On How it Takes a Village

Last Friday was my birthday. Before the invention of Facebook and smart phone, my family would always call. I would get a few cards in the mail from family, in-laws and old friends. It felt very special.

For the past 12 years-ish, it is an avalanche of birthday greetings on social media, text and messenger apps. The calls and cards are nearly gone. Times have shifted. It is very nice, but it does not feel as authentic. Quantity does not trump quality. 

Every handful of people takes some extra time to write a few lines about how happy they are for me, or how they see my pictures and it looks like I’m doing so well. It is kind of them to put in the effort to reach out and say something specific to me. However, I realized last week that they are only seeing the façade that social media unwittingly enforces.  

We’ve all fallen prey to believing what we see, forgetting that as humans we aren’t capturing painful moments with our cameras; or putting out the dirty laundry for the world to see. Social media platforms are full of the good times, the beautiful moments, platitudes of gratitude, showcasing political affiliations, hating on articles or something that happened to you, asking for prayers for a situation, etc.

But how many people are being truly real? How many people do you see wear their heart on their sleeves or share with the world how they are suffering with personal issues? Or tell the world their worries about their loved ones (outside of disease or death)? 

I find it ironic when I talk to people off of social media that I do not know too well; they will comment that I wouldn’t understand something they are telling me because I don’t have issues with my family, that my kids went to college, or that I have a healthy life. I question why they think this, but it’s obvious that they see my feed where it’s tulips and daisies. 

I’ve used my blog in the past to communicate more heart wrenching stories. Honest truths about things I suffer with and unpleasant things that have happened. Most who read it thank me for being open because it helps them to realize we are all alike and suffer similarly. Some others question how I can possibly put it all out there? I’ve even been accused of being too negative on my blogs.

Yikes. You can’t win. 

I don’t post or blog for anyone’s benefit. I don’t post to make people feel good or bad. I post and write from my heart about what I’m experiencing in that moment. Life’s moments are not all good. It’s just as normal to feel negative emotions as it is to feel positive ones. So why pretend we are always happy and that everything is great? 

I’m day 18 into sobriety.

On February 8th I had an alcohol induced mental breakdown and went a bit crackers. It has resulted situation I never thought I would be in. It damaged relationships and my self-esteem.

I’m getting the level of help I never wanted to ask for because I saw such things only for other people. I believed that only a failed, broken person needs intensive level of services. Where did those beliefs come from?

They came from my environment. From stigmas. From the false belief that something is wrong if you aren’t happy because look around at everyone else – they are blissfully happy. Even though I share the ways in which I’m not happy, most people still see the tulips and daisies.

Human connection is at an all time low. We have so many platforms and mechanisms to communicate, but they strip away authentic relations. It’s easier than ever to show the world only what you want the world to see. When everyone does that, everyone else thinks they are the only ones who suffer and feel more alone and ashamed than ever. 

We end up trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of what it means to live out a human experience. 

I don’t want to do that. 

I have quit drinking for good. I have PTSD and it affects the way I perceive situations. When I drink and my brain slows down all bodily reactions, it also slows down my rational mind to pick up the signals that what is happening around me is not what my body’s fight or flight auto response thinks it is. 

I need help. Help to stop drinking and help to process old trauma that comes up because it would like to leave and finds opportunities when I’m not paying attention (drinking) to burst out. 

I’m getting help. I’m not perfect. Not getting help sooner has done a lot of damage. Some damage cannot be undone. 

It takes a village for each individual to be the best version of themselves. If a village has no real connection and facades of perfection, the result is that the people in the village are going to feel damaged, alone, anxious and depressed. 

Being real is what makes life and relationships real. Without pain there is no opportunity for growth or change. Pain is part of life too. It’s real and no one amongst us doesn’t feel it. 

I am asking anyone reading this who sees me in real life to honor the fact that I am no longer drinking. I’m asking anyone reading to be real with me about your life or anything I’ve done and how it has affected you positively or negatively. 

I’m real. I’m imperfect, angry, sad, hurt and suffering from my past and an unhealthy way of dealing with it (alcohol). I’ve hurt others because of this and trying to make it not true about myself. But I’m also really loving, funny, kind, creative, brainy and friendly. 

I wrote a blog not too long ago about embracing your Shadow self. We all have one. So let’s all embrace our own and learn to live with it and forgive others for their shadow sides as we would like to be forgiven. https://esterinaanderson.com/2020/10/30/on-halloween-and-our-shadow-side/  

I’m asking to be a part of a real village, even if I have to create it myself 

Peace 

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On how what you pay attention to, pays attention

The first time I heard the line (and perhaps the only time?)  “What you pay attention to pays attention”, I was sitting in a yoga teacher training session and the line felt so meaningful to me that I wrote it down. Something in me understood this and knew it to be true. 

This line makes perfect sense at an initial surface level consideration of it’s meaning. If you pay attention to your pets, spouse, or even someone you hardly know; they pay attention back. It could be a stranger you see behind the coffee counter each morning who doesn’t like you, but if you pay attention to them, you have their attention. Attention can be positive or negative. It doesn’t discriminate. 

But what about the inanimate? Does that pay attention too? This is where my curiosity was piqued because I feel that it does. 

The line struck a chord with me because I remembered in 2001 when my ex-husband and our two children moved from Cape Cod, MA to Naugatuck, CT; I experienced my first understanding of energy and the things we cannot see. This isn’t any kind of supernatural story, don’t worry! 

In Cape Cod we were living in military housing. After the hired movers packed our belongings and put our items in storage, we were moved to the four- unit temporary housing building on the lot adjacent to us. Temp housing is a place individuals and families stay when they first arrive or depart a base. At Air station Cape Cod at the time, they were are mostly identical and fully furnished. They were cleaned by professionals before and after use. We lived there for approximately two weeks. When we left a housekeeper was waiting outside, ready to clean. 

After leaving Cape Cod but prior to being able to close on the condo we were purchasing in Naugatuck, my ex was slated to start his new job in Connecticut. Since we had no home, his job put him up in a hotel, and my children and I crashed on Long Island with my two brothers in their shared condo. 

One day during this period on Long Island I went into a bookstore. In the front area of the store were a bunch of books for sale that were only $1. Without really looking closely, I picked up one of these $1 books on Feng Shui. I had heard of it before in passing jokey comments, but had no idea what it was.

I took the book back to my brother’s place and started to read about “Chi”. I was 25 years old and never exposed to eastern thoughts. I was fascinated and almost immediately understood the concept of chi. I related this understanding to the temporary housing unit we just moved from in Cape Cod.

While we were there, we were the only occupants of the 4 separate identical units. When we moved in just weeks earlier, we were able to tour each place and choose one. Chi made me think of the next family who moved it. They were all the same, and all clean. However, I seemed to intuit that a family taking a look at all four of them like we did would have a different feeling about the one we just moved out from. The chi in that place would be different from the ones that had remained untouched for a longer time. 

I talked to my brothers and some others about this new thought I had. They all agreed it would feel different in there, but they didn’t quite agree it was the energy we stirred up and left behind. There was all kinds of answers for why this would be such the air from open doors/windows to microscopic dust that we couldn’t see but would detect.

That made some sense, but I still had this underlying sense that it was chi. 

I went back to this thought about invisible energy in the coming years. What I always found strange was how people noticed what I had recently paid attention to. This is where I’m describing the inanimate.

I always loved to clean (don’t hate me). My home has always been impeccably clean. I used to be extremely busy, but still cleaned. I also had hired help on a regular basis to keep on top of it all. However, when I had some time I would clean. Often I would get into little areas, corners, nooks, tops of door frames, inside drawers, whatever – whenever I could to dust, clean, purge and give love to an area. 

What I found incredibly coincidental is that when I focused on specific areas, even when no one was home and it was shining before I started working on it, later that evening one or two family members would separately comment on it. For example, they would comment on what a great desk or end table we have. Even if I did nothing on the surface of that object but only cleaned the inside drawers. I never said anything, but knew that the energy I gave it was radiating from it and because I paid attention to it, it was paying attention and catching others attention.

Odd isn’t it?

This happens a lot. At work I may have noticed my own shoes that I often wore but didn’t pay attention to. I would look at the stitching or heel and just think “What a great shoe”. Then behold… I’d walk into a meeting and someone would comment on my shoes. How does that happen?

This works in other ways too. When I was a pre-teen and my facial features were changing, I was horrified to see that the big bump nose all the women in my family had was appearing on my very own face. I hated it. Somehow it attracted all kinds of negative attention. Another girl in my class had the same nose, and no one noticed it at all. 

As the years went on I forgot about it, and seemingly so did everyone else.

Then when I was around 26 or 27 I saw a woman with a nose just like mine, and it looked amazing on her. It defined her face. I wondered if that is how I looked and began to see myself that way. And what do you know? Others began to comment on how beautifully my nose fits my face? An Italian nose. A goddess nose. Really? That nose I HATED and was so insecure about as a kid? 

I was paid attention to in the exact same way I paid attention to it. 

Attention is nothing more than a direction of energy. We can’t see it, but it is real. In the same way we can’t see the energy that is wired to our home, but that energy is real. Also, like the energy into our home, attention can be controlled, it happens whether you believe it or not. Whether it is intentional or not. But it only works to the level we believe it ourselves. It is a “power” (pun of power akin to energy intended) that we all have. 

That means that what we think about, what we focus on, where we spend our time, what we proverbially feed ourself – all radiates from us. Not only is it the experience we have, it is the way we are perceived in the world. It’s how that line “Fake it until you make it” works. 

I know this to be true, but I don’t always remember or believe it. Just yesterday I had an experience with it which is why it is on my mind again today. I’ll close this blog with this story and hope that I can remember this lesson that I first understood now 20 years ago already! But I can’t seem to always believe enough to put into place. As one of my favorite yoga teachers often says “I’ll let you know when I’ve mastered it”. All easy lessons, but more difficult than it should be. Because we get in our own way. 

Yesterday morning I went for a long walk around my neighborhood. While heading down a street that ends at the marsh I was passing a dog that was barking loudly and chasing me down the property behind an invisible fence. I was going to have to pass him twice. Having a dog of my own I’m not bothered by it, but the noise was disturbing the otherwise very peaceful scene; and heck the dog couldn’t feel that great about being so riled up. I thought about energy and radiating safety and kindness out from my being. And what do you know? Immediately the barking stopped. I was rather impressed and feeling superior, thinking how easy this is; but the dog started to bark again. Disappointed for a moment I chuckled to myself realizing that it was because I dropped the good energy. I was no longer radiating safety and kindness, but control and something less than an open, understanding being. Upon this realization I switched my thoughts back to being open, safe, loving and kind. The barking stopped and remained that way for the remainder of my journey down that street.

Life is a journey. We keep going down different streets, learning new lessons. If we look at it from a place of love, kindness, curiosity – it’s a lovely, beautiful welcoming journey. If we look at it in another way – it will be just that way, the way you are looking at it.

What you pay attention to, pays attention.

So pay attention to what you pay attention to. 

Change your thoughts, change your life. 

Namaste. 

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