An early riser by nature, I’ve subconsciously made a game of how many things I can get done before the workday begins. I’m at my best in the morning and whether it's reading or running or baking a complicated new dessert, I thrive off the sleepy hours where the world feels quiet.
I also thrive off productivity. Can I go for a walk and call someone I’ve been meaning to catch up with? Can I stretch while listening to a podcast a colleague recommended? Just how many scarves can I knit while watching movies with my friends?
I’ve been petsitting my brother and sister-in-law’s dog for about a week now which—for a dog lover who doesn’t have a dog—is an absolute treat. But I’ve noticed something over these last few morning walks.
On most of my morning walks, I am focused. I’m either setting out with an end location in mind or I’m using the time to catch up with a loved one on the phone (or in person) or listening to a new musical album or podcast. I’m aware of my surroundings, I suppose, in a safety kind of way but I’m not stopping to smell any flowers.
That’s what I noticed walking with my rent-a-dog the other morning. At 8:30 AM, I’d been up and at it for two+ hours and was feeling that last burst of energy to accomplish whatever it was I wanted to accomplish before my workday began at 9:00.
So we stepped outside ready for a little movement. That’s when I realized walking with him is a little different. He moves slower. He sniffs intently. He’s got nowhere to be and all day to get there. Happy as a doodle just staring at a row of pine trees.
And maybe I can do that too. Maybe I need not optimize everything. Maybe there is something to slow breathing in the damp winter.
This walk won’t do much toward my daily step goal. But perhaps it does much more for the things we can’t measure. Because when he looks up at me with those sweet puppy dog eyes and trots back to the same tree for the 17th time, I know he thinks he’s having the best walk ever. And that’s a pretty good way to spend a morning.