My Anxiety Ritual

taken from ...Tao and Zen

taken from …Tao and Zen

It is the feeling of being alone when I am in a crowded room of friends. It takes control of my emotions and leads me away into a grey filled nether place. Seeing it approach me, I summon it to leave me alone. I am fine and do not welcome its attention. I do not want it to pretend to befriend me again. I know it is really not my ally as it fills my head with an uneasiness quite unlike any other. This annoying caller always visits me after the holidays, sometimes impatient enough to tiptoe into my world in the midst of the celebration…waiting for the moment to tap me on the shoulder and remind me that it is waiting…to carry on our ongoing discussion of life.

I have seen a lot of depressing things in my time. I have been “awakened” in a sense, to the world around me, finding it much more complicated than a Rubik’s Cube…but none the less a pattern presented to ponder upon. I think some people believe it is this awareness that causes my anxiety ritual but it is not. I suffered from it way before I saw the ugly in the world. This false cohort sought me out in childhood as well. No, I think it is a product of my soul-searching to bear witness to the grace and charm of life. I have always sought to be surrounded in family tradition as it glued my world together past and present. I hold many shared moments in reverence …vacations with my parents and children/ card games at the kitchen table with my grandmother/
my years of taxi mom to school functions/ my children stepping out on their own/ my wonderful husband and our conversations that only soul mates can carry. All of these fill my heart and head…beautiful experiences and I know that looking back I will always see them as such. However, as I revel in these times I also worry that they would someday end…and thus my anxiety takes over.

I also love the beauty of life…simple beauty of the sunrise and sunset, snow glistening on the hillside as well as the beauty of hope and compassion and love. I tend to try to drown myself with just my head above -not totally lost within…and as I do, I remind myself that all of life is fragile…the sunset will soon be gone, the sunrise as well and there will be days of hardly a hope and little compassion to be had out there. This is life I remind myself. No one said living would be easy…but the world reminds us that real living is full of the beauty and charm, love and laughter- as well as the deep emotions that make the heart heavy.

Oh my anxiety softly sings the song of never know what tomorrow will bring…and I have my quiet reflection on the hard truths of life that I have seen over the past years.. But I tell myself that pure love never leaves…it can’t be taken away as love is a forever bond. Even with the death of a loved one, the love remains within me. And the love of my family and friends..their love will remain forever within me too. Ah! I tell my little transient banshee as we stand face to face, I know this to be true as it quiets his ramblings in my head… and this knowledge keeps me one step ahead of my unwelcome visitor.

I take a deep breath…it is my saving grace in times like these. I remind myself that the beauty of life is still here…yet to be found another day in some new and provocative way. I pull my memories of family and friends to help me see what a treasure I have already collected. I again awaken to see the beauty of hope for tomorrow more clearly, new experiences to be had and memories to be made. The pattern begins to be seen and the joy of my journey with it.

Ahh…The Memories Of Christmas Past

     I have a soft spot for old-time Christmas songs. Those sung by Bing, Andy and Burl. When I hear them I drift right back to my childhood. A time when I marked my tomorrows between now and the next December 25th. Always so far away…took so long to reach- a whole year in fact. Where has that gone? How did the year become so short…as it seems now but a brief sigh between today and the next December 25th.

     I search my radio for a station playing this beloved music. I save it as a favorite in my car, if only for the next few weeks. And I listen as I drive… and I remember when…

     When the decoration boxes came up from the basement. I dug in as I found the garland of the years gone by, the felt elf, glitter covered reindeer, red bows and plastic ivy. I would drape, hang and tack away enveloping our indoors in red and green.

     When the Christmas tree was real. Bought locally and brought home to drag up the family room steps and into the house. Our tree sat in the same place for my whole childhood. Year after year, a welcome reminder to the steadiness of my life growing up. Yet at one point it became fashionable to buy an artificial tree and we do so…no longer pine needles dropping quietly to the floor.

     When plastic became a scent of my Christmas – so unlike spicy cinnamon sticks and fresh-cut pine..yet to me as much a Christmas smell. My new baby dolls had this smell and to this day if I come across the plastic smell of the 60’s it takes me back ad I want to hold it close. Such a simpler, innocent time for me and one I cherish.

     When family would gather at our home, filling it with laughter, jokes and light-hearted mirth. The kind that makes everything right with the world if for just a few days. Homemade cookies and candy abound in special little dishes and plates brought out of the cupboard. I loved that time. Family makes me feel rooted in the ground…a sense of continuity and steadfast in spirit. A sense of belonging and sharing.

     Soon the Christmas music will disappear from the radios…the trimmings will be boxed up for another year and my memories will be safely tucked away. Blessed memories of innocent times, family and the enchantment of Christmas. I will find myself at a bit of a loss for a week or so. I don’t do so well after all the hullabaloo is done. I have always been this way for as long as I remember. While many people sigh a relief that the holidays are over…I don’t. Instead I ponder, worry and become introspective about next year. Will someone be missing from the midst of those I love, in some way will life be so different from today. We never know the answer but for some reason I always ask the question once the quiet moments surround me. I know that life can change in a minute, I know that we should always be grateful for each moment we are here and I am. But the frailty of life is never far away…it whispers to me when the music is gone and the crowd has left for home. I tell myself that next year is just around the corner and just a sigh away…and life goes on…

May You All Have a Very Beautiful Christmas

Making new memories and  recalling many wonderful times from the past

My Mother’s Shadow Box

My cousins, my brother, Mom and I ...and the shadow box........

My cousins, my brother, Mom and I …and the shadow box……..

     It hung on the wall of the formal living room, centered over the mantle- given a certain dignity and place of purpose in the room. In many a holiday or special occasion photo, quietly present in the background. My mother’s shadowbox. I remember it well. Painted creamy white with bamboo looking wood trim, and mirrored shelf backs. Throughout my parents’ home, this one piece of furniture reminds me of my growing up more than any other. At some point in time, I was given the privilege of dusting it and rearranging the figurines. I stood on a dining chair happily completing the task. The little poodle family was my favorite as they descended in size. There was the blown glass, so careful that I did not break it I think I held my breath when I touched it. And the ladies dressed in fancy clothes…well they were beautiful to me.

     The shadow box…like life, changed over time.  Eventually it was replaced with a painting- when I was in college.  Stored in our basement for a while, I am not sure what ever happened to it. We tend to do that…lose track of little things we love.  We look back and wonder how that came to be.   But it happens.  We look back in longing yet march ahead knowing life never to be the same again.

The  shadow box is just one piece of my past that I cherish…not for the wood it was made of – nothing truly exotic there, but the memories connected with it.  As the shadow box hung for years I never thought of it as important in my life growing up, just amusing to a girl who liked to decorate.  I was wrong you see…now I realize the importance.  Now as I have lived past the age of 50 (with some wisdom) and have lost others that I miss dearly,  I softly whisper to my heart…”I know”….”I know”…the simple things are truly precious reminders of living our lives and we should be ever grateful for them.   

Desensitized- A New Normal?

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Mist and Fog of Denali National Park, Alaska

     Desensitization is a process where the reality of life is colored by the continued saturation of stressful actions, situations and surroundings. Wanting to survive this stress, we find a way to rationalize what we experience and to put it simply “make it normal” in our own little world. That is my own perception of desensitization as I make sense of what I have been introduced to over my many years working in the world of violent crimes.

     Not the bad guy in the boat, but an oar that helps us stay afloat and guides us as we empower ourselves to maintain in life. Yet, like a kid with too much candy…we have devoured desensitization to an extreme. In today’s world…reality is fluid and manipulated constantly by marketing schemes filled with glitz and pop and special effects. Video games must be marked for mature audiences as they powerfully exploit killing and violence- in a setting that is able to enchant and beguile the mind into a new world. Intoxicating as these games are, they are masters at desensitizing as well. And slowly…we become attached to them…and detached from reality. We learn to react with such swift responses…relying on our fingers to keep our avatars alive for one more hour. We drink the power and control…the bombs…the graphic deaths and become satiated with our victories… all of this in the privacy of our homes.

     Tv and movies also are great desensitizing tools. Those reality shows that have nothing to do with reality…The fist fights, bullying, jackass jokes and collusion of pranks that are downright spiteful yet make us laugh. Talk shows where guards are used to keep the actors apart…we watch knowing it is not real but cheering and jeering just the same. We fill our time as voyeurs in this world staring at our 55 inch screen tvs. Watching our beloved action movies where buildings are blown up, the bad guy is mowed down as the hero holds a gun in both hands and one strapped to his/her back.

     Then we come to true reality on tv. The news shows us war, strife…killing of masses across the planet whether by natural destruction or human carnage. We watch as we eat our dinner…shake our heads and wonder where we are headed- and take another bite. This is all so much for a mature person to handle, but our kids are present too and soaking this all up to fit somewhere in their world. We must remember this.

     And now we have the glamorization of guns…beautiful steel, killing machines. Sorry, I know guns don’t kill, people do….and people do so swiftly in a blink of an eye with a gun. I know that there is never a simple answer to the complex problems in life. But we need to be willing to face them nonetheless and be real. Guns…loved by many as a symbol of freedom, and patriotic righteousness. Hated by others as symbols of war, hatred and death. There is such a divide, the bottom of the crevasse between beliefs is bottomless.

     But those who kill no longer look at life as valuable, only seeing through a screen of anger, rage and depression- the list is long. And they kill, successfully obtaining brief moments of power and control over their world. We grieve for the losses, valid tears of deep sorrow for the innocent. But we are not willing to change our ways. Too addictive, too seductive. Take our guns away? Our basic rights to bear arms? Never we say…just find a way to stop the violence.

     Desensitization is a drug of sorts. In little doses it helps us in a crisis. Combine it with adrenaline and we can run into a burning building to save someone, meticulously work in high stress situations with methodic rhythm and balance. But overdose and we become totally numb to the beauty of life. No longer feeling empathy, becoming self-centered…our mantra is self-preservation. We see the world as against us…must carry our concealed weapon to the park to play with our children. We eat with a sidearm strapped to us and dare not go out in public without one. This is not my reality. This is not what I want for my children and their children.

     So we must confront this new normal that we have all together created. We must sit together and discuss how to stop the tragedies from recurring. A real discussion about what this world means to us and what we want out of the future. A frank look at what is happening and the why. We must not be intimidated by corporate interests that are not human interests but money interests. We must not walk in the mist and fog of denial but face our problems, and create answers that serve all of us. A big task is ahead of us- I have hope that we are up for it.