Yesterday I started writing a blog post about missed opportunities. I started the day sitting here at my computer watching my Facebook feed come alive with posts about a disability and theology conference I would have loved to attend. But with my primary caregiver and my husband out of the country it just wasn’t possible. Our unwritten rules regarding Matthew’s care simply don’t allow for the three decision-makers to be out of town, much less out of Canada, at the same time. So I started the day with the slow burn of disappointment churning in my stomach.
Fortunately the day improved considerably. My morning included coffee with two lovely ladies, and I spent the rest of the day working on my dissertation and assisting with Matthew’s care. I concluded the day by playing recreational soccer with some amazing women – we won our game for added good measure. By the time I returned to my blog post in the evening the pit of disappointment in my stomach had largely dissolved and I didn’t have the desire to finish writing. Don’t get me wrong I would still love to be at the conference, but by evening I had reminded myself that there will be other conferences and other opportunities. By day’s end I had affirmed much of what I already know – that friends, community, meaningful work, and good old-fashioned fresh-air and exercise, go a long way in maintaining my mental health.
Several years ago I made an intentional decision to incorporate more exercise into my life. There was no denying the role physical activity played in managing the crushing stress of caregiving. So these days I fill my weeks with soccer games, hiking, jogging, and trips to the gym mostly to do kickboxing or yoga. I thought I was coordinated until tried yoga. Let’s just say I have mastered the breathing-in-breathing-out part but not much else. Soccer, in particular, provides 90 minutes where I think of nothing else beyond the game, the ball, and the women with whom I am playing. It is an amazing form of respite.
Recently I needed to invest in a new fitness watch. The Timex I had used for years while running fell apart. Since the market has exploded with fitness trackers in recent years shopping for a watch turned out to be more difficult than I had originally thought. As a runner who uses the approach of running for ten minutes and walking for one (repeatedly), I needed a watch that allowed for the programming of timed intervals. I also wanted a device that tracked distance run. But beyond those features I really didn’t care. Things like time slept (apparently the Fitbit tells you this), steps taken, heart rate, movement reminders, and so on, were things I honestly didn’t care about.
Ultimately I purchased a Garmin since it had the two main features I needed – timed intervals and distance run (or hiked). But like most things on the market it also provides more information than I actually need, most of which I won’t be bothered to track. However I have found a few tidbits of information about my personal fitness that have been fun to learn. For example I now know that my resting heart rate averages below 60, and has been known to drop to the forties. I know that the cardiac demands of hiking a hill and running a hill are fairly similar for me. I know that on days I hike I knock off about 400% of what my watch tells is my daily step goal. And I now know that Matthew’s morning care fulfills 30% of my daily watch-defined step goal.
I have always known Matthew’s morning care was a busy time. But for the last few days I have made a mental note, for fun, to check my watch first thing in the morning and again around 8:30am as I am loading Matthew into the van for day program. I even avoided walking the dogs for a few days so my step count wasn’t artificially elevated. Matthew’s care begins just before 7:00am and continues at a fairly fast pace until we head out the door to day program. There are meds to be administered, a continuous feed to begin, clothes to change, and so on. Matthew is a fairly large young man so the idea that his care was physically demanding was not news to me. But the idea that I complete 30% of the suggested daily step count in 90 minutes genuinely surprised me. Apparently caregiving earns you lots of steps. If anyone wants to save the price of a gym membership you are welcome to come do morning care with Matthew.