I used to do (really bad) Tai Chi in my old life. I started doing it one summer when I was doing a project with Tanpo. I was just running the numbers since I knew Excel (kind of) and I was unemployed at the time and lived in Mom and Dad’s house, so I was a likely candidate. I got some DVDs from the library and started doing Tai Chi to help me relax and breathe calmly so I would be in a state of mind conducive to working in close quarters with someone I’m very tight with. You should have seen us editing my B-school essays – if you observed us for 5 minutes you’d understand why I started doing Tai Chi.
I did a little Tai Chi here and there as I went through school and then moved to OR. The DVD I bought after test-driving a few from the library is now in storage in my old apartment complex. I couldn’t do it now, anyway. P(38) sometimes has me do Tai Chi-like hand movements in the pool, and she told me about “chair” Tai Chi – a branch of the discipline that you perform while seated. I was immediately drawn to the idea given my former interest in Tai Chi, and lost no time in ordering an Amazon Instant download.
It’s a good idea for me to do chair Tai Chi, not only for the general movement and breathing benefits, but because I need to use my left arm more. I had hoped my left arm was almost normal looking, but my CMD (Chinese Medicine Doctor) told me she can tell that I’m holding my arm strangely close to my body (doing the handbag) when I walk. She has had a lot of experience in seeing patients with deficits like mine, so she can spot an impairment a mile away. She puts needles in my left shoulder to try and open the area up. I talked to Mommy about it, and it turns out that she has noticed the handbag stance of my left arm for a long time, but just didn’t say anything about it (like the sideways walking). Even if I sit in a chair, she says, I unconsciously cradle it. I think of it as my little chicken wing. I read of another AVMer whose personal trainer refers to her left arm as her “Nemo fin.” So it is good that I practice the vast, smooth movements of Tai Chi.
I have also resurrected the practice of eating with my left hand. I have done this on and off since I got home. I saw some videos of my eating in the hospital and my right hand used to travel and shake like my left hand does now. It kind of hurts, though, since I noticed I grip the fork so hard in my left hand that it leaves indentations on my left middle finger. I think I’m trying really hard to control it so I unconsciously grip harder than necessary – like how I used to always get busted when using my walker since my shoulders were noticeably tense. Oh, well. I’m still refining my technique and I hope my grip eases up – the left-handed eating will last longer if it does.
I just did my hair and gave thanks for my spring-loaded curling iron. I actually have one that Mommy got me (it’s an alternative attachment to my flat iron) but it’s the kind that’s like a skinny cone and it’s your job to wrap your hair around it. I recently saw a one of Tanpo’s videos and in it I’m clapping after we sing (actually, everyone else sang) Happy Birthday to Mommy and I basically keep my left hand still and hit it with my right, so I have instinctively known that trying the cone-shaped iron would be a bad idea for me. So I got a cheap 1.5 or 2” iron, and it’s currently my hair implement of choice.
The Tai Chi move that always makes me laugh is “Parting the wild horse’s mane.” It made me laugh when I was well because I just felt so silly trying to do it, but it still amuses me now that I do Chair Tai Chi since it’s a blast from the past that surprised me and carries new connotations. There’s Ed, my “wild horse,” and the idea of parting hair, which gave me a lot of anxiety in the hospital.
Before I was able to brush my own hair, people did it for me. Side note: I was informed about the hairbrush-throwing incident at Vibra, and I apologize. When I was well enough to look in the mirror when I used the sink in my room at Therapy Boot Camp, I always noticed that my hair was parted in different ways. Doing my hair was something my OTs taught me to do. One morning, C (2) was helping me get ready for the day and I was sitting in my wheelchair in front of the sink. I made an attempt to brush and tie my hair in a ponytail but was dissatisfied with the results. “Will you please help me with the hair situation?” I asked, gesturing vaguely in the direction of my head. “The what?” C asked. “The hair situation,” I said again, in what I hoped was a clearer voice. C is around my age, probably younger, actually, and I think she was probably unused to hearing the expressions I was using at the hospital since I was a departure from the usual patient demographic.
On the day I flew home (YAY!) M (3) recruited another OT to come and French braid my hair. I wasn’t her patient, but A was the resident braider on staff, so she walked down the hall from where she was assisting another patient and put my hair in a nice tight braid that lasted another 16 hours and a cross-country flight. I remember thinking that I should learn how to braid – it would come in handy now – but I don’t think my left hand has the skill for it.
S and B (6 and 8) made sure I could use a flatiron safely before I left The Place, although S was like, I don’t understand – your hair is already straight. But B told me she understood and we went to the practice bathroom so I could pretend to iron my hair. These days, however, I prefer to wear my hair curly since it’s a bit of a pain to keep doing/undoing my ponytail when I get in the car and go anywhere. I’ve also always had an aversion to ponytail “bumps” left by the hair elastic, and they are less noticeable if I go curly, besides which, going curly also lets my hair “stick” better when I combine the ponytail with a hair claw to get it completely out of the way when I go to the pool. Also, my niece Hannah once asked me why I liked having curly hair. I bypassed all the logistical reasons and got to the meat of the matter. “I like the distraction,” I told her. What I meant is that I feel like bigger hair distracts from the rest of me. Maybe it’s just mental, but play along, okay?
I rarely wore curls in my old life, but now I wear them most of the time. A lot of things have changed for me, including my hair, but now that I can do it myself, the part is always in the same place.
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