MY JUNE GOALS FOR LIFE FULFILLMENT
1. Draw something every day
2. Learn about art
3. Read blogs and learn how to promote my own
Apparently none of my bathing suits are any good. I know this because I’ve been going to the pool a lot recently, and every time I go off the diving board, I nearly lose my top, or my bottoms. Usually I’m good about tugging everything back into place while swimming to the surface, but there was definitely a nip-slip incident the other day, and a little boy with a water gun saw a little more of me than he should have.
I’ve been feeling a little guilty about going to the pool on weekdays, when everyone else is at work. But usually, by 3pm, after I’ve been on the computer for nearly seven hours, I feel like taking a break from the glowing screen. I tell myself that all good writers read a lot, and therefore reading by the pool counts as working. But still, it feels lazy.
The other day, I did my usual routine, which goes like this: get up, take a walk, tutor on Skype, write on my novel, eat lunch, write a blog entry, do some online research, work on math curriculum. By the time I had finished all of this, it was three o’clock, and I really wanted to take a break from sitting in front of the computer. Except I felt guilty about going to the pool. I’d gone to the pool the past three days in a row, and I worried what the other people at the pool would think of me if I showed up there again. Probably that I was a good-for-nothing lay-about who lives at home with her mother.
“No pool today, Eva,” I told myself. “Let’s push on until five o’clock and get some more work done.” So I opened up my novel draft and decided to revise the first fifty pages.
I was only fifteen pages in when my vision started to go fuzzy. I told myself it was fine, but deep down I knew. I had been looking at the computer screen for too long, and now I was getting a migraine. Ten minutes later, there was a throbbing behind my eyes, and I closed my laptop.
The first time I got a migraine was my first year of teaching Algebra at a low-income school in New Orleans. Makes sense, because migraines are often brought on by stress, and that was a stressful year. Besides the long hours, overcrowded classroom, and lack of resources, the biggest source of stress was that my students didn’t respect me. They were more likely to talk over me and get into fights than listen to me explain the distributive property.
Once, when I wasn’t looking, they took my water bottle from my desk and filled it up halfway with Windex. Luckily when I went to take a sip, I noticed the blue tinge and the chemical smell and put it back down on the desk. “Are you guys trying to poison me?” I asked cheerfully, my hands on my hips. I was in an oddly jovial mood that day. “You’re going to have to try a lot harder than that!”
Later, I regretted those words.
One afternoon, at the end of a particularly long, stressful day, I sat in my classroom next to a short, buck-toothed boy I’ll call Fred. I was showing Fred how to solve equations with variables on both sides of the equal sign.
“Okay, let’s try another one.” I got out a fresh sheet of blank paper and wrote down an equation. But, weirdly, I couldn’t see the equation. I could see my fingers gripping the pencil. I could see the paper itself. But I couldn’t see what I had just written.
Fear gripped my bowels. What was going on? Was I going crazy? To test myself, I wrote another equation halfway down the page. My fear mounting. I couldn’t see this one either.
My very first thought was that I had accidentally taken drugs. Maybe the students had dropped tabs of LSD into my water bottle, and now I was starting to hallucinate. I was freaked out, but I didn’t want to alarm Fred, so I just sat there like everything was fine.
“Can I do ’em on the board?” he asked, grinning his snagglepuss smile.
Fred went up to the green chalk board and picked up a piece of chalk. He wrote the equation on the board, but I couldn’t see it. What was going on?
“You know what, Fred. I’m not feeling very well.” But just as I said this, the equation he had written appeared, like magic, on the board. “Let’s just do a couple and then we’ll be done for the day,” I told him, feeling relieved.
By the time Fred left the classroom, my vision had returned to normal, but I was developing a headache. One of the very worst headaches of my life. I managed to drive home, but then I spent the rest of the evening lying on my bed in the dark, moaning in pain. I realized that what had happened with Fred was an aura, and I was having my very first migraine.
So back to the other day. I’d been on the computer for hours, and now I was rapidly developing a migraine-like headache. I quickly popped some meds then I headed out of the house. I needed to get outside in the fresh air; I needed to get away from the glowing computer screen. I drove to TJ Maxx and walked around the store like a zombie, the fluorescent lights pounding into my skull. I tried to find a bathing suit that fit, but all the tops were too big and all the bottoms were too small, so I wandered back to my car and drove to yoga.
I was a little worried about doing a yoga class in my condition, which was sort of woozy with a throbbing headache. But I laid out my mat anyway.
“It’s been shown that when you are on the computer all day you forget to breathe,” the yoga teacher said as class began. “Well, you’re breathing, but your breath is shallow and disconnected.” She led us into downward-facing dog, and we started our ujiayi breathing. The long, purposeful breaths started to make me feel better almost immediately.
And what she had said made sense. We sit at the computer hunched over, living inside our minds instead of paying attention to our bodies. We forget to take deep breath, and without enough oxygen, the body begins to suffer. This can happen when we are concentrating on anything — like reading, writing, or watching an intense movie.
These are also times, I’ve read, that we “forget” to blink. When we are working on the computer, we tend to blink five times less than normal. “To keep your eyes from suffering, you need to remind yourself to blink,” an optometrist once told me.
I came into plank and moved into upward-facing dog, breathing deeply the whole time. So basically, when I’m on the computer all day, I’m forgetting to breathe and forgetting to blink. No wonder I had developed a migraine!
There’s always more and more to do on computers and devices – so much of our lives are online now. It’s difficult for writers, and for other people whose jobs involve being on the computer a lot, to figure out how to get their work done without spending too much time staring at a screen. I know I’m still trying to find the balance.
When I got home from yoga I decided that when my body is asking for a computer break, I need to listen. In fact, once I get to Seattle, I plan to scale back on the online tutoring and math curriculum and get a part-time job outside of the house, to get me away from the computer. When I am sitting in front of the screen, I will remind myself to breathe, and to blink.
And you know what? I’m not going to feel guilty about going to the pool. Now my only problem is finding a bathing suit that fits.
When did YOU forget how to breathe? from Living Yoga with Stella
Ujiayi Breathing from Leela.com
Don’t Forget to Blink from PopSugar Fitness
Eva Langston is an aspiring writer. Read more about herhere.