My dotage seems unpromising if I respond to relatively minor pain this badly. I have been really lucky in my life, healthwise; if/when I get some chronic condition I better medicate heavily so that I don’t get divorced/disowned by children.
TOTAL SIT: 60 minutes (40 car; 20 toilet, comprising four bathroom breaks, each representing one game of Candy Crush)
“Sitting, the great leveler,” Mr. Burns memorably told Homer Simpson. “From the lowliest peasant to the mightiest pharaoh, who doesn’t enjoy a good sit?” Another great leveler is awkwardness around the guy who’s standing up when everyone is sitting. I had never really thought about the social implications of standing versus sitting until this month brought them to the fore. At restaurants, I feel as though I’m delivering an hourlong toast; at the playground, my mien is transformed from relaxed-dad-on-a-bench to that of a pacing nervous parent, ready to intervene at the slightest sign of trouble.
More than that, this enforced standing has made me realize how much of my time bonding with my family is spent seated. Now we play Crazy Eights with me hulking over the table like a grudgingly accepted giant. I’ve begged off story time because my kids don’t like craning their necks to see the pages, and I find it maddening not to be able to snuggle with them in bed. At the beach house we shared with my in-laws for Easter weekend, I was completely unable to relax or join anyone else in relaxing. I hovered around the edges of the living room as everyone else chatted and read, constantly checking my email because it was a thing I could do standing up. (The drive to the beach house was another story; never have I so enjoyed a seven-hour crawl down I-95.) What was meant to be a restful long weekend turned into a stressed-out ordeal, with me cast as the outsider unable to connect. It all came to a head at Easter dinner, during which I stood straight up as if in a Last Supper parody, loved ones assembled to each side, my roast lamb perched on that stupid aluminum work tray. All I wanted to do was just be for a little while! Instead, I could never stop thinking about my dumb, clumsy, painful body, not for a second.
On the last day of April, I take the Amtrak from Washington to New York, wedged between two stools at the counter in the café car of a crowded Acela. (The Acela: one hour less of standing on a train, well worth another hundred dollars.) An elderly couple kicks me out of my spot when they need a place to eat sandwiches, unmoved by my claims that I “can’t sit down anywhere.” “Well,” the husband says, “I can’t stand up for very long. So we have the opposite problem.”
My month has been an ordeal, but it’s clearly succeeded. I’ve lost almost five pounds and gained muscle in my legs, especially my calves. I’ve cut my time-wasting drastically, editing and writing more than in any month I can remember. I’ve walked 92.5 miles, basically without trying.
Tomorrow, on May 1, I have big plans to sit down all day. I’ll order lunch in and imperiously demand that all meetings take place in my office, like a sultan. But after that, I plan to work on my feet a lot, the memory of my all-day agonies reminding me that finding ten minutes an hour to be vertical is not that arduous. I stood up at family dinner for a month. Here’s hoping what I learned will keep me sitting down to family dinners, story times, and, yes, conference calls, for many years to come.