I was going to write some informative writery stuff this morning, but actually, after the week I have had, I feel like there is a pressing need to say something crucial:
We Need to Look After Ourselves
A dear friend of mine wrote in her blog yesterday about how she forgets to take preventative meds for her migraine when she doesn’t sleep well, and the result is, well, a migraine. She rants in her post at herself because this miserable agony of a head storm is totally preventable. And I really sympathise.
Because I am lying in bed right now, typing upside down on my laptop because my back is wrecked and my stomach is a painful disaster. Both entirely preventable conditions.
1) I haven’t done any really consistent yoga since I had flu last Christmas. I was so ill, and it took me so long to recover, that exercise didn’t seem possible. Besides, writing has been my priority, so everything else took a back seat. As a result, I have lost the muscle mass, flexibility and strength inside my torso that is really needed to hold me up and make my limbs work effectively.
2) My posture is just appalling, and it isn’t helped by hunching over in an inadequate office chair at my desk, or slouching on the sofa for hours on end, typing.
3) I carry the majority of my stress in my spine, which means neck and shoulder pain unless I take time to release the tension by relaxing or stretching.
4) Its so easy to eat rubbish. I have a delicate gut that is sensitive to all kinds of crud they put in food these days, and I have to be so careful. But being careful is pretty much a full-time job, and I would rather be writing. And I can’t be bothered much, either. I mean, that chocolate ring donut? Why not? Just one wouldn’t hurt, would it? So I’m not careful, and then I develop terrible stomach pains, and then I can’t write. (Are you starting to see the pattern here?)
5) Stress and anxiety play a big part in my ill health, and I know I am better when I meditate. But I don’t. Because it takes time, time when my brain isn’t in its dream world, playing with gorgeous men and exciting stories, and generally having more fun than in real life. I don’t want to expend the energy on being away from my fantasies. But when i don’t tackle my tension, I end up with debilitating headaches, back pain, anxiety attacks, insomnia and stomach flair-ups.
None of this is rocket science, as they say. I know what does me good, but I compulsively and consistently fail to do it. And judging by my friend’s blog post, and comments from others, I am not the only one.
Lying on my back on the bed this week, working my way through various ‘back care’ books gleaned from the library for research, it became clear to me that this back care thing is a lifelong commitment. It requires me to be present at every moment in my body, to think about the way I stand, move, sit, lift, twist and bend. It means getting up from my desk every 20 minutes to move around and release muscles. It requires learning how to sit and stand correctly.
And my guts? Well, me and my innards have been fighting a war of attrition for four decades, but I think I can say without doubt that these days, my innards are winning. They need to get what they ask for, because if they don’t, they stop me doing what I want to do. So I need to commit to making and eating clean, healthy, nondairy, gluten-free food AT ALL TIMES, not just when its convenient.
I know this.
What I didn’t realise is that these commitments are actually part of my commitment to being a writer. It is as much my job to look after my body and keep it healthy and functioning as it is to back up my computer or buy ink cartridges for my fountain pen. All that stuff about writers drinking themselves into cirrhosis and death to write great novels is frankly, and not to put too fine a point on it, bollocks. I’ve been in pain for the last fortnight, and believe me, it isn’t fun and its not a life plan I want to pursue!
The body is not just transport, as dear Sherlock likes to point out. It is the foundation stone of our beings, and foundations have to be strong and sure to support the growth,power and creativity of which we are all capable.
So here is my commitment: I am writer. That means writing. And it means creating an environment in which writing can happen, both within my home and within my body. It means my writing MUST be embodied.
I am making self-care part of my job.
(Because if I don’t, the rest of the job can’t happen.)
Happy Healthy Creating,
Oh, you are so right! I was just thinking as I fell into bed last night, exhausted, that I MUST make time in my day for exercise. It may sound crazy, but as I lay in bed waiting to fall asleep, I could actually feel that my lungs wanted some exertion. (I got up and did a few push-ups, which seemed to help.) I sit at my computer all day, faithfully writing and revising, and mentally, I feel better than I ever have, because I’m getting to do what I love. But that single-mindedness is definitely taking a toll on my body. In the spring, it’s not so bad, because I have work in the garden that I love and that keeps me passably fit. But autumn and winter, I’m going to have to make a concerted effort for some exercise. And I like that you mention healthy eating, too. I love cooking and eating new things, but so often I let that take a back seat to something I love even more: writing. Balance, balance, balance! Thanks for the encouragement.
I know what you mean about that need to exhaust the mind as well as the body. I get restless legs at night becuase of insufficient movement during the day, and the only way to tackle it is to stretch and bend, since I’m not quite up to push-ups! Its a wonderful gift to be doing the job we love, but we have to take account of the fact that we can’t exist totally inside our brains. Thank you so much for commenting – and good luck with your efforts to fit exercise in!