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PUT SOMETHING IN THIS SPACE

Cindy Maddera

I dragged Michael to the Kemper to see the Polly Apfelbaum exhibit that is currently on display there. She works with ceramics, textiles and paper and her pieces are vibrant with color. There were brightly woven rugs on the floor and marble like ceramic beads hanging in perfect rows from long strings. A single row of ceramic plates of dots hung along the wall. It took all of my will power to not run my fingers along the strings of beads like a harp. Michael and I stood inspecting a display of paper flowers held in place with white thumb tacks when we heard one of the museum attendants say “Sir, please do not walk on the rugs.” Michael and I turned to see some guy just walking around on one of the brightly woven rugs and both of us exclaimed “DUDE!” Then the guy realized he was walking on the art instillation and started hoping up and down and saying “oh no! oh God!” in a panic while still standing on the rug. Finally he jumped off but for the rest of the day at random times Michael and I would look at each other and one of us would say something like “Can you believe that guy walked on the rug?!?!?” or “What the Hell was wrong with that guy?!?!”

I am still a little shocked by it, really. There is something almost criminal in a lack of awareness of your surroundings while you are in an art museum.

The best part of that exhibit was the interactive area where you could build your own dot art work. There were buckets of dots in all sizes and colors. Some made of felt. Some made of corrugated paper. Some made from glitter paper. I sat for a good five minutes layer dots together while Michael flipped through some art books. It was totally one of those activities you give to a pre-schooler. There were no scissors or glue involved, only tape. There were no instructions, none really even required. It was just sit down and put some colored dots together and it was probably one of the most relaxing five minutes I’ve had in a very long time. The world around me completely shut down and disappeared while I worked. The room that had held a dozen or so people, emptied out, leaving me alone in focused silence. In this moment, I became aware of me. That sounds weird, but I think I can explain.

Unlike the guy who was unaware of his surroundings and ended up walking on the art, I am hyper aware of my surroundings. I am constantly scanning the area, trying to soak in every detail. I spend a lot of time and effort trying to stay out other people’s way, making myself small. I still feel bad for blocking the subway escalator in NYC in 2010 to get a picture of the tiled walls. I don’t want to make waves or ruffle feathers and at the same time, I want to see every possible detail of things around me. Part of it is for safety reasons, part of it is self preservation and part of it is fear of missing out on something. Actually, a lot of it comes down to fear. Fear of not seeing everything. This is what comes from sudden losses. You never for a moment forget that life can be short. As a result, I find myself wanting to absorb all of it without disturbing those around me. It is a tightrope walker’s life. Yet in those five minutes, I didn’t think of anything or anyone else. I didn’t rush myself or think I should stop because I think Michael is probably bored and wants to move on. I realized that I really do need to spend more time focusing inward.

I have reached a point where I want to make some changes in my life. This is much different than knowing I should make some changes. I actually seriously want to implement some new healthy stuff into my life. This is a different mentality then I have had for such adventures. More than half of the healthy things I already do, like getting on the elliptical machine for thirty minutes every day, are activities I do because I should do them. It’s good for my heart. I stand at my desk or go for mini walks because its good for my body. I do forearm plank because it’s good for my core. I don’t necessarily want to do these things, but I do them anyway. So why is it so hard for me to do something for myself that I actually want to do? It’s only hard if I decide that is hard.

I’m deciding to make it easy to do the things I want to do.