A day or two ago, all the major news outlets ran stories about the life-shortening consequences of sitting. For one 24-hour period, we were bombarded with the bad news, which is now buried in slew of one-day-wonder stories. But in case you missed it:

Briefly, sitting too long will shorten you life.

A study of 8000 people over age 45, that lasted four years, concluded that the longer you sit, the shorter your life. The consequences seem to kick in at 30 minutes. Sit for longer than that at a stretch, and you will die earlier than if you stood and moved more often. Those who sit for 90 minutes at a time were twice as likely to die younger than those who moved frequently.

And all this is true, even if you exercise!

OK, I need a break because looking up those news links and some pictures and writing this has kept me at the computer for over 30 minutes. Must move.

I’m toast.

I’m so toast.

I am a writer. I’ve spent the last 30 years sitting, usually in front of a monitor, for hours at a time. That is what writers do.

If we’re not selling enough, or writing enough, or earning enough, the advice is always: Park your behind in your chair and don’t get up till you’ve written something! And it’s good advice. Except the implicit “and then you die” part.

Norman Mailer hinted at the consequences:

But writing as a daily physical activity is not agreeable. You put on weight, you strain your gut, you get gout and chilblains. You’re alone, and every day you have to face a blank piece of paper. 

Here’s another quote, from Burton Rascoe. He died in 1957; cut him some slack for the implied sexism:

What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out of the window.

Rascoe was sitting when he stared out of the window; of that I’m certain.

This is awful and cataclysmic. How can I write in 30-minute bursts? Excuse me, the alarm just went off. I must run up and down the stairs three times.

Ok, I’m back. And then there’s TV, and movies, and even football games. We sit all day! I am great at sitting; I could medal in competitive sitting.

My dog, watching and waiting for any sign that it’s time for a walk.

I do exercise daily, after all. I have a dog. She takes me for walks, sometimes long walks. I have stairs in my place.

Still, exercising doesn’t seem to matter. You sit too long, you die faster. Ick!

Oddly, starting a month or two ago, my dog started barking at me as I sit at my computer. She’ll be fed, walked within the last hour or so, untroubled by strange noises, etc. – but still she barks. She’s never done that before. Even before the story came out, I was joking with friends that she has decided to not let me sit for very long. She stops barking when I get up. She wants me to be active.

I wonder if she’s been carrying on a secret correspondence with those doctors who conducted the survey? My dog is well-connected; I wouldn’t doubt it too strenuously.

I am very happy with my life. But sometimes, I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d’ stayed in my corporate job instead of quitting to go back to school, etc.

Usually, I wonder that when I see a friend retiring with a healthy income, or visit someone who has a beautiful home, the kind that two professional-level incomes can buy. Gee, I would’ve had a house like that … but I know that house isn’t really what I want. It’s just a passing thought.

In fact, doesn’t AA say, “If you want to know what someone really wants, look at what they have?”

It’s striking me now because of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey. I know several women in their 60s (ok, one’s in her 50s, 4 in 60s, one in 70s) who live in Texas, in lovely homes, and who may lose those homes due to flooding. An “act of God” kind of flooding; that no one could have predicted. As the National Weather Service is saying, “Unprecedented.”

Of course, there are 100s of 1,000s more. These ladies are special because they are People I Know.

Also, this same week, I see a relative struggling, even though he has a solid job and lovely home. Struggling to find more money somehow, to keep up with bills. He didn’t do anything wrong. He bought real estate when all the financial gurus were telling everyone to buy real estate.

So my “sometimes I wonder” is better phrased as “thank God I didn’t.”

The lesson I take, from this and from everything that’s happened since … well, since the 80s, as I live in Southern California and have seen bright little bursts of housing bubbles, tech bubbles, you-name-it bubbles, is that there is no safe and secure path. None! It’s a chimera.

Remember the Three Little Pigs? I never liked that story. But the moral was that if you worked hard and spent a longer time laboring than anyone else, and invested in the best materials and never cut corners, You Will Be Safe.

And look, life keeps showing us over and over that it’s just not true. Brick houses flood or go into foreclosure just as surely as straw houses. One path might keep you safe from one disaster, but nothing will keep you safe, always, period.

At least we don’t have to worry about invading hoards riding over the hill to steal our food and families, right? Because up until a century or two ago, that was a concern for ordinary people.

I think most of us grow up thinking that the rules won’t change and everything, homes included, will stay the same. Let’s face it: the rules were never more than very loose guidelines and things are constantly changing. Up and down.

So what we’re here for clearly can’t be to build a nice little castle and hold onto it. What are we here for? No idea. Pick a reason that works for you, for now.

Only for now. Because chances are that reason’ll change too.

Here’s why I haven’t written lately:

I have a million thoughts and million and a half things to do.

Or, my mind is blank and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I need do.

I talked to a woman tonight who told me that anxiety nearly kept her from coming to the reunion where we met, after years. Anxiety. This from the most genuinely gregarious, gracious, expressively loving person I ever met. If you asked me “Who would you like to be, when you walk into a room full of strangers?” I would have named her. And she was so anxious about meeting people that she almost didn’t come to the reunion.

I know one person who, to my shock, seemed to become a white supremacist over the last few years. Sad, awful. I was not sorry when he and his wife split up. Then she went downhill, perhaps had a stroke, and after five months apart he crossed the country to return and take care of her. The first thing he did was bring her to a monthly meeting of her friends that he’d never attended before. Just so she could be there and see her friends and talk to them.

Nothing is ever what we think, is it?

So I pull a couple of anecdotes out of the morass that surrounds me daily: the depressing news stories, the growing chaos, the uncertainty. I don’t know anything. But when the day seems dark and sickly, I can see that nothing is what I think it is, and cheer up.