I’d planned to do a walk. All day, rain had clattered at the windows but now the sun had burst through and I had 40 minutes spare. Long enough to walk around the local lake. Long enough to be renewed. Long enough to feel human again.
So why was I holding back?
One reason. Just one.
Because my son had borrowed my phone to video call his friend, meaning I would walk for 40 minutes without logging my steps.
In my slight defence, I was doing a steps challenge at the time, but even with that, I am still incredulous that I nearly sacrificed the opportunity to walk in sunshine for mere digital proof. Admittedly the hesitation only lasted a matter of moments. Almost immediately, I gave myself an almighty mental kick up the backside, put my shoes on and pulled the door behind me.
In the park, my boots sank in leafy mud while rays of white sunlight streamed through the tree gaps. There was the collective flap of wings as geese took flight across the water, the smell of damp earth, mulch and fresh air, shimmery reflections in grass puddles and the feeling of having broken free after a morning cooped up inside.
I could have missed all this!
So the fact that I had hesitated at all shocked me. It spoke volumes. That I briefly considered choosing to delay my walk until the cold milky grey of dusk instead of living the moment of brilliant sun-drenched light before me, just so that my phone could step-count some evidence, was beyond absurd. It was almost deluded.
It’s just one more example of our crazy tendency to value evidence over experience. Because it sometimes feels like it only counts if we have digital proof. Much as I’m aware how life-changing technology is, if it supersedes our enjoyment of life, something is a little out of kilter.
Evidence can validate and help us remember. Photos help us savour the memory of a special day and yes, sometime beauty begs to be captured (yup, that’s me taking another 50 sea photos). And sometimes we do need to record our actions or steps to motivate ourselves through a challenge. But when it becomes more important than the action itself, we have missed the point.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a bit of social media - how it opens up new worlds, new connections and helps us rediscover old friendships. There are things I would never have known about without it. There are books I have read and places I’ve visited all because I’ve seen them online – someone else’s ‘evidence’ inspiring an actual experience.
However, there is still that risk of prioritising the proof over the experience. And what am I even trying to prove anyway?
We can all fall into the trap of thinking we need evidence to show we’re ok. Evidence that we’re successful enough. Evidence that we’re doing as well as others and having this lovely lovely life. But what really matters is actually living that life.
Evidence is sometimes necessary. But experience is what feeds us. The actual walk, not the proof of how far I went, the buzz of the swim, not the number of lengths, the family time spent together, not the perfect photo.
Living rather than proving.