23 November 2017

Levels of abstraction

It's been windy in Harborne this week, leaves drifting like snow and I indulge the urge to kick my way through them. The kids, the two older ones, are now walking to school by themselves and we stand in the entryway of the house on Victoria Road, kissing them goodbye. This is the story of the rest of my life, I think to myself, or at least the next ten to fifteen years. I try to calm whatever panic that emerges when they slip out of view, up the hill. They're fine, they'll be fine — you can just breathe, and count your breaths, you can manage to not think about anything.

I've taken off my health tracker, the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ (the plus being for GPS tracking) that I got this summer to track my running, but which has become a technology of controlling my weight loss and counting of calories. Taking off the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ and deleting the app from my phone, which I did today as I was sitting in the local pub eating toast, was not something I thought I could or would do, particularly at the moment I did, but finally it occurred to me that my reliance on technologies of fitness had gamified my life and led to a level of abstraction that was bordering on absurdity. Does anyone really need a spreadsheet with a caloric deficit over the month? That number is completely made up, values placed on food quantities and steps taken and your heart rate. Certainly, it can't be healthy to think to yourself, right, half of a scone would equal X amount of calories, and walking to the store would account for Y amount of calories, and if I overeat today I can do Z minutes on the treadmill to compensate. Last week, I threw my back out trying to get a 1200kCal burn from a treadmill, a number that my Garmin Vivosmart HR+ was making up based on some algorithm. What am I doing to myself, I thought, staring down. So I took it off, came home and had a sensible lunch, thinking this is my future, this is the new me.

I'll give this about one week to fail, when I apologise to the app and the tracker and submit again to the late-Capitalist approach to health monitoring, in which an app sells me to advertising companies in return for controlling what I eat and what I don't eat. But I feel better and not in a way that I'm suddenly going to start eating everything I can get my hands on. This has been the problem in the past, when I've ballooned up without the numbers to tell me what to eat or not eat. No longer, I think. I will probably still weigh myself tomorrow morning, but that's one less level of abstraction, and one moment of madness in a day of twenty-four hours, instead of a string of madnesses, checking number of steps again and again and the pointless reward of a number on a spreadsheet.

One wonders what happens next — this divorce from the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ happened so immediately like I had it in my mind and then it was done. One wonders what other madness could be just given up. I was proofreading my book, the book I was so proud of in theory, and then as I read it, felt like a pilgrim whipping myself with every unnecessary word I read. I felt awful about myself, my ability as writer, an academic, an anything. None of this is good, I thought, I should just give up, get on a plane and get away from it all. Someone must want me, somewhere in the world. It was the most pathetic, silly thought, but so real, like some baby crying for the love of their mother. I'm thirty-five, for chrissake.

Of course, I didn't, I went page by page, deleting prepositional phrase after prepositional phrase. Fixing tautologies, places where I said I had done something, but had actually done the opposite. I also tried to do it with loving kindness as the voice on meditation app tells me to treat myself. Self-care, that millennial word I am just on the edge of unironically accepting, although everything inside of me tells me not to. God doesn't think you are good enough, but god is dead. We can love ourselves now, until the thoughts of the rising, toxic, plastic-filled oceans derail us. We can keep trying, isn't it, we just have to start again, counting our breaths to nine and back.