When Ann gets an elevated blood pressure reading in a doctor’s office, she lowers it by thirty points or so by singing a song. Most any happy number will work, but  she favors Sunny Side of the Street and I’ve Never Been in Love Before.

On a good day, long distance runners enjoy what they call “light heart, light feet.”

To the same point, anyone who has ever made love, or shed tears at a performance of a Bach cantata, or gotten a stomachache while preparing a tax return knows that body and mind are one.

This is on my mind because I’m breaking in a new physical therapist who is going to help me walk  again after a recurrence of back trouble. He holds a doctoral degree from a prestigious institution, and from the start, he impressed me as knowing all about muscles and nerves, how they connect, and which exercises might improve their interaction. But by the time we had finished the first session, I was fearful that he was going at  the job of fixing me the way a  mechanic does a car tune-up. He didn’t ask any questions about how my lameness came about. He didn’t ask anything that would set me apart from anyone else who had limped in  He had directions from my doctor at Hospital for Special Surgery, but as I read them, they were just a to-do list. Was I to be an object? Was he unaware of the body/mind connection?

He did ask what my goal for therapy was.  I’d been thinking about that on the way over. I gave it to him straight. “My short-term goal is to stop sitting in dog piss. I’m in so much pain on the two-block walk from my apartment, even using my walker, I had to take a rest twice, and the only places I could find to sit were stained with dog piss.”

“Long term “ – I figured he would scoff –  “I want to get fit enough to do some more hiking in England and Scotland like I have in the past.” He didn’t scoff; he didn’t respond at all – not to either of my answers – and that bothered me. Where was “Sure, we can get you out of the dog piss”? Where was “Unless you develop some new problem, hiking just depends on how hard you work to get ready and how demanding the trails are”? He said nothing, though, just pecked away at his laptop. It was beginning to feel like a blind date gone bad.

At our second session, my suspicion about the guy’s shortcomings proved ill founded.

I was trying  to walk heel to toe with light weights on my ankles  carefully placing heel first. It was meant to build leg strength and balance. I could not do it. Not even one step. And everyone in the place saw my pathetic weakness. It was like one of those classic nightmares some people have where they are naked in public. I  wanted to yell, “Hey, you should have seen me when I was young.” I was embarrassed, really embarrassed. If I live a while longer, the time will come when I am a doddering, hesitant old man. But not yet, please.

I told him I was ashamed and that I was beginning to feel hopeless. I’d been fighting  pain and debility off and on for the past two years and here I was again unable to walk. That’s when everything about the physical therapy effort changed.

He kept a strong grip on the back of my shirt to keep me from falling, and he who had been uncommunicative at our first session started talking. He assured me that being discouraged was part of the process. He told me he had been through rehab himself. He was a pitcher on a Division I college baseball team, when he developed arm trouble. He had spent months in physical therapy, felt all the things I was feeling, and  finally was able to pitch again. The experience led him to become a  therapist. “Stay with it, Paul. We’ll start with baby steps. This will work. Where you are now is not permanent.”

I stopped whining and resumed trying to put one foot in front of the other.



Available now wherever ebooks are sold $2.99. 

A Franklin Manor Christmas and A Franklin Manor Epiphany.  Deep snow, magic realism.

12,000 Miles of Road Thoughts. Old Van, Old Man, Recovering Hippie, Dying Cat. Travel narrative/memoir


  1. Miles Van Nortwick


    I had my first experience with severe lower back pain starting late last June. I finally got an appointment with a spine doc after being in severe pain for a month. Burlington was booking two months out too. After a couple of months of poor sleep and severe pain I needed a second opinion. A friend recommended HSS and I contacted the sports med doc. Things started to happen and two trips to the city , one meeting a surgeon also, a plan of action took hold in a very prompt manner.
    Today I experience very little pain and the surgeon sees no reason to operate at this time. I do have an online stretch and exercise regimen I follow at least five days a week.
    Good luck with your back and I have high praise for HSS.


  2. Becky McGee

    As with my own experience with PT, getting better is a slow process. After Michael died in November of 2021 I had a severe back injury, shoulder injury and groin injury from years of being a caregiver. PT is truly what made me better. The key is to also do your PT exercises at home for weeks on end. I guarantee you will see progress. You just have to stick with it. Take Care.


  3. Janis Beatty

    I can’t wait to try the singing technique to lower blood pressure. My next annual exam isn’t for a year, so I have plenty of time to decide what song to sing. I wonder if Elvis Presley songs will work.

  4. Robbie

    My PT was especially tuned in to the mind body connection. I greatly appreciated her knowledge and her empathy. Glad you have connected with him in a positive way.

  5. Darlene Yanez

    Hi Paul!
    Aging ain’t for the weak!!! I’m sorry to learn about your back challenges. I think all the aches and pains originate from the sins of our past – no pain, no gain and just work through it nonsense! All of those miles on asphalt and concrete destroyed my knees…(oh, and shitty shoes)…two knee replacements and radically no excuses PTs, I’ve enjoyed my ability to do stuff without pain for the last 10 years at least not in my knees…my hope for you is a stronger you and appreciation of living your life on your terms and being the brilliant, kind, and vibrant Paul Willcott!


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