Turns out I care. During this unsettling pause between Before and After, I want to get out and clock 10,000 steps a day. At least! The app is proud of me.
"This year's walking and running distance is more than last year's," it beams. "So far this month, you're averaging more steps than last month." My device doesn't know the half of it.
I always enjoyed walk-and-talks with friends, in person or by phone. And whenever someone came in from out of town and wanted to meet for coffee, I suggested a stroll in a park instead. "I'm like a dog," I'd explain. "Pick me up and take me out."
But while I used to take two or three walks a week, now I take two or three a day. It's a bit manic.
Feeling low? Out I go. Antsy? Anxious? I put on my sneakers. Sluggish? Stuck? "C'mon, get some air. It will help." And I do. And it does.
Sometimes I call my brother in Georgia and persuade him to virtually join me. Sometimes I talk my husband, Rob, into a moonlit constitutional.
Humbling but true: I am not essential. My parents are here only in spirit; my girls are grown and faraway. My civic duty is to sit this crisis out.
Settled back in my suburban childhood home, Rob has created a vegetable garden with a neighbor, an out-of-work actor. I wish I could say I've been cooking, quilting and Marie Kondo-ing. But besides uprooting dandelions, I've mostly been walking.
Past the house where my best friend lived. Past the house where I babysat. Past the house of my first boy-girl party. And that's just my street! I watch chipmunks, listen to audiobooks and talk with friends in Baltimore, Berkeley, Beirut.
I count steps and blessings. I keep my chin up. Yet it's hard not to know when I'll see my daughters again. And what about our milestone anniversary, that summery family reunion I had in the works?
Rob and I do a Zoom with his volleyball team. His teammates laugh because we arrive at the meeting accidentally wearing matching plaid shirts. One player asks what I've been up to.
"I took 14,783 steps today!" I say. Then I think: "This is what I have to offer?" She says someone in her building ran an ultra-marathon on his treadmill and adds, "Whatever works!"
My friend Patty and I schedule a walk. "Looking forward to catching up," she texts. I text back, "I have no news, lol." Yet our date gives structure to my day, and hearing her voice quenches a thirst. Our phone visit may even be better than trading confidences six feet apart through muffly masks.
When Rob and I FaceTime our grandson in Montana, I stay still — no multitasking. Waylon is 6 months old and, upon recognizing our faces on a screen, he brightens, coos and kicks his feet. When he reaches for us, my eyes fill with tears. I long to pick him up and hug him tight. To escape and fly west, quarantine be damned.
But I can't fly; I can only walk. My iPhone says it would take 32 hours to drive to Big Sky. "And walk?" I ask. "Walking directions are not available between these locations," it replies, alarmed. "Kidding!" I say, a lump in my throat.
Lonely? Worried? Stir crazy? It's easy to eat too much ice cream or drink too much wine. But I've never once wished I hadn't taken a walk — a double negative for this think-positive time-out.
And so I walk, one step at a time. Others may find comfort in sourdough bread, jigsaw puzzles, Animal Crossing. My walk therapy is as pedestrian as it gets. But it's keeping me going. Literally.