Mastering My Environment

I’d like to apologize for my extended sabbatical. This summer has been a test in personal resiliency. First, I got sick for a long time, then my beloved pet disappeared (and never reappeared), and then–as my thesis picked up again–I began having wrist pain which prevented me from typing more than I absolutely had to.

But now, as we are deluged in autumnal rains headed toward the holidays, I’m feeling healthier and more cheerful for two reasons. 1. a new kitten and 2. a new book.

We got Ollie at 6 weeks and it is a delight to watch him grow. At first, he was so little that he could just barely jump high enough to hook his claws into our blanket and climb up to the bed. Now, he can jump straight to the top from about two feet away. Sometimes he would trip over his feet chasing after a string. Now, his body courses gracefully (mostly…we have slippery floors). Ollie has mastered his environment. He is confident, intelligent, curious, and adept. There is a simple beauty and a deep satisfaction that accompanies watching a masterful creature.

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My wrist pain–you might have guessed–was tendinitis and muscle spasm from working too much at the computer + knitting + playing games on my phone. I’ve always had bad posture, so–suspecting that had something to do with it–I went looking for information on body mechanics and physical therapy. I found this book: Pain Free by Egoscue & Gittines. It’s major tenant is that we tend to put our load bearing joints out of alignment with each other. The longer they stay that way, the more muscles designed for holding you upright go into atrophy which causes your body to compensate with other, lesser muscles. For instance, when you hunch at your desk or slouch over your phone, your shoulders are not square with your hips which mispositions your elbow which makes the stabilizing muscles in your wrist do work they aren’t designed for–the heavy lifting of your palm and fingers causing your tendons to rub and get inflamed (if your wrist was using the right flexor/extensor muscles, the tendons would be lined up properly and not rubbing anywhere when you move your fingers). And there you have it, carpal tunnel syndrome caused by slouching. The book also outlines simple yoga-type poses to get the right muscles back to doing the right jobs. Like all physical therapy, you have to do the work, but it usually feels so good and refreshing afterward, that I don’t mind putting in the time. And now I get to write again!

But the combined experiences of watching my cat’s prowess while finding myself unable to hold my torso upright properly was humbling. I am not master of my environment.

On the other hand–paraphrasing Egoscue–movement begets movement. Once I began doing the exercises, I began feeling better, then I wanted to move more, and now I find myself naturally watching less TV and doing more projects. Soon my body will be a useful tool again instead of just somewhere to live. Without any cardio or strength training, I feel more balanced, more agile, and more flexible. I–like my kitten–am growing in confidence.

Sometimes, we may feel puny, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the capacity for strength.

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