My AirPods were set to noise cancelling mode so I didn’t fully hear her when she spoke, but I read her lips and immediately returned the gesture with a smile as I pulled one out.
“Good morning,” I responded.
“That’s a good idea. Just put some music on and tune out the noise of the world. I should try that sometime.”
“It’s nice. Meditative. I often like to listen to lo-fi or some light jazz when I go for a walk.” I wasn’t sure if she knew what lo-fi was so I made sure to throw in that jazz bit. “Lyrics often distract the mind. But I also enjoy walking without them. Just listen to the sounds of the ocean or whatever’s there. Nature’s music. Also meditative. Just depends on my mood, I guess.”
She smirked. Amused. Curious.
“What do you do?”
“Hahaha, lots of things.” I never know how to answer that question because I don’t feel like I’m just one thing. I like to do many things and so think of myself as many things. “Ummm, I’m a writer. A coach. Teacher. Martial Artist. I don’t know. Life’s too short to do just one thing.”
“A writer, huh?”
A nod and a smile. Ego liked the intrigue.
“What do you write?” A question that I also don’t always know how to respond to.
“Ummm, right now, I’ve just been writing little pieces about life and my experiences with it. Short essays for a blog. Insights that inspire, I guess you could say. But I also published a book a couple years back.”
“Really? What kind? Memoir?”
“It’s a story of self-discovery. About the last time I lived in San Diego, actually. Used to fight professionally. Snapped my shin in my second fight though.”
Her eyes widened with disbelief.
“Sent me on a spiritual quest to find myself. My purpose. Why I’m here. Why any of us are here. Who God is. What God is. If God is even real. Took me on a path away from fighting, but somehow I’m back in this place and revisiting old energies… including the energy of prizefighting.”
“How old are you?!”
I smiled. “Guess.” It was a question I often got once people heard parts of my story.
“Well, I have some intel now, but just looking at you…” she paused and gazed intently at me, as if peering into my soul through my eyes and aura. “I’d say maybe 23, but that doesn’t quite add up with all the life you’ve seemed to have already lived. Fighting. Living abroad. Writing a book.”
“Thirty-six,” I said with a heat warming smile.
“I’m so old now, I guess I forgot how good thirty-six could look.” She was older, definitely, but by no means an old lady. Her youngest son was thirty-one if I remember correctly. She looked healthy for her age, which I didn’t ask for.
“Please continue,” she said.
By now we were walking together down Sunset Cliffs as the waves continued to crash on our right. We’d agreed to continue our conversation in motion. We were both headed in the same direction.
She’d often stop to pick up trash along the way. In one hand, she carried a plastic bag. In the other, a glove to pick it up.
“I appreciate you.” I shared my gratitude for her efforts as she stopped to grab an empty bag of Doritos and a cigarette butt. “That’s not your job, but I appreciate you keeping this area beautiful and clean for all of us to enjoy.”
“I love the ocean. Animals too. We all have to do our part. We can’t be bystanders and do nothing.” She then began to quote a man who had experienced the holocaust and a bunch of other things which led to a profound statement on not being a bystander until something directly affected you. I was inspired. I didn’t remember the quote but the essence of what she said had left it’s mark.
She let the silence live, aware that I was letting what she said resonate deeper. Our conversation, because of the fleetingness of it, moved quickly between topics.
“It’s interesting that you say you’re thinking of fighting again even though you said your book was about you leaving it. There’s an author who said she would have written a different book in her twenties than when she was in her thirties.”
I was amused.
“What’s true in the morning is not always true in the afternoon.” My dad wasn’t the creator of that quote, but that’s who I’d learned it from. I quoted my dad often, a testament to his wisdom and influence on my life.
“Wow, I like that.”
“Yeah. Life is interesting like that. I guess before it was one or the other for me. Once I embarked on a more spiritual path, I couldn’t see myself fighting anymore. Didn’t feel aligned. Like it was going against my nature. But yeah, it’s different now. Now I have a more dualistic approach to life. To be both. Both human and spirit. Both fighter and writer. So we’ll see. I’m not committed to anything, but I’m definitely open to it… something that seemed so non-negotiable before.”
A smile of confirmation.
“It’s funny. The tragedy of breaking my leg encouraged me to walk away from fighting. And now, the tragedy of my broken marriage is somehow leading me back. Paradox, humor, and change.”
Paradox, humor, and change was another gem from Dad, but this one, I knew the source. Socrates said it in Way of The Peaceful Warrior. I was proud to not just know these things, but to actually live and share them. That was the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom was applied knowledge, a definition I’d also picked up from Dad.
We walked for almost thirty minutes before I had to make my way back to my car, talking about everything from religion, spirituality, and duality, to nature, writing, and fighting. Divorce. Rebirth. Life’s paradox and cyclical nature. Super deep topics for a woman who I just met on a walk that I wasn’t even planning on going on.
“I’d love to continue talking with you,” I interjected as we neared the far end of Sunset Cliffs, “but I have to head back now. Got practice in a few. It was such a pleasure talking with you, though.”
She smiled. “It was a wonderful walk. Thank you.”
“What was your name?” I made sure to ask before we parted ways.
“I’m Jon. Nice to meet you. Thank you again. Such a pleasant surprise to my morning.”
“Mine as well.”
“Do you live around here?”
“Yes. Just down the street. Feel free to come by anytime, but don’t feel obligated. Hopefully I’ll run into you again on your journey.”
“I’d love that. Maybe we can have some coffee or tea some time and continue our conversation… or perhaps another walk.”
“Sounds good, Jon. You have such a radiant charisma and aura about you.”
“Thank you.” I placed my heart on my chest and slightly bowed. “I really appreciate that.”
It felt good to be seen. Really seen. Not acknowledged for my abilities on the mat or my craft with the written word, but for the essence of my being. Who I felt I was at my core.
Isn’t that what we all want? To be seen. To be heard. To be felt.
A heart warming smile on both ends wrapped up our conversation after we’d exchanged contact information. She continued her walk toward the parking lot, still picking up trash along the way, and I, back to my car for MMA practice.
Joy. Presence. Gratitude. Those were the emotions that carried me all the way back to my car that morning.
When I got to Sunset Cliffs, the intention was to just park in my usual spot, move the body a bit, and then stare off into the sea and set my intentions for the month. The wind was gnarly though. I even went back to the car to throw on a bubble vest. Sitting on a rock was not the business that day. Too cold, so I opted for a walk instead. And because I did, I met Ruth, exchanged some high vibrations, and energetically confirmed the path that I was on — the life that I was living — the choices I'd been making.
Would I ever see her again? Who knows? For that fleeting moment, however, I had the honor of connecting deeply with a stranger. A stranger who not only reflected back what I needed to see, but left me inspired and deeply happy with how I was living life.
Thank you, Ruth.
Until our cross paths again.
PS - Talk to strangers :)
June 19, 2022