2019 to 2021: Getting Up in the Morning

1/2019

Every morning I woke up and lay in bed for a long time trying to decide when and how I would get up. Eventually the need to go to the bathroom would drive me to get up despite the pain. Excedrin did not lessen the pain during the short walk from bed to bathroom. I slowly rolled off my bed edge and grabbed the edge of the dresser to stabilize my slow steps to the bathroom.

To return, I used the sink to pull myself up and paused at every step to breath deeply and slowly moved back to bed.

1/2021

Two years later, every morning I wake up and think about what I need to do that day. where I needed to go and what I want to accomplish. Somewhere during the though process, I automatically get up, go to the bathroom, and return to bed to continue planning the day. With a goal to blog every day, I pick a topic and write.

What is missing from the picture two years later? I have eliminated the pain 99% without taking pain killer medications. I don’t use the dresser to walk to the bathroom. I don’t use the sink to help lift myself off the toilet and lean against it to wash my hands. The morning routine is automatic and virtually pain free.

Two year later and I feel healthier and I am sure I am getting younger not older.

Twiggy

Strike One: My 36-25-36 figure never looked good in A-line dresses. I always felt short and dumpy next to my perfect Mom and wearing a dress with a belt that billowed out (also a style in 1966) was not flattering either. I was doomed before I could drive a car or vote. I sucked my stomach in and hunched my shoulders to look more like Twiggy. The realization that the model was a year younger than I didn’t help.

Like my mother and grandmother, I enjoyed sewing and made the most fashionable dresses. But none of them made me look like Twiggy. In fact, my mother had to rip apart more dresses than I care to remember to try to make me look fashionable. Then Katie moved into our home. Katie was a cute little foreign exchange student from England who lived with us my senior year in high school. Katie was fun and popular, so I thankfully followed in her shadow. I tried to sit up straight, walk straight, and stand up straight but it seemed not to matter much.

I was good at making impossible things happen. I lead an effort to impeach our civics teacher and fought my poor posture with the same determination. But it didn’t seem to make a difference, my shoulders were already beginning to droop.

Grandmother

Sixty five years ago my mother said, “Stand up straight.” “Stop slouching in your chair.” “You are going to have round shoulders like your grandmother.” I knew she was right, so I sat up straight. I walked without looking at my feet with a book on my head. I sat with my back up against the chair and my feet flat on the floor. I didn’t cross my knees and sat as proper as I could. I didn’t want to look like my grandmother.

Even after I left my home in Pennsylvania, I could hear my mother “nagging” me to sit up straight. I saw my grandmother in Indiana more when I attended Purdue and she never nagged me. But, I could see the hump in her back and she often walked with a cane. Besides the normal cooking and cleaning that grandmothers do, she sewed clothes and played the organ. I sat and listened to her beautiful music and didn’t notice that she was hunched over the key board. Arthritis began to play tricks on her hands which seemed like a reason to play the piano less and less, but it could very well have been her back was complaining as well. My grandmother never complained to me and even at 20 I was unaware of the potential for pain in sitting for hours playing the organ.

I followed my mother’s advice because I didn’t want to look like my grandmother. All the practice in walking, sitting, standing, kneeling, lifting, and moving in general was done, so I could look as beautiful as my cheerleader mother. Never mind that I was already heavier than her and three inches taller and “blessed” with an hour-glass figurer at a time when Twiggy was the model every teenager strived to look like.

New Year’s Resolution

When I picked up the water that was in a drawer under my bed, it was the last item that needed to be moved out of the three rooms that would receive the new floor. Bud was not able to do any of the prep work so my body from head-to-toe was tired. If my back had warned me, I could have told it to hang in there a little longer because I was almost done, maybe it did tell me, and I didn’t listen. Regardless, we both limped through Christmas and didn’t move anything back to its place until our daughter flew out to help us. Yeah, we could finally find what was missing for a month and I set a new year’s resolution to finally beat my rounded shoulders.

As you might expect, things don’t usually happen the way you plan. Geny flew back to Utah on Dec 30th and nine days later Bud my husband and best friend for 52 years died.

My week-old new year’s resolution was put on the back burner for months, as I resolved the many issues that followed the unexpected death of my husband. Unfortunately, I gained twenty-five pounds before I started to focus again on my journey back. To be honest five of the pounds were due to the pandemic but it all added up to extra weight that my back carried around.

The Beginning

As the days creep on, my mind, which does not have a good rewind button, remembers moments when my back felt like it does at the moment. The rocky journey started in the 1960’s when my mother would tell my sister and I stand up straight. I remember sitting and walking with a book on my head to keep my back straight. Mom was trying in her own way to prevent us from developing rounded shoulder like her Mom. My grandmother may have been in pain especially in the years leading up to her death. We didn’t know her well then, but we remembered her as an active woman who played the organ, sewed her own clothes, and worked alongside my grandfather as he cared for pigs and sheep on their Indiana farm.

I listened to my mother and tried unsuccessfully to keep my back straight over the fifty years since I left her care. In my mind I frequently remembered her words of caution and would stand up straight, suck my stomach in, and try to look like I was puffing my chest out. The perhaps that was the chink in my armor. My mom was thinner than I was and try as I might my little 16-year-old brain knew it was impossible.

Fast forward to 1/1/2019, I was determined to accomplish the impossible. I set my new year’s resolution to eliminate my rounded shoulders. A month previously when I bent over and picked up a six pack of water bottles, my back made a loud cracking noise that was not normal. Two days before my husband of 50 years slipped on ice clearing the driveway so a truck could deliver the laminate floor boards to replace thirty-year-old carpeting in our house.

The Way Back

My journey started when I was very young. Although it was over sixty years ago, I remember vividly my mother lecturing me to sit, stand, and walk with my head up and shoulders back as I walked around the house with a book on my head. I assume that book balancing was punishment when I was discovered slouching. There was warning mixed in with the lecture that I would have rounded shoulders like my grandmother, so I had a vivid visual reminder every time I caught myself slouched in a chair. For years that was enough to keep me focused on sitting, standing, and walking with grace and correct posture.

Over time my resolve to fight the inevitable faded. It was hard work to stand correctly and life had diminished my determination not to look like my grandmother. For seventy years it was my appearance that was the driver until the fateful day when my back cracked. Then I faced the reality that I had kyphosis and something more than standing up straight was needed to correct the deformity.