Saturday, March 30, 2013

THUMBTOEARASANA



I recently got a nice little "Thank You" email from the Yoga studio where I practice, congratulating me on my anniversary with them.  I'm not sure which anniversary this is, but I'm guessing I've been going there fairly regularly for about 3 years.  Time is weird though; it could be 4...or 5?

Anyway, Yoga has become a regular part of my life.  I love it.  At least the Yoga I do at that studio with my favorite teachers.  It is a nice combination of ease and challenge, which is as it should be.  We move from one posture (asana) to the next in an easy transition that is slow and well-defined.  We hold some poses longer than others.  Sometimes we do a Kudalini-style where we more more quickly.  Sometimes there is a "flow", as in doing Sun Salutations, which takes one from standing to stomach and back to standing through various flowing movements.

Yoga for me is a meditation.  I don't think too much about the "exercise" aspect of it, which I think is a very unfortunate Western definition of the practice.  It is not meant to be a "butt-blaster" routine... although who doesn't want that pert little "yoga butt"???

I say a silent mantra before stepping on my mat, making a commitment to mindfulness for the next hour and fifteen minutes.  I pay attention to my breathing, my thoughts, my body.  I try not to compete with the other students.  I try to find my "edge" -- that sweet spot where optimum effort is expended, but there is no undue stress or strain and certainly no pain.  I try to be aware of alignment.

Sometimes I watch a brand new student and recall my first tries at Yoga.  I HATED IT!  I was in terrible shape and had no muscle strength and poor balance.  I was overweight and hated my body.  Yoga, I thought, was for the skinny, "jock" girls with no boobs and unnaturally flexible joints.  In fact, they probably had some congenital defect which allowed them to move into those pretzel-y shapes that no normal human could possibly attain.  Any pose that required me to put any weight at all on my arms or wrists ended in collapse.  And shame.  And anger.

And then, at a retreat with my long-time women's group, one of my 'sisters' led us in an early morning Yoga routine that was actually do-able!  She was funny and encouraging, plus I already loved and trusted her,  and was surrounded by other women who knew my deepest vulnerabilities already, so what did I have to lose?  And giving up all that Ego allowed me to just be with what was.  What was, was fun!  And I wanted more.

So that's when I joined the aforementioned Yoga studio.  Now, occasionally, I feel really competent.  Whoa!  Look at me!  I know how to do this and I do it well!  Oh, yeah, easy breezy!  Downward dog, cobra, eagle, pigeon -- I OWN those poses!  (Sort of...)

So, the other day I was doing some sort of twist (my favorite!) and reaching one arm overhead or ... I don't know... something...and realized when I went to move out of the pose that my thumb ring had become entwined with my fancy loopy earring and I was attached, thumb to earlobe, and could not untangle myself!

I had a moment of panic as I tried hard to disengage ring and earring, surreptitiously of course, and finally had to yank on my earring (bending it in the process) while simultaneously trying to remove my  ring, which seemed to be stuck on my fat thumb and would not budge, but by then I was ready to rip my thumb off if need be....

Finally it all just fell away; the earring lay in a bent mess on the floor, along with my thumb ring, still entwined.  And I moved on to sphinx pose, glancing around to see if anyone had witnessed my plight.  It didn't seem so...and then, suddenly, I just started giggling.

Thank you, Ego, for the smack down, this time appropriately.  Yoga is a practice of acceptance and I accept that sometimes I'm a Yoga-dork, even when I think I'm "all that".

At least, that's the view from here...

Check us out:  www.yogacirclestudio.com


Friday, March 22, 2013

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE....

Here is grief again.  I could sit and count how many times I've cried over death, human and animal, but this is one thing that doesn't seem to get easier with experience.

Our cat, Cooper, is gone.

Yes, this is the exact opening to my February 5, 2013 post when we'd lost our dog, Toby.  Just 6 weeks later, our 16-year-old Cooper-Cat has now joined Toby in the mysterious "out there" where formerly sentient beings frolic about in the great cosmos.  Or something like that.  I'm not really sure.

What I am sure of is that sadness lives in my heart again/still.  I'm actually a little numb with sadness.  I must be.  Because as a "cat person" I thought I'd be devastated, but I feel remarkably at peace, while also deeply feeling this loss.  Maybe my reaction is because I am absolutely sure it was his time.

I think that's the difference between losing Coop and losing The Tobe.  Toby's diagnosis was such a shock.  The moment of decision to let him go was the result of an acute crisis in suddenly losing his ability to breathe easily; within a couple of hours it was over.

Cooper, well, I've watched the slow progression of his decline in kidney function for the past 6 months..  Old cat disease.  It's the #1 cause of cat mortality, for those who live into old age.  I said my goodbyes dozens of times over -- every time I fed him, petted him, sought him out in his "nest" in the dark downstairs TV room, his preferred place to sleep the day away of late, having abandoned his sunny spot on the back of the sofa near the window.

Every time I sat down for more than 5 minutes to watch TV or read or crochet -- even in the last days of his life -- he had a 6th sense about me settling in and he would come from wherever he'd been to jump into my lap and settle in with me.  And for both of us, I think, great waves of peace and contentment would wash over us for however long that respite lasted.  There is nothing in my life than can calm me and bring quiet peaceful presence to my heart as quickly and easily as a purring cat on my lap.

We got him on a late spring day in 1997 at the Co-op Supply store where we'd stopped for dog food.  He was among a litter of kittens in a cage bearing a sign reading "FREE".  Oh dear!  Son-Two and I took one look, then another, then looked again, and were totally enthralled by this sweet baby polydactyl kitty.  Yep, extra toes.  He looked like he was wearing big white mittens on his front paws.  He was ours.

He was young -- no more than 5-6 weeks old.  So, I think I became his momma.  He was literally "on me" for weeks, seeking me out for warmth, food, and companionship.  We bonded.  And it remained so.  Hub could come around, but occasionally if Cooper felt his "territory" invaded, he lay his ears back and gave Hub a low growl that said, "Back off, buddy.  She's mine!"  He never did anything about it; he was not that aggressive.  He just voiced his displeasure with sharing me.  But he wasn't above snuggling into Hub's lap occasionally too.

So, he was a special one, among the many cats we've had in the past 37 years.  I could tell stories about each of them, about the joy and pleasure they brought to me and to our home.  And to each we've had to say goodbye in various ways and in their time.

On Wednesday it was Cooper's time.  He had stopped eating.  The fluids we'd begun giving him last week weren't keeping up his hydration needs. He wasn't urinating much.  He had trouble walking.  There was no more purring -- even though he still preferred my lap to other places to sleep if I cooperated by sitting still.

Tearfully, I made the appointment.  Hub was working, so Son-Two and I took Cooper in, which was fitting since it was we two who had claimed him from that cage of free kittens all those years ago, when Son-Two was only 9 years old.  We both petted Cooper, me holding his sweet face in my hands as the injection was given.  He looked at me until he was gone; quickly and peacefully.  No struggle, no fear, no pain, no striving, no regrets.

I feel I have done the hard thing, the responsible thing, the loving thing.  I am at peace with all of it.  And I am sad.


My Sweet Cooper
Sometime in the Spring 1997 -- March 20, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL" (...EXCEPT...)

What's wrong with people's thinking?

I hope to be able to answer this question when I finish the 4-week class I'm taking on keeping one's brain agile as we grow older.  At our first class we talked about brain atrophy, which must be the reason some people act so bat shit crazy -- regardless of age, actually.  What else could it be?

Watch this.  It's funny.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jrngYNGNeE

My first thought was, "This is sort of old school humor; no one can possibly be opposed to marriage equality anymore!"  But then I forget; I live on the liberal side of the Pacific Northwest state that just voted to legalize gay marriage.  Long overdue, but now done.  Moving on....

Then I peeked out from my little bubble and realized most of the rest of the US is still struggling with this idea and many are actively, vociferously, railing against it, believing it will "destroy" the idea of traditional marriage; a crazy notion so excellently parodied in this clip.

I recall my novice activist days in the early 70's, working for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment for women.  There were plenty of scare-mongering ideas about what it would mean for women to be accorded rights equal to men; things like, society would run amok with the upset of the 'natural' heirarchy of men as head of household; men would lose their jobs if women were paid the same because there just wouldn't be enough money to go around; children would be practically feral and constantly in danger because there would be no mommy at home to raise them right;  there would be rampant violations of privacy since we would all be forced to use uni-sex bathrooms!

It still galls me that the ERA didn't pass, but society changed regardless, and many of the provisions we wanted to have as legal protections under one constitutional amendment have come to pass anyway with multiple individual laws paving the way.

Within days of the marriage equality referendum passing here last November, couples of long-standing commitment, but not previously accorded the right to marry, rushed to courthouses and open-hearted churches to legally wed.   The news clips showed couples beaming with pride and joy and relief, families and friends showering them with confetti and love.  It was amazingly moving.  It always is, when finally we get out of own way, as a people, and do the right thing.

At least, that's the view from here....


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

MALFUNCTION


Here's a "Testimonial" I presented as part of a Women's Service at my church last Sunday:
***********************************************************************
First of all I’m annoyed that no one sees my red hair.  I complain about this a lot.  I mean, are people blind???  My hair is bright red!  It’s beautiful!  Everyone has told me this since I was 2 years old.  I don’t understand....

Next, I’m annoyed that they’ve started making jeans in weird sizes that don’t fit.  I mean, really, I can try on 20 pairs of jeans and not one, NOT ONE, fits anymore.  Why, back 30-40 years ago I could find a decent pair of jeans that fit like a glove!

Also, the entire skin care industry is tanking.  I slather on cleansers, toners, serums and various moisturizers, per manufacturers' exacting instructions and what happens?  I still see wrinkles!  It seems my skin is sagging a bit in the neck region.  Again, what’s with these products?  I’m calling for a recall!

Also, and this is really serious -- there are now more calories in food than there used to be.  I eat exactly the same amount of bread and cheese and cake but somehow the scale is showing weight gain.  That can’t be right.  Of course, it may be the scale; I’ve heard they can go bad and need recalibrating.

Someone suggested to me recently that all of these annoyances may be age-related.  Hogwash!  There are plenty of people out there my age and older who do not experience these changes.

Their hair is the same vibrant color it was in their 20’s.  Their skin is tight and taut and not sagging anywhere; in fact, in some cases, their faces barely move!  They have not gained an ounce of weight as they aged -- some have flatter tummies and impossibly perkier “other parts” than ever.  Their clothing fits perfectly.

So, obviously, there is combination of malfunction of my body and the industries in place to support it.  In our society, in the 21st century, there is absolutely no reason, we are told, for a person of advancing age to have to look like they look.  None at all.  

Unless, of course, looking like we look is some form of statement about self-acceptance; some form of protest against the cultural romance with youth; some crazy personal demonstration of the cumulative effects of a lifetime of love, challenge, joy, grief, hard work, and laughter that carves lines into our faces, causes gray hairs to sprout from our heads, and encourages us to embrace our imperfect bodies.

We all want to look our best, to look as “good as we feel” some say.  There is nothing wrong with a good haircut, flattering clothing, a little body adornment.  What is wrong is the message that we are not good enough just as we are, especially as we grow older in this youth- obsessed culture.  So next time you look in the mirror, don’t think “malfunction”.  Instead, smile and say, “Hello Beautiful!”

At least, that's the view from here....