"Where are you going?" I asked my husband Marc, as he walked past me. I was sitting on the front porch enjoying the peaceful coolness of the evening, eating a bowl of Cookies and Cream. I assumed he was coming out to join me.
"I'm walking to the path and back," he said, referring to the neighborhood trail entrance that is ⅛ of a mile down our street.
"Um, why?" I asked, genuinely confused as we had recently returned from our nightly after dinner walk.
"I am almost at 20,000 steps, Marc said, holding up his wrist adorned with a new Fitbit. "It would be my all-time high."
"Wow, great, "I said, feigning enthusiasm, trying to ignore that familiar feeling that was slowly beginning to invade my gut.
The Fitbit was a gift to Marc a couple weeks earlier for Father's Day. Although he had begun to walk for exercise more and more the past couple of years, it wasn't until a team building activity at work that I had the idea. Some of the employees were participating in a virtual walk to Disneyland. Each week we would report our milage to the HR Manager and she would compile and track our progress. I, of course, used this as an excuse to dust off my old Apple watch and start racking up the miles. Unfortunately, Marc relied on the fitness app on his phone that he carried around throughout the day and as a result fell far short of my increasingly impressive numbers.
"You know you are walking more miles than you think you are, "I said to him knowingly one night after our walk.
"What do you mean?" He asked. Never one to be caught up in exercise, Marc was utterly unaware of the workings of a fitness tracker.
I on the other hand had been a servant to my Apple watch for years, obsessively watching the numbers throughout the day and pushing myself to beat the previous day's goal. My morning workout could not be complete until I reached X amount of calories burned. If I fell short by my three pm marker, I would take a vigorous hike up to the top of our hill, and I loved the days I played tennis because a good singles match was a fantastic workout, pushing my caloric burn to a spectacularly high number. More steps, more calories burned, more movement fueled me to push harder, go faster, try harder….until.
With our walk to Disneyland now complete, I have once again tucked away my Apple watch. But, unfortunately, pulling it out for the walking challenge was like giving a sip of vodka to an alcoholic. When I popped in on my wrist, I told myself that it was only so I could accurately report the numbers for the Disneyland challenge, but I quickly recognized it had the potential to become much more than that if I didn’t get myself back on course.
After years of secretly (okay, sometimes not so secretly), wishing my husband would take better care of his health, I am thrilled he has a physical outlet to relieve stress and boost his mood. In reality, it is not the quantity of his walking that has me all twittered up. I do not feel like we are in a competition. Instead, it is watching him discover it all for the first time—the high from beating yesterday's record. The exhilaration of watching the calories burn out of your body, the thrill of achieving numbers he never assumed attainable. I know that feeling. And I understand his desire to joyfully share with me each time he reaches a step marker, 10,00 then 20,000, then 25, 000. It is getting easier. I am getting better at wiggling around in my envious discomfort, compelling myself to encourage him in his healthy habit instead of succumbing to my desire to tell him to shut the fuck up. It is not his responsibility to change his behavior to make me feel comfortable. It is his responsibility to keep himself healthy, just as I am responsible for doing the same.