I was working dangerously

I was working dangerously
September 19, 2014 Beth Nyland

At 16, driving home from high school, I would turn off of the state highway onto the somewhat paved roads of my rural neighborhood. The first stretch of country road was my raceway: two-and-a-half miles of straightaway. No stop signs ‘til the T intersection where I jogged westward. There was one crossroad—but with a road less traveled, mostly by two or three farmers and their families who typically turned toward town. Nothing in my path.

Fearless, most days I buried the needle on that road, pushing the engine and suspension of my used Chevy Chevette way past their reasonable limits.

I was hard on that car. But the speed was fun, and no one ever got hurt. Not even the car. Six years later, as a college graduate with a five-figure income, I actually got trade-in credit on that beat-up Chevette.

Flash forward.

At 40-something, running my business from a home office, I assume that same invincibility will apply to the way I work. For eight or nine hours a day, I sit pretzel-style in an executive chair. Reaching for my Macbook’s keys, my forearms prop on the edge of a desk that’s so high my shoulders press up and in, toward my ears. My heavy skull drops forward, inching my far-sighted eyes toward the glowing screens of the laptop and a second monitor—each at different levels, of course.

It works. Until it doesn’t.

I get tendonitis in my right arm. My wrist aches. My neck and shoulders tighten, immune to the soothing of any bath or stretch or therapeutic massage.

Then, crisis …

I lose feeling in my fingers. Not all the time, but during my daily “morning pages”—three pages of mind-clearing, longhand writing (prescribed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way). Midway down the second page, my fingers drop the pen. Tingly. Sore. Numb. I can’t grip.

My careless habits put more than my morning pages at risk.

Writing is my livelihood (and my sanity).

My arms and hands and fingers are the vehicles I use to drive ideas to the page. I was working dangerously with the only body I’ll ever have. There is no trade-in value on beat-up nerves and appendages. I won’t be getting new ones.

Beth Nyland in her reinvented, ergonomic workspace

Writing and consulting from my new sit/stand desk.

Now, committed to protecting my assets, I’m investing in:

  • Chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy to improve posture, strengthen muscles, and liberate constricted nerves. After just a few weeks of treatment, I feel the difference.
  • An office make-over, with furniture and equipment that force good ergonomics. My sit/stand desk arrived this week, and I love it. I chose a Jarvis desk from ErgoDepot.com—awesome function, great looks, moderate price.
  • Frequent stretch breaks and position changes (sit, stand, walk) to ensure that even marathon writing sessions include movement. According to the NY Times this week, standing might even help me live longer.

Making these adjustments takes time, money, and effort. But now that I see the alternative—a head-on collision with disability—I’m happy to be driving a healthier course.



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