Saturday, August 04, 2007

Listen to Your Body, It's the only one You Have Got

Normally Friday it’s a good day to blog. The week’s work just about wound down, and the thought of another weekend never fails to be mood boosting. But, as you can see, I did not blog yesterday. Fatigue from the day’s work and my body’s response are the main culprits.

First, I sat at my desk longer than usual, slouched over the computer screen trying to get a hydrodynamic modeling run going. It’s not that it’s a tough nut to crack, technically speaking, but rather the tedium, the mechanical operation of going through the grind: finding the geographical coordinates of the boundary locations of the grid domain, looking up the tidal constituents from the Global Tide Model, generating the tide time series, and interpolating to yield the boundary tide series along a boundary, and there are four. On top of that, I have to make sure that the right information was input at the right place.

Similarly for the model grid, though the details differ. In this case, I have to first geo-reference the aerial image/convert from another geographical coordinate system, digitize the land boundary, importing the seabed survey points after the proper coordinate conversion, including units. Fortunately, I have done enough of manual digitizing (effectively, using the mouse to trace out lines) that the resulting lines usually stay true to the original without needing much correction).

Both operations (I deleted the first word that came to mind, chore, fearing that it might connote a menial task) are taxing on the hand-body and the eyes, the latter being fixed on the monitor screen. So having an anti-glare screen does help.

In the evening, I started to feel a stinging (that maybe too strong a word but I’m lost for one that means lesser in intensity) sensation on my back. I took it as a warning and stood up to stretch a bit, hoping that the “renewed” blood circulation would ease the matter. Then I had to arch my back a few times, flexing the spinal cord. But that “numbness” persisted.

When I reached home after work, I found myself ensconced in a sofa seat, legs propped on the coffer table, and adjusted my posture until every part of my body seemed relaxed and comfortable. Eyes closed, I took a short nap, just in time to wake up about half an hour later to take Adam to dinner at a Thai restaurant.

Before that, when my wife told me of the dinner arrangement, I was ambivalent of going out because of the back sensation that still bugged me. But voila, the numbness kind of disappeared when we were about to go out. And half way through the dinner, my wife commented that I looked much better, a semblance of radiance taking over my fatigued look. Must be the Thai food, or the dinner company, or my good sense of taking the brief nap outside my routine, listening to my body when it speaks. Or much more likely, a combination of them. And I guess that will be my panacea against the sometimes occupational hazards of a sedentary job.

That reminded me of a more serious ordeal that I went through back in college. I was just returning from a trip to see my girl friend (now my wife), then training in JB in a teachers training college, on a train. The trip took seven hours. So to pass the time, I brought a novel along to read on the train, little did I realize that the book could enthrall me for the entire train journey without me leaving my seat once I got on the train. [It may be anti-climatic to note that I can't remember the name of the novel, a case of pain overshadowing the pleasure.]

The train arrived at KL, and I alighted and took a taxi back to my rented room. After finishing my shower, I was bending down to move the pail that had my laundry when I felt a tug at my back. And that did it, I was like a cooked shrimp, posture-wise, for the rest of the night. Any attempt to straighten my back would bring on an excruciating pain that must have exceeded my pain threshold, for I gave up almost instantly.

I trudged down the stairs (my room was on the 2nd floor), hailed a taxi, and ended up in a clinic. Armed with some pain-killers and some muscle anti-inflammatory prescription, I managed to pass the night, my knees practically at my chin, sideway.

The next few days became a blur in my memory. But I think I took time off, to heal. And it did. And I was smart enough not to relive the unbelievably acute assault on my back. And yesterday’s memory lapse would be the closest I will ever get to that, I promise myself.

So listen to your body, its suppleness diminishing in reverse to the advancing age. And for goodness sake, walk around after 15 minutes or so from a seated position, if you can help it. Otherwise, change the position, stretch the legs/hands, massage the shoulder, do some table calisthenics, if you can’t, like in a meeting or in a middle of a movie in a cinema. You will never be sorry.

Oh yes, Adam hails from Sarasota and was here yesterday to do some Shaolin Kungfu sparring with my elder son.

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