I’ve been taking long walks with someone (friend/trainer/life coach) for many months now. Walks often clear out the cobwebs that lay claim to our brains and try their best to bring us down.

When you take long walks, you are likely to become engaged in conversation with your walking partner. At first you might speak about exercise, but then you might slowly integrate into more personal discussions as you become more comfortable with each other.

This is what happened with me and my walking partner, who for the purposes of this article we’ll call Joe. At first, we took walks and chatted about nonsensical things. We made jokes, made light banter, and, after more than three years of me not seeing many people during the pandemic, I began opening up and talking more and more. I didn’t realize how much I had held in, and was still holding in.

As we spent more time together, we shared more personal things about ourselves. This often manifested itself in personal stories from when we were little, all the way to opinions about life that we now held in adulthood. Knowing we differed slightly regarding politics, this was one topic among several we steered away from. We didn’t steer away from it because we thought we’d argue. I believe we each had the utmost respect for the other’s opinions. However, I think we felt there were more important topics to touch upon and there was a lot that Joe knew that he was willing to teach me, and I was an eager pupil.

I don’t know when our walks changed from being purely about exercise to including talks about feelings and advice and learning life skills. Joe had been through a lot in his life, so he was able to guide me in my journey of wanting to change for the better, to live with less anxiety, and to learn skills I could practice and then use in real life situations.

At first, I mostly just listened to the things that Coach said. I related to them in a powerful way, being able to see the truth in the things he spoke about. But we hadn’t agreed that he would be helping me make improvements to my life, which was something I was/am quite interested in. But as I began to see slight changes in my behavior, and especially in the way I was thinking, I realized how beneficial Joe could be for me. We discussed using our walks as times for him to teach me life skills, better communication, and how to learn to comfortably be around people again.

Being able to begin speaking up for myself was not only extremely freeing, but useful in all areas of my life, whether it was among family, friends, or strangers. The comfort of knowing that there was meaning in what I said, that my thoughts were inspired, that I believed sincerely in the words I spoke, all led to feeling more at ease in speaking up and getting my needs met more than at any other time in my life. I felt stronger both emotionally and mentally when discussing my insights or opinions, and less afraid of conflict or disagreement. Even surprisingly enjoying some slight disagreements, feeling safe in addressing what I felt strongly about.

These excellent communication skills were used mostly with Joe. But as time passed, I began to utilize these skills with others. And the most fascinating thing was that people noticed. I was told by acquaintances, doormen, family, and friends that my energy had changed; it had shifted for the better. Someone literally told me I glowed. (I never quite knew what that meant but I took it humbly as praise!)

I took these so-called compliments with a grain of salt, not letting it go to my head, knowing how much more work there was still to be done. Joe had taught me to take baby steps. This was one of the truest things I learned at the time, and practice still to this day. At times I felt like I was taking on too much, and I would slightly panic and feel like I was losing my gains. But as long as I took it slow, I felt more in control. And that was, and is, a key component.

Some of the other skills I was working on were having more patience/being less rushed, knowing I could choose how to act in any situation and that I controlled my actions—the situation did not control me, and my connection to G-d. I tried, and still try in my own way, to speak to Hashem each day, thanking Him for my blessings, asking for clarity and support, and “begging” Him to help me develop an even deeper connection with Him.

I always thank G-d for sending Joe to me as a messenger. I believe Hashem puts people in our paths to help us and it is our job to recognize them and develop a relationship with them in the way G-d would want. I believe Joe was “introduced” to me by G-d and has literally been helping me change my life, from one that had no direction, full of anxiety and unhappiness, to one that could potentially be filled with deeper connections with other people, less worry, and the ability and skills to communicate better and express my needs and wants in a beneficial manner.

Having someone like Joe has already changed my life in a short amount of time. I’m under no illusions that I won’t have bad days, because sometimes I do. I also know that my mind will sometimes worry, as it has been prone to do for so very long. But as I learn new skills, and slowly, patiently put them into action, I do believe I can be a stronger person with a stronger sense of self.

Besides wanting to fulfill the goals G-d has put me on earth to do, I want to be able to help other people who are going through tough times. Having gone through them myself, I believe it will put me in a unique position to be a mental health advocate and be able to have deep empathy, and to know which skills should be used when, and in a personal manner, because every person has different needs and must be taught differently, at their own pace.

One important lesson I’ve recently come to understand, especially with the help of Rabbi Twerski’s sefer, is that I will never be finished working on myself. I believe this holds true for everyone. There will always be something to work on, and in fact we should be grateful for that. If there is something to work on, there is a reason for us to be glad to wake up in the morning no matter how hard things are, to keep breathing and staying healthy and happy to the best of our abilities.

Everyone could use someone like Joe in their life and if someone has the ability to help the way Joe had been helping me, I would hope he/she would realize the importance of their skills, humbly of course, and utilize them to be a force for the good.

I am on a journey that feels right, and though there will be obstacles and pitfalls, there will also hopefully be times of great strength and learning. Learning to be a better, happier, more skilled, insightful, and fulfilled person. With all my heart and soul, I genuinely wish this for all of you.


Michele Herenstein can be reached at msh61670@gmail.com. Read more of Michele Herenstein’s articles at 5TJT.com.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here