Thursday, June 14, 2012

Running Errands


I'm reading A.J. Jacobs's book Drop Dead Healthy which is the story of his quest to be the healthiest man alive. Well, not really. He's playing it pretty much for fun even if there is a fair amount of stuff that is interesting in there. Jacobs is an entertaining writer and often enough a pretty good one. He's held my attention past the point where I thought he would and that's saying something. I'm thinking today about one idea in particular that he has written about: running errands.

We all know that phrase and it usually means finding the keys, gathering stuff, and driving out into the world to get things done. Jacobs is taking a more literal turn on the idea and actually running--you know, that thing we occasionally do on two feet--his errands. I like the sound of that. I like the sound of it a lot.

I've been trying to run and walk a lot more of my errands. Today I needed to visit my friends' house and take care of their cats. Their house is just shy of three miles from mine. Yeah, I can do that. So I ran over there, fed the cats, scooped the litter, refilled my water bottle, and ran back home. Oh, and we needed cash for the carnival at the kids' school tonight, so I ran just past their house to our bank, waited at the drive-through ATM, and got cash.

The other night, wanting bread from the co-op, I started to get my keys. The co-op is less than a mile away. I looked down and my feet. They were still there so I decided to use them and, on the way over, decided that there will rarely, if ever, be a good reason for me to drive there.

Same with the library.

Hell, Starbucks is walk-able. It's certainly run-able. And if nothing else, it's bike-able.

I'm not saying that I have to give up the car. It's just that I drive every day to work and back. I could use a break from that and my stomach could use the caloric burn of walking to a few of these places.

I don't want to get too evangelical about this, but I also just feel good walking, running, and biking to these places. I mean, imagine driving to the bike shop. That seems all sorts of wrong. It's three-quarter's of a mile away. I could carry the bike there.

All of this is less about being green than it is about being healthy. And while walking, running, or biking my errands is very good for my body, it might be even better for me psychologically. When I drive to Wegmans I'm just driving to and from Wegmans. But when I walk to the co-op there's an added bonus. I feel like I'm in control of something. I carry my fresh baked bread home and feel just a the tiniest bit like a man who has gone out and gotten food for his family. Sure, I didn't kill the food (though I have hunted bread for years, I've never been able to make myself pull the trigger on the cute buns and loaves) but it feels as if I've done something. It also feels as though I was present for the act.

Ah, presence.

Running over to my friends' house, I let myself fall into a rhythmic meditative state. Running alone is my meditation more than actual meditation is. Then, arriving at their house and talking with the cats (it's okay, they rarely talk back) I felt connected with the task. I felt like I had really done something.

Running home from there, I knew I had accomplished something.

A couple days ago I wrote about how I often just want something to happen, but that when I apply a little bit of work things happen much more. Maybe this running errands thing is an extension of that. Doing errands in my car isn't fulfilling because I'm not doing much. The car does the work. I sit there and listen to the radio. It's boring. It's dull. It's too easy. Having to run, having to take almost an hour to get the job done is anything but dull. It is oddly invigorating.

Over the past month or so I've fallen out of the habit of writing these essays every day. I have gotten caught up in other things. That's okay, but I've felt bad. I haven't felt guilty. I've felt bad. I've felt worse than when I've put forth the effort to get this done. Running errands feels good because it means I have to work harder, set aside more time, and invest myself in the process. Same goes for writing these entries day by day. So I'm committing right now to getting back to that. I'm committing myself to write on.