Home on the Plains with Madison – Episode 7

The mossy steps of my apartment glowing in the late-afternoon sunshine.

Music has always been a source of renewal for me, and combined with fresh air and a bit of movement, it just feels good.

Des Moines, IA

Before the coronavirus, I was never really a walker. I mean, I’m a certified speedwalker — just ask my friends. I can make it anywhere in record time, so long as I have my music blasting and no one else to slow me down. But I’m talking about the “stroll around the block just because” walker. That I never did.   

But there I was, my glued-together rain boots trampling over broken sidewalk pieces as I rounded the blocks of my neighborhood. 

Most walkers around here are accompanied by a dog, their kids, a friend. It feels kind of pointless walking nowhere by myself. I wonder if people think I’m going somewhere. Probably. My black boots don’t really indicate purposeful exercise.

I do actually own tennis shoes. I’m usually just too lazy to put them on. 

Like most kids, I learned to tie my shoes in kindergarten. But once I passed the test, I spent the rest of my childhood refusing to own lace-up shoes. I knew how to do it. I just didn’t want to. 

It probably doesn’t help that two years ago I body-slammed the sidewalk after accidentally stepping through my own damn laces.

And I know my rainboots, or whatever footwear I lazily slip on that day, aren’t ideal. But I’m still going outside, okay? And that’s the point. 

My go-to middle school look (middle) was a trendy shirt I got second-hand and some slip-on tennis shoes.

Sometimes I walk with my roommate. We point out string lights on porches, usually stop to take a couple pictures of a robin or bunny, talk about whatever’s on our minds.

Sometimes I walk by myself in silence. Letting the thoughts rattle in my brain like the rocks in the torn heel of my rainboot. Gazing up at the buds on my neighbor’s trees. 

I’ve found it most productive, however, to walk with headphones in and my music blasting. Music has always been a source of renewal for me, and combined with fresh air and a bit of movement, it just feels good.

Because the only landscaping my apartment has is a scattering of bulb flowers my roommate planted by our front step, spring is the only season our plot seems alive.

I can leave my apartment angry, anxious, or tired, start blasting my favorite songs, and soon I’m dancing with my hands as I walk — as long as I don’t see anyone around. It doesn’t fix my money problems. Or cure my anxiety. Or find me a graphic design job in the Des Moines metro area. But for once, I’m following my therapist’s advice and doing something for my brain. 

And I know, if you’re someone who actually exercises regularly, this is nothing profound. But it’s profound for me. 

Because when you’ve struggled with your mental health for so long, finally learning to cope in healthy ways is a big deal. Especially during a time like this. 

As a gentle nudge to get some fresh air during this time, I’ve created a playlist of songs I love to bop and walk to. It starts a bit moody — as that’s usually how I feel when I leave the house — but ends on a reassuring note. One of the songs I included — “Level of Concern” by Twenty One Pilots — was actually written and released as a quarantine pick-me-up.

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