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Peace, Love & Anxiety

Summer Sweetness (With Bonus Recipe!)

by Christy Gualtieri

It’s Summer, and the kids down the street have set up a lemonade stand.  There are about eight kids; the oldest is about ten, and it’s pure mayhem at first: running back and forth into the house to get the pitchers and cups, long disappearances to make the lemonade (both pink and yellow), splashes and spills galore.

And not one customer…yet. It’s blazing hot, one of the first really hot days of the year, and I think about how growing up in Miami, there weren’t many lemonade stands in my neighborhood because no one would be crazy enough to set up shop in such intense heat and humidity.  I loved that these kids were out here, though: I loved their hustle, and I loved the fact that even though we live on a street that gets very little traffic, both foot and car, they were out there anyway.

I walk down with a few bucks (each cup costs a quarter, but I knew once both my kids got a taste of it, there’d be many cups asked for), sit on the steps, and observe. The older kids busy themselves with pouring out the drinks, as the littlest ones try to learn how to wait in line patiently without crowding. Two middle school boys walk up the street, each walking a dog, and buy a cup. They look so grown up contrasted against the toddlers, and I wonder what my own kids will be like, perched on the edge of teenagerhood like that. My son takes it upon himself to stand at the very edge of the driveway and put his hand out to stop cars passing by, trying to force them to stop and buy a cup, but no cars come by.  A neighbor’s getting their lawns landscaped, and their team comes over for a few cups. It’s a big order, and the kids rush back to the house in their excitement to hurry up and make a fresh pitcher.

After about an hour, the heat is just too much, and the kids decide to pack it in.  They’ve made eight dollars, and they want to donate it to Children’s Hospital. The mom in charge thanks them and wisely suggests that they should run a few more stands throughout the season and make a bigger donation at the end. The kids try to clean up, but it’s mostly the mom who does it as the kids run around back and hit the trampoline. Summer achievements, lemonade stand and trampoline time, unlocked!

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Lemonade is not really my thing, it’s pretty sweet, but I am a huge lover of iced coffee, especially with half-and-half. For Mother’s Day last year, my husband gifted me with a two-gallon glass beverage container, and so I use that to make several batches throughout the season (the iced coffee should last about three weeks). The recipe is below, and it’s perfect for powering through a hazy Summer afternoon both at home taking care of children or at the office waiting for that end-of-day whistle to blow. This makes a huge amount (about two gallons), but feel free to halve the recipe (or even quarter it) for your needs.

You’ll need: A large plastic container, 10 oz. (a full can) of espresso (I prefer Cafe Bustelo, in the yellow can or the vacuum pack), water, a dishtowel, a large pitcher or other container that will hold your finished iced coffee, a measuring cup, and cheesecloth or some other fine mesh or synthetic strainer (I recommend these from Amazon.)

How to:

  1. Fill your large plastic container with 2 gallons (8 quarts) of water.
  2. Open the coffee can and pour it all in, mixing it around with a spatula so all of the grounds are saturated.  It’ll float on top for a while and take a couple of minutes to descend down. (You can also start out the opposite way, with the grounds in the container first, and then add the water to it.  Just make sure all of the grounds are wet.)
  3. Cover the container with a dishtowel and leave it, unattended, for 8-12 hours.
  4. Uncover the container, and bring over your pitcher or whatever you’re going to use to hold your finished iced coffee.  Affix your cheesecloth or strainer on top of the pitcher, and using a measuring cup, start pouring the coffee into the pitcher.  The grounds should stay in the cheesecloth or strainer.
  5. That’s it! Discard the grounds, or save them for your compost pile – excellent for the garden! Store your new iced coffee in the fridge, pour over ice in a glass and add whatever you like, sweetener, half-and-half, milk, or even sweetened condensed milk – and enjoy!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

 

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Existential GPS

The Sounds of Silence

by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

Culturally, spiritually and psychologically we live in a paradox. We retreat from our call-to-being by crafting stylish diversions. All neatly self-manufactured to conveniently bypass the chaotic backwoods of our lives rather than direct us on a path through the Terra Incognita. Yet, we crave something more beyond our smartly planned objectives. “Be still and know that I am God,” the Christian Psalm tells us. Stillness, tranquility, peacefulness, calm and concentration; the Buddhists call it Samatha.

Our raison d’être for exploring the geography of psyche is to discover deeper and lasting meaning, direction and rationale through an evident lack of meaning, direction and rationale in our world.  Consequently, occupation, career, acquisitiveness, and changing technology and systems are now endemic throughout our collective and personal unconscious. Taking the time to work through a crisis, even a relatively minor one, requires us to concede that our bridges are not so stylish, not so sturdy, and not so safe. The map plainly illustrates that monsters of yore have been replaced with meaninglessness, steady bi-product of lives left unquestioned and existential anxiety unchecked. Sadly, our egos are not well-versed in plotting an effective course, and anxiety swells while we further devise elevated, objective methods to escape the natural world lingering below.

This increased anxiety results in a further distancing from our creative selves, while we force as much activity and noise into our psyche in a self-medicating attempt to obscure the call. Reality television, smart devices, texting, instant messaging, music and movies on demand, are now directly accessible in packages that are engaging on the surface, but are highly symptomatic of our creative insolvency. These diversions, void of personal meaning and substance, nurture our digressions and weaken our creative and psychological vigor.

Simply put, we’ve become bored with our lives.

Therapists have an obligation to be familiar with the creative influence of stillness and the empowerment of silence as an art, not a technique. In recent years, our profession has demanded we circumvent the prickly subject of being still; a quiet mind is metaphorically viewed as a “devil’s playground,” and most empirical validated therapies heed this adage.

Stay distracted, rate your feelings on a arbitrary scale of 1-10 , complete the therapeutic homework and your symptoms will decrease. However, the wellspring of an individual’s malaise remains unattended like a super-sized, hyperactive child running amok in a jungle-gym of smoke and mirrors. The inexhaustible revisions in textbooks, the pretentiousness of clinical research and statistics, the departmental and administrative meetings, and the suggestion that we as therapists somehow provide helpful and informed solutions for others, exhibits the inane, magical thinking that plagues our human sciences. Positive thoughts will explain away pain, while CBT workbooks will change behaviors.

Let us never lose sight of what Toto revealed behind the curtain.

Within the context of the creative process, our ability to integrate psyche is possible if executed with care, compassion and understanding. Just as a tree is an arrangement of numerous substances that compose its treeness, imagination and vision tend to present as multifaceted essentials. There are many roots to the same tree all moving in different directions, but sharing common qualities. The same could be said for the creative process, be it writing, painting, sculpting, or composing music. The cohesive bond shared between artist and expression is a silent channel of communication that is open, deep and provides connectivity to the psyche in a creative style.

It is our creative and artistic endeavors that become the conduit for change, and it’s here that the spiritual essence of an individual-in-the-world can be called forth. Psyche is always with us.

Exploring the crossroads of creativity and psyche reawakens our conception and understanding of both. The most prized gift we can give the other is our creative presence. This presence need not be spoken in any language other than that of the artist’s silence. When our presence is attentive it blooms within us and others, crafting an otherwise ordinary encounter into a rich tapestry on a weaver’s endless loom.

In good health,
Don

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Existential GPS

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 2

Read the SPRING 2018 edition of The Accidental Existentialist now or download it to read later. In this issue you will find great articles, including new works by mental health professionals Christina Pettinato, Morgan Roberts and Don Laird. Leave a comment below to let us know what you think – Enjoy!

TAE_JanFeb18_Issue1

From the Publisher: Our goal is to promote the human condition by advocating for the basic essentials of existentialism as a blueprint for the development of the human arts and sciences through the further study of meaning, metaphor, myth, freedom, isolation, spirituality, creativity and death. Let’s move our existential concepts back to their foundations and away from the world of prohibitive academia where they have gone to die a slow and rather uninspired death. As the walls of an empire begin to crumble we stand on the threshold of a new era. It is one that could produce great opportunities for individual enlightenment as well as a cultural renaissance. In short, let’s not blow it.
– Don