 2013
% of Days Walked
% Towards Goal
Weight on 01/01/13
Weight on 08/01/13
Total Weight Loss in 2013
The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young. ~Oscar Wilde
At 14, I have the courage to rise from the metal folding chair at the east end of the Kapa'a High School gym and boldly march those first few steps towards the sea of girls on the far side.
Before I reach the middle of the floor, however, I am walking tentatively. It seems the gallantry of my heart's light brigade has made like Elvis and left the building.
I was certain that I was going to ask the prettiest girl in school for a dance. And since the opening eight bars suggested a ballad, my confidence had reared its rarely seen head. I mean, I can do slow dances. I'm pretty good at holding a girl and rocking from one foot to the other. What I can't do is anything requiring my body to move rhythmically.
The aggressive guys pass me like wildebeests anticipating tall grass on the other side of the river.
I have faltered, and in the rite of passage known as the high school dance, there is absolutely no room for faltering. As in life, it's survival of the fittest, baby, and faltering is just one big exclamation point animatedly kicking LOSER in the ass.
The worst thing any teenage boy can do at this point is to turn and do the long, awkward, and extremely embarrassing retreat back to his chair. You might as well get your sweater and head for the exit and hope the weekend is long and busy enough for everyone else at the dance so they won't remember your Friday night fiasco.
So, instead, I try to show some class as I slowly form an arc in my path, gradually veering to the area where the wallflowers hang out.
Whoever says that there's no such thing as a caste system in America sadly lingers in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
Just ask any adolescent you see in the cafeteria at lunch time. Or, better yet, at a high school dance.
I am a geek. A brain. A cop's kid. An obsessive-compulsive club joiner. Name a club, and I'm a member. A wannabe jock--good enough to make varsity but never good enough to be a starter; oh, and yeah, I am very, very good at warming the bench.
So, I really fit in well with the wallflowers. I'm shy; they're shy. They boost my non-existent self-esteem, and I think I boost theirs. Works for me!
With Great Purpose
The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose. ~Charles Dickens
July 27, 2013.
I woke up early this morning with great purpose.
Today is my 61st birthday, and I am going to celebrate the first tenth of my seventh decade here on earth by going for a long walk. In fact, I'm inaugurating a new long-term personal goal with this walk. Each year, on my birthday, I am going to walk as many miles as I am older than fifty. Today, then, I'll walk eleven. Next year, twelve. The year after that, thirteen. God willing, on my 70th birthday, I will walk 20 miles!
Lofty dreams? Not very long ago, I would have thought so. But I've learned that when I put to task what my mind dreams about, amazing things can happen.
A universal truth I've learned is that life is about negotiating the things that stand in my way. It's not about wiping out an obstacle. It's about creatively strategizing a way to hurdle that challenge.
What's standing in my way today is the town of Stanwood.
And how am I going to hurdle this obstacle?
Simple. I'm going to ask Ms. Stanwood for the next dance.
Oh, Give Me a Home Where the Wallflowers Roam!
Walking is My Time Machine
We all have our time machines, don't we. Those that take us back are memories...And those that carry us forward, are dreams.
I walk purposefully towards the heart of rural downtown Stanwood from the gentrified heights on its outskirts.
In deference to the 14-year-old boy, I do not falter as I walk.
Instead, I move with conviction. My strides are long; my carriage is stable; and my breathing is rhythmically comfortable.
Seattle, 53 miles to the south, may be the prettiest girl at the dance, but I am compelled to make the acquaintance of and engage in casual flirtation with my wallflower, Ms. Stanwood.
In so doing, I am taking very good care of that 14-year-old boy. While I am ever mindful of and present in the moment, my walking emphatically declares its vehicular value as a time machine.
You did not falter for naught, my dear young man. That fateful night when you attempted to camouflage your social inadequacies set into motion a chain of sweet mysteries. For one thing, you discovered the unrequited and sensual beauty of Wallflower Nation. For another, unbeknownst to you, you became an honorary member of the Wallflower Club.
In your four years at Kapa'a High, you danced with every wallflower, and you thoroughly enjoyed every magical moment.
Later, in the afterglow of every Friday night dance, as you washed your face and brushed your teeth, you perceived yourself to be a tad bit handsome. And you were pleasantly surprised by the revelation.
The quiet of the lonely road before me in the waning minutes before 7 AM is split asunder by the loud knocking of a redheaded woodpecker. Like my feathered red, white, and blue friend, I am intent on accomplishing my objective.
At 36 seconds into this video, you'll see a Starbucks where I once indulged in a "tall blonde" (the drink, not the barista) while writing a personal essay.
Why Do I Liken Stanwood to a Wallflower?
Because she's there.
Waiting for someone to notice her.
Yearning to be asked for a dance.
Tired of being overlooked. Wanting to be given a good looking over.
Fantasizing about taking off those dull, heavy-framed glasses; tossing the bun and liberating her shoulder-length tresses; tearing her restrictive white blouse and black skirt off, and
Emerging from the self-imposed cocoon of despair as...
What's the Greatest Benefit of Going on an Eleven-Mile Walk?
R O I.
Return On Investment.
The perks? The bennies? The rewards?
At 14, I faltered on the dance floor and pretended to be cool and suave and debonair by asking a wallflower to dance with me. Me! The ultimate Guy Wallflower!
And she said, YES!
I ended up enjoying the experience.
So, like the true nerd that I was (and still am to this day), I repeated the successful venture, and the thing compounded into a universal lesson.
Look past the glitter and glam, the cosmetically enhanced and superficial, and find the plain and simple truth.
A wallflower has a unique and endearing quality that the prettiest girl at the dance could never touch.
Invariably, without fail, a wallflower--over time--will appreciate a thousand times over in beauty, substance, and value.
This was true of Ms. Stanwood on my walk today.
And it's especially true with my beloved wallflower of 31 years.
Just talkin' story on the ol' front porch...
© 2013 Hawaiian Odysseus