Today I walked straight up a hill without stopping.
I mean that quite literally. It was a big hill–one of those storied San Francisco slopes, folding crazily upwards from the bay. I started in the Financial District and walked half a mile up through Chinatown, just to see if I could. It was far easier than I expected–my ankles didn’t creak, my calves didn’t seize, and my heart, though beating fast, stayed civilly where it is instead of pounding through my chest.
A year ago, that walk was different. I tried it, at about the same time of day, and for the same reason–just to see if I could. I had to stop every half a block and lean against the nearest wall until my calf muscles unclenched and stopped screaming for a moment. I turned downhill a full block before I’d intended to, and even then my breathing was ragged and gulping all the way back down to Market Street. It was painful, and embarrassing, and exactly what I had expected to happen–because I’d never thought that was anything other than normal for me.
I’m learning to walk without pain, for the first time in my life. I’ve had tendon and joint issues that have translated to a stiff, stumbling, blister-raising gait. Through a potent cocktail of physical therapy and diligent practice, I’m realizing what normal feels like. Not normal with an ache to it, like I’d had before; real, calm, levelheaded normal, where I know what my limitations are and how far I can tamp them down. I’m learning how to enjoy exercise–how to bask in the afterglow of a brisk walk or a head-spinning dance session or a beautiful mist-veiled hike in the hills.
I know this is a food blog, but when I talk about health and wholeness I tend to forget about the stuff outside the kitchen. There’s no grand lesson here, no tidy bow, just me being excited that I can walk up a hill without intense pain for the first time. This feels like a huge step in my continuing climb towards wellness, and the beginning of a shift that I’m sure runs deeper than I can imagine right now.