John R Selig

Writer. Photographer. Podcaster. Outspoken.

Walking – My Magic Elixir

Selfie taken during Oak Lawn walk while listening to podcast on iPhone. Photo by John Selig.

I hate to exercise. I have always hated to exercise. Having no hand-eye coordination, poor depth perception and being uncoordinated made my life in gym class a living hell. I was the last person chosen for any team. I hated watching sports in person and on TV and would rather do anything else. The only sport I ever enjoyed was skiing and since we don’t live in ski country it isn’t something I get to do.

One of the reasons I chose The University of Chicago for my graduate work, besides it being a top academic university, was a comment made by famed U of C President, Robert Maynard Hutchins, when he shut down The University of Chicago’s Big Ten football program during the Great Depression. The university had enough money to remain a world-class research institution or a Big Ten football school but not both. Hutchins chose academics. He stated, “Whenever I feel the urge to exercise, I lie down until it passes.” Upon hearing this quote I knew I had found home. Mind you, the University of Chicago has a gym, sports teams and plenty of excellent exercise facilities, which are used regularly by many students and faculty. Still, prior to my enrollment a refrigerator had been crowned homecoming queen and during football games the all-kazoo marching band had more members than University of Chicago fans watching games.

Needless to say, you don’t find me getting up before dawn to go to the gym the way my husband does. I kid people telling them, “Rodolfo gets up at 4:30 a.m. and goes to the gym; I go to the John.” All jokes aside, I am the one missing out. I know how important exercise is to maintain a healthy lifestyle as doctors have pushed me to find exercise I enjoy doing, or at least don’t hate, and incorporate it into my routine.

Coming to Terms with Depression

As my marriage to my former wife began to crumble at age thirty-six in 1989 I entered therapy to finally face my dragons. Before even admitting I was gay I realized that I had been clinically depressed since my teenage years. Being gay runs on my mom’s side of the family and depression runs in my dad’s side. Later I was also diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). I had been moved out of a crib when I was just one year old because I would rock and bang my head against the back of the crib causing it to bang into the wall so loudly that our neighbors could hear it. My parents had well respected doctors but back in the mid-1950s my pediatrician told my mom that I had to be moved from the crib to a bed before I hurt myself. However, he warned my mom that by moving me to a bed at such an early age, before I was developmentally ready, could increase the possibility that I might turn out to be a homosexual. So at least now I know why I turned out gay. I was moved to a bed to early! Where the heck did such whacked theories come from?

Fortunately, the new selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac had recently come on the market just prior to my facing depression. They worked wonders for me. I spent several years in therapy dealing with my depression and coming out. I was informed that exercise could be extremely helpful in lessening the impact of depression. Still, I would rather eat raw liver infused with hot peppers than exercise. Prior to my coming out I had lost a great deal of weight and joined a gym where I mainly walked. As my marriage to my former wife failed and my depression was intense I stopped exercising. Over the next few years I regained all the weight I had lost. I cannot even count the number of diets I have been on in my lifetime. Let’s just say that I have lost and regained John Goodman several times.

This past January I joined the unemployed and have been spending time looking for my next job. I enjoy spending time at home as I keep busy with my photography, writing, activism and reading. In January I was elected to our homeowner Association where I am currently serving as Vice President. Still, eating is habit forming and finding a job is my primary concern. Don’t let anybody tell you that there isn’t age discrimination in the job market. My search has proven to be challenging to say the least. Any leads on marketing management positions in the Dallas area would definitely be appreciated. My depression is well controlled and has been for years but it is hard not to feel down on occasion. Rodolfo has tried repeatedly to get me to go for a walk with him when I have been down. It has always helped but getting me off my butt has never been easy and when I have been depressed, forget it! My son has also been concerned that my lack of exercise not only impacted my mood but also that a sedentary lifestyle shortens life expectancy. For years Nathaniel has pushed me to exercise. Will Kolb, a Dallas friend, is a strong advocate of exercising to combat depression and his experience and encouragement was also a motivator.

Walking As An Exercise Program

In June I realized that my energy level was definitely low. If Rodolfo and I went somewhere and I had to walk more than a few blocks I got winded. A few times I felt a bit light-headed and needed to sit down. This frightened Rodolfo and me. I realized that I needed to do something to build my endurance so I decided that going for a walk each day wouldn’t be the end of the world. I started out by walking a few blocks and over a six-week timeframe built my walking up to 2 to 2 ½ miles at least 4 mornings per week and I now often go for a short walk in the afternoon. I also have incorporated climbing stairs. Our condo is two stories so every time I need to go up or down stairs I do it three or four times. By climbing stairs several times a day it is easy to include twenty to forty flights of stairs as part of my workout.

The benefits have been amazing. When I take a walk I feel an immediate mood change. I can be experiencing the doldrums and a walk pulls me right out of them. Most of the time I really look forward to my walks and when I don’t feel like going I push myself to do so anyhow. Walking provides me an opportunity to concentrate on me. I often think through options and opportunities in my job search and other aspects of my life. As I am getting ready to head out the door I put my ear buds into my ears and connect them to my iPhone and turn on one of the many podcasts that I enjoy. Yes, I am able to listen to a podcast, do some internal thought processing and still pay careful attention to my surroundings to avoid getting hit by a car. Walking provides a welcome opportunity for me to make time in my day to “smell the roses.” It is a special time just for me.

I love living in the Oak Lawn area of Dallas. I have lived here for nineteen years. Oak Lawn is close to downtown with many great shops and restaurants and it is the center of gay life in Dallas. It also has a large Latino population and much of Oak Lawn is gentrifying with new housing and business construction. There are lots of trees and a number of nice parks as well. There is something unique about walking through your neighborhood that enables you to notice things that you just don’t see even though you regularly drive the same streets.

Walking Provides Photo Opportunities

Dragon lawn art at corner of Cedar Springs Road and and Wycliff Avenue. Photo by John Selig.

My walking route varies some but at this point my favorite route is 2 ½ miles in the morning and 8/10 of a mile in the afternoon. As much as I walk those routes I notice something different every time I take a walk. Photography has been a favorite pastime for forty-five years. I have an eye for composition and I love taking photos. The advent of digital photography over the past fifteen years has made photography much more affordable while providing the opportunity to enjoy instant access and sharing. I shoot lots of photos and my Nikon DSLR is with me when I travel or attend different events and gatherings. My iPhone is much lighter and is always with me including when I walk. Amazingly I notice something on every walk that I hadn’t previously observed.

I am astounded at the quality of the photographs that I am able take with my iPhone 6 Plus. I often email photos taken with my iPhone and share them on Facebook and Twitter. Surprisingly, many are good enough to print. I have included some in the photography galleries on my website. Not only does the iPhone take surprisingly good photos its new health application provides excellent exercise data including steps taken, miles walked and flights climbed. Exercise data is presented for the current day, week, month and year. This information in and of itself provides motivation for me to keep walking.

Legacy of Love Monument at corner of Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Avenue. Many LGBT rallies are held here. Photo by John Selig.

Knowing that I was going to write this blog post I decided to take some photos along my daily routes to share with this post. Keep in mind that every one of these photos was shot during one of my usual walks and everyone was shot with my iPhone. I didn’t plan the shots in advance. As I happened across each opportunity I saw a photo and decided to take it. Sometimes patterns, lighting or color grabbed my attention. Sometimes something undefined just slapped me across the face like the fire engine photos and the tops of fire hydrants. I have included two galleries of walking photos. The first gallery is from my daily walks in Oak Lawn.

20 Elements by Joel Shapiro at NorthPark Center. Photo by John Selig

I have added a second photo gallery featuring photos I shot in NorthPark Center. Two weeks ago I was meeting some friends for lunch and I went to the mall before lunch to run an errand. I had some extra time and I decided to walk around the mall several times to get some additional exercise. I walk at a brisk pace but when I see a photo opportunity, as I do when walking outside, I stop, grab my iPhone, take a few photos and start walking again. I am including information about NorthPark Center and photos I took there because mall walking provides an excellent opportunity to get exercise. I love walking outdoors so that I can take in nature’s beauty and enjoy my neighborhood. I have even been able to brave the high temperatures of the Dallas summers by walking early. However, when it gets too hot, too cold or when it is raining or snowing going to the mall is a readily available option.

Ad Astra by Mark di Suvero at NorthPark Center. Photo by John Selig

Located less than six miles from where we live NorthPark Center is one of the 20 largest malls in the United States (you know, everything in Texas has to be bigger). The developer of the mall, Raymond Nasher, was a huge collector of sculpture and just a small part of his and his wife’s sculpture collection is displayed in NorthPark Center. A much larger assortment of their amazing sculpture collection is housed at the Nasher Gallery in the Dallas Arts District. NorthPark Center is also adorned with seasonal plants and flowers.

I am sharing my photographs taken on recent walks for two reasons. First of all, I love sharing my photos. Photography is a cherished gift and I love for others to be able to enjoy my photos. Secondly, though others may not see photos as they walk they will appreciate the world they see. Perhaps my photos will encourage others to start their own walking program.

Walking Has Been Elixir for My Depression

I recently visited my psychiatrist for my regular med check and informed him of the dramatic benefits I have noticed from walking. He was both thrilled and surprised. He told me that he regularly tries to convince patients with depression to exercise and his track record of getting them to do so has been disappointing. I can definitely understand this all too well. People can discuss the benefits of exercise until they are blue in the face. Unless one is ready to start an exercise program they just aren’t going to do it. I am fortunate that I listened to Rodolfo, my son, my doctors and my friend Will Kolb and finally decided that walking was going to be a regular part of my day.

The challenge for me is going to be to keep my walking program going, especially after I find a new job. Fortunately, I find that I crave my walks especially during the week. Perhaps I will be able to take DART light rail to work; we live a bit over a mile from the nearest station. I may also get up early enough to get my walking in before getting ready for work. I may also walk during lunch. I realize the importance and benefits gained by walking and I am motivated.

My University of Chicago roots run deep and I am never going to be a star athlete. I still rather watch HGTV than any sports program on TV save the Olympics. But including regular walks, as part of my lifestyle has become part of my routine and my mood, endurance and energy levels have all benefited from it.

Walking Photo Galleries

Oak Lawn Photos
Taken with iPhone during various walks in my neighborhood

NorthPark Center Photos
Taken with iPhone during mall walks

Recommended Links

Exercise and Depression (Harvard Medical School)
Regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression

Benefits of Walking (Walking and Depression – HowStuff Works)
Doctors are convinced by the evidence in favor of using exercise to treat depression

NorthPark Center
Has over 235 stores and restaurants and has annual sales of over $1 billion

NorthPark Center
Description in Wikipedia

Nasher Sculpture Center
One of the finest collections of modern and contemporary sculpture in the world

Nasher Sculpture Center
Description in Wikipedia

Mall Walking: A Program Resource Guide
Encourages mall walking programs

Tips for Mall Walkers
Walk for fun and fitness

The University of Chicago
Where I received my MBA

University of Chicago Photo Gallery
I shot these with my Nikon D90 DSLR in July 2015