Despite all indications to the contrary

I’ve learned some things over the years.

  1. Parents and children both get smarter as they age.
  2. The more dollars you exchange for euros on your vacation, the less likely you are to need them.
  3. Writing a book and typing a book are entirely different beasts.

And 4, I’ve learned I’m getting old. I’m not complaining exactly, but I can’t keep calling myself middle-aged unless I really am planning to live to be 120. I like the age I am, and I certainly can’t complain. I agree with Ellen Degeneres who said, “When I go hiking and get over the hill, that means I’m over the hard part and there’s a snack in my future.”

Or maybe aging is like a roller coaster. It’s so much effort climbing, with lots of scary groaning and creaking. But then you get to the top and see that fantastic view of your productive kids living in their own houses, and you can’t help but grin and squeal as you race down the other side.

It’s thrilling.

But whether we’re climbing up one side or racing down the other, writers—and other sedentary types—can keep aging at bay by eating right and exercising. But it’s difficult when you spend so much time at a computer.

Despite all indications to the contrary, being a writer is physically very challenging.

We look nice and comfy, don’t we, staring out the window (we’re plotting … really!) with our feet on our desk. Or lounging on the patio under a dappled sky with a pooch curled at our feet. Or in a wingback pulled close to the fireplace.

But those legs crossed on our desk cut off circulation. And that patio chair forces our neck in a weird position. And there is simply not enough light next to that wingback.

And there are so many other challenges. We type for excruciating stretches at a time. We sit or stand at our desks for long periods. We get in The Zone and forget to eat. We get fantastic ideas that make us pop up out of a sound sleep and stay awake the rest of the night to capture them.

And the thing I did recently … sat from about 5:30 in the morning until about 4:30 in the afternoon reading a manuscript straight through.

That’s part of my process. After I get my first draft written, revised, and polished—before anyone else sees it—I sit with it and read it in as few sessions as I can. I can find all kinds of continuity and logic problems when it’s all right in my face like that.

But that’s tough on the ‘ol bod. Your keister falls asleep. Your right pointer finger gets stiff from hitting that down arrow as you read. Your eyes get blurry. Your neck kinks.

I try to force myself to stop every couple of hours and stretch or at least move around, but NOT to graze on cookies or chips or cheese or ice cream.

I read an article a while back about Feldenkrais, an alternative therapy for pain and mobility issues. I’d never heard of it but it’s basically a brain workout that can relieve years of discomfort through slow and subtle movements that retrain how you move, whether it’s walking or sitting or typing. The author of the article described her hip and neck pain and then the treatment, performed flat on her back while making tiny eye movements. It makes no sense, but after the session, despite no hip or neck stretches, her hip and neck had more mobility. The theory is that eye movement is vital in “coordinating the body’s musculature, particularly in how the neck muscles contract — one of Feldenkrais’ many counterintuitive approaches to learning to move differently.”

My chiropractor has me doing some similar things, for one, wearing some funky glasses that flash tiny lights. I’m also using something called an OKN app on my iPad that is kind of like watching telephone poles pass by out your car window. It forces your eyes and brain to do that rapid movement as you look from one to the next as they scroll past.

I also do an “eye clock” exercise where I look straight ahead and without moving my head, move my eyes to the extreme 1:00 position for 5 seconds, then back to neutral, then to 11:00 for 5 seconds. Then 2:00 and 10:00, 3 and 9, 4, and 8, 5 and 7. It’s really tiring! And I set a metronome for 54 bpm and for a couple of minutes, and perform random cross-body movements. Right hand taps left knee, right hand taps left shoulder, left hand taps right hip… etc. I do these while my coffee is perking every morning. Nala comes to make sure I’m okay before eating her breakfast. Then she tells me I look weird. Dogs are so judgy at 5am!

I won’t pretend to understand it, but it’s a fascinating and unusual way for folks to heal and care for themselves. And my balance has improved, so it must be working.

Another thing I’ve learned over the years is to keep an open mind, and that I’m all about the fascinating and unusual!

So, what fun things do you do to remain healthy and mobile? What do you do during your breaks from desk and computer? What healthy foods do you keep around to nosh on? Which are your favorite foods to indulge in when you don’t want to take time for an actual meal?

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