What happened on the trail in July

In the beginning of July I told you about my Fitbit Flex. If you missed that post, take a minute and read it now; it's kind of necessary to this post. I'll wait. 

This picks up where that leaves off.

I resolved to walk 150 miles in July. I have a very short stride, so I'd noticed that 10,000 steps for most people was about 5 miles. For me, it was 4.2 miles. It took considerably more steps to get to 5 miles. I figured that I'd have my 10,000 steps a day goal and then I'd have my 5 mile a day goal. July has 31 days, so I left myself a buffer in case I just wasn't feeling it one day. But only one day. I wasn't going to to leave myself much margin. 

I quickly settled into an early morning routine, mapping out various routes in my neighborhood carefully so I knew how far to go and which way to return home to keep within my allotted time and distance goals. If I could get around 8,000 steps first thing in the morning, as long as I was conscious of taking the active route throughout the day (parking further away, going to fetch things in the house myself instead of sending an active child), I could hit the 10,000 steps goal. Then, an evening walk around the block usually capped the five mile mark.

A little before the middle of the month, we went to the beach. I say "we," but I took the four girls and Nick to Myrtle Beach, where the girls were competing at a dance competition. So, it wasn't a family vacation. It was a half-a-family trip to the beach. I was a little concerned about my walking routine--partly because I'm a creature of habit in a big way and partly because I knew that this particular parenting endeavor was going to take serious stress  management on my part. I'm very much out of my element at dance competitions (a subject for another lengthy essay, no doubt).

I had insomnia at the beach. I could not will my body to sleep past 4AM any morning I was there. So, I gave up trying. Instead, I got up and walked. It was dark and I was a little concerned about safety in a strange area, so I essentially walked the parking lot of the condos where we were staying, weaving in and out of lit stairways, for about an hour and a half every morning. I'd come to the beach with some heavy things on my heart and as I walked I listened first to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake (reviewed a bit here) and then to John Gottman's The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (reviewed extensively here). Note: I wasn't having a proper midlife crisis; my marriage wasn't falling apart. I just had a lot of thinking to do and in the quiet of the South Carolina mornings, to the rhythm of my feet falling again and again, I started doing it. Soon, I was logging 10,000 steps first thing in the morning and only reluctantly going inside.

It was dark when I started and I watched the sun rise every day. I was glorying in being outside. Thick, humid Carolina air was having a field day with my hair and leaving me drenched by the end of the walk, but the sunshine? Absolutely golden. As soon as the sun came up, I moved from the parking lot to the many ponds and walked around them. I recognized quickly how much I'd missed fresh air and sunshine and how restorative both were to my soul. 

Then, we'd all trudge off to the air-conditioned convention center for the dance competition. At varied moments throughout the day, when the noise and the drama and crush of the crowd overwhelmed me, I'd take my iPhone, my earbuds, and my perpetually sneakered self over to the adjoining hotel. I'd get to the halls of guest rooms and I'd walk, listening to Divineoffice.org. In the quiet. Up one hall, up the stairs, down the next hall, up those stairs, up to the top and then down again. Then back to the convention center, a much calmer person. It ocurred to me that I was sneaking off to walk and I did briefly wonder about the addictive behavior aspect of that, but really, it seemed all good.

The  Fitbit Flex began to give me smiley faces and trophies and then, I watched something else happen. I'd gathered just a few people around me on Fitbit's "friend" page. Not long after starting to use it, I decided that I was going to limit my "friends" to only people I knew in person. I didn't want exercise to be another occasion of social media. I needed this walking world to be my world away from social media. So, I've got my kids there. Chrystal Hurst and Kat Lee, who walked with me in Colorado and inspired me to get going in the first place. And then, I have three college women who are Division 1 athletes. They're friends of Patrick's, but they're absolutely real life people. Could I be as active as they are, at least now, in the offseason? I watched as my stats stayed above theirs most days. And one of them became one my biggest encouragers. She was in Charlottesville, walking all the places I used to walk when I walked way more than 10,000 steps every day and I was home from the beach by then, nearly 30 years older than those fit college days, wondering exactly what the next thirty years might hold. Somehow, the connection and the raw numbers were very encouraging.

I had very few conversations at Sally's in Colorado. I was just too sick. And too shy. But Chrystal Evans Hurst went out of her way to find me and one of the things we talked about was finding writing time. I told her that I used do my "quiet time" on a stationery bike in my closet. I'd listen to Divine Office, pray, read something inspirational. Then, I'd write for awhile. Last winter, I realized this time was becoming less fruitful and I abandoned the bike for a couple hours of  time with Bible and journal every morning in a chair in my living room. 

Very fruitful. 

I wrote Restore following those intense quiet times and it is and probably always will be one of my favorite writing projects ever. But I was completely unmotivated to write much else. And I wasn't exercising at all. In early March, I got strep throat (and probably undiagnosed mono) and then I began the exhausting and unrelenting task of caring for several children with rare serious manifestations of adenovirus (another visit to the specialist today, by the way, pray?). The class times at the gym were always inconvenient. The pace of life unrelenting. All the way to mid-June-- when Chrystal persisted in asking, "But when will you exercise? And how will you find time to write?" She was the preacher's daughter. Couldn't she just say, "Wow! Two hours of quiet time in the morning every day? That's awesome. Go you. Nothing else matters."?

But she didn't. Instead, she said, "When will you write?" and "How many steps today?" The question hung heavy through the end of June and I pounded it out on the pavement those first few weeks of July.

Tomorrow, the answers and the unfolding of walking magic.