The term “self-care” has been on the lips of many for some time, but not as often as since the election of 2016. In the days and months following, many were angry, frustrated, discouraged, depressed even. Self-care was the pathway for many to place those emotions on a shelf.
Putting the election aside, I want to look at self-care from a writer’s perspective. Based on my working and writing life experiences, I’ll share bad choices I made in caring for myself. Over the last 14 months have had time to ruminate over the past and how it played a part in my current situation.
BEFORE THE FALL OF 2016 (AND HERE FALL ISN’T AUTUMN)
Over the past year and almost three months, time on my hands left me rethinking poor choices. While I pondered the struggle I faced in recovering from a fall, I began to wonder just how this had happened to me.
Because of degenerative disc disease, I’ve faced big hurdles including two spinal fusions. There is a history in my family for this particular spinal condition. And it doesn’t help that I have slight scoliosis.
When I retired in 2006, I was ready to put aside the long, 10-hour days sitting behind a desk. I was ready to write my memoir and get on with a simple, stress-free life. What I’ve learned is habits are set in stone and can only be reversed if we take the first step on the pathway to change.[tweetthis]Habits are set in stone and can only be reversed if we take the first step on the pathway to change.[/tweetthis]
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
As I thought back over my working life up until 2016, I realized I had severely overstressed my body. I had taken no thought of what long hours sitting at my desk continuously was creating.
Retired 11 years and writing nine of those, my work habits carried over into my writing life. And by then surgeries and scar tissue compounded the bad habits.
Let me explain:
- From the start of each day, I sat all day except for restroom breaks and a stop for coffee on my way back to the desk.
- Pre-retirement, opportunities to stand came my way. For example, copy projects requiring several minutes needed someone to babysit them. But, we had an in-house copy service. I usually opted for their help because of my heavy workload.
- At noon, I rarely left my desk. I packed my lunch at home and ate it at my desk. During that lunch hour, I continued to work while eating.
- Until the last five years of my working life, the height of my desk or computer wasn’t adjustable. Secretaries insisted on the ability to raise and lower a section of our desks to provide the option to stand up. Yet, the feature was rarely used. With the pressure of court and other deadlines, we didn’t have time to make the adjustments.
- If required to work overtime, it included the dinner hour and on into the evening. This meant more hours of sitting in the same place, same position, and doing the same tasks. I’d already been doing this for the past eight hours.
- I loved my job, and I admired and respected the attorney for whom I worked. Always wanting to please my superiors, I never changed my working style over a period of 35 plus years. (This is perhaps a carryover from my childhood attempts at pleasing an abusive mother.)
WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
A lot of things. My spine surgeons, my neurosurgeon, and physical therapists provided recommendations. The choice was mine, and I made the wrong choices. Yet, my spine surgeons also told me that what had failed in my back wasn’t my fault. It was the fault of a condition that was going to happen no matter what. And it did.
As I look back, I regret the damage I may have done to my back. Even though my surgeons directed the fault elsewhere, I still wonder what I might have done. There are certainly elements of self-care I wish I had taken the time to inject into my daily schedule.
On Thursday, March 22nd, I’ll share tips on caring for yourself at the desk and computer
Share your thoughts below on self-care, your own struggles with caring for yourself while writing, and bring any concerns you have to the discussion.