Generational Connection

Six Ways to Upgrade Your Praise

I am in such a good mood this morning. Even though I lost my vape somehow and spent nearly $200 on wine yesterday, I still got to spend the whole day with an amazing, loving little girl. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned her before on my blog, but my sister’s boyfriend has a six-year-old daughter named Alaina. She is the most precious, well-behaved child I have perhaps ever met. (and I work with kids everyday.) I can’t seem to stop being fascinated by how happy she makes me though. As someone who never interacted with or cared much for children before I got my current job, it is a constant mystery to me why I love her and the other children I meet so much.

It almost feels like a chemical reaction is trigged in my brain when children are around. My heart opens wide and loving kindness floods my senses. I am overwhelmed with the desire to see them happy and to make a positive impact on their young minds. Especially when it comes to young children, I am also touched by their accepting and curious nature. Children don’t seem to judge at all. Even when they point out something rude like someone’s weight, it is never done in a malicious way. It is simply an observation that we interpret as an insult. Children embrace the world and everyone in it for what they are. For this reason, I feel I am able to take down the mask I wear for the world when I am with them.

The most intriguing aspect of my love of children is that none of these children are related to me. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that would happen. And it’s not just me, my mom and grandma and aunt all seem to love Alaina just as much as I do despite none of us having a connection to her biologically. When I got older, I felt patronized by what I saw as my family’s feinted interest in the things I did when I was a young child. I felt lied to that they told me my art was good, that I was smart, etc. It felt like everyone around me must have just been playing a role. They couldn’t have really gave a damn about seeing me ride a pony around in a circle at the county fair.

Being with Alaina has taught me that that isn’t true at all. I genuinely loved watching her riding a pony yesterday. I loved seeing her happy. I loved watching the wonder that colors her perception of the world. I even had to laugh as she yelled, “WOAH!” at every single firework last night. I know a few years ago, I would have been the young woman angrily wondering why those people don’t make their kid be quiet. Now even the things that would have annoyed me about stranger’s children in the supermarket, only make me smile.

Funny enough, it reminds me of something from Interview with the Vampire, which I watched a few weeks ago for the first time. (I may have been an aspect of Twilight as well.) The vampires could live forever so it was important for them not to become too disconnected from the living world. They were encouraged to interact with the people of each time period to maintain some of their humanity.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I feel like I can relate to that sentiment. Children keep me connected to humanity. They also keep me grounded in the present moment, because that’s where they are. They allow me to see the world through fresh, eager, innocent eyes. It is a joy to be an influence on them, to know that you can potentially make a huge impact in their lives. It is a responsibility that I am honored to have. It is a joy and a privilege to be a protector, a teacher, an example. Time spent with a child, is a meaningful investment in the future.

That’s why it is all the more painful to realize that these children don’t have much of a future to invest in. As much as I’ve wished the rest of the world would acknowledge the fact that it’s largely too late for us to adequately address climate change, it was crushing to hear a newscaster in a video Alaina was watching address children with the message of an inevitably catastrophic future. After I had finally come to terms with my own shortened lifespan, my wound was ripped open anew at the prospect of the even greater loss for the tiny soul snuggled into my side. What shame, what anguish I feel to leave these children with a decimated earth. How badly I wish I could tell all the generations after me that I’m sorry.

Even if it’s futile, I am going to keep fighting for them, for the animals, for all the most vulnerable and innocent among us. Even though it hurts, it’s so worth it.

Using Praise to Encourage Good Behaviors

Admiration

Today I thought it would be fun to write a bit about the people in my life that I most admire and why I admire them. Working with at risk populations and disadvantaged children has made me realize just how lucky I have been to have the people I’ve had in my life. Often when we’ve been raised in a healthy environment, surrounded by privilege, it can be hard to realize how different the lives of others may actually be. For most of my life, I took the incredible adults in my life for granted. Even worse, I didn’t acknowledge how great they actually were. Instead of being grateful for all that my parents have done for me, as a teen I was quick to judge and dismiss all the good things about them in favor of focusing on the imperfections of their parenting.

Now when I look back, I have to laugh at how naïve I was. I was expecting my parents, and frankly all the adults in my life, to be perfect, and was angry with them when (of course) they weren’t. It was only after becoming an adult myself that I realized the impossible standard I had been holding people too. Today I wanted to explain exactly why the adults I’ve had in my life growing up were not just adequate, but phenomenal, especially compared to the parents I meet everyday at work.

Mom

In the last decade, I have done a complete 180 when it comes to my opinion of my mom. As a teen I blamed her for all of my issues, rather than giving her credit for the advantages she has given me. I considered her a “bad mom” because she was always too busy. How exactly I felt that was her fault, I don’t know. She was raising two children and working full time with little to no help from my father. Of course she was busy. There were a few times I recall her actually having a mental breakdown in front of my sister and I when we were little. I was shocked and appalled even at the time. “This is not appropriate behavior to display in front of children,” I thought. Looking back, I genuinely can’t believe she only had those few incidents. I would be breaking down every single day if I was in her shoes now.

My mother is one of the most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She is so patient and gentle and intelligent and humble. She’s a saint in my eyes. She has always made sure that my sister and I had everything we could have ever needed or wanted. She has always shown me respect even when I was a small child. She has always been there to listen to me, no matter how busy she may have been. She had so much on her plate for so many years and still hardly ever complained. She never gave up on me, even when I tried to shut her out. Her love has truly been unconditional. I couldn’t imagine having a more ideal mother. I am so lucky to have her in my life, to have been raised by her, to have been able to learn from her example. I am forever grateful.

Grandma

My grandmother on my mother’s side, has also been an essential influence in my life. I am so lucky to have always been surrounded by such strong, intelligent, loving women. I owe everything that I am today to the women who raised me and taught me by example all the values I now hold so dear. My grandma raised me just as much as my mother did. She was always there to greet me when I got off the school bus and was my only baby sitter.

This woman is truly selfless, much like my mother. She has been an example of strength, independence, contentment, equanimity, and love. Nothing ever seems to bother or overwhelm this woman. She has been through so much in her 91 years on this earth. She has instilled in me her love of reading and her connection to nature. I will always cherish the memories I have of her reciting fairytales to me before bed and exploring the woods together with her and my sister. I’ve never heard her raise her voice. Neither she or my mother ever raised a hand to me either. The steady, sturdy presence of these unbelievable woman has allowed me to be the person I am today.

Scott

It may seem strange that the Scott I’m referring to here is actually my coworker and not my father, who is also named Scott. However, my father, while always being a part of my life, has never really made much of an impact on me. He always remained in the background. It is sad to say, but I’m MUCH closer to the Scott I’ve only known for two years now, than I am my own father.

That being said, Scott is an incredible man. I feel overwhelming gratitude that I am able to spend so much time with him. I genuinely think of him as a father. He represents to me so many qualities that I aspire to cultivate within myself. He is intelligent, charismatic, interesting, funny, dedicated, humble, easy-going, and much much more. He emanates passion in everything that he does. He does his job well, with diligence and skill. He is selfless almost to a fault. He would do anything for his family, friends, and the children that we serve every day.

I even love his imperfections. I admire the fact that he came from a complicated background. He grew up with an alcoholic, largely absent father. His mother hit him on many occasions. He saw some messed up things as a young man. He stole. He did drugs. He certainly hasn’t always been the outstanding citizen he is today, and that makes him all the more endearing to me. Despite all that he’s seen in his personal life as well as through his line of work, he still always manages to see the best in people. He has an unwavering faith in humanity that I envy. I can only hope that I can be more like him some day.


These are the three people that I admire and look up to the most. There are so many other amazing people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life, but even if it were only these three, it would be more than the majority of the kids I meet everyday have. Even if you only have one decent person to admire in your life, be grateful. You would be surprised how many people have absolutely no one worthy of being a role model. And if you are one of those people, my heart goes out to you. I hope that someday we can all become someone worthy of admiration for someone who needs it.

Who Do You Admire? Do You Admire You? How To Become The Best You.

Missing Myspace

Do any of you remember the old myspace days? I genuinely miss that platform more than I’d like to admit. Part of it may just be the nostalgia that comes with reminiscing about that time in my life. I was in middle school in those days. I was just discovering my own identity, not to mention some amazing music, and Myspace was the perfect place for both. Unlike Facebook, Myspace was much more about creativity and individuality. I would spend days crafting the perfect page for myself and trying to learn HTML. It’s hard to believe that that was well over a decade ago now.

Any of you that do remember Myspace, must remember the classic Myspace questionnaires everyone was constantly filling out. I doubt may of us cared what the original poster’s answers were (unless we had a crush on them, that is) but it was always fun to steal the questions and answer them yourself. Just for old time’s sake, I thought today I’d find one of those questionnaires and fill it out. So here it is. Feel free to copy and past the questions and answer them yourself!

1. Last beverage:
Coffee with oatmilk pumpkin spice creamer.

2. Last phone call:
Monday night with my boyfriend. Verizon kept dropping the call because I live in the middle of nowhere.

3. Last song you listened to:
Bayside – Already Gone

4. Last time you cried:
About a month ago while on LSD with my boyfriend. (Happy tears of course.)

5. Have you dated someone twice:
Yes, didn’t work out either time.

6. Have you ever been cheated on:
Not that I am aware of.

7. Kissed someone & regretted it:
Sooo many times. Usually while under the influence of alcohol.

8. Have you lost someone special:
Yes, through death and otherwise.

9. What are your three favorite colors:
Black, pastel green, & turquoise

10. Met someone who changed you in the past month:
Yes, every kid I meet at work changes me.

11. Kissed anyone on your friends list:
No longer have social media. 😥

12. How many kids do you want:
Human kids? Zero.

13. Do you want any pets:
I already have one cat, one dog, and one mouse, and they are splendid.

14. Do you want to change your name:
Yes. I’ve never liked my first or last name.

15. What did you do for your last birthday:
I honestly don’t remember. Most likely nothing.

16. What time did you wake up today:
6:15AM. I slept in.

17. Name something you CANNOT wait for:
My boyfriend to move back to the area at the end of the year.

18. Last time you saw your mother:
A couple weeks ago.

19. Most visited webpage:
YouTube

20. Nicknames:
A few people call me Rach. Would love for people to start calling me Elle.

21. Relationship status:
Dating a perfect vegan dreamboat. ❤

22. Zodiac sign:
Sagittarius

23. Male or female:
Female

24. Height:
5’6”

25. Do you have a crush on someone:
Yis. My lovely boyfriend.

26. Piercings:
Lip and 00 gauges in both ears.

27. Tattoos:
Not yet.

28. Strong or Weak:
Strong physically, weak mentally. lmao

FIRSTS

29. First surgery:
Wisdom teeth removal.

30. First best friend:
Can’t remember their name from daycare. But in kindergarten, her name was Katie.

31. First sport you joined:
Volleyball

32. First vacation:
I went to Castaway Bay with my mom, grandma, and sister for three days when I was little.

WHICH IS BETTER

33. Lips or eyes:
Eyes.

34. Hugs or kisses:
HUGSSS

35. Shorter or taller:
Taller

36. Older or younger:
Older.

37. Romantic or spontaneous:
I guess romantic.

38. Sensitive or loud:
Sensitive.

39. Hook-up or relationship:
Relationship.

40. Shy or outgoing:
Outgoing

HAVE YOU EVER

41. Kissed a stranger:
I don’t think so…?

42. Gotten a speeding ticket:
Yes, quite a few actually…

43. Lost glasses/contacts:
Nope, don’t need either.

44. Sex on first date:
Yes. Terrible choice.

45. Broken someone’s heart:
Sadly, yes. But I’m usually the one being broken.

46. Been arrested:
No

47. Have you turned someone down:
Tons of times.

48. Fallen for a friend:
Many times.

49. Moved out of town:
Yes, but not far.

BELIEVE IN

50. Miracles:
Eh, undecided.

51. Love at first sight:
Not really.

52. Heaven:
No.

53. Santa Claus:
Obviously not.

54. Kiss on the first date:
Depends on the person.

55. Angels:
Nah.

56. Yourself:
Sometimes.

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY

57. Had more than 1 girlfriend/boyfriend at a time:
Mhmm. I’ve dabbled with Polyamory/made huge mistakes.

58. Been in love with someone you couldn’t be with?:
That’s usually what being in love is like for me.

59. Ever cheated on somebody:
Yes, and it was the biggest mistake of my life.

60. If you could go back in time, how far would you go?:
Perhaps just to the 60s.

61. Are you afraid of falling in love:
Yes. It’s scary to need someone.

62. Was your last relationship a mistake?
I don’t think so.

63. Do you miss your last relationship?
Sometimes.

64. Who did you last say “i love you” to?
My boyfriend

65. Have you ever been depressed?
When I was a teenager.

66. Are you insecure?
Oh yes.

67. How do you want to die?
In my sleep.

68. Do you bite your nails?
Yes, unless they’re painted or I have fake ones on.

69. When was your last physical fight?
Never been in a fight.

70. Do you have an attitude?
When things don’t go as planned.

71. Twirl or cut your spaghetti?
Twirl

74. Do you tan a lot?
I tan easily, but don’t do so intentionally. Never used a tanning bed.

75. Ever eaten food in a car while someone or you are driving?
Yea, but not in a long time.

76. Ever made out in a bathroom?
Sure.

77. Would you take any of your exes back?
Probably not.

78. Would you go back in time if you were given the chance?
Probably not.

79. What are your plans for this weekend?
Going to a local Fall festival with my family to buy delicious wines for the holidays.

80. Do you type fast?
I do. Last I checked it was 65wpm.

81. Can you spell well?
Used to be great, but now I always second guess myself and rely on spellcheck.

82: What are you craving right now?
More time.

83. Have you ever been on a horse?
Yes when I was a kid.

84. Would you live with someone without marrying them?
I have before and certainly would again.

85. What’s irritating you right now?
Nothing at the moment.

86. Have you ever liked someone so much that it hurts?
Sure have.

87. Does somebody love you?
Yes, lots of people love me.

88. Have you ever changed clothes in a car?
I’m sure I have although I don’t remember specifically.

89. Milk chocolate or white chocolate?
Milk chocolate as long as it’s vegan.

90. Do you have trust issues?
Absolutely.

91. Longest relationship?
Not long, maybe 3-4 years?

92: Do you believe your most recent ex thinks about you?
If he’s not a complete imbecile.

93. Have you ever walked outside in your PJs?
I don’t have PJs.

94. Do you believe everything happens for a reason?
Yes.

95. Did you have dream last night?
We all dream every night, but I don’t remember my dream.

96. Have you ever been out of state?
Uh yea.

97. Do you play the Wii?
I have one, but rarely play it.

98. Do you like Chinese food?
Love it.

99. Are you afraid of the dark?
No

100. Is cheating ever okay?
No

101. What year has been your best?
Maybe 2008. That was a really good year for me.

102. Do you believe in true love?
I’m not sure.

103. Favorite weather?
Hot, humid, sunny days.

104. Do you like the snow?
It’s pretty, but too cold for me.

105. Do you like the outside?
Of course.

106. Is it cute when a boy/girl calls you baby?
If we’re romantically involved.

107. Have you ever made out for more than a half hour straight?
Definitely when I was a teenager.

108. What makes you happy?
Nature, intelligent, engaging conversation, animals, drawing, coffee, kratom, my friends and family.

109. Ever been to Alaska?
No and don’t plan on it.

110. Ever been to Hawaii?
No, but I’d love to go someday.

111. Do you watch the news?
I used to, but I’ve stopped within the last few years because it’s just unbearable.

112. Do you love MTV?
No, and I don’t have cable.

113. Do you like subway?
I used to before I went vegan.

114 Would it be hard to kiss the last person you kissed?
Not at all. I would love for him to be here so I could kiss him.

115. Your best friend of the opposite sex likes you, what do you do?
Probably be pissed off, because male friends never seem to just want to be friends.

116. Why did you decide to do this quiz?
Nostalgia

117. Have you ever seen someone you knew and purposely avoided them?
Lots of times.

118. Do you have a friend of the opposite sex who you can act your complete self around?
Yes.

119. Who was the last person of the opposite sex you talked to?
My friend Scott at work.

120. Who was the last person you had a deep conversation with?
My coworkers. God, I love my job.

121. Ever bought condoms?
Actually, no.

122. Ever gotten pregnant?
Nope and I never will. (: Hallelujah.

123. Have you ever slipped on ice?
Yes.

124 Have you ever missed the bus?
Maybe when I was still in school. Can’t remember though.

125. Have you left the house without money?
I hardly ever carry cash.

126. Have you ever smoked cigarettes?
Yes, I’ve smoked on and off since age 18.

127. Have you ever smoked a cigar?
Yea, but I’m not a fan.

128. Did you ever drink alcohol?
Yes. Waaaay too much in college, nearly became an alcoholic a couple years ago, but now I have little to no interest in drinking.

129. Did you ever watch “The Breakfast Club”?
Once or twice.

130. Have you ever been overweight?
Yes, and I’ve felt overweight my entire life.

131. Ever been to a wedding?
Only one in my whole life and it was my best friend’s.

132. Ever been in a wedding?
Yup. I was a bridesmaid.

133. Have you ever been on the computer for 5 hours straight?
Never counted, but I’m sure I have.

134. Did you ever watch TV for 5 hours straight?
Definitely.

135. Ever kissed in the rain?
Not that I recall.

136. Did you ever shower with someone else?
Many times.

137. Did you ever fail a driver’s test?
No. I ran a stop sign, but they passed me anyway. lmao

138. Ever been outside your home country?
Yes. I went to the Bahamas on a cruise once.

139. Ever been on a road trip longer than 5 hours?
Yes. I hate road trips.

140. Ever been to a professional sports game?
Yes, but I didn’t pay attention to the game at all. I was people watching.

141. Have you ever broken a bone?
No! Impressive, right?

142. Did you ever win a trophy in your life?
Only lame ones for participation.

143. Ever get engaged?
Nope.

144. Have you ever been on a diet?
Seems like I’ve been on a diet since I was 6 years old.

145. Have you ever been on TV?
Probably local news very briefly since I was in my high school band and we would do parades and stuff.

146. Ever ridden in a taxi?
Nope.

147. Ever been to prom?
Yes. Not a fan.

148. Ever stayed up for 24 hours or more?
Yes, when I was a kid.

149 Have you ever been to a concert?
Yes, but only a couple.

150. Have you ever had a crush on someone at work?
Yes.

151. Have you ever been in a car accident?
Only fender benders.

152. Ever had braces?
Yes when I was in middle/high school.

153. Did you ever learn another language?
Constantly attempting to learn Spanish.

154. Do you wear make-up?
When I feel like it.

155. Did you ever have your wisdom teeth taken out?
Yes.

156. Did you ever kiss someone a different race than yourself?
Yes.

157. Ever dyed your hair?
Yes, many times. Nothing too exciting though.

158. Did you ever wear someone else’s clothes?
Yea, I wear my boyfriend’s clothes all the time.

159. Ever ridden in an ambulance?
No.

160. Ever ridden in a helicopter?
No.

161. Ever caught the stove on fire?
The stove??? No…

162. Ever meet someone famous?
Yes, artists from bands I like and one of the actors from Twilight.

163. Ever been on an airplane?
No.

164. Ever been on a boat?
Yes. I went on a cruise once and my dad has a speedboat.

165. Ever broken something expensive?
Not unless cars count.

166. Did you ever kiss someone before you were 14?
I believe so. I was in eighth grade.

167. Did you ever find something valuable on the ground?
I’ve found money on the ground before. Most was probably $20.

MySpace confirms it has been hacked | IT PRO

Wedding Bells

Little girls and young women depicted in movies and TV shows always seem to be planning and romanticizing the day that they will marry their true love. Personally, I’ve never seen this. Weddings were not something that my friends and I ever even mentioned growing up. Maybe they were secretly daydreaming about them, but I certainly never was. I spent most of my life being pretty indifferent to the idea of marriage. It was just something you did. I felt the same way about having children. I never had a longing or desire to have children, but when I was younger it didn’t seem like it was a choice. I assumed I’d have children one day because, once again, that’s just what people did.

As I got older and realized that I was free to craft my own unique life as an adult, I immediately dropped both of those traditional milestones. It was actually quite a relief to realize that I didn’t have to have children if I didn’t want to. Marriage was a bit more complicated though. While I didn’t fantasize about my wedding, I was constantly preoccupied with the thought of finding a loving partner to share my life with. Whether or not we got married didn’t matter. However, once I broke free of the indoctrination of religion, the word marriage left a sour taste in my mouth. It conjured images of a bully of a God, forcing my hand, demanding my life follow a certain order, fit a certain mold. Weddings, in my mind, were inextricably woven together with Christianity. Therefore, I wanted no part of either one. Not getting married became an act of rebellion and defiance that I took pride in.

Now that my passionate disgust with religion has largely subsided, the idea of marriage has once again presented itself to me for consideration. My boyfriend, surprisingly, seems much more intent on being married someday than I ever was. He was even engaged before his ex imploded the relationship. Even though we’ve only been dating for a few months, he’s already brought up song ideas for the first dance at our wedding. In the past, this would have sent me running for the hills. He’s already talking about getting married? Yikes. Strangely, with him, it just fills me with tender feelings and eager anticipation. I would actually love to marry him, if only to make him happy.

I haven’t mentioned any of this to him, mostly because I don’t want him to get too excited and go out and buy a ring. (Which I think he very well might, if he knew it wouldn’t scare me away.) But I have been indulging myself with silly daydreams about our wedding day. I’ve been wanting to explore my inner world and exercise my creativity by allowing myself to daydream more often. This seemed like the perfect, if not cliche, subject to start with. I’ve been having such a fun time looking at pictures of rings I might like. I thought today it might also be fun to collect some pictures of other aspects I’d like to include in my imaginary wedding.

For rings, I’ve always wanted something with rose gold. I also love the ones that fit together with the wedding band as a set, like my mother’s.

I like the look of vintage/boho wedding dresses:

I’d love a messy, braided updo for my hair:

That’s about as far as I’ve gotten. But I’ve been having such a fun time playing around with the idea in my head. Personally, I still don’t care whether or not I ever get married, but it’s still nice to pretend. Plus I’d like to have some ideas in mind, in the event that I do get to make my sweet boyfriend happy with a wedding. Let me know what you think of my selections. Also did you daydream about weddings and marriage as a kid? Did your ideas about marriage change as you got older? I’d love to know what your thoughts on this subject are.

Exploring the Mind

Still immersed in How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan, I have been unable to prevent the psychedelic perspective from penetrating my every thought. I am desperate to find some free time in which I can start experimenting with my own spiritually centered trips. One of the things I find most interesting about psychedelics is the revelations people often experience while taking them. It’s not as if these insights are new. They are usually a reflection of things that have become platitudes: We are all one, love conquers all, we have the ability to choose our own reality, make our own happiness, etc. This is one of the reasons I find it so difficult to express the psychedelic experience to those who haven’t taken these drugs for themselves. It’s almost too hard to put into words and make sense of in my own head, let alone translate it to others. It’s similar to the way we can pass along knowledge, but not wisdom. There is something ineffable about the experience that solidifies the truth of the realizations that come with it.

Pollan’s book talks a lot about the seemingly limitless potential of these drugs to treat mental illness, comfort the dying, and even improve the quality of life for average, healthy people. What it hasn’t seemed to touch on yet though is the implications these psychedelic experiences have in regard to our minds in general. Sure we are introducing a foreign substance to our brains, but the pathways it activates are already inside of us, just waiting to be utilized. People have already found ways to access these mental pathways through breathwork alone, without the use of any substances. What does all this mean when it comes to our limited perspectives and perception of ourselves, others, and the world around us?

As a child, unburdened by biases or expectations, the world seems like quite a fantastical place. We’re present, we’re in the moment, we’re open to new experiences and ways of thinking. Understandably, that changes as we age. The more time we spend looking at the world through a certain lens, the more it begins to feel like that’s the only lens there is. We forget that we haven’t always thought or felt the way we currently do, and that others don’t think, feel, or react in the same ways that we do. Wouldn’t it be amazing to take a peak into the mind of someone else for just a few moments? Or better yet, to truly know the full capabilities of our own brains?

It’s frustrating and fascinating to realize that no one will ever truly know what it feels like to be anyone else. We take for granted that as human beings we are pretty much the same, but how alike are we really? So much of our experience of life is private and uniquely personal. The way our minds work are too complex for us to fully grasp, despite how far science has come. One of the issues psychedelic researchers have is how to quantify and categorize such personal, subjective experiences into usable data. Science has been relegated to the very limited realm of objective facts and observable behaviors/phenomenon. It seems we haven’t quite figured out a way to explore and understand subjective experiences, despite what a huge impact these things have in the world.

I suppose subjective subjects are better left to philosophers than scientists. However, one thing that is mentioned in Pollan’s book is the suggestible nature of a psychedelic experience. Whatever you are primed to experience is most likely what you will experience during your trip. Just like in a lot of other ways, in this way psychedelics seem like a hyper-intense reflection of reality in general. Our perceptions of everyday life are also highly suggestible, especially in childhood when the rigid patterns in our minds that psychedelics break down, haven’t yet been formed. If you wake up each morning and tell yourself you’re going to have a bad day full of tedious, tiresome activities, you probably will. On the other hand, if you can make yourself believe you’re going to have an amazing day filled with smiles and laughter and new adventures, you probably will! The external circumstances can be exactly the same.

It is impossible to imagine just how many different ways of thinking exist in the world. I believe we are each capable of experiencing all of these perspectives. More than any physical barrier, what holds us back most in life are our own limiting beliefs. Changing them can seem impossible at times. We don’t usually choose to believe what we believe. It’s an amalgamation of so many different factors that manifest as a belief system. Challenging those deep-seated ideas is no small task, nor is there a clear place to start. Part of the issue comes from realizing how much these beliefs limit our ability to even imagine alternative ways of thinking.

Looking at it that way really underscores the importance of finding time for focused creativity as an adult. Creativity isn’t about what you produce. It’s about expanding the limits of our own minds so that we are better able to come up with creative solutions to our problems and allow ourselves access to more options in our inner lives. Creativity is a muscle that is not exercised nearly enough. It is completely undervalued in our schools, offices, and communities. Studies have shown that adults are drastically less creative than children. Longitudinal studies that follow the same participants over decades reveal that despite being very creative at one point, they lose the vast majority of that creativity as they grow older.

If you find yourself feeling stuck, like the world has lost it’s luster, you’re not alone. The panoramic view of existence we all enjoy in childhood becomes narrower each year. For me, it’s extremely comforting and reassuring to remind myself that there is so much I don’t know. There is so much I am incapable of even imagining. So when I begin to apathetically ask myself, “Is this all there is?” I know the answer is a resounding, “No.” There is so much more waiting to be discovered.

Some St. Louisans Find Therapy, Meaning In Psychedelics As Researchers  Study Benefits | St. Louis Public Radio

How I Was Raised

When I was little, my sister and I were both amazingly advanced for our ages. We were quick witted, intelligent, and talented even when we were in preschool. It’s strange to look back and realize that. Especially now that I’m working with children everyday. I finally understand the excitement I’d often see in the adults around me as a child. No matter how you come into contact with a gifted child, even if you have no real connection to them, it is still an incredibly invigorating thing to behold. I’ve met quite a few children of all different ages who’ve stood out to me and everyone I work with. We all still remember them and reminisce about them occasionally. It’s wild to imagine that I was once one of those kinds of kids. Perhaps that’s how my second grade teacher managed to remember me when she saw me working in a grocery store so many years later.

The weirdest thing for me about all of this is the fact that I had no idea that I stood out when I was younger. Especially considering I was always comparing myself to my sister who was also very gifted, but had a few years on me as well. I do remember a couple teachers making a fuss over me. I think my first grade teacher even asked me if I would show my drawings to her parents when they came one day. I obviously can’t be sure, but I think one of the main reasons I never paid much attention to the compliments of these people was due to the indifference of my own family. That in addition to never measuring up to my sister, left me always feeling inferior no matter how great my personal accomplishments really were.

My mother’s lack of enthusiasm and praise for anything I did is one of the reasons I grew to resent her in my teenage years. How could she respond to my achievements so callously? Once I began to realize just how much potential I had as a young child, it really stung to know she didn’t encourage and compliment me more. I even began to believe that it was because she didn’t really love me very much. Despite the attention I always received from the other adults in my life and even my peers, it was never able to replace the recognition I longed for from my own mother. I believe this has greatly contributed to my current inability to acknowledge my own successes and talents.

I’ve brought this up to my mother in the past. I should have known she had only the best intentions at heart. Nearly everything she did as a mother was carefully calculated. Unlike most parents, she actually read parenting books and did a lot of research on the best ways to raise a child before she had my sister and I. Unfortunately given the time period, there was quite a bit of bad advice in those books back then. I’m not sure if she read this particular idea in her books, but it does seem to make logical sense either way. She told me that the reason she didn’t lavish my sister and I with praise over our amazing talents was because she thought it would make us conceited and full of ourselves. She didn’t want us to become little brats. I can definitely see how that might have been the result. So now I can’t say whether or not I’d have changed my childhood if I could or not.

This example is just one of the many reasons I would never want to have children. It seems that no matter what route you take in raising them, there will be some unintended negative consequences. My mother also always provided everything I needed. She took care of everything for me. At first this seems like she was being a perfect parent. However, the end result was actually that I feel completely incapable of doing most things for myself. Whereas my friend’s mother was a mess. She ended up having to take on a lot of the responsibility of raising herself and her younger siblings. But a childhood like that actually made her a much more competent and self assured adult. There is simply no way to not make mistakes when raising a child. You are going to fuck them up in one way or another regardless of how hard you try not to.

I may not be able to change the past, but I am still able to learn from it. Maybe I do feel like I’m never good enough because of the way my mother chose to raise me. I don’t blame her for that. She did the best she could and overall she did a pretty amazing job, in my opinion. All I can do now is try to tend to the child that still resides within me. I don’t need the approval and acknowledgement of others, even my own mother, to feel worthy of my place in this world. I am good enough just as I am, regardless of how I measure up to those around me. I can give myself the recognition I once so desired to receive from my mom. I may not be the gifted child I once was, I may not stand out much at all anymore, but I am still an incredible, unique, masterpiece. There has never been, nor will there ever be someone quite like me. The things I create and contribute to this world matter. I have the ability to add love, beauty, laughter, and joy to this world in a way that only I can. And I don’t need anyone else’s permission to do so.

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Memories

Today I thought I’d give myself a little break from coming up with a topic to write about. Instead I’d like to write about a few memories that make me happy. I’m hoping that by doing this it will put me in a good mood and help me enjoy the rest of my nice, rainy day off. So here are five memories of mine that bring me joy.

One: The drunken sleep overs I used to have with my two best friends in high school.

Despite all of the problematic things I went through, high school was still one of the best times in my life. I was very lucky to have a very close knit group of wonderful people around me. It was especially nice to spend the night with my two best friends, let’s call them Bailey and Ally. Young and full of teenage angst, nothing was more gratifying than sneaking around after our parents went to sleep and getting into their liquor cabinets. Drinking was never more fun than when it was forbidden. I still remember one night in particular that Ally, Bailey, and I even snuck a couple boys into my house. We had so much fun and they brought us some weed to smoke too. I distinctly remember having my first cigarette that night. We were standing out in the warm night air, there was a hardly perceptible drizzle of rain coming down. In that moment with my best friends in the world, I felt completely and utterly content.

Two: Making forts at my mom’s office.

When I was a preteen, I used to spend a few days every week in summer at my mom’s office. She worked for a local college and they had a summer program for kids around my age so that employees and students didn’t have to pay someone to watch their kids after school let out for the year. Even though I was still a very awkward little weirdo, I managed to find myself a group of friends there. The other girls in my group were a few years older than me, but that made me feel cool to be included. One of our favorite things to do (especially if it was stormy out) was to move together a bunch of tables and cover them with blankets. Then we would go inside and hangout in our nice little fortress. I can still recall that feeling of togetherness and comfort that it always gave me. Although I don’t think about that place often, it still holds a lot of precious memories for me.

Three: Walking to the park in my hometown.

Many times throughout my childhood and adolescence I walked from my house to a little park in town. We lived on a back road on the outskirts of a small town, so it was quite a substantial walk there and back. I used to walk there with my sister and grandma. We’d often get some Reese’s pieces or a can of pop from the little corner store. As I got older I would walk there with my friends when they would come over. In middle school I would often walk there alone to meet a boy in town that I dated. I still remember getting butterflies when he would call me and ask if I wanted to go to the park. That’s even were I got my first kiss all those years ago. I honestly haven’t thought about that in years, but it brings me just as much joy as it did back then.

Four: Talking with my friends on the phone and AIM for hours on end.

When I was a kid, talking to your friends was a much bigger deal than it seems to be now. We didn’t have phones glued to our hands to text people sporadically throughout the day. We set aside time specifically for talking either on our landline phones, or on Aol Instant Messenger (AIM). I actually still really miss AIM. It was better than texting because, for one, you could type on an actual keyboard so you could have more in depth conversations. You also knew that if someone was active on there that they wanted to talk to people. I hate the way texting doesn’t seem to have a beginning or an end and you never know if someone is busy or just ignoring you. Even though the advances we’ve made in technology are supposed to bring us closer together, I felt much closer to my friends before smartphones existed. I used to call one or more of my friends on the phone every day. We would talk for hours about everything and nothing. A few times my friend Ally and I would even be on the line in complete silence, just watching a movie together on TV, then discussing it during the commercials. I long to go back to those simpler days.

Five: That Christmas in College were we all bought each other toys.

I used to have a really awesome group of friends that I hung out with my second or third year of college. Sadly since then we have all drifted apart. A lot of the memories from that time have been blurred or obliterated by copious amounts of alcohol. There is one that stands out in my mind though. One year for Christmas we decided to buy each other kid’s toys instead of normal gifts. We had all been missing our childhoods and thought it’d be fun to have a kid Christmas one last time. We all went to Ally’s parents house to spend the night. We drank a lot, opened our gifts, and played together with our new toys as if we were kids again. It was so silly and stupid and special. I am really grateful for that experience. It warms my heart.

So there you have it, five random memories from my life that make me smile. It definitely did feel good to write about all of those things. I have truly had a wonderful life. There are so many of these kinds of memories that we forget we have until we go searching for them. I’ll definitely make more posts of this type in the future to see what other gems I am able to unearth. What are some memories that make you happy?

white ceramic mug on white wooden shelf photo – Free Image on Unsplash

Psychedelics

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Yesterday I watched a Ted Talk discussing the effects of psychedelic substances on the brain. I clicked on this video absentmindedly, not really expecting it to tell me anything I hadn’t already heard before. To my surprise I was given new insight into why my psychedelic experiences have been the way they are. It also gave me even more reason to believe that psychedelics really do allow us to connect to some deeper consciousness, a divine connectedness. It is a glimpse beneath the veil of our earthly illusions, and the things we think and perceive in these altered states are perhaps more real than the reality our sober minds produce.

I knew that taking psychedelics altered the way our brains perceive the world. I knew that they break down our biases and inner walls so to speak. They remove the shackles of our well worn neuronal connections and allow us the freedom to explore the vast possibilities of our consciousness and perception. What I didn’t know is that this brain state is very similar to one we’ve all experienced before: childhood. Apparently a child’s brain works in a very similar way to a brain on psychedelics. Isn’t that fascinating? I had often described my experiences with LSD as being a child again in a new world. Nothing is taken for granted. Everything is fascinating and new. There is so much joy and curiosity and discovery to be had.

As children none of us were too enmeshed in certain ways of doing things or seeing the world. There were many more possibilities open to us. As we age, our brains naturally start to sink into patterns, strengthening certain neural networks while allowing other, less used pathways to shrivel and shrink with disuse. Eventually we begin to feel trapped in our ways of thinking and seeing the world. It feels impossible to change or view the world from a fresh perspective. And in reality, while it is still quite possible for us to change, it will be much harder than it might have been when we were younger.

Imagine a cart being pulled over the soft earth. Once you’ve made tracks in the dirt, it is easier to follow those tracks again. The more you follow those particular tracks though, the deeper they become. Eventually it will be quite difficult to make new tracks or break out of the ones we have been taking. A child’s mind is an image of virgin land, no tracks, no footprints even, just a great expanse of possibility and wonder. This is one of the reasons, I believe, that adults tend to enjoy children so much. While our own minds may feel incapable of breaking free of our patterns on their own, spending time with a child is sure to be full of surprises and new experiences. Children have the ability to pull us in new directions we would have never considered on our own. Kids are funny. Kids are weird. Kids are surprising, unpredictable even. That is the magic of a newly developing brain. That is the magic we may all experience again for ourselves with the help of psychedelics.

This comparison to a child’s mind helps explain a lot of the experiences I’ve had with LSD. The idea that psychedelics are able to break down our preconceived ways of seeing the world only strengthens my conviction that the feelings and truths I’ve experienced in that altered state of mind are real. LSD isn’t making me hallucinate or become delusional. LSD helps me to break through the illusions that I live inside of. It helps me see the world for what it is again, through fresh eyes, with the innocence and imagination of a child. I don’t for a second believe it’s a coincidence that one of the reoccurring perceptions people come away from a psychedelic experience with is that we are all connected. There is a powerful feeling of connectedness, contentment, joy, peace, trust. It is reconnecting with the wisdom of the universe, a deep sense of reassurance that everything is as it should be. There is also the ever present image that everything in life is a cycle, and that it’s okay to have faith in and surrender to that cycle. Now more than ever, I feel confident in that belief.

Alex Grey's “Gaia” | Pinkocrat

The Importance of Play

One of the things working with children has taught me, is just how important it is to make time for play. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Play is an essential part of leading a happy and fulfilling life. It seems like once we reach a certain age we think we are “too old” to be “wasting time” on such frivolous affairs. We can often even be mocked or looked down upon by those in our peer group or older generations for not “growing up” or “learning to act our age.” For some reason, as a society, it seems like we find unpleasant, but necessary tasks to be more worthy of our time than tasks that actually bring us enjoyment or pleasure. The irony is, when we are doing mundane “adult” things, it is ultimately to preserve and ensure our future happiness. So if happiness is the goal no matter what we’re doing, why always put it off in some distant future if we are capable of having simple pleasures right now as well?

I think one of the reasons a lot of adults tend to enjoy spending time with children even if they are not their own, is because they remind us how delightful it can be to play and pretend. Even just watching them do so can have a calming, pleasant effect on us. We are sometimes able to live vicariously through these children. As a child, I loved to play with little figurines and have pretend adventures and scenarios with them. Some days I would fill up the sink and they would have a “pool” day. Or we would go outside and they would go hiking or camping in the weeds. I’d collect small flowers and berries for them. These were some of the happiest times in my life. Back then, time didn’t matter. It hardly seemed to exist. I didn’t ask myself why I was doing the things I did. It didn’t matter. I was happy. Wasn’t that reason enough? Things seemed so much simpler back then.

I distinctly remember one day begging my mother to play with me. She did her best, but was mostly just watching me. I asked her why she wasn’t doing anything. She told me that she couldn’t remember what she was supposed to do. She had actually forgotten how to play. I vividly remember the confusion and disbelief I felt at the time. How can you not know how to play? It made no sense, but I felt sorry for her. It seemed impossible that I could ever forget something like that. Yet here I am over a decade later with no idea how I occupied so much time with my make believe. It breaks my heart each time I sit down with the kids I work with at a doll house and struggle to come up with anything to do. I want to weep for that inner child that has become all but lost to me.

I’ve learned that play is something that takes practice. Thankfully I am surrounded by children every day that can help me with that practice. Just the other day a little 5-year-old boy and I played robbers together. He had us talk in deep, gravely voices as we planned our heist. Then we ran around the waiting room, laughing maniacally as we clutched our fake money. It was a great time. Even though it’s hard to have such boundless, imaginary play as an adult, I have still been trying to implement more creativity and structured play into my days. Playing for me now mostly includes casual video gaming and art.

Even though I acknowledge that this play is worthwhile, it is still hard for me to justify the time I spend on it (even though it isn’t much.) I am constantly giving myself chores to do before I feel alright allowing myself time to just enjoy and have fun. Unfortunately, by the time I reach the evening hours I’ve set aside for it, I am too exhausted, stressed, and listless to really even enjoy my playtime. Another problem I run into is getting too serious about whatever it is I’m doing. When I began drawing (and even writing) everyday, my only goal was to schedule time for myself to explore my creativity and just have fun. But now that these things have become a habit, I have been feeling a lot of pressure surrounding these activities. It has started to feel more like work than play.

With so many gamers now available to watch online, even my casual video games have started to feel like a burden rather than a joy. I can’t help watching others play and then comparing my progress in the game to theirs. I feel rushed, inadequate, unhappy with where I am. Even though I know it’s utterly ridiculous, I can’t seem to help feeling this way. Often times this feeling is so strong that I give up on the game all together. I hope that by continuing to challenge these feelings I will be able to overcome them little by little. I hope I will be able to transform this playtime into something similar to meditation. Rather than focus on how my art compares to other’s or how far behind I may be in a virtual world, I will keep working to focus on my breath, on the pleasure I feel in the moment.

Living in a society so focused on production and outcomes, it can be hard to find the value in simple experiences. What once were things I looked forward to have started to become things I feel anxious about. I feel pressured to make each drawing better than the last. I criticize myself for not being creative enough or improving fast enough or consistently enough. I feel like what I write is just rambling nonsense no one cares about. That my art isn’t worth showing anyone. But even if those things were true, it wouldn’t matter! I must keep repeating to myself that the point isn’t the final product, it’s the pleasure of the process. What I create or work on doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be good. As long as I’ve enjoyed the time I spent working on it, that is all that matters.

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Channeling Your Inner Child

I saw a post on Tumblr the other day that said: I think the key to a happy life as an adult woman is to channel your inner weird little girl and make her happy. There is so much truth behind those words. Without realizing it, I have been doing exactly that. By setting goals for myself to write and draw everyday, I am actually giving myself permission to enjoy the hobbies I use to enjoy as a young girl. For as long as I can remember I loved to create through these two mediums of artist expression.

Even though I have already been unwittingly following the advice of that post, doing it with a conscious intention of taking care of that strange little girl inside me, makes it feel all the more special and rewarding. At some point as I began to grow up, I started to need a reason behind everything that I did. Which seems strange to me, given that ultimately nothing really matters except what you decide matters. Did I have a reason to play Pokémon and Hamtaro for hours? Was there a good reason for printing out stacks upon stacks of Sailor Moon pictures I found online to color? Was there a purpose to all of the magical time I spent playing outside in nature with my sister and friends? Were these experiences any less important, any less meaningful, because I didn’t have a direct, practical goal in mind?

Perhaps this resistance to doing anything without a clear purpose is merely an excuse, a lingering symptom of mild depression. After all, what better reason is there than to make yourself happy? Sometimes it feels as though I’ve forgotten how to make myself happy, how to enjoy my life from one moment to the next. Only once I’ve begun a project, given myself the time to lose myself in it, do I feel true joy and freedom. It’s taking that first step that is always so very difficult. For example, most days I simply dread the idea of beginning my yoga and meditation practice. I contemplate cutting it short every time. But when I actually sit down and begin, it always becomes the very best part of my day. Despite this, that initial dread never seems to go away.

For a lot of my life, I relied on inspiration to spur me onward. Without it, I felt like there was no way I could continue with anything I was doing. However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that most of the time that inspiration follows rather than precedes my actions. Most days I have no idea what I want to write about when I sit down to begin. I never know what to draw in the evenings. Yet I’ve learned that if I just force myself to start, I can surprise myself with what I’m able to create. I think that is what art is all about, surprising ourselves. Most of my best creations were not the result of careful planning and intention. They were spontaneous accidents that allowed me to unconsciously share a piece of myself with the world that I didn’t even know was mine to share.

So when I’m struggling with that stubborn resistance before beginning something, I’ve found it very helpful to remind myself that this is a gift for my inner child. It’s almost like the joy you get from playing with a child, in fact. As an adult, you may not be very interested in the game itself at first, but to see the happiness and pleasure in that innocent little face makes it worthwhile. It makes me so happy inside to imagine my younger self in my place, happily typing away, working hard on stories that will never be published or even read by others. To imagine that little girl I once was drawing anime without a care in the world, her excitement at how good we’ve gotten at it.

Channeling my inner child is one of the best ways for me to remember how to be in the present moment. It reminds me how to enjoy for enjoyment’s sake. I am so grateful for the children I get to meet everyday at work. Their lighthearted energy has been a great help to me as I work to reconnect with the child within myself. I am able to see myself in them and remember what it was like to be the age they are now. They inspire me to keep the child in me alive, to keep her happy, to keep her close. It’s definitely something worth practicing.

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