~Performed by Joni Mitchell
This summer, I got the disconcerting news that I was just a scootch away from getting diabetes. “Pre-diabetic” I believe is the term but, regardless, it got my attention. Again. I’d heard this off and on over the years as my weight fluctuated. It is like a positive correlation – the higher my weight, the closer to diabetes. The lower my weight, the further from diabetes. I know, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, just a smart phone and a Google search. And, in my case, annual checkups with my doctor, who has weathered the vicissitudes of my commitment to healthy practices over the years with steady encouragement, professional comportment, and kind counsel. This particular health challenge is all on me. Up or down.
This time I decided that one daily discipline I could commit to would be walking 10,000 steps a day. It took me a while to get up to that amount but now if I miss a day, which is rare, I do miss it. Walking, usually in the fresh morning, has become not only a physical habit but also an emotionally-spiritually-mentally rich and integral part of my day.
Which brings me to the point, here in the third paragraph, that getting in these 10,000 steps can be a challenge. I walk slowly, and it takes me a couple of hours to complete them. Usually I’m able to get them in before work (I now go to bed early and wake up much earlier than I ever used to back in the day), but I also have started giving myself opportunities to walk more. One way I do that is to park as far away as I reasonably can. Parking a distance away is not for everyone, some folks really do need those handicap spaces for example, but it is a possibility for most of us.
(See Parking On The Back Forty for my first foray into discussing the benefits of long distance parking.)
There are many benefits to parking “on the back forty” beyond adding steps to my day, though it is pretty impressive how these extra steps add up. I will mention three here:
The first is that, the further away I park the more selection I have. This summer, there were almost always spots under the cool shade of trees. I never had to drive around and around. And around.
The second is that the parking process, including the walk to the destination, was peace-ing. It made me more peaceful as I had a chance to reflect just a little, the physical walking was calming, even lenitive, and I wasn’t caught up in all the stress of waiting around for just the closest spot and fighting someone for it and then feeling guilty for being grouchy about a parking space.
The third is more philosophical. Richard Rohr, one of the authors who has influenced me most, speaks of an “alternative orthodoxy” which is “paying attention to different things” (Eager to Love, p. 81), which is not being unorthodox but emphasizing different parts of what is orthodox. He calls it “being as far out at the edge of the Church as possible” (Rohr, Simplicity, p. 30), while still being inside the circle of the Church. It spends little or no time criticizing and most or all the time practicing a different part of what is in the circle. His example is St. Francis, who didn’t criticize the wealth and power and such of the church, but instead chose to practice something different – simplicity, poverty, and humility, all of which were within the bounds of church doctrine.
I wonder if kneeling at football games is an example of being at the edge, but still inside, of the circle, practicing the spirit of freedom within an “alternative orthodoxy”. (I realize the Nike ad messes up the purity and the sacrificial aspects of this kneeling statement. Still, I don’t think anyone anticipated this ad at the start, but others may find better examples than this one.) People with good hearts and intentions could have a deep discussion about this, coming from different perspectives, couldn’t they?
Parking on the edge of the parking lot is still within the bounds of where you are supposed to park, but it changes one’s perspective and possibilities.
And it is a lot healthier for folks like me.
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