A journal of healing

Altered States

painting 11-2014

It was nice to have some time off. I did have to work on Friday and the lack of personnel at work made for a quiet day but I got a lot done. From somewhere in my head, I got this idea that I needed to revisit a hobby I used to have. I stopped because my hands no longer worked well. But it came into my head to find my old stuff and haul it out and take a try.

I thought I knew where the fairly large box would be. I went into the garage and faced a  pile of boxes and stuff. I ended up spending about two hours cleaning up the boxes of things we kept to donate, and then never did. Unfortunately I did not find what I wanted but the garage is organized again.

I then called around to see if anyone carried the supplies and was told from one of our largest hobby shops that no one in the area carried them anymore. I was very disappointed but persevered and did find them at a big chain arts and crafts store nearby. We went and found them on sale so I bought a bunch.

I Love to pain little houses and things that you use to make a Christmas village. My friend RH showed us a picture of one he set up and it inspired me. I did a series before for a friend. I gave her a new house every Christmas for about ten or more years. She has quiet a nice village. I also did ornaments and other things. But I stopped doing the painting because it hurt my hand.

All this blog chatter is nice, but not very important. What I want to share is what I discovered. I spent about two or more hours painting yesterday. I had on Christmas music that was gorgeous and filled the house with harps and strings. It was lovely. I was totally occupied with my painting and I realized something and this is what is important.

My breathing was slow and steady; much like it is when I meditate. My brain was quiet. No chatter and what-if’s. That is very important. It takes a lot to really quiet my brain especially when I am stressed. I realized I was so deep into my concentration of tiny paint strokes that I had become totally calm. No wonder I enjoyed this hobby so much. It was an oasis of tranquility. It connected me with a place that I struggle to find in my life.

There was no guilt attached to just sitting there and paint these little houses because I had decided it was a worthwhile endeavor. I was being creative which is a great esteem builder. I am very good at this. I stopped after about an hour and just sat there and paid attention to my body. The ever present pain was very mild. I was hunched up a bit but it was ok. The calm was pervasive and totally encompassing me. I paid attention to it and “printed it.” I am working on a theory that I need to retrain my brain to know calm as the most desired state instead of the hyper arousal and stress normally coursing through me. But it is hard for me to do because it is not present naturally. My natural state is to be on guard all the time. This activity defocused my outward senses, deactivated the constant fear and created a presence of safety. It created an altered state.

My theory extends that the more I find these activities to create this calm presence the more it will become natural for me. People like me who go through life on guard all the time need to retrain the brain to let go. For years, people have told me this… “just be…let go…clam down”. I tried to explain once to someone “how can I feel safe when I do not know what that is?” It is hard to comprehend that natural for me is like being a mouse in a world of cats. I have lived like this for most of my life.

My theory extends that the more I get to a state of calm, the more the issues I face like pain and obesity will also abate. I believe my pain is created partially because I always have my muscles in a crunch. My normal state is with my shoulders up, my leg muscles clenched and my hands in a ball. My food processing stops or overreacts. Either way it is not normal. I have too many hormones that occur naturally when someone prepares for fight or flight. These chemicals create inflammation which creates pain. The pain stops me from moving and not moving creates stiffness which produces pain and on and on it goes. And when I do not move, I do not burn calories. It is a viscous circle which I want to stop. Just dieting does not help because my body reacts like someone who is being deprived (which is the basis for diets) and holds on to calories even more. I gained weight when I was on Weight Watchers. And that circle of shame just adds to the situation.

As I continued to paint, I thought back to the time when I did this before. There was a lot of nasty stuff in my life, but I had found things that kept balance in my life. Slowly, many of the things I did lost their zest as I tumbled down into the black hole that became my life for a while. After my divorced and I moved into this house, I now realized that I had removed myself from a very bad situation, and mentally there was great relief. But my body had become so used to being afraid that it had become engrained. I rebounded by becoming very sick. None of this is my fault. It took me ten years to understand this. It will be my work for the rest of my life to heal from all of this history and teach my body that is just that; history.

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Comments on: "Altered States" (7)

  1. Thankful for the wonderful oasis you found – and a beautiful piece of art erupted from the calm! Continued peace to you . . .

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  2. Oh thanks. I haven’t been in my studio in months. And when I worked in the there with the music in the background, hours went by peacefully. Time to get back in there!
    Love the little house and trees…

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  3. My MD diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I don’t know of this is a diagnosis that will stick or not…my DO (and me, now) think it’s more PTSD related, and the cycle of muscles in a crunch that lead to more pain….ext, ext, is so familiar to me. I’m sorry this is something you deal with. I am glad you did find enjoyment in an activity, that relaxation we all so desperately need, and seems so elusive.

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    • Glad you stopped by. Funny thing about our titles of our blogs. What is a DO?

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      • A doctor of osteopathy. They have a medical license, are a doctor, just like an MD, but they approach medicine (usually) from a more “whole person” view point. My MD actually sent me to her, because MD just doesn’t have time to see me as often as my DO does. I see my DO once a week right now. She has helped a lot for my migraines, and for some of my body pain, too. She has helped more since I had a breakdown in her office and she is aware of the PTSD and abuse. She said now it all makes so much make sense. She just doesn’t believe that things like fibro or chronic fatigue, ext happen for no reason. I don’t know of that makes sense. And I hope that I haven’t offended you, or anyone else. I just really have felt like she has helped me so much. A lot of what she does is referred to as “osteopathic manipulation” so it’s hands on. Well, obviously, for me, having someone touch me was only making me more tense, and not really helping at all. Now, I trust her more and it is helping, but once she knew my real history she worked to build trust with me. I’m sorry for this long answer…I ramble a lot. 🙂

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  4. Ramble on. I like it I was not sure what you meant by DO. Therapeutic touch is extremely beneficial and so as you can tolerate it….it is very good somatic therapy. When you get a chance, read some of my past blogs about somatic healing.
    And why did you apologize….you said absolutely nothing wrong or offensive. I am glad you wrote and I hope you keep writing. The hardest steps are the first and you should be very proud of yourself for being so brave. I really appreciate the camaraderie I have found in this new group of bloggers. Take care.

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  5. […] I want to thank Jane, who spent an enjoyable afternoon with her crafts, https://jbartell2013.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/altered-states/ […]

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