At first, my walks outside with Aussie dog consisted of me and, of course, Aussie. She walked steadily at my heel, carrying her rainbow llama stuffy in her mouth. We strolled to the block where the green patch of grass spread long, like a narrow runway carpet. Zipping in between the trees, Aussie walked, carrying her rainbow stuffy, and stopping only when she found the perfect place. And as if the stuffy no longer existed, she dropped it from her mouth and started the tedious task of sniffing. She sniffed and scratched and burrowed her nose until she found it: her potty spot.
This potty walk often took twenty minutes. I learned to love these walks because they brought me moments of respite from what felt like blaring sirens inside the tiny walls of my condo. These potty walks occurred at 4:45 AM when the wiggles could no longer be contained. These potty walks dipped into my regular dish-washing time at 7:30 PM. These potty walks took my routine and harnessed new energy into my days.
And then one day, after another normal evening walk, I walked down the long hallway back to my condo to hear screaming. The cries pulled the roots of my hair because the cries sound like my children, Buddy and Sissy. Aussie’s ears also perked up and her stride quickened because her new love for my children told her something wasn’t okay.
Turning the corner of the long hallway, my children stood in the hallway with our neighbors, who did what they could to calm the heightened cries. Looking at me, Buddy screamed, “you and Aussie left me! I feel sacred!” Locking eyes with mine, Sissy blared, “I’m scared, too, Mommy. Buddy scared me when he cried.”
I breathe in deeply.
I exhale long and completely.
The neighbor turns to me, smiling and then winking an eye at me as if saying, “I know and I get it.” And with a gentle touch to the shoulder, the neighbor turns to my children, offers a gentle smile and says, “See, everything is okay.” Then I sigh. I smile. I hug my kids. I reassure them that everything is okay. And then our nightly routine begins.
And the next night, when Aussie’s potty walk ensued with her wiggly-butt and nose-nudging in my knee, I begin to dress her with her harness and leash. And, like every night prior, I said to my kids, “Aussie and I are going out for our walk.” But on this night, both my kids ran to me and cried, “no, don’t leave us alone, Mommy!” And without any question, both kids bundle into their snow boots and winter coats.
When the elevator hits the ground floor, I hear the quintessential pterodactyl screech from Buddy, initiating a loud rebuttal from Sissy, “stop making so much noise!” Aussie softly looks to Buddy, knowing she needs to calm him, yet not knowing how with a leash tethered to me and him running 10 feet ahead of us. I’m sure I also heard a deep breath in and long exhale from Aussie that night.
The walk continued with Sissy singing a song about unicorns in the sunshine and also dancing a ballet-like dance on the narrow strip of sidewalk. Buddy tromped along, heavy footsteps, angry and sulky like. The intermittent exchanges between Buddy and Sissy consisted of screams, tongues sticking out, finger poking, and even raspberry blowing from lips. Our Aussie dog continued to hold her rainbow llama in her mouth, steady in her walk and purposeful in her search for the perfect spot. And for me, my routine potty walks that inspired new energy into my days was now injected with thick tension.
And the walk ended.
I breathed in deeply.
I exhaled long and completely.
On the second night of our potty walk, I set a new rule. “Okay, kiddos, tonight we will practice meditation walking.” Two sets of eyes looked back at me with questioning and confusion. “Mom,” I can’t be still if you also want me to walk said, my wise daughter. “Yeah, Mom,” interjected Buddy. “How are we supposed to be still? You know the way you are still in the mornings on your yellow chair?”
I giggle inside. I know what I am saying does sound crazy. I also know that Aussie and I have to find peace in our walks, again.
“Let’s try it anyway,” I respond. As I explain how tonight’s walk will be different from the night before, I suddenly hear my daughter asking, “Mom, what if I have a question on the walk? What if I need to go potty, too? What if I need to sing a song?”
I giggle inside, again.
“Sissy, then you wouldn’t be on a meditation walk, would you?” I say.
We pile into our elevator and wait for it to hit the ground floor. I hear the quintessential pterodactyl screech from Buddy, initiating the usual loud rebuttal from Sissy. “Remember, our meditation walk begins as soon as we walk outside. So, get out all of your questions now.”
I wait. No questions.
We walk. Aussie holds her rainbow llama stuffy in her mouth. Buddy walks next to Aussie in the grass, looking down at his footprints in the crunchy ice-like snow. He holds a bubble in his mouth, a term he learned in his elementary classroom, to help him to keep his words inside. And he walks. And he makes footprints. We walk. And then Sissy begins, “I hate this. I just want to sing, and I don’t know why I can’t. I’m going to sing!” She looks at me with a small grin across her face. I give her a gentle smile. And Buddy, Aussie and I listen to her sing for our entire walk.
Like clockwork, when we reach the interior of our building, my son finally lets the bubble from his mouth drift away. He yells, “Mom, she didn’t follow the rules of our meditation walk! She cheated! This is so unfair! Why is my life so unfair!” Sissy smiled and then caught his bubble in her mouth for the elevator ride to the 2nd floor and the walk down the hallway to our condo.
On the third night of our potty walk, I say the new rule, again. “Okay, kiddos, tonight we will practice meditation walking.” Two sets of eyes looked back at me with questioning and confusing. “Really, Mom? After last night, you think we should do that, again?”
Small bickering begins. Aussie picks up her rainbow llama stuffy and harnesses her leash around my body. Opening the door, I ask my kiddos if they’d like to join Aussie and me for a meditation walk. “Ugh,” I hear from both Buddy and Sissy. “I guess we have to, right, Brother?” says a confident Sissy. “I guess so,” says an equally confident Buddy.
And our walk begins as soon as we roll out of the elevator. Buddy puts another bubble in his mouth and walks ten strides ahead of me and Aussie. Sissy holds a bubble in her mouth, too, and carries a small umbrella over her head. The moon shines bright and I can see the Little Dipper above me. I hear the crunch-crunch of the ice-like snow beneath me. I watch the small steps ahead of me. I look behind me and see Sissy twirling her umbrella between her purple-fleeced mittened hands.
And we walk.
And I, again, harness this peaceful energy.