I don’t need to tell any of you how tough these past months have been. We are living in a time of great unrest. Health concerns, divisiveness over many important issues, and economic hardships abound. I won’t reiterate these in detail because we are all living them daily.
Now, more than ever, we need to do what we can to stay positive. For many of us, our days don’t include the variety we were used to. We think twice before leaving our homes. Things we took for granted for so long are no longer a given.
But here’s the thing. I had a problem, even before our world turned upside down. I sat too much and moved too little. Some of you might be able to relate to this. We all know our bodies need movement. But knowing isn’t enough.
It may have started when my brother remarked that he hadn’t missed his daily step goal in something outrageous like a year. What? Is that even possible? Not in what was my reality. But he’d planted this niggling little worm into my brain. If he can commit to something like getting a walk in every single day, why couldn’t I? He works a demanding job and has a full life. Technically, he’d have just as many handy excuses as I did to avoid a daily exercise habit.
Please don’t stop reading if you hate the idea of exercising every day. Trust me on this.
When I commit to doing something, I’ve found that I’m better at sticking to it if I make a game out of tracking my progress. But putting a check mark on a calendar probably wasn’t going to cut it. Besides, I used to have a Fitbit watch, and it was fun to see how far I’d walk every day. So I asked for a new Fitbit for Christmas (my old one was long gone, and, besides, the new ones are cute!), and there began my journey.
Like so many things in life, my journey started small. I had to figure out how to get steps in each day, living in North Dakota in the dead of winter, working in an office building all day, and not owning a treadmill. I’d canceled my gym membership because I seldom used it. But I couldn’t give up before I even started.
I’d have to walk inside, at least sometimes, for the time being. At home, I paced around inside our house. I got creative at work. When I was the only one in the office, which happened often, I’d walk in our immediate area, hoping no one would walk in and find me looping around in tennis shoes and “business casual” attire. Before long, I was able to get permission to walk on the locked, vacant floor above my office. That turned out to be ideal.
Two givens while I walked: decent tennis shoes (if you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis you understand the wisdom here) and something to listen to. I’ve listened to countless podcasts and audio books over these past seven months. No depressing news stories while walking!
I began my walking journey to improve my health, but it became a lifeline.
In February, I was lucky to travel with a friend to a conference in Arizona, our flight at risk of being canceled as we navigated our way to the airport through blizzard conditions. I got to “do my own thing” while she attended her work events. My thing was writing and walking outside, in beautiful, sunny weather, in the middle of winter. It gave me a glimpse of how it might feel to design my days, doing things I love, unfettered by a set schedule or a harsh climate. I could get used to that!
By the middle of March, things were starting to feel different. We began working from home, and we found ourselves thrust into a new way of living, one we hoped would be temporary. Life revolved around scary news reports on television. Our college-age daughter came home after her university pivoted to online learning. We wondered whether it was safe to bring the milk carton we’d bought into our home or did we need to wipe it down with disinfecting wipes first and let it sit in the garage for days first. And, by the way, don’t use too many wipes because stores were out of them.
Despite everything, I walked. The weather was still questionable outside, so I usually had to do it all by pacing inside my house. I’d start early in the day, take most of my work calls while looping through my living room, kitchen and dining area, driving my husband and daughter nuts. But suddenly, getting my steps in felt like nearly the only thing I could control.
By the first of April, COVID struck close to home. Not literally, but within our family, while my father was visiting my brother a thousand miles away. Suddenly, the danger and seriousness of what was happening became very real. The details are not mine to share, but suffice it to say it was a very dark, incredibly scary few weeks, and the statistics on the news suddenly became real people.
With time, our prayers were answered as amazing, brave hospital staff worked quickly to discover a treatment solution that beat back what felt to us like a monster—the virus. There was little we could do from afar, and the feeling of helplessness and despair were nearly overwhelming.
What was this strange way of life we were all suddenly finding ourselves in? But still, I walked.
Days turned into weeks, and eventually into months. Health returned for our family members, but the experience left indelible scars that will take time to heal.
Somewhere in the middle of the storm, I was starting to realize that my walking was one of the few things I felt in control of, and one day I realized my steps were beginning to add up. At the beginning of January, I committed to walking every day, no matter what (never dreaming how different “no matter what” would look in the not too distant future.) Within a few weeks, I was walking a minimum of 10,000 steps, because I’d heard that measurement thrown around for years and it had always felt unattainable, given my sedentary desk job. For me, this equates to around 4 miles a day.
By the end of April, it didn’t feel like things were getting much better in our world. What had begun as hopefully only a month or two at home was starting to feel like perhaps it was the beginning of something longer. When would life “get back to normal”?
So I kept walking. With the arrival of springtime, I was able to transition to walking outside in our neighborhood. We live in a small community outside of a small city, so I usually only encounter one or two other walkers. Social distancing is never a problem out here.
One day, I noticed I was three months away from my next birthday. What if I kept walking my 10,000 plus steps every day until then? If I kept my commitment to myself, something I’d never done in my life when it came to daily exercise, how many miles would I have walked? I remember feeling a jolt of surprise over the math. It would be an impressive number. Something fun to strive for, this game I’d started playing with myself on January 1 of a year for which I’d held out high hopes.
But it wasn’t a nice, even number. What would it take to hit an even bigger number, one with a nice ring to it? How much farther would I have to go every day to beat that? If I pushed just a little harder, walking at least 12,100 steps from then until my birthday, that nice round number no longer seemed quite so out of reach.
I’d proven to myself over the past 128 days that I could walk every day, no matter what. Why couldn’t I walk that extra couple thousand? I was still staying home almost all day, every day. The weather was so much better. I bumped up the daily goal on my watch and felt a little thrill at having something new to strive for amid a still very uncertain world.
Today is my birthday and I’m turning 54. I started walking every day on 1/1/2020. I tracked my steps, stuck to my commitment, and never missed a day. On July 23rd, I watched as my Fitbit hit 6,777 steps in the middle of my morning walk. I’d done it, with five days to spare.
Me, who had never stuck to an exercise routine in my half a century on this planet, hit my target.
I’d walked 1,000 miles since the first of the year.
Walking has been my touchstone, reminding me that while everything else in life feels topsy-turvy, there are still things, essential things, within my control.
Why am I sharing this journey of mine? Because I’ve learned some valuable lessons, and if by sharing, I can inspire you to challenge yourself in some aspect of your own life, that is what I’d love to be able to do.
We need to live in harmony with others and with nature. One day, early in my 2020 walking journey, I thought I was utterly alone on the vacant floor as I did my laps around, listening to “The Secrets We Keep” on audio. I noticed something out of place in the large, carpeted room, now void of the rows of cubicles that previously lined the floor. A small smudge of brown, poised against a vast expanse of wall, no bigger than an apple, caught my eye. It was a little mouse, watching me.
I stilled, curious at the utterly unexpected sight. I’m sure the mouse felt the same. Normally, I’d have hustled downstairs to find our maintenance man, let him know some traps should be set up. But I paused. It watched me but didn’t scurry away in fear. I continued with my walk, careful not to pass too close to it, and kept an eye on it. It kept an eye on me. I snapped a picture of it, blurry because I didn’t dare get too close. In the end, I let it be, and it left me alone. A month later, that little mouse might have been the only one roaming the halls, since we humans had all gone home to work in the face of a pandemic.
So I will keep walking. It feels like the first 1,000 miles was just the start.
Our journey along the dash between the day we are born and the day we die is ours to do with as we choose. These past seven months have reminded me that there are things in life we can still control. Don’t let the chaos of the outside world make you forget your strength. We’ve got this!
Cheering you along! Kim
If these walls could talk…
Most of us have heard this tiny snippet many times. These five little words have been used as the title of books, movies, and television shows. But what do the words really mean? When I looked up the meaning behind the short quote, the explanation I liked best was simply: If these walls could talk, they would tell you the story.
What stories would your walls tell if they could talk? If our walls were capable of speech, they could reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly of our daily lives. In reality, our walls can’t actually “speak”, but can’t they still tell our stories?
Today is March 31, 2020, as I write this. We all find ourselves thrust into uncertain times. Due to the pandemic, our family has been staying close to home since Friday, March 13th (this will very likely be the most bizarre Friday the 13th we will see in our lifetimes). For us, we are nineteen straight days into what is yet an unknown stretch of time that we are spending inside our house, broken up with the occasional walk and tasks in the yard. Our days are suddenly like nothing we’ve ever experienced before: a mixture of work, play, anxiety, relaxation, fear, and a search for answers where there are not yet many, all within the confines of the walls of our home.
Yesterday, as sunshine streamed through newly washed windows, I sat quietly with a cup of coffee and peered at the walls around me. No, the walls were not closing in around me, at least not yet. I was simply allowing myself time to pause and think.
When was the last time you really looked at the pictures and decorations that grace the walls of your home? When we live with something for a long time, we often stop noticing it. We start to take our surroundings for granted. But as my eyes traveled around our living room, it dawned on me how so many of the items hanging on our walls tell our stories. The stories of our family. The stories of my dreams (not because I’m the only dreamer here, but because I’m the sole decorator!)
I thought it would be fun to take a few minutes to wander from room to room and pay attention to the types of things that have found their way onto our walls. It’s an eclectic mix to be sure, and one that makes this house a home.
A picture is worth a thousand words. What better way to decorate our walls than with things that speak to us so succinctly?
Since becoming parents twenty-six years ago, our kids’ smiling faces peek out at us from many nooks and crannies, along with reminders that parenting is our most important job:
The quote in the middle picture has guided me through my years of trying to be the best parent I can be, and they’ve never felt more accurate than they do today. This wisdom extends beyond the role of mother or father to that of a teacher, caregiver, healthcare provider, and so many more: “One hundred years from now…it will not matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in, or the kind of car you drove…but the world may be different because you were important in the life of a child.”
I’m a firm believer that our dwellings transform into homes when we surround ourselves with unique items that speak to our hearts and our memories. It doesn’t matter if others grasp their meanings. They shouldn’t be hung to impress the occasional visitor, but rather to remind us of happy times and our interconnectedness as a family.
There is an artistic gene that weaves its way through our family, and I’d much rather grace my walls with beautiful things created by those closest to me than by people I’ve never met.
Beyond the walls of our homes is a world full of opportunity, challenges, heartache, and the unknown. Inside, our walls can serve to fill our minds with reminders of the good things in life, the things we need to focus on to live our best possible lives.
When I decided to start down a completely new path of weaving stories and encouragement into books, intuitive family members helped me to surround myself with wisdom to draw upon. The old printer drawer on the left includes such snippets as:
Now, these printer drawers offer me a repository for trinkets I’m gathering along my writer’s journey, reminding me there are many more tiny boxes to fill.
Life can be challenging, scary even, but we all have a story to tell. Right now, most of us are spending more time than ever at home. I encourage you to pour a beverage of your choice and quietly sit with your surroundings. Look around. Do the things hanging on your walls speak to you? Do they make you smile? Do they remind you of wonderful times, or people, or dreams you hold dear?
If not, now is the time to dig into your storage areas, closets, and drawers. Look at things you’ve stored with a different eye. You kept those things for a reason. I promise not all of it is junk. Maybe now is the perfect time to take down that random picture you bought from a big box store because the color matched your décor and instead hang up that picture you or a loved one painted years ago. The one that makes you smile. After all, the beauty of art is in the eye of the beholder.
And if there is something that speaks to you, put it front and center. We all need to be surrounded by the words of wise men and women who have come before us, who have braved the storm and come out of difficult situations on the other side, maybe a little beaten down but stronger for it.
One of the best examples I have of this can be found in the words of Theodore Roosevelt in another heartfelt gift from a wise sister-in-law this past Christmas:
When we live full out, we open ourselves up to criticism. If it has been a while since you sat with these words of a former president, or if they are new to you, let me reiterate these words found in the quote above that grace the walls of my home office:
THE MAN IN THE ARENA
It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles. Or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Who strives valiantly. Who errs. Who comes short again and again. Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. But who does actually strive to do the deeds. Who knows great enthusiasms. The great devotions. Who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement. And who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Do your walls tell your best story? When you meander from room to room, take time today to notice those reminders of your past that conjure up happy memories. Enjoy glimpses into your past, and know we will be making new memories in the future. Keep the faith.
May your walls keep you safe during these uncertain times.
Stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy, my friends. And if you are one of the men or women fighting in the most critical arenas right now to help keep humanity alive and thriving, please know you have the gratitude of millions. Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!