1Writeway i am therefore i write. official site of marie ann bailey, writer, knitter, and stray cat magnet. gas in back trapped

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My Facebook page recently reminded me that no one has heard from me in a while. Funny how those prompts make me feel just guilty enough to start thinking about writing a blog post, but not guilty enough to write one right away. I’ve been cruising through Life lately, musing on how busy I feel even though I’m not as busy as I used to be.

Several months ago I was diagnosed with cervical osteoarthritis. Also known as chronic pain in the neck. Well, the pain is not constant and is mostly due to the stiffness that seizes my neck when it’s been immobile for a while … like when I’m typing … on my computer … for my blog. My arthritis can even be a pain in the neck when I knit–adding insult to injury. My husband wants me to have an MRI to make sure it really is arthritis, that the physical therapy I went through really is what I need to be doing.

My husband is a case study of how x-rays can deliver an incorrect or incomplete diagnosis. The short story is after several months of physical therapy for his back (during which he got little to no relief for his pain), he finally got an MRI and found that he has, among other things, severe spinal stenosis. The kicker: the physical therapy he had been prescribed was contraindicated for his type of back problem. Before I continue, let me reassure you all that he’s fine. He’s retired which allows him to spend as much time as he needs to exercise and take care of his back. He’s actually doing quite well compared to a year ago.

Besides doing a bit of writing here and there, complaining about my neck, and knitting … and let’s not forget my day job–although I try to, I really try to–I’m living in the moment. About 75 moments were spent walking around Lake Overstreet this Saturday.

Exceptional in its penchant for violence, for a first-world country, the United States is a country I no longer recognize. It’s not the country I grew up in, where people rose up demanding equal education, equal rights for women and minorities, celebrating diversity and the wonderful complexity that is life. There’s some irony here because a lot of other people also pine for those “good old days” and their remembrance is much different from mine. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, feeling frustrated even as a young teenager with the restrictions placed on me simply because I was female. But I also felt empowered and hopeful because of all the adult women fighting for my future, by marching and by voting. I grew up in “ethnic” diversity where people made distinctions based on whether your family’s origins were from Poland, Germany, Italy, Ireland, or Puerto Rico. Only three black kids went to my high school and they were related to each other. Yet, we wanted to be friends, to be inclusive because at heart we were all kids. Our parents cared about the color of skin, but we didn’t. So I grew up frustrated and yet hopeful.

The country I live in now is unrecognizable to me. We don’t just make distinctions based on nationality; we deport people, even if the only crime they are guilty of is staying here too long. We want to roll back the clock on women’s rights and make them all handmaidens. Our path here has been insidious, only obvious when we look back and see the long road we’ve traveled.

We’ve come to embrace violence as just the way we exert our freedoms. The right to own an AR-15, a weapon designed for the sole purpose of killing a lot of people in a short period of time, is far more important than the lives of the people killed with an AR-15. The NRA has infiltrated our political system the way a cancer metastasizes. It kills, like cancer kills. Indiscriminately. No one is safe. In my eyes, the NRA is a terrorist organization, no better than ISIS.

Today I am going to my state capitol to stand with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people to demand that the Florida legislature enact serious gun control, to demand that these legislators stop being whores to the NRA and start serving the people they claim to represent. We must vote them out, vote out the NRA in November 2018. I can only hope that there are no more mass shootings before then.

Some of you know that I practice yoga at a studio. A few weeks ago, a student I didn’t know started attending the two classes I take each week. I found her presence to be a little unsettling. She was … to put it delicately … expressive with almost every pose she made. Her rather energetic sighs and enthusiastic exclamations distracted me from my own effort to relax into a pose. I wondered why she was so loud and talkative. I thought maybe she was new to yoga and didn’t yet understand that most students prefer silence. Well, at least I prefer silence. All I want to hear is the instructor as she guides me through a vinyasa.

Turns out the expressive student who I will call Grace (not her real name) is recovering from a long illness, an illness that could have killed her and that has left her with brain damage. The message from the studio owner was prompted by complaints from other students. She felt obligated to help all of us understand Grace’s situation, in part because Grace so loved practicing yoga and in part because she and Grace were very close friends.

“Thank you for your post on Grace. I’m too embarrassed to admit publicly that I was initially unsettled by her comments and expressiveness during the few classes we’ve shared so far. I didn’t know who she was and thought she was just a very vocal person at first. But then I observed how the instructors responded to her … no, not really responded, but reached out to her. Every instructor, from the one teaching the class to the ones practicing, responded to Grace with a tender, loving kindness that made me realize there was something very special about her. I guess it’s that joy that people feel when they get back someone they thought they had lost. And I observed Grace … her warmth, her genuine friendliness to everyone around her, her joy when her body fell into place with the pose. When she smiled, her whole face would light up and you’d think, “this person loves life.” But I could also see the confusion sometimes, the withdrawal and quiet. It breaks my heart to know that the confusion is from her illness. What I learned from your post and my observations of the wonderful instructors at the studio and especially Grace, is that the studio is a safe place for everyone. I’ve always thought of it as such; the one place I can go and be my clumsy, flaky self without anyone criticizing me. But it’s not all about me and it’s not just for me. If the studio is a safe place for me, it has to be for everybody. Before I read your post, I struggled with that tension of wanting my safe, quiet place and sharing it with Grace and her enthusiasm. After reading your post, I realized what a hypocrite I am. One of the many things I LOVE about the studio is the sense of humor everyone shares, the willingness to laugh at ourselves, to let go of the pressures of the day and just Be. I read your post a few hours before my Yin/Yang class. Grace was there and I rejoiced in every word and sound she uttered. As so many have said, Grace expresses what we all feel: she gives voice to our joy when a pose feels right, our bafflement when we forget which is right and which is left, and that sweet peace as we yield to savasana. I truly look forward to practicing with her. And thank you for making the studio what it is: a place of healing and joy and laughter.”

I wanted to share this because I still haven’t completely forgiven myself. Yes, the next time Grace turned up in one of my classes, I made a point of saying hello to her. Nothing more. Not yet. She was quiet that night and I could only hope it was because she was feeling peace within herself, not confusion.