The Yes Woman: the catharsis of a constitutional

Giving myself time to walk everywhere reduced the sense of chaos that can come of constantly rushing

Growing up in Limerick encourages a healthy tendency to walk. Most parts of the city are within a comfortable walking distance from one another and the public transport system is less far-reaching and convenient than in the capital.

Like many of us, I walked the same route to school every day. For 12 years from the age of four (thankfully, accompanied) to the age of 16 (thankfully unaccompanied), the vista was static as I dragged reluctant feet ever closer to school.

In our house, using your own two legs to get somewhere was often the only way of getting there, so my mother produced a couple of prolific walkers.

There’s many a blow-in traversing the streets of Dublin. Though I’ve since seen much larger and more intimidating cities, my move from the family home in Limerick to Dublin at 18 was jarring to say the least. On my first day in Dublin, walking down Grafton Street alone with what felt like all my possessions on my back, I collided with a very well-dressed older lady and found myself sprawled across the footpath.


With my baking tray and winter socks clattering and rolling out of my backpack, I realised the city operated at a different pace to other parts of the country and I’d best pick up my gait. So though walking has always been a source of enjoyment, I’ve come to rely on public transport in Dublin and settled into the cynicism of someone who has come to take their adopted city thoroughly for granted.

Stress release

My project for this year is to say yes where I would previously have said no. It’s not that I have an objection to walking: it has always been a great source of pleasure and stress release; but necessity can take over if we permit it to.

There’s always somewhere to be, something absolutely essential that’s worth haranguing oneself over. To minimise stress right now and today, we take shortcuts that increase anxiety and a sense of entrapment in the long run. When you’re tired, distracted and overwrought, the idea of getting up an hour earlier and walking to your destination seems like a waste of your already-sapped energy.

This week, I’ve put my Leap card in the drawer and endeavoured to walk. The pressure of everyday life hasn’t minimised in any way but, with only my two feet to rely on, I felt better rather than worse.

Allotting time to walk everywhere gave days more structure and reduced the sense of arbitrary chaos that can come of constantly rushing. I found that if I awoke feeling anxious at the anticipation of an impending meeting, the walk there gave me time to cogitate and put that anxiety into perspective. Taking time to amble gently just doesn’t feed anxiety the way a frenzied rush does.

I was reminded of the absolute catharsis that a random constitutional – without destination – can give. Before I could protest, my legs took me into St Stephen’s Green the other day, to a bench in the middle of the afternoon, and I sat, swaddled in my winter coat against the crisp bite of the threatening winter, and drank a cup of tea.

I had somewhere to be but felt unusually entitled to take a moment to be, quietly. People ambled by. The din of children playing industriously was carried from the playground. A couple of teenagers canoodling earnestly on a bench raised my eyes disdainfully to the sky and when I glanced toward the bench to their left a couple in their 50s were embracing with just as much intensity, if a little less frustration.

I was heartened and chastised myself – yet again – for cynicism. I was late for my appointment and I didn’t care a jot. The space around my body palpably expanded while I sat on that bench, and every muscle relaxed. Taking a walk and watching other people live their lives for 20 minutes heartened my whole being, made the world seem a less difficult place and my day easier to get through.

Walking through Dublin revealed more to me than the magic that happens if you just look up at the wonderful patchwork of history and aesthetics revealed above the shopfronts of the city. It reminded me that if I don’t always see the connections between people and the goodness they are capable of, it’s most likely because I’m not really looking.

The Yes Woman says yes to . . . reconnecting with your environment; and no to . . . disconnecting from yourself