Counting to Thirty

Yesterday, I was successful in a small thirty-second kind of way. Several consecutive thirty-seconds, actually. Last June, I had a pain in my hip that lingered over the summer. Convinced it was bone cancer, in September I finally went to the doctor. It was just bursitis. Bursitis pain never felt so good! I had too many repetitive movements in my life: sitting at a desk and walking on a treadmill. My hips were struggling with a life of back and forth movement. They needed variation, oppositional stretching, a little specialized attention. A few physical therapy sessions got them back on track and out the door I went with stretches that would keep bursitis away.

After doing the stretches for a few weeks, I felt great so dropped the stretching from my weekly agenda. Within days, the twinging in my hips returned. I stretched. It went away. I’m as bright as Pavlov’s dog: to keep from hurting, I need to stretch. For the rest of my life. That’s a little overwhelming, really. Yet truthful as I’m walking around in a body that doesn’t spring back like it did ten years ago.

The thought of needing to stretch takes up a lot of brain space. The act of stretching takes less than ten minutes a few times a week. I’m supposed to hold each of the five stretches for thirty-seconds, on each side. Why is that math so daunting when I wonder when in the day I’ll be able to fit it in? The stretching grows to the size of a hot air balloon when I think about it, yet when I do it, it takes the space of a little water balloon. And it’s done. I’ve worked the stretching into my Monday and Wednesday routines at the Y. So this scheduling issue only arises a couple times a week.

On Monday, I found a spot on the mat at the Y and started that first stretch. After “1… 2… 3… 4…” I jumped ship to the to-do list to attend to after I left the Y. I caught myself and guessed at “15… 16… 17…” before again my focus flipped 180 degrees. I may have held that stretch for 20 seconds or a minute. I ended it on “add dish washing soap to the grocery list.”

Thankfully, at 52 I talk to myself nowadays.

After that first stretch, the conversation started. While I don’t remember it word for word, the initial screaming went something like, “For crying out loud! Just count to 30! That’s all you have to do RIGHT NOW! Count to 30!”

Then, more calmly, “You’re absolutely right! I can’t accomplish anything right now from that list! I only need to count to 30!”

It was answered by an exasperated, “Finally, you get it! Now, I suggest you count out loud!”

Taking the firmly dispensed advice, for each stretch, a similar but less intense conversation ensued. “Right now, all I need to do is to count to 30.” Then a whispered count.

The gym is a good place to whisper counts. Many people are counting repetitions out loud there. I join the crowd and keep my mind in place for thirty seconds at a time. And I repeat it ten times.

Unsure which benefited more while I stretched yesterday — my hips or my mind.