10 Years Later

Love can be messy and unpredictable. Every couple has a story.

 

10 Years Ago 

Friday July 9, 2010

 

It’s a HOT day outside, but inside the building within the air conditioning I was quite cold most of the day. I wore a sweater over my red dress. It’s even hotter inside the car. The car was started a while ago so the air conditioning would cool it down. But without the movement of the car, it’s not cooling down very quickly.

 

I’m not in this car alone. It’s not even my car. I’m not supposed to be in this car. If my husband knew he’d be furious. If the guy in the car’s wife knew – she’d be equally as furious.

 

We just carried out a ton of boxes out to the car full of meeting materials to bring back to our main worksite on Monday after finishing a 3-day long meeting series that my group hosted. On the elevator ride down before exiting the frigid building, he said to me: “When Jack texted me today I told him I took the job. I’m going to announce it to everyone else Monday but I wanted you to know first“.

 

My heart SANK. Took the job? It was my worst fear. Since he hadn’t mentioned it for a few days I thought perhaps it may have been a dead issue. I suspected it, but secretly hoped my efforts could reverse it. If I were able to wave a magic wand I would have had things go back to the way they were before.

 

Also – for a quick moment I had no idea who “Jack” was. But not a microsecond later after the shock that he took the job, my heart started rapidly beating – nearly out of my chest. Jack… Jack my husband? Yes, who else? Jack texted him?

 

“WHAT? Jack texted you and said what???” (me)

 

“He asked if I was going to take the job” (him)

 

With the giant lump forming in my throat it was all I could muster to mutter “Congratulations”.

 

We walked quietly out to the parking lot and to his car to deposit the boxes before he asked if I’d like to come sit with him for a few minutes. Warning bells SCREAMED about what a terrible idea it was, but my heart bled over and instantly won. Without thinking I said yes.

 

Here we are… This could go well or not. I don’t even know which outcome is considered a well and which isn’t. I don’t even know what I hope. I’m confused. My head and heart are in two different places. We are sitting appropriately far apart. These precious minutes alone could be life changing before we have to scat and our absence is noticed. His hand is close to mine. He is in the drivers’s seat and his hand is resting on the center console, as is mine. Neither of us knows what to say.

Unknown

The silence is broken when one of us asks how the other has been. Suddenly a flood gate has opened. We are both expressing all kinds of emotion. Both of us are catching one another up as to how the last 6 weeks have been and what has transpired. How did his brother take the news that he backpedaled? How was his best friend in CA’s wedding? How are his kids and wife? Similar questions come my way. Everyone is fine. The brother was shocked and ticked. His best friend pulled him aside to ask if his heart wants what his head tells him is right, and asked when is he going to do something that makes him happy. I asked how he answered and exclaimed that my heart and head were just in a quandary about whether or not I should even get into the car.

 

The next few minutes are a blur. At some point he tells me he is confused too. Unknown-1At some point his fingers inch over to mine and touch the top of my hand. It’s so hot despite the cool air starting to blow through the car. We start to notice some people we know trickling out of the building and decide to drive to another part of the parking lot.

 

It was only for 6 weeks that we attempted to begin a relationship. And in 6 weeks I was already sick of doing things like this – driving to a different place, needing to hide or duck; or change the conversation when someone else came in the room. And now it’s been 6 weeks since he broke it off and both our spouses sighed their relief and put us both on constant watch. No text, email, social media post or call went unmonitored. The only place they couldn’t monitor was work, and his wife insisted he take a new job – soon. More than anything that was my worst fear. While my husband who was the most non-religious person prayed he took the offered job, I tried to undue his efforts with my own prayers. My husband never texted him before. This was a new level of desperation. I couldn’t help but wonder if he said yes to the new job simply due to the fear of the text.

 

So we pull to a new spot. We confess the feelings and confusion are still there. Now that he will not be working in the previous capacity he did, it does open a new door for us. Heck, if I ever want to see him again I have to continue some kind of relationship. I said something along the lines of what a great meeting we just pulled off because we were a great team. He said the only way we could be a team now would be on the home front. It was the crack in the door that perhaps he was looking for something more.

 

12 weeks ago things were simpler. I was attracted to him of course, but no conversations ever took place where a line was crossed. That line was traversed 12 weeks before. From that point there were a whirlwind of conversations and meet ups before and after work, and on weekends where we confessed how much we liked one another. Some dinners, some stolen romantic moments, and many, many emails. We began confessing how unhappy we were in our marriages and discussing what life together might be like, as difficult as it may be. We became a little less cautious and were caught when his wife came behind him late one night when he messaged me the words “Hi sexy”.

 

That’s all it took. She confronted him. He confessed he was thinking about leaving her. She posted something on one of my social media pages that I didn’t see until early the next morning. I took it down immediately, but not knowing who may have seen it – I confessed the same to my own husband. My pseudo lover broke it off with me after a few days of confusion and now 6 weeks has elapsed. What will become of us?

 

Do we pick up where we left off? Which was basically at ground zero… We hardly knew each other outside of work, which isn’t to say much. He wasn’t even at my job that long and heck – I reported to him!

But the strangest thing happened the moment I met him. It was a cold February day in 2008. I was sitting in my office with my oldest and coziest sweater I drug around everywhere encased around my body. My bare feet were curled under me, heels kicked off under my desk. I had my reading glasses on and my hair was clipped up in a messy bun. My then acting boss Lydia walked in with a man behind her. It was the first time I saw him in my life. And I don’t kid when I say that my world just kind of stopped.

 

It was less than a second, but in that second I felt like my world would fall apart and then all would be better than anything. I saw my then 13-marriage crumbling, tears of joy, tears of pain all around, literally structures of something I couldn’t see falling to pieces.

 

This took a second. It made my heart race and brought a fleeting moment of panic. Lydia had a call and walked away. He walked into my office and asked about my pictures. I snapped out of it my temporary flash of terror and answered. He was a complete stranger. Lydia came back in and apologized for having to walk away for a moment. She then introduced him as the person who was hired to be my new boss. She sang my praises and explained my position to him. They left so Lydia could take him around to meet others, and I went back to work with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

 

He didn’t start work until September that year, but every time I even heard his name, I had a similar feeling of when I met him that one time. I experienced a brief moment of panic followed by a feeling of peace.

 

 

10 Years Later

Friday, July 10, 2020

 

More than 12 years later and now 10 years since that day in the car I realize that something in the universe showed me in lapsed time what my future would be.

 

Tonight I sit and knit, getting up occasionally to dance to some 80’s music alone or with the dog while Daren cooks us dinner. Every once in a while I feel like I need to pinch myself. Tonight was one of those nights. I told him so. He has those moments too and tells me when they happen. I happened to realize what day it is. I remember it because July 9 is one of my brother’s birthdays. I remember the day in the car well.

 

That day in the car was a turning point. We made the conscious decision to give “us” a shot. Both of our marriages were already over for completely different reasons than the “us” factor and from what each of the respective breakdowns were. Daren made the announcement at work that Monday that he was leaving. There wasn’t a person who wasn’t shocked. I played along with a very broken and very scared heart.

 

My head and heart were in such conflict. I followed my heart. Not everyone would agree with our decision. It’s not a story we enjoy sharing, but it is OUR story. And during the ‘pinch me’ moments we have on evenings like this I am confident that I would do it over again and again.

 

All relationships have their own story. Ours wasn’t easy, but nothing in life that is worth it is. Most decisions are difficult ones. The trick is to make them and know you did the best you could at the time.

 

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On Grace

I am inspired by a yoga teacher training today that I was part of. During a conversation about mantra, the topic of Grace came up. On my way home I listened to U2’s song “Grace” and couldn’t help but walk in the door to my computer and write.

 

The topic of Grace was only a small part of an amazing day and didn’t last long. But it did leave an impression on me. We were reading the book “Healing Mantras” by Thomas Ashley-Farrand and discussing the topic of karma. On page 39, someone read a paragraph that I have read before but never quite understood.

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One of my teachers that was leading that section stopped a bit to talk about a few things. The one of which that sticks out most is the equation of Effort + Grace = Results.

 

Hmmmm….. interesting.

 

One of my classmates asked her to repeat it so she could write it down.

 

Either before or after the equation, my teacher (Shelley) was talking about how escaping karma means leaving little to no ‘wake’. The same classmate asked her to define wake. Wake was meant in the context of how a boat makes a wake in the water.

Hmmm… Did it make sense? Yes, to me; but in some way I wasn’t sure and noted it was something to sort out mentally later.

 

Then another classmate shared how she understands what Grace is, but would struggle to define it. The question was left open to the floor. Lots of ideas circulated. As the group talked, U2’s song “Grace” played in my head. Particularly the part where Bono sings: “She travels outside of karma”.

 

That line is stimulating, and along the lines of the text in our book. I mentioned the U2 song. Then someone else mentioned the song “Amazing Grace” and precisely the line “How sweet the sound”. Earlier in the day we had an Ayurvedic lesson and looked at a chart of the journey of consciousness in conjunction with an extensive conversation about how the material world and the non-material trickle into our own selves. It’s the concept of prakriti and purusha mixed with some prana. But not to bore anyone to tears with this yogic speak, one of the basics that may or may not have been in that particular conversation but is scientifically proven is that we are all but a vibration. One of my teachers pointed that out.

How sweet the sound”.

 

That is deep but we took it a breath deeper to discuss that the old testament many of us are familiar with, is that one of the first lines is In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

A classmate makes a little sound of an exploding head. Yes, this is a head exploding part. But the Word was God. Sound over light as the classmate who brought it up expressed it. Vibration itself as possibly a higher vibration that light?

 

Wow, where did the question of “Grace” go? And what did it have to do with this conversation.

 

Another classmate took it down a few notches to say that her concept is of Grace is the following:

  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You yell.
  • You have kids and they break something in your house. You tell them you understand and it’s ok.

The latter is Grace.

 

Suddenly the Jesus analogy made sense. There is something you aren’t proud of, and someone else takes it on and forgives you. I said this during class. My other teacher said, yes – it’s as if they take the shame.

 

Great conversation, but we had to wrap it up and straighten up because a community mantra class about going to start soon. Mantra conversation to be continued at a further time.

 

Fast forward about two hours later and I’m driving home listening to music. I’m inspired and excited, but what I’m listening to is sort of dragging me down. I ask Siri to play U2’s song “Grace”. The earlier conversation started to take a lot more shape for me and inspired me to write.

 

I don’t think I can fully grasp the depth of this beautiful word, but I feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” [me shamelessly stealing another song title from U2].

 

If I had to describe my understanding of Grace at this moment, I would explain that it’s a person’s ability to realize that we are just a piece of all consciousness experiencing itself through a pointed view of ourselves. Or in simpler terms, a soul watching events unfold. Nothing matters.

When you get this from a core/soul level you do realize that nothing matters in the end. If you take on the shame or sins of others and free them from their suffering, you can release it from yourself because you understand that what happens ultimately doesn’t matter. It’s the highest form of vibration. It’s the stillness between the good and bad.

We are here to learn and it is all welcome. Once you can take the hurt away from others, onto yourself and release it – you move past the karma cycle. It’s the famous Christ analogy I never understood nor could anyone in my Catholic upbringing explain it to me. I still don’t propose to know it, but I do feel I’m “One Step Closer to Knowing” 

Lyrics below with my thoughts in blue.

Namaste,

Esterina

Grace

U2

Grace
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name 

Christ analogy

Grace
It’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that
Changed the world

And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings (sound/vibration)
Grace finds goodness
In everything 

Grace
She’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk

She travels outside
Of karma, karma
She travels outside
Of karma

Once you master this and do it, you understand how both good & bad are both part of the physical world and welcome. You can move past the circle of karma

When she goes to work
You can hear her strings the vibration again
Grace finds beauty
In everything

Everything is beautiful because it’s a part of life so it belongs

Grace
She carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips

She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings

Grace takes that shame without strings. Just removes it and leaves no wake. Not a good or bad wake. Just working through life and bringing things back into balance where everything is as it has always been – in perfect condition. 

Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty
In everything

Grace finds goodness in everything

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On Holidays, Divorce & Surrender

The holidays are a tough time for so many. Freshly divorced or uncoupled individuals are no exception. There are many others who suffer too – those who lost loved ones or have a loved one in a dangerous situation are two that come to mind. There are so many ways to not feel merry and bright this season, but for this blog I’m going to focus on divorcees. This is my 10th holiday season as a divorcee and I only wish I understood some of this a little sooner.

 

I would like to begin by stating that the holiday season does not have to be difficult for those who have recently split or are still reeling from a separation 10, 20 or 30 years later. Accepting what is, and your part is one of the key components helping yourself, your ex-partner and any children or loved ones enjoy what everyone once did.

 

Good marriages go bad. Why? Because they are not great marriages. Great marriages do not go bad.

 

The loss of prior hopes, dreams, and shared traditions leaves a hole that cannot be easily filled. If there are children involved, regardless of their ages, it is a change that makes things all the more difficult and all the more painful for a long time to come.

 

Most of the pain is caused by one or both of the previous spouses not being able to let go of their negative feelings toward the other and not accepting the changed circumstances.

 

This month the theme of my yoga classes has been Surrender. Surrender meaning

 

Giving up what we think should be happening

For What is Actually Happening

 

This is simple advice but often difficult to follow. But surrendering heals. We must accept what is and even take it a step further to realize there is shared blame. When we let go and accept responsibility, we can go as far as getting along with our exes. Once that happens, the situation isn’t as new.

When we get along, cooperate and are even perhaps evolved enough share the holidays with our prior spouse; our family, children, friends and loved ones all reap the benefits as well.

 

Daren and I are watching the Netflix series Versailles. We just finished Season 2 on Sunday night. This is an excerpt from that show:

 

“I made you who you are. I made you complete and I cannot live without you.

You cannot live without me”.

“That was true once. But not now, without you I am myself”.

~Season 2, Episode 10 of Versailles

 

This happens. Couples end up together for a myriad of reasons, sometimes for what they believe is love, sometimes lust, sometimes insecurity and wanting to be in a couple, and sometimes the feeling that  time is running out and being in a couple is the next step in life. Sometimes it’s prearranged. And yes – many times it is actually love and compatibility.

 

The fate of a marriage may not be as mysterious as it initially seems –

  • When you and your spouse no longer connect something is wrong.
  • If you and your spouse never really connected, even before marriage or your living arrangement – something is wrong.
  • When one person realizes this and recognizes there is a better life either inside or outside the marriage waiting for them, great marriages go from great to good. Good marriages go from good to poor. Often times someone leaves. True fact.

 

Does that mean something is wrong with the person who left??? No.

Does that mean something is wrong with the person left behind??? No.

Does that mean the person who left “gave up”?? Maybe, but probably not.

 

The person who left probably tried to re-connect, or talk, or reach out in some way. If their partner knew them well enough, their partner in theory would have recognized this. If there was an affair or another person involved, the one who stepped out was not getting some sort of need met. The one who was betrayed may have had their head in the sand.

 

I was betrayed. Not by another woman but by substance abuse that went on under my nose for at least two years, and then at least another 1-2 after the first time it came to my attention. I felt betrayed, angry, and hurt. My spouse wanted to leave at times because I didn’t understand him. I blamed him for turning to something else besides me. It’s very hard to accept, but in hindsight now 12 years plus later – I was not listening to him. There were signs but I was purposely blind to them. I was absorbed with kids, work, the condo, getting to church on Sunday, my schoolwork (MBA) and didn’t notice him struggling. We were supposed to be together for better or worse. I put everything but my husband ahead of him. I thought there was time. I thought we could deal with whatever ails him later. We stayed together for 2-3 more years after the first time I found out. When we worked on the ‘betrayal’ we worked on fixing only the surface issue of having him quit substances. And moved on…. But that didn’t fix a thing. Almost 3 years later both our problems were still there. Obviously I had some too, only I had no idea at the time. You don’t know what you don’t know. When I learned about subsequent substance abuse I shut down and lost hope. I blamed him. Around the same time I started to connect with another person outside of the marriage. A person who I felt I could be me around. It was only then that I felt I was also to blame.

 

In most cases divorce is not one person or the other’s fault. There is often no “real story”. How could there be when both parties feel like a victim?

 

When two people no longer connect and at least one person doesn’t get anything out of the marriage it starts to decay. If neither partner notices or cares, those couples will often stay together. That’s a marriage where both people get their needs met. It’s a “Good marriage”.

 

If one person notices and addresses it, and their partner is receptive – they grow stronger. That is a GREAT marriage.

 

If one person notices that they are no longer happy and their partner is not receptive, that is where things often fall apart. That is a bad marriage. It is here where there should really be no surprise when a partner walks out the door.

 

You can bury your head in sand like I did and hope your partner is ok with the status quo too, but the odds are not in your favor. If you really care and notice you or your partner’s unhappiness, it’s time to do something. It’s not easy, but no marriage or great partnership is. There are no shortcuts to get to any place worth going. Marriage included. If you want it to last you have to make it the first priority. There is no family, house, shared income which both people benefit from when there is no married/couple life. Putting the kids, house or a job first just doesn’t work.

 

I’ve heard the argument and made it myself that shouldn’t the unhappy person understand your struggles too? That the kids, house and job are taking too much of your time and we are supposed to stick it through for better or worse, so get over it and stick with me?

 

It took me a while, but no…. No one should delay happiness. Wanting or expecting your partner to do so is no exception if you cannot do it yourself. Our lives are the only experiences we have. We can’t live them for other people. If we committed to our partner for better or worse and one partner or both partners are unhappy; time or no time – the commitment, the pact was to the relationship first. When it’s not first and you don’t commit to it being first and one person wants that – it cannot last happily ever after.

 

I would have never learned this and find it unlikely that after facing my own part in the downfall of my own marriage – that the myriad of other things I’ve since learned about myself would have ever taken place. I very well may have been the same person with the same limited beliefs for the rest of my life. Perhaps it was the only way either of us could have grown.

 

There is no magic. No secrets. If you want a partnership to work, it takes work. If you both don’t care it may also work. However, if one person has an unmet need and the other doesn’t work with them to get that need met – it might last, but you cannot expect it to.

 

Stop the blame and start to love and accept that we are all imperfect. Yes – even you! The holidays can already be stressful for those blissfully in committed partnerships. It’s added stress for divorcees and their children when there is tension. It doesn’t have to be, so why let it be?

 

If both previous partners understand that they own a part of what happened in their life and they take the experience as one to learn from and do… it becomes impossible to be angry or bitter. When you live without the baggage of bitterness and anger your body is lighter. Your attitude is brighter. You are a better parent, employee, member of the community and partner for your next relationship. Give yourself and loved ones the best gift you can give and let any negativity go.

 

The holidays do not need to be difficult for those who have split from a relationship. There are plenty of other things that may make it so. Don’t let this be one of them.

 

Surrender. Trust me on this one. Once I did everything changed in a heartbeat.

 

Surrender is the inner transition from resistance to acceptance

~ Eckhart Tolle

 

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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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images

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.