A new age attitude adjustment

St. Petersburg Times
Special to the Times

Every six months, I go through the paroxysm of planning and packing that results in a change of coasts. "How fortunate," people say. "You have the perfect life." I can't deny the advantages. In the summer, California's chill beats what a poet friend calls the "tree-sweat humidity" of Miami. The silken winter air in Florida is nirvana compared with the cold storms of the north coast.

    The disadvantage is, I have to move.  I have to pick up my life and go,  leaving behind friends, family and familiar habits. I never quite live anywhere. It takes me a month to resettle on the new coast, to  remember how the television works,

how to retrieve messages off the machine and to force my head back into writing.

    This spring, as I began my pages-long list for the trip west, I kept hurting myself. Woke up one morning with a numb cheek and a stopped-up ear. Sinus infection, the doctor said. Have to get that cleared up before you get on the plane or you'll blow your eardrum out. He put me on antibiotics and steroids.

    I threw my back out. Les and I were supposed to celebrate our 20th anniversary the next Saturday by renewing our wedding vows, and I couldn't stand straight. He'd be marrying Quasimodo. A test of his love, to be sure, but not my picture of the ideal bride. Dashing around the apartment, I tripped over the wheel of a suitcase and almost took a toe off. The East Coast was sending me a message: Don't go.

I needed help. Our daughter made an appointment with a New Age chiropractor.

"I can fix you, or I can heal you," he said.

    "Fix me."

    I could see the disappointment. He wanted to teach me to fish, and all I had time for was a meal.

    The guy was good. He pressed the exact spots that lifted me off the table in pain. By the time he was done, I was, if not restored, at least straightened.

    I went through the ceremony looking almost normal, if you didn't spot the enormous blue toe hanging out of one tasteful silver sandal. My ear cleared. The toe shrank enough to get me through security.

    "Come back once more," the chiropractor said. "Let's be sure your back can handle a six-hour plane trip."

    As he pressed the magic spots, I shared my theory about not wanting to go west. "Would you like to find out why you don't want to go?" Sure. He had me hold one arm straight out from my shoulder and resist with all my strength. He pressed down on it while I completed the sentence: "I don't want to go to California because . . . . " I tried "because I have to leave my friends and my work." The arm stayed steady. My head might think friends and work were important, but my body didn't. I tried, "Because I have to leave my family." Boing. The arm came down like an old-fashioned slot machine's.

    "Let's see what happened in your past to make you feel bad about leaving your family."

    I held my arm out again and he pressed while I counted the years. When I got to 7, the arm dropped.

    "What happened to you at age 7?"

    "My father volunteered for the Navy and left for California."

    "How did that make you feel?"


    "And now you're abandoning your children to go to California."

    A light bulb went on. This might all be woo-woo, but I had never figured that one out for myself.

    He had me repeat the sentence: "I'm ready to go to California. I'm able to go to California. I'm willing to go to California. God wants me to go to California." That last one gave me pause, God and I not being on speaking terms in recent years.

    "Let's see why you keep hurting yourself."

    He held my arm out, pressed down and touched a place near my collarbone. I repeated words off a Chakra Chart on the wall until I got to "Absent-minded." The arm dropped.

    Was this a trick? Was he pressing harder on my arm when I said certain words? He swore not. This was my heart speaking.

    He gave me another sentence to recite. "I don't need to hurt myself. I'm ready, willing and able not to hurt myself."

    "Wasn't that quicker than talk therapy? Not that there's anything wrong with that."

    He presented me with a bill that was about the same as talk therapy.

    The magic seemed to work. The plane trip went fine, and I settled back into the West Coast life without my usual month of sulking.

    Last week, hurtling down the stairs in my plastic gardening clogs, I sailed off the last step thinking I was at the bottom and landed on my back on the hall floor staring at the ceiling, saying "Ow, ow, ow." The cat watched, hoping I'd do something else amusing. The result: a wrenched foot, which rapidly swelled to the size of a football, along with four dark purple toes.

    Dear doctor: I'm okay with the abandonment issue, but the absent-minded part may take another session.


Norma Watkins is a frequent contributor to Sunday Journal. Her memoir, The Last Resort, was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2011.