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  • Writer's pictureEve Bernfeld

Still, Not Stiff

The middle-aged man with the receding hairline and the wedding band leaned down the bar to nudge my college roommate conspiratorially. “Your friend” (pointing to me) “needs to loosen up.”

“If I were any looser,” I deadpanned, “I’d be asleep.”

He left us alone. (Attending college in New York City, I triple majored Theatre, Philosophy and getting rid of creeps.)

This story spontaneously came back to me the other day, from the depths of my memory bank, as I was pondering the difference between “Stiff” and “Still.” They are often mistaken for each other.

Stiffness, rigidity, bracing. All words for a common strategy of working (too) hard to hold ourselves upright.

And when we start to notice we’re stiff, we may attempt to counteract it with what feels like the opposite—movement. Stretching, jiggling, shaking ourselves out, leaning back and forth, changing positions nonstop, rolling the shoulders and head, etc.

I’m a big fan of movement. But sometimes this moving-to-try-not-to-be-stiff is counter-productive. We go from working (too) hard being stiff to working (too) hard to stay moving (so as not to be stiff). It’s all a lot of WORK. Also, we may be still bracing in some parts even as we shake out others. We haven’t actually addressed the underlying problem of habitual stiffening. We’ve just added habitual wiggling.

So what if we had another option? It’s also totally possible to just be STILL, without stiffening up. To do only what it takes to be sitting or standing here and no more. Not moving any more than I need to conserves energy for when I do want to be moving. And also allows me to move easily and freely when that time comes because I don’t have to un-stiffen my braced joints in order to do it.

Sort of like a 22-year-old perched confidently on a barstool. Self-contained enough to reject a bad come-on without working too hard.

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