I am not a caged bird.
An odd bird yes, but I hope I am never a caged one.
I have no idea why the caged bird sings, because for me, there is no greater place than outdoors. A porch, even in Winter calls me to sit or simply stand there and let the sun rest on my cheeks. I’m not one for curling up with a good book in a corner of the livingroom…in fact, I have a hard time, once my friend Mr.Sun is up just staying in bed on the weekends for some extra shut eye.
I mow the lawn; not because I have to, but because its a reminder that I’m still young enough to do it and it’s an excuse for exercise and sun on my face. However if it gets too exhausting, I do take a breather and request one of the boys to take over and pull the “I’m too old for this” card. I’m no fool. I’ve even had friends actually get upset with me that I mow or do work outside that is vigorous in the heat, I think they worry too much. I’m tough pioneer stock. It takes a lot to get me down, even if I have to say so myself; I put the Man in WoMan…lol
So for me as the Wintry weather approached, I did something unlike myself…I gave in to the cold, used it as an excuse to keep me indoors, the rain the cold weather seemed to be making my 49 year old bones more particularly cold this year. It could be because of the daily bake they had on my back porch all Summer, or the sun-kissed runs I had in the blistering 100+degree heat along the asphalt in the months prior to the Big Chill. But that denial brought me to a screeching halt and a ten pound gain.
This past week I ventured from the cold garage treadmill that was rarely in use, and went back outdoors.
WOW! What a rude awakening for me. No gradual climactic change, no settling in slowly to the lowering temps, just going from indoors and doing virtually nothing but housework to the cold, frozen, crack of snow breaking under your feet. The air was so cold that it numbed my nose to the point where I could no longer feel it when I blew it into the paper towel I was carrying in my pocket. I literally had lost the feeling in my face by the first mile.
There is something that clicks in my brain when I am outside.
I’m not sure if it’s an instinctual survival mechanism that lives inside me more than others or if it’s from being raised by parents that loved to fish and camp outdoors. But there is a definite “On” switch that flips when I see trees and space and nobody around. What would scare or worry some people, or intimidate some people by being alone…wakes my spirit. In such a profound way that I have been literally brought to tears in the midst of it all. Walking and crying tears of absolute joy at the beauty of a blue sky or leaves being rushed to the ground by an invisible, forceful wind.
Yep, I’m an odd bird. You may find me weeping in the woods, or on a roadside run. Wiping tears from my frozen face. I think as I age, I see more clearly the beauty in everything. (Either that or I need to change my hormone patch more often) but I’m pretty sure, it’s from figuring out how precious each moment we are given is.
One day in particular I was nearly brought to my knees in absolute surrender at the simple beauty of deer grazing in a nearby field while I ran by. A shared glance between us and a mutual respect for one another’s space; Silhouetted against the promise of a new day that was heralded by a sunrise that seemed by all accounts, rising just for me.
So there is something innate, within me that craves that space, that open feeling of freedom of me and nothing else. I breathe the clarity of that moment in sometimes with arms wide open as I cool down and for that small bit of time, there are no dishes in a sink. No laundry piled high in the hamper and no bills that lay unpaid behind the coffee maker.
There is peace in the valley and it warms me from the inside out. For that time, I am not a mass of obesity at over 200 pounds. I am as agile as a gazelle, I am as young as I want to be. I am not blundering with aching arches or pumping my flabby arms up and down in exhaustion. I am swift. I am quick. I am more than I ever realized because I am dreaming-wide awake.
I am renewed.
If you favor the indoors, you may gain that same renewal from Yoga, Zumba, aerobics, kickboxing, weight resistance training or simply a treadmill and headphones that can transport you where you need to go. Whatever it is, wherever your happy place is…find it.
Exercise your joy in that moment. Do it in good shoes and proper gear. Tell your family or friends that you are not available for that bit of time. Shut down your phone. Keep it handy if you need to, but step out of the boundaries that tether you to the realities of housework, jobs and bills. For a moment, even if only for 30 minutes, exist solely as your own best friend. Reflect. Renew and revitalize.
As a part time caregiver of my elderly parents, wife and mother to the world, I can attest that the sun does not rise and set with me. It may at times, seem as if the entire universe will not function without me but it does. It still keeps turning when I check out, it still finds solutions without my input and we all need to shut down from our “Standby” mentality that we’ve set ourselves up for. We are human. We are not machines. We need to find that escape if only for a few moments to let the heaviness of responsibilities take a rest from our shoulders and sit quietly by like a well behaved child, while we regain our composure. While we live just a bit beyond our own rationalizations of who we are, what our limits are and how old we’re supposed to act.
Be young at any age.
Find your smile.