Anxiety and Missing Medication Doses. A Missed Effexor Dose.

I woke up from my husband’s alarm this morning. It’s Saturday, and what most people would consider a day to sleep in. But for us almost every week for a different reason, for the past 9 years- there is some reason to get up.

6am today.

The beeping jarred me awake from a very vivid dream that I try to hold onto for a moment or two- trying to make sense of what it meant.

At some point just moments later, I realize that I feel EXHAUSTED. I mean exhausted, in case the uppercase didn’t relay this feeling well enough. Next I notice an almost unbearable throbbing of my head. My nose is stuffed. My mind is racing for no good reason. So badly that my heart and breath (with stuffiness) matches the anxiety.

But there is a reason for anxiety. We are moving and had just spent a week in the new house meeting with contractors, getting quotes, installing ductless air… working for work… working around the house… managing upcoming renters and our mostly adult children. A week of some big changes too. Devin, the youngest of our brood of 4 passed his road test on Thursday. Days of carting kids are just suddenly over.

I went through this week like any other. Feeling like I’m going through the motions to get to the next step. Feeling like I’m barely hanging on and can hardly make it another day at this pace. Telling myself and my husband that we cannot keep going on like this. That the work we are doing has to be for some great reason so in the near future we can finally rest.

Massive changes taking place around me hardly phase me. If I went back to every week in the past 9 years- nearly every one of them would show at least one or two mega great changes and things to celebrate or mourn. It’s constant. This week was really like no other. So why am I anxious today? It’s no secret I struggle with anxiety disorder and PTSD. But it’s felt very under control for about a year now with a few relapses. Why now?

I think back to yesterday when at some point around 2 or 3pm in the afternoon I felt unbelievably restless. Then it turned to feeling trapped. Next I’m frantically texting my husband about how I feel. This alone is an old familiar feeling. I hadn’t done this in about a year either. I’ve had relapses of panic and/or PTSD episodes, but this one is different. It feels a little more uncontrolled.

We’ve had workers in our house since Tuesday around the work day clock. They were supposed to be done Wednesday. Then they said Thursday. Thursday when I arrived home at noon they were still there. 7:30pm and wanting to eat dinner with no where quiet to sit… they are still there. Thursday evening they say they will need to come back for a half day Friday (yesterday). I am ready to go back to our home on Cheshire. We have renters coming today (Saturday) and I haven’t been home in a week. We are also going to Long Island. I’m starting to feel overwhelmed again. Like I have no time for myself. There is so much to do. I’m sick of eating take out, I want to cook but need to shop first. The house in Cheshire is on the market and I can’t even think about what it might look like after my quite messy 22 year old came home for the month of Aug. I can’t bear to look at my broken fingernails with dirt underneath due to the copious amounts of yard work- and there is more to do in Cheshire. My body is sore from what feels like non stop physical labor from cleaning, fixing, working. I have bruises, bug bites and cuts everywhere. I need to unpack my clothes and loads of food in Cheshire only to pack an overnight bag… then unpack again Sunday.

As the hours tick by and the workers are still there- relaying they are ‘almost done’ every 1-2 hours. I become increasingly more agitated. At 4pm they announce they are in fact done and start to clean up.

I drive home in commuter traffic with a car packed to the gills with air conditioners, food, photo albums, clean and dirty clothes, frozen items defrosting rapidly in the nearly 90 degree heat, amongst a myriad of other things. My car is constantly packed with stuff to cart from house to house or to drop off here or there. My anxiety starts to go over the roof.

Somewhere on Route 10 about 20 minutes away from home while moving at a snails pace I start to cry. Really really cry. And it feels good. It’s a release of all the toxicity I feel has been building up that I just pushed away and dealt with.

Long story short I get home and feel fine, but the night is filled with mixed emotions ranging from sadness to anger to despair to PTSD related thoughts. I’m crying, then laughing.

What is wrong with me?

IS there anything wrong with me?

Wouldn’t most others hit a limit of feeling like it’s too much as well?

To add other weird fuel, I have 4 known trigger dates that I’ve identified in my PTSD treatment. Trigger dates are times to rest and realize your body recognizes similarities in the atmosphere (light falling certain ways, temperatures, smells, etc). One should rest because our lower brain only feels these things without rational thought and goes into fight or flight mode in an attempt to protect itself. If we don’t consciously pick up on this with the higher brain, the lower brain shuts the higher one down at a certain point to divert all energy to fight or flight. This used to happen to me a lot. With and without dates, brought on by other known triggers. The only thing is you don’t know when those other triggers will strike. At least with dates there is an ability to prepare and take it easy.

Three out of four of my most prominent annual trigger dates take place on & around July 9th through on & around August 9th.

I’m not taking it easy or treating this time of year with any special care. In fact I’m feeling busier than usual and barreling ahead like someone is chasing me.

As I move around in bed my body hurts in every single which way. Mind, belly, headache, muscle pain, sinuses, heart, third eye.

I mentally go through the morning and imagine going downstairs for coffee and to take my daily dose of Effexor. That is when I horrifically realize that I never did take my medicine yesterday morning. Pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. My emotional breakdown and complete instability last night. The way I feel today. The feeling of being trapped yesterday. It makes sense.

More often than not if I forget my pills by 10am I have a dizzying headache and feel crazy nausea. I take them as soon as I remember and I’m fine within a few hours. No head ache yesterday. No head ache = no physical reminder something was amiss. Only hours later when my old mood symptoms returned did anything feel off.

So is it the chicken or the egg??? Anxiety from missed dose or missed dose due to anxiety.

Both??

Twice this week when going into work I forgot my pills. One day my husband delivered them and the next I had some in my car. Perhaps I’m anxious, my thoughts are jumbled and I can’t remember?

Is this anxiety or is what we are going through something that would make anyone anxious? 9 years of non stop activity and life momentous life changes taking place back to back (divorce, kids driving & going through all firsts of puberty, graduations, college starts, new jobs, house moves, new schools)

Is it my trigger dates?

Do societal expectations to do it all, hurry faster, give and experience as much as you can cause anxiety? Would my PTSD kick in less if I weren’t so busy and experienced the same levels of increasing anxiety that society in general seems to feel? I know I’m not the only one. Stress and anxiety seem to be a quiet epidemic virally rolling through our nation like a barely detectable tsunami before it strikes.

Does it matter to me where it’s coming from?

This morning I cried some more. I cried because even though I know how sick I get when I miss a dose, I didn’t realize how much the Effexor was keeping the anxiety at bay. Like I said I’ve had relapses. But yesterday’s was something different all together. It was like I never started a single pill and I was right back to where I was before I began dealing with this issue. It feels like a complete and absolute loss of thought and emotional control. The lower brain did take over. It sensed some kind of danger and shut the rest down. It’s terrifying. But I do have to admit the crying jags feel really good! They actually hurt physically in my heart, throat and head- but it is like there is a release of pressure in those areas and it is coming out. Am I not allowing emotion to pass through by taking pills?

The struggle is real. The pills really work. The issues are complex and are both personal and societal.

There is no point to this blog other than to just wonder, chicken or egg? To share with others how missing a dose feels because an hour ago I wanted very badly to read someone else’s experience. To see how long it was before they felt better once they took their dose. To see if anyone else wonders if their life experiences would affect anyone or if there is something truly wrong with the wiring in their brain. 9 years of running around and with delayed onset PTSD creeping in slowly through that time. Would an occasional breakdown be expected?

I used to be so afraid of the thought of having a mental illness. So afraid I didn’t even want to find out. It’s stigmatized.

Once I couldn’t take it any longer and started meds, I was afraid of anyone I know finding out.

Now I just want to shout from the rooftops that it is ok, you will be ok. We all struggle. As soon as we stop pretending we are struggling & that all is hunky dory- it miraculously becomes easier.

Why is that? Because we let the emotions pass rather than holding them down & hiding them? Does the medication prevent real healing then? Or is it a bandaid?

I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m starting to feel a little better about 2.5 hours after my dose this morning. I haven’t left the couch yet so I can’t speak to the level of feeling better other than I’m not suffering through stillness any longer.

Writing about it and seeing my fleeting thoughts in front of me helps.

If it helps anyone else too either now or in the future, then all the more beautiful.

Esterina

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On Public Toilets and Mother Theresa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the Chakras

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

1stCHAKRA

Color: Red

Sanskrit name: Muladhara

Known as: Root chakra

Location: Base of the spine in the tailbone area

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

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

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

 

2ndCHAKRA

Color: Orange

Sanskrit name: Swadhisthana

Known as: Emotional chakra

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

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

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

 

3rdCHAKRA

Color: Yellow 

Sanskrit name: Manipura

Known as: Solar chakra

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

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

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

 

4thCHAKRA

Color: Green 

Sanskrit name: Anahata 

Known as: Heart chakra

Location: Center of the chest just above the heat  

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

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

 

 

5th CHAKRA

Color: Blue  

Sanskrit name: Vishuddha  

Known as: Throat chakra (voice)

Location: Throat  

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

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

 

6th CHAKRA

Color: Indigo (or Purple in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Ajna  

Known as: Third Eye chakra 

Location: Forehead, between the eye brows   

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

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

 

7thCHAKRA

Color: Purple (or White in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Sahasrara   

Known as: Crown chakra  

Location: Top of the head    

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Unassuming Pear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings always had a feel to me of a new dawning. No matter where I’ve been on a Sunday morning, I have felt a certain vibe in the air that the day is even fresher than the Saturday and weekday mornings before it.

 

In cities coffee shops are just opening, few cars are in movement on the streets, and most stores are closed. There is a certain quiet in the air. Softer movements. A slower vibe.

 

In suburban and rural towns, the atmosphere also has a peaceful quality. The strip mall lots and main streets are mostly empty except perhaps for a convenience store, gas station or breakfast shop.

 

Sunday morning is not quite as exciting to me as Saturday morning. Saturday morning is about chores, shopping, making plans for the evening. Sunday for me is more about taking time to wake up; enjoying my cup of coffee longer, mentally and physically getting ready for the week ahead, and having a whole day ahead of me to do so.

 

This cloudy, albeit beautiful morning is so very typical at this time in my life. I am up before anyone else at the moment. I came downstairs to the main kitchen/living area and it looks like (what we like to say) a bomb. But it is a bomb that I love. This scene is a snapshot in time; my life at almost 43; my family; where I happen to be in the world.

 

On Sunday morning my house often has blankets strewn about the couches, the floor and perhaps even a kitchen chair. Yesterday’s paper is usually lying about in a neat heap still waiting to be read. The cats are milling and meowing like crazy for their morning meal of a little wet food. The counters and coffee table will often have mostly empty popcorn or snack bowls. A cold tea bag sitting in an empty Starbucks mug from one of the cities we have visited. More often than not there is an espresso cup somewhere with a small circle of the dried, dark remnants sitting at the bottom. An open, unfinished bottle of wine sits on the counter with an accompanying wine glass or two in either the sink with an amount too small to finish lying in the lowest nook of the glass, or haphazardly rinsed and left in the dish drain to dry. It’s not difficult to see what we did before bed, be it a puzzle, a card game, or just some movies, since the TV remotes or pieces of whatever we were doing are mostly left where we had them when everyone retired for bed.

 

I will either be up alone or with the hubby. The first order of business is to start the coffee. Then we quiet the little milling lions who get increasingly vocal by the second until they receive their ever-so-desired wet, stinky cat food. Either alone or splitting up the tasks, we will start to load the dishwasher, open the blinds, fold the blankets and put the house back in order.

 

Today I’m alone. I woke up before Daren, excited to begin a new day and continue to work on a painting that I am in the midst of completing. I cleaned up the house and then sat on the living room floor with two pillows beneath me facing the East to do some morning breathing and meditation. It’s a cloudy, dreary and gray morning; but beautiful none-the-less. The sun is still making its way up and about and brightening the day, even though we can’t see it.

 

I couldn’t help but take a picture of the scene I was looking at. Every morning it looks different. Even in its drab form, this morning was picturesque to me. I stepped outside to get a closer shot and the air felt SO fresh and cool, I didn’t want to go back in. But I did – simply to get a chair and two blankets to take my morning practices outside.

It feels like Sunday. Even in February, birds are singing. I can’t see the town or even much of our neighborhood from the back porch, but none-the-less it has the Sunday morning vibe of serenity that I enjoy so much.

 

Nothing exciting, but I am feeling intense gratitude and oneness with the world at the moment. A snapshot in time. It’s just a beautiful and precious Sunday morning.

 

The page has turned. The week, day & month are fresh. We write the story, whether we do so intentionally or not. Be mindful of your thoughts.

 

Namaste.

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On the Other Side of the Window

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

Peace ☮️

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Christmas Eve Hike

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Gingerbread Cookies Abridged Version

Reprint of older blog post on making ginger bread cookies this year…

I opted to make 3 little indentations with an appetizer fork on their bellies for buttons as well as on their feet to mimic a little cuff. For the eyes I used the back of a lobster pick. I decided against a mouth, nose or cuffs for the arms.

As I decorated the first batch I couldn’t help but notice how different each cookie already looked. I attempted to make them all the same, but the place in the dough where I cut and the ever so slight differences in the eyes, buttons & cuffs made each and every beautiful little Gingerbread person unique in it’s own way.

I popped the first two trays in the oven and set to work on the second two trays. It was immediately apparent that the dough was already slightly warmer and a bit more difficult to cut. However, making the indentations was easier.

The first batch came out and I loaded the second one in. I let the first two trays cool for a minute before beginning to carefully remove them with a spatula for the cooling rack.

These cute little confections puffed up in the oven and began to sink back down as I started to lift them. As with many cookies (especially complicated cut outs) a few broke a little arm or leg in the process, some had less deep button indentations, some just cooked a little more than others depending on their place in the oven and how thick the dough was. Despite my attempt to make them uniform; nature, chemistry, and my own artistic abilities made each ever so slightly dissimilar to one another.

Some had gotten so puffed that they combined with a neighboring cookies. I had to carefully cut them apart so I didn’t break either in the process. For some it was difficult to distinguish which overlap belonged to which cookie.

Like people and animals, these little cookies were all distinct. Where does one person really begin and another end? Those cookies that stuck together came from the same batch. Where they overlapped it was hard to tell who was who, as they are made from the same stuff. And does it matter other than to the eye that they are separate? It’s all just cookies that will taste more or less the same.

Then I thought… What if somehow these Gingerbread cookies became conscious? Would they form a society and create a hierarchy of “better” or “worse” cookies based on cut, color, consistency, button deepness, etc? How crazy would that be? Not too long before that they were just ingredients in the store, then my fridge, then in a ball together… Why would they create a structure in which some have dominance or perceived superiority over another?

What if they split off into groups and started hating on one another? Hating on one another so much so that they began destroying one another as they saw fit to their own Gingerbread beliefs. Wouldn’t that be kind of crazy? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of making the cookies in the first place? Why would they fight over differences rather than celebrating how each is unique?

Why do we think we are any different from Gingerbread people?

 

Carl Sagan’s quote sort of describes how I was feeling at the moment:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

 

Alan Watts famously said:

“Look, here is a tree in the garden and every summer is produces apples, and we call it an apple tree because the tree “apples.” That’s what it does. Alright, now here is a solar system inside a galaxy, and one of the peculiarities of this solar system is that at least on the planet earth, the thing peoples! In just the same way that an apple tree apples!”

 

The Alan Watts quote might be a little more confusing, but I listened to a Podcast one day that expounded upon this quote. Watts said something to the effect of imagine a few million years ago some advanced aliens were roaming around the universe and hap-chanced upon planet earth. They may have took a look at our planet and said ‘eh it’s nothing but a pile of rocks’. A few million years later the same alien race came by the earth again and noticed us humans walking around. This time they said ‘Hey look – this rock peopled.

 

We are all from the same stuff. To some extent as humans, like the Gingerbread men; we are from the same batch of mixed ingredients that were provided by the earth, solar system, Milky Way, and universe. Deep down we are all the same. It’s only nature, some chemistry, and the artistic work of our creator that makes us ever so slightly different in appearance and thought. We were created for the same purpose and should only celebrate what makes us so uniquely beautifully different.

Lessons from the Gingerbread People

One of my cookies-

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s not to love about all of that?

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

 

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On the Beauty of Disney’s Artificial Environment – Disney Part I of II

I often wonder why the world can’t look and operate a lot more like Disney.

Daren and I are have been talking a bit this past week about the mixed reactions we get from family, coworkers and friends when they find out we are going to Disney. It shouldn’t be a destination that elicits so many strong feelings, but for some reason it is. There are lovers and there are haters. I’ve yet to encounter many in between. As Daren said- if we said “We are going to Paris”, almost no one would light up like a Christmas Tree and declare their devotion to the place, nor would they proceed to let us know how much they can’t stand the city. It would be something in between without such a strong reaction.

When it comes to Disney, I’m on the lover side. I first went in Jan 1987, almost 32 years ago. Between Disney World and Disneyland I have been there about 20 times and hey- I’m still going!

I kind of get the hater side too. The main reason that folks aren’t Disney fans that I  hear most of all is that it is a lot of money to see and experience things that are not even real. True, I almost can’t argue with that. However there is a truly good business and perhaps even governmental lesson to learn in this argument as well as the ability to experience the world without leaving the country or breaking the bank.

Daren and I balance plenty of travel to other destinations and I feel I can in some way put it in perspective- at least from my vantage point.

The “Fakeness”
Yes it’s absolutely an artificial environment. But many people are frightened to travel too far or cannot afford to have experiences any other way. Perhaps going on a boat scares the living pants off of you. Or you never met anyone from China and had what appears to be an exotic and foreign-looking ritual explained for the first time. Or traveling to Africa on a safari is too expensive. But a boat ride seems ok in a controlled environment in Disney which may lead the frightened individual to love it so much they are inspired to try the real thing. And when having no choice but to follow your friends or family to the Chinese theater dispels your previous notions about something you saw… you are left to realize their culture is not so different than yours and we as humans are more similar than not. And what better way to experience a safari or surfing lesson without the hassle of going to an exotic locale? Perhaps you learn that surfing isn’t your shtick and reconsider the trip to Tahiti or wherever the worlds best waves are supposed to be.

Additionally, why  can’t we create a world  that is similar to Disney? Minus the rides and experiences that would be too difficult to create of course!

It’s fake because Disney takes pride in everything; In Every Last Detail. It’s clean. The administration is constantly looking to make things more efficient and pleasing to their customers- and does!

There is ample public transportation and opportunities to walk to your destination. Every flower bed is pristine. The streets, walkways, railings, parking lots- everything is shiny and kept in good, working and aesthetically pleasing condition. The employees are all nice to the guests- every place you go!

When each area is designed, it is designed with efficiency for staff, guests, people movement, product movement and the environment in mind.

Why can’t our local towns and streets and even homes be like that?

Why can’t we employ more folks in our towns to care for public parks, trails, transport, flowers, trash, fix curbs, keep walkways clear/painted/free from breakage, to direct traffic even simple traffic (not just at major walkways during key school hours) and to greet others AND take pride in this?

Taking it even further- why couldn’t we expect service with a smile, someone attempting to make our experience special, and someone dressed for the part they are being paid for? And for a living wage (not declaring Disney does that… but they are not employing towns either and this is really a whole other topic).

Taking it even further, would it be completely insane to employ or mildly compensate our own local citizens to showcase their unique talents at places where we are stuck on lines, are in traffic or just have high levels of pedestrians meandering by? – be it singing, dancing, playing an instrument, demonstrating a cool hobby, making us laugh, or sharing a part of their culture…

Couldn’t we improve public transportation? Create more places to walk and keep healthy? Re-engineer towns to flow more efficiently for their staff, citizens, traffic and take advantage of the natural environment?

Couldn’t we keep our own lawns and homes clean and well manicured? Many other countries have zoning and aesthetic laws- not so dissimilar to Nantucket. These places look great and feel great because the cities, towns and people in the community do not allow their citizens to let their property go to pot.

Couldn’t we be nice to one another? When we are in contact with anyone other than ourselves attempt to “be on stage” and treat them with love and respect?

It would be hard to do, but not impossible. It’s only impossible if it’s never an expectation or ideal.

It might be “Fake”, but it’s inspirational and an example in a microcosm of a world that is possible.  One of the reasons I love Disney. It inspires me to leave the world a better place than I found it. I’m only one person, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do small things with great love.

Part II: https://esterinaanderson.com/2018/12/17/on-the-wrong-way-to-experience-disney-disney-part-ii/

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