I just celebrated my 48th birthday. I think this is officially middle age, is it not? In our culture, it’s also the time I’m supposed to be obsessed with anti-aging creams and Botox. I don’t want to participate in all that. I just want permission to age gracefully.
While I do miss my 30-year-old legs, I’m loving my 48-year-old wisdom. There’s a grounded-ness that comes with aging. A peace of mind that I don’t need to prove myself or explain myself. It’s years and years of accumulated experience from good choices and bad. It’s inspecting all my scars (the literal ones and the emotional ones) and, rather than wanting to hide them or remove them, choosing to display them and feature them–because, dang it, I earned every single scar the hard way. It’s the freedom to wear comfortable shoes and jeans with spandex. I like 48.
For my birthday, my husband bought me an activity tracker (Fitbit-like, but not an actual Fitbit. It’s a Garmin). He’s training for an Ironman and loves to analyze all the metrics. I am not training for anything, but am now tracking every step I take. Of all the things in my life with which I struggle, movement is not one of them. Truth be told, I struggle with almost everything else in life, except movement.
Generally, we overestimate how much we move and underestimate how much we eat. It’s just the way the universe works. So, it’s been encouraging for me to confirm that I do, indeed, walk as much as I suspected I did. Yay!
But it’s been a little frustrating, too. The other day, for instance, I had been walking all day long, literally. I walked four miles in the morning in my hilly neighborhood, I climbed 40 flights of stairs just doing normal house stuff, I walked through the grocery store and Target (and their parking lots), I ate breakfast and lunch standing up, I cooked dinner for an hour, also standing up. I think by 6 p.m. I had accumulated around 12,000 steps. I finally sat down to eat dinner with my family, legs and feet aching from all the walking and standing, and before I even finished my meal, my wrist was buzzing “MOVE!”
I was like, “NO! Shut up, Garmin! I’ve been moving all day! I have earned the right to SIT!!!!” My family watched me, wide-eyed, as I reasoned with my wrist, as if it would hear me and understand my point of view. My wrist did not respond. Because of its lack of reasoning ability, I disabled the “Move Notification” after that day.
(Funny fact: the hills on my driveway are so steep, the tracker thinks I’m climbing stairs when I go to get the mail. But somehow the up-steps and the down-steps are not equal. So, at the end of each day, it appears as though I’m 20 stories below ground level.)
Also, the blue tooth thing. I’m not so sure I like this. Do I want low-level electromagnetic radiation seeping into my body, 24/7? Some people say low-level electromagnetic radiation is not dangerous. But the people who say this are the people who make bazillions of dollars selling us devices that emit electromagnetic radiation. I don’t trust them. So, I also disabled the blue tooth, thus, disabling nearly every cool feature on the Not Fit Bit/Garmin.
At this point, I’m basically wearing a pedometer.
All that to say, I’m not sure this is how I want to spend my time. Tracking my steps? I don’t know. I can see the benefit for people who are sedentary. Or people who work in offices, where they sit for hours a day. Or even people like my husband who are setting distance goals. This is not me.
You know what would be really helpful? An “attitude tracker.” I could use something that would buzz on my wrist every time I’m jealous or anxious or discontent. Or a how about a “time-wasting tracker”? Or maybe an “eternal value” tracker, alerting me of all the things I do that won’t matter in eternity. I would strap that badboy on my wrist and wear it like a boss. Will someone invent this please? Sans electromagnetic radiation, of course.
I read a statistic the other day that said the average cell phone owner checks his phone 110 times a day, or about nine times every hour. My stomach hurt when I read this. Because, as much as I’d like to think I’m all virtuous and have a handle on this area of my life, I was pretty sure this stat applied to me.
My neighbor and I were lamenting this fact, missing the good old days when phones came bolted to the wall with a cord, when you could leave your house phone-free and return to messages on the answering machine. (Ironically, we were lamenting this over text.) Anyway, she told me about an app called Moments that tracks how many minutes you spend on your phone, how many times you pick it up, and what apps you use the most. We both agreed to download it and report our findings to each other.
The next morning, as soon I dropped my kids off to school, I located the app and proceeded to download it. But, it wouldn’t let me until I downloaded the most recent iPhone update.
Then, I proceeded to download the iPhone update. About 15 minutes into the download, it stopped because I didn’t have enough storage available for the update.
Then, I went through my phone and deleted a bunch of texts to free up the storage and tried to download the update a second time. This time, it updated for a full 31 minutes! With only one minute left, it stopped downloading again, because I still did not have enough storage.
So, I went through my photos and my podcasts, and deleted most of them. The third attempt allowed me to fully download the update (which took nearly an hour) and eventually the Moment app, as well.
That whole process took three hours. Three precious, kid-free hours. I’m not even kidding a little bit. Those were three hours I had planned on writing and maybe mopping my floor for the first time since July.
After two days, I was encouraged to discover I pick up my phone an average of 33 times a day, and spend about two and a half hours using it. But most of my phone usage involves listening to podcasts and music while I walk and cook and do housework. (And also, checking my Moments app to see my usage stats. D’oh!)
We had a great summer. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I got the balance right: travel and home; structure and no structure; camps and no camps, friend time and family time. As the kids grow, it’s hard to know where that balance lies. Most summers are a crap shoot. I just do my best, scheduling vacation and camps months in advance, trying to keep up on household maintenance, summer reading, and meal planning, but also allowing freedom for sleeping in, swimming, and eating cereal for dinner. I have no idea if I can replicate this balance in future summers, so I will simply be thankful for a great summer this year.
I know I didn’t blog much over the summer. Sorry about that. But I did write, almost every day. Remember when I told you that I’m teaching a Bible study in my home? Well, I’m working on converting that Bible study into a workbook that I will eventually make available to you on my blog for purchase. I’ve taught this material probably four or five times in person, so I figured it would be an easy transition, making it into a book with fill-in-the-blanks and open ended questions.
Nope. Not an easy transition. It’s so much easier to tell stories and discuss scripture in person than it is in a workbook. All of a sudden, the weight of responsibility to open up Holy Scripture and explain it (as if I am even qualified to explain Holy Scripture) is very heavy and sobering. My illustrations feel trite. My insights seem misguided. I can’t even explain it, except to say, “It’s taking FOR-STINKING-EVER!”
I wrote daily, working on this Bible study, for probably five or six weeks, only to complete the Introduction, Lesson One, and part of Lesson Two. There will be at least eight lessons. So, I guess what I’m saying is, The Scoop on Balance Bible Study will be available in one year or seven years.
My kids are back in school, and we are getting into the rhythm of early bedtimes, early wake times, packed lunches, homework, and activities. This year, I have a senior, a freshman, and a 4th grader.
Which is weird, because, in my mind, my kids look exactly like this:
I am more aware of the passage of time than I ever have been in my whole life. Older-wiser parents have always told me that once my kids hit high school, time would would fly by. They were correct. It has. I remember Rebekah’s first day of high school like it was last month. I cannot, for the life of me, believe this is her last year of high school. I have never wanted to slow down time more than I do right now.
We are knee-deep in preparing for ACT (round 2) and making college visits and instilling all the life-skills necessary for this next phase called college and adulthood. As I write, Jon is out with her car shopping. I’m trying to savor every evening she sits at our table for dinner—because in just a few short months, she will be eating dinner in a cafeteria or a library or a dorm room.
I cannot even. You guys. OK, PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT IT!
The last few months have been hard for my dad. He fell on his porch at home and broke his arm. Dementia is setting in, so he doesn’t remember how he fell or how long he had been there before we found him. After recovering for a few weeks in a hospital and then in an inpatient care facility, he came back home with 24-hour nursing. And then he fell again; this time, out of bed. He broke his shoulder and spent more time in the hospital recovering.
I was able to visit him for Father’s Day. I brought him a soft blanket and tucked him in his chair. I sat next to him and talked or said nothing. I spoon-fed him lunch and dinner. There’s not a lot you can do to emotionally prepare yourself to spoon-feed your elderly father.
It’s a steady decline at this point. We’re talking to hospice soon. It’s really hard for all of us to watch. It’s hard for my sister, who coordinates all of his care. It’s hard for me, because I live five hours away and cannot do much but sit and wait for updates from my sister.
My whole life, my dad has said, “I’m not going to die until I’m 92!” He turns 92 in September.
As a person who loves to study, analyze, and write about balance, I have been known to say, “Balance is not about time-management. It’s more about knowing your priorities and living your priorities.” But really, can you separate the two: balance and time-management? I’m beginning to think you can’t. I’m learning that, while balance and time-management are not the exact same thing, they are spokes on the same wheel. One directly affects the other, for sure. They run in tandem.
At the end of our lives, living our priorities will be about how we spent our time. If we waste a lot of time (say, checking our phone multiple times an hour, or tracking our steps when we don’t really need to track our steps) then it’s impossible to live our priorities, right? These days, I’m paying close attention to time: noticing it, managing it, trying not to waste it, trying to slow it down.