Our parents did their best to mold us into worthwhile adults: “Make your bed.” “Quit mumbling.” “Burping deliberately during dinner is not funny.”
Teachers were equally rigorous: “Use your inside voice.” “Tell Mrs. Murphy thank you.” “Stop eating the paste.”
Even relatives and neighbors chimed in: “You kids stop teasing that dog.” and “Your parents would be ashamed of you.”
But despite the vigilance of the village that raised us, by the time we were old enough to legally sit in a bar, most of us still resembled unformed lumps of dough, not knowing if we wanted to be pretzels, cinnamon rolls, or sesame-seed bread.
Even in our forties, buying houses and molding our own children, we were only half-baked; so we still had plenty of time to determine the habits, attitudes, and abilities we would take into old age.
When young, I told my mother that a neighbor seemed like a mean old man. She replied, “I think he is, and I also think he was probably a mean young man. Every day of your life, you practice for your old age.”
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I proved her point without knowing I was doing so when I spent years practicing to be a pretzel. In junior high, I slouched around the house as part of my sultry act. In high school, I slumped to match the height of my shorter boyfriend. While teaching, I stooped over the desks of my students.
Then at age 58, sciatica drove me to a physical therapist. Mincing no words, he said my problem was sloppy posture, and he was the man to fix it. The promise of relief from pain motivated me to do his prescribed stretches daily, and I began to see results. I learned you can teach new tricks to an old slouch; but I wish I’d reaped the benefits…
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