Rebirth of Reason

The Good Life

Time for a Tune-up
by Christy Little

My mom gave me a lot of advice as a kid, and as a rule, I benefited from it. Don't climb tall objects, she said. Do your homework before dinner, then relax. By opting out of these two rules, I managed to bang up my body pretty well.

I fell off a tall pile of bricks when I was 5, dislocating my elbow. This didn't impede my life (other than no rock-climbing, the doctor advised) until I was 26 and my right hand went numb. One surgery on my ulnar nerve and a Frankenstein scar later, all was well. Three years later, I will be having it again; I can't open a jar of peanut butter. The set of my dislocated elbow is again irritating the nerve. So surgery doesn't bode well for a newspaper editor who spends half of the evening racing out layouts. It's offensive to me that my co-workers will be doing the work of an extra person while I sit around, useless, reading proofs all evening. My body has never hindered my work before.

I was going to the mall with a new friend my freshman year in college after class, and we happened to be in the way when some kids ran a stop sign and bashed into my friend's car. Welcome to permanent back pain. So I'm approaching my 30th birthday a little worse for the wear, a lot better than some are, but I'm not happy about the cast I'll be slugging around the next few weeks.

This temple of mine has a few dents.

But as I reflected on the annoyances of my occasionally uncooperative body, I had to take a long look at the limbs that assure me freedom and independence and usually obey my whims. This required a mirror. I have been a little evasive with mirrors for some time now.

I looked at a 30-ish female body that had given up running since the car accident 12 years ago. This was supplemented instead with some walking, which always took less precedence than work and was sometimes given up for the foul Kansas winter. I could get out my bank statements and no doubt have paid off my car with the money spent on gym memberships gone unused. Later, I discovered swimming. I took pleasure in the tone and strength it gave me all over -- even my back -- and I even became used to not having the chronic pain.

But when I couldn't bend my bad arm after a swimming session, I had to stop that, too.

Then I had to reflect on my other choices. This includes drinking, the activity with which my friends and I passed through the ritual of forming college legends. The drinking did not really stop after college; the faculty I worked with for four years did TGIFs with margaritas and Coronas. I observed the tradition responsibly, but I observed it just the same. The newsroom environment is no different. And then there's getting home at 1 a.m. from work, wired on deadline pressure and headline second-guessing, and it's too easy to have a drink to simmer down before going to sleep.

Food. Why cook when you can stay at work a little longer and pick up a cheeseburger when you remember to eat? If you work four times faster per three Diet Cokes consumed, why not fuel with it all day? Only coffee's better.

So my body, my temple, isn't a source of shame, but not all of the dents are accidents. I have to reflect that my career has been important to me, and improving my mind has been a priority, but my physical state's been on a back shelf for too long. And the turnaround -- fatigue, pain, inefficiency -- has its insidious effects on other aspects of my life. Our bodies aren't just temples; they're machines. They need maintenance and and TLC to give us the good life we deserve.

I'm not suggesting you give up the pleasures of life. I will never stop drinking Diet Coke. Gallons! I see my dentist regularly, after all.

But without taking on the smiling facade of that bearded man who made millions advising Americans about their chakras, I invite you to take a look at your temple and see if it's worthy of what you want to do next.

Even with a cast, I'm going to start a tune-up.

Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (9 messages)