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Filtering by Category: Thankful Friday

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Now is your opportunity to be thankful for this day. - Kelly Cirone, yoga teacher and plant queen

This is what Kelly told a group of us on Wednesday as we finished up our yoga class together. I get on my yoga mat every day, but only go to one class a week. Though I did sign up for a special Yoga Mala class next Thursday. Kelly is going to lead us through 108 sun salutations to bring in the Summer Solstice. I’m already doubting my ability to do 108 chatturangas. The number 108 is a sacred number. It is also the same number of beads in a prayer bracelet. It sounds like a a really big number. This is why I go to yoga classes every now and again: to have someone guide and push me to do poses and vinyasas that I wouldn’t necessarily do on my own, even if that means doing 108 rounds of sun salutations.

That very same day, a storm moved in to our area. It turned the sky into that shade of dark blue that is almost purple. Gusts of wind blew leaves and limbs and trash all over. I left work on my scooter, just barely ahead of it all. It was like being chased by the weather as I zipped home, swerving to avoid the debris already flying around on the streets. I parked the scooter in the garage just as the first loud crash of thunder sounded. Then I raced out to feed the chickens before the rain started. Michael collected the eggs while I swapped out their food bin. I took four steps away from the coop. On the fifth step, my left foot went into a small hole in the yard and my ankle rolled. I heard a sickening crunch sound as it happened and (still) really believe that was the sound of the grass ripping under my sliding foot. My body fell down to the ground and I got that nauseous feeling you sometimes get when you’ve struck something really hard. I sat there for a minute shaking the stars from my vision and then hobbled my way into the house. Then I just proceeded with my usual Wednesday habits. That included teaching a yoga class. By the time I finished teaching, my left ankle was about twice the size of the right one. I went home and elevated my ankle and covered it with an ice pack.

The next day, I got out of bed very carefully and took a step. It wasn’t so bad. I thought “I can do this!” So… I did it. I stood at my desk for the first two hours of work. I walked my loop to get coffee. I rode the stationary bike and got on my yoga mat. My ankle hurt the whole time, but I just kept on going. I propped my foot up on my desk while I ate lunch and scrounged an ice pack out of the freezer to prop against it. If I have to be completely and totally honest with you, I will say that just touching the outside part of my ankle will make me punch you in the face. Walking doesn’t hurt too badly if I move slow. Except I’m not a slow walker and this forced slow down also makes me want to punch someone in the face. I’ve got things to do. We’re packing the camper up for Branson. I’ve got places to go. We’re going to Silver Dollar City tomorrow! I do not have time to limp my way from task to place to task to place.

I have a hard time practicing the slow down that I preach.

Now is your opportunity to be thankful for this day.

With each passing day, this ankle is going to get better and better. But only if I give it the rest it needs to do so. Now is my opportunity to be thankful for how much better my ankle feels today as compared to yesterday. Now is my opportunity to be thankful for this reminder to slow down. Now is my opportunity to be thankful for the reminder to have patience with myself.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

We love. It is inherent to our nature, to love, to desire, to want to be desired. Love comes in many different forms. The love a mother has for her child is different than the love she has for her partner who helped create that child. Love is big. Love is small. We all love. The old saying of “you can’t always choose the one you love” holds some truth. If love was a choice, I’m not so sure it is something I would choose some times. Love has consequences. Love can be illegal. Interracial marriages were illegal for years. It wasn’t until 1967 that Supreme Court ruled that banning interracial marriages violated the 14th Amendment. Same Sex marriages took much longer to be recognized, but there are now 26 countries recognize same sex marriages.

There are at least 14 countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.

You could be put to death for love.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Our government kept lists of known homosexuals and favorite meeting places. Cities would routinely do raids to rid neighborhoods of gay people. In the early morning hours of June 28th, New York City police raided The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The usual protocol for these raids was to line everybody up and check IDs. People dressed as women were to accompany a female police officer to the bathroom where they would have to ‘verify’ their sex. That night, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn refused. No one produced IDs and no one was accompanying a female officer to the bathroom. The Police just decided to haul everyone in to jail. Crowds started forming outside while patty wagons pulled up out front and police started loading patrons into the wagons. One woman who was struggling and yelling and complaining about her cuffs being too tight was hit in the head with a baton. She looked at the crowd and yelled “Why don’t you do something?” That’s when the crowd became a mob and things got violent. Crowds surged forward to help those being arrested. Things like bottles and rocks were thrown. The riots and demonstrations against the raid would last for six days. The Stonewall Riots are considered by many to be the event that would expand the LGBT civil rights movement. Two years later, New York City would host the very first Gay Pride Parade. The Stonewall Inn was declared a National Monument in 2016. I have a stamp for it in my National Parks Passport.

It is hard to imagine the Stonewall Inn riots happening today. It’s hard to imagine a lot of things happening today, yet here we are. Still hating and discriminating. Some times I get really bogged down by this. How is it if we teach God is love and love is an inherent human nature, can we still be so hateful to one another? Then I am reminded that those who hate, hate because they were taught to hate. They hate because they were not shown or taught to love. They hate because they are jealous of the freedom to be the person they are and love the person they love. They are jealous of that acceptance, of the comfort that comes with being true to one’s self. I don’t say this to excuse them. But if you know the why, you just might be able to find a way to change it.

Love trumps hate.

I am thankful for those who came before me who have fought so fiercely for love.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Short weeks always feel a little bit like long weeks. I’m a day off and I have to make up for it. That is what short weeks feel like for me. One big game of catch up. That’s the American way right? You can have this day off, but you’re going to have to pay for it later. This is particularly hard when I am still processing my thoughts from the weekend. And boy do I have some thoughts to process. I’ve got plans forming in my head right this minute. Monday morning, I’m sending out an email with a link to my portfolio to the manager at the Westside Local with hopes that he will offer me a date for a showing in his restaurant. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m doing it. Which means I need to make up new business cards and start printing photos and buying frames. If I sell two photos, I’m buying a new lens and if I write all of that down here it makes me more accountable.

That’s my first project. Plans for my second project of combining pictures with words is in the works.

One of the things Terry said to me last week was “What about you? What are you doing for you?” And I threw my drink in his face and walked away. Not really. But I might have felt like it. He pointed out that I do a lot of taking care of other people and a lot of not taking care of myself. So we started talking about things that I wanted, things I’ve been afraid to say out loud, things that I have been hesitant to put into motion. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to just say what I want. Maybe because for a long time, whenever I would say what I wanted, I got it or had help getting it or some sort of backing. Then that person who was doing all of that backing and helping and giving was gone. After that, wanting sort of felt like wishes and that I used all of those up with Chris. Who am I to ask for more?

That’s stupid.

Once I said “I want..” to the first thing, it got so easy to say I want more things. Wants that had been buried deep for the last seven years came bubbling up to the surface. I suddenly got a clear defined picture in my head for what it is that I want. Voicing what I want gave me direction. Like.. I know what I’m doing next and I know that next step will determine what I do after that and I know what actions I will be taking. I have a Mother Fuckin’ plan! I don’t think I have felt this clear and focused since Chris died. I’m not even worried about not selling any prints. Some people just might be getting some poster sized photos for Christmas this year. Though Michael did say to me that it’s still just a hobby until I find a way to monetize it. To which I wanted to say “You’re just a hobby.” because I’ve been channelling a less mature version of myself lately. I think we all know that this has become more than just a hobby.

I am a photographer.

I am a writer.

I am an artist.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I love you. I am listening

This is how my guided meditation app started as I sat down on my mat after a mediocre practice. I closed my eyes and heard Sarah Blondin’s soothing voice ask me when was the last time I was still and took time to say those words to myself.

I love you. I am listening

Never. I have never said those words to myself.

I don’t think I even know how to listen to myself, let alone tell myself that I love me. I guess I just assume that if I take a moment to listen to myself all I will hear is the chatter of self doubt that continuously plays on loop in my brain. Right now that loop is full of stuff about my photography and the actual contact I have for a place to do a showing. I haven’t even called them yet. The business card is just slowly burning a hole in my wallet. Every time I see it, I get a little electric shock and my heart misses two beats. Sending an email with a portfolio to the name on that card is just like flinging myself off a cliff. I don’t have enough good pieces to fill the space (probably not true). My photos are not good enough to put into the space (again, probably not true). Michael’s not going to like the photos that I want to use for the showing. Instead he’s going to pick the ones that are my least favorite because we have different eyes. I am not ready for this. I am not good enough for this. I am not enough for this. Dr. Mary gave me homework from our session this week where I have to choose eight of my photos for showing. And I’m freaking out over those eight photos. I can’t fling myself off of this cliff. I am not brave. I am not authentically living. I am not able to lean in.

I love you. I am listening

I am closing my eyes. In fact, let’s all take a moment to close our eyes. Place our hands on our hearts. Find the coolness of the breath as it hits the back of the throat on the inhale, following it into the lungs and then out as we exhale. Say the words out loud: “I love you. I am listening.”

Cindy, I love you. I am listening to all of those doubts and fears. I hear them and I am the voice that’s going to tell you that none of those things are true. You have photos that are good enough to hang in a local restaurant. You have enough images. You and Michael will disagree on some of those photos, but you will also agree on others. But you are right. By just standing on the cliff, you are not being brave. You are not living the authentic life that you know you can live. I am listening and I hear you and I’m telling you that you have all that you need to be brave. You are enough for all of this. Now open your eyes, spread your arms out wide and leap. There are safety nets to catch you.

But, if I listen long enough, before that loop can start up again, I can hear the faintest voice saying “I want this”. I want this.

Safety nets. There are safety nets.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I’m taking a break from explaining my album choices to talk or think about gratitude. Every week I sit down and write these entries and sometimes it feels like I am on autopilot. I am just going through the motions and churning out words in hopes that it reflects something about being grateful. The practice of gratitude becomes stale. Just like any practice. There are times when I step on my yoga mat because getting on the mat is part of the practice, but once I’m there, I am not always inspired to do anything. That’s why going to yoga classes and reading up on the latest Yoga Journal news is important. It helps me breathe new life into my practice when it feels like it’s gotten stagnant.

What classes do I attend or magazines do I flip through to breathe new life into a gratitude practice?

It is not in the daily news.

My nightly prayers as a child tended to be a long rolling list of all the people and things I was thankful for that day.

Dear God,

Thank you for my mom and dad and our dogs Bitsy and Bulldozer. Thank you for Janel. Thank you for not letting the goldfish die today. Thank you for my teacher, Mrs… and thank you for my best friend Jamie. Thank you for the chocolate chip cookies.

Amen

I remember the lessons taught in Sunday school about asking God for things, so I made a very strong conscious effort to not ask God for anything. Now that I think about it, not asking God for anything came pretty easy. I am and have always been stubborn and unwilling to ask for help. I do not say nightly prayers anymore for reasons I have discussed before, but sometimes reflecting on the simple is a good way to breathe new life into a stale practice. As opposed to the the deep meaning kind of gratitude that I often try to post about here.

This week, a very easy simple thing that I can be grateful for is the sunshine. We have had a whole week of bright blue skies and warmer temperatures. Every day has been a scooter day. Every morning, I have taken a short walk outside before going in for my cup of coffee. I am thankful for this weather that is thawing my soul and bringing joy to my heart. I am thankful for my Mom, my brother and sister-in-law, and my family. I am thankful for Michael and my group of chosen family. I am thankful for Josephine and I am even thankful for that darn cat, Albus. I am thankful for the bounty of eggs from the chickens and the calming presence they bring to our backyard.

I am thankful for fresh strawberries with whipped cream.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Our scale is broken. I stepped on it Thursday morning and got blank results. I weigh nothing. I haven’t stepped on a scale in some time, but thought it would be a good idea to not be surprised by the scale at the doctor’s office when I go in for my yearly next week. So when the scale reads way more than nothing at the doctor’s office, I will act outraged and insist that their scale needs recalibrating. I like this current feeling of weighing nothing. Truth be told, I’ve been feeling pretty okay in this body. I eat healthy. I exercise daily. I spend about an hour every day on my yoga mat. I drink lots of water. And I’ve been listening to a whole lot of Lizzo.

I am completely and totally inspired by this woman and she is just one on my list of woman to look up too. ‘Look up too’ seems like an odd way to phrase it considering that most of these women on my list are a number of years younger than I am. They all have a similar message of self love and beauty at all sizes. I listen to their message and wonder what kind of woman I’d be today if these women had been there when I was a teen. I grew up looking at the impossible standards for girls on the cover of Seventeen and the chunky girl was always the sidekick for the main actress in the sitcoms. Health did not matter. Feeling fit and healthy was not up for discussion. There was an expectation of perfection without completely relying on a food disorder to achieve that perfection. Really, it was best if you were just born that way. If you could not be born thin and perfect then you would be placed in a lesser human category. Now we’re starting to see all shapes, sizes and colors for our clothing ads and magazine covers and leading ladies. There are discussions on exercise and eating whole and real foods. Diets are a thing of the past. Now we have lifestyle changes with an emphasis on healthy. And all I can do is sit back and think about how fucking empowering it’s got to be for a young girl to see and hear these messages.

But it is not too late for me to embrace this message, to feel empowered by these images and words of self love. I am learning the lesson of standing in front of the mirror and telling that person I see that she is beautiful. She is sexy. She is strong. She makes her own standards and blows them completely away. She is no sidekick. She’s the leading lady, the boss, the leader, the head hancho. I’m still getting used to the idea of telling that person in the mirror that we are the same. She is me.

But I’m getting there.

A FEW DAYS EARLY

Cindy Maddera

 The open road calls, for a number of reasons, but in this case it’s for a graduation. I’m disappearing for a few days, so I thought I’d post something on gratitude a little earlier than usual. The other day I ended my yoga practice with a guided meditation. I had never used this feature of my meditation bells app before and I chose something based on the length of time I had. The title was “Practicing Gentle Kindness Toward Ourself” by Sarah Blondin. She starts off by telling us “I know the dark calls to you sometimes, that you turn your face from the light.” and with that first sentence, I knew I was going to hear somethings that would create great emotion within. 

“I know it hurts to live in the disconnect between what you are currently experiencing and what you wish you could be.” 

”I know you work so hard to control the outcome of your life, that you forget to breathe sometimes. That you live in the shallow end, t you forget to go deep, breathe deep.” 

”I know you live there in the tear between these two worlds, between the dark and the light, between trust and distrust, between love and hatred, between acceptance and resistance, between control and faith, between sun soaked mornings and dark forests.” 

I heard these words and thought “Fuck...how does she know?!?”  Well, she knows because so many of us live in the space between. I might as well set up a hammock in that space, I spend so much time there. I am also struck by the balance required to live between worlds. I can accept my body as it is now, but I can still be resistant to it and want for improvement. I can be in complete control of my actions, but I still have to have a little faith that those actions will have good consequences. The thing I am constantly working on is not falling over into the side that is all dark. I don’t want to get stuck there. I don’t want to be trapped there. I fear that if I even allow myself to be present on that side for any amount of time, I will remain there forever in the dark. I have convinced myself that this would be catastrophic.

”You are human my dear one, my dearest love, you are human. You are allowed to be in both ways.” 

The truth is, I enjoy dark forests just as much as I do sun soaked mornings. I am grateful for the reminder that I am human. Flawed, imperfect, beautifully human. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Not too long ago, I came across a musician that I thought Michael would really like, so I sent him a link to her music. It’s Margo Price if you’re interested. She sounds like a young Loretta Lynn. Any way, I sent him a song or two and Michael was happy. Later, he asked me how I found out about Margo Price. I told him that sometimes, I just scroll through the new release section in Amazon Music and randomly pick a new album to listen to. Michael was shocked and exclaimed “That’s so brave!” I gave him a side eye and completely disagreed. “What if you don’t like it?” he argued. I shrugged and said “then I turn it off.” I think we have different definitions for ‘brave’.’

I recently watched Brene Brown’s Netflix special on bravery and vulnerability. There have been so many times in my life where I have been brave without ever even considering my vulnerability. I’ve thought nothing of the failure or the criticism to follow. I’ve just leaped right out of trees without considering broken bones. I will move quietly and slowely as close as I can to the buffalo for a picture without considering for a minute that I cannot out run him (get in the car, Cindy). I know that you can’t be brave without being vulnerable. I just, so often, ignored that part or avoided acts of bravery that required too much vulnerability.

My True Acts of Bravery

  • Graduate school

  • Getting back on my yoga mat after Jay died

  • Becoming a yoga teacher

  • Applying for a job I didn’t think I was smart enough for

  • Moving

  • Entering the world after Chris died

  • Online dating

  • My relationship with Michael

  • Saying goodbye to Dad in my own way

  • Making an appointment to see a therapist

  • Any time I let someone see me ugly cry because I’ve been hit hard by a grief wave

I’m sure there are more moments I could add to that list, but the ones listed above are moments that I remember the vulnerable parts more than the act of bravery. They are moments where I’ve truly been terrified of the failure and the criticism. They are moments where I have questioned myself the most. Oh lordy, have there been failures but so many lessons learned. After watching the Brene Brown special, I started thinking about how it’s been a while since I’ve done something truly brave, something that’s required me to lay myself open and exposed. Randomly choosing a new album from an artist I’ve never heard of does not count as something that requires any of those things.

Maybe it’s time to take another leap.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Tuesday evening, I started to feel really anxious about a lot of things. I wasn’t sure if we had enough money to cover Josephine’s vet visit on Thursday. I didn’t know what to do about Easter. Michael’s scooter is in the shop and the repairs have him questioning putting money into this one when he really wants a scooter with a bigger engine. We were sitting on the couch talking about all of these things when I said “I’m feeling extremely anxious.” Michael then asked me if I wanted a Xanex. I told him ‘no’ because I can never get out of bed the day after taking half of one of those things. I wonder if I could just lick a Xanex.

Then Wednesday night, Josephine started vomiting and I was up every other hour with her cleaning up dog puke and letting her outside. The vet appointment for Thursday was for her vaccinations. Instead, she ended up getting a shot of anti-nausea medication and some pills. As of this morning, she was still moping around, drinking very little and not eating. If she’s not any better by the time I get home this evening, I am taking her back to the vet for some intravenous fluids. Her long hair doesn’t help matters because it just makes her look even more sad. She can’t get a haircut until she gets her rabies shot. She can’t get a rabies shot until she’s been off the meds for at least a week. Scheduling for all of these things is making me break out in hives.

And I am still incredibly worried about Josephine.

I have to keep reminding myself that Josephine has done this before. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (sounds way worse than it is) is common in miniature schnauzers and usually caused from a bacterial infection of some sort. She ate something gross in the backyard like a dead mouse or dead bird. We just need to be patient and give her a couple of days. I know this, but there’s always that what if part that makes me scared. I have my own fair share of what-if-this-is-worse-then-we-originally-thought moments that turned into not so much a what if as a most definite. Of course my first reaction is to panic, but for some reason, this time around feels worse than usual. I feel like Josephine is more sick this time around, at least she looks and acts more sickly then she ever has before. I feel like I’m more anxious about all of it this time around. I’m on the edge of tears constantly, like the structural integrity of my tear damn is compromised and any minute we are going to witness a catastrophic break.

So where is the silver lining in all of this? Where is the gratitude for this week?

This is definitely a week for digging down deep to find those things. First of all, the vet was not too concerned. She was very relaxed and I felt like she did a thorough exam and took in all of the information that I gave her. Dehydration is an issue, but I can take her in for this if I feel like she needs it. Not every thing has to end in worst case scenario. Let me repeat that. Not everything has to end in worst case scenario. In fact, that statement feels so important to me right now that I might even write on my arm with a sharpie. By the time that sharpie wears off, Josephine will be back to her usual self. That twisting sock feeling in the pit of my stomach will have eased. We can resume our regularly scheduled show.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I was sent an announcement for a job opening at company this week. It’s a company we’ve worked with and after reading the job description, I realized that I was more than qualified for this job. Not only do I meet the companies requirements, but I know the product. I have two of them that I am in charge of taking care of here in our facility. It’s a sales rep position and it would require me to move to Europe. I’d be based in Naples, Italy but expected to travel all over. I spent a day really considering applying for this job. I mean, on paper, it sounds pretty great. My office would be in my home. My home would be in Italy. My job would be to travel all over Europe. So why am I not dusting off the old resume and rushing it over?

When I was still doing the online dating thing, I met a guy who looked pretty near perfect on paper. He’d built his own teardrop trailer. He had chickens. He drove a JEEP. Michael had just told me that he couldn’t do this relationship thing with me and so I contacted trailer-chicken guy. We met for drinks. It did not go too well. Moments before I walked into the bar, Michael sent me a text telling me that he’d made a terrible mistake and asked if I would talk to him. It rattled me and I got all spazy. I had to force myself to focus on the chicken guy and ended up putting in way too much energy. Chicken guy and I did not share the same sense of humor. He rolled his eyes when I paused to take a picture of my Guinness. He did not find me interesting. And even though he had the trailer and chickens, I didn’t really find him all that interesting. Also, he told me how he regretted making his girlfriend get that abortion when they were teenagers. Which did not feel like the kind of topic for a first date/impression.

That job opening is very much like the chicken guy. They both look great on paper.

I’ve never even been a tourist in Italy and though I can imagine a fantasy life of living there, I don’t know for sure I would really want to do that. I’d also be moving from doing science to selling science. I know for sure that I would not enjoy that aspect of the job. I would be doing the job for the perks of living in Europe, not because I loved the job. That doesn’t look like a well balanced life. When I chatted with Talaura about this, she asked me if I was unhappy with my current job, unhappy with living in Kansas City. I am not unhappy with any of those things. I still love the job that I do here. This city has all the things on my list of must haves for city living and I have really carved out a home for myself here.

I’m happy here.

Sometimes we need to walk up to a fence and see the beautiful green grass on the other side. Just for a moment, we need to covet that grass on the other side of that fence, marveling at the vivd green blades. Then we need to turn around and look at the grass around us. More often than not, we might just discover that the grass is just as green and lush on this side of the fence.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Wednesday morning, I woke up with a sore throat and congestion and that hot/cold clammy feeling you get when you are sick. I crawled back under the covers and said “no thank you.” I woke up later in the morning and moved from my bed to the couch where I spent the rest of the day watching Hanna on Amazon and the latest episode of Call the Midwives (you guys, when that woman had the triplets, ugly crying) and Riverdale. Riverdale is a guilty pleasure and feels like reading all those books written by V.C. Andrews. I can’t help but get the feeling that Betty really doesn’t have a sister Polly who lives in a group home after a psychotic breakdown. I suspect that Betty is Polly and she’s just been brainwashed into forgetting the horrible thing that happened to her to cause her breakdown. The doctors wiped out ‘Polly’ and replaced her with Betty. Riverdale also feels very much like a dark version of Dawson’s Creek. Jughead is Pacey. Archie is Dawson. Veronica is Jen. Betty is Joey.

Michael came home later that evening with a sickly Cabbage in tow. It was decided that she would stay the night with us and Michael would stay home with her on Thursday. The Cabbage spent the rest of the evening throwing up, laying on the bathroom floor and then laying in her bed, repeating the throwing up part a few more times before settling into a slumber. I knew that no matter how bad I felt when I woke up on Thursday, that I was going to work because I wanted nothing to do with a stomach bug added to a sinus infection. There’s been lots of disinfecting going on around the house in the last two days. When I woke up Thursday, I felt a bit better, but every thing took me twice as long to do because living life is exhausting. I got to work and opened an email from a coworker saying that he’d be out today because their 8 year old was up all night throwing up. Then my boss said the same was true for his wife. Looks like we are all on the Oregon Trail together.

What’s disappointing was how this week started out promising. It started with good intensions. The newish morning yoga routine was happening. We voted. I exercised. We tried a new recipe with zucchini and asparagus and we did not like it, but ate it any way. I repurposed those leftovers into a Mexican inspired pasta dish with mini tortellinis and soyrizo. We loved this. Except by Wednesday, it looked as though we had just spent Monday and Tuesday paving our path to Hell. And today I am thinking about how often I enter into things with a some preconceived notion of how I expect life to be or how very disappointed I am with myself for not sticking to those good intentions.

abhāva-pratyaya-ālambanā tamo-vr̥ttir-nidra: Dreamless sleep is the void of all thought patterns. - 1/10 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

In the discussion for this Sutra, it talks about how our actions are directed by our intentions and are carved out from a life of reactions. It is our fight or flight response that so often dictates our reactions and as a result, our intentions are not made by our own choices. “Yoga is a means of taking ownership of those intentions by actually making choices.” What choice am I making for myself here, when I set the intention to practice yoga in the mornings? I have noticed that when I do my early morning practice, my body is not so stiff and achy. I have more pep in my morning steps and there’s a little less chatter inside my brain. By setting the intention to do my yoga practice at all, I am making a choice to care for this body. The true intention I should be making is to care for this body. More powerful than saying that I will do something is the action of doing it. This week I made choices to care for this body. Some times that choice looks like getting on my mat and flowing through poses, while other times it looked like laying on the couch with hot tea, a blanket and both of the animals tucked in around me while I watch crappy TV.

Both choices are yoga.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Early on in our relationship, Michael and I were walking through our neighborhood. I think we had walked up to our local library or maybe up to get a sandwich from Planet Sub. I don’t remember, but on our way back to the house, I stopped to take a picture of the sidewalk. Michael stood there, watching me as I crouched down real close to this one particular square of sidewalk and then he said “I don’t get it. What are you taking a picture of?” I looked up at him and then pointed at a spot in the concrete and said “there’s a heart!” There was a place where the concrete had been chipped or gouged out and it was shaped like a heart. To be fair, it was a small heart and it wasn’t painted a color to make it stand out. You had to be really paying attention to see it, but it was there. The most important and valuable thing that I have gained from taking pictures is how it has changed the way I look at my surroundings. Or maybe I should use the past tense ‘looked’. Sometimes things become so routine in your daily life that you don’t even notice you’re doing those things any more. I’ve grown sloppy in the way I look around me and maybe do not pay as close attention as I once did.

śabda-jñāna-anupātī vastu-śūnyo vikalpaḥ: imagination is a word, a sound, or expression where there is no such object or reality to it. - 1/9 Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The discussion for this sutra said that we should treat our imaginations like a garden, constantly tending to it. It went on to say “Express yourself so feverishly that you can observe what is growing in your garden.” There is something about the discussion of this sutra that made flash bulbs go off in my head. “Express yourself so feverishly…” It is not enough to just nurture your craft, photography, writing, painting or whatever it might be, but you must also see your craft, enjoy the beauty of it or look for places of improvement. Occasionally we pick the flowers from our gardens and display them in a lovely vase on the kitchen table. Occasionally we eat the vegetables we have been cultivating and caring for. I’ve let my imagination garden get weedy and over grown. I have straight up neglected it. I don’t even know what is growing in that garden any more. It’s time to clean it up and take stock of what’s growing and what needs to be replanted.

Sometimes you come across a string of words that you needed to hear or read right at the exact moment you needed to hear or read them. I am grateful for those words.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

When yoga is accomplished, you will have insight of our true nature.

I am re-reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and taking notes on the things that stand out in the notebook my mother gave me for my birthday. It is a lovely notebook, with fake leather cover and a spiral binding. The cover has three decorative hand drawn cactuses at the top and under them it reads “you’re looking sharp today.” I am not sure if this is meant to inspire me to write or dress better, but the lines are a perfect spacing. Because of this, I have been hesitant to put words on the paper. I have a hard time with these kinds of things. I could stare at a new box of crayons for years before pulling one free from the box to use. The Cabbage had a tupperware box full of crayons and they were all broken or missing the paper wrapper around the outside. I would grimace as I held one of those grimy waxy broken crayons between my fingers to color something, but I would rather put up with the discomfort of the broken crayon than wreck a brand new crayon. So this notebook has been sitting on my desk since January.

The version of the sutras that I am reading is an app I downloaded to my iPad. The format makes it more intuitive for study in the way it breaks down the sanskrit and the definition of the sanskrit, but then there is a separate section of discussion. I thought I could just use my Apple pencil to highlight things that jumped out at me, but the Apple pencil does not work in this app. I was two days into my readings before I gave in and grabbed that new notebook. Research has found that handwriting notes versus typing them allows for more efficient learning and retention. I have come across certain phrases in the discussions of the sutras that I want my brain to hold onto for longer than a minute. It turns out that I don’t want to read the Yoga Sutras so much as I want to study them. I want to dig in deep and take my time with them. I read them way back when I did my teacher training because it was required reading, but I didn’t really study the book the way I did my science and anatomy books. I didn’t treat my yoga teacher training as schooling. I treated it as a training and taking it in with that mentality taught me the foundation of the poses and the benefits and disadvantages of each pose. I ignored the spiritual benefits to the practice. This is fine because I don’t want to teach the spiritual side of yoga. As I get deeper and deeper into my own personal practice though, I find that I am becoming curious about that side of things.

Stay curious.

Being a curious child is what lead me to my scientific career. I take my curiosity for granted, not really noticing it as being curious as much as I am just doing my job. I am solving puzzles every day and seeing what happens if I do this or that. It has become so routine that I forget that I am actually curious to know what the answers are going to be at the end of it all. I do really want to know the answers! Staying curious keeps me moving forward and digging deeper to find answers to gather all of knowledge my brain will allow. I forget to acknowledge my curiosity and the impact it has on my daily life or how my curiosity is part of what makes me who I am. Usually I am encouraging my students to take their practice off their mats and out into their everyday life. Today, I am reminded that sometimes I need to take my daily life into my yoga practice.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction (or learning the answer) brought him back. Curiosity might just be part of my true nature.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

In the very early morning hours on Thursday, well before my alarm went off, I had a dream. Chris was in this dream. He just showed up and he was alive and well. The two of us were in Portland at one of their food truck halls. Someone placed a crepe with ice cream and fruit down on the table in front of us. I looked at Chris and asked “Did you order this?” He shook his head and replied “Nope.” So we looked around and noticed the people at the crepe place were waiving at us. They had sent it over to us for free. We smiled and waived back then dug into the crepe and we were talking and laughing as usual. Then I said “Wait. How is it that you are here?” Chris shrugged and said “I don’t know. I’m just here.” I nodded my head and said “That’s cool.” We took a few more bites from our crepe and then I said “Oh my gosh! We totally forgot to tell Todd that we were in Portland. I’ll text him and tell him to come meet us.” Chris said “Okay.” and then left to find the bathroom. Todd showed up while Chris was in the bathroom, so I said to Todd “Okay, listen. This is going to sound really weird, but Chris is here. He’s alive and everything and we sat here and ate on this crepe. He’s in the bathroom now, but I’m serious. Chris is really hear.” Except Chris never came back from the bathroom. So I was left trying to convince Todd that I had not completely lost my mind.

By the time I woke up, Todd still was not convinced that I hadn’t gone totally mental. Usually when I have dreams that involve Chris, I wake up crying or angry or both. This time I just woke up. I did want to text Todd and tell him “no I’m not crazy; Chris was here.” I refrained because I know that you should never send a text or email that obviously proves you are crazy. That way it can not be used against you later. Like in a court of law or something. This dream did not leave me feeling sad. Actually it was probably the best dream involving Chris that I have had since he died. I don’t remember what he said or if he actually really did say something, but it felt like he was talking and we were chatting about just regular stuff. Chris has never just chatted with me about regular stuff when I dream of him. He pretty much says nothing at all and the dreams are not pleasant. I also did not walk away from this dream and spend the rest of the day clouded in sadness. Though I did harbor a craving for crepes with some ice cream and fruit for the rest of the day.

On March 14, 1998 Chris and I said “I do” in front of my parents, Stephanie and a couple we knew from college. The ceremony took place at the Chapel of Love in Las Vegas. That was twenty one years ago. I like to think we had a good run while it lasted. Sure, his hoarding tendencies drove my insane and I could get really frustrated with his lack of action. I tried to be more understanding with the later because I know that most of his inaction was due to self esteem issues. We are our own worst critics. But for the most part, we listened to each other and were equally matched intellectually. We spoke the same language and felt comfortable saying what we meant to each other. Our marriage was such a stark contrast to the marriage I was exposed to growing up. It almost didn’t seem like we were married so much as we were best friends who happened to have sex with each other and lived together. So, I guess I’m glad I let Chris talk me into getting married.

I do miss him.

I’m not crazy. Chris was here.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

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There is a Simpson’s episode called “Lost Our Lisa” where Lisa defies her mother by trying to take the bus to the museum to see the Orb of Isis. She gets lost and then she calls her dad for help. Lisa calls him because she knows that he will be on her side, mostly because Homer is always getting himself into some kind of trouble. What follows is a madcap adventure where Homer tries to get to Lisa, which he does, but by the time Lisa is safe and sound, the museum has closed. It was the last day for the exhibit and Lisa missed it. So, Homer breaks into the museum so Lisa can see the exhibit. They have the whole exhibit to themselves and get to see something that no one else has ever seen. One of the greatest things about that episode is how Lisa experienced things she never would have had a chance to experience if it hadn’t been for Homer. I can say the same when it comes to my Dad. He was the adventure seeker, the rule breaker, the guy who step on the other side of the velvet rope to get closer. Dad was my Homer and I was his little Lisa.

My Dad would be eighty years old today. At first I thought “that can’t be right!” but he was born in 1939. So yeah, my Dad would have been eighty today. There has been no one who could bring lightness to my seriousness the way my Dad could. Not even Chris. Dad just had a way. He taught me to seek out those adventures on occasion. Sometimes it’s okay to break a few rules. Dad used to put his tray table down as soon as we reached altitude and I would always get onto him. I would tell him that it was too soon and it made him look too eager for whatever snack the attendants were going to bring us. He found it hilarious and whenever we would fly he would ask me if it was okay to put his table down. It became a great joke, but you know what? It was a lesson in doing what you want, when you want and not caring what anyone around you thought about it.

Here is what I believe. I believe that if Dad’s mind hadn’t flown the coop, he’d still be putzing around breaking rules and seeking out new adventures. Wow, and typing that sentence made me well up a bit. I did not expect that. In yoga class on Wednesday, Kelly talked about Mercury being retrograde and usually I roll my eyes at this kind of talk. Except this time Kelly said something about letting go of the emotions that will bubble up during this time of retrograde. It is a time for letting go of some shit and I thought about some shit that I was hanging on to in regards to my Dad. I have been holding on to some resentment and anger. Not for Dad, but for circumstances surrounding his last year with us. I have also been holding on to some guilt for not doing more to intervene to change those circumstances. My Dad taught me what it means to be unabashedly authentic. Those are the things I should be holding on to. Not the resentment or anger or guilt.

I am thankful for every hot air balloon chased, every tray table that was set down early, and every moment of lightness and silliness.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Two nights ago we lost our house to a flood and a fire. In all the chaos, I ended up hit in the head and left in a coma for six months (yes, time is weird and relative). When I finally came too, I was all alone in the hospital. I pulled out my IV and rummaged around for some clothes. Then I walked back to where our house used to be. Seeing that there was no house, I continued walking until I got to a dumpy motel. Michael was living there some woman he was now sleeping with and all of our family members. Everybody looked rough with worn clothes and scraggly hair. I looked around at the squalor they were now living in and said “what is going on?!?” That’s when Michael, who was naked in bed with that woman I mentioned before, noticed me standing in the doorway. He sat up in surprise, sputtering to get a sentence out. I grabbed the woman by her hair and dragged her out of the bed and then kicked her. “Get the fuck out!” I spit in her face. Then Michael started rambling about insurance money and being broke. He was high or drunk, probably both. I just shook my head at him and then turned around and walked out.

And here I sit now in the light of day and reality (?) wondering what on Earth is going on.

My nights for the past few weeks have been filled with visions of nonsense. Someone said that this probably means I’m not sleeping well at night. That time between 9:30 PM and 1:00 AM is fantastic. I sleep so soundly that when I wake up sometime around one, I think it’s actually time to get up. Except I don’t because that sounds like a dumb idea. Instead I toss and turn, drifting in and out of sleep until around 4:30 ish. This week, I’ve just said “screw it” and peeled my body out of bed at 4:30 AM to get on my yoga mat. These morning practices have not been anything spectacular or fancy. I have just gotten on my mat and moved. Tuesday morning I ended my practice, curled up around the dog on my yoga mat. We lay there wrapped up in a blanket, still and quiet with Josephine’s toys scattered randomly around us. I could hear Michael snoring from his room. I could hear the creek and crack of the house shifting in the cold. Then I heard an owl hooting from somewhere in our front yard.

I heard that owl again this morning.

The hippy dippy part of me knows that these crazy night visions and the odd sleep behavior have to do with the Spring Equinox, which is just around the corner. It is my body preparing for the shifting of time. The sun is already staying out a little bit longer and I leave the house for work in the mornings in daylight instead of the dark of predawn. There is something a little bit uncomfortable in the shift because it is a slow transition. Particularly this year when we are predicted to get three to six inches of snow on Sunday. I always imagine this transition to be similar to the transition between human and werewolf. The movies always portray it so violently and painful. Think of the strain the body would go through to make such a dramatic molecular change, but then slow that molecular change down from seconds to days. I am slowely transitioning into a werewolf.

Or, if I want to be kind to myself, I am transition back into a human.

There is something about being awake while most of the rest of the world is sleeping. It is the time of morning covered in whispers and hushes. In the mist of the whispers and hushes, there is something calming and still. It is not a terrible time of day to be awake. It just sounds like a terrible time to be awake. When I was really little, I went through a phase where I would wake up in the middle of the night. I would get out of bed and quietly shut my bedroom door. Then I would turn on my light and quietly play with my toys in the middle of my bedroom floor. I don’t know how long this went on before I was finally discovered. My Mom opened the door to find me with the light on, playing. She made me go back to bed and turned the light out. I don’t remember getting up again after that, but I do remember that calming stillness. It must be something I just crave on occasion.

I am thankful for the hoot of an owl.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

There is a small, yet heavy, package sitting on my cedar chest in the dining room. That box contains a new batter for my scooter. Michael ordered it ages ago when he realized that my old battery would no longer hold a charge. He asked me when was the last time I replaced that battery and I said “never.” My scooter is almost eleven years old. We haven’t even bothered to open the box of the new battery. It just sits there, very much like a doorstop, and reminds me that eventually it is going to stop snowing and the temperatures are going to become tolerable. I told Michael the other day that I was going to ride my scooter so dang much, that I was even going to ride it in the rain. I got caught in the rain while riding my scooter more times last year than I ever have since buying it. At this point, I’d welcome any scooter ride, rain or shine.

Winter time Thankful Fridays tend to center around hope. It is the time of year where I have to dig the deepest to find those little things that give me some kind of hope that I will make it through another winter. Typing that makes me realize that finding hope and really believing in that hope has become a difficult thing for me to do. There have been too many times when hope has lead to great disappointment. There have been too many times when hope had to be abandoned to make room for the acceptance of loss. The concept of hope for me has become almost mythical. It is believing in fairies and unicorns and even moose. Yet it is hope of something better that keeps us going and I can be passive in my hope or active. Right now, I am in the process of actively fueling hope. I’m planning museum trips. I’m getting on my mat. I’m wearing my favorite blue boots that I can only wear in the winter time because they keep my feet super toasty.

I don’t need hope to know that winter will eventually end. Michael just bought a snow blower, so that is probably a good sign that we’ve seen the last of the snow. I do need to hope for something better to keep me moving through these last grueling weeks of winter though. I am thankful for the things in my life that fuel that hope like those brief moments of sunshine, the break between snow storms, and that box holding a new scooter battery.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

We are expecting around five and half inches of snow over the weekend. It is snowing as I type this. And all I can think about is how this is going to mess up my routine. Do I go fight the traffic and people after work to do our grocery shopping? Or do I wait until the morning and have to unbury my car and dig my way out of the driveway? Do I just force us all to eat rice and beans all weekend? What about that yoga workshop I’ve already paid money to attend? Will they cancel it? School closings started to scroll across the TV last night way before the storm even hit. I am this close to hanging up a “Closed for February” sign and curling into a ball in my bed. Writing about gratitude is a struggle today, but here goes.

I made twenty four hour miso eggs for our ramen bowls last night and I’ve decided on two things. First, there should be eggs marinating in miso in our refrigerator at all times. Second, I’m going to have to start making my own miso. I made broth for our ramen with smoked bonito and the miso I scraped off the eggs and it is official. I make the best ramen in the city. Speaking of eggs, I went to feed the chickens on Wednesday and found four eggs in the chicken coop. I leaped for joy at the sight of them because for me, those eggs bring more hope than any shadow viewing groundhog. Actually, I kind of thought we’d seen the last of the eggs in October and that our chickens’ laying days were over. So when I saw all four different colored eggs sitting the coop, I was thrilled.

I am up to holding forearm plank for two and half minutes. I still don’t like it, but I’m feeling the benefits. Yesterday in my yoga practice, I pretzeled my legs into a full seated lotus, pressed my palms down into my mat and lifted my butt off the mat. I could swing my body freely back and forth. The lift comes from core strength. I have not done full lotus in years because it’s really not a safe pose for your knees. So I was pretty surprised that I could still do that pose, but even more surprised by how easily I lifted my body from the floor. I am always surprised that I am actually stronger than I think I am. Which is why I know that groceries will get purchased this weekend. I will survive this snow storm just like I survived all the other ones. I will not scrotum out and close myself off for the whole month of February.

I don’t have to like it but I can tolerate it.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

Freezing mist and drizzle set in around here on Wednesday. Schools closed early and stayed closed through Thursday. The Y has a no close policy. They stay open for people who need to be someplace warm. This meant that the yoga class I teach on Wednesday evenings would not be cancelled unless I called it in. I cancelled my class the week before because of work and weather. I did not feel like I could get away with this two Wednesdays in a row. So, I bundled up and with warnings from Michael to drive very very safely, I went to teach my Wednesday night yoga class.

I arrived early and when I went to lay out my mat and set up my things, one of the Y trainers was set up in that space with one of his clients. I chatted with the trainer about yoga. I did a few rounds of surya namaskar. I reviewed my notes for the class I had prepared for the evening and I eyed the clock. I was starting to think that no one was going to show up for class. A minute before my class was supposed to start, a woman came rushing in and said “Oh My GOD! I’m so glad you’re here.” She turned out to be my only student for the evening and it was probably the best class I’ve taught in a while. I was able to take the class I had planned and tweak it specifically for her needs. We flowed through a series of poses and then did a few exercises to prepare for headstand. She mentioned having problems with tightness in her shoulders and I showed her a few exercises she could do at home relieve some of that tension. When the class ended, the woman expressed her gratitude to me several times. She thanked me for staying and teaching the class even though she was my only student. She thanked me for class and the work we had done together in this practice. She thanked me for how good her body felt after the practice. She was so grateful.

This gratitude, of course, made me feel good but what I did not express to her was how grateful I was for her being present in our class that evening. For one thing, I was grateful to be able to share my practice and knowledge to this woman in a way that will help her beyond the yoga mat. At the same time, being able to give the gift of easing one’s physical pain is a soothing balm for my soul. Wednesday would have been Chris’s 48th birthday and I spent the day with this knowledge ping ponging it’s way around my brain. I remember that he was in good spirits for that last one. We’d had friends visiting and there had been laughter. Always laughter. Then Chris immediately started to decline. He went from being able to communicate effectively to making absolutely no sense in one day. The worst of it though, was the pain. Chris was in so much pain and there was nothing I could do to ease it. I could give him pills that would barely manage his pain, but managing pain is not the same as being pain free.

It was horrifying to have to watch him suffer and debilitating to not have any control over the amount of his suffering.

I did not do anything monumental for this woman. I simply helped her to ease tension in her shoulders so she would sleep better that night. There are things within my control and abilities and there are things that are not. Controlling Chris’s pain was not in my control or abilities. At one point while working on headstand, the women said “this is hard! and it shows me that I lack strength.” I said to her “You have the strength to do the things you need to do. No where in our daily lives do we need to do headstands. Sure, it’s fun and feels empowering to be able to do these kinds of poses, but don’t forget that you are strong in other ways.” I did not realize at the time that I was saying those words to myself.

I have the strength to do the things I need to do. I am strong in other ways.

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I didn’t get a chance to watch the Live TV performance of Rent on Sunday. From what I’ve heard from various reviews, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t see it. I settled for listening to the soundtrack recording from the original Broadway cast the next day while I did my early morning routine. I cleaned microscopes and turned them on for the day. Then I grabbed my mug and headed out for my morning coffee walk. I was in the stairwell, somewhere between floors three and four when Will I started playing and I thought about something Terry had written to me in a text recently. It had to do with being old enough to lose someone you love to AIDS.

Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care?

The weight of that song hit me hard enough in my chest so that I had to sit down on a step and breathe. I thought about the New York Times article I had read months ago that told the story of how hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who died during the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and early 90s were buried in mass graves on Hart Island, an island off the coast of the Bronx in New York. I grew up as a witness to the cruelty and indifference directed towards someone suffering from AIDS. I remember seeing the news and watching as parents screamed and yelled at each other in school meetings over whether or not to allow a child with HIV to go to the same school as their own child. The absolute terror of the unknown of this virus drove people to unimaginable hate and anger. Imagine dealing with all of that prejudice and hate while caring for a loved one suffering with the very disease all of that prejudice and hate was being directed.

Trust me when I say that caring for someone you love who is dying and sitting there watching them suffer is hard enough.

Things are so different today. HIV is no longer a death sentence and it is no longer feared the way it was in the beginning of the epidemic. We know so much more about the virus. A twenty year-old infected today could live up to seventy years. Living with HIV. Those born after, say, 1996 do not know anything about the fear and prejudice that HIV/AIDS generated. They know (hopefully) that it is a sexually transmitted disease and that you just need to be careful. If you’re not careful, well then, there’s some really great antivirals out there and you can still live a long, healthy and happy life. I am almost jealous of those people born after 1996 because they were not raised during that time of terror. Except I still think it’s the dumbest thing in the world to contract HIV. Maybe that is one of the benefits of being raised during those early days of the epidemic and being witness to all of that. I know how awful this disease really is. The new drugs that we have now that allow people to live those happy, healthy lives only work for so long. Eventually it all turns to shit. When HIV moves into AIDS, it ravishes the body. It is a lingering death filled with sickness and pain.

I’ve gone back and forth about doing the AIDS Walk this year. So much of the money raised by the foundation goes to research and patient care and not enough to education. I want the money that I raise to go towards education. I still feel that education and prevention is one of the most important ways to fight HIV and I still feel some sort of calling to be a part of that fight. That might mean I end up doing the walk until I figure out a way to get my money pushed into the direction I want it to go. Who knows.

For right now, I’m just going to be grateful for the things I know.