Anxiety and Missing Medication Doses. A Missed Effexor Dose.

I woke up from my husband’s alarm this morning. It’s Saturday, and what most people would consider a day to sleep in. But for us almost every week for a different reason, for the past 9 years- there is some reason to get up.

6am today.

The beeping jarred me awake from a very vivid dream that I try to hold onto for a moment or two- trying to make sense of what it meant.

At some point just moments later, I realize that I feel EXHAUSTED. I mean exhausted, in case the uppercase didn’t relay this feeling well enough. Next I notice an almost unbearable throbbing of my head. My nose is stuffed. My mind is racing for no good reason. So badly that my heart and breath (with stuffiness) matches the anxiety.

But there is a reason for anxiety. We are moving and had just spent a week in the new house meeting with contractors, getting quotes, installing ductless air… working for work… working around the house… managing upcoming renters and our mostly adult children. A week of some big changes too. Devin, the youngest of our brood of 4 passed his road test on Thursday. Days of carting kids are just suddenly over.

I went through this week like any other. Feeling like I’m going through the motions to get to the next step. Feeling like I’m barely hanging on and can hardly make it another day at this pace. Telling myself and my husband that we cannot keep going on like this. That the work we are doing has to be for some great reason so in the near future we can finally rest.

Massive changes taking place around me hardly phase me. If I went back to every week in the past 9 years- nearly every one of them would show at least one or two mega great changes and things to celebrate or mourn. It’s constant. This week was really like no other. So why am I anxious today? It’s no secret I struggle with anxiety disorder and PTSD. But it’s felt very under control for about a year now with a few relapses. Why now?

I think back to yesterday when at some point around 2 or 3pm in the afternoon I felt unbelievably restless. Then it turned to feeling trapped. Next I’m frantically texting my husband about how I feel. This alone is an old familiar feeling. I hadn’t done this in about a year either. I’ve had relapses of panic and/or PTSD episodes, but this one is different. It feels a little more uncontrolled.

We’ve had workers in our house since Tuesday around the work day clock. They were supposed to be done Wednesday. Then they said Thursday. Thursday when I arrived home at noon they were still there. 7:30pm and wanting to eat dinner with no where quiet to sit… they are still there. Thursday evening they say they will need to come back for a half day Friday (yesterday). I am ready to go back to our home on Cheshire. We have renters coming today (Saturday) and I haven’t been home in a week. We are also going to Long Island. I’m starting to feel overwhelmed again. Like I have no time for myself. There is so much to do. I’m sick of eating take out, I want to cook but need to shop first. The house in Cheshire is on the market and I can’t even think about what it might look like after my quite messy 22 year old came home for the month of Aug. I can’t bear to look at my broken fingernails with dirt underneath due to the copious amounts of yard work- and there is more to do in Cheshire. My body is sore from what feels like non stop physical labor from cleaning, fixing, working. I have bruises, bug bites and cuts everywhere. I need to unpack my clothes and loads of food in Cheshire only to pack an overnight bag… then unpack again Sunday.

As the hours tick by and the workers are still there- relaying they are ‘almost done’ every 1-2 hours. I become increasingly more agitated. At 4pm they announce they are in fact done and start to clean up.

I drive home in commuter traffic with a car packed to the gills with air conditioners, food, photo albums, clean and dirty clothes, frozen items defrosting rapidly in the nearly 90 degree heat, amongst a myriad of other things. My car is constantly packed with stuff to cart from house to house or to drop off here or there. My anxiety starts to go over the roof.

Somewhere on Route 10 about 20 minutes away from home while moving at a snails pace I start to cry. Really really cry. And it feels good. It’s a release of all the toxicity I feel has been building up that I just pushed away and dealt with.

Long story short I get home and feel fine, but the night is filled with mixed emotions ranging from sadness to anger to despair to PTSD related thoughts. I’m crying, then laughing.

What is wrong with me?

IS there anything wrong with me?

Wouldn’t most others hit a limit of feeling like it’s too much as well?

To add other weird fuel, I have 4 known trigger dates that I’ve identified in my PTSD treatment. Trigger dates are times to rest and realize your body recognizes similarities in the atmosphere (light falling certain ways, temperatures, smells, etc). One should rest because our lower brain only feels these things without rational thought and goes into fight or flight mode in an attempt to protect itself. If we don’t consciously pick up on this with the higher brain, the lower brain shuts the higher one down at a certain point to divert all energy to fight or flight. This used to happen to me a lot. With and without dates, brought on by other known triggers. The only thing is you don’t know when those other triggers will strike. At least with dates there is an ability to prepare and take it easy.

Three out of four of my most prominent annual trigger dates take place on & around July 9th through on & around August 9th.

I’m not taking it easy or treating this time of year with any special care. In fact I’m feeling busier than usual and barreling ahead like someone is chasing me.

As I move around in bed my body hurts in every single which way. Mind, belly, headache, muscle pain, sinuses, heart, third eye.

I mentally go through the morning and imagine going downstairs for coffee and to take my daily dose of Effexor. That is when I horrifically realize that I never did take my medicine yesterday morning. Pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. My emotional breakdown and complete instability last night. The way I feel today. The feeling of being trapped yesterday. It makes sense.

More often than not if I forget my pills by 10am I have a dizzying headache and feel crazy nausea. I take them as soon as I remember and I’m fine within a few hours. No head ache yesterday. No head ache = no physical reminder something was amiss. Only hours later when my old mood symptoms returned did anything feel off.

So is it the chicken or the egg??? Anxiety from missed dose or missed dose due to anxiety.

Both??

Twice this week when going into work I forgot my pills. One day my husband delivered them and the next I had some in my car. Perhaps I’m anxious, my thoughts are jumbled and I can’t remember?

Is this anxiety or is what we are going through something that would make anyone anxious? 9 years of non stop activity and life momentous life changes taking place back to back (divorce, kids driving & going through all firsts of puberty, graduations, college starts, new jobs, house moves, new schools)

Is it my trigger dates?

Do societal expectations to do it all, hurry faster, give and experience as much as you can cause anxiety? Would my PTSD kick in less if I weren’t so busy and experienced the same levels of increasing anxiety that society in general seems to feel? I know I’m not the only one. Stress and anxiety seem to be a quiet epidemic virally rolling through our nation like a barely detectable tsunami before it strikes.

Does it matter to me where it’s coming from?

This morning I cried some more. I cried because even though I know how sick I get when I miss a dose, I didn’t realize how much the Effexor was keeping the anxiety at bay. Like I said I’ve had relapses. But yesterday’s was something different all together. It was like I never started a single pill and I was right back to where I was before I began dealing with this issue. It feels like a complete and absolute loss of thought and emotional control. The lower brain did take over. It sensed some kind of danger and shut the rest down. It’s terrifying. But I do have to admit the crying jags feel really good! They actually hurt physically in my heart, throat and head- but it is like there is a release of pressure in those areas and it is coming out. Am I not allowing emotion to pass through by taking pills?

The struggle is real. The pills really work. The issues are complex and are both personal and societal.

There is no point to this blog other than to just wonder, chicken or egg? To share with others how missing a dose feels because an hour ago I wanted very badly to read someone else’s experience. To see how long it was before they felt better once they took their dose. To see if anyone else wonders if their life experiences would affect anyone or if there is something truly wrong with the wiring in their brain. 9 years of running around and with delayed onset PTSD creeping in slowly through that time. Would an occasional breakdown be expected?

I used to be so afraid of the thought of having a mental illness. So afraid I didn’t even want to find out. It’s stigmatized.

Once I couldn’t take it any longer and started meds, I was afraid of anyone I know finding out.

Now I just want to shout from the rooftops that it is ok, you will be ok. We all struggle. As soon as we stop pretending we are struggling & that all is hunky dory- it miraculously becomes easier.

Why is that? Because we let the emotions pass rather than holding them down & hiding them? Does the medication prevent real healing then? Or is it a bandaid?

I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m starting to feel a little better about 2.5 hours after my dose this morning. I haven’t left the couch yet so I can’t speak to the level of feeling better other than I’m not suffering through stillness any longer.

Writing about it and seeing my fleeting thoughts in front of me helps.

If it helps anyone else too either now or in the future, then all the more beautiful.

Esterina

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Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings always had a feel to me of a new dawning. No matter where I’ve been on a Sunday morning, I have felt a certain vibe in the air that the day is even fresher than the Saturday and weekday mornings before it.

 

In cities coffee shops are just opening, few cars are in movement on the streets, and most stores are closed. There is a certain quiet in the air. Softer movements. A slower vibe.

 

In suburban and rural towns, the atmosphere also has a peaceful quality. The strip mall lots and main streets are mostly empty except perhaps for a convenience store, gas station or breakfast shop.

 

Sunday morning is not quite as exciting to me as Saturday morning. Saturday morning is about chores, shopping, making plans for the evening. Sunday for me is more about taking time to wake up; enjoying my cup of coffee longer, mentally and physically getting ready for the week ahead, and having a whole day ahead of me to do so.

 

This cloudy, albeit beautiful morning is so very typical at this time in my life. I am up before anyone else at the moment. I came downstairs to the main kitchen/living area and it looks like (what we like to say) a bomb. But it is a bomb that I love. This scene is a snapshot in time; my life at almost 43; my family; where I happen to be in the world.

 

On Sunday morning my house often has blankets strewn about the couches, the floor and perhaps even a kitchen chair. Yesterday’s paper is usually lying about in a neat heap still waiting to be read. The cats are milling and meowing like crazy for their morning meal of a little wet food. The counters and coffee table will often have mostly empty popcorn or snack bowls. A cold tea bag sitting in an empty Starbucks mug from one of the cities we have visited. More often than not there is an espresso cup somewhere with a small circle of the dried, dark remnants sitting at the bottom. An open, unfinished bottle of wine sits on the counter with an accompanying wine glass or two in either the sink with an amount too small to finish lying in the lowest nook of the glass, or haphazardly rinsed and left in the dish drain to dry. It’s not difficult to see what we did before bed, be it a puzzle, a card game, or just some movies, since the TV remotes or pieces of whatever we were doing are mostly left where we had them when everyone retired for bed.

 

I will either be up alone or with the hubby. The first order of business is to start the coffee. Then we quiet the little milling lions who get increasingly vocal by the second until they receive their ever-so-desired wet, stinky cat food. Either alone or splitting up the tasks, we will start to load the dishwasher, open the blinds, fold the blankets and put the house back in order.

 

Today I’m alone. I woke up before Daren, excited to begin a new day and continue to work on a painting that I am in the midst of completing. I cleaned up the house and then sat on the living room floor with two pillows beneath me facing the East to do some morning breathing and meditation. It’s a cloudy, dreary and gray morning; but beautiful none-the-less. The sun is still making its way up and about and brightening the day, even though we can’t see it.

 

I couldn’t help but take a picture of the scene I was looking at. Every morning it looks different. Even in its drab form, this morning was picturesque to me. I stepped outside to get a closer shot and the air felt SO fresh and cool, I didn’t want to go back in. But I did – simply to get a chair and two blankets to take my morning practices outside.

It feels like Sunday. Even in February, birds are singing. I can’t see the town or even much of our neighborhood from the back porch, but none-the-less it has the Sunday morning vibe of serenity that I enjoy so much.

 

Nothing exciting, but I am feeling intense gratitude and oneness with the world at the moment. A snapshot in time. It’s just a beautiful and precious Sunday morning.

 

The page has turned. The week, day & month are fresh. We write the story, whether we do so intentionally or not. Be mindful of your thoughts.

 

Namaste.

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Gingerbread Cookie (Yum) Lesson

It’s the time of year for holiday baking! For a few years I skipped it completely. My friends and family moaned a little, but we used whatever money I was going to spend making cookies and sending cards towards charity. This year I decided to make somecookies. Only a batch of each to keep it all super low key. Also, as long as a nice large tray of cookies would be dropped off at the domestic violence shelter where I often make donations– it would still be for charity.

Yesterday while making Gingerbread men I experienced a little of a spiritual quest, where the words of many who’ve walked before me sunk even deeper.

Monday I made the Gingerbread dough and popped it in the fridge until I was ready to roll it out at a later time. Yesterday I worked from home, and following my lunch walk; I decided to pull out the dough so it was be perfectly soft when I logged off for the day. The cold air outside left me craving the warm smell of cookies in my home.

When it was time to roll, the consistency was just perfect (ever wondered where that phrase came from anyway? “Time to roll”). I preheated the oven and set to work making tiny little people with a brand new cookie cutter I purchased from Zabars on Sunday morning (for an unbelievable price by-the way). They were coming out seamlessly!

I knew I was going to freeze most of them so I didn’t want to frost them. Instead I opted to make 3 little indentations with an appetizer fork on their bellies for buttons as well as on their feet to mimic a little cuff. For the eyes I used the back of a lobster pick. I decided against a mouth, nose or cuffs for the arms. It was a bit too much, as this year I’m keeping it simple.

As I decorated the first batch I couldn’t help but notice how different each cookie already looked. I attempted to make them all the same, but the place in the dough where I cut and the ever so slight differences in the eyes, buttons & cuffs made each and every beautiful little Gingerbread person unique in it’s own way.

I popped the first two trays in the oven and set to work on the second two trays. It was immediately apparent that the dough was already slightly warmer and a bit more difficult to cut. However, making the indentations was easier.

The first batch came out and I loaded the second one in. I let the first two trays cool for a minute before beginning to carefully remove them with a spatula for the cooling rack.

These cute little confections puffed up in the oven and began to sink back down as I started to lift them. As with many cookies (especially complicated cut outs) a few broke a little arm or leg in the process, some had less deep button indentations, some just cooked a little more than others depending on their place in the oven and how thick the dough was. Despite my attempt to make them uniform; nature, chemistry, and my own artistic abilities made each ever so slightly dissimilar to one another.

Some had gotten so puffed that they combined with a neighboring cookies. I had to carefully cut them apart so I didn’t break either in the process. For some it was difficult to distinguish which overlap belonged to which cookie.

This is where my mind went the to aforementioned short spiritual quest.

Like people and animals, these little cookies were all distinct. Where does one person really begin and another end? Those cookies that stuck together came from the same batch. Where they overlapped it was hard to tell who was who, as they are made from the same stuff. And does it matter other than to the eye that they are separate? It’s all just cookies that will taste more or less the same.

Then I thought… What if somehow these Gingerbread cookies became conscious? Would they form a society and create a hierarchy of “better” or “worse” cookies based on cut, color, consistency, button deepness, etc? How crazy would that be? Not too long before that they were just ingredients in the store, then my fridge, then in a ball together… Why would they create a structure in which some have dominance or perceived superiority over another?

What if they split off into groups and started hating on one another? Hating on one another so much so that they began destroying one another as they saw fit to their own Gingerbread beliefs. Wouldn’t that be kind of crazy? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of making the cookies in the first place? Why would they fight over differences rather than celebrating how each is unique?

Why do we think we are any different from Gingerbread people?

Carl Sagan’s quote sort of describes how I was feeling at the moment:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

Alan Watts famously said:

“Look, here is a tree in the garden and every summer is produces apples, and we call it an apple tree because the tree “apples.” That’s what it does. Alright, now here is a solar system inside a galaxy, and one of the peculiarities of this solar system is that at least on the planet earth, the thing peoples! In just the same way that an apple tree apples!”

The Alan Watts quote might be a little more confusing, but I listened to a Podcast one day that expounded upon this quote. Watts said something to the effect of imagine a few million years ago some advanced aliens were roaming around the universe and hap-chanced upon planet earth. They may have took a look at our planet and said ‘eh it’s nothing but a pile of rocks’. A few million years later the same alien race came by the earth again and noticed us humans walking around. This time they said ‘Hey look – this rock peopled.

 

We are all from the same stuff. To some extent as humans, like the Gingerbread men; we are from the same batch of mixed ingredients that were provided by the earth, solar system, Milky Way, and universe. Deep down we are all the same. It’s only nature, some chemistry, and the artistic work of our creator that makes us ever so slightly different in appearance and thought. We were created for the same purpose and should only celebrate what makes us so uniquely beautifully different.

Lessons from the Gingerbread People

 

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One of my cookies-

Hygee (Hoo Guh) & How I Plan to Embrace Winter this Year

I never heard this word until last week. I was starting to plan for the holidays and feeling really festive and excited, until my heart sunk thinking about January and the rest of the winter.
I REALLY don’t like the winter. But it’s an inevitable part of life. If I’ve learned anything this year that is positively impacting my life, it is to enjoy the moment, whatever it is; as this too shall pass. Alan Watts wrote a book called “This is It”. Meaning, as we are waiting for life to start or get better we are actually wasting it- because the whole thing; the good, the bad, the ugly… the joys, sweat & tears… and even traffic is “IT”.
I hardly noticed the winter until the year I was pregnant with Gabby. She was due in June and around February I really started nesting. I had a paper calendar on the wall at the time (who didn’t in 1999?) and on the last day of February I excitedly turned the page and saw the beautiful spring picture for March. My heart filled with joy. I was so excited and ready for spring. I went to bed happily anticipating the coming months. But when I woke up it was still freezing, dark and wet. Weeks later it was still freezing, dark and wet. That same year as the days turned darker and colder in October I realized I am one the thousands I have been hearing in the background who dislike what feels like the never ending season of winter.
20 years later and I’m still a hater. I want that to change, or at least to accept it the way I can smile and catch myself from feeling grumpy during traffic. This is a totally new concept for me to accept even a yucky present moment [most of the time anyway] and tell myself that this is really it! This is life. There is nothing else and even this could be kind of enjoyable when I realize I’m alive and experiencing what exists in the spectrum of living experiences.
So I went to my best ally that I turn to for answers (Google of course) and asked “How to enjoy winter?
Almost every search response turned up this word “Hygee” pronounced “Hoo Guh” (I personally like the way I was pronouncing it in my mind better, but that is neither here nor there). Apparently it’s a Danish word that loosely translates to coziness. The Danish are the well known as the happiest culture in the world, but also have one of the more harsh winters with a population of human settlers. What is their secret?
One can look on their own, I’m not going to go bonkers writing it all out- but the general concept is to embrace it, do all things inside that you’ve been putting off, make time for friends no matter the weather and to indulge in winter foods, clothes and warm beverages. Embracing it means hunkering down and getting cozy. Lots of candles, soft light, and blankets. Also, going outside every day for a bit no matter how dark or cold. Not only is the fresh air and movement of walking a benefit, but the contrast back into the cozy home makes it all the more sweeter.
As I raked leaves at both of our homes this week, covered the stubborn little spring bulbs I recently planted that were poking up, and started to put away the outdoor summer items; I felt a sense of connection the earth and dare I say even slight excitement toward this season for this first time ever.
Being prepared and doubling down on making my home cozier than ever felt right. I ordered non-holiday candles for my windows that I plan to not move until the sun starts to set at an earlier hour next year. I purchased those battery operated string lights for little places in the home near the potted plants I brought in from the outside for the winter for extra light & cheer. I hope to have a fire almost every evening (mental note: need to have the hubby show me how first), so I ordered a ton of firewood just for the occasion. AND I put it in the porch right outside the front door so it stays dry and seasoned… and it is close enough to not groan about having to trek anywhere else around the outside to get it.
What else?
I’m making a list of movies I’ve always wanted to see. Creating a pile of books to keep in living room that I want to read this winter. I am putting together exciting crockpot, dessert and soup recipes to try. I have a list of electronic things I never get to that I want to cross off my mental to do list forever.
I also made a list of things to do on weeknights and weekends that aren’t that exciting to do in the warm months because the draw to be outside is so much greater. Some of those things are to use the sauna we have in the basement, cross country ski (we have a trail within .2 miles from our front door), put together puzzles we bought & never touched, paint, write, color, knit, take online classes to get all CEUs or just learn about somethings I always want to know more about, go to plays and musicals at local theaters, visit museums, try new coffee shops…
Just writing it all out again makes me feel like the whole winter might not be enough time for all these great activities! Could it be that I can enjoy these months? I hope so!
It still might not shake out to actually be enjoyable, but it absolutely won’t be enjoyable if I don’t realize all the cool ways I could embrace and make the most of it. Fingers crossed.
If you are of the many like me who dreads these months and found an idea or two here to make it more bearable – then this was worth the time to write and share.
Here is to embracing it all, because after all, this it it.
~Esterina

 

My wood pile on the porch. This was taken only yesterday after moving a half cord of wood myself and then making a large tarp to keep it all warm & dry. I put kindling in flower pots. Today the scene is full of snow!
Now a day later.
Welcome Winter

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How I’m Choosing Who to Vote For

This past weekend Daren & I went to Harvard for Freshman Family weekend and attended the Keynote address: “The Polarization of America: Can We Bridge the Divide?” with IOP Fellow and former Congressman from Nevada, The Hon. Joseph J. Heck.

I didn’t know the name, but found the talk to be something I can really chew on. Before anyone starts to look Heck up, and bash or celebrate any move he ever made; Heck is Republican and obviously putting his neck on the line by speaking in a highly liberal environment – not only for the parents last weekend, but through many lectures for students during the year.

I don’t like to discuss politics and often do not speak freely as to which party I’m more aligned with, but I’m not a Republican. Most of the audience was not either. However, the talk was wonderful and touched on many reasons why the political divide is kind of inevitable but not impossible to overcome.

One part of it really hit home for me and is something I plan to always consider as well as one can. That is the gumption of a candidate. Heck didn’t even use the word gumption, but at times and once during the Q&A he said something to the affect of considering individuals who can stick to their morals well enough to say No to power.

We need to generally hear an individual’s viewpoint on important issues whether it’s equal rights, gun control, the right to choose, immigration, etc. However, even more so it is important to consider whether or not the individual has the ability to work with others (even others on the other side) to come up with solutions that find common ground, andto have the gumption not to flip in order to please power, keep friends, take money, or even just to wrap up a session and go home.

Candidates need to have an answer on hot topics, but it doesn’t mean they are so ridiculous about it that they will no longer adhere to common sense. Party lines and rigid yes/no answers on issues make it nearly impossible to be seen or understood as something in between. Additionally, few topics are so black or white. The topics and national problems that are on the table took years to get to. They just cannot disappear overnight. It’s tricky stuff.

Take gun rights for example. Me personally – I don’t “believe” in guns. When I hear a candidate is a ‘gun person’ I look to their opponent. But in reality a candidate has to answer yes or no if they believe in ‘gun rights’, and that doesn’t answer a whole lot unless you really hear from them or look into their background.

But what does gun rights really mean? A part of me understands the other side. Just because I mightnot have one, I’m not sure I should or even want to have the right to tell someone else what they can or cannot have. If we outlawed them tomorrow what would that solve? People will still have and use them, likely often as much as they do now. We don’t have the money or man power to go into everyone’s homes to remove them. People are not going to turn them in because they are illegal. Drugs, prostitution, child porn and human trafficking are illegal but that doesn’t stop those who want to do these things from doing them. How can anyone tell a 19-year old minority single mother living in a shady neighborhood that she needs to give up her legally owned gun that makes her feel safe so she can shiver and be anxious walking down the block when she had previously felt safe, secure and that she had some power over her life? She wouldn’t be voting on my side even though she has a very rational point.

What I would love for our politicians to do is look for common ground and not give in to nonsense that power & bullying will try to instill. They need gumption to do that.

I have not a single statistic in front of me but would be willing to bet that most people in either party do not want to see one more mass shooting- like EVER. Guns are a part of the issue – of course. But does any majority really, really believe in the right to have a semi-automatic gun or weapons of mass destruction as part of no constitutional restrictions? Are any liberals really trying to take away any and all power to bear arms? Maybe some people fall into these categories, but again – I’d be willing to bet it’s a small percentage. Those persons in that small percent are not the individuals I would like to elect to pass our laws. The individuals I would like to represent my vote would have common sense and not give in to power or bullying of a smaller percent.

How can a healthy minded, willing Democrat work with a healthy minded, willing Republican to come up with potential solutions about how to prevent what we all want to prevent? We have to be willing to compromise, understand one another’s view and create a solution with them that works for all. There are many issues I don’t agree with 100% but understand the other side. It’s not easy and/or black and white.

This is where we the people come in. We do our due diligence and look for the truth in the people we have the power to elect. We understand and look past silly time limits during debates, simple colors to show which party the candidate is aligned with, and the one-liners on all these hundreds (and I mean HUNDREDS) of political signs all over the place.

My first reaction to what I just wrote if I wasn’t writing it would be some defense about “Who has time for this?” But I need to even question my own silly gut reaction. Because if not this, then what actually matters? Isn’t this our right? Our ancestors fought hard for this power and we take it for granted, bemoaning that we don’t have time and just hope, wish and pray that the right people will be elected. Or we just vote down the party line and ignore the alarm signal that someone might not be looking out for the majority or have common sense.

So get involved! Even if it’s too late – at least do a quick google search before voting tomorrow. But do vote. And vote for someone with GUMPTION and common sense. We have the power. Only when you believe you don’t you actually don’t.

 

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On Navigating with Love

There are some experiences in life that seem almost magical or other worldly as they happen. Sometimes it is when you meet someone and you get a sense of ‘deja vu’ or a flash of unexplained feelings. Or when you hear or read something that just seems to strike some sort a cord within you about its unexplainable truth.
One of the dozen or so times this happened to me is when I had first read that the soul is the connection to divine (God, nature or whatever you chose to call all that is). I was so moved by this simple statement. The truth of it was so obvious to me at the moment, that it sparked one of those other worldly flash feelings. The article discussed how the soul doesn’t dish out advice like our loud, animal mind brains do. But if you ignore or quiet the monkey brain and ask your soul for advice, the right answer is always there waiting to be heard. 
Wow. Yes. 
I knew that somewhere but didn’t realize it until then. A few hours later after mulling it over I posted something on Facebook about it- a short quote I made up as my own interpretation of this. It had very few “likes”. Guess my Facebook tribe didn’t get it. 
Not long after I heard a podcast about the moral compass. The speaker explained how we experience negative emotions (depression, hopelessness, anxiety, etc) when we aren’t living according to our moral compass.
Right- that makes sense too! And in my own interpretation I understood that moral compass connection to be through the soul which is connected to all that is. When we can’t hear or follow that sound advice and live against it, we feel unhappy.
Then, not long after I started to better understand the deeper meaning of the yoga I was attracted to. The focused attention of breath and movement quieted the monkey mind. Meditation and quieting the mind is a ticket to really hearing sound moral advice from my soul- that without question always knows the right and loving way to be in this world.
I feel so inspired to write this morning because when I opened my email amongst the midst of things was the start of a sentence that caught my eye strong enough for me to open it. It read “God does what God is: Love. God does not love you if and when you change. God loves you so that you can change!”The email was a few paragraphs long. It is a daily mediation that I signed up for from the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr who wrote a book I recently finished called Falling Upward. 
The email this morning brought the message of the soul and compass home for me. The email referenced one of the famous lines of the Bible where man is created in the likeness and image of God (the divine, nature, whatever you connect to spiritually). That likeness is LOVE.
One paragraph states “Love is who you are. When you don’t live according to love, you are outside of being. You’re basically not real or true to yourself. When you love, you are acting according to your deepest being, your deepest truth. You are operating according to your dignity.
Love… Love it. To me that says it all.
Maybe, just maybe… the allegory of the apple and ensuing suffering was having doubt about pure love. Not living by the advice of the soul. Not having faith in all that is. 
The soul knows. Perhaps we should listen a bit closer. It’s always there- the good angel on our shoulder, NOT jumping up and down loudly like a child with a pitch fork such as the little fiery red guy on the other shoulder. Maybe listening to it really is a key away from fear & suffering.
Hey… it’s worth a try! 

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On Fear and Suffering

“Man suffers most through his fears of suffering”. —Etty Hillesum

I am beginning to understand how important it is to accept fear, suffering, and the unknown as a part of life. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it really is part of being human and our existence. Once we begin accept fear, suffering, and the unknown as natural and ordinary; we can experience a more balanced outlook on the way things are. Once that balanced outlook is realized; we still have fears, bad days and down days – they just seem to have less power and debilitating effects on us.

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In a blog I wrote a few weeks ago “On the Fluctuating Gunas ”, bad things happening to our around us, doesn’t mean something is wrong with us. It’s just part of the flow of life.

What is even more astounding is that as humans we have the capability to truly accept the entire flow of what life is. In our most enlightened form it’s possible to not be affected at all. From a Christian biblical perspective – symbolically, the lesson of Jesus on the cross is to help free us from suffering through demonstrating that at even the WORST, we have nothing to be afraid of if we chose to embrace what is.

Acceptance = Non-Suffering

We can’t fight what life throws at us. It’s fruitless. We will lose by fighting and trying to avoid it every time. It’s a law of nature, but it doesn’t mean that we should lie back and be pushed around by life. In the same way we cannot win by swimming against the tide or sailing against the wind. We have to use nature’s forces intelligently to still navigate where we would like to go using what is there at the time and not just wishing the tide away.

What’s worse is that wishing the tide away means not enjoying life as it is happening. We waste time that would otherwise be enjoyable by being scared of the unknown, thinking things are supposed flow easily – then being miserable when they don’t.

Will Smith even quoted the version of the below phrase in a great YouTube video I watched not too long ago. This is the abridged >2 min version, but the point is well taken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSIo4JMzcbM

 

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FDR said it best years ago. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

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Years ago I read the book “Who Moved My Cheese”. It was cute enough. I was in my 20’s and it was my first exposure to hearing about accepting change. One of my favorite lines is quoted below. I remember it gave me chills because there actually would have been quite a bit I would be doing if I weren’t afraid.

On the Harvest and our Minds

Always do your best. What you plant now you will harvest later. 

Og Mandino

In the yoga classes I’ve taught this past week, the theme I have been focusing on is “The Harvest”. The chosen reason is the time of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, especially where we live in New England. The purpose of this theme however is not about the crops we need to harvest before the first frost (which was last night), but all ‘seeds’ and ‘harvests’ for the future.

Not sure what it has to do with yoga? If you are still with me, please allow me to explain.

A seed is just a seed all by itself. A lettuce seed alone has nothing but the potential to become lettuce. If I plant lettuce seeds in the ground in the month of April (appropriate for our Connecticut hardiness zone), there is a decent chance it will grow lettuce. But if I plant a cucumber seed in April, it will absolutely not grow into lettuce, and there is a slim chance will grow at all. Cucumber seeds can only thrive after the last frost. Hence, it would be best to plant them in mid-May for any hope of having a cucumber in August.

So far I have a seed, dirt, and weather that will hypothetically allow me to harvest cucumbers. Seeds, dirt and weather are not that insanely different from the potential we have as humans to manifest goals or create the type of life we desire. In churches and other spiritual communities and texts we will often hear the phrase “As above, so below”.

What does that mean? It means the physical world is not all that different from the mental and spiritual worlds. Even though we can’t see those other worlds, the laws of nature are consistent.

Like seeds, our thoughts are just thoughts alone. The properties of a thought will only bring forth that thought. If I’d like to lose 10 pounds, it’s only a thought or wish until I do something with it. Additionally, wishing it will not yield me a promotion or the improvement of a relationship that I’d like to enhance… obviously. With me so far?

Next that thought is planted or ‘sown’ in my mind. The mind is not so dissimilar to the soil that we plant our seeds in. The thought that I would like to lose 10 lbs in a mind racing with anxiety, wrought with depression, or full with a stressed out ‘To Do’ list will only go into a abyss of other competing and negative thoughts. Similar to how planting a cucumber seed in sand, in the snow, or even in April; the mind’s condition would not be right to help a positive thought manifest into the raw potential it has.

This is where yoga comes in.

Yoga is not soley about moving around in different poses (or asanas). Yoga means to ‘yoke’. This sacred Sanskrit term is used to signify the connections between spirit, mind and body. Whether we are moving through poses, meditating, chanting, doing breath work, etc; what we are really doing is creating a connection of our physical body to our mind and spirit; creating a sense of equilibrium between all three – which are really one beautifully operating unit. It’s difficult to have anxiety when the mind, body and spirit are yoked in meditation or savasana (that last pose in most yoga classes where you actually enjoy laying around doing nothing for a few minutes).

When we are in balance, the mind is clear. When we sow thoughts in a clear mind, it is akin to planting seeds in proper conditions. When the mind is not clear, thoughts will still grow in murky conditions. These conditions often generate unwanted outcomes. For example anxious thoughts will thrive and create even more anxiety in a busy mind. The mind is constantly creating whether we get involved with what is put in or not. Analogous to how weeds will grow without involvement.

Yoga helps clear the mind through pointed focus and awareness. Focusing on breathing while mindfully moving from posture to posture in an average American yoga class (which is what comes to the minds of most when they picture yoga) helps us to stay in the present moment and pay less attention the wandering mind. When we are on the mat and feeling the slight shifts and sensations of our bodies, we are connecting our physical body with our inner selves. While sitting in a posture for a short while, if the body is relaxed and the mind wanders; it becomes very clear what is in there as thoughts arise.

A beautiful characteristic of yoga is that the habits we build on the mat will begin to stay with us off the mat.

A remarkable trait about thoughts is that you can change them.

If we don’t like what is coming up, we don’t have to actually keep thinking them. With a little practice of strengthening the mind, we are able to notice thoughts that aren’t aligned with the life we want and modify them.

Ignoring or changing unwanted thoughts and clearing our minds creates the proper soil and weather conditions to grow an aspired thought into reality. This will give us the boost to perform the last and third step of harvesting what we would like.  That last step is the physical work.

If we plant cucumber seeds in mid-May and walked away… maybe we will have some cucumbers, but not likely. Chances increase if we ensure the seeds are properly watered, have the right amount of sun, and weeds are kept at bay – at least initially. As the season progresses and cucumber buddings begin to grow and get stronger, we still need to keep an eye on them; but weeds and unexacting sun and water levels are less likely to halt the progression of physical cucumbers.

We have to do the work. Once new habits are built and ingrained into our neuropath ways and routines, less focus needs to be put on sustaining the desired result. Keeping 10lbs off is easy with good habits because we essentially reap what we sow. Physically and mentally. If you don’t have a crop harvest right now, it only because you didn’t plant seeds and nurture them in the spring.

The laws of nature as we know it work the same in the mind/spirit world.

Yoga helps us to create the harvest (albeit “life”) we want by cultivating a healthy mind-body-spirit connection. The take home – mind your thoughts, as they can and will create the life and harvest you have.

NAMASTE

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant

Robert Louis Stevenson

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On Why I Love Teleworking

Teleworking really isn’t for everyone. There are so many people that I talk to who tell me they could never do it. If you even think it’s not for you, it’s not. However if it’s something you have the opportunity to do and are considering, allow me to share why it works for me and how I feel it is beneficial to our workplaces. I now have a full year under the belt of at least one day a week. A few months ago I moved to two days, And most recently since my office has been under construction all my work time has been at home.

For starters I can sleep in much later. When you eliminate the commute time, parking & walking an additional quarter of a mile to my office, and the time I was spending before work to shower, dress and primp for the day- I am able to sleep in over an hour longer than I was before. I could stand to sleep in even longer, but I get up to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, a healthy non-rushed breakfast, and a short meditation session before I log in for the day. My morning routine is so much more pleasant, I no longer feel tired all the time, or dread getting up.

Next, I’m unbelievably comfortable for a variety of reasons. The most striking is in the attire I can wear. When I dress after waking up, I put in comfy workout clothes so I can go for a lunch run later in the day. Also my desk, chair and surrounding workspace at home is completely suited to my height, likings and taste. I can control the temperature of the room. Throughout the day my cats and dog come to visit, hang around and sleep on or near me. Their presence reminds me I’m home if I briefly get swept away in workplace politics. Not to mention that looking at them and petting them just seems to soothe my soul.

I move around much more. My chair swirls and doesn’t have weird side bars that give my legs bruises when I curl up in my chair as I type away. I’ll take stretch brakes and do some reinvigorating yoga poses that I wouldn’t dream of doing at the office. When I get up to make cups of warm herbal tea throughout the day, instead of walking across the room to the microwave like I do at work, I walk down a flight of stairs and don’t feel grossed out by the water supply or my surroundings. But my favorite is that I use my lunch break to run. I used to use that same break to walk at work. This required changing my shoes, never being appropriately dressed for the weather, and worrying about getting too warm. Now I can perspire as much as I’d like without worry.

I am so much more focused and productive. I’m not distracted by idle chatter or sharing my own nonsensical stories. There are no crazy alarms going off, constant overhead announcements, or loud trash barrels rolling by as I try to converse over the phone. I don’t see or hear the dings and distractions of other people’s computers, desk phones and cell phones. I don’t overhear anyone else’s personal or professional conversations. Two job roles back I worked for 7 years in a corridor that had a one person, non gender specific restroom right down the hall from my desk and around the corner from the transportation department where the drivers would pop in and out all day to use the facilities. The noise of a flushing toilet and horrendous smell would permeate my senses all day. One of my favorite funny memories from that job was when my then boss who had an adjacent office to mine said “Not only do we have to put up with a bunch of sh!t, but it actually has to smell like it too”.

Along the lines of focus, I pay attention during conference calls like I never had before. Unless I have a part to play in a conference call meeting, at work I find it nearly impossible to pay attention. I’m in front of my computer and always multitasking. Now I use conference call times to walk around the house and do some mindless work. I’ll sometimes sweep, start dinner, grab the mail, or do some other random things. Because I’m physically moving while mentally listening and not trying to do two mental activities at once, I am paying far more attention than I ever had on calls before. I’ll often unmute my phone and pipe in or stop to take notes in my email. That is something I hardly ever did at my desk.

It’s overall healthier too. I am in touch with what is going outside weather wise because I have windows. Many spaces I have worked in over the years have had no windows or access to the outside. Sometimes on a sunny day I will take my laptop out to the deck and actually feel the sun on my skin. The air quality at home isn’t ‘iffy’. I’m eating better too. At the office if I forgot my lunch or decided I am not in the mood to eat what I brought, I would stand on a long cafeteria line and purchase something overpriced and not quite as good for me as the things I have at home.

At the end of the day I log off and hop into the shower. I’m dried and ready for the evening before I would have even been on I-91 sitting in traffic and feeling extremely agitated.

Monetary savings in food, gas and clothing. Comfort. Healthier atmosphere and food. More sleep. More time. All good stuff huh?

Enough about me, this can reap great benefits for employers as well.

For starters there is likely less unexpected or short term notice time off. Snow days are just as productive and not to mention safer on both ends. If an employee doesn’t feel well but slugs into the office, other employees get sick, then they get their children sick. Then the children need to be stay home, be picked up from school or not be allowed in daycare, which is more time off for others. An employee without a telework agreement who opts to stay home will cost the organization a full day of work. An employee with one who opts to work suck from home loses the organization very little. Additionally, a doctor appointment in the middle of the day before telework for either my children or myself used to mean a whole morning or afternoon off. Usually the afternoon because trying to find a parking space by 8am where I work is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Speaking of parking and space, allowing employees to telework creates both! Office space in many organizations is at a premium. Even having everyone telework 1 day a week [staggered] would free up 20% of office and parking space.

There is overall less wasted time through the day. Lines at the coffee shop, lines in the cafeteria, waiting for elevators, looking for an open bathroom, being in a queue just to warm up food in the microwave, that 3rd Wednesday if each month where the computers reboot for what seems like infinity… just to name a few. Not to mention a lot of time chit chatting and socializing. Yes, there are times the remote connection kicks me off; but the overall time sucks favor the employer with all the other time wasters that happen in the office.

Safety is always an issue. When I was the strategic planner for VA Connecticut, one couldn’t imagine the number of complaints that would come in every week about air quality, requests for asbestos checks, mold checks, ripped carpets that folks trip over, furniture with sharp edges, etc. When it rains or snows someone was always bound to fall- meaning a visit to employee health, days off, workers comp… all kinds of stuff no employer really wants.

Employees are happier when they aren’t rushed, eating well, sleeping more, saving money, moving around, and feeling like their employer is doing something mutually beneficial for both of them. How can you go wrong?

Well… many things can go wrong. That could be a whole other blog. It may be comforting however to know there are some strong, sound advice, policies and guidelines out there. My organization for example has trainings required by both the employee and supervisor before beginning. Additionally clear expectations are required to be written up, and it comes with the caveat that either party can terminate it at any time. Why not swipe some of these best practices from a person or whole organization that does it well? There are hundreds of articles on the web and in HR journals around the world about why it’s a win-win for all to adopt it, and nearly none on how terrible it has gone.

For now if you are thinking about using an existing policy or implementing one in the workplace, these are some of the reasons I would humbly advocate for it on both ends. I am sure I’m missing many more benefits! Please don’t hesitate to pipe in or comment if you know of any. Horror stories are welcome too!

 

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One of my “co workers”
View from my desk

On the Fluctuating Gunas (The What???)

Today I woke up anxious. Physically I had a slight tightness in my chest. My heart felt like it was a little heavy, but the worst was my breath. I couldn’t help but sigh every few moments. Obviously releasing some kind of tension. I felt slightly lost. Not sure where my life is going. Not but an hour later I was laughing and feeling like wherever my life is going it doesn’t matter and I’ll get there as I need to.

These are the “Gunas”. Fluctuations that are normal in the universe. They are everywhere. In the weather, in our moods. It’s a universal law. What goes up must come down. What swings one way will swing the other.

The Gunas are a term I learned in yoga teacher training and were often discussed. It’s now a part of my regular vocabulary and thought process. We don’t stay in one mood forever. Nothing stays in its state forever. We are supposed to feel good and bad. It should be expected that good things as well as bad things will happen. Fighting it is what leads to suffering. In Buddhism a key tenant is that any attachment causes suffering. Even attachment to feeling one way (like happy), being attached to an outcome you want, or any objects/feelings/desires/etc. The Hindu tradition (yoga’s roots) describes the same concept but in a different way.

From Yogapedia: https://www.yogapedia.com

A guna is an attribute of nature, according to Hindu philosophy. In Hinduism, there are three gunas that have always existed in the world in both all living and non-living things:

• Tamas (darkness, destructive, death)

• Rajas (energy, passion, birth)

• Sattva (goodness, purity, light)

Here in our Western world we are not taught to think in this way. We seem to feel that if something goes wrong or we don’t feel well (mentally, physically or spiritually), that something is wrong with us. Imagine we were taught that both elation and depression are normal and to be expected? Neither will stay. Both are an experience of being alive. The more we attach to any experience (the good or the bad ones), the more we will ‘suffer’. Suffering really meaning anything from disappointment to despair.

I’m signed up for daily emails from Richard Rohr. He is a Franciscan priest that wrote many books on spirituality. I recently finished “Falling Upward” which was amazing! Much of it was about how we need to fall in order to learn and grow. How opposite things are complementary and part of life. I will paste a quote from the Tuesday mediation.

“If we are going to talk about light, then we must also talk about darkness, because they only have meaning in relation to one another. All things on earth are a mixture of darkness and light, and it is not good to pretend that they are totally separate!”

Understanding the Gunas is one of the many ways I am learning to accept life as it is. When I remember them when I’m feeling down I almost embrace it as the full experience of life. Not always, but more & more often.

They have helped me- and if you have read this and are willing to try, perhaps that can help you or a loved one too!

Peace & Namste

 

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