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  • "I feel like an old battery," I said, stretching in the morning light.

    "You feel like a battery?"

    "Sometimes," I said. "An old one. I need to deplete completely before I can fully recharge."

    Old batteries suffered from something known as the memory effect or voltage depression. They would lose their ability to fully charge if they were regularly used to the same level and recharged. The batteries "remembered" how much energy they used and stopped storing more than they needed. It wasn't a permanent condition, though. Lazy battery or battery memory could often be corrected by fully charging and discharging the battery. Advances in technology have rendered the problem almost obsolete, but it was once a problem and the only way I knew to describe the way that I felt.

    I walk a lot. I walk a lot more than most people, not just people with motor impairment and severe fatigue issues. I walk to get places. I walk because I can, and it makes me feel better. According to my Fitbit, I sometimes walk almost twice as much as my walkingest friends who are also big walkers and I do it every day.

    A week ago, after a long day of meetings at the end of a week of long days of meetings, I met one of my favorite people for dinner, a walk, and a talk.

    "I don't know when to tell her," he said as we wandered.

    He was trying to figure out when to let his preteen daughter, his oldest child, know the reality of his condition. He didn't know when to explain the meaning of terms like "stage four," "metastatic," and "terminal." The kids knew that he had cancer and that the treatment drained him, but they didn't fully grasp the magnitude of the situation.

    I didn't either.

    On a cognitive level, I got it, but I couldn't imagine a world without this man, this kind, brilliant man whom I had known since we the days we talked being the "big kids" at the table, this man with whom I texted and swapped stories of symptoms and side effects.

    I concentrated on my feet, the pavement, and moving forward.

    "Before she leaves home," I said. "You have to tell her before she leaves home."

    We walked a bit more before he replied.

    "I like that answer."

    Later that night, on the roof of my building under a warm starry sky, I pushed him to leave while wanting him to stay. We could have talked all night. At one point, we would have, but we'd grown up so much. In the morning, he would have to rise for the long drive home.

    I felt so small when he hugged me. I felt like me. Most of the time, I thought I looked like me, too, the me I had always been, but with his arms wrapped around me, I felt so very insubstantial. I remembered the way my bones jutted when it was just me and the mirror.

    "I love you," I said.

    "I love you, too."

    And then, he was off.

    In the morning, I rose early and left the comfort of bed for a long walk in the dark. I headed down to the Tidal Basin for sunrise because the cherry blossoms were at peak, and they wouldn't last. I left because I needed to walk.

    As I walked, a sob wrenched from my chest and I cried in the dark alone in the world, alone in those quiet hours, alone with the thought of losing someone I loved with so very much of my being. I cried for the fact that he had to figure out when and how to tell his daughter that he was dying. I cried for his daughter. I cried for his wife and his sons. I cried for myself, and I kept walking.

    By the time I got to the Basin, my tears had dried. By the time the sun rose (fairly unspectacularly) and I walked home again, many miles and much time had passed.

    I walked more that weekend, to my friends' house for brunch and home again, to the Capitol to see what I could see, to the Basin for the spectacular sunrise for which I'd been waiting, and nowhere really at all. My head cleared or it didn't and it didn't matter. I walked so much that I couldn't think of anything but the walking, the pavement, and the need to keep moving forward. My body was tired, but it was the only way that I knew to make myself feel better and so I walked until I crashed and then, I got up to do it again, fully charged and ready to take on the world. One step at a time.
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