I’ve got this theory about my posture. I’ve been thinking about it for so long now that I am convinced it’s true. Surely, there are hundreds of studies/articles to back up my anecdotal evidence, but I’m not looking them up. (In case they don’t exist.)
My brilliant notion is that if I change my posture, my life will change.
My shoulders are droopy; they curve forward toward the ground. Even at my desk right now, I can feel them creeping up as my neck cramps and my spine rounds. None of this is new– I’ve had this same posture for years. If I had to pinpoint the era when this ergonomic travesty began, I’d say about 1989. That’s when my breasts arrived, uninvited and unexpected, even though their arrival was foreshadowed during Human Health class in fifth grade. Since then, I’ve spent most of my time hunched, adjusting my posture into all manner of unnatural poses to minimize the size of my breasts. (Relax, Freud-o-philes, I’m well aware that this has something to do with my profoundly uneasy relationship to my sexuality, but let’s just take that as a given and move on to my brilliant thesis.)
Last weekend I was standing at the park pushing Simon in the swing, and I decided to try an experiment. For five minutes I am going to stand up straight even if it means my breasts stick out farther than I am comfortable. I kept Simon aloft by pushing him with my left hand and took a deep breath. Five minutes. I held my phone in the right hand so I could time myself. I never even made it thirty seconds.
OK. Fine. So five minutes was too long.
I altered the experiment based on my constitutional inability to stand up straight for the same amount of time it takes for Simon to suck down a cheese puff. I looked around the park and evaluated everyone’s posture. I saw a fit woman in a red tank top whose spine was an unbending vertical plane. There was a father with a baby strapped to his chest in a Bjorn and a toddler on his back, but it seemed unfair to judge his posture since he had 40lbs of offspring clinging to his person. As I watched, I thought about all the things I could do to make myself stand up taller. Yoga, obviously. New bras, definitely. Deeper breaths, more meditation, a massage here and there, being more present– hell maybe even Crossfit.
By God, I had all the answers. Soon I’d be straight as a West Texas highway.
But like the overweight person who knows all about exercise and nutrition, I know that doing those things may be essential, but they aren’t enough. And they aren’t the starting point for me. The real starting point is this question: Am I ready to stand up straight– to be taller, to be more ME and to stop hunching and hiding parts of myself that scare me? And the answer is not yes or a no, but a surge of feeling. One part is excitement and that’s the part of me that shouts YES! I am done curving toward the Earth like someone who’s guilty. I am ready to embrace the power and authority that comes with owning all parts of my body and refusing to stoop. Another part of me is afraid to change because it’s been a long 25 year run with these curved shoulders– it’s more than a habit, it’s an instinct. And I’m going to have to deal with myself in a way that I wouldn’t if I kept on curving.
When I think of standing up straight– shoulders back and chest out– I feel both more vulnerable and more powerful. A tiny voice in my head says who do you think you are standing like someone who is important? And the answer to that question, which I take seriously even though the voice is bitchy and makes me want to kick it with my cowboy boot, is I don’t know but I’m going to find out.