Look Up

We’re walking along Sweetwater Creek. Brian holds John Lee’s leash. I follow behind, absorbed in my own thoughts. Although I’m not sure we ever took Laurie walking at Sweetwater, she is clearly missing from this picture.

This day we are walking is six days after we decided that helping Laurie out of this world was the kindest thing to do. The sadness and tears are still very much present. As I walk, though, I recognize there is something that is not present.

I am not worrying about having left Laurie by herself, wondering if we’d arrive home to find her in an uncomfortable or messy situation she couldn’t get herself out of.

I say something to Brian about realizing how many times problems that have worried me sick for months or even years have simply been taken out of my hands and solved, with little or no action on my part.

Laurie, in June of this year.
Sometimes, the resolution isn’t one I’d choose even if I had the luxury of choice. Laurie’s accident forcing my hand, for example.

I can get so bogged down in the minutia and stress and work of a situation that it’s nearly impossible for me to gain the perspective needed to effectively handle it. I’d rather have choice, but oftentimes for me that just means analysis paralysis.

The ever-practical Brian makes some sort of wise-ass remark like “So why bother worrying?” OMG it’s that simple? We laugh as if it were, and walk on.

I love walking with Brian at Sweetwater Creek. The trails and park surrounding it are practically in our backyard, but we almost completely stopped visiting when the walks got to be too much for our aging hounds.

At last month’s RV show we picked up a Georgia State Parks pass for $37.50. Even though they’re only $50 regularly, the deal was the nudge we needed to get our asses out of the neighborhood and into nature.

Ah, the neighborhood…

Walking in the neighborhood has been something I’ve avoided, honestly. I’ve been angry enough about the actions of my immediate neighbors that I know I wouldn’t hesitate to respond if I encounter one of them, potentially escalating the whole petty thing.

My bitchy attitude is (mostly) less of a factor than physical considerations. I do need a more vigorous workout than walking, and walking on asphalt is hard on my feet and knees.

When I work out inside, though, John Lee just lays there and watches. People who don’t know Greyhounds think they’re high-energy dogs. That’s not even half-true. They will lay their lanky asses around eating bon-bons (beef flavored, please) all damn day unless you make them move.

Once upon a time, we walked our dogs daily. Sara, Grayson, John Lee, Laurie and every foster in between. One aging dog after another slowed us down, then stopped us altogether.

We should have continued walks with John Lee, but we didn’t. After losing Laurie, I committed to getting John Lee moving again. Even if it meant walking in the DMZ.

Oops, I mean the neighborhood.

So I started walking the ‘hood, taking John Lee on my first lap through. That is enough to wear him out, leaving me plenty of time to walk and think on my own.

When hiking at Sweetwater, I have a tendency to look at the ground most of the time. I’m watching for tree roots, rocks, dog poop or any other thing calling for careful footing.

In the neighborhood, there’s almost never a reason to look down. Yet I still catch myself doing it. More often, though, I look at the houses, yards and cars I pass, fueling a steady stream of monkey-mind chatter. Uuuuuggghhhhh…

Jerk-face neighbor reported our RV but he’s had that trailer full of scrap building materials sitting in his driveway for weeks…I wonder if Robert realizes his garage door is open again…it’s really cold out…they’ll have a high gas bill next month…I smell cigarette smoke – bet Kathy’s chain-smoking on her porch again…Man, I’m glad I didn’t buy that ginormous house on the corner…ours is half the size and still too much…I hope when I get to Jim’s house he isn’t outside…but if he is I’m gonna keep walking…not up for adding an extra half hour to listen to complaints about self-inflicted problems…Oh, look – Sheila’s house is missing a shutter…I wonder if her neighbors complained to the HOA about it…

This kind of crap typically continues throughout my mile-long tour of the neighborhood. A similar stream of brain-babble repeats for the second mile I usually do. Except for the effect on my posture, I think this is even worse than what happens when I look down.

Mind shift

When I started back to walking in the neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, I took along a recently purchased pair of bluetooth headphones. I listen to podcasts that both inspire me and help me focus. Before I started walking so much I could only squeeze them in here and there. Being able to take in this kind of content tips the scales toward the positive on walking vs. my other workouts.

I realized as I walked and listened that I couldn’t focus very well while my brain carried on its running review and commentary of our subdivision – something I couldn’t seem to turn off as long as the neighborhood was in view.

So I looked up at the sky.

The shift in perspective was immediate, and not just visual.

Under a big, blue November sky, our neighborhood becomes a tiny speck, one of hundreds of thousands of places in the world one might choose to be for a time. It hits me that when I focus only on my immediate surroundings I am unable to take in the bigger, better, longer-term vision for our future.

Yet another blinding flash of the obvious, but I’ll take it.

I stand taller, shoulders back, chin up, my entire body following my eyes’ lead. I feel as though I’m physically above the neighborhood minutia. And I am, really. Always have been. If I can just hold on to this perspective our remaining time here won’t hold any greater significance than it should.

Our house is a roof over our heads. A place I can be with B and John Lee. A place that once housed a family, comfortably held out-of-town guests and served as a great party venue. And a place with the potential to be those things to someone else, soon.


This morning as I write, Brian is out walking. I got up late and am taking care of John Lee before I head out to walk myself.


I pick up my phone to see the message that just came in. It’s from a friend who lives in the area.

I see the jerk neighbor across from you listed their house FSBO.

WHOA. What???

I’m floored. I shouldn’t be, I guess. They are empty nesters, too, with an even bigger house than ours. It makes sense for them to sell, all contempt (theirs and ours) aside.

Although neither us nor our neighbors have moved on yet, this development offers yet another reminder that I do not have to worry about or solve 100% of our problems. There are much bigger forces at work in our lives than the minutia down here on the ground around us.

Need a house? Here ya go. Or buy ours. We’re flexible 😉

Our neighbor is selling his house
Click to see the listing on Zillow.

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