Lessons in Rule 32
I went for a walk at lunch time. Just a short trip to pick up a loaf of bread, a pasty and a coffee. I walked quickly. Well, faster than my regular shuffle, anyway. To everyone else it probably still looked like an artistic slo-mo scene from a movie finale. I didn’t speed up because my body was cooperating for a change. Not because I felt cured. Just because I wanted to. It did me no good and it made me more dizzy than is comfortable. But some days I just need to move. It reminds me that I’m in charge. Even if it makes me sick. Even if it makes me fall over. I can’t manufacture it, but it’s like having tiny, imaginary propellors attached to the back of my heels and I can’t find the off-switch.
Maybe it’s because it’s so sunny this afternoon and I wanted to feel the warm air rushing past me. You know when you were a kid and you ran so fast you wondered if you could even stop? I wanted a more measured version of that. Today’s climate is in such sharp contrast to yesterday’s, where I was soaked to the bone and wondering where spring had run away to. If I only teach you one fact about Wales, let it be that you should never leave the house without an umbrella. Even in the middle of a heatwave. Trust me, it’s a trap. Maybe I sped up because it felt too warm in my winter coat and within five minutes of walking out the door I regretted wearing it. Maybe I just wanted the closest thing I could get to a Forrest Gump run without actually running or grabbing the wall. Nobody ever said I always make the most sensible of choices.
I was feeling a little sorry for myself. Even what felt fast to me still seemed to be holding people up. Normally I’m quite happy to step aside and let pushchairs trundle past me, or make room for shoppers weighed down by heavy carrier bags to get back to their cars post haste. There was something different about today though. Possibly because it felt like I was running, but really I was still way behind everyone else.
When I got to the bakery the lady in front of me bought the last two loaves of the bread I’d been hankering after all morning. Two! Who needs to buy two loaves of bread at the same time? My involuntary sigh of disappointment must have accidentally been audible, because she turned around and looked at me for half a second in recognition. I swiftly averted my gaze to my phone in the hope that she’d believe my gasp was not related to her thwarting my fancy toast plans. I don’t think it worked.
With an alternate loaf of bread I pointed myself in the direction of a coffee shop and puttered along. Not my regular coffee shop, where the staff recognise me when I walk in. Not the one that makes my vanilla latte exactly the way I like it. A different one. The one that always looks a little cheap and lacking in attention to detail. The one that looks kind of cobbled together. The one that never looks cosy and inviting. But you never know, maybe they’re a diamond in the rough; scrappy decor but the most fantastic coffee you’ve ever tasted. No. It was terrible. She might as well have said, “Would you like a pipette of coffee in your milk?” I drank it on my way home, cursing every sip for being so insipid.
About half way home I finally slowed down. The trip had not been anything it was supposed to be, so why keep motoring down the pavement and make it worse? I fought back the tears beginning to well in my eyes and tried to wash down the lump in my throat with the bottomless cup of coffee flavoured milk. I returned to my standard speed, carefully placing one foot in front of the other. I resigned myself to the fact that this would have to be chalked up to experience and crossed off the play-book.
Moving slowly toward the primary school around the corner from my house I looked up to see a little old lady stepping toward me. She was slightly hunched and clutching a walking stick. She smiled at me. You know how some people have a smile that seems to warm you from within? Those smiles that are so kind you feel you’re friends without knowing their names. It was so sweet. So knowing. Maybe because she could see I was struggling, but probably because she was just happy to be out for a walk on a pretty day, she kept smiling. It made me smile back.
She was wearing bright coral lipstick that suited her perfectly. Like she’d figured out as a young woman that this was her colour and she’d stuck with it. I looked down and noticed her nails. They were the brightest shade of neon pink I had ever seen. The kind of pink usually reserved for the fearless TopShop set. Beautifully manicured and punctuating the handle of her walking stick like gleaming jewels. Their boldness brought on a little huff of internal laughter.
That’s how you do it. That’s how you take the world on. Just by daring a little. You don’t have to walk quicker than your body allows or beat everyone to the front of the queue. You don’t even need a great coffee every time you ask for one. Better to take a chance and be disappointed than stick within the confines of your comfort zone. Because you never know where the next hidden gem might be until you look. And you never know where the next kind smile is coming from. So how can a walk where someone noticed me and quietly beamed a little love in my direction be a failure? I think I might paint my nails neon pink tonight.