Blogging from A to Z Theme: Bringing Me Joy
Yesterday Andrew and I had made a date to sit down to file our taxes; well, not quite the taxes themselves, the deferral forms for the taxes. Deferring the start of the work on the deferral, I took a little walk out to the mailbox to pick up the mail from the day before.
It was a glorious day. The sun warmed my back and a gentle breeze played through the trees. The daffodils were out and everything was alive. As I walked, a delightful ache streaked through my limbs and quickened my step. Far from walking to the mailbox and back, I felt that I could go on walking forever. I was made to move.
One bright Sunday morning when I was nineteen, I had set out for a little stroll in the park and ended up walking some 23 miles (see TMA #39, Two at a Time). Now the weekly extent of my movement was the sum of distance from the house to the car, the car to my office, the car to the supermarket, and back again, the trips up and down the flights of stairs at home and at work; oh, and the trips down the driveway to pick up the mail and take out the trash and recycling bins. Pretty pathetic. That’s why the ache I feel in my limbs most of the time is the ache of disuse rather than the welcome ache of dormant muscles waking up after a long hibernation. For we humans suffer when we stop moving.
Think of our lives when we were hunter-gatherers. We are still at optimum health when we adhere as closely as possible to that lifestyle: continually on the move—on foot, of course—just to gain the minimum number of calories necessary for our basic subsistence. And now, I think of how many hours a day I spend sitting in the car, just driving back and forth to work; hunched over a desk; sprawling on the couch; lying in bed.
Recent research in the news has found that people who spend too much time sitting are at greater risk of dying from heart disease and cancer. They recommend that all of us, especially office workers and others with sedentary jobs, spend more time standing and moving:
- Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch.
- If you work at a desk for long periods of time, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.
- Walk laps with your colleagues rather than gathering in a conference room for meetings.
- Position your work surface above a treadmill — with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk — so that you can be in motion throughout the day (Levine)
Dozens of contraptions are now available that allow one to stand, or even exercise, while working on one’s laptop computer. Colleagues of mine are now routinely grading while standing up. No longer can I collapse on the couch and watch my favorite soap, EastEnders, guilt-free (not that I ever could); I am keenly aware that I ought to be pedaling furiously at the same time.
There is another kind of movement that gives one the same delightful feeling of exhilaration as a long walk, and that is a social movement toward shared goals. These times of cuts and austerity measures are alienating and enervating in the extreme, and neoliberalism turns us into lonely, isolated individuals. But there is an antidote: collective action. This song by Bob Marley, from a live performance in Boston (1978), is guaranteed to restore a spring to your step.
In the end, of course, we all gotta move, right out of this life. Mississippi Fred McDowell says it best. So while you’re here, shake a leg. I guarantee that it will bring you joy. I know that movement brings me joy, only somehow I keep forgetting.