That linoleum was hard. Especially for my bony little bottom. And those filmstrips flickered across the screen went on forever. I noticed that the longer the film played the more my back would ache. I was a ballet dancer, and I knew a few things about posture. Sitting on this floor, I exhibited the worse posture. To get my mind off the discomfort and the long-winded science film, I challenged myself to sit up straight for as long as possible. It took practice, but my back grew stronger and the film viewing became more comfortable.
Surprisingly, this habit stuck. I've maintained good posture. This school basement scenario rushed back to me as I sat in my office churning out end-of-year acknowledgment letters. It's a daunting assignment. Hundreds of gifts arrive in the final weeks of the year and my job is to prepare the letters in a timely manner. In his memoir, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, Haruki Murakami writes about the similar stamina required to train for a long-distance race and to sit at a desk and write long passages.
This insight resonates for me. Each year as the letter deluge approaches, I strategize how I'm going to improve the process, so I am not frazzled by the end.
In the past I'd noted that as my energy waned and fatigue set in, I would assume a deep slouch. On those days, my energy wouldn't rebound. This year, I employed good posture and would you believe, I never experienced the level of fatigue I had in previous years. Sure, I was tired at the end of the day, but I was able to produce a good number of letters every day.
Having a strong back requires having a strong core. As I sat at my desk, I could feel my core muscles engaged in ways I recognize when I'm practicing yoga on my mat. Strong core muscles are integral to a healthy, straight spine. As I wrote my “Dear Donor” letters, I felt a metaphor for life bouncing around in my mind.
My straight posture and strong core were demonstrating the positive effects of what my mind needs to weather the stresses of daily life. Hard things come our way all the time: difficulties and misunderstandings in relationships; longing to see friends who live long distance; idle time spent in slow-moving commuter traffic; a stone thrown through the screen of your kitchen window (this really happened this week, and the subject of a future blog post.)
What my body is teaching my mind is that approaching these difficulties with a strong mental posture prevents fatigue from setting in—even when I'm tired and I think I can't take any more. Yesterday, I finished the back log of letters. The final tally was 779. By the end of February I may hit 800 letters. While I am weary from the volume, I am not gutted with exhaustion. I have found a strategy that works—for my writing and my life.
I'm forging ahead poised with a straight back.