Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I Won't Stand for This

I'm typing this blog standing up.

And I hate it.

Sure, it worked for Hemmingway and Kierkegaard. Smithsonian Magazine says the average office worker spends five hours and forty-one minutes each day sitting, sending those sitters hurtling towards diabetes and cancer, and that sitting is the new smoking. But still I've tried to ignore the growing movement to get us all to stand while we write/work/type. Standing is an awful pastime. Whether or not it aligns my spine, it hurts my lower back. It hurts my knees and the bottoms of my feet. I've never been a stander but rather that awkward adult in the corner of the waiting area outside the restaurant who's plopped herself down on the dirty floor.

Hey Chairy! Today's secret
word is "chiropractor."
I got the most wonderful writers' chair for Christmas a few years ago, to get me through some serious computer time in grad school, and I've finally reached the point where my ass has hollowed out just the slightest impression (not because I have a small ass but because it's a really good chair that doesn't cave under my weight) and I fit all snugly (and snuggly) in there. This chair comforted me during the long hours of grad school, when I sat staring at my unfinished thesis feeling like a loser and a hack. This chair held me in its warm leathery embrace for two years. It supported me during my thesis defense, quietly, in the background, gently rubbing my gluteal muscles that had tensed into lumps of granite.

God dammit, this chair loves me. And now I'm just supposed to stand up and shove it away? I'm supposed to shun it? To turn my back quite literally upon it while I go on with the work it carried me through?

That's cold, man.

But the chiropractor won't have it any other way. Stand, he told me. You will stand. That's your homework assignment. Stand. Stand and write, lest ye be hunchbacked and askew. Sure, I'm still supposed to sit, sometimes, and this caveat actually further complicates his orders. Now, not only do I have to have a stand-up desk, but I have to have a place where I can retreat to sit as well.

I've been getting massages for several years now for my wretched neck. Perhaps this falls under my fibromyalgia diagnosis, perhaps it's just a function of poor spinal health, but at any given time my neck is quietly harboring a minimum of four giant knots. Most people's knots can be rubbed out, broken up with pressure, an iron will, and the Lamaze breathing one massage therapist told me to implement during her "therapy." Ever had a giant knot worked on with intensity? It brought me to the point of tears and puke. I'm thankful to have found a massage therapist now who believes that pain does not heal pain, and she takes a far softer approach and really keeps me running (metaphorically). The thing about these knots is that they don't break up very well. The big ones have been squatting on the property for so long that the tissue has grown accustomed to being knotted and seems to have some sort of sadomasochistic desire to remain in a state of perverse contortion, which of course brings me nothing but intense pain most of the time.

Two stools and four copies of my thesis work pretty well.
My neck has swallowed up a huge chunk of my life since it began acting up right after Andy was born. I've gotten hundreds of massages. I've had cortizone injected into the hearts of the knots. I've had acupuncture and been dry needled--a procedure during which a physical therapist inserts an acupuncture needle into the knot and jerks it up and down, eliciting a twitch response in the muscle (i.e. it contracts like a mother fucker and then is supposed to chill out and relax, but of course mine never do). I've had therapy and been given stretches. I've rolled on balls. I've rolled on foam rollers. I've bought an s-shaped green thingy that allows me to dig into my own knots. I've taken enough muscle relaxers to stop a heifer's heart and enough ibuprofen that the lining of my stomach is sending me signals that it's ready to die with dignity. I've seen four chiropractors (one of whom went on to break my mother's rib when I recommended him to her), been heated and electrically stimulated. I've said, "I feel much better, thank you" and then gone home to lift nothing more than a kitchen chair and ended up in agony again. I've lain in traction and hung upside down. I've put my legs up a wall. I've had my kid rub my neck for a quarter and slathered expensive essential oils all over my skin. I've burned the imprint of a heating pad into my flesh.

Nothing has ever offered me permanent relief. After ten years, that really starts to bog a person down. Long drive? Neck pain. Rough night of sleep? Neck pain. Spent 2 seconds looking under the bed for a shoe at a weird angle? Neck pain. Planted a flower? Neck pain. Walked the dog? Neck pain.

And of course, the neck pain has evolved into severe headaches, pinched nerves, shoulder pain, and TMJ disorder (for which an oral surgeon happily offered to break my jaw and reposition it on my face to correct the problem). I've swiped so many cards and written so many checks that I could have bought a catamaran by now. A big one. With one of those fun nets in the front where you bounce up and down.

This is utterly ridiculous.
But ultimately, nobody can tell me why this is happening on repeat. The rheumatologist mutters about fibromyalgia. The chiropractor tells me I spend my life with my neck in flexion--bent forward and down. He says, "You're a writer. That's bad."

Tell me about it, dude.

I can't do much about an autoimmune issue, but I can work on my spine. Technology is evolving far faster than the human body ever could. We've taken hundreds of thousands of years to reach this point in our physicality. Cell phones went from flimsy, flippy things to tiny computer screens overnight. Shorter laptops became more popular than taller desktops. Texting. Candy crush. Facebook mobile app. All we ever do is look down, all the time. And for those of us who work on a computer, who spend hours every day working on some god-forsaken essay or tax document or legal brief, there's no way around flexion.

So, in addition to the $79 keyboard I've added to my laptop so I can raise the computer itself to eye level, and in addition to the stand-up desk I'm going to buy for some ridiculous price, I've been working--as instructed--on standing erect. (Eat your heart out, Homo habilis.) The result of constrant flexion, it would seem, is a head that sits too far forward on the shoulders. We're all out of alignment, out of whack. My massage therapist notes my weak neck muscles and has given me an exercise to strengthen them, and I also work at simply standing straight. That's a tall order for a head that's been leaning forward for 20 years. Those back muscles are terribly weak, and when I remain in that proper position for more than 10 minutes they start to scream and throb. Small steps I take in this position, small increments of time. After all, you don't build beefy pecs by grabbing 400 pounds and holding it up over your chest for three weeks because eventually, you'll tire and break your face.

It's a shame to think that human bodies are all eventually going to crap out due to our lifestyles. There's really no way to avoid it, unless we're off in the New Guinea jungle squatting to poop and climbing trees and doing things evolution designed our bodies for. And if we are there, we'd better watch the fuck out because there are cannibals lurking under every rock. I hear they won't eat American necks, though. Too ropey. Anyway, we convenience ourselves more and more, make our lives comfier and more efficient. And the time we save Googling on our new LG V20 rather than driving to the library to look it up? We can apply that to our biweekly hour in physical therapy.


Eye of round roast cooking in a California red blend.
But back to this standing desk bullshit. While I'm hemming and hawing about what I'm going to buy, and if I am willing to pay for such a seemingly ridiculous setup, I'm working on cheap alternatives. I've got an angled stool and an Ikea uber-stool (it's high) set up on the kitchen counter. For now, it's the perfect height, and I fully expect my cheap ass to write this way for six more months before settling on a proper standing desk. Perhaps I'll eventually learn to love my erectness, but for now, I absolutely hate it.

Except for the part about writing next to the crock pot. Every few paragraphs I can season my roast.

1 comment:

  1. I've HAD to have my computer monitor elevated for over a decade-- even contemplating having it at desk/table level makes my sphincter spasm reflexively...

    Let your readership know how the new rig-out works for you, do!