February 23, 2014

Make it Count

Imagine you had to pay a tax every time you type something on a keyboard. There are no exemptions, so it counts the backspace key you use to correct typos, the space-bar, email, Twitter…everything. If this tax was set at $0.001 per character, then the paragraph you’re reading would’ve cost 38 cents. I assure you it’d cost me in the dollars with all the editing I do.

For the past two months, I’ve been living in the world of keystroke tax.

I’m not paying with dollars though.

I pay with a currency called pain.

It started in December. Irritations around my wrists and numbness in my palms weren’t unfamiliar after extensive finger-work. I thought it must have been one of those weeks. There wasn’t a reason to suspect otherwise.

Two months later, and the pains are still here, increasingly hard to ignore: Mostly constant, ranging from noticeable to bearable, and often present in my shoulders. Several tests I’ve undergone came back negative. An electromyography I had a few days ago will also rule out Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; or so my doctors believe.

Pain is such a great teacher, particularly when it lasts for more than just a few days. It makes you aware of your limbs. Appreciative of the fact that they let you walk and grab and hug and kick, all without being aware of them.

And suddenly you are.

Pain reminds you that your body is an entity of its own, that your body isn’t you. Rather, it’s the machine that the mind utilizes to bring your thoughts and desires into manifestation. And just like every other machine, sometimes things go wrong. The problem here is you can’t just call Toyota or go to Apple and get a new one.

All I have right now is uncertainty and speculation…oh and this line, courtesy of my doctor:

If we don’t find anything concrete, this may be something you have to learn to live with.

Typing has been a considerable part of my life for as long as I can remember: From gaming in my childhood, through using the internet for the first time at my grandfather’s house, to blogging for a living in my teens. I’m always in front of a screen, my fingers dancing on a keyboard. And I sure don’t want that to change — I plan to spend a lot of the time I have left doing this. But ultimately, the choice may not be mine.

This isn’t a post about CTS or pain though, nor is it about anxiety.

See, I walk the line between pragmatism and pessimism, so always preparing for the worst. In the back of my mind I’ve already gone with the presumption that the pain might as well tag-along for the rest of the ride.

While all of this is a little harrowing, it’s also a little inspiring: If some kind of keystroke tax handicaps me to three hours of screen time a day, what would I choose to spend them on? Would I be forced to focus more on things that actually matter?

If I can only use a keyboard for one hour instead of six before my bones begin to ache, will I think harder before carelessly spewing words on it? go on Twitter less often? be less forgiving to my mind and more to my body?

And if the answer is yes, why not live like that, anyway?

Most of us aren’t taxed for the time we spend screwing around, at least not so tangibly and immediately. Time is invisible and ambiguous, and we usually pay for it long after its due. But every minute has a price. Every choice (and non-choice) has one.

Every character has a price.

So make it worth it. Make it count.

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