From Food & Life

Santa empty eyes

Life with Prosopagnosia – My Name is…

“My name is Cristina,” I said.

I introduced myself to the man across a large cardboard bin at the thrift store, as we both dug through the pallet of books, adding, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.”

“Of course you don’t,” he said, “I never gave it to you.”

I often tilt my head to one side or the other when I’m wondering, confused or trying to remember something. I paused in my search and looked at him carefully: Gray hair, probably in his late 60’s or early 70’s, white, the medium build of a life-long intellectual, a direct gaze.

He took in my appraisal for a moment, then said, “What made you think I gave you my name?”

“Your story,” I said. “As you talked, I recognized your story about your daughter’s highly successful Los Angeles restaurant and remembered that you are an artist who loves food.”

“Yes, my daughter says her restaurant is a place where beautiful young people go to sit on stools.” He paused again, this time, he tilted his head to his left while looking at me carefully. “You have some sort of aphasia,” he stated.

“Yes,” I said, a bit startled that he had noticed. “Prosopagnosia – face blindness.”

“So,” he said, “you had no idea who I was and who you were talking to?” 

“Well, not at first,” I said, “but I kept listening for your story and when you mentioned food, I remembered you and your story about your daughter, the chef and restauranteur.”

“I’ve always wanted a form of aphasia,” he said. “I’m jealous.”

“No you’re not,” I said. “You’re just a romantic. There is nothing fun about it. Most of the time it just gives me a lot of social anxiety and I have to be more trusting than is probably good for me.”

“So,” he said, “you didn’t really recognize me, not even my voice?”

“Your voice was familiar,” I said. “I thought I might have met you, so I just waited until you had said enough for me to remember that I really had met you.”

“Do you remember my body?” He said, moving his hand gently in the air from his chin to crotch in a delicate swipe.

“I could,” I said, “If I saw it more often.”

He looked surprised, tilting his head again to look at me carefully.

I rushed my words together to explain, “Then I would know you by your gesture and form.”

He considered that for a moment.

“So,” he said, “do you always know who it is you are having sex with?”

“Well, I said, “considering how my 20+ year marriage ended, I’d have to say, ‘No’.”

“My name is David,” he said.

Note: Life with Prosopagnosia, aka Face Blindness is a way for me to process what it is to have the condition and the wonky twist it gives many interactions in my life. Cristina Acosta.  

vintage pumpkin bread recipe

Vintage Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Vintage Pumpkin Bread recipe fills your home with a delicious scent while cooking. Quick breads are sweet or savory breads risen with baking powder or soda instead of yeast. Which makes the baking process “quick” as compared to the “slow” yeast-risen breads. Sweet or savory, quick bread is a quick addition to any meal. I adapted this vintage pumpkin bread recipe years ago from a vintage banana bread recipe in a 1953 cookbook titled, “The American Family Cook Book by Lily Wallace. I often substitute leftover baked sweet potato for the pumpkin.

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

(one large or two small, loaves)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Grease/butter a loaf pan: 5” x 9” x 3” or two small loaf pans

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose white flour
  • 3 t. baking powder (I use aluminum free)
  • 1 C. sugar (I use Mexican white sugar – it’s beige) You can mix brown and white sugar, too.
  • 1 to 2 C combination of/or raisins – black or gold; chocolate chips, chopped nuts

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz can of mashed, cooked pumpkin (about 2 cups). Sweet potato is a delicious substitution.
  • 1/4 C blackstrap molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 C EVO olive oil OR melted butter

Mix together wet ingredients separately until smooth, then dry ingredients separately. Then dump the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir by hand until mixed. Pour the thick mixture into greased loaf pan(s).

Put in pre-heated oven bake for 75-95 minutes OR until a knife pierced into the center comes out clean. Reduce baking time by 10-15 minutes if using 2 pans. Check for doneness.

Guadalupe Procession California by Cristina Acosta

Guadalupe Procession to Celebrate December

I walked 25 miles yesterday with thousands of people marching for love. Despite walking the 25 miles, I did not finish the Guadalupe procession which zig-zagged it’s way around the Coachella Valley in Southern California to the Our Lady of Solitude Church in Palm Springs, California to it’s sister church in Coachella. I knew the distance from my house to that church was a bit over 20 miles, so I put myself in that headspace and filled a backpack with water and food. I set my orthotics into my best pair of walking shoes and prepared clothing for a day that would span from a cold desert morning across the hot sun of the day.

The Guadalupe Procession began at 6 a.m., about dawn in the town of Palm Springs, California. Six hours later I was walking against the nylon rope that shaped the serpentine line of thousands of people against the right curb of the concrete highway and wondered when we would arrive. I checked my smartphone and saw that we’d traveled about 15 miles (including my walk from home to the Procession) and thought the church must be about 7 miles ahead.

Despite beginning the Guadalupe Procession at the front of the group, bathroom breaks had put me at the back of the procession by the time I reached 15 the mile mark. Getting in and out of the porta-potty line was the time-suck dark side of proper hydration.

Guadalupe Procession California by Cristina Acosta
Guadalupe Procession California by Cristina Acosta

The desert sun was beating down surprisingly strong for a December day, reflecting back up relentlessly from the concrete road and my feet were starting to swell. I introduced myself to the man at the end of the line who was carrying about 20 pounds of coiled rope over his left shoulder as he walked the end of the procession. His name was Enrique and he smiled at the surprise on my face when he told me the procession was 36 miles long.

That was a surprise. Apparently the different Coachella Valley cities the Guadalupe Procession zigzagged through required a path that kept the procession of thousands away from the succession of stoplights on Highway 111, adding about 13 miles to the 22 mile journey. For the first time, I wondered if I would be able to complete the Guadalupe Procession.

I didn’t. The second stop of the Procession was in Indian Wells across from The Tennis Gardens. My smartphone told me I’d walked 25 miles. I’d been fantasizing about ibuprofen pills for the past hour and I knew that pushing my middle-aged body to the finish line, though possible, would exact more of a toll than I wanted to pay. So, I stopped.

cristina-acosta-2016-guadalupe-processionI sent prayers to all of those people in the world who don’t have the option to stop when they are miserable. Prayers to the people of Syria, trapped in a city they can’t walk away from and those refugees around the world who put their lives on the line to walk even one more step into the unknown.

Watching my fellow travelers in the Guadalupe Procession I was reminded of the humanity we all share. And I was overcome with the love that thousands of fellow travelers in the journey displayed for others. December 12th is the Catholic Feast Day for Our Lady of Guadalupe, a day of processions and prayer that can include a walk if you are so inclined. No need to be Catholic to join, anyone is welcome.Walking in the Guadalupe Procession was a beautiful way to celebrate the month of Christmas.

About the Painting: My grandmother, Catalina Maria Ortiz Acosta was a concert pianist born in Los Angeles in 1904. Half New Mexican Spanish and Half Native American, she was pure artist. I’ve imagined her as a young woman, looking into her future. Her head is crowned with shed horns, symbolizing renewal and resilience. She is adorned with hibiscus, one of her favorite flowers. Her future grandchildren, symbolized by flitting birds, fly amongst the flora. The branches hold her in time and space, only her soul travels through her eyes. About the Artist: Cristina Acosta is a painter, writer and designer born in Los Angeles. She’s a nature girl who has lived in the mountains and ranch lands of Oregon and the desert and beaches of California.

The Yearning Lover Archetype

I accidentally skied off of a cliff and into an abyss. It awakened me with a gasp and a racing heart. I found myself sitting up in bed at 3 a.m. with not a chance of falling back to sleep easily. So I laid back and thought about it. Part of me had died in that dream and when I asked myself which part or self had died, the answer presented itself immediately, the Yearning Lover. Specifically, the Yearning Lover had accidentally skied off of a cliff into an abyss. And it was about time.

The Yearning Lover, is part of the Lover Archetype. Archetypes were popularized by the seminal psychologist Carl Jung who was working with concepts Plato wrote about a couple of thousand years ago. Archetypes live on a continuum ranging from superficial to serious. The Yearning Lover is often created in childhood, but it can develop at anytime under the right circumstances. In my case, the Yearning Lover entered my psyche as a child. Parented by a narcissistic father and an emotionally unavailable mother, I was working daily to earn love.

With most every passing year for the first ten years of my life, my mother had another child. There was a lot of work to do, so the opportunities to work for love and affirmation were endless. I was the oldest child and a daughter. I had the temperament and the capacity. I yearned for love and learned from my parents that love was conditional and they decided the conditions. I got to work. The Yearning Lover had entered my psyche, unpacked and settled in for the long run. I was about five.

The Yearning Lover archetype shaped my core expectations of my relationships for decades to come, until finally I recognized it’s presence and the impact it was having on my life. 

We all recognize the Yearning Lover, if not in ourselves then, in others. Think of the jilted friend who just can’t get over their lost love; another who obsesses over the latest hot date; or just about any chick flick with Hugh Grant in the lead. The Yearning Lover is a cultural standby.

But don’t think the Yearning Lover is only an hormonally driven archetype of dubious depth. The Yearning Lover can awaken serious compassion and sympathy. The Yearning Lover’s serious side is the widow grieving his or her life’s love; the abused child pining for love; a parent who has lost a child, the empty-nester and anyone feeling left out or left behind, yearning.

The Yearning Lover pines for love. Any kind of love can be on that list and how that list manifests can surprise us. The thirst, desire, wishes, aspirations and other hungers of the heart can be lead by craving, coveting or choosing – consciously or unconsciously. The young Yearning Lover is visually impaired by both nature and nurture. Love is blind. With maturity comes the option of consciousness. Love and clarity intertwine, and love is light. The Yearning Lover isn’t about either weakness or strength, good or evil. Yearning drives the desires we use to shape our lives with every choice. Accountability is necessary for eventual clarity. Until then, we usually are blind to the effects of the Yearning Lover in our lives.

Despite my best efforts to live consciously and embrace clarity, I suspect that I miss a lot. The intersection of hope, aspiration and whatever version of reality I’m in often leave me with better hindsight than here-and-now-sight. It took me a really long time to viscerally understand the Yearning Lover within the rooms of my psyche. I married and divorced two men for a total of 30 years of marriage, had one daughter, worked, played and made a lot of art.

With my divorce from my daughter’s dad, the Yearning Lover began diminishing. Again – I just can’t seem to know what’s really going on at a deeper level when it happens, so I didn’t notice at first. My head was down and I was getting through those very difficult few years. The difference was, I decided that I was done with yearning. Life was too short.

Less than a year before the shit hit the fan in my marriage, a friend died in my arms while I was performing the Heimlich maneuver on him. It was a cold January evening when I joined him and his wife and family for dinner at their home. Within the first few bites, he choked. Within five minutes, he was dead on the floor by the side of their dining room table. I was shocked to my core. As I lowered his body to the ground, a profound knowing filled me. Life was short.

I know, that seems obvious, but it really isn’t – especially as I’m blessed to live in a peaceful place with my basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and clean water met. I get caught up in the day and what I think I “have” to do. I forget that life is short. 

The next three or four hours were a blur of sorrow. When the coroner and EMTs were done, I went home. My husband and daughter were out of town and I was alone. I thought of that profound knowing and realized that I needed to stand up for exactly what I needed. No more yearning. If I didn’t get it, oh well. At least I wouldn’t be yearning. With that profound knowing fresh in my mind, I became emboldened.

I thought that my odds were good – I’d talk to my husband and this time I would not be dissuaded or put off. He loved me, I reasoned, it will all work out. After a session of marriage counseling I would imagine that everything would be ok with us. But instead of hoping, pining and wishing he would like and love me again, I changed how I framed my desire to connect with my husband. When I felt myself becoming an emotional supplicant, yearning for love, I would stop and observe myself. I turned my feelings of yearning away from my husband and my marriage and pointed that feeling towards what I could do for myself.

I was still yearning, but at least there was a possibility for fulfillment, I told myself. No more carrot and stick relationships, no more emotional supplication. Not that I really knew what to do for myself to create the feeling of fulfillment, I was at a loss. But I decided to change what I could and trust that as I learned more about myself I would know what to do. Mostly I changed my mental and emotional focus.

The energy I spent trying to earn my husband’s friendship and love slowed to a trickle and then stopped. We had been together about 20 years. I decided to stop working for his love and see what happened. Surely, I thought, deep down he loved me for who I was and would make my happiness a priority. Did I feel more loved by him after my assertions? No. But nothing had changed on his side. He was content with how he felt in our relationship. My side of things had changed.

Though I wondered and worried that I was doing the right thing I stuck with my new level of emotional assertiveness despite his lack of response because of unexpected positive side-effects; I was less tired, less exhausted and an intermittent eye-tick that had plagued me for years was diminishing. So, I stayed strong and turned any yearning into assertiveness. Then my acid-reflux lessened and mostly stopped. I kept at it. Calm assertiveness was my mantra. Don’t repeat or reiterate I would tell myself, gently persevere. Demand parity. My weekly counseling sessions were a crucial reality check. My meditation practice was calming.

Then my husband told me he wanted a divorce. It was just a few days before Christmas. The opportunity to yearn was huge. I backslid here and there. But I kept at it. The next few years where incredibly difficult. Nonetheless, the actions I took to realign my feelings of yearning into feelings of having enough and being enough became a habit. I wasn’t lying to myself with affirmations that were aspirational at best, instead, I re-framed how I defined what I wanted, always looking for the deeper theme. Another unexpected and positive side effect of that habit was the trickle-down effect it was having on the rest of my life.

When I find myself trying “too much”, I back down. Reciprocity is a balancing act and one that is not always easy, but at least I didn’t feel like a constant emotional supplicant anymore in my relationships. I have developed new relationships as older relationships reformed or ended. Yearning is no longer a daily feeling. My eye tick and acid reflux are rare to none these days. Without being overly strict with myself, I use my recognition of yearning as a caution-flag that I might be slipping back into old ways – and how I still deal with aspects of the Yearning Lover still within me.

The Yearning Lover is no longer a dominant archetype in my psyche, retreating to the role of extra in my life. The habits of thought I had worked to hard to develop successfully became habits. Last night’s dream was my unconscious telling me that I was successful. My Yearning Lover accepted it’s passing. My journey continues.

Day of the Dead is my Personal New Year

October is the countdown month to Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead on November 1st, the day after Halloween. Skeletons, orange marigolds and sugar candy skulls have slipped into the mainstream Halloween weekend decor as Dia de los Muertos gains ground nationally paired with the rise of Latinos’ increasing political and economic clout.

It wasn’t always this way. I was raised Catholic in Southern California during the 1960’s, when Halloween and All Saints Day were the norm. All Saints Day on November 1st and All Souls Day on November 2nd where the Catholic/Christian stand-ins for what some Christians consider the more pagan roots of the Day of the Dead celebration.

Despite my early indoctrination, I embraced Dia de los Muertos as an adult when my religious beliefs became my own. It became an especially significant holiday for me beginning in my early 30’s, when I realized that a pattern had formed the prior 10 years of my life. Though the world is a mystical place 24/7, October is for me, a month of particularly unusual events.

Basically, the weird, mystical and synchronistic enter my life more often in October. A letter lost in the mail for three years from a deceased cousin arrives in October. I toured an historic home in Espanola, New Mexico during October and when I entered the sala/living room I was met with a vision straight from a repetitive dream I’d had during my entire pregnancy three years earlier. During October of the following year, I learned that my ancestors where the family who had built that historic home. Standing in an airport another October I hear my name and a man I last saw 30 years earlier as a boy on the school bus introduces himself. Octobers have filled the well of my psyche for the year to come.

October is the month of preparation for Dia de los Muertos. To prepare, I take an extra effort to listen as the spirits of my ancestors visit me in October. I expect them to leave me with an epiphany or revelation about the course of my soul. Or maybe just a new “old” friend. This year felt a bit different. I didn’t feel like I was getting any new insights or revelations and the month was counting down.

This October, my epiphany came last night in a dream on Halloween night, the eve of Dia de los Muertos. I had a dream about death and falling. The dream sat me straight up in bed from a deep sleep. It also let me know that I had passed through a significant portal. I was happy. My dreams were changing. Parts of the old me that no longer served my growth and happiness had moved on.

Years ago, I was camping with friends and awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of laughter.  I had no idea until then that my friend, Eddy, laughed regularly in his sleep. His wife assured me that he often woke her up with his sleep-laughing at the beginning of their relationship, but after a few years she was used to it. To me, sleep-laughing was a revelation. I had heard of it and even experienced a few laughs here and there, but consistently giggling with happiness while dreaming most nights of the week was a new to me.

There is a kind of success in that type of joy. Though Eddy passed in an accident a few years ago, I find myself thinking about his sleep-laughter. I am ready for new dreams. I can feel them coming.

Gingerbread cookie recipe

Vintage Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

Make these gingerbread cookies a few days ahead then invite friends to a decorating party during the Christmas holiday. These spicy gingerbread cookies are a vintage 1970’s gingerbread cookie recipe my sister Alisa and I have been making since we were young teenagers. It’s a family tradition we would love to pass to you. These cookies taste great when they are fresh and soft and also age well. They make great shaped cookies, but because they rise a teeny bit they won’t work for a gingerbread house.

These cookies age very well, lasting for weeks if well wrapped.

Time:  To mix: approx 15 min. To roll out and cut: about 5-10 minutes per tray.
To cook: approx 10 – 13 minutes at 350 F

Tools: Large mixer or very strong arms, a whisk and stout spoon. Rolling pin,
Cookie sheets, Oven. Cookie cutters or a cup to create shaped cookies.

Yield: Depends on the size of your cutters. With 4”-5” tall gingerbread people cutters makes about 4 – 5 dozen.

Cookie Ingredients:
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 ¼ Cup dark molasses
3 large eggs
1 cup butter, softened
1 T. baking soda
1 t. sea salt
2 Tablespoons ground Ginger
½ Cup finely chopped dried crystallized ginger pieces (I put chunks in a blender with 1/4 C. flour and grind till  pieces are between the size of a rice grain and a petite green pea)
1 t. ground allspice
3 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
7 to 8 Cups approx. white unbleached flour

Mixing:
1.    In the mixing bowl combine butter and sugar until whipped.
2.    Add the molasses and eggs. Beat until smooth.
3.    Mix the dry ingredients together with 3 cups of the flour. Add to the wet mixture until mixed. Use a mixer on medium for 2 minutes or so.
4.    Add in flour a 1/2 cup at a time until the dough is stiff.
5.    This may become too much for your mixer and you’ll have to add the last cup by hand. Don’t add the last 1/2 cup if mixture feels dry.
6.    Dough is stiff. Use immediately, or wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Rolling and Baking:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 12 minutes
1.    Lightly flour your work surface and with a rolling pin roll a baseball-sized chunk of dough until it’s about 1/8” thick. Cut with cookie cutters or the rim of a cup dipped in flour.
2.    Spray pans with non-stick spray or smear them with a thin layer of butter
3.    With a pancake spatula put cookies on pan and cook.
4.    Re-roll scraps and cut more cookies while the others bake. Cool on wire racks.

Frosting:

With a mixer beat the following ingredients till stiff. Spread frosting across cool cookies with a knife. While it’s still wet add candy decorations to each cookie.

Ingredients:

4 C. confectioners sugar
3 large egg whites
¼ t. cream of tartar

Candy Decorations: Chocolate drops, colored sugars, raisins nuts, etc.

By Cristina Acosta ©2007 – 2015

Cottage Cheese Yogurt Breakfast Pie by Cristina Acosta

Resilient Pie Recipe: Cottage Cheese Yogurt Pie

Raise chickens and cows and you’ll need some good recipes to use up your eggs and milk. During the 1980’s I owned a small  ranch east of Bend, Oregon. Twenty acres of volcanic rimrock, juniper tree lined ridges and flood irrigated grasslands were topped with a collection of small sun-bleached wood buildings garnished with eighty years of bailing wire and cast off ranching equipment. I bought the old ranch and discovered about 100 feral chickens lived in rafters and pecked around the old milking barn. Without an actual chicken coop to corral the eggs, I carried a bucket of water to test the eggs I found trailing the chickens. If the eggs lay flat submerged on the bottom of the bucket, they were fresh. If the eggs tipped up, I pitched them towards the barn cats.

Mrs. Creasy down the road left gallon glass jars of fresh raw milk from her Jersey cows in her porch refrigerator with a money can nearby. Neighbors made proper change before taking a warm gallon or two home.

With eggs and cream to spare, I adapted a vintage pie recipe from scratch to accommodate abundance or less. I often made this pie recipe in the evening so it could chill before cutting – it makes a lovely breakfast pie served with fresh or cooked berries. You can use yogurt or sour cream as desired; full, low-fat or nonfat dairy as desired. Adjust sweeter as desired. Etc. If you are short an egg, or have an extra, no worries.  This resilient recipe does well with change. Make it yours.
————-
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup yogurt
4-6 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
Zest and juice from one small lemon (About 3-4 T juice, 2-3 t zest)
Mix all of the ingredients on med to high in a blender or food processor.

Crust Is Optional!!
Pour mixture into a graham cracker OR cookie crust OR No Crust! And cook.

  • No crust option: Shallow ceramic or glass ovenproof pie pan or brownie pan and butter the inside. While the oven is preheating, place a larger pan with about an inch of water in it. Place your crustless pie pan in that water bath.
  • OR Pour into a graham cracker crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 50-70 min. A test knife in the middle should barely come clean.
    If you are cooking small dishes, reduce baking time about 10-15 min.

Topping: Fresh or cooked fruits are delicious. I made the marion berry topping in a skillet.

Fruit Topping:

2 cups of fresh or thawed berries, peaches, cherries, etc.

1 cup water or juice (orange juice is good with berries)

2 T. flour or 2 t. cornstarch blended in a little liquid, then added to the pan.

Sugar or other sweetener as desired, such as: 1/4 C. to 1/2 C. brown or white sugar, 1/4 C. honey or stevia to taste.

Add all ingredients in a saucepan or skillet and bring to a boil, stirring as the mixture thickens. When it’s thick, remove from heat and chill. It will set up even more.

Isabella Acosta Barnajumping ©Cristina Acosta

Build Resilience by Finding Your Edge Then Pushing Past It

The word edgy has gotten a workout the past few years. Originally describing nervous and jumpy people, the word has morphed to include daring, provocative and trend setting. Transformative ideas are often described with attributes of the edge: Leading-edge, cutting-edge, pushing-the-edge.

Though edges are often paired with  thrill seeking, intellectually, physically or emotionally – thrill seeking is only one aspect of the practice. Consciously working with your edges with positive and compassionate intentions can increase your resilience. And resilience is one of the keys to a fulfilling life.

Resilience is the strength we use to pick ourselves up and move on from the stumbles, falls and blows of life. Resilience gets us past the bad things that happen to us and puts us on the path to our best life. Resilience transforms surviving into thriving. If you want to increase your resilience in any way; emotionally, physically, intellectually, practice working with your edges, whatever they may be.

Finding edges is an adventure in itself. It doesn’t have to be all difficulty and pain that bring us to the edge (though that is certainly one way), joy, curiosity, adventure and love also can challenge our edges.

Life gives us plenty of accessible ways to expand our edges and increase our resilience. Formal education and self-study can help us transform and grow intellectually as we push the edges of our intellectual skills and comprehension. Sports can do the same for us physically, the efforts resulting in a body that can do more than ever before. Cultivating compassion towards ourselves and others can help us expand the edges of our consciousness as we grow emotionally and spiritually.

Whatever the edges are within yourself that you identify and seek to expand, remember that one person’s edge is not another person’s edge. Edge-finding is not a competitive sport.

Here’s an example: I don’t like heights. Several summers ago I took my daughter and her friend on a float down the Deschutes River, where it meanders through the town of Bend, Oregon. Floating the river through town, we stopped to climb onto a footbridge arching the riverbanks. A small group of young people and kids were climbing onto the bridge railing to jump into the river below. My then ten year old daughter and her friend joined in. They jumped in, swam to the edge and jumped in again about three times before I jumped even once.

It took me about twenty minutes to jump off of an eight foot tall span of bridge. A very long twenty minutes. And I was proud of myself. My daughter and her friend were polite about my excitement, but didn’t understand it. Their edges were somewhere else entirely, not even on this trip.

Playing with your edges consciously and compassionately is a form of spiritual practice. Finding those edges and pushing at them in small and large ways keeps them flexible and open to growth.

Practice playing with your edges and not only will you have a new set of adventures to experience, you’ll be developing your resilience.  Your capacity to thrive and enjoy your life despite the tough stuff will increase. Make playing with your edges a part of your consistent practice and the choices you have in all aspects of your life will expand and deepen.

 

Cristina Acosta and Isabella Acosta Barna

Aging Openly and Other Awesome Side Effects of Going Gray

I call the short little inhaling gasp some people make when surprised the “in-suck”. I named it because I used to hear it so much. Consequently, the term needed a much shorter name than, “the short little……” blah, blah, blah.

Stay in shape; take good care of your skin and teeth; take your vitamins; wear contemporary styles; these are some of the usual tips for aging gracefully.

Do all of the above and you will most likely age beautifully, extending your “youthful” qualities several more years than you might expect. You’ll feel good and you’ll look good.

I’ve done all of that, continue to do that and highly recommend it. Feeling youthful is awesome. But I’m not young, I’m middle age, and there’s nothing like the reality check of the in-suck to remind me of that truth.

Here’s a typical example of the in-suck experience:  I’m at a concert, in my dance groove and having a great time. I feel a gentle tap on my backside. When I turn around, the cute 30-something guy behind me draws his hand back and gasps. One big in-suck.

Age is age, and eventually, if we’re lucky (and not dead), it catches up with us. So, I dealt with the in-suck for quite awhile, thinking of it as my own little reality-check. But those days are over.

The unexpected, positively awesome side effect of letting my hair grow gray naturally has been a complete exit of the in-suck from my life. No longer does a younger man tap on my backside and gasp in surprise when I turn around, a much older woman than he was expecting. My new gray hair is my emissary, gently announcing my middle age status from all directions and distances.

Who knew I’d be grateful for that, but I am. I swore I wouldn’t stop dying my hair until I was at least 70. But I’ve changed my mind. I am growing older and I’m in to it. The reinvention of middle age takes focus and creativity, and I don’t want to spend my energy trying to be something I used to be or am not. My gray roots had become distracting to me. I’ve opted for aging openly, it’s my new adventure.

 

Making friends with my shadow. ©Cristina Acosta

The Shadow Side of Creativity

Watch toddlers on internet videos when they first understand that their shadows are connected to their bodies and you’ll see reactions from calm acceptance and curiosity to crying and fear. Some of the babies cry as they try to outrun their shadows, only stopping when they are in the shade and their shadows disappear from view. Occasionally, a baby will coo happily at their shadow, possibly meeting an invisible friend for the first time.

I feel like I’ve been every one of those toddlers at some point in my life. The shadow side of my self, defined by Carl Jung as the dark side of each person’s psyche has been the part of myself I’ve come to know and appreciate over the years despite many years denying it, running from it or trying to chase it down. Not only might this sound confusing, it felt confusing.

Duality is confusing for me. The yin and the yang; the light and dark; the tendency to hear my inner voice as two sides of one self – one the “good,” the other the shadowed “bad” side of my psyche. Keeping both sides of the psyche in balance to access the deeper knowledge within requires paying attention to and striving to understand both the light and dark sides of ourselves. Denial only causes projection and a lack of compassion both towards myself and by extension, others.

One of the things I’ve learned about looking into the dark side of myself is that the darkness within me grew with injuries. It didn’t begin with those injuries, I feel the dark side is always present, but it certainly can grow with pain. Those pains became the darkness and grew more darkness. It’s a paradox I don’t understand, but I’ve learned to live with it. And I’ve learned that by shining the light of my attention into the darkness within, I can reverse the growth of my dark side, opening more room for light and life, creativity flourishes. Clarity and peace can move into the freed space and I feel lighter and more creative.

The shadow within shrinks to a manageable size and has become my invisible friend once again. These many years later, deep into adulthood, I am learning again to skip and play with my shadow as I move between the light and the absence of that light.