Osius column: Obsessed with getting in those steps
The problem comes from me wanting more darn steps.
Ever since I got my new phone, which counts my steps on a dashboard — with a giddy wealth of totals, distances and averages — I have been on the march. I reach, say, 7,595 steps, and suddenly want to take the trash down to the end of the driveway, two-tenths of a mile (400 steps) away, to round up. Or I get to 4.8 miles and stick my phone down my sports bra and devise errands around the house, with trips downstairs to get things (that I don’t need) out of the freezer or sports equipment from the closet for the weekend (though it’s Wednesday). In many ways this is good. I walk for my errands and events even more than I used to, park farther away.
My friend Stephanie started me on steps. I love games and their self-propelling energy, and we both love totting up the totals. We send pix of our dashboards.
“Ten thousand!” I crow, adding, “10,000 Maniacs!” The band name relates to how I can get glittery-eyed and obsessive.
She comes back, “11,000, and I may go for more!” Being a stepaholic, she adds conversationally, is cheaper than being a shopaholic.
I peer at my dash more carefully. “Hmm, 10,600…” And there I am, out in the dark driveway with more trash.
“There are bears out there,” my husband tweaks me. He shakes his head. “They’re aggressive this time of year.”
In the pitch black, I think of bears, also mountain lions.
These steps could get me killed.
Stephanie sends a dashboard shot that shows 19,243 steps (7.6 miles), adding, “I may walk to City Market to hit 20k!” The next day, a long one at work, I am a disconsolate sub-1000. Due at a CMC dinner within the hour, I cram in a few, then think on the drive, How far can I park from the building and still get there in time, almost?
I duck out of conversations, neglect climbing (usually more a priority), bore friends. Stephanie’s phone dies on a hike and she thinks, This is a waste of time! — then remembers she is with a friend, seeing foliage.
I walk to First Friday, leaving my car in a dark, empty lot. I happen to have just cashed a large (to me) check, which I think of on the trek back at midnight. These steps could get me mugged.
I’m volunteering at a filmfest, but need to go to the store first, am compelled to walk, and that is when I lose my jacket. It is fleece. My dressiest one, if fleece can be dressy. Sort of a Marilyn Monroe collar, if Marilyn Monroe wore fleece.
Returning in warmer temps, I try to tie the jacket arms around my waist, but the feathery cuffs won’t make a square knot. So I loop them. At sunset I arrive at the filmfest and wonder where my jacket is.
I mourn the jacket. It was Leslie’s. She had metastatic breast cancer. We were friends since ninth grade, and I spent her last day with her, and her mother gave the jacket to me.
The next day, retracing my steps in heat and dirt, I question myself, my too-busy life, my scattershot ways, all my follies. I think of Leslie and then other losses. A year ago our younger son went off to college. This past summer I took the older boy to the airport and stood rooted, watching him all the way through security (he turned to laugh and roll his eyes at me) before he left for a far-off job and apartment. Some people love being empty nesters, and certainly the grocery bills have improved, but for me the departures are a series of losses, evoked by anything — the sound of a high-school football-game on local radio; the sight of a dinosaur sculpture the boys when small would have liked; a photo of an old Easter egg hunt, my younger son at 3 playing with his friend’s dog. Behind them are other children, bundled up stiffly in the cold; all now grown and away.
Then … is it? The jacket, white with slats of red dust, hangs on a fence post. Some kind, kind person has stuck it there. Rejoice!
The election looms. I urge people to vote, to tell all their friends to vote. Working and teaching, I tell myself I have no time to canvass. Then again, I bet it would help me get in some steps …
“Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of every month. Alison Osius is a climber, skier and magazine editor in Carbondale. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.