What We Measure

Photo (by me) is a random yellow flower at the side of my driveway. I don’t know what kind it is and did not plant anything here. Although I’ll be doing yard work later today, I think this flower will stay for now.

Sleeping has become elusive to me and, like most mornings, I was up before the sun today. I tossed and turned a bit, wishfully thinking I might get back to sleep. When that clearly wasn’t happening I mindlessly scrolled social media feeds, played solitaire, and just wasted time in my bed. Then I realized I was wasting life. There is nothing wrong with staying in bed to rest, to heal, to snuggle close to someone or something you love. But I wasn’t doing any of those things. I wasn’t enjoying any activity I was doing. I was simply keeping busy, waiting for time to pass.

Then I remembered that this week I’d set a goal for myself – an intention – to be active in my life. I don’t mean movement or exercise. I mean to be actively present in what is happening in my life; to be taking part and not just watching what unfolds because of other people’s actions. I was not being active in my life choices this morning!

I shook my head, got dressed and headed out for a morning walk. A few year’s ago, this was a daily ritual for me. For many reasons, some valid and some insupportable, I’ve gotten away from this practice. I often mused in my head how I missed it, but always found a reason why I couldn’t go (~95% of the time, this was nonsense). Today I wouldn’t allow the excuses. I needed to do something that was meaningful to me. I laced up my sneakers and was on my way. When I was about 200 yards from home I realized I’d forgotten my smartwatch. Dang it! Now the walk wouldn’t count! I stood on the side of the road and contemplated going back for it. I wasn’t that far away, after all. I thought about the steps that wouldn’t be recorded (it’s a 3.5 mile route). I thought about the circles I might not close on this day. I thought about the exercise streak that might be broken, or the badges I might not earn. Should I go get the watch so that this walk will get recorded?

Then I remembered that this practice never used to be about the numbers. Yes, I tracked my steps and had daily target goals. But, more that that, my morning walk was time to think and clear my head before the day crowded in. I had profound revelations in the quiet solitude of sunrise. I noticed dewy flowers gently greeting the day. I heard woodpeckers searching for their breakfast. I watched fawns nibble new growth off bushes. My walk was about being outside in nature – where I find my grounding. It was about being active in a way that suits me. It was a chance to enjoy the early morning wildlife.

Why does it only count if it’s measured by a computer application? Why do I have to have numbers to show (to nobody but myself)? Why is this a difficult decision?

I often put my smartwatch on just after waking up. This morning I didn’t do that. I took this as a sign from the universe to reconsider some things in my life. Maybe it’s just my forgetfulness, but I’m going to call it a ‘sign’ because then I don’t feel so old. Whatever the reason – it became an opportunity.

I walked my route without my watch; without tracking any of it. I listened to a book. I found beautiful flowers, heard the woodpecker and some neighboring squirrels, and was greeted by the sweetest fawn face as she looked up from her breakfast when I passed. This is what I was meant to be doing this morning – noticing, watching, listening – being active in my life.

As I got back home I realized: maybe it wasn’t the step count I was missing so much as the untethered peace.


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