Little Weaknesses

I’m getting old. Older, I guess, as all the old folks might concede, with a twinkle in their eyes that says, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, buster.” But every now and again I find myself sitting on the floor of my closet, where my wife of eighteen years has “stored” my vinyl record collection, which is extensive. She cataloged it and organized it many years ago. I go to the very end of it to find a rare pressing of Led Zeppelin II. Get it? Z is for Mr. Zeppelin. She’s not a fan. Toward the middle are all my Pixies records, including the singles, the pride of my early adulthood. Those, along with my Pink Floyd pressings (1968 A Saucerful of Secrets, yes, indeed) were very important to me, and, in a way, they still are, but in the closet of the master bedroom, on the floor, behind the winter clothing. I think, somehow, more rooms have been added to my inner mansion, in one of which lives my eight-year old, who today declared that “punk band” is a funny word. When he said that, a particular Dead Kennedys concert I attended came to mind. “Punk band” is a funny word. Alas. I’m getting older.

I asked my doctor about some real pain in my back, very lower back, on top of my hips, really. After some diagnostics he said, “You’re getting older.”

“Really?” I said. “Forty, and I have excruciating back pain?”

“Welcome to the club,” he said, without a hint of irony in his voice. “Drop your shorts and bend over.” It wasn’t a dream. I’m older.

It’s my iliopsoas, a muscle system the thickness of your forearm, which, when you are woven together, trusses your spine, hips, and thigh bones. Mine is inflamed, a common enough malady for men of my age (did I mention I’m over forty?), of my build (average height, slight bone structure), and of my vocation (sitting and talking, standing and talking, slouching and reading), and I have discovered a stretch for it. It takes exactly two minutes to perform. That’s it: two minutes. I did the two-minute stretch several times a day for a few weeks, and my excruciating pain became slight discomfort. It was awesome. So I quit doing the stretch exercise.

Now look, I deal with people clinically all week long, and this particular behavior is pathological and frustrating. How many times have I said “Why did you stop doing it?” to hear the answer “Because I felt better.”

Sure enough, a few weeks later, my back began to hurt, this time worse than before. Moreover, I was surprised that it hurt. How? How could I be surprised? Finally, not two days ago, I thought to do the stretch again. I feel much better today.

Why? Why did I stop doing it? Because I felt better? That doesn’t make any sense! It’s pathological! Where is the cure? If only I were an automaton! Even a robot would know that, as it aged, certain sequences would alleviate, then prevent, malfunction, and it would execute those programs, but I, I do not. And the old folks smile, then wince because something hurts.

This is why AG despairs a little: a two-minute stretch–not even an exercise, a stretch–a two minute stretch which alleviates pain is too much for me to continue to do faithfully. What hope does he have that I discipline myself to do good in my community? Well, therein lies hope, a little. Those old folks are laughing at me, and I’m laughing at AG, and he laughs at someone near to him, and in so doing, we, the community, encourage one another. Sail on!


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