Monday, March 17, 2008


I confess that physical inertia is one of my greatest talents. When I was a kid, if I should get underfoot and my mother needed me out of the way, she'd say, "Go out and sit on the front porch!" I'd do just exactly that, sit and watch the world go by. No books, no pictures, nothing to occupy my thoughts except what I saw in front of me.

I wish I could remember the exact quote, and I can't find it anywhere. Many years ago, I read that Carol Burnett said something like, "I work in order for the work to be overwith." Bells sounded for me--I'd found a kindred spirit in her feelings about work! If I get started on a job and you catch me in the middle of it, you'll think I'm the hardest worker you ever saw. I give it my all. But don't be fooled. I'm working so hard only to have the job done. "I love work for its own sake," and "I just have to be busy!" are red-blooded American sentiments with which I have no affinity whatsoever. When I was part of the office brigade, I never had to worry about losing my vacation hours because I didn't use them by the end of the year. Those suckers were spent by December 31! Give me an easy chair, something to read, or better yet a stimulating partner in conversation, and I'm right where I want to be.

Sometimes I do find myself hoist on my own petard, though. As much as I'd rather not seek out work, I also like my personal surroundings to be decent. This means there are times when I have no choice but to get myself moving. Not wanting to look like Charles Schulz's Pigpen is a great motivator--I don't want to trail my own cloud of dust. So I will clean the house occasionally. And outside, I will pick up the occasional rake or trowel so the house can look nice there, too. These activities are technically "work," but I can almost see them as fun because I will feel so rewarded when I'm done.

My daily morning walks also come under the "work" category. The walks are a direct result of my certainty that if I didn't take them, there would be days on end when I'd get no signficant use of my body at all. I am strongly in the "use it or lose it" camp when it comes to basic health. My heart and my joints need the workout; they seem to thrive on it. I'm not nearly health-nut enough to be one of those "power walkers," though, with my arms swinging half raised in some regimented torso march. My goal is to establish a good stride and then maintain it for as long as possible on as many gradients as possible, the steeper the better. With my long legs and relatively quick step, I manage just under 4 miles per hour. Not bad!

Life is nothing but one tradeoff after another. I'm grateful for the things that force me to climb out of myself and my natural torpor. I live far more richly than I ever would if there were no external motivators. Buffy Saint Marie I have no problem quoting: "Life's for the living and death's for the dead." It's wonderful to feel alive. Guess I'll get to work!


Anonymous said...

Good post. Walking and swimming are the best cardiovascular exercises. I do both. Can't say I'm up to 4 miles a day though, maybe 2.

Ralph said...

Z&M, I'm with you on swimming--I just wish there was a nice and convenient place for me to do it. It's a great full-body workout and it's so refreshing. Maybe someday....

Ravel said...

Doing things is still a good exercise for mind and body.
Walking is a space of time where body works out ans sometimes, it clears your mind or makes you think at the rythym of your feet.
**I strongly recommend C.Burnett' autiobiogr as it is full of great comments on life.**

Ralph said...

Hi, R/P. I'm afraid in my case the walking is good for the body, but my mondnis occupied--either listening to teh radio or to my ipod. When I first started I went "unaccompanied," but then discovered I could be entertained at the same time. But sometimes my mind does wander and I daydream a bit, too.