A couple of days ago, I was reflecting on the need to build some more exercise into my week. Nothing extreme: just get this old body moving around a bit. We haven’t been City Mice* for a few weeks, and without the constant incidental walking I do in New York, I’ve started getting creaky.
Side note about walking: I love to walk. But only when it’s a form of transport. I can “go for a walk,” do a loop around a goddamn football field or whatever, but I do not enjoy it. Nothing makes me happier in this world than stepping out my front door and not having to use a car to get where I’m going. Buses, subways, trams (in the old days back home)—all these are fine. But I feel so utterly disempowered as a perambulating human being when I have to climb into a machine to go get milk. It still strikes me as such a bizarre thing that out here in our bucolic mountainside idyll, there’s nowhere we can walk except, well, up. Or, you know, down. And I love wandering about in the trees. It fills a very different need for me and is transcendent. But it’s not cardio.
So, I do need to exercise.
This realization led to me pulling out my calendar to see when. Everything must be scheduled, which is its own form of disempowerment, but that’s another rant for another day.
The point of this rant, however, is the thought process that began unrolling in my mind as I looked at the rows of rectangles that represent hours in my days.
Immediately, I looked for things I was already planning to do, and began assessing which of these could be combined with exercise. Could I make that call while on the elliptical without my colleague thinking I was a heavy-breathing prank caller? Could I listen to that recording on the rower? Would it be weird if I showed up to that Zoom meeting on a treadmill?
It never occurred to me to look for time slots that weren’t already full and put exercise in there as an activity to be fully present for. Part of that is that there are very few such slots in my days. But another part of it is this insidious cultural pattern that says, “Optimize!” “Streamline!” “Synergize!”
So my wild inventure for this week is to stop cramming my time so full. To allow myself to follow my own instincts about what my body and heart and mind and soul need. To bring music back into my days and banish the ravenous productivity monster from my mind—at least for a week.
Reporting back from the inventure
I put these thoughts down four days ago, and published them over on my Instagram. Then I rang away to my city mouse house in New York and proceeded to have a completely different kind of time.
Did I try to do multiple things at once? No, unless you count singing while cooking, or daydreaming while doing housework, or walking while talking to a friend while pushing a stroller while drinking coffee (which isn’t technically multi-tasking because it’s just the constant state of being a parent).
It’s funny to me that in the fast-paced, busy city life I was more successful at not cramming things in than I am out here in the dreamy breezy forest. Which makes me think that it’s stillness that my productivity mind wants to cram, not movement.
What a weird, backwards, paradoxical thing to discover. My brain takes a slow couple of hours and tries to shove 25 things into it. Whereas when I have to take the kid to the park, pick up bread at the market, take a walk with a friend, water houseplants, suddenly the brain is like, “Hey, let’s be shanti shanti, just be in the moment, yeah?”
I wonder if my brain is scared of stillness.
Okay, friends. I just decided that my next inventure is to go be still in the trees for an hour and see what comes up.
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