Semi-tractor trailers and me

Cindy ArpOur Town Outdoors

The morning in 1993 that I pulled out in front of an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer, missing him by inches, I knew I was going to have to do something to make myself sleep at night. A life-long smoker, my mother was critically ill with a combination of emphysema and lung cancer, a fact my 42-year-old self was desperately trying to deny, but a truth that boldly stepped out of the shadows every time I closed my eyes to sleep.

On the day of the almost accident, I hadn’t slept in three days and was headed to school for another day of work. Sleep or no sleep, I couldn’t miss work. Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, I was my mother’s primary caregiver and while my 84-year-old father did the best he could, I was making the hour and a half drive to my parents’ house 2-3 times a week.

Walking on the farm driveway

Was there food in the house? Mother had a doctor appointment and I needed to hear what he said. I was doing anything I could to help. We had a 9-year-old and a 16-year-old at home, boys who went to Scouts, played soccer, took piano lessons and sometimes needed help with their schoolwork. I really and truly needed to catch some sleep before another almost fatal accident became fatal.

I decided to attempt to physically exhaust myself, hoping that type of exhaustion would quiet my mind enough for a few hours sleep. I needed an activity that could keep me close to home and the kids. We lived on a farm with plenty of space, I loved being outside, so I began vigorously walking every day after work. I would walk until I had to fix dinner, I would walk until someone needed help with homework, I would walk until I was well and truly exhausted. With time I discovered that walking two miles was the golden amount. It took about 30 minutes and made me tired but with enough energy be with my family and accomplish my at-home tasks. Thirty years later, I’m still waking every day, usually two miles. Unknown to me at the time, deciding to walk every day was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Now that I am retired, I generally walk in the mornings. As I walk, I breathe the good outside air, I watch the mist rise from our creek, I see the buds on the trees, and I admire Nature’s crochet work – intricate spider webs.

The sky brightens. Good endorphins kick in and with that shot of happiness, my brain wakes up and has ideas, or starts looking at problems or tasks in a better way. When my two miles are finished, I come back into the house, my daily movement meditation, my daily centering activity done, my mind and body now ready to face the day.

It’s a practice started 30 years ago, a practice that has calmed me while bringing unexpected health benefits, a practice I am so grateful to have found. Smell the air? Isn’t it wonderful?

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.


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