The Unassuming Pear

The pear has little to no reputation. It is in a few desserts. It isn’t as popular as the banana. It’s not used in any popular lessons (such as the famous non comparison- apples to oranges). It’s not considered exotic like a papaya or coconut, it’s not a popular “pick your own” fruit, was never “in” like the avocado, or so heavily used in food or drink like the grape that fields and farms are required to keep up with the demand.

It’s just an unassuming pear, which is why I chose to paint it. 

The pear is like almost every other living thing amongst us. And like most things we don’t give it a second thought most of the time. 

The pear, the apple, the banana, the trees that produce these fruits, the flowers, our pets, sea life and of course humanity all live through a cycle. It’s as natural as nature itself. Humans are the only ones who sometimes fear or fight it. The rest of the planet accepts it as the flow we live in.

The flow and these cycles are shown to us by nature and what governs living. Particularly through the seasons. 

The pear painting goes from left to right, top to bottom through it’s very own abridged life cycle.

Winter
Winter is when most consider their surrounding closest to death. Life as we know it rests and hibernates. We hunker down and wait out the storm, most of us complaining along the way and wishing away the time until spring.

However, in the midst of the storm, under ground, and right below the surface, Mother Earth is preparing for the next cycle. The frost and subsequent defrost are laying the ground work for what is coming. Perhaps we may even consider it to be where life truly begins.

Like the architect on an empty lot where a new building will one day stand, the architect is surveying the surroundings and mentally creating what will later manifest as a structure using what is available in that time and place to make it so. 

In that time where there appears to be nothing, there is a vision of the future bubbling right under the surface- waiting to be put into action once the sketch is complete.

Winter is the sketch. It’s the time to not do, but just be and know that the spring will come, and with it there will be work to do. 

Under ground the trees and perennials are preparing the seeds that will come forth in the spring. Compared to sentient creatures such as us humans, it is the time when the mother’s egg prepares to be fertilized. 

It’s actually where all the magic is taking place. All that we cannot see or understand in the material world. It’s that beautiful dark little slip of space and time where the spiritual world intersects with the physical one. It may be the most auspicious time of the year.

Spring 
The thaw. The flow of water and life. The sun is with us longer. Dirt is tilled. Seeds are planted. The egg is fertilized.

Of all the planted seeds (the seed of man and animal as well in the form of sperm), only a small percent actually sprout forth into life. The lucky seeds that mesh perfectly with the womb of mother/Mother Earth, the ones that happen to have the prime conditions that nurture it’s growth, are so very lucky. We take it for granted, but we are fortunate to be alive and to experience life. The spring is the time of rapid growth where what makes it lives through its early days to survive through to maturity.

If we are looking at spring through a seasonal lens, it’s the time we lay the seeds, nurture what is planted and help it along until its strong enough to be on it’s own for whatever reason it is here to be. 

Ayurveda calls this time “Kapha”. It’s cool, wet and dense, just like the earth in the spring. It is strongly rooted to its source; very grounded. It grows quickly, and puts on weight easily.

In the chakra system it’s close to the roots. It’s red in color like the root chakra. All life needs a strong root to connect to the earth and then hold it strongly enough to keep it safe but light enough to allow it to grow.

Through the lens of a human, it’s the time of fertilization and early growth until young adulthood. Baby fat, rapid physical maturation, rosy cheeks, dense, learning-growing, needing a bit more nurture and support from the source as the child matures. For the mother who housed the egg and was in rest during the “winter” of the relationship with her own child, the work arrives in the form of carrying the child and then helping it arrive safely in young adulthood.

The pear… it isn’t quite ripe. If it is off the tree, it will be light in color; tinged by that red root that held it close to the branch. If eaten it’s a bit bitter, not quite ready. It has yet to mature. It’s a child. It’s in the spring or Kapha cycle.

Summer
Sun. Teaming life. Hot. Moving for purpose. Lighter, a bit dryer & quick to inflammation. 

The earth and it’s fruits are mostly in full bloom. Growth slows but it’s at the peak of maturity. The seeds no longer need help- they have the ability to live on their own, fighting off bugs and weeds without much outside help. The result of those spring planted seeds are here doing and being precisely what they are meant to do and be.

In Ayurveda this is “Pita”. Hot, quick to fire. Sustaining of life as we know it. Chakra-wise it’s lighter, and yellow like the sun. It is the chakra of digestion. It gives and supports life by helping everything keep moving as it should. Like digestion it’s lit by “Agni” or that internal moving fire.

Humans are now young adults to middle aged. In their prime. Taking care of both the young and old. They have an inner fire to make things happen, to sustain life, get things done, and keep the world going. They are the largest source of income generation. They have the energy and drive to keep it all going. They are like the full summer blooms, doing what they were meant to do.

At this time the pear is ripe. Mission accomplished. It’s the time to eat it or bake with it. Despite its color, it’s tinged with yellow undertones.

Autumn 
The change. Colors deepen. The temperature starts to cool and the air is lighter and drier. The days begin to darken. It feels like a welcome relief. The trees start to relax and succumb to nature. The leaves allow themselves to deepen, change, and finally let themselves go. Before the leaves do let go, that tree never seemed so beautiful.

Ayurvedically speaking this part of the cycle is “Vata”. Whether you are a half empty or half full glass type of person, it can be seen as the time of death or the agent of change. The necessary change that needs to take place so the next cycle of planning and development can take place. Chakra-wise we move up the body to the color blue or the throat chakra. The throat representing voice. With a mature and wise mind, humans have less energy but are able to speak their truth and guide the next generation.

Humans at this part of life also begin to slow down and let go. They often feel colder and have a more deep and philosophical understanding of this cycle and their own part it in. They are closer to spirit and that magic time of “winter” so to speak.  Generally they have more trouble keeping on weight and become drier. The skin is tinged with blue and darker undertones. They are like the fall.

The pear, if uneaten, becomes darker too. Blue & brown undertones. Overripe. More age spots. Soft to the touch. But the sweetest and juiciest it will ever be if you can handle the mess! Another proverbial day or two in its own cycle and it just becomes a pile of mush. Mush to turn the seeds inside to something new perhaps? The opportunity to begin the cycle again as we head back into winter.

Circle of Life
It’s a beautiful cycle. It is nature. Each part has its very own purpose and feeds right into the next. There is no real beginning and no real end.

We should keep in mind that there is truly nothing to fight. Try… but we will not win. It’s easier to just understand nature and accept and open up to where we are are in it.

Nature is bigger than us. She will carry us through each awesome, perpetual, ongoing, self sustaining cycle so we can play our own special part.

Like the seed that created the unassuming pear, we are each a seed lucky enough to have made it. 

 

I painted two versions of this. One with the raw primary colors and the other with a softer tint of each.

Below I used photography and light alteration to show the same concept.

The original pear this blog was written about is the one to the bottom left of the first photo.

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A Place with Answers– What a Teacher, Fashion Designer & Astronomer have in Common

What do a teacher, fashion designer & astronomer have in common?

 

Nothing. Everything. Answers to our deepest questions.

 

When we are children we are asked by our elders, our peers and even ourselves what we would like to “Be” when we grew up.

 

Some lucky young children just KNOW from a very early age what they would like to do with the rest of their lives. The majority do not, but provide an answer anyhow. I was in the latter category.

 

When we innocently ask our youngsters this question, I think it’s important to be aware of how our reaction might affect them. And more importantly, how it may affect their life choices.

 

As a child, the messages I received and then, later on as an adult proceeded to provide, seemed quite contrasting:

  • You can be anything you set your mind to be

AND

  • It’s important to choose a job where you can make a lot of money and not have so much competition that it’s difficult break into the field.

 

I cringe to think about the advice I gave my own children.

 

I couldn’t tell you how many times during my elementary and secondary school years I needed to write an essay or composition about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

 

Not knowing – and needing to answer – I always chose to write about being a teacher and helping others learn. But did I really want to be a teacher?

 

Not in the way that I knew what a teacher was. I distinctly remember the first day of school in my senior year. I was sitting in first period math class and thinking about how next year there would be no first day of school for me. It seemed liberating to break out of these walls. Then, in a brief moment of panic I thought  – well, you want to be a teacher, so you will be back. That was the first time I actually thought through what it would be like to really be a teacher… school supplies, the smell of the buildings, bells, kids…. Ummmm I didn’t really want that. At all. Why did I ever write that?

 

Rewind back to second grade. I received my first Cabbage Patch Doll. The name she came with was Marni Elisabeth. She was a preemie, but she had the Xavier Roberts name scribbled across her bottom; so she was the real thing and not the ‘fake’ my parents tried to pass off for Christmas. I was SO excited. I sat in the on the top step of the third floor in the hallway of our Brooklyn apartment on Coney Island Avenue. It was mid-day and the sun was shining through the skylight above.  I went through the contents of Marni’s package, reading what I could and filling out her “adoption” paperwork. Questions were asked of me. My name. Did I want to keep her name? And there was even a question that said,  “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I still have that little piece of paper. For some very strange reason I wrote Fashion Designer.

 

A few years later we had the standard, run of the mill elementary school science fair. I chose to create a physical model of the solar system. We hadn’t yet learned about the solar system in school so I turned to the trusty, dusty, half collection of encyclopedias we had in the closet of our apartment. I learned enough to manifest a creation in my mind of what I wanted to build and how/which planets circled the sun in which order. While building the solar system, something about it just touched my soul for some reason. It resonated with me in the way no other information really had in my learning experience to date. Maybe it was because I chose to learn it on my own, or maybe it meant something more.

 

I recall sitting around the dinner table around that time and making the announcement that I would like to be an astronomer when I grow up. My well-meaning parents scoffed at the idea and said I didn’t and didn’t know what I wanted. There aren’t many astronomers in the world and I would have to be at the super upper end of the best of the best to be able to find a job. They said if I wanted to be happy and make money I should set my sights on becoming a lawyer or a doctor.

 

Common story huh? Just the thought of either job made me not want to be in the workforce. I’ll worry about it when I get older, I thought.

 

Well, I grew up pretty fast. At 18 I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went into the Coast Guard and became a cook simply because the start time for cook training coincided with my ex-husbands training as an aviation mechanic. I ended up enjoying cooking far more than I could ever have imagined.

 

After active duty at 22 I still didn’t know what I wanted to do long term. While I loved to cook, I now had a child and didn’t want to work the night/weekend/holiday hours. I bought the suggested “What Color is Your Parachute” book the military’s separation seminar suggested. It was truly no help.

 

At the time I had obtained an Associates Degree in general studies and enrolled for my Bachelors with a concentrationUnknown in accounting since an 8th grade career test said I would make a good accountant. Once I started school I was required to take a variety of basic business majors. I enjoyed the business topics so much and while reading through the course catalog I felt more excited and connected to the general business studies, so I changed my major to business administration. I loved school and learning in a way I had not in high school or would notif I had gone to college at 18.

 

After my daughter was born; I was only 23, mostly a stay at home mom, full-time college student and in the Coast Guard Reserves. I strongly desired to leave the house a bit more so I started a part-time job as a cashier on the front end of the local A&P while my ex-husband was not working his full time job. I enjoyed doing the mindless work of standing at a register and talking with the customers. I wasn’t working there for more than a few months before I was a head cashier and was offered a position to teach new employee orientation as well as train others in customer service. I was the customer service guru of the store. I enjoyed that job too – immensely!

 

Pressing money matters required me to find full-time work when my two children were five and three years old. I began working at the VA Hospital where I still work today. At last I was able to put some of my degree to use and after a few pay raises I decided to go back to school for an MBA in healthcare administration.

 

Again, I loved school and learning! I almost didn’t want it to end. And again I was promoted to another job where I was able to put my degree skills to use. I was mandated to go to a handful of trainings and advanced trainings on “Facilitation” and it was something else that really seemed to touch my soul and resonated with me at a deep level. Again I wasn’t doing it for very long at all before I was in a position where I was teaching it to others at all levels of the organization. Somehow it tied into team work and I would go to different departments to help team build or help them figure out ways to do things better in their own workflow processes.  I was having so much fun!

 

A few years into that job and a full marriage later, I still very much enjoyed what I was doing, but I missed feeling like I was learning and growing. I was becoming a robot in every way. The commute, the standard meetings, the rush at night to get dinner on the table, get kids to where they needed to be, and falling asleep in complete heap of utter exhaustion at the end of the day.

 

I became very adept at what I was doing, but longed for something more. I just wasn’t sure what it was. For some odd reason I started to Google and become interested in what seemed like a variety of topics. It started out with the planets, then energy, then gravity. As I kept exploring, my searches became deeper and somehow more spiritual at the same time. Astrophysics, metaphysics, the universe, universal laws of spirituality… Who are we anyway and why am I here?

 

Looking back I now know I was missing an existence where creativity and self-expression were part of it. I tried to engage the audiences I was teaching with interesting and funny clipart and quotes or puns. In every single spreadsheet or report I created, I tried to match colors in various tables and charts, and make it interesting and easy for the reader to interpret the information. In one famously funny instance, my then-boss asked me for some data and analysis on the diarrhea ICD-9 code. I pulled up the data and analyzed it very quickly. But then to make things interesting I topped the tables and highlighted the key information in muted shades of browns, greens and yellows. I didn’t realize how the need for creativity was just bursting out of me and I was using it in the very few ways I knew how.

 

I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but I was getting bored. With a capital B. I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I did know that I didn’t want to commute and sit behind a desk, teach in a classroom and look like the model of a young professional for the rest of my life.

 

A Teacher, Fashion Designer, and Astronomer.

 

Writing this a few years after I literally just could not take one more second of the standard run of the mill modern day job, commute and dress-up; it now makes a lot more sense.

 

I’ve since had a run of mini breakdowns which helped me to slow the heck down, think about myself and think about my work in the world. I currently work part-time at the VA, teach yoga and manage a rental home on the water. For now I’ve never been happier and feel like I’m slowly finding my life’s purpose.

 

When I think about myself and who I am, and what I love, those three careers make sense. I am one of the rare people in the world who loves to clean. For me personally, cleaning ties into making things look nice and welcoming. It ties into being organized, to re-organizing as needed, decorating, and creating a space wherever it may be, at home, in the office, in my car or in other areas people allow to me touch. I enjoy making things feel welcoming, appealing and spacious.

 

I like making things pretty… myself included of course! Fashion Designing has many of those core things – the idea of dressing something up in different ways to create an experience for others to see. It’s probably why I liked playing with colors and patterns on spreadsheets. And why I still until today enjoy cooking and being creative with flavors. Why I enjoy sharing my home on the water with renters and creating a getaway space and experience they can enjoy. Why I love creating a yogic atmosphere for my students. Why I like to paint, whether it’s on a wall or a canvas, update furniture, remodel, etc.

 

A teacher? Yes but not in the way I understood that a teacher existed at the time. The parts of A&P and the VA that I enjoyed so much were teaching others how to do something I myself enjoyed and someone else also deemed that I was good enough at to teach. I like the experience of doing what I’m teaching as I’m doing it and demonstrating it in real time. I fell into teaching while doing customer service, facilitation and yoga. I’m sure there are myriads of other things out there which are similar. But these were in my lap somehow. Coincidence? Maybe. Or did what something in me really wanted manifest itself through what someone else may have seen as me being good at and the opportunity to teach it presented itself.

 

The astronomer is a toughie to explain. But at the height of my life boredom, it still appealed to me. In what may seem like a very strange way to others, it led me to yoga and spirituality. Energy, vibration, the gravitational pull of the planets and then gravity itself led me to explore space-time, quantum mechanics, how thoughts have energetic qualities… and it gets crazier as it goes on. But I feel a total tie-in between science and consciousness, which really is a manifestation of how we are all one. It’s not easy to explain and I could talk for hours about it with anyone who has a similar interest. The point is that something deep inside my soul detected this during my 4th grade astronomy science project. Only in the past few years has it unveiled itself and opened my world to all types of exploration.

 

I like how life turned out. I like being on a journey. I know that everything in the universe unravels as it should. I know that one day I very well may be looking back to now, seeing these days as a stepping stone to where I ended up.

 

However, I can’t help but wonder if my life would have been different if anyone had helped me explore what my early so-called ‘passions’ were.

 

I can’t help but wonder if kids in their more unfiltered and not yet too muddied up version of the world, kind of know deep down what inspires them without even knowing it does. I did.

 

Just because I said I wanted to be a teacher, fashion designer and astronomer; it didn’t necessarily mean I wanted to pursue those careers on a literal level. But it meant something about who I am.

 

When my now almost 22-year old son, who doesn’t have an idea of what he wants to be when he “grows up,” was younger – he wanted to be an artist, a comedian and a cook. I don’t want to “What if?” anything (because gosh it’s unhealthy). But I do wonder what would have happened if earlier he had been able to explore what particularly touches his heart, and if I and his father had not told him those are really difficult fields to break into, or that cooks have horrible hours and don’t get paid well.

 

We can only learn from our past. What I’ve come to conclude today while meditating and then consequently writing, is that the answers really are all within. If we can only quiet the external noise of the physical world around house, our own internal monkey mind, and then ask,  they are there. Like an undiscovered treasure.

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On the Other Side of the Window

This first day of 2019 I sit in my dining room after a long run with a warm cup of tea in the sunshine, not far from our dog who has also found comfort & post holiday solace in a beam of sun.
Across the room are two potted plants I purchased this past spring. They are geraniums mixed with a few other plantings. They very happily lived on the front porch for the spring, summer, and early fall. As they began to die off when the weather cooled, I just happened to be reading a book where a woman in England talked about having her geranium plant for 13 years. She would bring it indoors each fall and back to the outside each spring. Instead of emptying the containers in the woods behind our home as I normally would have done with these plants, I decided to try my hand at keeping these two lovelies alive through the winter.
This morning when I opened the blinds to the new day and new year, I happened to see a little red bud on one of the plants! While I don’t believe the plant should be blooming, I was excited to see that my efforts are taking effect.
However, this afternoon while sitting in the same room I noticed the rose bush just on the other side of the window. It’s dead/hibernating in every way. There is also a little red bud on it that stopped growing mid-bloom during the first frost, and will never open to what would have been its full potential as a rose flower.
The difference is the warmth, care and attention I’m giving the geraniums. They get monthly plant food. They are shielded from the cold, just on the other side of the window. They have a fighting chance at survival. How is this not different from the way we treat others in the world?
Folks on the other side of the tracks. The homeless on the other side of the window from our homes, jobs and businesses we frequent. The children that do not have the same opportunities to thrive to their fullest potential as perhaps many of their other classmates due to their home environment and lack of warmth/nurturing.
Last Thursday I drove down to Branford during rush hour. There was an accident on I-95 North at the ramp, and the signs on the highway suggested finding an alternate route. I followed my GPS and a few turns later I didn’t recognize where I was or fathom how a few turns away things were SO different. Suddenly there were really really busted up houses, apartments and abandoned buildings. Check cashing stores, pawn shops, scary looking package stores, one too many convenience merchants advertising the sins of the world. Folks were walking around hunched over with old clothes and hardly any outerwear. Drunken people around my age just wandering the streets alone or with another drunk counterpart, barely sober or alive enough to pay attention to oncoming traffic.
Just on the other side of town… As the rose bush is just on the other side of the window.
If the rose bush was also potted and brought it, the flowers would continue to thrive as well through the winter as they continue to bloom non-stop in the warmer months.
I am fully aware that I’m not comparing apples to apples. The rose bush outside alone is a perennial and will resume its duties in the spring. The geranium would not be alive next year if it were left out all winter.
But people are not flowers. We are born the same, not with such different gene sets like these two flowering plants I speak of. However our circumstances decide if we thrive or not. It’s the warmth and caring of our environment, town, parents, and community which determine if we bloom to our fullest potential or flounder all of our lives just trying to stay alive.
It’s not fair. Just on the other side of the window the ones with are safe and warm have a duty to do something; simply because they have the power, energy, and stamina to do so. Because they can, I humbly believe that they should.

Peace ☮️

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Christmas Eve Hike

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How Change Works – In Honor of the Solstice

Lessons of nature.

Tonight is the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere (so hopefully you have someone to snuggle up against to share it with!). Today officially starts winter. It sort of feels like we have been experiencing winter already. That means from this day on, the days get longer. One would think warmer times are ahead…right? But no – the coldest days are yet to come.
Similarly around June 21st when the summer begins, it feels like the solstice is nothing more than a formality- the summer has been around for a few weeks. But the truth is that it’s all only a perception. While we had some cold days and even one snow (in Connecticut anyway), the truth of it all is that it’s hasn’t overall been that cold. Today my car showed it was in the 60s just to make this point.
My 19-year old daughter’s birthday is in June. Most years when planning her party, I had this crazy misconception that it would be warm during the planning phase of her parties. While some years it was, much to my dismay most of the time it was rather cold and rainy; and almost always too cold at night to keep any shorts or short sleeves on that one may or may not have donned during the day.
The lesson here is that even though things may look like something is happening (days getting longer from here for example), there is a lag from the change and perception to when things really shake down, begin to happen, and take form.
The winter has only begun but the days are actually getting longer [yay]. The heat from the longer sun will not be apparent until spring- and it won’t be felt at it’s maximum potential until after the summer solstice in SIX months from now when the days will be technically getting shorter. What was a habit for longer will linger.
When we start new habits for a desired change such as losing weight, eating differently or beginning a new routine- the effects will not take place until a long time after.
Does that mean we should quit and give up??? NO, No & no.
Like the sun providing longer days as of today, the toughest part is truly yet to come before reaping the benefits. Nature shows us with this the seasonal changes.
This picture shows it well. The bigger arrow (perhaps depicting will for change) is fighting against all the old that is established. It’s a long hard road to get past that fight. The only way this larger arrow can lose against all those smaller little ones is to give up and join them the direction the will does not want to go.
Expecting to see a difference in the climate tomorrow or even next month is as unrealistic as eating well for a few days and expecting to fit into those old skinny jeans. One way to guarantee that you will never shimmy into those jeans is to defy natural laws- give up, order a pizza and enjoy a six pack just a week after starting. It just doesn’t work that way.
Change takes time. A lot of time. While the earth is tilting back toward the sun tomorrow, it will actually be colder and tougher for a while weather wise before the benefits of that tilt take effect.
So enjoy the process… believe and trust in it. It’s really the ONLY way. Results are never immediate. Don’t give up. Keep your own light shining. And do what you need to do over and over to get the results you want. It’s the only way to reach your goals.
One day I will follow this advice too! Lol 😊
Happy 2018 Winter Solstice!
Namaste

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On the Wrong Way to Experience Disney – Disney Part II of II

I’m convinced that those who have actually set foot in Disney and still don’t like it have experienced it the wrong way. What is the wrong way? Going in with a car on a one or two day pass, having to eat only at quick service stations, being there at a time it is crowded and even being there with strollers and/or a whole lot of loot to lug around. If that was all I ever experienced I would save myself a lot of time, money and energy and hit up the local Six Flags.

The “Wrong Way”
The parks are too big, too busy and arouse way too much stimulation to walk in off the street for a day or two. As mentioned above- Six Flags does that. But you can pop in & out of Six Flags and call it a day after doing pretty much every last thing there is to possibly do. I wouldn’t bother coming if that was all I was able to do either.

With Disney you need to spend months on the property to experience most all of it. If one even undertook such a lengthy endeavor, by the time they were done, so much would have changed that there would already be new things to do.

Most haters think of the rides, crowds and lines; the rides with the accompanying lines are only a minuscule portion of the experience. It’s also the details, views, stories behind the stories. The tours, shows, sit down dining experiences, the hotels, with each and every one having their own personal themes aligned with the decor that runs seamlessly through the hotel rooms, lobby, pools, shops, restaurants and extra curriculars offered there.  The hidden side of the parks. The things you can be encouraged to find like hidden Mickeys, autographs or trading pins with any staff member. The parks and experiences that aren’t on the big four list (golf, mini-golf, speedway, EPSN, water parks, signature dining). Fast passes of course. Out of this world customer service. Singers, dancers and artists around various corners with at times more talent than you might see on Broadway. Fireworks at every park every night with enough change for the seasons and year to year that it’s still always new.

But my personal favorites are the underlying messages about love, getting along with others and nature, following your dreams, and embracing diversity. It’s everywhere and it’s embraced.

What’s not to love about all of that?

Part I: https://esterinaanderson.com/2018/12/17/on-the-beauty-of-disneys-artificial-environment-disney-part-i/

 

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A PTSD Triggered Morning

Morning of November 27th

Wide awake and pitch black. A quick look at the bedside clock reveals it’s only 4:40am. I still have over another hour to sleep.

My mind races with things I’m excited to do today. I don’t know how I could get them done, but I want to try to fit them in if at all possible. I would love to start the holiday baking. I have a scarf to finish and several more origami boxes for gifts to make. And definitely squeeze in a run. An appointment and work are the anchors of what I need to work around. I mentally strategize about how to make the fun stuff happen. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back this crazy thought process was Clue #1 that I was anxious and trying to vet my energy in a positive way.

Then I remember it’s my husband Daren’s Birthday! Maybe I should get up and make scones to surprise him with? I can do that, then maybe run before logging into work since I’m teleworking today. That would be a fine start to the day.

I forgo the attempt to go back to sleep and decide on birthday scones. Clue #2 that I wasn’t quite right should have been when I went into the bathroom for my Ayurvedic morning routine and I didn’t quite screw a cap back on one of my oils before picking it up again… by the cap. Ugh what a yucky mess. 

I stumble downstairs in the dark all set to make blueberry scones. The three cats are milling for breakfast and are so very underfoot, the sink is sort of full and the dishwasher needs to be emptied, I need to clear these things to bake – all are in my way. 

My heart starts to race. Clue #3. Things not going the way I expect. I take a deep breath and remind myself that nothing I am doing is truly necessary, has a deadline, and are only things I would like to do and are in no way vital.

For a few minutes I feel calm and present as I put everything away, feed the cats and rush over to open the blinds. Why am I rushing??? Clue #4.

I also notice that last night we left a mess of pillows and blankets strewn all about the living room. Pet toys are everywhere. And there is a cat puke to boot! I realize I’m rushing and that opening blinds can take place after I start to bake. Why do I need to keep reminding myself to slow down this morning? Clue #5.

I walk very slowly on purpose back to the kitchen and begin taking out the ingredients and supplies. I preheat the oven. Start the coffee maker (how could I not have done that first thing? Clue #6), and start to assemble what I hope to be scones in a short 20 minutes or so.

Moments later my heart starts to race again. My breath is erratic. Clue #7.

Something is SO wrong. But what? Why last Wednesday evening did my son Tom snap at me when I asked him to keep the dog’s training collar on? I immediately get angry about this even though I didn’t at the time. The look of disgust on his face 10 minutes later when I asked him politely if something was wrong while I was in this same kitchen at this same counter, assembling the makings of a Thanksgiving dish. The look on his face was followed by a loud, angry statement about how he doesn’t appreciate coming home from work and being talked to like that. I quickly looked over to Daren at the time who had his back turned pretending not to hear the conversation.

Like what?” I asked. 

“Forget it ma!, I’m taking the dog for a walk”  as he stormed out the door.

How dare he? At the time I almost laughed it off. Immediately after the door slammed behind Tom, I asked my husband if I said anything wrong. He affirmed I had not in the very least. Hours later while at his girlfriend’s house, Tom texted me to say he was sorry about snapping earlier and that he loves me. The whole episode was just NOT a big deal. So why am I so upset this morning? Clue #8.

I start mixing the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to overmix. As I prepare the counter with a light dusting of flour before turning this beautifully slightly moistened dough to the floured surface, I consider how much I cannot stand when someone accuses me of something I didn’t do, then yells or gets mad at me for it! Kind of the way my oldest step-son stormed out of the house and sent a rash of nasty texts after falsely accusing me of throwing away pieces of his mother’s wedding cake one morning a few months back. Immediately following that incident my husband scratched his head along with me and assured me I did nothing wrong, but after a few days if it was ever brought up again he appeared nervous and shifty; looking like he really doesn’t want me to bring it up ever again. Did he talk to his son? What on earth about that changed his mind so drastically about this incident?

Now my heart is REALLY racing. I feel as if my life is at stake and I need to fight for it! Why am I even thinking about this now? Clue #9

I continue to work, but my hands are shaking, I can’t concentrate. Clue #10.

I want to bring these things up with my son and husband. Unearth them and find out what they were thinking long after the fact, as soon as I see them today– Clue #11.

There are two ways this story could go

  1. I could do just that – what I wanted to do. Talk to them about it. And how might that go? I know how this story ends, but it wouldn’t matter because I don’t want to feel the terror, anxiety and anger I feel right now about it. I want these feelings to go away pronto. I’ll sound angry, because I am angry and super crazy anxious. I’ll let them know I can’t sound kind and gentle when I’m anxious like this – but it will not matter to them. All they will see is an angry mom/wife. They will be defensive. I will plead that I’m just trying to understand and want to talk. They won’t understand me or why I’m bringing it up. I don’t know why either. All I know is that I’m infuriated about this. I’m infuriated about being accused of things I didn’t do and then being treated poorly because of these said non-existent things.
  2. I could remember that I have PTSD and I missed a lot of clues that I was so obviously anxious this morning, I woke up anxious and at some point became triggered in the kitchen.

This morning thankfully I went with the latter option. In fact as soon as I came to terms with the very real fact that I have PTSD last summer it was an option at almost all moments when I had this feeling that something was just terribly wrong and at some point it started to feel like my life was at stake. My issue nowadays is that I always feel terrible when I miss the earlier clues. Sometimes I can catch them and breath or take a medication. But today I missed them all before I was fully triggered. 

As I begin kneading the dough I thought more deeply about what I’m really, really feeling. I was likely triggered by Tom’s reaction simply by being in the kitchen in same way with the same light while it was dark outside. That trigger lead to thinking about my step-son months ago, but it really led all the way deep down into the child inside me that became frozen in a certain state 40+ years ago.

Being accused of something that wasn’t my fault, something I didn’t do, or something I couldn’t have possibly known was the norm. It often led to consequences where I was abused, sometimes very badly. My mom was often a bystander, not wanting to be abused herself. She would often look away or side with my father (the perpetrator). Someone standing by while I was unfairly accused hurt even more. Even though he didn’t mean it, Daren keeping his back turned or refusing to talk to me about the supposed wedding cake incident feels like a bystander not helping the child inside me in need.

Since this past summer I learned that long-term childhood abuse is particularly complex if it was at the hands of a caregiver, because as a child your actual survival is at stake. You need your caregivers to live. That terrified part of me has become frozen in time. I often handle situations like this and a handful of others that would have led to abuse in a similar manner. During the initial encounter I’m very strong. I act as if nothing is wrong, as I had to do as a child just to get through the episode. Crying wasn’t allowed, even while getting hit- in fact it made things worse. I learned to deal with an incident by being strong and doing whatever I need to do. The hurt, terror and anger always came later and still does until this day when an old wound is rubbed, some time has passed, and my body feels safe and I’m re-triggered. Which often enough strangely leads me to feel as if I’m in survival mode. My heart, my breath, the crazed thoughts. My lower brain’s alarm signals to me that I need to fight for my rights, get out, get even, I’m being wronged, etc. 

We all have that lower brain (the reptilian one without higher rational thought-like a crocodile). Mine recognizes triggers that were necessary for survival long ago and all our lower brains possess the ability to shut down the executive functioning portion of the brain if survival really is at stake when we need to flight, flight or freeze. It’s how we are built. The problem with PTSD is that sometimes the danger is only perceived and not even real. If the person doesn’t catch it, they have an episode which isn’t pretty. When I’m already anxious before I’m triggered I’m far more likely to not notice. 

While folding blueberries into the scone dough, my higher and lower brain were in conflict. The part that I innately identify as me (more or less the higher, rational thinking part of the brain) was telling myself I was alright, I’m only in my kitchen; totally safe- I am and will be ok.

This part of my physical symptoms of being triggered are where adrenaline has entirely flooded my body. I can feel it’s desperate need to be released. I start to boil with heat. I hyperventilate and often cry uncontrollably. The next few hours are always recovery. Sometimes this happens often – several days in a row. I’m told it’s normal as you are going through PTSD treatment to go through time periods like this. When a childhood trauma victim feel safe as an adult- however many years or decades later, the body begins healing itself through bringing up old cellular memories in order to rid the body of deep-rooted habits/reactions/etc that no longer serve it.

I put the scones in the oven and set the timer. I’m lost. What was I going to do next? Did I make the coffee yet? I’m dazed, I’m confused, I’m sad… I’m just overwhelmingly dysfunctional. Daren comes down. Today I can explain my full thought process. We hug. I cry. I can hardly pick up a cup without almost dropping it. The scones are ready. We enjoy them although I can’t finish even one.

Sounds crazy? Yes, I know. But overall, I’m feeling better day by day. I know I need to go through this to get over/past/through – however it’s best phrased “it”. I continue to be patient and greet whatever arises, being careful to not get suckered into false alarms. That’s the trickiest part. 

But I’m OK. I’m enjoying the healing, one cell at a time.

On childhood trauma

Social Media Disclaimer:

Many people often ask me why I so freely share my troubles. I share because I’ve found shame for so long in not being perfect. I’ve felt for too long like damaged goods I’ve learned none of us could ever be perfect and to even try to entertain such a thing or put on that façade is a set up for failure and takes WAY too much energy. We all suffer and we can only gain strength with connection. So I’m living the change I’d like to see by normalizing what is after all very normal.

 

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

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

 

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

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How I’m Choosing Who to Vote For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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On the Possible Spiritual Aspect of Halloween

I have always loved the autumn. The cooler air, the deep-rich colors, the shifts in daylight; and yes –the heavier, warmer foods and attire that are part of the shifting season package. My ‘Vata Dosha’ (the who? something my yogi friends would get & isn’t to relevant at the moment) is supposed to really not like this time of the year. And even though my body has a serious cold intolerance (I mean SERIOUS), I have still always felt some sort of magic in the air, chills not withstanding.

Somewhere between the cooling temperatures that take place a few weeks post Labor Day and Thanksgiving, sits Halloween – smack dab in the middle’ish of it all. I realize that it’s become a very commercial holiday laced with sweets and costumes, but there had to be a reason that it’s celebrated at the time it is.

I’ve briefly read in the past it was a Pagan tradition that the church latched onto to help converts to Christianity experience something familiar. I knew about the European tradition of the Jack-o-lantern. And last year when my husband and I were in South Africa on Halloween Day, I wondered why it wasn’t celebrated much in the Southern Hemisphere.

I grew up going to Catholic School. Halloween for me was exciting, not just for the trick-or-treating, but because the next day was All Saints Day and we had no school.

I also know that Mexico celebrates this same time with a Day of the Dead celebration Día de Muertos.

Saints? The Dead? This kind of had something in common, right?

This year I volunteered to teach a yoga class on Halloween evening. While considering how not to avoid saying anything about the day of the year it is in class, I went on an online hunt to find the spiritual meaning behind this tradition. I found it fascinating enough to share what our elders were thinking when they established this time of year for this tradition.

“Our ancestors could viscerally feel shifts within nature, and so they anticipated internal shifts within spirit, mind and body too”. Symbolic Meaning of Halloween

I learned that Halloween really isn’t celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere because it’s the seasonal shift from warmth to coolness that makes the veil between our world and others thin. Southern hemisphere witches actually do celebrate this tradition on April 30th, which makes sense; as that time of year is equivalent to what we are experiencing now.

The thin veil between worlds would make it possible to more easily honor and connect to those who have passed – hence Mexico’s Day of the Dead.

But why a thin veil now?

I couldn’t find much online, even on what I would consider to be ‘junky’ sites. From my own spiritual understanding of nature, it actually does make sense that it is now. We just experienced the summer and have all that strong “yang” type energy starting to dwindle away. The mix of some warm days and the associated energy fusing with the cooler days (literally thinning the atmosphere), often finds us less physically motivated and more likely to slow down and look within.

It’s an interesting time of year from the Ayurvedic perspective the way I understand it, in that we are entering a cyclical time of destruction with the plant/tree life ending and the preparation of the cold-frozen season. Additionally, at this time the 5 elements are in a balance for a short period (earth, water, fire, air and ether). The balanced elements and accompanying life part of the year change to the ‘death’ part of the year would make it ripe for our body, mind and spirits to connect to all that is in the circle of the universe where that life/death cusp transforms in a balanced way.

As above so below – in that the laws of nature are the laws of nature everywhere, in the heavens as is on earth. Birth/early life (Spring), high point of life/mid-life (Summer), elder ages/dying (Fall), the magic in between that prepares for new life even though it looks like there is nothing there (Winter). Winter then prepares us for spring and so forth. There is never a new stop or end point, it just goes around and around and transforms from season to season.

So without getting any more wonky than I’m starting to sound I’m going to end it here. If you’ve followed my attempt to explain my crazy point – Great! And if not, that’s ok too. Maybe a seed you would like to cultivate has been planted. Or perhaps this is just all a bunch of non-sense that many of us like to dabble in while we have fun celebrating Halloween, watching scary movies, and dressing up as something we normally wouldn’t. It’s all in good fun.

In preparation for my yoga classes this week I think I’m going to just focus on Embracing the Unknown and the lessons Halloween can perhaps provide to us.

Embracing the unknown (bullets taken from the same above linked article)

  • Facing the scary, hairy thing under our beds.
  • Not freaking out about death, but honoring it.
  • Knowing our deepest renewal begins with surrender.
  • Embracing the concept that both life requires the presence of both light and dark.

 

Enjoy All that Nature has to offer!

Peace

 

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