If it's not a race, I can't be cheating.
We’re well into our training. Deep enough to know our hotspots (both big toes and a chronic half corn/half callus along the bottom side of right foot) and so far into fundraising that we couldn’t turn back if we wanted to... or would we? It’s clear that I will make this walk, it’s equally clear that not everyone will. I’m not training with my team, which is based in Tampa/Clearwater, but the Atlanta women I see every weekend, who represent teams in this city, in Washington, D.C., in Detroit and San Diego, have become a kind of surrogate team for me. We egg each other on, discuss fundraising goals met and not met and share ideas for raising more money. We have by now shared abbreviated, or not, life stories and have developed, through the weeks, a line of gossip that runs like a soap opera.
We are all very nice women. By and large. But we have ranged ourselves into two packs: front and back. And a pair of friends who show up every weekend for a five-hour stroll. I walk in the back and lately, I walk alone.Last week, I cheated. As I was walking alone, trying to convince myself that the pace I was setting was just fine (indeed, it was; for the first time, my feet didn’t hurt), I reached Monroe just north of Ansley Kroger where I knew the front pack was probably already gathered. I hooked a left and caught up. No one noticed.
A little later, I paced with the leader of the second pack and and her team past the golf club on Montgomery Ferry but instead of bearing left for a steep hill into Sherwood Forest, I offered a short cut to my companions. They all agreed and we beat the walk leader and the rest of the front pack on to Friar Tuck Drive.
“Cheaters!” they cried. We just laughed, joined forces and for about 15 minutes I kept up with the fastest walkers, losing them on another hill near Peachtree. Along Peachtree I foundered until one couple, passing me, asked if I was okay.
“No,” I gasped. “I’m falling behind.” Metaphorically speaking, this is the story of my life.
“It’s not a race,” one reminded me. “The last thing you want to do is injure yourself.”
“I don’t want to get left behind,” I panted, surprised by the honesty only 12 hot miles could yield.
“Just relax,” she said and forged on ahead at a stroll. Of course, she and her companion were both over six feet and a good 20 years younger than me. but still...
If it’s not a race, why won’t you slow down? Another hour of salty self pity.
How pathetic. One of the first things I’d learned during the 3-Day training is the importance of finding your own pace. Walking too slow is as bad as walking too fast.
Despite lagging behind along Peachtree I caught up with Bridget and Lynn at Colony Square and continued eavesdropping on their chat. Lynn is a lesbian and mother who is divorced from her son’s female legal co-parent. She was talking about this woman’s controlling ways. We bent her ear from Peachtree and 12th to the Publix on Spring and 9th when I think my lecture on power allowed her to find her own faster pace...away from me
She’d been talking about how she lets her ex take her power and leave her vulnerable. “You’re the birth mother? You have the power.” As if that was the easiest thing in the world. No, not easy. But simple and so basic. But because the co-parent was not the birth parent, Lynn, in the hopes of easing that inequality, was giving up many other equally basic rights: schedules that were convenient to both, choices of where to live and others.
When you’re used to giving up power, whether it’s because you’ve been long trained to it (Mommy’s little helper) or because you’re too polite or guilty over being the one with the real power that you think giving up the lesser stuff is what a nice girl would do (piffle), you’re giving up power. You are distracting yourself from what is real. You are not respecting yourself or what is. I know this. Now.
Wasn’t I, by fretting over everyone else’s pace, not giving enough respect to my own? After all, I was 12 miles in and for the first time in weeks, my feet weren’t hurting. Isn’t that the balance I had to find?
Giving up your real pace, whether by walking too slow or pushing too fast, is similar to giving up power of another kind.. Actually, it’s identical. It’s lying about who you are and what you have in the world to make someone else feel .... what? Less lonely? Less like a loser? Less slow? The problem is, when you’re in the throes of the walk, whether it’s the 3-Day, the cancer or the god damned daily hump, to limit yourself for the sole purpose of creating an illusion for another is wrong. It’s a lie and that hurts both.