On Sitting

It’s something people do every day, naturally, unthinkingly, and mostly with great ease: sitting.

We take for granted, after a long day of work, travel, riding the bus, standing in line at the bank or the supermarket, that we can return home and sit. We sit to watch TV, we sit to read, we sit in the dentist’s chair and on park benches. We sit at cafés and restaurants, to watch movies and plays, in traffic and in trains – all without giving a thought to the fact that we are seated. We spend so much of our day in this position that it’s reasonable to assume that sitting is as natural as walking.

In most cases for able-bodied people, when our bodies are intact and still shaped as they were at birth, that assumption may hold true. Because, in most cases, the bony structure, musculature and padding filling out our behinds (aka fannies, buttocks, tush, rear end, glutes) provide the kind of support we need to remain seated – sometimes, for hours. We never think about it, we just sit.

But not me. Not now, that bony fragments from my sacrum are out of  whack. Not now, when I can’t just lower myself onto a chair without the accompanying pain.

I can walk and kneel, I can swim and stand. But what I can’t stand is sitting. Point me to a chair – especially one made from hardwood, and I hesitate. Show me to a beautifully-designed patio chair, entirely chiseled out of a block of stone, and I cringe. I enter a doctor’s office and, eschewing the chair, admit that I would prefer to stand. A comfortable sitting position is, indeed, a rare find these days.

Imagine the amount of sitting that takes place on a day devoted to travel. Last week, after a lengthy car ride, I also had to fly. Granted, it was only a 2.5 hour flight – nothing close to the 12+ hours I’ve flown on some transatlantic journeys. Nevertheless, the mere notion of flight-travel is now laden with obstacles.

Take the first time I flew after being released from hospital. It was a few months ago, and the flight would only last one hour. No big deal… or so I thought. It wasn’t the time in the air that did me in, it was a pre-flight in-terminal incident that knocked the wind out of me: Cane in hand, and looking both ways before crossing a concourse, I began to walk slowly when I was suddenly hit hard on my left leg by a harried passenger wielding a heavy baggage cart. Once the fireworks subsided, and I’d limped over to a counter with muffled sobs, I marveled at my ability to stay vertical despite the pain shooting up and down my leg.

But back to sitting…

So how was I going to handle sitting throughout the 2+ hour flight on a fully-booked airplane with economy seats so narrow that I had no choice but to dig my elbows into the forearms of the woman seated next to me while attempting to do up my seat belt. If, like me, you are unable to sit for more than a few minutes without feeling the need, nay, an urgency to stand up, then you’ll find yourself in a real bind when the plane taxis to its takeoff position, but remains planted in the same spot for over half an hour. Good luck trying to convince a flight attendant that, due to an accident, it’s pretty darn agonizing to sit still for so long.

Add to that the necessity of being tied in for most of the time due to a bad bout of turbulence. Then mix in hours of pre-boarding wait-time, when everyone is seated, plugged into their PDAs and laptops, reading papers and trashy novels, talking with their kids and travel partners…and though I may be envious at their apparent ease, and wish that I too could lounge back and relax, instead I stand or walk about. Even having a wheelchair at my disposal (this, so that I can bypass long security lines) is a curse, because really I would much prefer to walk behind it. But sit I must, at least for awhile, and then I jump out, using it as a crutch until I reach the gate.

It sucks to think twice before taking a seat. But really, it’s a miracle that I can sit at all. So I’ll take the pain and the occasional obstacles if it means I can get around to see my family, friends and other wonders of the world.

Speaking of wonderful worlds: Give me a fluffy hammock or a bed of sand, a floating field of marshmallows or raft made of down-filled pillows. And then I’ll sit. Just maybe, as long as you.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi AJ,

    I too have had issues with long bouts of sitting (poor posture and hyper lordosis), and a good friend also suffered pain due to a crushed pelvis (climbing accident). What saved us was the beautiful yogi squat…I understand that we are all different, but have you been able to enjoy the freedom of the best wheel chair on earth?

    Peace and blessings,

    Karl

  2. Hey Karl,

    I used to do those squats all the time while traveling through Asia – the waiting pose. Unfortunately, I’m not quite there yet in terms of yoga, but thanks for the suggestion; I’m working on getting back to being this flexible yet again.

    What’s the best wheel chair on earth?!

    Happy new year to you, Jen and the girls,
    aj

  3. AJ,

    I like to use the term ‘best wheel chair on earth’ for the ‘waiting pose’ or the yogi squat. It has helped myself and many of my athletes to deal with and recover from back pain over the years.

    Karl

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