I miss driving a car.
It has taken me more than six months of life without a car to get to this point. And honestly I wouldn’t be missing a car now if it weren’t for my knee.
Last night I was chasing my kids upstairs after dinner after an extended dance party inspired by an African rendition of Gagnam Style. I missed the door at the top of the stairs and slammed me knee directly into the wooden door frame.
The door frame won. My knee is swollen and walking extremely painful.
I have mad more than a few knee injuries over the years. As a runner, skier and cyclist I have not been kind to my joints. Generally I push through the pain, running miles further than I should.
But at the end of the day we always had a car. I could kill my legs on the weekend because Monday meant getting back in the driver seat.
How am I supposed to get to work (or take my kids to school or buy food or anything else for that matter) if I can’t walk?
Last night as I felt my knee swelling up I was not sure how I would feel in the morning – or whether I could make the 3 mile walk to and from work.
I woke up with my knee feeling slightly better and decided to go to work. An hour later as I am sitting on the train, it hurts a lot.
And I miss my car.
Life without a car requires learning how to walk – in a whole new way. It has taken us months to figure out shoes that are durable and comfortable (and fashionable) for life in the city.
Walking miles every day, day after day, on cobblestones and tarmac, in rain and snow, through the general grit of city life is hard on our shoes. When life involved driving to everything in Seattle, cleaning and polishing shoes seemed cute and old fashioned. Like who actually gets their shoes polished at Nordstrom? But living here one of the first things I had to figure out was how to clean, polish and protect shoes.
Walking everywhere is hard in the feet too. Especially at first. I thought I was in pretty good shape when we moved, but going to the gym a few times a week has nothing on living without a car.
Last summer I learned this the hard way. With four little kids in tow, I took the bus from Kennigton where we were staying to Hyde park to go to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. The playground and park are magical. After playing for a few hours we ate lunch in the grass and then wandered through Hyde Park. The older boys were on scooters and Ella fell fast asleep in the buggy. It was sunny and beautiful. We were surrounded by Londoners enjoying the glorious summer sun…
To be continued…off to work!
Ahhh. Life in London. Where was I?
Walking and riding public transport everywhere is both terrible and wonderful.
I mean on one hand, I am blogging on my commute home. I could not write a blog post while driving a minivan. I certainly thought of a million things to write whilst driving from home to school to shopping and back again.
But on the flip side I have blisters on my feet. And yes – I’ve lived here for seven months. This is long enough to learn to wear comfortable shoes. I foolishly ran out my office door and a mile to the train station in my cute work shoes. The ones that are supposed to live in my desk at the office so I can wear my wellies or trainers for the walk home. And then I left 15 minutes late so I had to run.
When we first arrived in London I thought people on the train were awfully rude. Why not smile, say hello, at least make eye contact?
After joining the crowd on the daily commute into the heart of the city, I get it. The heat, noise, pressing crowds, frantic pace, everything about life in this city is intense. The only way to cope with being squished together like a tin full of sardines on a train more than 200 feet underground for an hour or more everyday is to carve out your own little place of silence.
Quiet time or me time or whatever you call it.
I have a simple little routine on my commute. In the morning I pray while I walk to the train. And then on the train I listen to a helpful podcast, often something on intentional leadership from Michael Hyatt or a sermon from Tim Keller. On the walk into work I review my goals for the day. I try to walk I to the office ready to give it my complete focus.
On the way home, I reverse. I pray as I walk to the train, I read or blog on the way home, and then on that last 10 walk I prepare to be fully present with my kids the moment I walk in the door.
I think finding a way to cope with the stress of a city commute is the only way to survive. The whole pretending you are alone – even if it means ignoring others who are sometime in need – is just life.
I hope I never am too comfortable with this. I hope I never tune others out to the point I miss a chance to help someone in need.