I live in an apartment, so my office is also my bedroom, music room, and art studio. I am lucky that it’s a decent sized space into which I’ve been able to fit two desks, two large bookcases, a filing cabinet, my harp, music stand, and chair, as well as my bed. It’s not ideal, but it works—sort of. Lately, I’ve noticed that my body mechanics at my writing desk—a lovely, old, hinged slant top—have left something to be desired. I didn’t have enough leg room and, because of the height of the desk, I was continually leaning forward—good for my abs, but terrible for my neck and shoulders—and made even more crippling when my little, furry writing assistant demands to lend her brilliance by sitting in my lap.
One of the problems with being sick with CFS (or as the Institute of Medicine has now termed it, SEID), is that time becomes even more precious. On a typical day, I usually have 2-4 hours during which I feel somewhat normal. Even though I do tend to have pain, my brain and body still function with reasonable ability. Anything that requires any kind of physical or mental stamina must be done during this window. It’s hard not to feel like shopping for a new desk is a lousy use of that time, but given the amount of time I spend (and hope to spend) at my computer, and the amount of pain I already feel due to my ill health, I decided that a new desk would be a good investment in my future wellbeing and productivity.
So, after a lot of online research, a lot of measuring, and a lot of miming my typing habits at various work surfaces, I picked my desk. But just as I was ready to inform the lovely people at my local office supply store, I realized that there was no way my laptop was going to fit on its pull out typing surface. What to do? Give up? This was the desk—the one that was going to fit in the space allotted, the one that coincided with my price point, the one that seemed to meet my needs in the best way possible. I thought about it for a minute and decided to go look at the wireless keyboards. What if I bought one of these as well and basically just used my laptop as a monitor? It seemed like a good solution, but the thing about me (one of the many, many things) is that I tend to be scared to spend money. I don’t have a lot of it (who does?), and I am just about always nervous that I am spending it wantonly. I was already a little trepidatious about the desk, was I now just overcomplicating the situation to the nth degree? Was I trying to force something that didn’t fit? I wasn’t sure. But when I sat with it for a moment, it kinda seemed like the right thing to do. So I took a deep breath and handed over my credit card.
When I got home and put the desk together, I was relieved to be delighted with how it fit into my space. I also noticed that when I pulled out my new keyboard, I discovered that having the screen farther away from me was much more comfortable to my neck. I found a workspace body mechanics illustration online that confirmed that one’s screen should be 18 inches or about arm’s length away. So, by making the uncertain purchase of the wireless keyboard, I had actually solved another problem of which I hadn’t yet been aware. Looking more closely at the ergonomics diagram, I also realized that my computer was sitting too low on the desk. My natural gaze fell higher, so I was having to make continual micro-corrections that was tiring to both my eyes and my neck. I solved this by placing a favorite book of fairy tales and an air mat (for keeping the machine cool) underneath my computer. I love seeing the book there as I type away. It reminds me of my deep love of stories—one of the main reasons I started to write. And now, as I am slowly arranging my workspace, I find it becoming more and more inviting. Even as I enter the room and glance over, I find myself thinking, “Oooh, I like that spot. I can’t wait to get over there.” This was a another goal I had aspired to some years ago—reasoning, that if I wanted to get myself to spend long hours writing, I better make the area in which I am doing it a place I really want to be.
I am sure there will be more adjustments to make as I go forward. For one thing, I still have to train myself to keep sitting properly—keeping my feet flat on the floor, leaning back into my lumbar support (a small, lavender-filled pillow given to me by my mom) and reminding myself that my shoulders aren’t actually meant to be next door neighbors with my ears. For another, I have to keep my resolve to get up, stretch, and get a drink at least once a hour (even if it means offending my writing assistant), but I am excited to have a more comfortable and pleasant space from which to tackle some of my goals.
Thank you for reading. :)