I’ve always said that I’m no slouch.

Now, it turns out that I really am.

Plus, while I don’t think I’ve been a real pain-in-the-neck or pain-in-the-butt for others, I now have both.

The very worst part is that my otherwise positive nature has taken a major hit. As I hobble around each morning, I’m likely to quote Robert Redford, a.k.a. Sonny Steele, in the movie “The Electric Horseman.” When he slowly awakened to face the day, he joked, “Some parts wake up faster than others.”

It’s not that funny anymore.

I recently had X-rays and MRIs on my spine from neck to lower back, and each one confirms slipped discs, bulging discs, the ever-popular arthritis and all manner of words I can’t pronounce. I’ve begun a course of physical therapy, and the major component is posture.

Like I said: I’m a total slouch after all.

I wrote earlier this summer about some epic falls I had. Since then, I’ve experienced a couple more, and I’m more guarded than ever about walking. Better to spend the day in the recliner and not take the chance of a fall. Because fear is debilitating on its own, the therapy folks insist that I now use a cane as a safety measure. I admit it does serve as a crutch – pun intended – in more ways than one.

I’ve always contended that were I to use a cane, it would be a very cool cane. Little did I know how many options I really have. There are shafts of all kinds of wood and carbon fiber with patterns of lace, animal prints, flowers and holiday themes. Handles are pearlized, full of sparkles, smooth wood, brass and silver. If I wanted to, I could step out with a cane to match any outfit!

It appears that physical therapy is the conventional wisdom to avert surgery, and the therapy team insists I’m not a lost cause. If I’m faithful with the exercises, practice walking without slouching and ditch the recliner once in a while, I might see my strength and balance return. 

I’m hoping I can eventually walk to the mailbox, “shop till I drop” and keep in step with grandkids – all without pain.

Relating this whole scenario of canes, therapy and pain management, I’m reminded of a Sept. 13 New York Times column by Jane E. Brody titled “How to Age Gracefully.” The 80-year-old pledged to “stop talking to whoever will listen about my aches, pains and ailments,” which she refers to as an “organ recital.”

“It doesn’t provide relief,” Brody writes. “In fact, it might even make the pain worse. Rather than instill empathy, the ‘organ recital’ likely turns most people off, especially young ones.”

My purpose with my own organ recital is to encourage folks to take care of their backs; avoid undue strain whenever possible. The old joke, “If I’d known I’d live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself,” is so true. Many times, I’ve lifted a heavy box or hunched for hours over a computer and always paid a price. Not very smart on my part.

Going forward, I think I’ll adopt Brody’s advice. “Live each day as if it’s your last – with an eye on the future in case it’s not.”

And I’ll try not to be a slouch...

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