On September 30th Skylar took my phone from me. He does this from time to time. I've learned not to ask too many questions when it happens. He usually returns the phone with my apps in a new arrangement—a complete disaster for me, man of habit who can't remember what anything looks like but pretty consistently remembers where things have been left.
"Here," Skylar said, tossing my phone back to me after several minutes. "I downloaded the Walktober app."
He says he's very bad at learning new languages but I don't understand half the damn words coming out of his mouth and he has developed the practice of only providing context and definitions when I specifically ask for them.
"Obviously I have no idea what the Walktober app is," I explained at him.
Skylar scowled a little. "I've told you about this like six times now."
He told me recently he thinks I don't listen but I'm pretty sure he's having conversations with me in his head and just thinks they were real.
Last week I had a dream that he went on a trip and I misheard him and thought he said he was leaving me. So I got a new boyfriend and when Skylar came back into town I started freaking out because I knew if he found out I had a boyfriend now I was going to be in so much trouble for having an affair.
When I finished telling Skylar about this dream, he said, so completely seriously, "I wouldn't have been mad that you cheated on me. I would have been mad that you weren't listening when I told you I was going on a trip."
It was the most married I've ever felt.
"Ok, well clearly I don't remember what the Walktober app is so I guess you need to tell me again," I said, calling an implicit truce on the side argument about listening skills.
He stared disappointment at me for a second or two longer before moving on. "Well, the Wellesley alumni association is doing a 42 day competition called 'Walktober' where our phones will track our steps and depending on how many steps you get each day you get a colorful leaf added to your tree on the app."
Let me pause here and address the elephant in the internet. For those unfamiliar, Wellesley is a women's college in Massachusetts. It's a college with a name no one can spell without help in a state no one can spell without help. Hillary Clinton went there. The campus looks like Hogwarts.
I did not go to Welleslesslelyly College. Skylar did not go to Welleseessseeleyely College. We are not alumni of Whatsiombylely College.
But Skylar thinks he did, in fact, go to that school. He has attended college reunions there. He has a t-shirt for the Wellesley College football team which says "undefeated since 1870 on it." This is a very funny joke because Wellesley College doesn't have a football team. But it's not our joke to tell because we did not go to Wellesley College.
Why does Skylar think he attended this school? Because while he was earning an actual degree from Boston College, he spent 145% of his time on the Wellesley College campus to hang out with his friends who are actual alumni of this school.
"I know we're not alumni," Skylar said to me when I began asking him why he had turned my phone into a tracking device for a competition I could not have been less interested in joining. "But the way this works is we join in teams of four so I'm forming a team with my three alumni friends and you're on the husbands team with the other spouses."
I immediately realized this same conversation was happening in three other locations with my new teammates and I instantly felt Husband solidarity and pride.
What then occurred over the next forty-two days probably does not reflect well on me or my mental health because I, man who did not plan to try at all, became so obsessed with this competition that I've practically been added to an FBI watchlist.
It became clear almost instantly, as our team fell into 347th place, the remaining husbands on the husband team were not going to take this seriously. That's because these are well-adjusted men with healthy relationships with their phones, minds, and bodies. But even though they were not getting their steps in and it was clear our team had no chance at a decent placement, I could not keep myself from overachieving on this.
That's because I learned that 10,000 steps in a day got you a gold leaf for your tree. 8,000, orange. 5,000 gave out a red leaf. If you didn't hit 5,000 steps, no leaf for you.
Once I got the taste of my first gold leaf on the first day of this competition, I knew I could never go back. Every morning I'd wake up in a sweat wondering how I was going to go about getting my 10,000 steps that day. I'd march in place during zoom meetings. I'd walk around the yard six times whenever I took the dogs out.
Now you, athletic beings of wonder and light, might be thinking it's not that hard to get 10,000 steps in a day. Maybe that's true for some people. There are certainly many days where that's true for me. But it turned out, getting more than 10,000 steps every day for forty-two consecutive days was actually kind of a challenge. Not helped by the fact that I was on the backend of nursing a minor Achilles injury that happened when I was diagnosed earlier this year with a disease commonly known as Being 39.
In late October, Skylar and I returned home from our Strangerville Live show. It was nearly 11:00 PM and I was exhausted, as I always am after our shows. It suddenly occurred to me that I had been so distracted with the event that I hadn't paid much attention that day to Walktober and I still had 4,000 steps to get in by midnight. So I sprinted out the door in clothes not fit for athletics and jogged up and down the street until my gold leaf appeared.
That night I learned that Skylar was approaching this all from a completely different and honestly very on-brand perspective. "I can't walk anymore today because I'm at the red leaf and I need more red leaves to even out my tree," he told me, adding, "my Walktober goals are more aesthetic than athletic."
"You know the prize at the end of this journey is going to be completely underwhelming, right?" he asked me one evening when I was marching in place while knitting and watching tv. "Like, what do you think is going to happen if you end up with 39 gold leaves instead of 42?"
I gasped when he asked it and told him that wasn't even an option.
I knew I was being irrational. I knew that. I knew he was right. I knew that the only thing that awaited me at the end of day 42 was emptiness and an unusable phone app.
But then, at 11:25 PM on day 42 I opened the Walktober app and stared at my tree.
I choked back some emotion, my phone's screen illuminating my face in our dark bedroom, as I whispered, so as not to wake up Skylar who was fast asleep next me.
"It's so beautiful."
~It Just Gets Stranger