Who in the World is “Modern” Technology for?

I’m on a tear about technology today. It started this morning at work when I was asked to make two calendars from one my work group has on our SharePoint. Simple enough right? Make a new calendar, put what is needed on the new one and delete that same content off the old. 

But no. It’s not that simple. 

Without going into all kinds of boring details there’s no longer a button to click to create a new calendar (which by the way was hidden & knowing how to find that one was a feat in & of itself). 

Now there are new apps that don’t even have names that a normal human would know what they are. After a time too long to admit, I found a ‘calendar looking’ app. I went to click on it, and was asked to request access. At that point I was provided a link where I could check the status of my request. 

About 10 minutes later I get an email from an IT link about my calendar looking app request. The app was not yet approved; but I received another link to a page with help to find apps. There I learn that there is a link to the “Classics”. The classics are documents, calendars, announcements, group chats… The classics? You mean what real living and breathing employees use? Am I that old? 

I just can’t with this stuff. 

I thought I finally learned how to work my “Smart” TV. I know what the remotes do and how to add & delete apps, subscribe to channels, etc. Things my older family members and siblings have yet to figure out. Maybe my kids have, but I’m not so sure. However, when I went to watch a few purchased Holiday videos a few weeks back I learned that Fandango where I bought them was sold to some other company. I spent about an hour trying to get to my old account and figure out passwords and where to find “purchased content”. I never found it. We just ended up watching what was free. 

What was so wrong with purchasing content that you can hold in your hand and keep in your cabinet? I still don’t know what happened to the movies I paid for. 

My car is a 2017 Prius. It has a touch screen and built-in navigation that never seems to work. Or when I do get the nav to work, I can’t seem to ever turn off the route. Every button, every option, every possible thing… and there is no “End Route” or equivalent. Sometimes the built in Siri works, sometimes not. I don’t even know 80% of what my car is capable of. And this car came out 6 years ago! I don’t even want to think about what a 2022 model can do that I’d never know after having it for 5 years. 

Every time I go into my husband’s car (Telsa) I can’t even find the place to press the “Esterina” button because new updates moved it. 

I look around and I don’t see many people smarter than me using all these features and things with ease. 

When I do figure things out, they don’t seem to work. 

I programmed Alexa to go through a morning routine, but the news app I chose always cut out mid report. At first Alexa finished the routine, but then she stopped. I checked the programming and it was all still the same. I changed the news source and the same thing happened – worked for a few days then the news source stopped mid briefing the routine ended.  

I can’t tell you how many times I went to play a song or album I KNOW I bought but it’s disappeared from my iTunes.

Family Share works terribly. The apps my husband or I purchase and try to share never come over to the other phone. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get his music. What is the family share even for? It says it does these things, but they either don’t work or we can’t figure them out after spending inornate amounts of time trying. 

We had a smart oven for a short bit of time. The buttons were so sensitive that if your sleeve brushed against it while grabbing a pot the whole thing would turn off. One of our cats constantly walked across the stove and turned it on. Luckily there was a lock feature, but the “Smart” part of the oven doesn’t work when the lock is on. I can’t tell you why we bought a smart stove. You need to link Alexa through 3rd party apps to it, and it worked at best half the time.

Same with our “smart” lights. We use GoSund. They continually unlink from the programming. When you just want to turn on the light and say “#?!*&” to the programming, they blink uncontrollably. They are unusable as just an ordinary light at that point. So –  it’s either the dark or pull out the phone and spend 5-10 minutes figuring out what went wrong. 

We have a Wi-Fi enable dryer. I have no idea how to use it with the Wi-Fi or what I’d use it for.

1,001 very cool things have been made by me or others at work in the past 10-12 years. Things that make people’s lives easier. BUT almost all have become undone due to updates, websites that moved, or macros that broke. I spend way too much of my time trying to figure out what someone who left the organization did in the background to fix something someone relied upon that stopped working. 

Even here – on Word Press where I am writing this blog I’m befuddled. It seems like each time I get on things moved or have a new name. I have been using this platform since 2015 and all I know how to do is post a blog. I know Word Press can do so many super things, but when I start to read about them or try to figure them out I run into so many walls I just give up and need to put the computer in another room.

This just isn’t cool. This is all a colossal waste of time. The world is getting too complicated and regular people can’t (and don’t want to) keep with the changes forced upon us. Can we just cool it already? 

Competition creates more and more and faster and faster – for what? Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Similar to the industrial revolution and the assembly line. Simply because we can make a million widgets an hour, doesn’t mean we should. But we did, and then we created a whole new discipline called marketing to encourage people to buy what they didn’t need. Then they needed to work harder and longer to pay for the unnecessary widgets. This is the part of history that most of us were born into and accept blindly without question.

Life didn’t get better because we have homes triple the size with quadruple the number of possessions. We should learn from the past and take a break from making things that make no sense. Technology advances for consumers does not work well yet. The population hasn’t caught up to what is out there, and the programmers have not figured out the bugs. I wish the techies of this world would stop creating and just focus on making what we already have better for a while. 

I know humans thrive on creation and Henry Ford famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”. However there are one too many creators, none of them collaborate, and we have one big hot mess going on. Let’s be creative with making the status quo actually work. Henry Ford made the car, not a spaceship. It seems like we need the equivalent to cars in our lives, not spaceships things we have no use for.

Honestly – If I am an upper-middle class citizen with a Masters degree in a first world country that happens to be in a pocket of humans that can figure out technology faster than my 20 something year old adult children and faster than my parent’s generation – I beg to ask the question, who or what on are we advancing consumer technology for?

On the Secret Life Around Us

Last weekend my husband and I had a smaller, pandemic approved sized gathering for our annual Swedish Smorgasbord. A good friend of mine brought a Christmas cactus as a hosting gift. I left it on my counter that evening, transplanted it to a permanent pot the next day and assigned it a temporary space until the holiday decorations come down and it will be placed in it’s new home.

I went about my life for the next few days and this morning there were two new blooms. 

Yawn huh? 

But no. That little beauty which looks inanimate is working full time at this moment to bloom for this time of year. This plant’s whole existence is to make these flowers around right now. 

I love this Albert Einstein quote.

I love being mindful. When I am, it is simply amazing to realize there is a secret life all around us that we often don’t acknowledge.

The plants. The trees. Animals. Our own pets. 

They are living beings just like we are and are carrying out their life’s purpose.

Do you have a tree up for the holidays? Is it live? It is carrying out it’s purpose. 

I just wanted to take the smallest of moments to appreciate life. All life. Even when we are not paying attention (almost always!), life is carrying on and doing it’s thing. Life doesn’t care who we are. We have almost no control of anything outside of us. These things at least seem to know it better than us. These things are all around us reminding us that we have no control and that life really is a miracle should we chose to see it that way. 

On Surrender

Hearing the word invokes an image in my mind of a person on the ground with a hand up, holding a white flag with one hand using whatever energy they have left to wave it. It also reminds me of many times as a kid playing board games with my brother Mario where one of us was winning so far ahead of the other that the loser decided to surrender, to not waste any more time playing a “losing hand”.

 

The word always felt like defeat to me, but now I see it differently. I view the word as honesty, truth, and innate beauty. 

 

As I described it above, surrender can also mean not wasting any more time. Surrender can mean being honest about what isn’t working and accepting what really is. Why waste time doing what isn’t working? Why not be honest about the situation and go from there? 

 

I subscribe to Richard Rohr’s daily meditation. Each week is themed. This week’s focus is on Spirituality and Addiction. Today’s meditation is about surrender. In it he writes “Surrender is the strongest, most subversive thing you can do in this world. It takes strength to admit you are weak, bravery to show you are vulnerable…”. 

 

There were two days earlier this March where I “surrendered” and literally felt a physical shift due to a change in my mental thoughts. A shift so powerful that it tangibly exhausted me. 

 

The first was a day while I was living alone in East Haven and coming to grips with a pending divorce and newly achieved sobriety. I picked up a Dialectical Behavior Ttherapy (DBT) workbook that I hadn’t touched but owned for a few years. I decided to do some exercises in this book each day. I was a few days in when I came upon the term “radical acceptance”. I was performing the radical acceptance exercises and was challenged to fully accept my current situation. I looked around and cried. I didn’t want to. I could NOT accept where I was at that moment in time. But I wanted very badly to experience radical acceptance, as there were so many benefits to doing so.

 

I closed the book and contemplated this. It felt like an angel and devil on my opposite shoulders as my mind shifted back and forth about whether or not to accept my situation. At some point about ten minutes into a mix of contemplation and crying, the angel suddenly made perfect sense when she said “But it’s where you are!”. 

 

It occurred to me that whether or not I accepted it, it IS where I am. Why am I not just accepting that this IS my reality at this moment in time? Whether or not I accept it, it doesn’t change a single thing. 

 

I’m going to write that again – Whether I “accept” it or not; it doesn’t change a single thing. 

 

I’m still where I am. So why not surrender to accepting my actual reality? When I realized this; if there was a visual of two parts of me that were in conflict; one literally faded into oblivion while the other filled in what just left. In the next minute or two I began to feel whole; lighter, and open. A physical shift materially took place once I changed my mind and surrendered.

 

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson says, “Until your knees finally hit the floor, you’re just playing at life, and on some level you’re scared because you know you’re just playing. The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It’s when it begins.” 

 

The next moment for me was about a week later. It was a dark early evening on a Sunday night when I just had to get out of the apartment where I was staying. I left – with nothing but my wallet and phone and drove off. It was cold and I didn’t know where to go. I suddenly had the desire to just write. I drove over to Walgreens and purchased a notebook. I grabbed a pen from my glovebox and a blanket from my trunk and sat on the town green with the light of my phone. I put the phone on airplane mode and just started to write. And write. And write.

 

I wrote about “poor me”. I wrote about how my kids and husband would tell me these things about myself that “weren’t true”. I stopped. I thought about what I had just written and I thought about radical acceptance. Again, I had an angel and devil on my shoulders in conflict. What they said was not true, I thought, but should I accept it? I remembered surrendering the week before to my reality and thought about surrendering to this. I cried. I didn’t want to, but this time it was easier to imagine just accepting this, to explore it completely, and perhaps write about it. 

 

So I put pen to paper and shifted my thoughts to how this was their reality and wrote. And wrote, and wrote, and wrote… Until it occurred to me that there was truth in what they were saying. Whether or not I liked it didn’t matter. This is what they experienced and it was true despite why or how it came to be. The explanations didn’t matter- it all happened. I radically accepted this. 

 

It happened, and whether or not they want to accept what my reality was or why, I needed to accept my part in it wholly. And I did. In a very distinct moment I didn’t care anymore when, why or how; I understood them and understood it all completely.

 

At the time my son was off from his job on paid leave because of a COVID outbreak at the place he works and was staying with my husband. I decided to write him a letter explaining that I understood him and understood everything he has told me 100% inside and out. I wrote my heart out. I wanted to write a letter to my husband too but my energy had waned, so I decided to just rip out the pages that I wrote and share with him my thoughts and how they had shifted to an understanding of him. I added a few lines to explain why I was sharing and made the decision to drive the letters over and leave them in the mailbox.

 

By this time it was fairly late in the evening. I felt so amazing. Lighter. Freer. I went into Stop & Shop to buy them some cookies I was obsessed with at the time and I drove over to my old neighborhood. I saw the trash and recycling bins out front since it was Sunday night, and for the briefest moment I felt jealous that I didn’t live there and wasn’t part of putting out the trash. But more so I immediately felt radical acceptance that I didn’t live there and I imagined a world where I’d be in a new place with maybe a different trash pick-up day; and alone and even dare I say… happy? 

 

I was able to surrender. I was able to accept my circumstances. And you know what? I was really ok with it! 

 

I put the letters in the mailbox and sent my son and husband a text. I drove home in an almost bliss-like state. I felt light, tired, and hungry. Really hungry! I saw a McDonalds sign and craved a Big Mac! I hadn’t eaten meat in a very long time, but my body was just spent and I just wanted something highly caloric and comforting.

 

Surrendering never tasted or felt so good.

 The first of the 12 Steps of Recovery is to admit we are powerless. I first learned of the 12 steps on a spiritual Podcast around 2014. The speaker convinced me that every single one of us is addicted to something (drugs, drink, tv, shopping, money, obsessive thought patterns, etc) and that the first step is to admit powerlessness. Is that really different from surrender or radical acceptance?  

The moment I let go and opted to understand, somehow it gave others around me permission to do the same. The universe knew what needed to be done. When we admit where we are and our part in it, miracles happen. The happiness behind it just pours out because there is nothing, not a single story, holding it back. It’s acceptance of the present moment. Radical acceptance. It’s surrender.  Surrender changed everything and every important relationship in my life. 

 

Fast forward several months down the line. Daren and I have never been more understanding of one another. We renewed our vows a few weeks ago. We wrote our own to one another. I referenced the song “Moment of Surrender” by U2 and read out loud the portion 

 

The stone was semi-precious
We were barely conscious
Two souls too smart to be
In the realm of certainty
Even on our wedding day

 

10 years before on our wedding day we were like two robots going about in the world doing things that adults do because it’s what adults do. As the years passed I started to spiritually wake up and perhaps took him with me. We are now so aware and conscious of what our biases were; how they played a role in our history and what we do in the present moment. 

 

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are” Stephen Covey

Don’t we all perceive things based on our own knowledge and circumstances? Couldn’t it perhaps do us good to know what our biases are so when we assess a situation we know our perspective and can imaginatively consider ways others see this same thing? The only way to do this is to surrender to the knowledge that we have biases in the first place. We are attached or addicted to the way we think or want something to be. Accepting it is freeing. Don’t we all want to be free and feel ok with life as it is? 

Later in U2’s song the lyrics state: 

I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
And to the rhythm of my soul
And to the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

 

Our bodies want that freedom. Once you experience surrender it’s hard to come to grips with that fight in you anymore because you know what is on the other side and it’s so much better to just let go and accept life as it is. If you fight this and you are aware of yourself, as Bono sings, you can actually feel your body begging to get back to that open good place where love and the soul accept life on life’s terms. The Marianne Williamson quote above is from A Return to Love. Because surrendering brings you to love.

I will not pretend that I don’t forget this a lot. But I can tell you that once you do, you know freedom and once you do, it’s far easier to do it again and again. I’m not saying this is easy, but I can promise you it is worth it.  

 

I’m going to end this blog with the refrain (below) which reminds me of the Safire Rose Poem “She Let Go”. Only you know when you surrender. The world goes on. The moon shines, and you – you are FREE.

 

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

 

 

Namaste

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8 months, but 10 years, A Short Story on an Inconspicuous Path to Overcoming Addiction 

It has been 8 months today since I have stopped drinking alcohol.  I feel like the pieces of my life have finally fallen into place. My baseline being with accompanying highs and lows feels manageable for the first time in my life. I no longer feel like a ticking time bomb. 

It’s almost like a switch flipped. The whole thing and the way my life and relationships fell into place is almost miraculous.

But is it a miracle? It feels like it. But when I stop to consider how this phenomenon took place it wasn’t magic. It was years of learning and work. A lot done in smaller, very memorable spurts. But it’s far from a miracle. 

As Alan Watts often said, there is no specific defining moment when an event begins. He challenged his listeners to think about when a war really begins. Or when life truly springs into action. At birth? Now of a proper embryo? When the sperm meets the egg and they mesh? Or is it at the point when there is a twinkle in the father’s eye upon seeing the female that he will procreate? 

My current sobriety journey started at some point. It was part of the plan long ago. It  has been 8 months since I have consumed alcohol. I did take Antibuse. I am on Vivitrol. I did increase my anti-anxiety medication. I did live alone for 2 months and dive headfirst into 2-3x per day sobriety meetings, visits, and activities. Those things made it easier, but the life lessons I learned through spirituality and yoga in past 6-10 years have made it so I may not have needed to start from scratch when it came to the absolutely brilliant concepts of AA where many recovering addicts learn to live a life without addictive substances. 

When I first learned some of the concepts that now use with ease, they all seemed to be “no brainers”. They were some of the most difficult and yet somehow simplest concepts to process and apply. They made sense. “Accepting life on life’s terms”. “One day at a time”. “It’s not your business what other people think about you”. “Nothing changes if nothing changes”. “If you want what you never had, you have to do what you’ve never done”. 

It was almost 10 years ago when I started to proverbially “wake up” spiritually and first began to contemplate that I’m in a participatory saga in this universe.  

This realization not being the norm, it felt jarring for a while. It wasn’t the way I knew the world to be. But it made SENSE. The world flipped on its head for me. I felt kind of lost but also curious and hopeful. 

The idea of “Let Go and Let God” wasn’t new. I went to Catholic school growing up and similar concepts were sort of beaten into my young mind. But I wasn’t taught what they truly meant or how to put them into action.  

It wasn’t until +/- 10 years ago after being divorced and seeing the world through completely different lenses which I, oddly, had difficulty adapting to, that I began to seek out spiritual living. When I listened to Podcasts on what “Faith” really meant. I realized I hadn’t really understood or practiced it. I wanted that. I wanted what people who live contently and simply had. I wanted to Let Go. I wanted Faith in something bigger than myself. 

Religion tries. Schools don’t touch it. Parents never learned it themselves. It took being downtrodden to want to seek it out. It took being curious, feeling scared, and feeling hopeless to consider a different way of looking at the world. It took having the security, intelligence and means in my life to have the luxury of exploring something else while living my current life as it was to test out different ways to approach things. 

TEST them out. Make mistakes. Try again, try something new. Watch the screw up or success. Learn and adapt. 

When I think back over the past decade, there were certain moments where I knew what was taking place was a turn off the current path and there was no road back. Unlike a highway where you can turn around, once we experience or know something; there is no way to unknow it. I am calling them Defining Moments. 

These moments were critical to me, but were any the start or even end to alcoholism? 

No doubt it all let to a more spiritual path. Everyone’s journey toward spirituality (if they get to experience it at all) is different. This was mine. 

When I first felt jarred, out of place, and not like myself – I noticed instantly. Until then I was one of the happiest people I knew. I thought this unsettling feeling would last a few hours. Then maybe a day. 

When a week passed, I realized a week had passed and I wasn’t myself again. I was worried but convinced that any day I’d snap out of it. But I didn’t. It was a time of absolute chaos. I had two tweens, two more young kids and my then fiancé at home. There were changes for everyone, not all being handled well by all the kids and more so worse with some of the adults that were throwing more difficulty at us by not adapting well in their own right and making my household even more disruptive. 

Defining Moment

I remember the very first time I used alcohol to chill out. It was a random weeknight. I picked up my kids from their father’s house. They were upstairs doing homework away from me at their desks) and I was practically home alone in a gigantic house starting dinner and anticipating the arrival of the other 3 household members to come bounding in with loud rolling backpacks, 3 dirty lunch boxes, dry cleaning and BAGs of stuff that needed to be distributed. It was around Jan or Feb 2011. I was OFF. My kids had complained to me earlier about how nothing felt normal for them. I now felt off, irritable, fearful, and uneasy for a few months on & off, but mostly ‘on’. I couldn’t take it. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that if I didn’t make dinner and just went up to my gargantuan gorgeous bedroom to cry that it would disrupt the evening, the sports schedule, homework help, and my husband’s fear that the kids won’t see us as blissfully happy, that our coming together was just all the big mistake that everyone was hoping it would be… you get it. 

With my heart beating uncontrollably in my chest, I contemplated taking a shot of hard alcohol. It worked for me once before in 2009 right before a kid’s party when someone in my life (an alcoholic at the time) gave me a shot to chill out while I ran around at the last-minute putting things together and was completely amped up. I remembered how it worked INSTANTLY. As the heat of the liquor warmed my chest cavity, I felt my nerves unpeeling and my mind slowing down that day back then. Did I really want to go down that path? 

I kept putting it out of my mind, but my mind kept bringing it up. I went over to the liquor cabinet and looked at what we had in there for hard liquor. 

At the time I enjoyed beer and wine. Perhaps a little too much, but I knew my limits and when I was hitting them. I knew how to stop. Days, weeks, and months could go by without thinking about drinking. There is a history of alcoholism in my family, and I always worried about it for myself knowing how much I enjoyed it. I had never abused it though. I never drank alone; would never even consider it.

Until now. 

I KNEW it was a bad move, but it seemed like a viable option. It would have been  viable if it had been  once every two years. But something in me knew that night that if I took a shot that it wouldn’t be the last time. 

As I stood there contemplating whether to do this dumb thing, I heard the peppers and onions I was making for fajitas sizzling in the pan behind me. It sounded like a ticking clock that was reminding me any moment the garage door would open or one of my kids would come down and I’d have to pretend I’m not disturbed and feeling the way I felt that nothing was wrong with me, and that I had an unwavering interest in everyone’s day. 

I couldn’t even tell you what it was that I took a shot of that evening. I can only tell you that it worked. I do know that it was about another week until I did that again. And probably another month or so that it became a sporadic “go to” when I was feeling so “Off” and out of control. Within a year it became the norm to open a bottle of wine before dinner and drink while cooking sometimes after a shot of hard liquor. It helped. That is the tricky thing about alcohol. When used as a medication substitute, it helps. 

It helped at the end of the day. During the day I struggled. I woke up every day with a beating heart. I still had to be “normal” though. I still had work and a house and kids to take care of. I still had to be a mom and now stepmom and think about everyone else’s well-being while my own was deteriorating. 

At the time I van-pooled to work. I loved my “vannies”. It was a welcome relief from home and work twice a day. I laughed and let loose. They were all crazy but normal. More like people I grew up with and felt comfortable with. One of the guys in the van started bible study classes after work on Thursday evenings. I couldn’t van-pool those days since the van left before the bible study began, but I decided it was worth it and drove in myself on those days. At first, I did it to support his endeavor, but I quickly grew to really enjoy talking about a bible piece and delving into a deep introspective talk about what the piece meant and how to live a spiritual life. 

Defining Moment

Not long after on Feb 28 & 29th of 2012 I took a work class off-site on “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”. My intention was to somehow be more organized and streamlined than I already was to deal with the chaos around me, but I absolutely got far more than I bargained for. 

I don’t know if the intention of the class was spiritual or not, but it was spiritual for me. It challenged me to look at the paradigm I lived in. A paradigm I had never considered to be different from anyone else’s. It challenged me to think about being intentional about what I want in my life. The treadmill I was on never allowed me time to think about what was important to me and if it would fit into my life. I just believed that if I went faster, I could fit all things in just fine (important things and things thrown at me). Just Run Faster…

Of course, I knew that wasn’t the answer but there wasn’t time to stop to do anything else. Or was there? The class had us break down where we spend our time. Work, cooking, cleaning, shopping, kid activities. No time for exercise, leisure, taking care of myself or spending quality time with anyone I loved. I often did my nails in the car before I drove to meet my vanpool so they could dry on the way to work. My hair was often wet and braided on the way to work. I was challenged to think about how these activities met my values. Wait – what were my values? How could I be 36 years old and not have thought about them before? 


I left thinking about all the habits but determined to ensure I had the four areas of Habit seven (Sharpen the Saw) in my life. Social/Emotional, Spiritual, Physical, and Mental. 

I was determined, but beaten back because I was a mom first, a wife/stepmother, and an employee. Those were what I made more important than my own needs. Too much of my time was spent in the mental arena of work and focusing on what the  important people in my life considered important, which was school and work. I wasn’t strong enough, or didn’t realize that it wasn’t selfish, to put my foot down and assert what I believed was important. I didn’t know that my body had limits and that if I didn’t take care of it that it would crash and burn. 

I began to look forward to bible study on Thursdays. It was a respite from life and a recipe for how to live. I threw myself into faith. I stopped questioning things I always questioned as a Catholic like the virgin birth or life after the cross. I just absorbed the messages and didn’t ask. 

Defining Moment

It was April 2012. My husband and I were out at our favorite watering hole having wings, pretzels, and beer with my father-in-law. I had been going to the bible study for a few months at that point and had become nostalgic for some old childhood Catholic comforts. I prayed. I read the bible. I read other religious books. I downloaded and listened to church music and found myself surprised to know I remembered the words and would often tear up thinking about all those hours in church with my blue uniform and first friends and crushes. 

That evening my father-in-law asked me if I really believed in the Catholic and Christian concepts. Of course, I didn’t really, but I wanted to; so, I said I did. He pushed in a kind way and asked me if I really, really did believe. I was drinking and I so wanted to be someone who did. Something about the drink, the atmosphere, the diametric opposites of the atmosphere of a bar while thinking about Jesus… At the moment, I felt like something in me just opened. Something about that conversation and my answers of “I don’t question” made it so. There was an actual moment where I let go and felt that I didn’t need to know the answers. All I needed to do was believe. At that moment I knew what it meant to have faith. 

Without knowing the phrase, I Let Go and  Let God. And do you know what happened when I really really really let go? A whole new world opened to me. Within a few weeks a Bishop Spong book somehow ended  up on my lap. 

Bishop Spong was a Christian Bishop who delivered the teachings of Jesus his whole career  but also secretly questioned. Post retirement he became a mystic and found religion to be allegorical. He had his own theories of how humans developed as a species, and why it was important to take the words of the bible as literal earlier on in our human years. The ideas of us as humans becoming more conscious of being conscious were new to me and absolutely fascinating.

From there I explored discovered a  world of Podcasts from the Centers for Spiritual Living  and Science of Mind. Life as I knew it flipped on its head. The bible made complete sense from a metaphorical standpoint. I stopped going to bible study because I felt in some way, I outgrew the literal interpretation of the bible  that some others were stuck on. The idea of being born again and seeing the world through different eyes was how I was experiencing life. 

The spring and summer of 2012 were when I experienced the most profound changes I had ever experienced to date  in my life, and in the shortest period. I understood things that I couldn’t before from a positively new perspective. All religions and spiritual teachings make so much sense. More importantly they seemed to all be saying the same thing. 

It sounds elementary to me now, but we really do create our own lives, and how we think about it creates our own experience. Nothing made more sense. Our universe is metaphorical. Thoughts are like seeds. You can’t plant a watermelon and expect a carrot. In the same way you can’t walk around miserable and looking at the world like it’s dangerous and then except happiness and freedom. 

One of the more difficult things for me was changing the way I thought when no one else around me was changing. I thought very highly of the people that surrounded me in various ways until I realized most of them were living on a treadmill like I had been. I was so excited to get off and slow down, but they weren’t. I still had to live and work in the same paradigm. I tried to get others off too, but I sounded like a crazy person. Others agreed and had long deep spiritual talks with me, but then walked away and did the same things they were doing before. 

???

I felt alone.

So, I’d drink and read about other people who were experiencing the same thing. 

At the end of 2012 as the holidays approached, I was looking for gifts that would provide experiences rather than more “stuff”. I looked into the adult education programs in my town and aside from ballroom dancing for my husband and I, I decided to sign up for an 8-week yoga class starting the next January as a nice way to kick off the new year. 

I’d only tried yoga a handful of times before either in classes or on my own with videos. But something inside me always knew that yoga was going to be part of my life in a more meaningful way. Just the word itself when hearing it for 30+ years of my life invoked some kind of knowing inside of me. I never disliked it; I just didn’t understand it. I had danced for 10  years and had always been flexible, so I really did not feel anything by doing it. I loved Savasana, lying in stillness, at the end, but often got up from that part because I was always so busy, and it felt like a waste of time. Surprisingly, after just one class, I understood.  Don’t let anyone tell you that an instructor can’t make a difference! Even more surprisingly, not long after I started going to yoga, I realized it had the same effect as drinking. I felt calm, slower, more in control. 

I’d leave yoga class and come home to chaos. It was so jarring and shocking to go from one world to another. How did I deal with it? Wine of course. 

Wine, yoga, and spirituality through podcasts, books and web searches helped me to stay sane. 

Until 2016 when I started yoga teacher training. I loved yoga by that point. I recognized the mind/body/soul connection. I wanted to do it more. I didn’t realize until teacher training how spiritual and deep it actually was. On day 1 of training, I met my two teachers. They were so open about their depression and anxiety. I admired their openness and willingness to share their own foibles. 

It wasn’t until a month and a half later, while thinking about a stressful work event two-day safter it had happened, while driving to work, that I had my first panic attack. It was then that I realized the “Off” feeling I had had for the past several years and for  I was abusing alcohol over, was anxiety. 

It took a few subsequent panic attacks within the next few weeks to realize this was anxiety. Holy cow – I had anxiety! Real clinical anxiety. I wanted help for that, but I did not want to have a mental health diagnosis on my record to get medication for it. I was confused. I talked to the yoga teacher that had anxiety about it and unprompted she shared that while she herself wasn’t on medicine, she did know it was a much faster way to get things under control. She gave no advice but did give me some things to contemplate. I read through forums and decided that the people who took medicine and felt better shared that it was more important to feel like themselves than to have any silly perceived stigmatized thoughts about being on medication .

I read and considered my options carefully for a few weeks while having more and more panic attacks before making an appointment with my PCP.  I started Lexapro. I did not stop drinking. It helped. 

There are no miracle drugs either. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds do not instantly work. You must start with really low doses until your body adjusts and eventually learn at what dose you feel normal again. This can take anywhere from weeks to months. I started this crazy mix in March of 2016.

By May of 2016 I just couldn’t go through the motions any longer. At the point in my “career” I was serious about work and loved it. I had fun there while learning new things nearly all the time. I had been in my job for 14 years and knew almost everyone who worked in my very large organization. I felt respected by most people. I had mentored a few dozen employees in an official capacity and many others sought my professional advice outside of an official mentor/mentee relationship. 

Almost overnight that love of work shifted. Suddenly, I couldn’t imagine spending the remainder of life waking up early every morning, donning a monkey suit, and getting in the metal box/trap called my car to commute anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes to work. I was no longer vanpooling because my drive home often involved picking up multiple kids and a dog which at times meant I got home nearly two hours after walking out of the office (in a complete rush of course). 

Honestly, looking back, it was the drama in my home at the end of the day that  was the catalyst that caused the most stress. Nonsensical first world drama that wasn’t exactly aligned with my beliefs but was brought into my house by divorce and blending two very different families.  Beyond the drama, there were responsibilities that required my time and attention but didn’t align with my priorities or values.  

I loved everyone I lived with. I wanted to support them. I wanted to be a team player. But I just couldn’t do it all. The obvious thing to cut back on seemed to be work. I made much less money than my husband. If I cut back to part time, our expenses would decrease by that amount of my half time salary. My ex had moved to another state. My husband traveled often, as did his ex-wife. This left me mostly in charge of logistics of four teenagers. Work outside the home suddenly had no appeal. 

I was exhausted. I was burnt out to the max supporting things that didn’t align with my values,  for kids who had no appreciation for the amount of time, money and effort it required to keep it up.

I had always been a natural organizer. I always had dinners planned, food stocked and prepped, clothes washed and ready for the week. Events were organized on a calendar with duties known ahead of time. I talked to my kids weekly about what to expect and how to help out. But that all went to the wayside when I got remarried. At first it wasn’t that bad. But as the kids grew older and became busier, the chaos took over. 

 I didn’t even know what was going on week to week. Daily there were unexpected events that I should have known about, that affected my time and what I had planned. I couldn’t get others to cooperate and help us stay. My husband’s ex seemed to thrive on chaos and take delight in disrupting any attempt at organization  We failed to establish any boundaries about what we would and wouldn’t do. Our lives and our scheduled seemed out of control and at the whim of people outside our family who didn’t care and refused to collaborate.

The Lexapro helped. Weekly therapy was ok. Yoga was a reprieve. The drinking continued. I’m not sure it was helping any longer, but it was now a habit that I didn’t want to let go. I leaned on it as my evening wind-down. Some days it was all I had to look forward to and when I had to wait to have a drink because of nonstop evening driving activities, it made me even crankier. 

I had written a few blogs by that point. Once I started Lexapro, I decided I didn’t want to keep it a secret. I couldn’t handle my life any longer. I couldn’t work full time, let alone mentor others. I cut back to part-time. I stopped teaching a topic at work (Facilitation) that I had once been over-the-top passionate about. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Everything I thought I knew about myself had flipped. My belief system had turned on its head and no one understood what I was talking about. I felt like the crazy person that was now documented in my medical charts who needed medicine. I was lost. 

What felt good about this particular time – when I came clean about not being able to handle life and needing medicine, was  that I felt loved. People I liked or mentored were surprised and almost happy that I wasn’t a walking miracle, that my  social media posts weren’t the whole story. I felt support like I never had before. Others told me for the first time in my life that they related to my stories and thought I was brave sharing. Me? Brave? 

I’d heard successful, friendly, helpful, lucky… but never brave. Those other things were fluff. They were what I thought I wanted and showed to the world. But the hardest and most brave thing was to be vulnerable. 

In that time – from 2012 to 2016 I was inundated with stress and immersed in spirituality tools, breathing techniques, movements, therapies, meditations, mantras, mudras, pranayama, etc. It was all so new. It made sense. But when I needed it, I couldn’t remember to use anything I knew would work. I’d just spiral into panic. I felt like a failure in some way for not being able to remember these simple tools, but yoga teacher training helped me to realize I’m human and that it could take up to 12 years to change a habit.

12 years??? 

Yes, 12 years. 

That’s pretty  stinking disappointing huh? 

I didn’t like that idea, but after learning much about it and why; it made sense to me, and I accepted that truth.  

Defining Moment

May 2017. I’ve written about it before. I realized I might have PTSD from a history of childhood abuse. It was late in the evening at a 50-hour mandated reporter course I was required to  take to teach  yoga in Connecticut  Domestic Violence shelters. There was a slide up on the screen that described  ME. 

Could I have PTSD? I never considered it before. That was something only war vets had. But that slide described ME. And it was the result of child abuse. It was an “Ah Hah” moment. 

At  that  point it was over a year since I began anti-anxiety meds. I was now working part-time. I was allowing myself to slow down and think. And to feel. Feel all the emotions that I never had time to process. 

That summer I had a major emotional breakdown in mid-July where I decided to admit myself to an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). I used FMLA and spent a month traveling to the Institute of Living in Hartford, CT for four days per week to immerse myself in healthy mental environment with others like me: professionals who chose to spend time at such a place. 

I was unable to attend the program without having to quit alcohol for at least a week before the start and for the duration of the program. UGH. At first, I told the admissions area I didn’t think I could do that. They told me if I could not quit, I would have to go into the sister IOP for addiction. I couldn’t be labeled an addict – so I quit. 

It was at the IOP where I was officially diagnosed with PTSD. During my time there I learned another host of tools for my proverbial toolbox to help deal with overwhelming emotions and breakdowns.  The tools were very yoga-like. They were called different things, had differences of course; but the intention and underlying process was similar.  The more I learned the same types of things the more they made sense and the more I believed they could work. 

The last week or so of the program when I knew I wouldn’t be tested for drinking, I started to drink again. As much as before, even though I knew I didn’t need to and felt quite amazing without doing so. I didn’t want to quit. I rather liked drinking. I loved the taste, the smell, how it accompanied my food. I loved going to wineries and  breweries with my husband. I loved everything about it. 

That fall I began advanced yoga teacher training and delved even more deeply into spiritual practices, tools and beliefs that were aimed at serenity and peace. I found a therapist that spoke my language. The day I walked into her office she had a Pema Chodron quote on the wall, a jiggle jar on the coffee table and gave me a handout on the Ego vs Higher Self. Finally! A person that related to the way I was learning to deal with the world! 

You’d think all these things would help right? Every Monday I had yoga teacher training all day and would spend that night in Branford alone. As I learned all these healthy messages and things I started to practice, my mind was adjacently taken over with thoughts of alcohol. Where I would buy the wine, what kind I could buy. Should I buy it? I was learning all these healthy things, so why would I poison myself? There was an invisible angel on one shoulder and devil on the other. Every week it was going to be the last week and that next Monday I would quit. I graduated the program in June of 2018, but that “Monday” never came” 

Defining Moment 

There was an infamous incident in July 1993 that was equally as traumatizing as most of my childhood but changed the course of how it was dealt with. Every summer I had a mini break down, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 – exactly 25 years later that I realized a pattern.

Once again, I had a mid-July breakdown. This time the police were involved. This time my husband and I lived apart for a few weeks and I made time for mental health. I realized I had to quit drinking because these incidences were alcohol related. I had a problem with alcohol. I said the words for the first time in an email to my husband. I am an alcoholic. I quit on 7/13/18. 

A few days later I had a another defining moment. I was coming home from a mental health appointment to the house in Branford where I was staying alone. One of my neighbors walked up to my car when I got out to tell me that she really enjoyed my blogs. She said she didn’t realize that it was panic attacks she had been having until she read what I was describing. 

She was NOT the first person to tell me that. I didn’t understand. Once I started thinking about my panic attacks, I realized that I knew they were coming from a mile away.  Everyone else who had them seemed surprised by them.  I was not. As I once told my previous therapist (one of the many I didn’t connect with); I almost welcomed the panic attack. It was such a relief of emotion that I felt build up. It was a way to purge. That therapist said that was “interesting”, gave me a funny look and wrote something down on her legal pad. To me it sounded normal, obviously to her it was not.

But that day when my neighbor approached me, it was kind of like the final straw of needing to wonder why I was different. A few minutes after going into my house, in a very actualized moment; I realized I felt panic rising ahead of time because I was triggered. I was triggered because I had PTSD. It took over a year, but I finally understood what having PTSD really meant. 

I was so excited that I broke out a flip chart and stickie notes (my problem-solving skills from my facilitation days) and started to think about all the instances where I broke down and what I felt. Then I thought about where those feelings were coming from and how they related to childhood. Within 2-3 hours I had a list of my triggers and where they came from. It was an exhausting but very exhilarating day. I felt like I unlocked a key piece to my being that I didn’t even know was there. 

Liberating. 

That helped. But it wasn’t a miracle. I immersed myself in DBT (one of the therapies I learned at the IOP). I immersed myself with yogic practices. I was sober. I was picking up on my triggers about 50% of the time. When I didn’t, much of the time I knew how to stop the cascade. I was starting to heal from trauma I didn’t even know was there for more than 40 years. 

I started having an occasional glass of wine about 6 weeks after I quit. For several months I drank once a week or less. And never more than 2 glasses. I didn’t want anymore and didn’t miss it when I didn’t drink. 

Life went on. The holidays came. Drinking was involved in everything, everywhere. All the time. I imbibed. By mid-January 2019 I was drinking every day again. 

At this point I had a lot of tools to lean on. I used them. It wasn’t always perfect. I had little flare-ups but was able to reel them back in and come back to stability. 

For the next two years that was my life. Drinking daily, earlier, and earlier in the day as COVID came around. Occasional flare ups while drinking with the ability to reel myself back in. 

I finally came around to being able to use what I had been learning, but at this point I was an alcoholic who desired to stop drinking, intended to; but never could last more than a few weeks at a time when I did try. 

Then this last February 8, 2021 came around. It was a Monday. I was off from work, and I started drinking early in the day. I won’t get into the specifics of the day but there was a cascade of triggers from early on. At a point in the evening when I should have left, there was nowhere to go. Life was closed due to COVID, and I couldn’t drive to some secluded area because I was inebriated. I had a breakdown. A bad one. Police were involved again. I couldn’t come down from panic and was taken to the ER at Yale.

While I laid in the gurney in the middle of the night in the middle of the hallway at Yale for HOURS, I thought about how I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been drinking for nearly 12 hours straight. I had to quit. I was an alcoholic. 

Most days when I watched Days of Our Lives (my beloved Soap Opera) through an app on the 
Smart TV I had to watch ads. There was this ad for Aware Recovery Care that came on a few times a day. This program explained that they come into the client’s home “Where Addiction Lives” to help addicts recover in their own environment amongst their own particular lives.  Each day as I sat there to watch this soap with a freshly chilled bottle of Chardonnay, I would silently think about calling that program at some time in the near future. If I couldn’t quit on my own. I should be able to quit on my own. “Today” was going to be the last day. 

Today was every day. Tomorrow never came. 

I looked up Aware Recovery Care on my phone at midnight on the gurney in the ER hallway and inquired about their services online. The next day while I was in court Aware Recovery called me back and I set up an appointment that same evening for a telephone intake. That Friday I met my care team and I’ve been sober ever since.

Naturally they came in and at me armed with tools and ideas and quirky slogans. I had heard most of them before. I had been getting pretty good at implementing them. The only thing standing in my way of fully immersing was alcohol. When I was drinking and I was triggered, I did not recognize triggers. Or if I rarely did or was told – I didn’t care. It was in the way of my life.  

In February this year I jumped in with two feet/full body; and used everything at my disposal that was recommended. Aware came in for visits 4x a week at first. I had appointments with 2 different therapists (my previous therapist I held onto as well as an addiction counselor) and a psychiatrist for my meds. I went to AA once or twice a day at first. I went to group appointments. I attended online meetings for trauma. I pulled out my old DBT workbook. I started Antabuse (which makes you violently ill if you drink) as well as Vivitrol (curbs cravings). I upped my anti-anxiety meds. I did EMDR and LOVED it. 

I’ve been healthy ever since. 

I am still with Aware Recovery and down to one weekly visit. I canned the Antabuse (my skin breaking out very badly) and still go for a monthly Vivitrol shot. I can easily remember all the quirky slogans, sayings, tools, reminders, and breath techniques, when I need them. I know the feelings I have as I am having them, and I will pull back and slow down or walk away. It’s easy. It seems like a miracle. My entire life is the same, but everything has fallen into place. Nothing has changed, except my reaction to things. 

But is it a miracle? No. 

It’s been years of learning. Not just passive learning. I have been actively seeking out tools and methods and trying very hard to put what is needed in place. Nothing about it was easy. People at AA have said they don’t believe me when I say I am not having cravings and I feel happy and healthy. They don’t know my story. They might have learned life skills at AA and feel it saved them and I’m just a newcomer who thinks she knows it all. AA is great. But AA’s tools are the same things that I have been striving to master for a very long time. I’m finally getting the hook of it. No miracles. 

Today is 8 months since I quit drinking. But it has been more than 10 years that I have been working at building mental stability for myself. It’s been 10 years since I ever needed it. 

My divorce and subsequent remarriage shook me up and stirred up emotions and trauma I didn’t know I had. I was on such a great path before all this, but I was done growing. I needed a good shake up to grow deeper. I learned so much about myself and people in the last 11 years. I know that this is what I needed. 

Bringing my addiction back to my Alan Watts reference in the beginning of this blog, I must wonder… when did the addiction actually begin? When I started drinking every day? When I had that shot in the early months of 2011 while making dinner? Or before that when circumstances led me to believe that a shot would help? Or during my childhood when the trauma started? 

When did my recovery begin? Was it in February? Or did it start when I began seeking out help for overwhelming emotions even before my body was physically addicted? 

I am also not blind and do realize I can be hit with something tomorrow and be right back to square one in a New York second. I hope not, and I hope all I have learned will kick in and keep me on the good path. I need new habits of a constant check in. I need to continually assess myself and ensure my environment is not triggering. It can’t always be helped, but if it can I will do everything in my power to ensure my mental health is my #1 priority. 

I hope I’m not done learning. I don’t want or need such a big shake up again, but I do want to keep having “Ah Hah” moments. I hope to continue to be amazed at how sensible and deep little things are that sages and very normal people before us has passed down as wisdom. 

It’s been a journey. Some of it wonderful, other parts absolutely horrific. It spanned the range of the highest highs and lowest lows. I loved it all. It’s life. Beautiful, messy, organized, ugly. It all belongs and accepting that it ALL belongs makes it all the sweeter. 

On Quitting the Drink

I haven’t read it, but there is a book named “Alcohol Lied to Me”. I love the title because it holds true. The stuff is just a lie.

I’ve been meaning to blog a piece about alcohol, but I’m a newbie to sobriety and I don’t feel seasoned enough to give advice or proclaim victory. What I do know is that my life and every experience I have had has changed and I have no desire to feel the way I used to.

Tonight I’m sailing with my husband Daren. Around 4pm we both started getting hungry. Daren suggested some appetizers. He went down below and a few minutes later appeared with a gorgeous spread of cheeses, olives, crackers, pate, hummus and roasted bell peppers.

I cracked open a Diet Coke and took a bite of the manchego cheese. Oh my goodness- it was so good! It is the same brand we often purchase, but depending on the temperature and sliced thickness it always tastes somehwhat different. Tonight it was slightly nutty and had a melt in the mouth kind of consistency. I took a sip of my soda and sampled the gruyere.

It’s been a while since I’ve marveled at the fact that I experience eating in a totally different way since I’ve quit the drink. It’s been 6 months and 2 weeks since my last sip of a spirit and shocking to what was my old self 6 and a half months ago would have believed, I miss absolutely nothing about it.

I would not have even wanted appetizers if we didn’t have wine on board. Not that there was a chance akin to the possibility of an ice cube surviving in hell that I wouldn’t have ensured there was at least a month supply for a small army on board before leaving the dock.

For a long few years before I quit, there was hardly a food that I wouldn’t want without wine or beer. White wine particularly was my vice. Chilled white wine. It made EVERYTHING taste better. It soothed my nerves. It made me relaxed. It made me funnier. I didn’t have a problem. I didn’t do anything dangerous. I just really really loved wine and beer. I could quit anytime I want to. I often did. I went back because I missed the taste. My food wasn’t the same without it. I didn’t relax the same. I could quit. I could…

Right?

Haha. So wrong. So so very wrong.

I quit at least every two months or so and actually didn’t drink for a few days. But then there was a celebration, a party, a fun dinner with friends, a romantic dinner with the hubby, a stressful day. Trump said something offensive. I had a good show to kick back with. My soap opera was on. It was Tuesday.

There was always a reason. I was always wound up. I “quit” for a few days every few months but honestly I tried to quit every day. Every single night I went to bed feeling like crap and wishing I didn’t drink. Every morning I woke up feeling determined to quit. I’d meditate on it. I’d write love notes to my later day self about how good I feel and why it’s a bad idea. By 9am each day I would decide that ‘today’ would be my last day and begin planning when to start drinking for the day- when to chill the wine and what I would eat with it. It was downhill from there. It was the same sad ass story every day. By mid afternoon I wrestled with why I even felt guilty. I rationed how every single last person around me drinks daily too. I convinced myself I was normal and craving alcohol was just a normal part of life. I loved it. But I hated it.

Six months after my last gulp I am 100% in the know about how unbelievably wrong I was. Wrong about every last “good” or “normal” thing I attributed to alcohol.

Like the book I didn’t read’s title states “Alcohol Lied to Me”. Food is sooooo much better without it. I don’t even know if I had taste buds with it. I have the ability to realize I’m full and stop eating. When I drank I thought I was enjoying food and wanted more because it was so good. I believed that lie too. I already passed the honeymoon phase of realizing this. Tonight I just happened to remember and feel a bit marveled by how duped I was.

I am now way more relaxed. Somehow nothing, even stressful events bother me like they used to. Food is better. Nothing in my life has changed. I have the same life with the same good, bad and ugly parts. I just feel differently about them and can embrace whatever it is. I now have experienced what I knew before but never practiced, that all those cliche sayings comparable to “this too shall pass” or the Serenity Prayer are really true. It all passes. Like the weather in New England. If you don’t like it, just wait a few minutes. If you do, don’t be too excited. Enjoy it but be prepared for it to change without warning.

I’m in no way cuter, smarter, funnier, braver or more honest when drinking. I might be. But I slur my words, think hurtful things are funny, and lose the filter of “Is it True/Kind/Necessary” in light of ‘Being Honest”. If my mood isn’t good I could be a bitch. I make really stupid decisions and I often regret things that I would have absolutely not done if sober. Why would I put this poison in my body that turns me into a kookie alter ego?

Because alcohol lies. Because it’s a chemical that makes you crave it. It’s almost like a host body that needs more to keep the host alive. It took me as it’s servant. Everyone else is doing it too. They are actually jumping off the proverbial bridge.

A book I did read that made an enormous difference is “The Naked Mind” by Annie Grace. It inspired me to quit about a year and a half before I was ready too. A huge point the author makes is that it is easy if you look at it as a positive in your life.

I wasn’t ready to do that at the time but I understood the message. I might never have been ready unless I hit bottom the way I unwilling did this year on 2/8/21. While laying out on a gurney in the hallway for hours in the middle of the night at the ER, I knew it was time. Episodes like that one were far and few between, but one is too many. People who don’t drink would never end up in that kind of situation.

I didn’t want to be one of those people. I didn’t want to want something bad for me anymore. I didn’t want it to be that there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell that I would leave a dock on a boat without knowing that alcohol will be with me. It seemed normal at the time, but there is absolutely, positively nothing normal about that. That feeling is the sign of a problem. It’s so common we rationalize it.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be free from the grip of believing a drink makes anything, even temporarily better. My intellect knew it, but until I did it and embraced that I wasn’t missing out on anything, I didn’t want to believe it.

I am happier. I still dance around and act like my clown self. I am missing out on NOTHING worthwhile. I am missing out on 18lbs, a lighter wallet, stupid decisions, regrets, headaches, cravings and obsession with what I will eat and drink next. Good riddance!!!

That is how I feel 6 months in. I hope to continue. I have plenty of AA people warning me to be careful. It scares me enough to not be cocky about it and stay the path. But I do want to share that it’s wonderful and if you even think for a moment you might have a problem, then you do. If you wonder if you can say goodbye to it forever and feel good about it, I’m telling you from a very little bit of experience that you can.

Alcohol lies. Sober is the new cool. I love everything about quitting the drink.

On Being Middle Aged

When I was a teenager, then a twenty something; I thought middle age or (gasp) older was absolutely an dreadful place to be. Like many younger adults I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I knew better. I was always right. I did things the best way. Older people were out of touch.

I don’t want to be younger, nor do I look back at my own life or the younger beings around me with envy. I like where I am. I will even go the mat and say I think middle aged is the best part of life. After the crisis part of course. If you are “lucky” enough to have a mid life crisis at all.

I’m 45. To some that sounds like “only 45?” and to others that might sound like “45??? Gulp”.

The crisis was the worst/best part of coming to terms with life on life’s terms and with who I am. Not everyone will have one, and many who do have one will not change. With that aside, I believe that even without one; mid life is an awesome part of life.

The best thing is a combination of experience and health. If you reasonably take care of yourself, you can be fairly healthy during mid life. With almost 30 years of driving and workplace experience, these years are a sweet spot of cruising with confidence through otherwise tricky or unknown areas. No major physical decline yet combined with good reflexes, memory, and ability to pick up and respond to life’s surroundings.

By middle age most people (not all of course) are financially comfortable. Less worries about paying bills, less interest in having more, staying fashionable or climbing the ladder. It allows me to live and work with comfort. I’m old enough to be taken seriously, experienced enough to understand life/work dynamics, and still young enough to switch in a dime to learn new programs, policies, software, phone apps…

Aside from my far sightedness slightly declining each year at my annual Optometry visit, I’m in the best physical health of my life. I’ve learned to make sleep important, exercise a routine part of life, and to make wise food decisions for the sake of my health.

Mental hygiene takes a front place as well. I’m no longer embarrassed about having human responses to stress and pressure, so I don’t pretend they don’t exist and take an active stance in dealing with those types of things. I no longer view self care or down time as a reward or something for others, but a necessity to keep myself fresh, in good health and useful to society.

Speaking of embarrassment, caring about what other people think just isn’t a thing anymore. I’m not afraid to be myself or of failing. I know it’s a part of life and if anyone else judges that, it’s none of my business. As long as my intentions are pure I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. I enjoy realizing when I messed up or was wrong and it feels good to acknowledge that to myself and others.

I have enough years of cooking experience to cobble things together from my pantry that taste phenomenal. I try all kinds of art projects I would have felt like a poser to attempt. I love the way I dress, decorate, garden, clean, cook, love others, and live my life. I have go-to recipes, outfits, and ways to entertain that work. I am comfortable with the skills I have and know my limitations on the skills I do not. I am so ok with what I lack. No one can have all they want.

In taking risks, I am excited to try new things. What is the worst thing if I don’t like it? I just won’t do it again.

I believe I can now live life with a good balance of safety and risk. Being young is often accompanied by an irrational idea of invincibility. I see many older people living with too much fear of too many things. I might get to that point too, but at this point I know I do not like the way fear feels. It makes me feel small and trapped rather than safe. Instead of succumbing to it, I live safely in my actions but am courageous enough to push through what a rational mind knows will be ok. That wasn’t the experience in my younger days!

There is so much more to say, but I’ll stop here. Honestly the mid life crisis and coming into what Richard Rohr calls “the second half” is what got me to a really beautiful place where acceptance of what is, is how I want to live life. It was about 8-10 years of chaos, and something for another blog.

I do not know better. I am absolutely not always right. There are so many ways to do things and different ways work for different folks. Older people have wisdom and our elders are our teachers.

So, I will ride the tides and adjust the sails instead of fighting the waves and expecting days of perfection. And I will enjoy this moment that will too pass where I am grateful to be healthy and middle aged.

Namaste.

On Crossing the Line

I stayed up late a few nights this week binge watching the Dirty John series while knitting or painting. Last night I was up long past midnight finishing the second season which told the Betty Broderick story. I can’t stop thinking about human nature and what it means to cross the line and go crazy this morning.

Is there any point where we can understand how an otherwise rational human being can “go crazy”?  

What does “going crazy” mean? Where is the line? 

Things that are invisible are difficult to quantify but we all understand them. Depending on our own experiences and how much we have been “pushed”, we often empathize or judge. How we have been treated and our own life experiences will so very likely dictate how we will respond to and sympathize with others. 

Unfortunately it takes pain and suffering to understand pain and suffering. I personally think it’s an Achilles heel to have a charmed life or to be given more than the basics. A person who has charm or has been given ‘things’ believes they understand everyone else. But they will never know they really have no idea and even more unfortunately it is those very same people who end up in positions of power and judgement over the rest. 

Generally, the rest of the people are trapped whether or not they know it. Whether or not they know it, they are being imperceptibly challenged for being born into their circumstance. This is undetectably mentally draining and creates indiscernible anger and resentment. Most people are completely unaware of their anger and resentment because they have lived with it so long, it is part of their baseline being. 

What percentage of society is walking around like this? Ticking time bombs being quietly pushed to their limits. When someone does go off, it is those who are walking around just like them that understand that it is inevitable. The ‘charmed’ who don’t understand judge, make the rest feel worse for their unwanted circumstance. So the time bomb groups tiptoe even lighter, creating even more fuel for what will be an inevitable match somewhere on their path unless they happen to get lucky. Like a minefield in a war. 

This morning I couldn’t help but do an Internet search about the Betty Broderick story. Her children are split on whether or not she should be released. Written about two of her 4 children when they testified regarding her parole as recent as 2017 “On one hand, Lee [Kathy Lee] argued her mother could live her life “outside prison walls” while Dan argued Betty was “hung up on justifying what she did.”

The show presented reactions from the public at the end of Betty’s first trial. So many women empathized and understood her. It’s not surprising to me that her children’s gender’s fit the bill of bias when advocating for/against her parole. I was painting and not looking up at the moment, but it sounded like a black male defending how far a person could be pushed before we can completely understand them snapping. 

I don’t want to be stereotypical but I am going to be for a moment. This doesn’t apply to all – but a person with an outward appearance of a white male will likely be the least sympathetic. Why? Because as a whole, white males experience the least prejudice and push back from society. I’m going to also be a little presumptuous here. White males in general have it easy. They are generally trusted. Have almost nothing to fear while walking down most streets. Have not been looked at suspiciously or accused of using their sexuality. Are not thought of as weak. They are treated with respect by most of society just for being white and male. So throughout history when opportunities arose and a white male is in the running they have been given opportunities because they seemed like no brainers. More so than any other type of person, a white male will have it easier than a female or individual with a different skin color in the same exact circumstances. 

In Betty’s case, such a man can cheat in a marriage, call their spouse ‘crazy’, and be believed and able to carry on successfully with confidence throughout and after a divorce. 

I’m surprised more women and nonwhite males aren’t crazier and angrier. 

I am completely aware that this story told for the sake of entertainment. But the writers and producers are artists. Art as part of the humanities is a luxury because it allows us time to think and contemplate. Like a piece of static visual art, there is more often than not a deep story way below the surface.  

I’ve also been binging Call the Midwife before taking a brief break this week for Dirty John. How is it that we put a man on the moon before figuring out solid contraception in a marriage without condoms?  Condoms were mostly reliable yes, but most married men at the time thought it their right to not wear one. Women were trapped until very recently in history by unwanted pregnancies. 

How in the world did we make homosexuality a crime? How could a homosexual possibly have felt comfortable in their skin when their very being was criminal and thought to be cured with some treatment? 

And racism… Enough said there. 

How could anyone not feel ‘less than’, manipulated, and put into a small box? How could these parties possibly spread their wings and contribute to their fullest potential in making our world a better place?

Betty Broderick thought she was part of a couple hood where her role was to raise the family and not spread her own wings but share on the ride of her husband’s flight. Very few people want to ride on someone else’s coat tails unless they have no way to make it on their own. Those of us who can make it on our own but decide to support someone else who has a better opportunity (historically the white heterosexual male) will always feel like they had more to give but were stymied. When that is taken away – when someone gave up their own livelihood for someone else, and then that person took what they helped that person to get away from them… I get it. I get the anger, frustration, rage… 

But how does one express that without crossing the line? 

What is the line? 

Because someone crossed it, if we forgive them does it mean we make it alright and they believe it will be ok to cross it again? 

Who are we protecting on the other side? 

Does the person on the other side really need protection? 

Who were the laws created for? 

Why are they changing now? 

Why aren’t we thinking about preventing some of these human reactions? 

If we are all equal as a species, then we should listen to those in low places as much as anyone else and hear where we are going wrong. Because somehow, we are getting it wrong or the jails wouldn’t be full, there wouldn’t be cities and towns where anyone would not want to walk, and every person would feel full and safe when they laid their head to sleep. 

The term “crossing the line” carries many meanings and applies to so many situations. In my own food for thoughts this morning I am relating it to human limits in ordinary situations in the first world. 

And that’s all I wanted to write about that. Just some thoughts from the crazy side out here. 

Namaste. 

The Chakras and Lent – Weeks 5-7

We are a product of nature. The things we do, the thoughts we have, and the habits we gain or lose mimic the physical world around us.

I would liken trying to do something or working toward a goal to climbing a mountain. At first it is very difficult. The road is all uphill. Once you reach the top you can pause and take inventory of what is around you. The road down is easy and faster.

I have really, really, really slacked on the past few weeks of keeping up with the 7 weeks of lent. I posted the last blog for the 4thweek and the heart chakra 11 days ago already. Palm Sunday is only 4 days away.

I have been blogging about the journey toward shedding old habits for lent and relating the journey to opening the 7 chakras during this 7-week period; while on my own sobriety journey.

While the chakras themselves are aligned from dense to light, so is the work. The motivation varies. My writing has reflected the motivation. I can explain further.

At first when making the firm decision to give something up like many Christians do for lent, there is a lot of motivation to do this. The will is there and it is something we think about constantly. As we start up a long mountain road one step at a time, it seems like a really huge task that will require a lot of work to get to the other side. Each step feels momentous.

As we continue up the mountain and toward the habit we can see the progress, but the road ahead is still long. 

As the weeks go on, the actually shedding of the habit could be as difficult as the start of the journey up the mountain. At some point we reach the top and are able to look around and see the beauty of our work. But it is not over – we still need to go back down. Going back is so much faster and easier. 

I took most of this time to get to the summit. 

Last weekend my husband came over to where I am staying. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 6 weeks. We talked and caught up on all that we have missed. We enjoyed one another’s company. We went out for dinner and had tapas. We had breakfast the next morning and we spent much of Sunday talking and walking the dog. We decided to put our rings back on and see where the next few months takes us. We will continue to live apart and came up with a living arrangement that works for the both of us. I’m excited about this journey with him. As excited as I have been about my own individual recovery. 

From that point the last few days have seemed easier. Akin to coming down the mountain. I’ve slept better than I have in over a month. I’m more focused. I’m more determined than ever to stay on this new path. I’m on the other side of the mountain now. It is a new place I have not seen before. I do not know what it will bring or what other mountains I need to climb, but I’m excited and I really don’t want to know. Discovery is part of the fun. 

To wrap up this chakra series I will write about the last 3 in one blog. 

The 5th Chakra is Vishuddhi. It is also known as the throat chakra. It is blue and located in the region of the throat. 

The 6th Chakra is Ajna. It is known as the Third Eye. It is Indigo or in some places it is shown as violet. This chakra is located right between the eyebrows. One of my teachers often quotes that we have two eyes to look out, and one to look in. 

The 7th Chakra is Sahasrara or the Crown chakra. Depending on what material you read this chakra is violet, white or crystal – meaning it contains all the colors of the spectrum. It is located at the top of the head. 

The three below symbols are in order from 5, 6, and 7. I painted these in January of this year.

Throat chakra 

In this area we use our voice. We speak up and communicate what we believe in. Similar to the Root Chakra, the triangle points upwards. In this location it symbolizes “the gathering of knowledge toward enlightenment”. The Vishuddhi chakra has 16 petals. There are also 16 vowels in Sanskrit. The number of petals symbolize the light, breathy sounds of vowels and liken this to the quality of air.

The element associated with Vishuddhi is air. We communicate through air either through voice, audibly with vibrational or radio waves, written language that see with our eyes through the medium of air, or even telepathy. 

The throat chakra is associated with truth, self-expression and communication. Communication not only with others, but within toward our own self and our higher power. When in balance it is easier to communicate with others and to be honest with ourselves. When this chakra is not in balance, we may experience a communication breakdown. We may not be able to allow ourselves to be effectively heard or able to really listen to others or our own higher self. All that passes through this area can either help or hinder the opening of this area be it love and truth or lying, gossip, smoking, drugs and overeating. 

Third Eye

The seat of intuition. The downward facing triangle here “represents the knowledge and lessons of the lower six chakras being gathered and expanded into your divine consciousness” There are only two petals on this symbol Lens Eye writesthis “ transparent lotus flower with two white petals, [is] said to represent the nadis (psychic channels) Ida and Pingala, which meet the central Sushumna nadi before rising to the crown chakra, Sahasrara” These two nadis from my understanding are major energy changes that run through the body. They are similar to the Yin Yang in that Pingala contains Yang qualities and Ida contains Yin qualities. They help to keep us in balance. 

The element associated with the Ajna chakra is ether. Or space. Or Light. It is something lighter than air that connects us all with one another and the unseen. It is an element that remains more of a mystery because we know it is there but it’s not as tangible as the others. This element and the third eye are the gateway between the known and unknown.

The qualities of this chakra are intuition, inspiration and inner vision. When in balance we are able to trust our intuition and tap into our creative imagination. When out of balance it may be difficult to channel our energy toward goals.

Crown Chakra 

The Sahasrara Chakra is the divine connection to all that is. The circle holds the risen energy and there are innumerable petals of the lotus. 

There is no element associated with this chakra. It is pure consciousness. 

The qualities of the Crown Chakra are divinity and limitless wisdom. It helps us to recognize our true nature and our connection to all that is. When in balance we are able to connect with the world around us and partake in the serene understanding that we are all one. When out of balance it is difficult to see through the chatter of the mind and we may be consumed with the accumulation of stuff and other distracting activities that cut us off from our true nature and connection to everything else. 

Similar to Maslow’s triangle, the top is smaller and easier to transverse. The qualities associated with the upper chakras are where we begin to understand ourselves and how we fit into the universe and can use our gifts to aid in it. At the top part of the Hierarchy of Needs we find, morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of the facts. 

It is if all the chakras are clear and the connection from the base of our humanity is directly in contact with the celestial world where we accept things as they are and use our tools and gifts to navigate the cosmic waves. 

I love this quote. We cannot control the sea, but we can control what we do in it. Once we accept the world as it is and people as they are, we can learn to use our own tools to not be afraid and navigate with ease. 

I have been writing about the koshas for the past several weeks. The 5th and inner most kosha is the Anandamaya kosha. It is known as the “bliss body” or the “bliss sheath”. It is where we connect to our higher self that is always here within us in a central, calm, harmonious state. This serene, still place cannot be affected by outer circumstances. 

All three of the higher chakras (throat, third eye and crown) are associated with the Anandamaya kosha. 

Only the Throat chakra and the Third eye have seed mantras. 

The Crown chakra’s sound is silence. 

The seed mantra for the Vishuddhi chakra is HAM.  

The seed mantra for the Ajna chakra is AUM or more commonly said as OM. 

Chanting HAM when creating a new habit would assist with the desire the hear your inner voice more clearly to make better decisions. Chanting AUM would assist with connecting to your intuition to do what is right. 

Of the three higher chakras, only the Throat chakra has a prana vayu associated with it. Udana is known to govern speech, growth, and upward movement. It helps to promote mental clarity. The triangle pointing upward in my artistic version above symbolically pulls the energy up from the lower body to the higher parts of the self. 

As we reach the summit of molding new habits or breaking old ones, it becomes easier. We tell ourselves more truths, it is more difficult to make excuses and easier to listen to our intuition and higher selves when an old craving starts to creep around. That upward moving energy of the three higher chakras makes the end easier than the beginning where every step was an effort. Similar to how it would be coming down from a mountain.

Today is day 42 in my sobriety. Lent is almost over and all of those who have chosen this sanctified time to give up a habit have almost hit their sacred 40 day mark. In my first blog I wrote about the sanctity of the number 40 and why it is a marker in many religions and texts. 

Living without an old habit should be easier by now and hopefully a new lifelong practice is in place. If you have gone over your own big mountain as I have, you are in a new place too. I’m thrilled to be here. It’s a place I have not gone before. There is a new path to navigate, new unknown places to check out, and undoubtedly new mountains to climb. With the knowledge and lessons learned from finishing this recent climb, we now have some firsthand tools to make the next one a bit easier. 

Hopefully you learned a thing or two about your energetic system and the chakras along the way and can keep them open and flowing for your upcoming life’s adventures. 

Some poses to keep these last 3 chakras open are:

  • Throat chakra: Neck stretches, Shoulder stand, Bridge, Fish 
  • Third Eye chakra: Forehead to ground – as in Child’s pose
  • Crown chakra: Inversions, particularly head stand

My last 3 short videos cover a few more basics and are not particularly aligned with the suggested poses above.

I cover Downward facing dog in Week 5, the Half-lift in Week 6, and finally Tree in Week 7. Tree to balance it all out – because hey… who doesn’t need some more balance in their lives?

So grab a mat and let’s do a little tune up on these basics.

Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Namaste! 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

The Chakras and Lent – Week 4

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The Chakras and Lent – Week 4

This is another week I have been very hesitant to write. An even more emotional week as I journey through sobriety. The emotions I am facing are difficult, but when I truly accept in my heart what others are telling me out of love, it is uplifting and feels like years of emotions are spread.

I hit one month of sobriety this week and was given a one-month coin electronically. 

Week 4 of lent. Perhaps many days into giving up an old habit that no longer serves you. It may be a time when the new habit or letting go of the old one is really taking shape and we start to feel the rewards. We may question why we were doing what we were doing in the first place. We may feel like beating ourselves up for doing something stupid, waiting so long or not even seeing the harm it was causing. 

The fourth chakra is the Annahata chakra or the Heart chakra. It is green. Unsurprisingly this chakra is located at the heart. 

Below is my painting of the Anahata chakra.  

The heart chakra is right in between the 3 upper and 3 lower chakras. The two triangles that are upside down from one another symbolize this connection. According to Learn The Meaning Behind Each Chakra, Anahata “Fuels your compassion towards yourself and others…. The six-point star in combination with the 12 petals in this symbol represents your 72,000 energy channels, or nadis (6,000 x 12 = 72,000). This is also representative of how Anahata is the central chakra that connects the whole system”.

In a way I feel as if this week I have been able to start to move away from the focus of myself to how I have related to others. This is not a new expedition, but it is one that I am looking through a new lens. A lens that does not involve alcohol. A lens that doesn’t get blurred when I don’t like what I see and drown it away. Without a mind-numbing substance, it’s far more difficult to not feel all of life’s emotions, the good/bad/ugly. My heart is there and feeling as it never has before and the sludge of inebriation doesn’t cover all that the heart is trying to tell me. 

Someone who asked me to not mention them in their blogs had a very difficult and honest conversation with me last weekend. This person never told me the things they had before about ways in which I had hurt them. The things they said sounded familiar – as other family members have told me the same thing before; but due to circumstances I would rather not get detailed about; I was unable to take them seriously. 

I apologized profusely. I heard & acknowledged their pain. But I was shocked and very upset that this person never told me this before and was now quite angry with me. I was immobilized for hours and cried non-stop. My heart actually hurt and was undulating waves of pain. As it started to get dark out several hours later, I felt like I had to get out of the place I was staying. I went for a drive and cried some more. I had a strong desire to write, but I had nothing but my phone with me. I went into Walgreens and bought a notebook. I sat outside and started to write, and write and write. Pen to paper, like I haven’t done in years. I wrote about how hurt I felt. About why this person and seemingly everyone else around me are deciding now to tell me what they don’t like about me as I’m working my way through these early days of sobriety. I was feeling sorry for myself. 

At some point I somehow made my way into just writing things I did not want to admit that I don’t like about myself (my shadow side). I was digging deep to keep finding more things after I exhausted what was at the surface. As I took them from my mind onto paper, I was surprised and also relieved to see these in a tangible manner. My first instinct was to destroy this paper afterward, but I kept looking at what I wrote. 

Slowly I was able to look at these “things” and make a connection about what people have told me they worried about. It propelled me to begin writing all the things I have remembered they said that I didn’t believe or acknowledge before. Sitting out in the cold, I realized with both surprise and relief that I do these things. I do them, they are not ok and I have justified them. 

As long as I could remember I did not even understand that certain things were not ok. There was a point in my not so distant past where I did realize they were not ok by other’s standards and did what was needed for everyone else’s sake; but in my heart I still felt they w ere ok. That evening my heart too understood what was not ok. I was overwhelmed with grief at this realization. I wanted to run and apologize, but it is going to take a long time down the sobriety path for those who were close to me to grasp that I really am finished with alcohol. 

What may have happened to me last weekend as I wrote and felt sorry for myself and then compassion for others was where the heart chakra joined my higher and lower self. 

I’m visiting with my aunt in Florida at the moment I am writing this. A few nights ago over dinner she told me something about how she understood my husband. When I woke up in the middle of the night (as I always do these days), in the twilight of my consciousness I thought about her words; and again – like a veil being quickly lifted from my eyes this time; I was able to see something else that so many people have told me. People who love me dearly and others who are quite neutral. I started a separate blog about this. I did not cry but I was overcome with emotion. I actually stopped and decided to lay there in the dark and just allow my heart to feel and process the emotions. I remembered to do some of the grounding techniques that I have learned over the years while I just let myself feel and process. It was exhausting to be honest. I fell back to sleep (which is unusual) and woke up feeling like I understood something new. 

The heart is the only part of our body that makes its own electricity. That electricity gives us life and connects us to the energy in the world that we interact with. We don’t know precisely where energy comes from. It is as if the heart connects the physical world to the spiritual. In the same way it connects the 3 lower chakras (basic survival & human connection needs), with the 3 upper chakras that provide a deeper understanding of the cosmos and our role within them. 

What truly connects us to everything else is love and acceptance. There is a reason why we equate love with the heart. When we open our hearts, we feel the universal love that is all around us. As we allow it to penetrate our own being, we become more accepting of the world around us just as it is. 

Of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), the Anahata chakra is associated with the mobile, light, cool, dry element of air. Air is what we breath in. It is how that life force of prana I wrote about in week 2 moves about. The heart and the breath are what sustain life. When those ultimately stop, so does the life energy. The body is still physically there, but the conscious life that propelled it to move, think and act in the physical world is no longer. 

The quality of this chakra is love. To accept and love all that we encounter as it is; to accede that life is oneness. It is nearly impossible to love and accept if we are not comfortable and love ourselves first and foremost. If we can’t forgive ourselves and understand our own human nature, we cannot give that gift to others. Our hearts are ultimately blocked from living life in an open and fulfilling way. When we open the heart chakra and experience self-love, we can then be open to the unconditional love of all else. 

I think on Maslow’s triangle this chakra falls between last week’s layer of friendship, intimacy, sense of connection and the next layer of the triangle where respect, self-esteem, strength, and inner freedom reside.

Self-esteem. I always thought I had self-esteem. I now question if I do, because I am not sure if I love myself. While I lived about in the world as I have most of my life and no one challenged my behaviors, I felt good with myself. Now that I have been challenged, I have to take a step back and question why I couldn’t see what I see now. Why was I confident? 

This is a tricky part. I know I should still love myself. I did not intend harm, in fact almost every intention I have had in life was out of love unless I felt under threat and reacted as if my life were at stake (oh the lovely tribulations of PTSD). But it’s difficult to take a step back and acknowledge that I hurt people that I love and/or think very highly of. It’s challenging to accept that I did harm (unintentionally of course). I love the saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.  Having an intension and carrying out love are not the same. I do ultimately love myself, but it’s a little shrouded with surprise and wonder about how blocked I was. My self-esteem has dwindled. 

I can’t help but think of the line in the Lords Prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. If we can’t forgive ourselves, if we can’t forgive others, we cannot receive it back; because it means we truly do not understand it and the power of freedom that it possesses. Love and forgiveness are in a way very similar. 

There is no way I can move about the world with love and acceptance of others, until I love and accept everything about myself. Just as it is.  I will get there. I just need a little time to process how I have lived my life until this point. Just on the other side of acknowledging the discomfort of this, is love and freedom. 

It’s important to move past this when shredding old habits or building new ones. There is a reason we usually want to give up something we don’t like. Although it does, it shouldn’t come to a surprise when we do let something go or create something better that we can learn how the previous behaviors were causing damages that we were unaware of. All the previous self-esteem or self-love in the world could knock someone down with a harsh realization of the harm one has done. Either to themselves, the environment or others. Accept it, process it, and move on (easier said than done…).

When the Heart or Anahata chakra is in balanced and open we feel the universal connection to love. Our heart feels both full and content. We express our outer selves with our inner values. There is nothing blocking that direct connection. Not substances, habitual actions or habits, addictions, excuses, blindness to how actions hurt… Just a direct flow of what we intend from inside to the outside. 

When this chakra is out of balance we feel withdrawn, lonely, possessive, jealous… It is difficult to understand ourselves & others. Without that that balance we cannot forgive. We hold grudges. We try to keep the heart safe, but we are really hurting it by limiting its potential to love and to be free. 

I have been writing about the koshas and how they are like 5 sheaths that are layered in between our own individual light or soul and the outside world.  The 4th sheath is called Vijnanamaya. It is known as the wisdom sheath. The Yoga Sanctuary writes “Vijnanamaya encompasses intuition and intellect. It can be thought of as the witness mind, or that aspect of our consciousness that is not entangled in what we are doing or thinking, but rather, acutely aware of what we are doing and thinking. Vijnanamaya kosha is awareness, simply put.”    

Our heart knows better. It is the other layers of the koshas and the strong human/animalistic pull toward base emotions and survival (lower chakras) that prevent us from clearly hearing what our inner goodness is communicating to our mind. 

The seed mantra for the Anahata chakra is YAM. One way to harness the power of this sound would be to chant it with the intention to be aware without judgement or emotion of how we and others are interacting with the world. I justified all kinds of reasons about why I was drinking. I was not looking from a neutral role at my situation. Only when I accept that the reasons I used to justify drinking were because I did not want to stop yet, will I have the power to stop. I believed my own reasons and was entangled in what I was doing and thinking. YAM helps to clear that entanglement and just see things as they are. 

As I have written in the earlier weeks, the Prana Vayus are the 5 ways in which energy or life force moves throughout the body. The prana vayu associated with the root chakra is called Prana. The Prana Vayu is centered in the chest around the heart and is known as “forwarding moving air”, it is directed inward and upward. This vayu directs the other four. It makes a good case for how life should flow from the heart region. And how life (prana) is connected within and around the heart space. 

As we are in the thick of lent and hopefully conquering whatever we gave up , use of the Prana Vayu can help to propel us up and forward to a new and better future. One that we are in charge of and are directing. 

Yoga poses that aid in opening the heart center are ones in which the heart is open such as sphinx, cobra, locust, bow, camel, fish, puppy pose, upward facing dog, cow, reverse table, flip dog, dancer, low & high lunges with an arched back, wheel, bridge, and warrior 1 to name a few. Cow is one of the easier ones to do because there is a lot of support while you are on all fours. It is important to ensure you come into your cow and push the heart out and open from a solid table foundation. 

This week’s back to the basics pose is Table Top pose. Table is mostly a transitional pose but there are many poses that are built directly from it such as cat, cow, sunbird, rainbow, gate, and childs. Before moving into any of those it’s important to have the start from table down pat. So… grab a mat & let’s practice some table. 

Until next week! 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

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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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