15 Letters

On today’s ride into town, topics abound: the unexpected bump in spring warmth which has the plants coming up; the Christmas cactus that has adorned itself with two more beautiful white blooms in time, perhaps, for Easter; the comings and goings of the college kids and the tales we will hear of the teen returning from a month in France on Saturday. But something else has been on the mind, and so I indulge in a subject that we hardly think about but one that literally forms our frame.

“Posture is a habit.”

Although derailed this past week with a case of shingles near the eye, I will be getting back on track to begin some physical therapy for a cervical neck sprain. At my initial visit, the therapist conducted a fast evaluation of my posture, or rather, its problems, and I was taken on as a patient and told to begin the exercises on the sheet 1-2 times a day. I’m not sure why these innocent stretches should leave me a bit breathless. I’ll assume it means they are working muscles I’ve let be lax and that this requires oxygen.

From the stretches comes an awareness of posture in other settings: behind the wheel, at the work desk, just walking around, or even lying in bed curled up at the end of the day (“ Am I rolling my right shoulder? I think so.”) This constant assessment feels pervasive and a bit invasive. Or will the awareness and repositioning begin to feel normal after some time passes?

The habit of posture calls back memories of one’s mother and the phrase, “stand up straight.” There’s the yearly physical exams, the consideration of whether walking with a book on head would really do anything after all. Fast forward to today, and I think about the screens we face each day. How might we find time to do a posture check before we tackle the next task? Posture feels like a small thing but I am beginning to reconsider. Can we pull our shoulders back while we plant them up against the wheel?

This rambling story of posture comes full circle.  In preparation for physical therapy, I unloaded and sifted my bags and backpack, fearing I’d be criticized for the weight I lug to town even though I am guarded against all weathers, can fill any crevasse of time and have a safehouse for “important papers.” In this case, one bag held the dog-eared article on shingles which, upon re-reading, led me to make a fast appointment and thus thankfully stave off a full attack.

Posture and our diligence to improve it may wax and wane, but let’s remember it’s probably not a small thing. And on that note, I better push back and sit up in my train seat. Ah, that’s better!

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