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Pavlov's Dogs


She glanced down at her watch, feeling like one of Pavlov's dogs, slowly conditioned over time, to immediately look at her wrist with every vibration. Sometimes, she swore she felt her wrist vibrate even when she wasn't wearing her watch. A small surge of annoyance crept in as she glanced at her watch screen. The bright white words said, "Edie, you can close your move and exercise ring with just a brisk 22 minute walk."


"Oh can I?" she mumbled to herself, annoyed that she hadn't recorded her workout earlier in the day. She knew she had enough time with her pilates exercises to cover the 22 minutes she still needed plus all the running at the park with her son.


"Something wrong?" her friend Joy asked? They were sitting outside on the back deck of Joy's house drinking tea together and watching the boys play nearby in the sandbox. It was a warm spring day and everywhere around her seemed to be bustling with activity, the birds were chirping, bees were buzzing and flowers were blooming.


"Oh sorry." she said, shaking her head. "Nothing is wrong, I am just annoyed that I forgot to log my workout earlier. Now I won't close my exercise ring."


"I swear, if it isn't going to count towards my steps or my exercise ring it's not worth it." Joy replied playfully.


"I know, me too!" Edie replied, feeling somewhat discontent at the idea that her watch seemed to have more control over her than she realized.


"What is wrong with us?" Joy asked jokingly.


"I don't know, but something definitely is," Edie chuckled trying to appear unbothered by the alert.


"Do you need anything?" Joy asked. "I am going for a refill."


"No, I'm good. Thanks though." She took a sip of her tea enjoying its warmth and sweetness as she turned her gaze towards the boys playing in the sandbox. The cherry blossom tree beside them had bloomed and when the breeze blew the petals looked like pink snowflakes falling around them. Actually, everything was blooming and busy, including the boys who were working steadily on their sandcastle. Okay so maybe it looked more like a sand mound, but they didn't care.


"Ahh, to be young again," she thought to herself. To not have the pressure of succeeding at work and home, while also maintaining herself physically, socially and mentally. It was all just too much sometimes. The boys didn't care about any of that though, and she missed that feeling. Almost nobody would even know that they had built a sandcastle, or for how long they had worked on it. All that really mattered was that they would know, and they would feel proud of themselves. They would feel fulfilled and accomplished without any outside validation. She wondered when that had changed for her.


As she continued to take in the beautiful spring day, she noticed it wasn't just the boys who were intrinsically content and proud of themselves, it was what seemed to be all of nature. It was the bees, the rabbits, the flowers, all of it. The bumblebees weren't worrying about others knowing how much pollen they had gathered, they just gathered it. The rabbit wasn't hosting a housewarming to show off its cozy den, it just nestled its babies in it. The flowers weren't blooming just because she was adoring them, they just did.


Sitting there, gazing around, she realized that to care so much about what other people think, including her watch, wasn't in any way natural. It was, in fact, just another learned behavior and the good news, she thought, is that behaviors can be changed. So she took off her watch. She didn't need it. She didn't need the reminders to move, to breathe, to stand. She didn't need to instantly give her attention to whatever message she received. All she needed to do in that moment and all the moments that would follow was to just be; be in the moment, be present, be proud, and be confident, because what we think of ourselves needs to trump what others think of us. So who cares if the steps count or not? Who cares if people know what you did or not? All that really matters is your reason for doing it and how you feel during and afterwards, because you and only you are in charge of yourself.


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