How Good Can it Get?

Because I am more prone to incessant worry about future events than I am to anticipating good outcomes, or pleasant surprises, I continue to struggle with my pessimism bias. That is I tend to exaggerate the likelihood that negative things will happen in the future.

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This morning, walking back from the gym, I had a thought drop in from the sky. A simple little question just popped into my head.  The question I pondered. . .

I wonder, how good can it get?

or better said by Alan Cohen . . .

 

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Here, a cheat sheet to the many cognitive biases that keep us stuck.

Featured image “Open mind” ceramic series by Johnson Tsang

(Some) of The Most Important Things That Matter

I use to fill every moment of my day with something I could cross off my list later. #thatain’tliving

Elizabeth CarlsonI am Falling in Love with My Imperfections“.  A poem to learn from.

The more time I spend with the aging and the dying, the more I am beginning to understand what really matters each day.

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Their regrets become my wisdom and the important lessons to win tomorrow, while there is still life to be lived.  This is the stuff I should’ve learned so long ago and the lessons that should be taught in school.

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1. This moment right now, make it matter.  Make this moment important, vital and worth living.

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For so long I made a pact with myself to seek the truth, until I realized, that . . .

2. The truth you seek is only a matter of your perspective. There are many different versions of the truth.

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There are many realities. There are many versions of what appears obvious. Whatever appears as the unshakeable truth, its exact opposite may also be true in another context. – Amish Tripathi

Embrace the ability to see all things as they are and not as we ‘think’ they are. Reality in all it’s forms, is our friend.

3. All of our experiences shape us. We should seek new experiences and adventures each day. Try stuff. All sorts of stuff.  Expand our borders.

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You may think your “story” is boring, ordinary and not worth sharing, but you are wrong. Very wrong. You have some experience with life and someone out there can learn from your mistakes. You hold the power to lift someone up with a single sentence, a lesson learned.  Share your lessons with strangers.

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4. We are so much more powerful than we even know. Our words can be weapons, a single sentence can be as sharp as a sword. You can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.

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To play our roles in life well – whatever the roles are, brother, father, husband, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, mentor. . .we simply must be and do that which is right at the moment and do it with patience and kindness.

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5. The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.

So listen deeply to friends and enemies. Listen quietly for all the missing words, the things they don’t say. All of it can teach you as well.

And remember, fear not the angry and rageful. To see compassionately how others may be in pain.

Stay soft and available always. Yes, you can train, practice and prepare for the future, but most importantly, be adaptable, flexible and ready to pivot, detour and move on when things aren’t going well.

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Sharing our gifts, bringing our best and leaving those we encounter feeling stronger and more inspired after we leave them.

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Be emotionally free, while letting go of all resentment and anger. Forgiving all.

6. Continue to strip life of all that bogs us down. Boiling our actions down to the most important.

Speaking fewer words, owning less of everything, accomplishing more by doing less.  Every so often, it is our duty to cleanse our emotional baggage and past hurt. Heal our pain and fix our faulty parts by becoming more self-aware while understanding the genesis of our emotions

7. Treat ourselves well. Guard our minds, keep thoughts bright, clear and as strong as can be.

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8. To prepare for the transition of  life/death/life. Learning to love the open ended mystery of not knowing why.

Balance out the days with enough sleep time, intimacy time, work & focus time, time in (self-reflection), down time and play time. Live each day as if it was your last.

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Remember this, when it all falls apart or there’s a heavy cross to bear and the storm is on the horizon. Learn to adapt and adjust daily.

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“Amid a world of noisy, shallow actors it is noble to stand aside and say, ‘I will simply be.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”
Allen Ginsberg

“The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.”
Lao Tzu

    • Featured art “Sounding Silence” by

Michael Cheval

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Staying Awake, Alive & In The Moment, Even in Times of Uncertainty

Three very memorable lessons from my morning (reading and mediation) ritual today.
Live Like This
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Act, speak, write and create as if it were your very last day. Your last moment here. Create from the heart as if you are expressing yourself for the last time. Like this is it. Make it all matter.
Listen: Tara Brach Accessing Innate Wisdom
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Let Go of The Controls
Stay open to the impermanence of life. To all of the change that is happening around you. To the fact that everything is constantly evolving.
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Discipline yourself to wake up out of the trance-like “thought” and come into your senses, awake and aware of this moment right now. Stay in touch with your aliveness. Open up to the space between your thoughts. Inhabit the pause, the silence between your monkey mind chatter.  Learn to tolerate the groundlessness & uncertainty of life. Let it all happen, even in times of maddening uncertainty.
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Stay Amazed and Astonished
Life is nothing short of a miracle. This is something to remember when you are busy managing the mundane. Never forget the miracle of being alive right now.
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Self-Abandonment, Sitting with Painful Emotions & Some Damn Good reasons for Building Self-Trust

I was seeking the truth about why my words contradicted my actions.  Why my good intentions were backfiring.  Why I would say “I want to achieve this and I want to achieve that” all day long- but I never really met my goals head on. I got some half-assed results.  Whether it was ” I will never let anyone treat me like that again,” as I jumped into bed with my ex or “I’m not eating another piece of fattening bread again,” as I smeared a slab of butter on the dinner roll.  Contradicting myself all the time.  Oh to be human.

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I would set myself up each day for success, at least in in my mind, but by dinner time, I was right back where I started, sometimes even worse off.  Self-sabotage.  Overpromising too many people, including myself and underdelivering and setting myself up for failure.

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It came to the point where I just couldn’t trust myself at all any more. I’d say things to myself like  “I’ll start saving money soon,”  as I continued to rack up my credit cards at my favorite boutiques, restaurants and cafes.

I’m working on building my trust back. Honestly, how can you trust anyone else if you don’t trust yourself?

Read: 21 Signs You Don’t Trust Yourself

Pains

Trusting yourself is what builds confidence. On the other hand, NOT trusting yourself, because you are lying to yourself, is what leads to self doubt and ultimately painful emotions. And you know how we don’t like to feel those.

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“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: First Part

Trusting Only The Good Parts of Ourselves

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Personally, I have found that self-trust starts with self-forgiveness and taking the time to understand why we are so self-deceptive. I took sometime to think back on all the terrible, selfish and thoughtless things I have done to myself and to others throughout my life.  Then I read the list. God that was hard. Then I waited a day and thought about more bad things that I did and added to the list. Oh, to take a good look into the guiltiness of it all. It was so damn painful. The crazy thing is – I would write down something I remembered that I did that hurt someone and then I WOULD MAKE AN EXCUSE FOR WHY I DID IT. Really??

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The point I am trying to make here is that we can’t just trust some parts of of ourselves. Like the good parts with the good emotions. We have to trust our whole entire being. The good, the bad and the ugly.  This starts by not abandoning yourself.  You abandon yourself every time you don’t allow yourself to be completely honest, feel badly and sit with some of the pain and sadness you have brought to your own life.  Don’t dwell there, just become more aware.

“Self trust is the essence of heroism.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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But I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units — because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back. Such things have disappeared perhaps because men do not trust themselves anymore, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails.
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Seeking The Companionship of The Conversations We Have with Ourselves & Overdosing on Overthinking

Isn’t it peculiar when you find yourself waking up from living in a moment that doesn’t even exist yet? 

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An important note about why we overthink things.  Why we try to forecast the future, figure out what is going to happen next and play out the scenarios before they even happen.

We find comfort there.  It gives us power. It can be a good thing.

We find companionship within the constant conversation we have with ourselves. 

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The addicting mind chatter becomes even more distracting when we have a challenge we can’t solve or when we feel all alone. We wander behind enemy lines (inside our perturbed minds) and begin to overthink it all.

The path to more peace, is to sit with how things really are and examine all the ways you chase for comfort when feeling vulnerable, lonely, frightened and anxious.  We become addicts to unnecessary activity and addicted to the discursive thoughts in our mind. 

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These addictions we have come in all types of forms, some more healthy than others. We become addicted to work, exercise, food, adventure, meditation, yoga, anything to remove us (read: escape) from the painful truth of reality.

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Watch: How to Use Drugs by Alain de Bottom.

A drug can be anything that increases an expanded state of consciousness (that is the state or quality of awareness) in which the pain of immediate troubles is lessoned by euphoric recognition of nature and the cosmos.

 

 

Generating Good Vibes & Why You can’t afford Another Negative Thought

This is probably TMI and I never told anyone outside of my family this, but here you go. . .
I have been emotionally drained this past year (wait, my entire adult life) with a very unstable ex-husband who is non-compliant with his medication. The father of my four darlings, this charismatic dude is lashing out and vibrating at a super, super, super angry and rage-full frequency.
He comes with the complete package – bipolar, borderline personality disorder, substance abuser and quite frankly a big, no, forgive me HUGE pain in the ass. Yes I knew he had this disease and yes it has been an extremely rough road, yes we had some great times in-between, but the biggest problem I have right now is he is displacing his pain, resentment and rage on his  own grown children.
Thank God they are strong enough to see through the manipulation and self-pity.
Look, I know he is sick and yes I have been compassionate, but as anyone involved with someone who has untreated bipolar that is exasperated by drug and alcohol abuse will tell you – it is just horrifying to see someone self-destruct when they know very well that there is medication and healthy ways to manage this illness. To make matters worse, he had an incredible nine years of wonderfulness in-between episodes. I am grateful to have had that time with him, BUT. . .
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I just see way too many people with manic depression and mental illness struggling to take care of themselves while broadcasting their lives on YouTube and blogging about their daily challenges. It seems extremely selfish for him to at the very least try to commit to lifelong mental health.
What a beast of a disease.
So, I search for solutions. Not for him, for ME now. I am done with trying to fix someone who doesn’t want help. Disease or no-disease, there comes a time when you have to protect and care for yourself. Shout out to all you amazing caregivers out there.  I feel you.
Where do I begin?
Right now I feel like I need to wash, no SCRUB off the toxic and at least try to vibrate on the highest level I possibly can.
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Help. I’m looking for the blessings. Sure it could be worse, but damn.
The quote that keeps me hanging on lately –

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. 

Please someone help me see the possibilities.

Rule #1 Stop doing things that don’t produce results.

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I use to smile a lot. I smiled because I was genuinely happy inside. Then somehow life started to feel like an uphill battle, a long, arduous climb. The thing I like about smiling is that if feels like the boldest statement you can make, without saying a word.
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Strangers would comment about my smile. Out of the blue, I would be walking down the street, on the train, at work, “what a contagious smile you have”.  Great smile, they’d say and they’d smile back.
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My smiling days. It felt like my energy was pure & protected from the pains of the world.

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I remember once my father asked me when I was smiling one morning “what the hell are you so happy about?” It was as if he was accusing me of being phony, fake, a poser. It crushed me for a while. But I kept on smiling.
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I want to get that great big beautiful smile back. I want to FEEL the way I did when I didn’t know much.

I want to dance, sing, celebrate, love, kiss, hold, run, laugh, swim myself back to that state of being – that sweet inner bliss –  for no apparent reason I just glow.
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I understand it’s about raising your vibrational frequency. Or at least that’s what the people say on the internet :). Look, there is even a vibrational emotional scale that someone put together. I have no idea if this is true, but I know I want to be in the blue/violet zone even the turquoise.
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The funny thing about those smiley days,  it wasn’t as if my life was any better than it is now. Perhaps it was full of what I perceived to be more promise and hope. There were dreams, visions and ideas. Sometimes, I think it’s about getting back to your original story line.
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How to Re-energize My Life & Produce Some Damn Good Vibes

So the story goes that watching my thoughts can lead to better emotions which will then dictate improved behavior and possibly upgrade my vibrational frequency.
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My plan? 
Stay away from people who are low energy, negative thinkers, complainers, whiners and of course just downright mean. Mean people just suck.
Track my emotions during the day and use them to inform me of what I need to fix.
Also, do more to improve and increase my vibrational state –
Meditate
Listen to music
Drawing & painting
Dancing
Outdoor Bike riding
Cycling
Long walks and hikes
Watch inspirational books, movies
and listen to some of my favorite podcasts and spiritual teachers
Use aromatherapy while sleeping and at the desk
Stay outdoors, one with nature, as long as possible
Swimming the waters
Living in a state of appreciation
Dedicate myself to doing what makes me happy & relaxed.
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Using Your Anger to Illuminate the Fundamental Truth of Your Self-nature

Most people – “the good vibes only” people in particular – tend to shy away from and may even passive-aggresively shame people who come to the party of life angry.  No drama here. No conflict. No, no, no. . .they will have none of it.  Confrontation just freaks them out.

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I’ve come to know anger on a very intimate level. We’re like BFF’s and believe me you, more recently in my life, my anger has served me well.  It has acted like a guiding light, helping free myself from the pain, guilt and shame I’ve been lugging around for years.

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One of my first really angry memories involved being bitten bloody on the arm by my raging cousin Ralph. Oh what a misfit he was. A terror. It hurt like hell. A big imprint of his huge buck teeth piercing the broken skin on my upper arm. It was a typical Sunday dinner at nanny’s house. Steaming plates of pasta and a big loud Italian family, all talking on top of one another, no one listening, ignoring the children, the women complaining and the men, oh the bravado and machismo. A scene out of . . .

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I was so enraged that I ran up to the dining room table and decided to let all of the adults at the table about what happened. I yelled at the top of my lungs, “YOUR SON JUST TOOK A BITE OUT OF MY ARM, HE IS AN ANIMAL.”  And in less than a split second everyone at the table began to laugh out loud at me. The table was rolling with laughter. I was astonished.

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Ignoring anger, any type of anger, whether it is yours or someone else’s, is not a strategy, period.

Pretending your not angry, “working out” your rage at the gym, downward dogging that dreaded pain and/or massaging your mind with positive affirmations will only create a deeper harbor for anger to anchor itself in your subconscious, and those are some deep and dark waters my friend.

I have been accused of being angry most of my life. I have damaged friendships, relationships and have gotten shunned by almost every member of my family for being angry. We are all good now, but it took a lot of deep digging to find out why I was a rage-full mad woman.

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I have come to learn that anger needs some proper investigation on a regular basis because it is a sure sign that something in your life is out of alignment with what you value and an indication that you are in need of some loving care.

Fear

 

It’s a red flag that your needs are not being met. And damn we have to meet those needs. Anger actually is a powerful emotion that protects us from feeling hurt and hopeless. Maybe even powerless. Feeling powerless is about as low as  you can go.

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Anger can be a very necessary emotion which will let you know without a doubt when you are feeling threatened and vulnerable.  When we approach anger with curiosity, when we ask ourselves “why the hell is this making me so angry?” when we take a peak at what is behind the anger curtain, the root of the problem, we find that we may be feeling hurt, betrayed, disappointed and disillusioned.

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It is to this place we must go, to the pain behind anger, with open arms, where we feel ourselves turned inside out, where we feel raw, bloody and wounded- that is what is underneath the anger. If you really want to become less angry, this is the bleeding wound that must be healed.  And you can’t rely on others to rub in the ointment and wrap the bandages. Oh no, this is an inside job.

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So if you struggle with a low tolerance for frustration or someone tells you that you need anger management therapy, try a bit of self-care.  Investigate that anger. Get up close and personal with the pain.

From Uprooting the Seeds of Anger

We might explore this possibility by asking ourselves about where our anger really comes from. What is the other side of anger? Fear. We can’t free ourselves until we work through both our anger and our fear. And what is the cause of fear? Ultimately, it is the fear of nonexistence, death, the fear of losing ourselves and being forgotten. But a fear of death translates into a fear of living, because impermanence is itself a fundamental condition of our lives. In this fear lie the seeds of anger.

So now, how do I deal with angry people? I realize that hurt people hurt. I approach them with curiosity. What is behind that big, bad bark? 

For myself, now when I get angry, I know how to soothe myself (a very good thing to learn how to do by the way). I take to the waters and I meditate.

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Now I know. . .

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How Honest Do We Really Want to Be with Ourselves?

I am 1,000 % absofuckinglutely certain that I should be recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the biggest idiot on the planet for repeating the same damn mistakes over and over again for most of my adult life. Life on repeat can be brutal.

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Why am I so susceptible to making the same mistakes over and over again?  Whether it’s ruining a diet with three glasses of wine, running credit card debt on a bunch of useless stuff I never needed in the first place, trusting a friend who was way less than honest or sacking up with an ex.  What possesses me/us to continue to do things that get in the way of what we truly want? Is it fear of the unknown? Fear of what life would be if we didn’t do the things we did on repeat? Maybe. Perhaps it’s a matter of finding the holes. The holes we keep falling into. The mind-numbing, soothing and relaxing way our brain feels after a glass or two or three of wine. Or the familiar, comfortable and easy way it feels to slip right back into the arms of the one you once loved.  I need to look at the benefits of my biggest mistakes.

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Read: How to be honest with yourself and get more done, for some decent advice on how to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Harmful Habits & Slipping into Default Mode

When we do something right, a pathway is created in our brain. Unfortunately, a pathway is also created when we something wrong. We basically build habits this way, both good and bad. So the reason we keep making the same mistakes is that we slip by default back into existing neural pathways.

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Achieving Ego Free States

Sometimes I feel like I need a complete rewiring of the brain.

Research into psychedelics, shut down for decades, is now yielding exciting results.

It seems that individuals under “treatment” transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states . . . and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance. Read more in The New Yorker: The Trip Treatment

Natural Reactions

If you have ever been accused of “overreacting” and you think something is wrong with you because someone told you so, then this 10-minute watch is critical for your growth. Bottom line: Reactions are NATURAL. Overreacting is a warning sign that you have been hurt badly. You have to HEAL that, not shame it away.

 

When Our Minds Run in Circles

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Reading, learning and practicing how to meditate to calm my mind, I am focusing on what Buddhists call “maitri”

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Maitri – practicing loving kindness and awareness to all your thoughts. Read: When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. The purpose of meditation is not to find your bliss, but to befriend and let go of all thoughts – the good, the bad and the ugly. To accept them all with loving-kindness, with maitri.

The Benefits of Being Socially Selective

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I just don’t have the bandwidth, headspace or patience for anyone right now. That is quite alright in my book. Sometimes we need a little solitude to sort things out. I just wish more people were fluid in silence.

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Comment  below if you agree and have a great Monday.

 

How To Be Successful By Being Yourself

“When you understand yourself, you’re able to navigate the world,”

– Gary Vaynerchuk

Oh but where to begin. One idea. How about getting a bit curious about you. Instead of wondering why others aren’t liking your most recent Instagram post, spend just a little time learning more about what’s going on inside your head.

Here are a few practical questions to kick off the project of getting to know yourself a bit better and here a few deeper ones if you really want to dig in.

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What am I so-so at?
  3. What am I bad at?
  4. What makes me tired?
  5. What is the most important thing in my life?
  6. Who are the most important people in my life?
  7. How much sleep do I need?
  8. What stresses me out?
  9. What relaxes me?
  10. What’s my definition of success?
  11. What type of worker am I?
  12. How do I want others to see me?
  13. What makes me sad?
  14. What makes me happy?
  15. What makes me angry?
  16. What type of person do I want to be?
  17. What type of friend do I want to be?
  18. What do I think about myself?
  19. What things do I value in life?
  20. What makes me afraid?

These questions remind me of The Proust Questionnaire. The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.

So, what helps in the process of opening yourself up to yourself? How about getting out there and interacting with the world.  However, one must proceed with caution.  First we must remove all the emotional blocks and drop all the baggage.  The grudges, the resentment and the anger that holds us back from really connecting. It begins with forgiving those that have hurt us.

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Forgiveness is like a breath of fresh air, a lighting of the load you’ve been carrying, a softening of the heart, a soothing of the mind and a releasing of the soul. Compassion follows forgiveness because you have genuinely felt your own pain and getting close to your pain is an excruciatingly freeing experience. This is how we grow to understand ourselves and appreciate others. This is how we begin to truly build relationships.

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We connect through truly understanding the human condition. With forgiveness and compassion we have the capacity to feel each others pain and with the right intentions and words, we can help each other release that pain and open up our hearts.

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I truly believe we are here together for a reason – I mean we work together, we live together, we suffer together, we smile together and we experience each and every moment together.  How could we possibly be so in our own heads?

Our growth expands the closer we get, the great and kinder the connections we make as we move away from the false and painful fantasy of isolation. We are not meant to be alone all the time.

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Feeling for our fellow, showing care and concern, warmth, love and tenderness. To be sympathetically conscious of each other.  To hold space for one and another.

The emotional ability to picture ourselves with the same problems in a non-blaming, non-shaming manner.  Reading: Pema Chodron “When Things Fall Apart

On a side note: I am on my seventh day of receiving motivational text messages from a chat bot on Shine Text. It’s a fun way to start the day. Kind of motivating.  Check it out – daily shine. 

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Blind to the Beauty of This Moment

Distraction is the main problem for us all – what the Buddha called the monkey mind. We need to tame this little monkey mind. Tenzin Palmo

As entertaining as it can be, please don’t feed the monkey mind.

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When we are unaware that we are unaware.
Then we rush and ramble through the day, doing the “important” and the urgent, going after the goals, just killing it, aren’t we though?
Both numb and dumb to the fierce and wild beauty of the present moment.
Asleep at the wheel.
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Not taking notice of our surroundings, the people we are with and even our own presence. Too busy snapping instead of savoring.
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Oh to be mindless,  as we let the monkeys swing from vine to vine through our head. Pulling us from thought-to-thought with our every emotion.  The seedlings for anxiety and panic.
So disconnected with life smack in front of us – to notice the simple and ordinary joy of the day or the pain and suffering of our brother nearby.
And those seemingly little blessings that are happening every moment for our benefit? Wait for it.
Your mind just can’t be here, there and everywhere, yet this is how we go.
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To be painfully and gratefully aware and awake with appreciation.  This is how we grow.
Inspired by my mother’s doctor who removed her cataracts today. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and is the principal cause of blindness in the world.
Overtime, like many people, mom got use to seeing the world in a blurry, shadow-like haze. In faded color instead of technicolor. It happened gradually over time. Let us not get use to going blind to the beauty of this moment.
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