Years ago, whenever I would phone my mother-in-law and talk about any recent outdoor feat I had come across, she would inevitably reply, exasperated, with some version of, “Honey, it’s meshuggenah .” (Yiddish for “crazy”.)
“Try to rest,” she sighed. “Sit down. Read a book.”
She was right. She usually was, which was irritating. She was right so often that even now that she’s gone, I still go to her in my head for advice. My sister and I wonder, what would Janet do? We often invoke it when we reflect on our own lives and support each other. We also call her to chastise my dad, if necessary: ”Janet would kill him for wearing those pants”, etc.
But she was also wrong.
I thought of Janet recently on a long solo walk.
I have walked a lot these days. It all started when I realized, in the midst of a pandemic, that I was sitting abnormally while working from home. I did not go to the grocery store during these periods of isolation, before the vaccination; I was spared even those little daily movements of normal life. I found out that somehow the waistband of my sweatpants had shrunk and I mentioned it out loud one day to my best friend who kindly told me like only the real best friends can do, informed me that my sweatpants had not, in fact, become smaller. .
“Ohhhhh,” I said, as that came to mind.
I started counting my daily steps, something I’ve always rebelled against for principles that don’t quite make sense to me as someone otherwise fully steeped in the modern world. I think I’m just very habitual and averse to change, which might surprise anyone paying attention to my constantly hectic life, but probably wouldn’t surprise my husband or colleagues who see how carefully I distribute my energy and my days. A new habit that forces me to pay attention to more information than I absolutely have to, or, God forbid, that upsets my existing delicate balance of activity? No thanks.
But, in the name of getting my sweatpants back to their usual fit, I reluctantly started checking the pedometer on my phone. I was appalled at what was there. Even as someone who runs, bikes and hikes regularly, there were days when I could easily walk less than 500 steps. For those who don’t count, that’s a very small amount – 10,000 steps is usually the recommended daily goal.
I started walking. I don’t have a dog and had nowhere to go, so I mostly walked for walking. Sometimes I had a buddy to go with, other times it was just me and maybe a podcast. To be perfectly honest, I found the whole activity boring and incredibly time consuming.
I kept doing it anyway, and gradually my daily step count steadily exceeded 10,000, and my sweatpants returned to their normal size.
Some walks were better than others. I liked to make phone calls while walking, and was sometimes able to rock work meetings that way, which helped cut the steps down practically on their own. Other walks were grueling exercises in counting steps and minutes. Yet, at other times, it was so disgusting outside — read: the whole month of February — that I released “Selling Sunset” on Netflix in my living room and walked in place.
Yes. As it spat snow and rain out my window, I watched the Oppenheim Group in all its Botox and real estate glory, composing lists ranking my least favored cast members to most advantaged, while making steps up in my life without a treadmill. piece at the bottom of the Butte de Palmer neighborhood. I don’t know what Netflix does to predict its viewership, but I guess the target audience isn’t exactly me.
I averaged 3,000 steps per 30-minute episode. My favorite actor was Ananza.
Now we have passed the equinox and the sun has finally made its presence known for consecutive days. The roads in my neighborhood are almost dry. I’ve finished the last season of “Selling Sunset” and am eagerly awaiting season 4. The mountains carry that bright March glow, gleaming in palettes of creamy white that run down their steep sides. The sky is brilliant blue.
I’ve worked very hard in many areas of my life, from personal to professional, and I find that the best way for me to decompress after a long day is to – you guessed it – walk.
Not a race. It’s too much effort. Not a hike; I usually do them with friends, and after devoting myself to big projects at work that usually require intense socializing, I just want to go for a long, solo, simple walk where I can think of whatever I want or don’t. . I can just look at the mountains and see them for what they are, and meditate on the feeling of cool air on my cheeks. I can listen to a podcast if I want to and put my brain in a completely different corner from where it’s been focused for hours and days.
And the walking movement? It’s so simple. It’s relaxing.
I find myself thinking of Janet, because unknowingly she was trying to teach me a particular kind of rest. I think I bought rest by needing to sleep, vegetate, or read a book. Sometimes it’s rest for me. But the activity – monotonous, light, easy outdoor activity – gives me a much deeper sense of change and rest, moving my body from one realm to another while simultaneously providing a literal transition period while I just walk. I come from nowhere, I’m not going anywhere, but I create this feeling of change by doing it.
It’s a form of rest in itself, I realize that now. And I also realize that I have learned to love him.