Today, July 4th, I Am Celebrating Many Things!

July 4, 2015

TODAY I am celebrating… the 4th of July, the day of our nation’s independence.  As for many Americans ,  for me and my family this day has become a reason for a three-day weekend, an opportunity for a  hot dog and hamburger barbecue with friends and/or family, and a chance to see an evening fireworks display.  After reading the morning paper about how members of ISIS are destroying even more ancient artifacts in Palmyra, Syria, I am celebrating the fact that I do not live in a country overtaken by religious zealots.  I am celebrating our constitution which was written to maintain a balance in our government and our daily lives. I am celebrating our relative peace and prosperity.

TODAY I am celebrating…the fact that I am still alive.  At about this time last year I had just retired from teaching and was looking forward to enjoying the “golden years” when I was suddenly overtaken by a 4th stage cancer with the odds definitely not in my favor.  Seven months later I was declared cancer free, and I now consider myself a cancer survivor…one of the very lucky ones.

TODAY I am celebrating the beginning of summer;  I have so much I hope to accomplish.  On Monday I will begin to participate in a two-week  workshop for teachers of writing with one of my favorite groups…the Long IslandWriting Project.  I have been affiliated with them for over thirty years and still think they serve a very important function in this mostly technological world.  I celebrate their wisdom, their perseverance and their mission to create a safe haven for all writers.

TODAY I am celebrating that, thanks to this website, I have become an avid blogger.  Participating for the first time this year in the March Slice of Life challenge, I overcame my depression from having cancer and could not wait to get up each day and read what everyone had to say.  Becoming a weekly blogger has introduced a very welcome discipline in my life which…dare I say it…is therapeutic and good practice for a would-be writer.

TODAY I am celebrating that I have taken some baby steps toward beginning to write a book I have been thinking about for a while.  I have joined an online writing community which will require me to post new writing once a week, and like Slice of Life, will provide me with some feedback on a weekly basis.  My long-term goal for now is to produce a first draft  this year.  My immediate goal is to produce new writing each week.   Without the encouragement of the community of writers at TWT, I don’t think I would ever have taken this first step.

TODAY I am celebrating the flowers in my garden, the clear blue sky overhead, the zero-gravity chair I am sitting on while writing this in my backyard, the time I’ve been given to pursue one of my passions, and the communities I’ve become part of that will be my support in the months to come.

Yoga with a Chair

I have been a believer in yoga for much of my life. When I was in my mid-20s, living in NYC and very stressed out for a lot of reasons, I attended my first yoga class. The release I felt from that first class was amazing and I immediately drank the Kool Aid!

Over many years I have joined yoga classes intermittently, usually to try to relieve some kind of physical ailment. I like the way yoga practice pays attention to both the mind and the body because I believe they are completely connected, or at least have been in my case. I am not a hard core yogi…in fact, physically, far from it. I find it hard to pay attention to my body when time is limited. I tend to live more in my mind, but my body has suffered as a result.

That all came to a crashing end this past summer when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had just retired and signed up for my first senior aerobics exercise class and was very motivated to start paying more attention to my health. A couple of days later I developed a pain in my groin, and the rest is history. I soon learned I had cancer of the lymph nodes in my groin. Thank goodness I took the exercise class or I might have found out too late.

Fast forward to almost nine months later and I am back in a yoga class. But this one is different from any other I’ve taken. This one is for people who have restrictive physical conditions or who are entering the “golden years” and struggle with limited flexibility. My body is a wreck from all the chemo treatment; I often feel like someone has beaten me up. Every joint aches. I knew I needed a different approach to exercising for now.

Luckily I live in a town that has a lot to offer…Huntington. So I signed up for QiGong (see an earlier slice), which is new to me and very challenging, and this Chair Yoga class. At first I felt a little awkward about joining because I knew I was identifying with a much older crowd. And I was right…everyone is my age or older. But after the first class I realized I was exactly where I needed to be with a kinder, gentler yoga class and a sympathetic teacher. These women have already become my role models for keeping myself healthier as I age.

And what about the chair in my title? Well, we do many of our positions sitting in a chair which is tremendously helpful when your joints are in pain and you have difficulty getting on and off the floor. The positions all mimic true yoga positions but are adapted to less limber bodies. We also sometimes stand behind or in front of the chair to practice other positions using the chair as a support to lean on. I am now in love with this class. I am ready to shout it from the rooftops: I LOVE CHAIR YOGA!