My Stupid Back: What I’m doing to smarten it up

MRI

When I started this blog about embracing simplicity, it had a lot to do with leaving behind the trauma of the job I had just quit. I was on a quest to remove any and all unnecessary stress from my life. With an abusive boss and indifferent management removed from the equation, I could go about finding the joy in life that we are all entitled to. Right?

In retrospect, there were a lot of factors that I did not consider. I’ve heard people talk about how we hold emotional tension in certain parts of our bodies, and honestly, I always thought that was hokum. It was easier for me to wrap my skeptical brain around the mechanics of having too many things to do in too little time, the effects of cortisol on the body, and poor posture. The truth is, it was probably a combination of factors – a perfect storm of mechanical issues, bad habits and stress. As a working mom, I was lifting my toddler into and out of his car seat twice a day, cooking and cleaning, gardening, and smiling through my deflated ego as I alternated between sitting at a desk and dashing in a different direction every five minutes for eight to ten hours per day. Every task was completed at top speed. I was also fooling myself into believing that this really was the urban dream life I always pictured.

Looking back, all I can think now is, No wonder…

I have always been a proponent of simple living – growing the food you eat, making beautiful things, remembering at all times what’s really important, and minimizing any and all stress.

I have made strides in the years since that horrid job. I have a new job that I really love with management that appreciates, encourages and respects all staff. I have followed my passion and published a novel, with another one on the way. My man has taken on more of the household chores and my son can climb in and out of the car himself. My free time is spent on the things that lift me up: writing, design, gardening, sewing and playing with my little boy.

So, why the hell did my body collapse on me three months ago?

In a nutshell, all of my efforts were too little too late. More to the point, I was still holding all of that old tension in my joints and muscles and it was causing a mind-blowing chain reaction from head to toe. It didn’t help that my work and hobbies all require an awkward back posture. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but essentially, mild scoliosis, an osteophyte and some bulging discs were aggravated by incorrect posture and a bloody lazy core.

My body decided it had enough of my bullshit and walked off the job.

It’s been a long three months filled with doctor appointments, assessments, exercises and treatments. I don’t leave the house unless it’s for an appointment. I am forced to spend 80% of my waking hours lying down because I am unable to hold myself upright for much longer than two hours at a time. So, yeah, it got my attention.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom and I am optimistic about getting my life back. I have seen progress with chiropractic care, loads of rest and hourly stretching. For the past couple of weeks, I have also been receiving private sessions with the highly accomplished Pilates instructors at The Loft Pilates in Toronto. These sessions have encouraged me to slow down, breathe and take stock of the situation. (I’ve always had a tendency to dive headfirst into activities without giving much thought to form.) I also have a heightened awareness of my body and movements and I’m learning to catch and correct myself before I can do any further damage. When I engage the mind-body connection, it’s remarkable how I can will a specific muscle to calm down and release.

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I’m not out of the woods yet, and those magical moments of clarity and control are still fleeting. But the serious depression and constant sense of foreboding have waned. No longer am I gripped by fear of a future shaped by physical disability. I have managed to find the feelings between the thoughts, and to slow down my whirling brain. With commitment and faith in my body’s ability to heal, I am optimistic. And that is simply wonderful.

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Nathaniel the Tarantula

A little while back I wrote about my boy’s awesome idea for this year’s Halloween costume. I am pleased to report that, through a collaborative process, his idea developed from conception to the real thing.

Kids tarantula costume

BIG spider…

AND he’s a finalist in a halloween photo contest!

Vote for The Tarantula to win this contest in two easy steps:

1. View the great photo of our spiderific creation by Tangerine Photography.

2. Click LIKE to vote for The Tarantula.

Thanks for your support.

Here’s how it all started…

Kids tarantula costume sketch

True Colours

There has been some talk in my office about the True Colours personality test and its value as a team building exercise. Who doesn’t love a good personality test? My curiosity got the better of me one evening, so I got online and took the first free version of the test that I found.

I’m green.

I don’t know what that means, really. I’m not sure I fit into that category, but the questions I answered got me thinking, nonetheless, about my optimum work style. The questions were presented as a series of grouped adjectives against a distractingly vibrant background. You rank the groups of words from most applicable to least. And you’re meant to do it quickly, I think. I felt rushed, anyway. (Mind you, I get the same feeling on WebMD – probably a throwback to grade school multiple choice quizzes.) The whole thing took about 7 minutes and told me I’m green based on the adjectives I preferred.

My diagnosis of green was represented as another series of adjectives, apparently the ones I chose most frequently. (Neither blue nor yellow were on any of the lists which leads me to believe that the designation of ‘green’ is arbitrary. Duh.)

I don’t remember most of the adjectives that populated the definition of green, but two stood out for me: intellectual and organized.

That’s not what my life, work or private, currently feels like, but I love the sound of it.

Whether the test I took provides accurate results or not is anybody’s guess. It’s so subjective that I suspect the results might change every time I take it (if I were inclined to take it repeatedly). However, it’s a great exercise to get the self-reflective juices flowing. So often, when work and life get to be overwhelming, autopilot takes over, and you have to wonder how much of a person’s work style comes as a reaction to stress and how much of it is working to the best of one’s ability.

The reality is that there will always be stress – so, maybe they should come up with a test for stress tolerance and coping mechanisms to help workers improve their work style. Food for thought, anyway.

Yay! for Canada Post

In the days leading up to our departure for Belize, I realized that I had made a seemingly insignificant mistake that had big ramifications. I was in the office, and one of my coworkers overheard me giving out our postal code. I had one of the digits wrong, he informed me. Oh.

Uh oh.

You may recall that I made my own wedding dress, but I ordered the boys’ clothes online. The groom’s outfit had arrived weeks ago, as had my son’s pants. His shirt, however, still had not arrived. It was coming from Lithuania, so I wasn’t surprised. Until it dawned on me that I very likely provided the wrong postal code. This realization happened on Wednesday. We were leaving first thing the following Monday morning.

Frantically, I called Canada Post.

Using online tracking, I located my package and saw that it had been stalled at the sortation plant for three days before disappearing from the system. The first three people I spoke with were decidedly not helpful. Not quite rude, but certainly dismissive.

And then, I spoke with an angel who opened a ticket for the investigations people and entered every detail I gave her into the system: Incorrect postal code on the package. It’s a shirt for the ring bearer in a wedding. The entire wedding party is boarding a plane Monday. Must be located by Friday or it will be too late. Once item is located, bride willing to pick it up.

She informed me that it would be up to the investigators to determine whether or not the package was important enough to track down. I wish I could remember her name.

The next day, Thursday, I called again. The package still had not been located. More notes were added to the file. By this time, I had resigned myself to cancelling my spa day to make time for sewing a new shirt before our departure. I had already started the design.

You’re probably wondering why I ordered a shirt from Lithuania in the first place. Believe me, I asked myself the same thing. Oddly, it was the only boys linen shirt I could find that looked like a pirate shirt. Every other shirt I saw had a button-down collar and cuffs.

That’s why.

Unexpectedly, I was given the day off on Friday as a wedding gift and to allow me more time for sewing so I wouldn’t have to cancel my spa day. My boss really is a class act.

At home on Friday, the phone rang. It was work – Canada Post wanted me to call. Really?! I called, my file was opened and read back to me: If the bride calls, transfer her to me. The lady I was speaking with unsuccessfully transferred me twice, told me not to hang up whatever I did, then put me through to an investigator in Calgary, of all places.

This lovely woman, whose name I didn’t get, tried three different numbers at the station where my package had been located. Unfortunately, they had closed at 2pm. So much for that. She felt terrible that she couldn’t give me better news and asked me a series of follow-up questions to complete my file, which I answered around the lump in my throat. (Interestingly, when I told her that my back up plan was to sew another shirt, she typed “have another shirt made”.)

An hour later, the phone rang again. It was work wanting to know if they could provide my number to the Canada Post worker who had called in the first place. Yes, please! A few minutes later, I was speaking with Isabel who had seen the note come through on her computer about a desperate bride somewhere in the city and said to herself, ‘Not on my watch!’

Yes, the plant was mostly closed, but she happened to being working late that day anyway. She read the file, bolted away from her computer and out to the loading dock to stop the truck as it was pulling away to take my package to another plant. “I got my little hands dirty,” she told me, explaining that she had gone through every package in that truck until she found mine.

When I got there, I hugged her and held back tears as I thanked her profusely. She didn’t have to do that for me. She could have just shrugged and let the truck go. Thank goodness for sentimental women who appreciate romance and love a wedding. Thank you, Isabel.

The wee pirate

Be Happy

When I decided to start blogging, I had one rule: NO NEGATIVITY.

That rule proved very tricky to abide by. At first. With time, vigilance and practice, it is now almost effortless. Something has shifted in my perception. I can’t pinpoint what caused this shift – maybe getting married to the love of my life in paradise, or reconnecting with my creativity, or something as simple as focusing on recent successes rather than day-to-day stresses – whatever the catalyst, it’s a happy change. I made up my mind to be happy, paid attention to my choices and trained myself to stop spiraling.

Last night, I had drinks with a long-time friend I hadn’t seen for awhile. She finds herself at a crossroads, on the cusp of a new era, but feeling paralyzed by old patterns. We’ve all been there.

We talked it through, comparing stories of old memories that keep us trapped. Then, I suggested that she spend some time searching the internet using simple terms like “happiness” or “joy” or “success”. With something as vast as the world wide web, you never know where it might lead you. Even as I write this, the old cynic in my head is gagging at how cheesy it sounds. (But my friend and I also discussed where our inner critic gets her ideas – usually from what we believe other people must think of us. In my experience, those perceptions are often flat-out wrong.)

When I got home, I tested out my own advice and plugged “happiness” into my browser. I found this fantastic article that outlines, step-by-step, how to be happy. Apparently, it’s as easy as that.

I love the internet.