WHO SAID LIFE WAS EASY?

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When Bill moved in with me fourteen years ago, his possessions moved in too. He had less “stuff” than I did (having left much of it behind in the house now belonging to his second former wife). So it was eventually possible, after some “friendly” dispute, to make room somewhere or other for what he had brought with him, even if it didn’t exactly “go” with what was already there.

However, one of his pictures I never had doubts about.  I was given no formal religious education and don’t know exactly who Rabbi Hillel was. Moreover, I have no religious beliefs whatsoever.  But there was no question in my mind that the saying attributed to the Rabbi which Bill had framed would come with us from Cambridge to Princeton. In fact, it currently hangs just outside the room that serves as my office, where it reminds me of life’s imperatives and conundrums whenever I pass it on my way to and from the computer.

In case the words aren’t easy to read in the uploaded photo of the picture, here they are again, writ clear:

“Hillel said, ‘If I am not for myself, who is for me?

“If I am only for myself, what am I?

“If not now, when?”

Forthright, isn’t it?  You can’t really argue with any of it.  If you let yourself be put upon or walked on, you will be. But if you act only for yourself, if you’re a selfish shit — what kind of person are you?

“If not now, when?” may be easier to understand, if not always easy to put into practice, and has occasionally been helpful to a daydreamer like me. But the more you consider that those four words follow the two sentences preceding it, the less forthright and the more cryptic the whole thing becomes.  Do what now?  Take care of numero uno?  Give unto others? Suppose those two directives are in conflict. Then what?

I offer no suggestions as to what the good Rabbi may have meant, other than that what he meant can mean different things to different people at different times.  And probably has. Or different things to the same person at different times. Which is also probably true.

But it’s worth thinking about. Especially in connection with one’s own life.

What do you think?

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PROACTIVE DEFENSE STRATEGIES FOR YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

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[This is the last in a series of four pieces arising from my recent, and in some ways still ongoing, experience with an obscure and distressing skin affliction apparently extremely rare in adults. They haven’t been only about skin, though. Is anything ever really just about what it first appears to be?]

I never thought I would ever be filing a Getting Old Blog post under a caption that would turn me off and on to something else in a blink of an eye if someone else had written it.

I am also entirely aware that no one, including me, wants to be told what to do, and that advice about what to do about your health and general well being is particularly unwelcome. Until you’re plagued with unwellness.  For most people, that tends to happen more as you get older. Which may be why the caption above sounds like something you might find in a publication from AARP [American Association of Retired People], all of which go straight into the recyclable paper bin at our house. [They go there because AARP’s advice is always conventional. It’s also nothing Bill and I don’t already either know or don’t find too simplistic.]

So if you’re in what used to be known as “the prime of life,” you should probably move on for now, while you still feel pretty good — knock wood!– and full of pep and vigor. Unless you’re curious. Or tend to take the long view. Or for some other personal reason have begun to ask questions about the effects of a first world market-driven economy on human well being which are not the usual economic, or political, or even environmentally concerned questions.

As for those of you who are no longer young, or youngish, and don’t feel quite as good as you used to, if you ever did feel really good, you may not like what’s coming, either.  It’s very hard to swim against the tide, to begin doing things other people aren’t doing, to investigate aspects of health your doctor may not know about or may shrug off, to risk being thought a crank.  It’s easier and pleasanter to be like the other guys, go with the flow, enjoy doughnuts (or on a more upscale level, pain au chocolat, foie gras, Sacher torte), and avoid striking out on your own.

No, I don’t think we can live forever if we eat only the right things and use non-toxic personal care and cosmetic products, and if we try to rid our indoor environments of most of the sources of the minuscule amounts of contaminants that slowly build up inside us and force our immune systems into an ongoing battle which they will eventually lose as we, and they, age.

What I do think is that each of us can live somewhat better for somewhat longer.  I believe there’s a certain satisfaction in being master of your ship, in having some control over what happens to you — however hard it may seem at first. I believe in fighting the good fight. As the worthy Rabbi Hillel is said to have said:  “If I am not for myself, who is for me?”

He is also said to have said: “If am only for myself, what am I?” And then, “If not now, when?”  That’s why this last, and possibly distasteful, post of the series.  Take what you wish, or don’t wish, from it.  I guess the point is that to a considerable degree your well being can be up to you, whatever the odds and whatever age you are.

A.  Food and drink.

It’s axiomatic that we are what we eat.  But what are we eating?  What is “food?”  Not everything the Food and Drug Administration says is safe to put in your mouth and swallow, and that can make its way through your digestive system (with more or less difficulty) and out the other end (with more or less difficulty) is “food” in the basic sense of the word, however tasty you may find it.  In first world countries, it is much more likely to be an edible non-food substance. Or else what looks like food — but is so impregnated with toxins and (in the case of factory farming) antibiotics as to be worse than useless as nourishment.

I begin with the assumption that “food” — as human beings and all other forms of animal life have consumed it for millennia — is organic material caught, gathered, or grown and then ingested for two purposes:  (a) to provide fuel/energy for life to continue at optimum levels — in other words, to provide sufficient, but not overly sufficient, calories; and also (b) to provide all the macronutrients and micronutrients — the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, anti-oxidants, etcetera — that enable every cell of your body to repair itself and function properly, as it was designed to do.  These, of course, include not only every cell of your heart, lungs,  brain, liver, kidneys, digestive system, bones, joints, skin, blood but also the cells that provide you with immunity from the perils of the biological universe in which we all live.

A great deal of what almost all of us eat today in prosperous first world countries isn’t that, even if we pay more for it under the assumption that more expensive always means “better.”  I can only speak specifically of the United States here, but I am going to assume that matters in Canada and Great Britain are similar, and from what I’ve seen of the new supermarkets in France, that  that allegedly gastronomically elite country is moving in our direction as well.  Except for the very poor, who may not qualify for or avail themselves of food stamps, we all get enough calories — more than enough, if the obesity rates are to be believed.

It’s the other, equally important, element in food as our great-grandparents knew it that is now in danger of vanishing from our food supply.  Our advertising and packaging skills are magnificent. Our ability to keep manufactured food from spoiling practically forever is extraordinary.  [What is the shelf life of a Twinkie or a Cheez Doodle?  And why do you suppose that is?]  Our laboratory knowledge of how to enhance taste appeal to the destruction of nutritional value is put to fullest use, so that you will eat more and buy more.  We know how to get the most profit out of livestock through factory farming that is both cruel to the animal  or bird or fish and detrimental to the health of the consumer. We know how to protect crops from every kind of infestation by saturating the earth they grow in with toxic pesticides that go into the root system and thereby also saturate the developing cells of the very foodstuffs they are designed to “protect,” so that you can’t “wash it off” no matter how hard you scrub.  [And how do you scrub a strawberry or a blueberry, anyway?]

These areas of discourse are beyond the scope of any blog post. Let me say only that I have never been, and still am not, a saint here.  Until about thirteen years ago, my principal concern with the food I ate was its calorie count coupled with a lingering awareness that one should get enough “vitamins” (available through a supplemental tablet, I thought) and “protein,” which I assumed was available only from animal sources, defined loosely to include eggs, milk products and cheese.  As I grew older, however, and felt lousier, I began to read more about what I was eating and what I perhaps should have been eating.  Then I met Bill, a vegan at the time.  (Now more of a modified and knowledgeable vegetarian with lapses. We’ve changed each other.)  So by the time I encountered the virus that just laid me low for over three weeks, I was pretty far along in knowing what was going into my mouth and making reasonably wise choices about it — as far along as I thought I could get without being a self-sufficient organic farmer.  And without being entirely ascetic.   I already wanted the most nutritional bang for my buck, even if it cost more.  And I already wanted the least amount of toxins and chemical additives (with known or unknown harmful qualities) in my food.

These are now my assumptions:

1.  I stick with the outside aisles of big modern supermarkets, where the produce, meat, fish, dairy are.  I avoid almost all of the middle, a fairyland of processing and packaging.

2.  Organic is better than non-organic, because you can’t wash off the toxic pesticides.  Yes, it costs more. But then I think of all the money I’m not spending on the stuff I’m now not buying.

3.  Less animal-sourced “protein” is better than more, but if I’m going to have it once in a while, I make sure the eggs come from organically pasture-raised chickens and that the beef comes from grass-fed cows (even if it is harder to chew) and is also hormone free.

4. If I must, once in a while, buy something edible that has been processed and packaged, I choose glass containers over cans because almost all can linings made in the United States contain a coating of epoxy resin made from BPA (bisphenol A), which disrupts the endocrine system as well as helping preserve the contents of the can.

I am also aware, in an almost entirely unscientific way, that in general: (a) raw is more healthful than cooked; (b) microwave heat changes the molecular structure of food and thereby presumably destroys all its nutritive value other than its calories;  and (c) no-stick pans, however easy to clean, are bad for you because something harmful in the no-stick surface gets into the food you prepare on it.  I should also now add awareness that: (d) no matter how carefully I tread through the quagmire of American food production, my aging digestive system will no longer fully benefit from what I ingest and requires careful supplementation from trusted sources. (Not the drugstore.)

Of course, there’s more.  There’s always more.  So perhaps I hadn’t been quite ascetic enough when I encountered the triumphant virus four weeks ago. I have since begun to monitor what we consume much more carefully. We gave away the microwave two years ago, but  since the arrival and eventual departure of the general viral exanthem with which I’ve been contending while I was away from the blog, I’ve also rid the kitchen of the two no-stick pans remaining, and augmented the supplements I take with S-acetyl glutathione, a powerful antioxidant now newly formulated in nutritionally available form.

Given my up-front acknowledgement that nobody really welcomes advice about how to eat from anyone else, I will stop here — but with a reading list.  If anyone wants to explore any of the ideas set forth above and is an absolute novice in this kind of thinking about what to feed yourself, I guess that person should begin with Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual.” It’s short and very easy to read.  If Pollan seems too difficult to put in place in your own life, Andrew Weil is a gentler, kinder guide. “8 Weeks to Optimum Health” might be a good one of his books to start with.  A more recent book of his is “Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-being.” I eventually found him too permissive in certain ways, and his recipes not always to my liking.  But I would trust him.

On the subject of protein from animal sources, you might want to check out T. Colin Campbell’s “The China Study” (subtitled, “Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health”) and Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals,” a compelling and extremely well-written book even if you have no concerns whatsoever about the current state of your well being.  For hard-core pursuit of health, there’s Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live.”  Everything he says seems to me to be right; to try to do everything he says is beyond me.  (And we did try, twice!) Fuhrman has subsequently written many other books and “nutritarian” handbooks.  I consider them inspirational rather than directive, but well worth reading.  It’s also worth incorporating into your life as much of what he has to say about health as you can.  Weil and Fuhrman are both M.D.s.  So is William Davis, author of “Wheat Belly,” the somewhat excitable style of which I disliked, but whose book seems essentially reliable and deserving of attention, even if you decide not to act on what you discover in it.  (He’s not alone in condemning what has happened to wheat in the last 100 years and what eventually happens to you when you eat it regularly; other nutritional authorities have reached the same conclusions.)

If weight is also an issue, you may find “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” both amusing and a good kick in the pants to get going and do something about it. It’s an awkwardly made film by an Australian amateur named Joe Cross about his own successful pursuit of a very great weight loss, supervised by Joel Fuhrman, and the even greater successful weight loss of someone he encountered while in in the United States who was inspired by his example to do likewise.  I am certain no one reading this blog can possibly be as fat as either of those two men, but it’s encouraging to think that if they can do it, anyone can!    Less entertaining but a book I found helpful with weight loss issues even before I embarked on the quest for healthier food thirteen years ago is “The Philosopher’s Diet: How to Lose Weight and Change the World,” by Richard Watson.  It may be out of print, but is probably still available in libraries and on the used book market.  Watson was a professional philosopher, and his slender book embraces more that “mere” weight loss.  I have read it four or five times.  It begins with two quotations, not entirely irrelevant to this post and its three predecessors in the series.

War Came.

Bodies lined the roadside.

Their fat sizzled in the sun.

Lamentation for the Destruction of Ur.  Third Millennium B.C.

And:

Diet … Course of life: way of living or thinking …To regulate oneself.

Oxford English Dictionary

Finally, in case anyone is interested in where reading all this has led me, I suppose I should conclude by saying that my present nutritional guru, to the extent I have one, is Frank Lipman, an M.D. trained in South Africa who has been practicing what he calls integrative and functional medicine in New York at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center for some time.  He has incorporated into his practice of the traditional allopathic medicine taught in Western medical schools many of the insights and practices of other treatment modalities and therapies, including herbal medicine, Eastern medicine, nutritional counseling, biofeedback, meditation, yoga and acupuncture.  He has also become the go-to doctor for certain celebrities, which is in a way too bad, but is also how I discovered him, so I shouldn’t complain.  [He was recommended in her blog “goop” by Gwyneth Paltrow, owner of what is said to be the cleanest intestinal tract in show business — a blog I used to follow for fun before she became such a brand, and an expensive one, at that.]  Celebrities aside, Lipman offers what seems to me sane, balanced nutritional and other counsel to address sub-optimal functioning; he can help with becoming less unwell and on the path to feeling better.

I have never met him, and don’t expect to.  He has certainly never heard of me. But if you’re interested, you can find him online where I did:  at www.drfranklipman.com  [In the interests of full disclosure, I should add that I don’t blindly buy many of the products offered there, but I do buy, and use, a few of them.]  Most of the useful stuff is in his Blog, which can be explored at leisure from the website. You can also sign up for his newsletter, which will bring the most recent blog pieces into your email inbox once a week.

Well, that should keep you busy, if you haven’t already gone away and left me until I go back to pieces of memoir and photos of cats.  Onward!

B.  Personal care products, makeup and cleaning products.

When I was growing up, there was an advertising slogan for something or other used in the home that proclaimed:  “Better Living Through Chemistry!”  Yes, indeed!  It has certainly happened!  Our laundry is now whiter and brighter and can smell like a summer breeze.  [Haven’t you seen all those smiling ladies in television commercials rapturously embracing what emerges from their washers and dryers after little Tommy has got mud and jam and chocolate syrup all over everything?]   Our non-washable clothes come back from the dry-cleaner safe from moth and encased in plastic that keeps them that way. Our dishes sparkle, our windowpanes are absolutely transparent, our homes are dust-and-bacteria-free and gleaming.  On a more personal note, our hair shines, but remains manageable, our teeth are whiter than white.  Underarm deodorants and antiperspirants prevent our body odors, if any, from offending others — and even deter us from perspiring and ruining our cashmere sweaters!   Our faces, if we choose, can be a canvas for a whole palette of treatment and cosmetic products to keep us young looking, and visually competitive, and attractive to the other sex. (Some of these are unbelievably expensive, but others can be acquired at your neighborhood drugstore.) I understand men too have a cornucopia of available shaving and after-shave products from which to choose the perfect solution to whatever problems they seek to eradicate along with their daily stubble.  And then there’s hair color, and straightening (aka “relaxing”), and “highlighting.” With regard to these, only the price and the tipping are non-toxic, except perhaps to your credit card.

All this, and more, has come at a price in personal harm which until now I didn’t really think about much. Thanks to such better living through chemistry, plus air-conditioning behind closed windows in summer, which are also closed in winter to keep the heat in — the domestic interiors in which we live are today apparently far more toxic than even an urban outdoors polluted by vehicle and industrial exhaust. We inhale these toxins from our indoor air; we absorb them from our clothes and furniture through our skins; we apply them directly to ourselves in the personal care products we use.  And our seemingly indomitable immune systems take them all on, and try to subdue them as best they can, so that we don’t get as sick as we might.

But all these things are “safe,” you may protest, or else they couldn’t be sold!  Federal agencies judge safety by the application.  The minuscule amount of toxicity in one spritz of Pledge is “safe.”  But go on spritzing, and sudsing, and purifying, and deodorizing — and it gradually builds up in you, and builds up, and builds up; after a while the amount you harbor inside of you isn’t quite so minuscule or safe anymore.  General malaise, poor digestion, dry and itchy skin, undue fatigue, unexplained aches and pains too minor for medical help but not quite minor enough to ignore?  And then something more identifiable, about which a dermatologist or other medical specialist may remark when asked:  “It happens.”

In a very few ways, Bill and I had begun to address this huge problem earlier.  I have never had wall-to-wall-carpeting because I like wood floors — which is fortunate, because no matter how clean you are, tacked-down wall-to-wall carpet harbors mold and mites and things that are very bad for your lungs.  Thanks to Bill, who does have lung issues, we had already installed a large air purifier in the bedroom and another downstairs.  We also have a water purifier installed in the kitchen for the water we drink and cook with.  But the products with which we, and our cleaning ladies, filled the bathrooms and the under-the-sink kitchen cabinet and the laundry room and the utility closet?  We have a big job ahead of us there!  Not to mention my personal bathroom clutter of Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier and Lancome and Chanel cosmetics, makeup removers, plus Crest toothpaste, and the shampoo and conditioners from France promoted and sold by the hairdresser.

It will involve study, elimination, and trial and error.  I’ve already replaced the shampoo, got rid of the conditioner, thrown out all aerosol sprays, eliminated any cleaning product or personal care item with “natural fragrance” (unless from an entirely natural source like lemon oil or lavender), chucked the Tide, the Clorox, the fabric softener, the handy laundry “pods” I wrote so happily about in a post a few months back.  No more plastic bags in the closet, entrapping the PERC (tetracholorethylene) with which my dry-cleaned clothes were saturated.  No more conventional dry-cleaning at all, because PERC is a known neurotoxin. The way to go seems to be either wet-cleaning and air drying, or else dry cleaning with carbon dioxide.  There are cleaners who have installed the special equipment required for these two processes.  They charge more.  There’s one in Princeton, and I am about to find out how the five oldish sweaters I brought them last week for a trial run will look when I pick them up.  As for everything else, I am in transition.

The two authoritative sources for how to proceed are the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and its sub-division Skin Deep (for cosmetics and personal care items).  If you have the interest and can invest the time, you can find out everything you need to know about safely cleaning yourself, your clothes, your hair and your indoor environment from their websites.  The EWG site is http://www.ewg.org  The Skin Deep one is http://www/ewg/org/skindeep/  If you have young children, you may also be interested in reading about the effects of toxicity on child development (and on the development of children’s brains and neurological systems) by subscribing to the newsletter of the Children’s Environmental Health Center of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, which can be obtained on the Center’s website: http://www.cehcenter.org  You can go a little crazy, as I have.  (But then, I have just been through a crazy-awful time, and if somewhat detoxifying the place where I spend most of my life these days will help prevent its recurrence, or help prevent something equally unpleasant, I am hyper-motivated to try.)  Alternatively, you can take it slowly, one piece at a time.  Or you can forget the whole thing, and rest assured that this post is almost over.

I will not give up everything in favor of castile soap, white vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, hydrogen peroxide (for disinfecting) and tea tree oil — the six substances apparently sufficient for cleaning, disinfecting and deodorizing everything in one’s home and laundering one’s clothing. I know I will not give up Keratin treatments twice a year at the hairdresser, because really straight hair has changed my life for the better to a degree you would not believe unless you had spent most of your life, as I did, wildly curly-haired in a straight-hair culture.  I will not entirely give up my indulgence in several costly French fragrances (in eau de parfum or eau de toilette form), although I may not apply them as frequently as I used to. I will not abandon the light application of cosmetics that enhance my face and the look of my eyes, although I will try to find alternatives to what I am currently using on the Skin Deep website.  But I will be moving, product by product, towards less toxic ways of living (irrespective of the loss to the manufacturers of these unnecessary products of my tiny contribution to their financial health). And that’s probably more than enough from me on this subject, although I will be glad to answer any specific question about it raised in the comment section below, to the extent that I can.

Finally, as I step down from the podium, let me add that If this excessively long piece has been in any way helpful, or has made you think about things you take for granted in new ways, then it was worth writing.  And if not? Well, I guess we can’t win ’em all. Now that I’ve stopped scratching, I’ll be back to my usual sort of thing next time.

 

 

 

 

 

NINA’S FOLLY

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What is it?  Well may you ask.  Its proud manufacturer calls it, alternately, a seat, a stool, even a “revolution!”  (You might want to know it also comes in black.)

I don’t usually fall for advertisements.  That’s Bill’s department.  Boy, is he ever gullible!  I have to hide the sales catalogues addressed to him that choke our mailbox daily, or he could spend hours perusing them in wonder and delight, and then, alas, acquiring too many of whatever is in them, almost never consulting me first. Need I add that nearly all his catalogue acquisitions turn out to be disappointing, if not blatant failures? But me — I wrote far too many ads in my pre-law days not to resist any efforts to extract money from me for items I never knew I needed until some clever ad person set out to persuade me I did.  

But everyone has an Achilles heel.  After we moved to Princeton, we bought two sofas from a New York-based furniture company called Room and Board  — one for the family room and another, somewhat later, for the living room.  That lodged me firmly on Room and Board’s email list. I often delete. But a few weeks ago came an announcement of a Room and Board blog.  Still a relatively new blogger, this I had to see.  The first Room and Board blog post began, somewhat defiantly:

You’ve probably heard the disturbing news.  Sitting for extended periods of time — like a lot of us do at work — has been linked to increases in heart disease, obesity and diabetes.  And NPR [National Public Radio] recently reported on a new study that links sedentary behavior with a  greater likelihood of being disabled after age 60. Unfortunately, working out regularly doesn’t decrease your risk for these conditions. Great.  So what are we supposed to do? Thankfully, the answer is pretty simple.  Stand up and get moving.

Pretty simple for Room and Board, that is.  They have two new ergonomic workspace options for us all to “try.”  The first is an adjustable “Float” desk from a company called Humanscale — an adjustable standing desk that lets you quickly alternate between standing and sitting while you work — at what I consider an outrageous price for a desk.  My workspace is not a paid workspace. So the “Float” is not for me, thank you very much.  Besides, I already have a perfectly good desk I’m not about to junk.  Not sure I could type standing up anyway.

However, the Room and Board blog post then continued its recommendations for a healthier life. These good people also want me to have:

…an active seat — anything that lets you wiggle and wobble around while you’re sitting, which strengthens your core and burns calories.  Many of us…have a fitness ball, but we don’t love (a) how dingy they become; (b) their tendency to roll off when we’re not looking; and (c) their space-hogging ways.  Enter the ErgoErgo stool.  Part sculpture, part spring and all fun.

You may be surprised to learn I do have a fitness ball. Unfortunately, mine is the medium size, not the large one that might put my arms at typing level.  However, it’s not dingy at all, since it’s hardly ever been used.  Nor is it rolling off anywhere or hogging space; it’s stored in our basement behind a closed door.  So that much of the pitch didn’t really reach me.

But the part about my “core?”  As someone who still hasn’t done her postpartum exercises in the nearly forty-five years since the birth of her last baby, I am extremely sensitive about suggestions that my “core” needs strengthening. In truth, I doubt I have one, if I ever did. [When did the word “stomach” fall out of use?]   I tell my Pilates instructor the “core” stuff is the part of Pilates I dislike most, which makes her laugh because Pilates is all about building the “core.” The Pilates people try to make it sound like fun, by calling their “core” exercises cutesy names like “froggies” and “tabletop” and “hundreds.”  [“Did we do our hundreds today?”]  But they don’t fool me. It’s no fun at all, and I go once a week, despite the expense, because one must do something. Could the ErgoErgo be another kind of something?  The Room and Board blog assured me it could:

This clever little stool stays put, takes up minimal space and doesn’t require inflating.  The accordion design allows you to rock and bounce, but the semi-pliable plastic feels more supportive than a fitness ball.  We’re all loving this new addition to our office.  In fact some of us are so smitten we’re ditching our desk chairs all together.

I’ve already confessed in at least one prior post how much time I spend on my butt producing a daily post for this blog.  Add in reading time, Netflix-watching time, just-sitting-around-pondering-the-meaning-of-life time and you might say (if Room and Board is to be believed) that I’m hurtling towards heart disease, obesity and diabetes as fast as I can.

I summoned Bill.  Big mistake.  Bill l-o-v-e-d the ErgoErgo at first sight, especially in orange.  Bill loves the color orange.  Still cautious, I consulted ErgoErgo’s own web page, which describes sitting on it as “Active Sitting,” and then immediately declared:

There’s so much to say about the benefits of Active Sitting that it has its own page!….The more you sit on it, the more you work your body, and the stronger your core muscles will be.  And you’ll improve your sense of balance.  But you’ll also benefit if you use ErgoErgo for l5 minutes, an hour each day, or just every now and then….ErgoErgo allows the body to move freely in any direction, and because there is no back rest, you engage your core and back muscles to build strength and flexibility.

With each repetition of the magic word “core” — my heart said, “Yes!”

“What have you got to lose?” said devil Bill.  “You can always send it back.”

$100 later, ErgoErgo was mine!

It arrived yesterday.  Bill happily unpacked it and brought it up the stairs to my office. “Not heavy at all,” he declared.  We stood it next to the printer while we decided where to put my desk chair.

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The desk chair looked terrible blocking the printer and the two nested white tables on which I often put things I’m working on.  Also it made that part of the room too crowded.  I like space.

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I hadn’t realized how big and heavy that desk chair is. It does roll, but not over the edges of throw rugs. Since I knew right away it  wouldn’t look good on the other side of my office against the closet doors, we didn’t even bother to try putting it there.

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In the end, we just left it temporarily by the window, while I sat down on the ErgoErgo in front of the computer to answer email while enjoying its healthful and core-strengthening benefits.

IMG_0483You know what?  First it felt funny, and then my back began to hurt.  Yes, I rocked back and forth a lot while thinking about the next sentence I was going to type.  And yes, I was sucking in my stomach more than I would usually do when I’m all by myself in a room. (I had to — in order to stay upright.)  But surely my back was not supposed to hurt while I was doing those two beneficial things.  I know what my Pilates instructor would say, as nicely as possible.  She would tell me my back hurt while I was strengthening my core on the ErgoErgo because my core was weak in the first place.  Still, that’s sort of a vicious cycle, isn’t it?

After fifteen minutes, I replaced the ErgoErgo with the desk chair, sat down with great relief, and summoned Bill again.

“Maybe you’ll get used to it,” he said.  I looked at him.  He’s the wimp of the two of us.  What’s with this getting used to pain?

He conceded the point without actually saying so.  “You could sell it to me,” was his second gambit.  Don’t think he would ever sit on it.  He wants to look at it.  He says it’s great design.  Also it’s orange.

“Where would you put it?” I asked.

“Anywhere!” he said gaily.

I’m stubborn.  I don’t like to give up.  Or admit I’ve been wrong.  Or send things back.  I considered leaving the ErgoErgo by the window, as you see at the top of this post (thereby blocking access to the printer and the stack tables), because it would be near my desk lamp, and I could maybe read when sitting on it.  While bouncing? Or working that goddamn core?  Well, maybe not.

How about the empty corner on the landing between the first and second floor of the condo?

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Not exactly awful, but a placement that asks the question, “Why?” Who would ever stop to sit or bounce on it — halfway up or down?

The corridor just outside my office door?  Under the wisdom of Rabbi Hillel, who cared not a whit for the core?

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As you can’t really see what Rabbi Hillel has to say from the angle of the photo, I thought I’d show it to you again:

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[“If I am not for myself, who is for me?  If am only for myself, what am I?  If not now, when?”]

Probably not the best place for the ErgoErgo and its self-referential focus on the core.

What about under the Brooklyn Bridge?

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I don’t think so.  It’s really just clogging the hall there.

Maybe I should give in and let Bill have it for his office?

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The problem with that is  — there isn’t any room.  Bill has already yielded to too many impulses!  See?

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That leaves the laundry room:

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Am I really going to sit in there bouncing while I watch the laundry spin?  Absolutely not!

Which means it’s back to the office for ErgoErgo — and trying again.

So I did.  I sat on it while writing this post.  I reached the part where I was about to upload the photo of ErgoErgo in front of the computer before I had to give up.  But that was forty-five minutes into the post.  So I’m doing better than my first time.  Who knows?  By spring, I may be able to lie on the floor and invite someone to jump up and down on my core.  Not someone really heavy, of course.  Maybe one of the cats.

This is not to be construed as an endorsement of, or an advertisement for, or a publicity message on behalf of ErgoErgo. I hope you can see that the post is definitely not any of those things. If anything, what it demonstrates is how two old people are spending their later precious years together — dragging a nutsy-looking, absolutely non-essential orange toy from room to room like young fools, so as not to concede one made a mistake that the other encouraged.  I suppose you might say it keeps us young at heart.