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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You are the MOST important person on your gift list

  • You are the most important person to worry about. Give your time and attention to yourself first.
  • Giving to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
  • Giving to those who are not in gratitude is a waste of the world’s resources – including your own unique gifts and energy.

 

When I was in elementary school and learned to write; then later in life when I learned how to facilitate meetings I learned: 1) Tell them what you are going to tell them. 2) Tell them. 3) Tell them what you told them.

 

There is a body of literature about whether or not mention what you don’t want in your life. I mostly agree that we shouldn’t picture what we would like to avoid, but in the case of this blog, I’m going to stick with how the Yamas and Niyamas are explained. In yogic traditions, the Yamas and Niyamas are what govern ethical parameters. The yamas start out with the don’ts.

 

 

You are the most important person to worry about. Give your time and attention to yourself first.

 

This doesn’t mean buy yourself presents. This is not a justification to be selfish. This is no reason not to keep promises, let others down, ignore how you’ve hurt people, or be mean. I can go on.

 

What this means is akin to your car not running if you do not put gas in it. Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Fuel up on nourishment that makes you your best. Nourishment not just in the way of food, but of things that fill your heart – like spending time with friends or loved ones, being in nature, taking a bath, meditating or praying.

 

The specifics are different for each of us. It’s not monetary. Items outside of ourselves can never provide lasting inner joy the way taking care of ourselves can. What fills your heart and soul? Do that. Make sure you are filled so you can fill others.

 

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare ~Audre Lorde

 

 

Giving to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

 

Giving to others can be the most selfish form of feeling good. This is a way in which its ok to be selfish, because you are spreading your gifts, your love and the things that were given to you. There is oodles and oodles of evidence, both scientific and purely experience-based confirming that giving is selfish and feels far better that expecting or receiving anything from anyone. This is non-debatable. If you disagree you likely did not give properly from your heart at any point.

 

This doesn’t mean birthday and holiday presents. It’s not the obligatory presence at some party or event for a relative you don’t know. It’s giving because you know someone needs or wants something and you do it from the heart.

 

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle ~James Keller.

 

 

Giving to those who are not in gratitude is a waste of the world’s resources – including your own unique gifts and energy.

 

Whether or not you are Christian most of us can agree that a very enlightened man who we know today as Jesus Christ walked the earth and made a lasting impact on future generations.

 

Jesus did not give to the rich. He didn’t even associate with the well-to-do or spread his knowledge to them. Why? Well the obvious is that they didn’t need anything material from him, but why did he spend most of his time preaching amongst the poor?

 

Perhaps because he was able to discern that it would not be appreciated or accepted by people of means and he used his limited energy on those who could understand the messages about taking care of one another. He didn’t bother to waste his own unique gifts and words on those not in gratitude to receive his gifts.

 

I’ve learned this the hard way. I’ve spent way too much time trying to give and please family members, old friends, extended family, in-law family, teachers, bosses… you name it; on individuals who in no way recognized, cared for or were in gratitude for efforts that I did not have to make. It was draining. I felt used. But to be honest it wasn’t anything they asked for – it was only me trying to make people I cared about happy.

 

There is a difference between thanks and gratitude. It is wasted if it’s not received with pleasure. Thank you is just consciousness of the benefit received, perhaps a fleeting excitement. Gratitude is deep appreciation and the willingness to want to do something in return either for the giver or the world, knowing that we shouldn’t expect anything, and when we do it’s a gift to be shared. It’s almost a way of life.

 

Don’t drain yourself. Give to those who appreciate and will be in gratitude. Live in gratitude yourself so you can recognize it. Again – so much literature about how even being in gratitude can make you happy. Evidence and experienced based literature.

 

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” – Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

  • You are the most important person to worry about. Give your time and attention to yourself first.
  • Giving to others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
  • Giving to those who are not in gratitude is a waste of the world’s resources – including your own unique gifts and energy.

 

And this is why you are the MOST important person on your gift list.

 

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Soap Operas & Modern Times

Flashback to March 4, 1997; North Shore University Hospital in Long Island. I wake up (I think wake up) in a recovery ward somewhere. Everything is a blur. I hear voices around me, talking about something… me? There is one and only one voice I recognize. That voice says “Mag her”.

Mag her? I realize the ‘her’ is me. The voice I know is Dr. Seaman. All jokes aside, he is my OB/GYN.

As my mind comes around, I remember I am in the hospital and had a scheduled cesarean section earlier. I was 100% conscious during the procedure per medical standards. My then beloved husband stood dutifully alongside me watching the medical team help bring our first born breach baby son Thomas into the world.

More than 22 years later I can’t tell you whether or not I was fully conscious the whole time… but the memory I recall is that my BP sky rocketed and I was in the high risk maternity ward where I remember hearing this “Mag her” phrase.

The ‘’mag’ was magnesium. Until this day I have no idea why or what for- but I do completely and 100% remember the TV show that was playing in the recovery room.  It was NBC daytime and Kristin DiMera had a baby as well on the day time soap Days of Our Lives.

In my murky state of mind I was strangely intrigued by this story line. I watched in a beguiled state. I wanted to see my son. I only remember a little bit of him being put on my chest and some camera flashes. He was nowhere near me. I was in a lot of pain. And the show was a pleasant distraction.

Fast forward about a week or so. No sleep and a lot of pain. The days were initially filled on the couch with my husband and I taking care of a newborn. At some point the TV was on in the background when I noticed the same characters and thickening plot from the recovery room days before. It’s Days of Our Lives. My husband is about to change the channel- but I ask him to wait. I want to see someone else with a newborn.. and some baby switch.. and whatever plot lines are taking place at the time.

And there begins the love affair with Days of our Lives (DOOL).

Since, through the years I’ve watched the show. At first daily as much as I could live on TV. When Thomas was an only child I watched the show on days off ath home with while a cook in the US Coast Guard. When I got out of the military and was a military wife and reservist, I would put Thomas and his younger sister Gabby down for their afternoon naps around 12:45 pm, then make popcorn and pull out a Diet Coke over ice to cozy up with DOOL.

In 2002 I started working full time. Out came the VCR tapes. Even though I was no longer at home during the day, I wasn’t ready to give up Days! Most days I caught some of the show in the evening while making dinner. Sometimes I bundled up on a Friday night while my ex worked the night shift and the kids were in bed to catch up. And other times weeks may have gone by where I didn’t catch an episode – but they were always there when I wanted them, and because of the pace of soaps; it very easy to catch up when I had the time.

 

More years went by. I switched to DVR. And in modern days I just watch it on the NBC app, as every episode is just there- waiting for me when I’m ready.

 

The characters are like family. The Hortons, Bradys, DiMeras… The actors/actresses and the extended families are relatable. The traditions seem as important as my own. The baked goods the motherly and grandmotherly characters make, the town square, the Brady pub and their comforting dishes, the holiday traditions. The upscale bars that open. The seedy port in a shady area. The mansions and apartments that are used through the years. The town of Salem is my home away from home.

 

It’s bittersweet. Some of the characters that passed away in real life and were celebrated/mourned on the show after their death, make it a very large extended family of DOOL watchers all over. Many actors/actresses spent many years of their lives on the show. The show is their family as well as a pseudo family to the viewers.

 

Jack and Jennifer were getting divorced around the same time that I was. I skipped the show for a few weeks while in a very blurred and semi-depressed state. Even though I initiated the divorce, in many ways I felt like a failure because I couldn’t make it work. Then one day while making dinner I put one the latest DVR’d episodes on in the background, and to my surprise Jack and Jennifer were getting divorced! Silly as it may be, I felt better. If Jack and Jennifer couldn’t make it, how could I? They are back together btw, but not the point!

 

Just two years ago after spending a month in a mental health outpatient treatment facility I took another extended, yet unintended break from Days; and when I put it back on, JJ was struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. It was comforting.

 

When Kate had cancer on the show, I was able to relate and felt better about the reactions around her after watching my own mother and grandmother struggle with it (only they didn’t survive).

 

Just yesterday watching Maggie, Brady, and JJ in an AA meeting with Eric as the facilitator – helped me to feel more normal about my own struggles with addictive issues. They fall off the wagon. Even Maggie who was sober since I started watching the show a few decades ago and known as the rock that brought so many to AA for the betterment of their lives fell off the wagon last year. She is back now, better than ever. The show humanizes issues that we all face, whether or not we want to admit them.

 

Yes, yes, yes… there are ridiculous story lines too. Marlena possessed by the devil, brain switches and characters who come back from the dead. Just like all the jokes about soaps – there is always someone in the hospital (usually in a coma), an illicit affair, a baby switch…. There are the characters who talk to themselves with raised eyebrows only to be accidentally overheard. And speaking of “over hearing”, there are one too many people skulking around listening in on conversations, intentionally and unintentionally learning things they shouldn’t.

 

Soaps are campy and melodramatic. It’s what they are known for. In between all the scheming and constant trips to the hospital, there are real current day stories well woven in. Days has covered police shooting issues, same sex marriage issues, suicide, bullying, racial issues, depression, loss of children, addiction, job decisions that affect relationships, to mention a few.

 

It’s a comfort to know that it’s not abnormal for these things to happen. It is abnormal that people wake up looking like they stepped out of a fashion magazine – that is always stumping! But when you see a beloved (or not so beloved) character struggle and then overcome a problem, and have the support of people around them either during or way after the issue has passed is very encouraging. Time does heal anything that plagues you at the moment.

 

I took to writing this because a few days ago the show jumped ahead by a full year. That is not a normal thing to happen, so I went to google to see if it was for real or someone’s dream sequence.

 

It turns out the time jump was real, but I also learned the show took a hiatus from taping, but is already taped eight months ahead. All the characters were let go from their contracts. There is a lot of speculation on the future of Days. It’s future seems uncertain. No known decisions about the show at the time were made.

 

Modern Days soaps are perhaps not what they originally were. They cover serious relevant contemporary topics that the world faces. I can attest that it’s not just the lonely housewife with nothing to do in the middle of the day. Sometimes at work around noon I’ll walk through a waiting area at the hospital where I work at and see veterans in their 60s and 70s watching the show. I’ve heard two patients once a few years back softly arguing both sides of same sex marriage while Will and Sonny were up on the screen.

 

Maybe the ratings have dropped. Or maybe it’s impossible to capture how the audience watches these kinds of shows. It’s not all just silly fluff, bubble gum and characters who never seem to age. It’s a family for the actors/actresses as well as the viewers. It’s stability for the audience when the world seems unstable. And even when the fictious town of Salem is unstable (like when a serious killer is on the loose or Stephano comes back from the dead again), it’s truly a comfort to know that is how the world works on and off screen. Days is the crazy family and town you can relate to.

 

I do hope it does not go off the air. It would feel like a major loss to my life. Like sands in the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

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On the Bible & Homosexuality

I have been so bothered as of late by the term “Life is Unfair”.

 

During a rather intelligent discussion not long ago regarding the disparity between the rich and poor with someone I very much respect, this individual stated – “Well, life is unfair”.

 

Well, yes it is; but I also ask the question – Does it have to be unfair in the way it is? Or should we strive for the post-apocalyptic version where bad things still happen (sickness, natural disasters, accidents, etc), however unfairness of any living beings by other living beings is not practiced.

 

I’ve been contemplating this quite a bit since that conversation. This morning I’m especially contemplating why humans have historically pointed to the bible to condone some beliefs, particularly homosexuality. There are so many ways to treat other humans unfairly based on beliefs, but why do we do that? Why do we point to the bible to say it’s ok? Doesn’t the bible clearly state over and over in the new testament that we are all equal and to treat our brethren with love and respect regardless of anything?

 

Why point to anything in old testament where slavery, polygamy, killing your brother, rape, and sacrifice of life seemed like everyday occurrences? We know better than that, so why refer to the lousy story of Sodom and Gomorrah? This is the same story where it seemed ok to offer up virgin daughters. Or accept in the current times that other baby-making sexual acts that were banned in the bible long ago are fine, but same gender sex is not? It doesn’t make sense.

 

On top of it… commit hate acts? Be disgusted? Why?

 

How does this affect you? If it’s your child or parent or sibling and you say this, why are you thinking about what youdon’t like and passing judgement? Didn’t that same bible preach non-judgment?

 

If I detested the taste of onions and someone else just loved them – what gives me the right to believe I’m higher and mightier than them? To beat them up or worse – kill them?

 

Not apply the same laws?

 

Judge them?

 

Personally I don’t feel this is acceptable to practice or teach.  This applies to women, slaves, dominion over animals and a host of other common bible blaming that have plagued our past.

 

Why gloss over the ‘We are all equal’ parts in the newer more relevant testament after Jesus came to tell us that how we feel against one another is not in the spirit of love? What happened to take care of one another?

 

I get the sanctity of marriage argument, but if we just switch that same sanctity to non-heterosexual couples then what is the argument? Babies? Do we really need more humans to feed in the world right now? Aren’t foster homes and orphanages around the world full of children that need a home? Shouldn’t a couple who wants to raise one of these children in a home where love is shown to one another and a child be encouraged?

 

I am open to understanding other views, but not open to hate and mistreatment of others for any reason. Ever.

 

Natural life with sickness, accidents and disasters is “unfair” enough. We don’t need to add the life if unfair prose to look past humans not taking care of one another with all the resources we have to do so.

 

Can’t we just accept one another and get along? There is really no reason not to if you think about it. Saying humans are evil is just an excuse to remain evil. We all have it in us to love. Every single one of us.

 

 

 

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On our Five Star World

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I just moved to a new town. Two weeks ago tomorrow (yes I’m counting) I went to a new hairdresser to have my roots touched up. I was on the fence about getting a haircut. I absolutely loved the cut I had, and it had only been 6 weeks from the last cut.

 

For years I’d been going to an organic hair salon. I wanted to find one in my new town as well. Whether it’s true or the placebo effect, I feel my hair has been in better condition with the softer products. There was only one salon that purported to be organic in town, so I thought I’d give it a try.

 

As soon as I walked in I knew I would not ever be going back. It was run by a couple who clearly did not have a lot of business or know what they were doing. They were sweet though. So very sweet. When they asked if I would be getting my hair cut, I’m not sure why I said yes.

 

I had a myriad of poor experiences in the short time I was there. It was the longest time I was ever in a salon, let alone just for a root touch up. The experience was fueled by some very old dismal television shrieking the whole time. I find TV in the middle of the day in general depressing. But this was even more depressing. Old shows… Benson, My Three Sons, Bewitched, What’s Happening…., overlooking a busy main strip in the midst of a really beat up strip mall. It was truthfully a scene intended to just quash spirits.

 

When I asked about the alleged organic products, they couldn’t tell me much about them. They’d never heard of Cezanne (which my hair is treated with now). Then while I was being shampooed and asked about the shampoo brand I was told ‘oh a little something different every time’. Later while being blow dried by the woman who was surprised my hair had “memory” and wanted to go in a certain direction (seriously what real hair dresser is surprised by this? Or calls it memory???), I noticed Suave and Dove shampoo under main counter of the shampoo station. Organic? I think not.

 

At one point when my timer went off and I was waiting an additional 4-5 minutes (no other clients even remotely in site), I had the unbelievable urge to just get up out of the chair and leave – with the smock, the goop in my hair and all. Just leave some money on the counter and run. During the washing I vowed I would tell them no haircut. Only I didn’t. I felt bad. They kept talking about the haircut that would follow. As if it were something really exciting. Like I wrote – obviously they did not have much business.

 

I asked for a trim in the EXACT style I had. The man was the one who cut. He kept telling me about a method I never heard of that would make my hair full. I kept saying that I just wanted a trim in it’s existing condition. He ensured me no length would be lost and that my hair would be fuller. I don’t know why I didn’t get up then. I really don’t.

 

Needless to say it’s a terrible haircut. I have layers chopped I never wanted and certainly did not ask for. My thin hair does not look ‘fuller’ with layers, it only looks thinner and more stringy. Oh and the ends are kind of ragged, like the scissor wasn’t sharp or something. Ugh….

 

 

Several days later when I still had the dye around my hairline because they couldn’t seem to figure out how to color hair and not get it everywhere, I decided to write a review. I wasn’t going to write any review at first simply because this middle-aged couple seemed so nice. But that is the problem. We all feel bad about providing needed criticism, so we go on accepting mediocre at best and often just plain old bad services and products.

 

 

I woke up in the middle of the night earlier this morning thinking about all the things we recently purchased that are just so, so, so very sub-par. Canisters that don’t even fit a 12oz bag of coffee in the largest one. A refrigerator that was not a floor model in any store we shopped at so we couldn’t see it before everyone was only to happy to put in the order based on the measurements we had. It’s slightly bigger than a dorm fridge. The ice-maker constantly falls out of it. The inserts on the inner French doors collapse and dump the contents at the lightest touch. The left door almost never closes when it’s pushed at a reasonable strength shut. The ice-maker falls off the wall every few days. It was $1600. It is the most expensive refrigerator I ever owned and the absolute worst in quality. I called Best Buy earlier and because it’s past 15 days they will not take it back. It’s only been 4 weeks since it arrived. I’ve been trying to love it and make it work, but it has been disappointing me ceaselessly daily. I was going to try to live with it until I woke up last night wondering how the world can even with such poor quality running amok.

 

Days after we moved to our new home, a part on our beloved coffee maker that we had for years broke. We decided to buy a new one – thinking new home/new appliances – why not get a new coffee maker too? After 3 weeks it’s going back today. This one was $100. At least this one can be returned. Not only does it make bad coffee, it’s one of the few counter top appliances left on the planet that is not fingerprint resistant. Moments after taking it out of the box it had forever fingerprint stains. Additionally, you can’t get the last ¼ cup of coffee out of it. The top of the steel carafe is so small you can’t even wash the pot by hand. A brush works, but you can’t dry it either. You can let it sit in the dish drain for hours, but that doesn’t really dry it because the hideous odd shaped top pools the liquid around the rim when it’s upside down.

 

How can it be that such garbage products are on the market?

 

A few weeks ago, I drove through 3 different towns trying to return an old router from the old house’s Wi-Fi. When my husband turned it off over the phone, the company told him to bring the router back. Google and their site had an address that did not exist when I arrived at it. While in the parking lot where this said address should be, I called the company and was routed through TONS of prompts, and then to the national chain. Once someone came on the line after nearly TWENTY (yes 20!) minutes the person gave me the same address I had. I told him I was there and wanted to speak to someone locally who could give me directions. I was put on hold again… only to be told the place no longer exists. He sent me to another town with a better address. When I arrived there, I learned that it’s not a center that takes back routers. I was sent to yet another town. When I finally arrived I so happy that there was no chance I was in the wrong place. The employee that greeted me was so nice and helpful. When he logged in to update the accounts indicating that the router was returned, he asked me why I was bringing it back as – the records show that we purchased it and did not need to return it. OH MY GOODNESS. Does anyone know what they are doing?

 

I feel like I’m constantly being hit with a bombardment of terrible products and services.

 

The tailor where I went to pick up a suit of my husband’s in mid-September – when the ticket said it will be done NLT 8/30 that had me sit and wait while she mended the suit….

The pergola cover that blows off with every 5 mile an hour wind regardless of how we put it back.

The island kitchen delivered with the wrong wine rack pieces and the installer didn’t even bother to tell us. The same island where the spice rack doesn’t fit most small sized spice containers because the shelving is so narrow.

The new stove with a timer that beeps only once and so low I can’t hear it from the next room.

Same complaint on the timer on the microwave.

The town hall that lost records and told me 3 different things about closing some open permits.

 

The veterinary clinic where the clerk behind the desk is snapping at the dogs.

 

Some of the world’s most horrible take out from places as we learn which places to dine at. How do they stay open? They look and taste abysmal…

 

The grotesque looking/non-caring cashiers at the large local grocery chain I went to a few times. With employees that didn’t know where anything I asked about is in the store that doesn’t carry as much as cashews that weren’t in a tin as snack food.

 

EVERY single contractor that we had in the past few months took at least 2 days longer (two days were the good ones) than originally quoted. Times when I’m feeling entombed in the house waiting for them to come or for me to sign off papers for when they leave.

 

One set of contractors on the deck took more breaks than anyone I had seen in my life. 90% of the time they were sitting around the corner from the windows smoking and watching television in Ukrainian on their smart phones. Even our electric fence installer who came a few times commented on how unbelievable it was.

 

Don’t even get me started about the mess some of them leave. I don’t know how you can treat a person’s house like some of them do.

 

The dozens and dozens of times we were duped by Yelp, Trip Advisor or Airbnb reviews about some great authentic restaurant, park or apartment that had nothing but Five shining stars and when the food establishments were nothing more than pitiable chain imitations; the dark & gloomy apartments had peeling paint, old ripped sheets, no towels and not as much as something to wash your hands with; and the parks were lined with ripped up grass, graffiti and dog poop.

 

Who are the people who make these ratings? How low of a bar are they used to? Does crowd sourcing work?

 

Or are we living in such a sensitive world that we are all afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings? Or are we scared that writing a bad review will reflect poorly on us? Or that someone will then be out to get us? I know I feel bad about writing bad reviews, but sometimes it has to be done. If not, we just turn Five stars into nothing and the whole point of crowdsourcing becomes mute.

 

I’m doing my part in the world by spending the afternoon rating my recent experiences. Next time the service or product isn’t good – please for the sake of society, write an honest review. It will benefit us all in the long run.

 

 

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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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On Public Toilets and Mother Theresa

I have this recurring dream, probably for at least 2-3 years where I’m in need of a bathroom and the only ones available are in public restrooms with lots of toilets and no dividers. I will use it anyway. Often without fear, embarrassment or anything to the like; as everyone else in there seems comfortable doing their thing and that normalizes it enough for me. A few days ago I actually went into a restroom where I saw this to be a reality and literally pinched myself in wonder of whether or not I was dreaming.

I couldn’t help but then Google what this dream means, and I learned that it signifies (not surprisingly) a lack of privacy in one’s life.

For many years I did feel a lack of privacy – mostly in the way of being myself since I moved in with my husband and step children. That is coming up on almost 10 years ago. I often felt like I was on a stage and that every move of mine was being watched and judged by the critics in the audience. Likely because it was.

Something I would say with no malintent like brushing your teeth after eating before school makes more sense than before eating, or having a phone conversation with my ex husband about our children’s grades or something would come back to me or my husband a few days later in some form of judgement or ridicule.

The food I made or some ingredient that seemed foreign was meant to purposely exclude someone who didn’t like it. The norms or rules I lived by before (that most parents have in place) were now viewed as capricious regulations I set forth because I wanted to control the step kids.

I let the kids watch family shows for an hour after homework at night, I had bedtimes, I tried to limit screen and video game time, I made a variety of different dinners and insisted the kids try new things in order to eat dessert (with my own biological children long before meeting my husband) – and all of it was picked apart, criticized, or judged. Nothing I did was right. It was exhausting for me and my husband to constantly have to talk about or defend what seemed to me like normal behavior.

Going back home at the end of a long day and being in a new situation is tough enough. But then worrying about every ingredient I used, every conversation I had (even behind closed doors and on the phone), every song I listened to, everything I read, how my yoga was weird, EVERY move I took made it positively exhausting. I felt like I was unable to ever figuratively let my hair down and chill out in my own home. There was no where to go. No where to run to in order to just BE.

Then I really started to stress. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Not too long after, the PTSD I had lived with my whole life came to life and went out of control. For the past 3 years or so I’ve been metaphorically purging my past. A lot of yoga, time off, and time in an outpatient mental facility will do that to you. I started blogging around 3-4 years ago and going very public with my struggles. No privacy – absolutely. Was I ok with that? Not really, but it was something I could live with.

But feeling like I can’t be myself, allow my natural feelings to flow out of me however they may, now that I truly had no control of the emotions I had locked up years ago and was working through in therapy… THAT was another story.

I like self discovery. I can’t say a lot of what I’ve gone through was pleasant, but I wouldn’t change it if a magic wand was handed to me and I was able to go back in time and do things another way.

Life is not supposed to always be pleasant. I believe we are here to learn and examine when we are in discomfort. Making connections between my feelings, my dreams, my values and why they all have a positive or negative connotation makes it all part of life’s beautiful and super messy journey. How boring it would be otherwise!

As I’m growing older I am not just going through the days of my life, but living the days and experiences while examining my role in it, however small. I’m looking to the sages and teachers before me who tried to instill the wisdom they’ve learned. They know what makes life worth living. They knew and tried to tell us that you have to take the good and the bad, and not resisting any of it makes it easier and, dare I say, more colorful! We get so many conflicting messages from society that it can be difficult to know what the best way to do anything is. One lesson I’ve learned but continue to struggle with is self care.

In a separate but very related story a few days ago my husband and I bought a Hygee card game. We sat down with a glass of wine and started to ask one another thought provoking questions. Some questions seemed silly at first and we started to skip some. But a few cards in we realized even the silly ones can be deep and there was no need to rush through them. The richness was in slowing down and really exploring why you would answer in a certain way.

A few hours later we pulled out the cards with my youngest step son. One of the questions asked was the type of person we most admire. The type… hmmmmm.

I had to think about that and spoke my mind’s reaction aloud to Devin and Daren. My immediate reaction was the Copernicus types. People before me who ultimately knew a truth and were not afraid to go against the grain of the masses to pass it along. My second reaction was the Mother Theresa types. People who give without any type of return expectations. Then strangely enough I said- “actually I don’t admire Mother Theresa.”

I thought about why. Now – don’t get me wrong, I cannot say I know very much about her and how she spent her days, but the impression I’ve received through the years is that she gave relentlessly. That’s wonderful right? But did she rest? Did she take time for herself? Get a massage, a mani/pedi, meditate and clear her mind from outside influences, eat food that would nourish he body and soul? I don’t know. Maybe. But my impression is no.

So my third answer was the Dali Lamas over the years. They do mediate and practice self care. They preach what we all know to be the truth inside. I can’t really argue with their messages. Maybe others can, I don’t know.

I grew up in a Catholic school and in the Catholic Church. It was ingrained into me to give ceaselessly. To be a Mother Theresa type. Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I’m not just reading the words of the sages and of the Bible quickly without thinking and making a checklist of ho hum, yeah got it. Like the Hygee cards stopping to think about what the words mean and how I may want to interpret them and live my own life.

Most of us have heard the Bible quote “To love thy neighbor as you love yourself”, but what does that mean? Do unto others… but what if you don’t love yourself? What if you don’t practice self care? You can do what I thought of as a “Christian” thing and love them and give them more than you give yourself, but that is exhausting! And if you loved yourself and made self care a priority- wouldn’t the world be a better place if then we took THAT person, attitude and energy to our neighbors. Without the self care the model is tiring and teaches the neighbor only to take. If we showed them what we do – like rest and give, they in turn can do the same. Otherwise shortly down this chain of relentless giving, we will experience burnout.

I didn’t go into this much detail with my husband and step son the other night. But it’s a combination of the Dali Lama and Copernicus types that I most admire and a small part Mother Theresa. A balance of love, self care, giving and teaching from the heart.

The day we played these cards was the same day I saw this public toilet. Granted- these two toilet bowls were in one stall with a door, likely for a mother and child. But it brought my awareness to my recurring dream and my curiosity was piqued just enough to google it.

Yes, I don’t have too much privacy- BUT I’m also not practicing the self care I know I so desperately need. I admire these people, but I’m too exhausted to do any more to be like them. Perhaps for all those years when my children and step children were younger if I did practice self care (mediated on what I’m mediating on now) I’d have realized earlier on that I shouldn’t be affected by what other people think, and should feel good about doing what I really knew to be the right things rather than worrying and living in constant fear of judgement.

If I practiced self care I may have been an example to teach them all the same. To go to a private space and just take care of yourself in any way that feels rejuvenating and fulfilling to you. To love thy neighbor as you love yourself means you have to love yourself first and foremost. Or the model just doesn’t work.

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The One Reading at the Beach

Tonight I’m in Branford, CT. Alone with my dog. A rare Memorial through Labor Day moment when our second home isn’t rented.

 

I’m noshing on pretzel sticks, olives, edamame, and chocolate from Daren & I’s trip last week to Santa Barbara and to the cutest little chocolate shop I’ve ever seen in the town of Los Olivos, CA… while sipping on an inexpensive (the hubs would cringe at the low cost) glass of Chard.

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Chocolate Shop in Los Olivos

I was outside earlier. The sun came out for a few minutes when I first arrived. It was warm & comfy in the sun. I met the contractors working on our neighbor’s sea wall. They had some (maybe– fingers crossed!) bad news about our own possibly poorly constructed sea wall. Time will tell, right???

 

Now I’m inside reading a book I picked up from the library just this afternoon. I’m just on page 34 and almost done with my snacks (aka ‘dinner’) when I came across this line.

 

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I want to be her. Not her friend. I look just past my own feet at Koji and admire him…. But I am the friend. The narrator of this part and Koji are not me. I envy them because I don’t know how to relax.

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View of the inspired picture of Koji

I’m the chick on the move. I truly can’t stop moving. If I have to I must twitch or shake while not moving. So many things feel wrong with that. But that’s me.

 

Somewhere in my not so much younger life, I received advice I took to heart from well meaning friends and colleagues on keeping weight off (not due to my weight, just a coincidental state of mind I kept running into). Keep moving, eat light, no eating after 5pm or forget it….

 

Forget what I thought only to myself?

Self answers: Obesity, heart disease, triple bi-pass surgery or another one of these cases where 45-year-old otherwise healthy individual kicks the bucket out of no-where. Family and friends are astonished.

 

Other advice – from my father when I was even younger…. Don’t be lazy. People who don’t look around for what there is to do won’t amount to much. Do as much as you cant. Seize the moment.

 

Seize the moment? Not amount to much? Get fat and be in the newspapers because I kicked it at a healthy 45-years-old… That will be the destiny of the chick reading at the beach. Right? Right?? Right (read- sound of crickets)…

 

So… I’ll be the one swimming. Meeting the cute guys in the water. Being thrown back in with some other girls as we play chicken or whatever that water game is called. And I’ll be the one in an hour coaxing my reading friend to get up, showered and dressed with me so we can hang with these cute dudes at the restaurant/karaoke bar right there – look you can see it on the boardwalk; at 7pm sharp. Hurry… hurry… hurry.

 

34 pages into the book. These 2 girls went to grad school together. At this point they just couldn’t be more than 26 years old, though this is my educated wicked cheap chardonnay guess.

 

So fast-forward to me now at 43 with my sleepy only 5-year old dog. Rocking, twitching, whatever you may call it. My ex used to call it an Elvis shake. I can’t stop moving. So even when I’m sitting/’relaxing’I should be burning calories twitching??? Do I have body issues? NO!  but yeah, who doesn’t?

 

I want to be the reading chick. I want to be Koji. I don’t want to have to worry about achieving something every moment of every day. Seizing every moment by running to capture it. These ‘others’such as my beloved dog seem to capture it by staying still. Are one of us right and one of us wrong?

 

My brain tells me yes, but my heart/soul say no.

 

My yoga background says there are two sides to everything. The proverbial ‘They” are Tamasic and I’m Rajistic. The pendulum swings both ways. Somewhere in the middle is Sattva. A place almost none of us achieves because early on in life at some point some how we choose sides. More on this

 

Sides by skin color/fur color, ethnic background/animal species, gender, income level, housing type, you name it! And sides by if one wants to be on the move or still.

 

I chose to be on the move. Later in life I realize stillness is the “key”. Meditation. Quiet. Where the magic & wonder is.

 

But is it? Doesn’t stillness lead to boredom, inertia, obesity & depression. The minute I think of these things I’m on the move again, in case the thought of them may entice me and I’ll turn into what I can’t stand.

 

BUTTTTTTTTTTTT….. what can’t I stand about it? So I’ll move, miss life and be anxious? Better than being bored, lazy, seeing every slow (yawn) moment, and having my heart not pump out of my chest 24/7/365 due to the anxiety I’m creating. Gulp….

 

I envy them. So why do I try to avoid being like them??? Is total stillness, meditation and quieting the mind the key to life? I always thought so and oddly strayed from that path to the MOST opposite end I could conjure up before knocking myself out with exhaustion at the end of every day; times 43 years to date. Straying from what I believed rather than moving toward it.

 

But is it the “KEY”?

 

I did always think so until right now when I opted to pick up the laptop and capture these thoughts. No, it’s not the key. The key is in the middle.

 

Even Buddha says to choose the middle path. Yeah, google it. No one extreme or the other is the answer. In some weird way I feel that applies to everything. Democratic/Republican. Black/White. Hot/Cold. Day/Night. Sun/Moon. Hot/Cold. Yin/Yang.

 

Thousand of years ago the Tao tried to explain this with a simple symbol of the Yin Yang.

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Very last painting I did on 4/22 (though it feels like a life-time ago). My brother Mario bought it from a fundraiser for Mental Health a few weeks ago. I plan to write a blog about it, as it’s meant to represent the yogic koshas.

So WHYYYY. WHY, Why, why….. (this is me metaphorically shouting from the rooftops) Why do we have to take sides?

 

In a completely yet totally unrelated story…. My step-son visited our home just a bit over two weeks ago for just one brief evening and took something without asking from my eastern (albeit sun-rise) facing window sill mock alter I constructed in my son’s (who recently moved outwith a full-time out of town job) old room. It was a statue of Shiva that my husband brought into my life. It had been a fixture in our basement for years until it moved to a new room when my son first moved out into college, then to oldest my step-son’s room when he took it one day from that common room (as he has taken quite a many things that were either ours or his father’s over the years into his room, to his mother’s or in the trash), then to my altar where it stood as my epitome of the Lord of Dance; the Destructor/Creator of Change… and in my mind the one who makes so much change and moves things SOOO fast that they end up culminating into a silent moment. The way the autumn changes, destroys and culminates in winter- which is the only thing that could help spring bloom again. Where the flowers, trees, bushes, fishes, animals – whatever is to come only evolve smarter with age, passing along the wisdom they learned from generation to generation.

 

And back to the present. Shiva is the most Rajistic of the Hindu Gods in terms of the Gunas. The next Hindu God if this were a circle, would be Brahma who is the creator before leading to Vishnu (the sustainer). All three circle round & round in that order. Create, Sustain, Destroy/Change…. So we can start again.

 

The Shiva “taking” mentioned above prompted me to purchase a Saraswati staute. Saraswati is a Goddess I briefly learned about at the end of my 300-hour yoga teacher training (for those who don’t know – it’s level of study past the required yoga teacher requisite). Similar to a masters – yet not quite a Ph.D as to those who lead the Master level students.

 

Saraswati… Just her name kind of touched me the first time I heard the vibration of sound in the air. She’s the Goddess of Wisdom, Knowledge, the Arts. I didn’t remember at the moment I ordered the statue, but she is the “female” Goddess of Brahama, the creator. In my memory she was the consort of Vishnu who sustains what is. Kind of similar to the middle part of life. The summer. The heat. The least of anything I’m attracted to. I’m moved toward super movement, but attracted to rest.

 

Symbolically Saraswati intrigued me, though the male version of Shiva raptured me. Probably because it’s where I am in the scale of life. In that late stage of change, heading toward rest/rebirth/spring.  I don’t know why I was and may possibly continue  to [until the end of my life] hold onto to this habitual thought pattern. As humans, I know we are drawn to habits and repetition, but ultimately we are meant to pass through the cycle and keep moving.

 

If ‘keeping moving’ when you need to move to the next change toward rest is what you are holding onto/fighting against, then you are stuck. When you are stuck you are fighting the laws of nature. Similar to attempting to swim against the tide. You can either go with it or let it overtake you. Nature always wins.

 

That may have been TOO much for some. I perplex myself sometimes and have to stop and think about what I’m thinking or writing about. But yeah yeah yeah… that is just one more sign that I’m at that edge before slowing down, just trying to keep on holding on by moving.

 

It’s funny I felt drawn to Saraswati. The most Yin of the trio of the dual male/female God-beginning of the cycle. Drawn to the Goddess of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Creativity. Aside from the last 3 years of my life being the most anxiety ridden of my life, they’ve also been the most creative.

 

Maybe I’ve been on the cusp in these three years toward change. Maybe I was on it long before then; perhaps I was born that way. Whatever the case, the people and experiences in my life shaped my habitual thought patterns.

 

But that doesn’t mean I need to hold onto it and not accept the transformation so desperately trying to take place within me. It doesn’t mean I should build walls around myself to protect what is old and crumbling.

 

It’s funny the crumbling physical sea wall just a short while ago was brought to my attention here at the very place I write this from. It’s not a coincidence my silly black lab mix was peacefully laying beside me as I read a line from this book that struck a cord.

 

There’s a reason why I want to be the girl who is reading at the beach and not the one swimming. I don’t know why I’m fighting it. To be honest, it’s quite exhausting.

 

Let’s just stop choosing sides and all get along. Perhaps that will quench our inborn desires to swing one way or the other towards the middle where we can all just stop swinging and see the beautiful life we were given without all the surrounding opposite end issues, and enjoy the miracle together. Accepting all that is from every view.

 

Namaste.

 

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On the Chakras

More often than not we find scientific ‘proof’ that ancient wisdom passed on through generations that was considered ignorant hokey-pokey non-sense turns out to be true. How did they know?

 

This painting I created is my artistic interpretation of the manifest and un-manifest world. The colors symbolize the manifest world; and the shades of tan, white, black and grey are what is on the other side. The colors also are the Chakras.

 

As humans we know very little that can be scientifically proven regarding the spiritual world or how conscious life pops in and out of existence. The energetic body is something that some types of scientists dabble in, but again there is no ‘proof’.

 

Eastern philosophies and their ancient texts explain that as there is a visible physical body, there is also an accompanying invisible energetic body. It’s just as complicated and intricate. It has systems, nodes, and channels as our physical bodies do. Energy can get blocked just as an artery can. Emotions are energetic. They get stuck and if not released can go deeper and deeper into our being and/or eventually manifest through physical pain.

 

Mental health professional do this type of work and explorations. Yoga is all about the energetic body and helping energy flow more easily through the practice of physical postures (asana). Hence, my interest in the topic. Additionally my interest in art and color peaks my curiosity into how color is combined in various ways.

 

The chakras are something that has always fascinated me, long before I understood, practiced or taught yoga. The first time I heard about them, they just made sense to me. Like my cells deep down inside knew it to be true even though my mind was kind of laughing at the idea.

 

For anyone who doesn’t know about the chakras (I was well into the my 30’s believe it or not before I ever heard of them!), they are 7 of the main energetic centers of our bodies that energy flows through. They start at the base of the spine in the tailbone area and work their way up the body through the crown of the head through the center part of the body.

 

Later while completing a 500 hour yoga teacher certification course I would learn about the rest of the energetic system, but the chakras are the most well known and are depicted through so many texts and pictures throughout history.

 

The chakras have colors. There are 7 and they coincide with the colors of the rainbow. Their flow is vertical (unlike my art piece). Like the koshas (yogic) and other more managerial concepts I’ve learned about in my life through my business education, they remind me very much of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It also reminds me of evolution in that it starts out very basic and physical, but then moves toward a path of higher consciousness and enlightenment toward self-actualization and understanding why we are here. We can’t get there until the lower needs are met. In the chakra system, if anything is blocked on the lower end; the energy is unable to flow up higher.

 

These two pictures I swiped from Google Images are a visual depiction of what I’m describing. Maslow’s famous triangle in this photo is actually colored similarly to the chakras.

The chakras are energetic. I later came to the realization that when I’m in emotional pain, the actual physical accompanying pain is located at a chakra point. It often points me in the direction of where I’m being blocked.

 

I’ve studied and read a lot of spiritual and religious texts. I don’t have a strong belief in any one thing, but I have an idea of how my own personal belief system/understanding of the physical and non-physical worlds are: the tangible and intangible. The part where we are alive and moving about this planet, and the part of the cycle that is blocked to us. The part where we wonder what happens to our consciousness or spirit when our physical body dies. What is our spirit before we are born? Is the spirit even real?

 

My artistic expression of the spiritual life cycle is depicted here. Like the Yin-Yang, half of the time our spirit is in the manifest world and the other half in the unmanifest world.

 

The colored lines are the manifest world, the world where white light bends and we can see color.

 

The non-rainbow colors represent the un-manifest world. When all colors are combined and mixed together, they create the ‘color’ (if you can call it that) brown. When you add white to brown it becomes tan. Adding black darkens it up. White is all there is, with everything included in it (white light contains all the colors in the spectrum), and black being the absence of it all – together they create gray. At dusk when we are in between day and night, color is shaded over. It doesn’t exist to the eye. Only form.

 

Our physical life is surrounding by this unknown. Before birth and after death there is the unknown. Lack of light (life) is as far away from us as possible. Or is it? Does it bend and show color in the absence of material things? Possibly it contains all the colors blended together (browns), and on the side closer to death and darkness that brown is darker, while on the side closer to birth and brightness it’s a shade of tan.

 

White and black together make a perfect in between shade of gray. Gray even has shades- darker and depending on the mixture of black and white: still a total absence of color. Science already has determined that in the absence of anything material, refraction of white light is also absent.

 

At least to our senses that is. Perhaps if we had another sense we’d see a whole other world on the other side….

 

The chakras here in this painting are the physical living world we experience. They move from a lower vibration to a higher one. Less conscious to more conscious. More connected to the earth and physical things to less. Much like Maslow’s triangle.

 

 

1stCHAKRA

Color: Red

Sanskrit name: Muladhara

Known as: Root chakra

Location: Base of the spine in the tailbone area

Symbolizes: safety, survival, grounding, nourishment from the Earth energy (food, other humans, clothing, etc)

My interpretation: it is our root. It’s located in a place where we sit and literally connect to the earth beneath us. Also in a place where we connect with other humans through copulation.

To me it symbolizes the earlist part of life when we are completely at the mercy of others. We build a foundation from the original safety and survival as babies. Our perception of the world is shaped from there. We come into life here. We could be stuck here our whole lives. If we are, unless it’s purely lack of money for food/shelter/clothing – it’s an energetic or emotional “stuckness”.

 

2ndCHAKRA

Color: Orange

Sanskrit name: Swadhisthana

Known as: Emotional chakra

Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below naval and 2 inches in

Symbolizes: emotions, creativity, sexuality, and is associated with water, flow

My interpretation: it is what is next. We feel and can interpret that after we are fed. Sexuality helps life to stay on the planet. It’s the next closest thing to survival after we are fed, clothed and have the ability to live. It’s also our ‘gut’ feeling and is at the gut level. It symbolizes the childhood part of life where we are learning and growing, coming into our own and understanding how to respond to the world.

 

3rdCHAKRA

Color: Yellow 

Sanskrit name: Manipura

Known as: Solar chakra

Location: Upper abdomen, between the heart and belly button (solar plexus)

Symbolizes: Mental activities, intellect, personal power, will. It’s where self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem are built and is at the core of our personality and identity.

My interpretation: Once we have that safety and gut feelings, we are able to use our mind and will power to go about in the world. That will power is based on our heat and desire. Heat and power like the sun. It’s the younger adult part of life up until middle age or the part of life where we shift mentally to part II – or something else. Where we are moving & shaking, taking care of the young and old. Working and using our physical identity to move through the world.

 

4thCHAKRA

Color: Green 

Sanskrit name: Anahata 

Known as: Heart chakra

Location: Center of the chest just above the heat  

Symbolizes: The ability to love, relate to others, have compassion and feel our inner selves.

My interpretation: Mentally we can move past all the intellect and listen to our heart. It’s like the highest of the 3 proverbial minds (gut, mind, heart).  It can guide us the right way if the solar plexus chakra is flowing freely and we can distinguish it between the monkey mind and the inner self. It’s the connection of the physical body to the higher body. It’s a place in life that symbolizes a switch to another thought process. If you can get there it’s beautiful. Usually around middle age or when we start to get tired of the grind and ask “What For”?

 

 

5th CHAKRA

Color: Blue  

Sanskrit name: Vishuddha  

Known as: Throat chakra (voice)

Location: Throat  

Symbolizes: Communication, self-expression, speaking our truth, creativity

My interpretation: When the lower chakras are unblocked we find ourselves more closely in the flow of life. We are able to be creative, speak our truth, and communicate in a heart-felt way with the world and people around us. On the proverbial life line, it’s at the later part of life where we understand how we are interpreted, live from a heart level rather than a level of obtaining material wealth, possession or status.

 

6th CHAKRA

Color: Indigo (or Purple in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Ajna  

Known as: Third Eye chakra 

Location: Forehead, between the eye brows   

Symbolizes: Inner wisdom, intuition, imagination. Ability to see the big picture inside and out. 

My interpretation: In other cultures the elderly are praised for the very notion that we get wiser as we grow older. We can be taught certain things, but it’s only through really knowing and figuring out their truth for ourselves that we can become wise enough to understand the wisdom bestowed upon on from sages of the past.

 

7thCHAKRA

Color: Purple (or White in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Sahasrara   

Known as: Crown chakra  

Location: Top of the head    

Symbolizes: Inner and outer beauty, universal connection with spirituality and consciousness. Pure bliss.  

My interpretation: Sounds like heaven on earth! With everything else unblocked and no attachment to any outcome- we can experience total peace, utter bliss. It’s the closest thing in our living world to death and not having an investment so tied and rooted to the material world. It’s the top of Maslow’s pyramid where we self-actualize.

 

The pyramid and the image of a sitting body are both sort of triangular in shape. My interpretation is that the larger base is at the bottom because those descriptions of what these areas symbolize are the most connected to earth. They are more difficult to move through and where the majority of individuals experience life. As we move up toward the more narrow sections, there are less humans around that thrive in those parts regularly, and it gets a bit easier to move because it’s further away from the root or axiomatic apron string. We can move up and down the Chakras at any time. But if the energy system is blocked by emotion it is difficult. Even a person with little to no food if they are emotionally clear can self-actualize.

 

In my artistic expression of this cycle the colors live in the middle of the known and unknown worlds. The small symbols on the painting that go from left to right, bottom to top are my humble explanation of moving upward through the chakras toward the unknown, which ultimately is completely and utterly surrounded by the pure energy of beautiful, boundless, weightless, expansive and all encompassing white light.

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

this and 6 other pieces were inspired by contemporary artist Sean Scully. 2 weeks ago Daren and I went to the Wadsworth in Hartford and it was the last day for his exhibit. He works in stripes mainly.

 

 

 

 

 

The Inevitable Scream

2am this morning.

I’m taking deep breaths and have my hand over my mouth. A long established, cataleptic practice. Additionally my eyes, temples and the space in between my eyes really hurt. I subconsciously begin to rub those areas with the hand that comes off my mouth. In just writing this my forehead, temples and eyes hurt.

 

It hasn’t been that long since these small acts were even noticed and now provide the insight as to what is happening to me. Chakra wise it’s the voice and wisdom body inside that are in pain.

 

I thought back to one evening about a year ago on my therapist’s couch. When I described ‘The Scream’, she (with empathy and almost automatically said) – it’s because you had no voice. Instantly tears sprung to my eyes. With that sudden understanding of what was unknown, obvious and finally understood – my throat hurt. It made sense! It was obvious to her, but new to me. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband. But somehow relaying it not long after over the phone while he was waiting for his son to finish hockey practice late at night while sitting at Starbucks and catching up on work himself, it got lost in translation and I couldn’t quite explain it. It lost it’s potency and I lost the motivation to meditate on it and explore it further.

 

The Scream. It was inevitable.

 

The scream I speak of took place in mid-February 1994 just days before my 18thbirthday outside of the Patchogue courthouse on Long Island. The previous summer on July 9th was the first time the police were involved in the Domestic Violence and child abuse that had been taking place at home since I was born, resulting in the February court date. I wanted justice. I wanted to see something happen, but nothing had. Since I was still a minor for a few more days, the law allowed my parents to move the case to Family court – which was at the time slightly more serious than a bad joke, and my father walked away without even as much as an anger management course or proverbial slap on the wrist.

 

I didn’t know what was going on that day. As I was leaving with my parents in what seemed like minutes after we had gotten there, I asked my mother what was going on. She just ushered me outside. Once out in the bright sun on that brisk February day I asked again. No answer. I stopped and got louder- “What is going on?!”

 

A few passerby’s looked our way. My mother must have felt compelled to answer due to the attention we were drawing. She pulled me aside as my father continued to walk to the car.

 

Mom: Nothing is happening.

Me: What do you mean nothing?

Mom: Nothing.

Me: What does that mean?

Mom: It means we are going home.

Me: What about dad? Classes, probation? What happened in court?

Mom: Nothing. We moved the case to family court and he is able to go home.

Me: I thought that classes and probation were the minimum, what about the restraining order?

Mom: That was if we left it in criminal court. We moved it to family court.

Me: I thought that was my decision.

Mom: It’s not, you are a minor.

 

With that she continued to walk to the car. I reluctantly followed.

 

With each step I grew more and more aware of what just happened. More confused. More enraged.

 

When we got to the car I stood there behind it. I didn’t want to get it. It was bright, sunny and cool out. The car seemed like the box I was proverbially stuck in my whole life – hot, stuffy, enclosed. I was mad at them. I didn’t want to get in. I was confused. I was angry. I wanted justice for what has happened to me.

 

I stood there.

 

My parents got out and asked me what I was doing. I didn’t know.

 

They were urging me to get in.

 

I didn’t want to. I couldn’t even speak.

 

The more they urged me; the more trapped, confused and angry I felt. I felt stuck to the ground beneath my feet. Literally and metaphorically.

 

Esterina – get in the car

 

No.

 

No? What do you mean no?

 

I don’t want to.

 

Get in the car.

 

No.

 

They both started to approach me when I let out a scream. A scream I didn’t know I had in me.

 

They halted their approach and watched me, panicked.

 

“Esterina – get in the car”.

 

I screamed again. And again. I screamed at the top of my lungs, like I never screamed before. A scream that seemed almost inhuman.

 

They stood frozen and watched me like I was a wild animal. That is what I felt like – a crazed wild animal. I continued to scream, and scream, and scream for what seemed like minutes.

 

They watched in awe and horror.

 

When I stopped, I realized I felt better. I had to go home. I had to find a way out of my life and house. It was a few more months until high school graduation. I had no idea what I was going to do; but I had to get in the car, go home and figure it out.

 

It felt so good to scream. So good, I was able to get in the car I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t want to be in their company, but what choice did I have? I got in the car and we went home. My mother spoke of this scream a few times to others, but never me. It was never mentioned again, but I never forgot it.

 

The July 9, 1993 incident happened when I was 17. Until that day, me and my family pretended that our home was like any other and that violence and abuse wasn’t a part of it. Once the cops were called by my youngest brother that day (it was his 13thbirthday) the cat was out of the bag, and it was a little easier to tell my then friends and boyfriend what happened. I showed them the bruises. I didn’t have the voice to talk about the past, but only to say this has happened before. The first time you talk about it is the hardest. That was the last bite the beaver took of the dam before the leak started. It would be years though before the dam actually flooded.

 

That particular day I had an argument with my father. He was annoyed about how long I was dating my boyfriend and didn’t have a ring. I tried to explain that I didn’t want to get married, that I didn’t even finish high school yet. He got angry and couldn’t fathom that I was dating someone I didn’t want to marry. I said I wanted to finish school and have a career first. Then the hitting started. It’s about as far as I care to explain, but it’s the story of how most of these incidences went.

 

The truth was I didn’t want to marry early. I didn’t want to depend on anyone to support me as my mother felt she needed my father’s support. She hadn’t finished high school and was embarrassed by that her whole life. I didn’t something more for myself. I wanted independence and an education. Through words, deeds and actions; my mother has communicated numerous times that she wouldn’t be with my father if it wasn’t for us 3 kids. I grew up feeling like a burden. Very unwanted. Very unloved. There were no kisses, hugs or I love yous in my home. I didn’t even know that was a thing people did. It was for TV if anything.

 

Not long after “The Scream” I decided to join the Coast Guard and set an enlistment date of August 9th. It was the perfect solution for getting out, supporting myself, learning a trade and obtaining money for college. A true ticket out of my house.

 

Against my own intentions, just 3 years later I was already married and pregnant with my first child. At 23 I had my second child. Scared of turning out like my mother, I made it a point to not settle and was determined to obtain a degree to and have the ability to take care of myself. I did finish my required 4 years of active military time. I put in another 4 years of Reserve time. I did go back to school and had a BS in Business by the time I was 24. At 25 my then husband and I bought our first home. At 29 I had an MBA and a very decent full-time job in the government. At 32 we bought the larger home in the nicer suburbs with the good school system. At 34 I was divorcing. There was no violence in my home, but I realized I married a man that had the same maladaptive habits as my father. I was unable to see how badly he treated our children because it was so much better than the way I grew up. In our home there were kisses, hugs and I love yous. I thought it was how it should be. It was later I would realize that it wasn’t so healthy either.

 

From the time I left home until I divorced I felt very healthy mentally. Once the stability of a home and two biological parents were out of the picture, I felt like I started to unravel. The scream was still in me. Unbeknownst to me.

 

The years from 34 on were kind of a rebirth and kind of a mental hell. I love my now husband, but joining two families that came from two different backgrounds with children that still went to two different homes with other parents and family members who could not possibly be any different from one other was a recipe for turbulence. My now husband and I had different ideas on what our newly formed family would look like, how we’d spend our weekends, evenings and summers, how much time we’d spend as a blended family together and apart. What our holidays would look like. All things that were my little to only down-time, and things I had previously very much looked forward to. His ex was far more mean & manipulative than mine, and had a very strong opinion about how we spend time with his kids; which pretty much dictated how we lived, how we spent our money, and everything we did. He didn’t want to fight with her or disappoint anyone and in turn succumbed to the belief that this is what divorced life looks like.

 

I disagreed. I felt like I had little to no voice on how I wanted to spend my time with my own husband, children and blended family. I started to lose the voice I had gained in controlling my own life as an adult. I felt trapped.

 

After a few years “The Scream” came back.  I can’t even remember the first time I screamed again like I had in the parking lot of the Patchogue courthouse. Probably in my car. It was a place I screamed a lot. I would be driving home from work and singing loudly to music thinking I was happy, when I’d get an overwhelming feeling of being trapped. Usually due to traffic, but it rubbed on the nerves of feeling trapped in my life. Feeling voiceless. Feeling that I had no control and had to live as someone else dictated. I’d think about the evening ahead. Evenings busy with making dinners, kid activities in different towns all over the state. Things that I didn’t plan but we had to do. Things I was too tired to do at the end of a long day. Things that took time away from unwinding and spending quality time with anyone in my life – even my own children.

 

Every new thing that popped up on our calendar and every new expense that arrived without my consent or knowledge would feel like a little dagger. It was small at first, hardly noticeable – but over time it would bother me more and more. I’d express my frustration to my husband in the little time we had together and were able to talk without anyone else hearing. Those rare times were in bed, on vacations or on the days our kids were with their other parent and we didn’t have an event of theirs to go to. So it seemed like I was always frustrated. It seemed like all we talked about was how I was frustrated. We couldn’t even get past this to have a conversation about taking control of our lives because the whole conversation would be focused on how I am and shouldn’t always be upset. It went on like this. And the longer it went on, the longer I felt unheard and the more and more the scream inside tried to break free.

 

It would come out often. I’d scream and just lose my mind. In my car, in my house with no one home, at home with people home, late at night while arguing with my husband. For the life of me I couldn’t relate it to anything in my past. Hindsight is so very 20/20. I can’t believe no one else around me was able to help me relate this. We were all in our own worlds trying to get through every single day and all the things that needed to be done, who had time to think about rest, mental health or self-care?

 

Rest. Self-Care. These are things that are SO necessary; but I was taught, and for certain my husband’s ex felt that downtime is for the lazy. We should be busy at every moment doing something productive. Even though our home was full of non-stop activities, if something was unscheduled for one of my step-kids for a New York minute, she’d step in to make sure they had something to do. Something of course that would require my husband’s time, which meant it was my time because he wasn’t around to help me with the house(s), dinner, shopping, pets, other kids, etc.

 

Downtime is necessary. And I didn’t have it. And it sent me into crisis mode.

 

Something about turning 40 initiated a stream of events. It was like the next piece of the dam that I had built as a child to protect myself snapped. Not broken and flooded yet, but enough to cause some damage.

 

It’s no coincidence that this breakdown took place over just a few months. A period where I began physical therapy for my back, started yoga teacher training, and hit my knee under a table at workat work, which required other physical manipulations. Unless you are immersed in the world of mental health and or energy work, it could be hard to understand why I don’t find this to be a coincidence. The trapped emotions were being knocked on and broken up so to speak through these activities.

 

Suddenly, I almost couldn’t bear being in the car and commuting to work. I couldn’t face days of going to work and killing time there when there was so much to do at home. I couldn’t stand another minute of not having time for myself to meditate or go deeper into the practices I was studying. I couldn’t stand having a life with little to no meaningful human connections and being an un-humanized vessel of money and transportation.

 

The scream would come more often. I’d get hot. I’d lose control of my bladder. One day in the summer the following year right before I checked myself into an IOP, I broke into boils on my chest. Every time after a few minutes I’d think about something related to childhood and it was make the screaming and subsequent crying that would inevitably take place for a long time after feel almost like a release. I was embarrassed to tell anyone this. I thought it was rather melodramatic. I had no idea it was all PTSD.

 

Then one evening last summer on July 11th, 25 years and 2 days after that incident when I was 17, I had a really bad evening. It was following a few days of step-children drama, an accusation about something I didn’t do. It followed a few too many drinks at a charity event, and then an argument with my husband about the kids. The scream came out again. It was a hot summer night. Every window was open, and as usual after a few minutes it had nothing to do with the present. I was screaming and crying for the past. I was unbearably hot and had no bladder control so I stripped down, got in the bathtub and screamed. I was screaming HELP. I was screaming about the help I wanted and needed as a child, the help I wanted then mentally. The help I wanted in needing to feel heard and understood and not like a burden of someone who is just not happy with the wonderful life I was being told I have and should be grateful for.

 

I was an adult feeling like a child. I now know and understand that my husband represented my mother. The gatekeeper between me and my father who didn’t want to shake anything up and upset him – so turned a blind eye and pretended that nothing was wrong. The mother who told me that I have a nice life and home and I should be happy. The mother that made me feel like a burden because I was alive and the reason she had to be in this unhappy marriage with this abusive man.

 

My husband was the gatekeeper between our uncontrolled time and his ex and kids. He couldn’t understand that with a nice life why I wasn’t happy. I felt like a burden that I wasn’t happy and tried to use our free to time to discuss things he didn’t want to address – because it would shake things up and upset someone else.

 

It’s now so obvious.

 

A few days after this incident last summer, where again – exactly 25 years and 2 days later cops were called for the first time, I had the epiphany of my current situation and how the characters in my present life represented my past. Once that happened the dam really broke for good. I had a few really long, hard months of understanding this and learning about PTSD and the brain. How my lower brain – the one that takes over in times of crisis (the instinct to run and not contemplate when being chased by a lion) cannot see the actual people, but responds to the emotions it interprets to be dangerous and floods the body with fight or flight hormones. When I couldn’t physically fight I’d scream. And scream. And scream….

 

It’s why I put my hand on my mouth when I’m anxious.

 

That wasn’t my last scream. I was now aware of how dangerous they were. Neighbors don’t understand. They hear help and screaming and call cops. They should! So my screams became muffled. Or I’d get in the car and drive to a remote place. I’d scream until I felt like I was able to ‘get it out of me’. I can’t explain the release I feel afterward. It’s cathartic. Even in the throws of crying and screaming, it’s better than not, and I feel like I’m purging all that is bad inside of me, despite it looking very differently to an outsider.

 

I had a lot more ‘safe’ screaming last summer. Nights I couldn’t sleep I’d get up and write or read about PTSD and allow myself for the first time in my life to think about what happened, and finally begin to process it.

 

I’m not proud of screaming. I’m not proud of how I’ve acted and argued or fought before I actually got to a place of where the scream came. I’m not proud of the self-destructive and relationship-destructive behaviors that took place. My body was in fight-or-flight mode. I actually did feel a shift of losing control at a certain point. I always knew the moment, but I was truly helpless to stop the flood as my lower brain took over. I can relate to the term “faulty alarm system”. It is really what it is. Not a true emergency, but something internally so close; that it sets off the alarm and subsequent actions. The propensity of the reaction to the situation doesn’t match. That is PTSD.

 

 

I haven’t screamed in many many months now. Once I understood what happens to the body, what my triggers were and how to get somewhere safe it was game changer.

 

This is a blog I’m not even sure I will post. It doesn’t wrap up nicely. It doesn’t tie back to some sort of theme. It just is. I woke up, had my hand on my mouth, my temples and third eye hurt… I remembered that it was because it was tied to feeling voiceless. I remembered the scream that first day when I was 18 and felt it was inevitable. That day and always, until I felt I have a voice.

 

The below is from an email I wrote to my family in the middle of the night last summer. Oddly between the evening of Aug 6thand Aug 7th– the anniversary of my mom’s passing. She died around midnight on 8/6/06 but wasn’t pronounced by Hospice until they got there until after midnight, which is what her death certificate says. Strangely it links to someone else who wrote about “The Scream”. Just learning and knowing I’m not alone has helped me to feel human and not alone.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope I’m not bugging you all with some of these emails. I just had the strangest, but maybe good night and wanted to share with someone. 

 

I woke up as usual in the middle of the night with a overwhelming sadness. I started to cry about things I was remembering. The more I thought, the more I cried. Gabby wasn’t home (she is a college kid often out in the middle of the night). No one else was up for at least two floors and I really, really cried. 

 

I had a assortment of stronger than usual memories. I remembered different places where I felt the most mix of emotions – like extreme excitement and profound anger at being hit at the same time, such as how happy and angry I was when we went to Disney; or bought a new (used) car. I was seeing details of things like I was still living at home. Dented walls, my mirror in my room with the pictures of my friends tucked around the frame. I even remember the exact pictures of who they were of. I remember my ballet slippers hanging off the brass bed, my curling iron on the dresser… It was like I was there, the level of detail was so great. 

 

It was mostly my room that made me sad. I was thinking about how I would lock the door, but that really didn’t do any good. My father broke the knob and lock many times. I was thinking that if he tried to come in I should have just gone out the window, but at the time that never crossed my mind. I wondered why… Because I wouldn’t know where to go… For years I had no vehicle. The neighbors would have sent me back. I had no money or change to make a phone call at a payphone. Unless I grabbed mommy’s phonebook in the dining room I wouldn’t have even known anyone but my friend’s numbers to call. And what would I have told them? How was I going to get past him to get the phonebook and out the door? I was so brainwashed to believe that I should keep this quiet that it would have been a horror to tell someone far away that I didn’t have their number like grandma or aunt Fran. I felt the repercussions of telling anyone would have been worse than just enduring it. It was to perturbing to even imagine telling any friends. My room that I was remembering was like a jail cell. I felt unbelievably hopeless and trapped.

 

As I cried I had such a mix of emotions. Like why? I must have done something in a previous life and this is karma. That actually made me feel better, as it made sense and I was paying my dues.

 

I also couldn’t help but wonder if I was being dramatic. If it wasn’t as bad as I thought. 

 

Some of these thoughts soothed me as I stopped crying and tried to fall back to sleep.

 

I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I googled “delayed onset PTSD in adults of child abuse”. Many things quickly came up, but my favorite (very long) was the this one – http://www.naasca.org/2011-Articles/081411-PTSDinAdultSurvivors.htm

 

There were two things I like about this article. First it is a complete description of my journey, as it describes completely how I’ve felt from a child up until now, and explains why now; after such a delayed period this would come up. The second thing is the poem at the bottom written by a survivor called “The Scream”. 

 

I’ve screamed “The Scream” the first time days before I was 18 in front of the courthouse with my parents when they dropped the only charges we ever had from that famous 7/9 day without my consent, as I was still a minor for a few more days and the laws were quite different back then. They were scared of my scream. They couldn’t get me in the car. They genuinely looked panicked. They told at least Mario about it. I scared myself. I didn’t know it was in me. It felt freeing to scream. After a few minutes and watching their panic, I fell silent and just got in the stinking car – feeling unbelievably trapped. No one talking about a thing. Like what just happened never happened. I was so numb I was not even thinking about how I was going to get out of this jail I was living in. 

 

Up until a few years ago ‘the scream’ was a distant memory. Now it happens often enough. I get triggered and I cannot stop screaming. I remember telling my therapist about it a few months ago, with slight concern. She just looked sympathetically at me and said you are using your voice to get it out, because you felt voiceless for so long. “The Scream” is what prompted the call to the cops on 7/11. 

 

After I read a few articles I felt more normal again, remembering I am having a human reaction to a human experience. I still couldn’t fall back to sleep, so I tried some yoga nidra which has been helpful as of late. When I got to the part about visioning a safe place, I quickly scanned my memory for one and only could remember theapartment on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. It wasn’t a safe place at all. 

 

Again, I was FLOODED with minute details about the outside & inside. The hallway and two flights up. I was remembering or not remembering that the lock on the front door didn’t work for a while before we moved. I couldn’t remember if that was real or just a dream that I’ve had so many times. If it was a dream, what did it symbolize? Not feeling safe, locks not working? I cried again for a long time. Same mix of emotions like it’s my fault or I’m over exagerating it. But I remembered the article and how the only way to move through it is to experience the thoughts and feelings again. So I let them through to pass. Letting the memories and details just flood me. After reading the article I embraced what was happening, as it’s the only way to let it go. 

 

The article is very long as I said, but here is a clip from the end after explaining how one would have gotten to this point 

 

“Survivors attempt to flee from feelings about having been abused, from normal reactions to an abnormal situation. Because that situation was life-threatening in thepast, some survivors mistakenly believe that to experience those feelings today would also be life-threatening, would bring on an emotional breakdown, a falling apart akin to death. They do not understand that the breakdown has already happened, when their feelings were preempted by shame.

A survivor can afford to look that “death” squarely in the face when he has people who will stand by him, as well as the insight and power he did not have as a child. When it is finally safe enough, the survivor will remember the memories and feel the feelings about the trauma. Such a “thawing out” is a second chance, an emotional reincarnation. Still…the first sensations that have been repressed or avoided all of one’s life can feel like a tidal wave.

When he is ready, the thoughts and feelings return. In response to what has been uncovered, he often feels great anger at the betrayal itself and the injustice and randomness of the violence.

Underneath that anger is a terror and helplessness that is more difficult to experience than the anger. (“Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember. Maybe I’m just exaggerating.”) This can go on for a long time, but with the help of others, the survivor will eventually accept that the trauma was as bad as he knows it was.

Profound sadness follows. This compassionate acceptance of “poor me” and the mourning of the losses that the trauma created eventually lead to resolution.

When the losses engendered by trauma are fully mourned, the trauma loses its power over the survivor. Instead of the emotional breakdown they feared…survivors experience an emotional breakthrough! Completing the grieving process means divorcing the trauma from one’s sense of identity and self-worth.”

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