Having been out of work for 26 months allowed me some spare time to take better care of myself.
I will neither bore nor gross you out with details of what discovering multiple stones in both kidneys entailed. A fair amount of my “leisure time” was interrupted by visits to my urologist Dr. Oh, having x-rays taken, and undergoing two procedures to get rid of the larger stones. Thank you, President Obama, for allowing me to pay only 35% of my COBRA insurance premiums or I would have had to face the choice of passing the stones without help or losing our house.
The summer of 2010 also found me feeling my age. Despite riding my bike on a much more regular basis during the summer months, often my back was killing me. When I passed a person handing out questionnaires about Chiro One in the local Walgreens, I walked past and then turned around, thinking how could this not be a good thing to investigate? I filled out the form and was contacted about my condition. I visited the local store and for $40 got x-rayed further north of where I’d been getting x-rayed for the stones. I negotiated a fee split between me and my insurance with the nice people at the Wheaton Chiro One. I began my therapies on a three-days-a-week basis.
It’s important to admit here that I also gave myself permission to do this. Not having enough time was not a viable excuse. (A story for another time, but I also spent more than a year doing very little about my weight despite cholesterol and hypertension.) Permission was essential to this process.
I developed a routine for the next 12 weeks: get adjusted, perform 10 minutes of stepping, repetitions on a Precor Stretch Trainer that worked my back in various ways, sit on the Wobble Board and try to remain balanced, and walk about like the Frankenstein monster in a Cervical Traction Brace. If you go to their Website, you won’t see this contraption since it looks like something left over from the Spanish Inquisition. And a cursory search on the name hasn’t shown me anything quite like the device used at Chiro One.
Yes, one voluntarily accepts this torturous routine after hearing your best friend on occasions over the years tell you to walk straight, fully concerned about a tendency to lean my head too far forward. It takes more than that to overcome bad posture, sad to say. The routine changed over several more months and I was down to two times a week. Had it not been my insurance coverage expiring, I would have been down to once a week and could have continued for another five months before full-time work interrupted. The traction brace evolved to a different kind of torture, reclining in a chair with a set of weights attached to my forehead and pulling down with head arched back for ten minutes a sitting.
The cervical traction brace is the one experience that has stayed with me, particularly as I walk to and from the train station. Dr. Melanie would watch us wander about the studio for ten minutes and correct our foot alignments or other postural imperfections. All of these activities were not going to restore the inch in height I have lost since I was a younger man, but my posture has improved immensely due to the year of rehabilitation my spine underwent in this chiropractic program.
I had homework in the form of other stretching exercises, some of which I still remember to perform once or twice a week, with the exception being neck stretching that I do as often as twice a day, and no less than once every two days. It has all worked together so that I have that image and those words in my present-day mind when I walk to and from work with my head back and shoulders straight, my toes pointing forward, my neck curved so as to absorb the mild shocks of walking upright better. It feels good.
If I forget, I have plenty of examples of people walking hunched over their cellphones or just plain hunched over, to remind me that I need to stand up straight.
At one point in my job search, I was a finalist for a position at the Illinois Medical Society. A poster in the dark-wood lobby proclaims one of the benefits of membership is the lobbying campaign against chiropractors’ efforts to get spinal examinations as part of school health programs in Illinois. My experience with chiropractic makes me think I would not have been happy with that “benefit.” I hope they fail. I have come to believe that spinal health is essential. Having stated that, however, I am not sure I can go back to Chiro One because their hours of operation aren’t congruent with my working day. Nevertheless, I am grateful.
When I entered into the realms of uncertainty that losing one’s job can cause, I opened myself to the possibility that I wasn’t in charge of my life. Taken as a matter of faith, I assumed that God was in charge and that His plan was the better one, even if it wasn’t all that clear what it was. Part of what I had learned through the Christos Tending the Holy program, which I mentioned in a previous article, was to hold things lightly, particularly the contradictions of this life. It appears that one aspect of the plan included making sure that when I returned to the workforce, I was in good enough shape that it wouldn’t kill me. With the beauty of 50/50 hindsight I look back and see what a wonderful plan it was.