Every day at work, I leave my desk at lunchtime, armed with my smartphone and my iPod and set off on a circular Walk of just over two miles. My aim is fourfold:
(1) Get a little exercise.
(2) Escape the confines of the office.
(3) Enjoy some music.
(4) Clear my head.
I want to focus on item (4).
As I stroll around the streets, my mind wanders, replacing the inevitable stress and tedium of office work with a journey through my own imagination, accompanied by a musical soundtrack of songs that I love.
And that journey is usually quite fruitful.
The experience feels like I am in a room with thousands of doors. The journey begins when I open one of the doors and go through. The choice of door depends on my mood, the music I am listening to, the day I have had so far and random thoughts that have popped into my head based on conversations, news – anything really.
Ultimately I hope to find something interesting – like this idea for a blog post for example.
I am fascinated by the train of thought that eventually leads to the gems I find inside my own head. Sometimes they are good things but occasionally they are not do good. For example, if I am in a bad mood, or a little depressed about something, I find that sometimes it is difficult to drag myself from a negative path. In that respect I understand how depressed people think – I know this first hand because Mrs PM is prone to depression and in these situations it is difficult if not impossible to escape the irrational downward spiral that follows.
Happily, I have experience of seeing this is other people and can assist, if only to be the person who comforts them or to be a shoulder to cry on, so to speak. Of course, it is not as simple as that and, thankfully, Mrs PM is in control of it.
I don’t suffer from depression myself but if a negative thought threatens to enter my head and cause a negative cycle, I switch my mind to something that will distract it – like changing the song on my iPod of taking a moment to look around as I walk. This helps usually; rather like leaving the bad door alone and finding another more interesting one to go through. It doesn’t always work – and I have struggled sometimes in 2017 to be fair – but things are improving.
Sometimes, exploring my imagination can cause embarrassment. Here are a couple of examples.
Picture the scene. I am walking along oblivious to my surroundings and listening to a fantastic and happy song - a song such as this:
I find myself walking in step to the beat and imagine myself as the artist. The problem is that my step becomes jaunty and bouncy and on a couple of occasion I have actually started mouthing the words. If I have my headphones in, I can’t actually tell whether I am actually singing – I might be. In which case, it’s no surprise that I have acquired a few strange looks by people queuing up at a bus stop I have walked past.
On other occasions, a song has reminded me of a funny incident in the past caused an involuntary guffaw that is difficult to control and fuels yet more laughter, making me look like some kind of idiot marching along the streets.
Also, if I see somebody I know as I walk, I try to be polite and greet them as we pass. However, because of my headphones, it is more difficult to judge volume.
“Hi Dave,” they will say as we approach!
“HI ANDY,” I bellow at the top of my voice, in an attempt to drown out both the heavy metal song in my ears and the noise of cars, lorries and buses roaring past on the main road.
When I get back to work, I face the inevitable consequences.
“Why were you yelling at me in the street, Dave?”
Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often and my walks are uneventful to watch. The good news for me is that I have around 10,000 novel ideas as a result of my lunchtime walks. The bad news is that when I get back to work, I never write them down because the moment I sit back down at my desk, the shit hits the fan and I am plunged back into the abyss of the rat race before I have the time to write down a paragraph about invisible mutant aliens turning people into slaves.
However, I am certainly more relaxed and, for an hour or so at least, I find myself going about the daily grind with a smile on my face and a more relaxed approach to work.
I recommend you try it, dear reader. Once a day, grab hold of your own musical device and walk around the streets of your town or city for half an hour or so. Take off the chains of your imagination, walk through an interesting door and see where it leads you.
In almost all cases you will be amazed.
And for any Mancunians out there, if you see a greying blond nutcase singing or laughing as he walks – it might just be me.
Feel free to say “Hi Dave!” – I will try not to yell back at you.