Perfection – Are We Chasing An Empty Target?

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Dali quote

So today I am unfortunately writing from a place of frustration.

Not one to dwell on this I try and think of as many positive elements in my life as possible.  One of these positive points is that it has given me my idea for today’s blog plus it is a prime example of how life isn’t perfect all the time.

Perfection is unachievable.  It doesn’t matter how much we try we will never be able to attain it.  However, perhaps a more pressing question is do we really want to?  Life would be fantastic all the time but we would never have the opportunity to grow and learn from our mistakes.  In fact I’m not sure if I like the word ‘mistake’, in my book I view them as learning curves.  How then can they be mistakes if they become valuable opportunities for learning, as those situations are when our self-development occurs?

However, positivity rather than perfection is far more realistic.  It’s one of those silent fundamentals.  For example, if I equate it to a theatre production, positivity remains behind the scenes.  It has an essential contribution to the show and let’s say it represents the lighting department.  So even without lighting, technically the show could still go ahead but it would take place in the dark.  Similarly, life can still continue but it’s missing the component to really bring it to life and enhance it. Another show necessity is a blackout to allow scene changes to take place.  During those changes the stage crew need to find their way to ensure the staging is put in the correct place to create the appropriate environment to make sense of the next scene.  The blackout represents those occasions when a lack of positivity is necessary and the stage crew are the equivalent to utilizing your abilities to find a way to maintain it.  Hopefully that makes sense!

There is also a degree of acceptance required.  It is easy to dwell and lose yourself in sadness and depression which can last days, weeks, months.  Although there may be deeper issues causing a need for assistance with this, I am referring not to those but to the lighter every day dilemmas.  One of the things that I find helpful is to allow myself a day or two, depending on the origin of the problem, to just think about it and at times let it consume me if need be.  After that time frame is up, I let it go and move forward.  That way I’m not being too hard on myself, I’m allowing myself to process emotions, be miserable, cry (which is actually very healing in respect of dealing with problems) and think about it whatever it may be.

To attain constant positivity is a life-long undertaking.  When the goings good it’s great!  You think you’ve conquered it and have it down to a fine art.  It’s when things aren’t going so well that the test to obtain and maintain it is presented to us.  That’s when it’s most important to try and keep a hold of it because that’s what will see us through.  A silver lining is spoken of to every grey cloud and it’s over many years that I have fallen down, picked myself up and carried on to learn this.  I am able to take a step back and look at a situation objectively (to a degree, it’s still not easy!!) and try to find the lesson or ‘silver lining’ in the situation.  A wonderful and appropriate Jewish quote that I discovered many years ago is;

‘I walk, I fall down, I get up. Meanwhile I keep dancing.’

- Rabbi Hillel

One of the other outlets I use to channel negative emotions is to write.  How and what you write is of no significance.  Whatever comes into your head write it down and let it out.  I often found if I was frustrated with someone it would be in the form of a letter which I never sent, if not I would just write it all down and then take the piece of paper outside to burn it.  By burning it, you release all of the negative energy which has been extracted and is now contained in that piece of paper.

This is a very therapeutic method particularly for those with seizures/epilepsy who don’t have control over it.  Having an outlet like writing can be very cathartic.  Being able to let feelings out is essential so it doesn’t manifest itself into an increased form of ill health.

So having forced myself out of my apartment and found a café to sit down and have my rooibos tea in, from the mood I was in when I began writing to the mood I am in now, it will prove to be a very enjoyable evening!

 

Do You Need To Be Forced To Slow Down?

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Why, why, WHY is it so difficult to not do anything?!  You’d think when there’s a need to stop rushing around for your own wellbeing you would jump at the chance of doing absolutely nothing. Well, I say nothing but that ‘nothing’ means sleeping, taking to the sofa, reading or catching up on T.V plus anything else that falls into that category. That category is anything that doesn’t use vast amounts of energy that should be directed towards healing.   Nothing = not me!

Ultimately, it’s for my own health and if I don’t adhere to this I will have to accept the consequences.  I know I shouldn’t be doing anything strenuous but let’s be honest, the chores won’t do themselves.  I think it must be genetic as my mum and sister are exactly the same.  There is always something that needs to be done and if not we will find something to eliminate the ‘ants in our pants’ feeling!

Once I eventually succumb to sitting down to watch an episode of Orange is the New Black, it’s as if all the little pieces of dust and dirt become magnified in the carpet. They look at me and start to wave making their presence very clearly known soI can think of little else.  This has just increased the torture till I can no longer concentrate on my program and have to get up, walk around and at least empty or fill the dishwasher to alleviate my feelings of laziness.

I love writing and it’s an absolute blessing that I can sit down and be creative, it’s a perfect distraction.  It takes my mind off the magnified dust particles rising from the depths of what was once a foot friendly carpet.  It gives me pleasure as it’s productive because I churn out another blog post or undertake research.  So, in essence, I am being productive just not in the way that I want to be!

As I continued my research I came across this poignant article about stress. Unsurprisingly, we all know stress is detrimental to our bodies for prolonged periods of time, but this contained some facts that I wasn’t aware of:

http://www.healthline.com/health-news/mental-eight-ways-stress-harms-your-health-082713

Similarly, like Louise Hay’s sound belief in metaphysics, this article ties in with the theory that vital warning signs are presented to us.  They demonstrate the need to slow down, stop, or at least take a break.  Our bodies although breathtakingly intricate, can only withstand so much. If these warnings are not adhered to, the body will reach a point where it is unable to continue at the level that it was previously functioning at.

One of the more basic situations that force people to stop are back injuries.  So often I hear, “But I wasn’t doing anything particularly strenuous, I just bent over to pick something up” or words to that effect.  Once your back is ‘out’ you can barely  do anything other than lie down.  There is the underlying purpose, similar to the ideals of Louise Hay, that a revision of lifestyle is required.  It means looking far deeper into yourself rather than just surface to figure out what this is telling you.  It means using true honesty knowing there will be challenges ahead, but the bullet is required to be bitten to achieve that.

Lucky for me synchronicity offered me my opportunity to rethink my lifestyle.  The move to Vancouver was my saving grace.  It offered me the time to stop and smell the roses.  My tightly wound self had slowly been twisted over the years by anxiety, worry, concern of what others thought of me and lack of confidence in my job.  Most significantly it was a lack of confidence in myself.

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The unwinding process, never as fast as the former, began with the help of yoga, meditation, looking up rather than being so preoccupied with life that I was face down, an awareness of what was around me and remembering who I actually was.  I’d forgotten the most important thing in my life, me.  This had crept up before I knew it as I had been roughly carried away on the rip tide of life.

I am always left wondering what would have happened if I had continued living with the stress levels I had.  The decrease in seizures was an obvious indication that I had made the right choice.  However, it was extremely difficult to let go having been so tightly wound.  I didn’t know what to do with my new found freedom, it just didn’t seem right to me.

For the importance that our jobs and lifestyles are, a healthy balance is needed.  Don’t be afraid to make the crucial changes that will preserve your health.  As my nanny wisely used to say, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything’.

The Deepest Darkest Corners

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Attending Shabbat

I am repeatedly reminded of the invisible help which is at our fingertips that is often forgotten.  I spoke to people of a variety of faiths and thought how wonderful it must be to have a belief system that’s so strong.  This particularly comes to the fore as a support when times are hard.

Brought up a Christian, I never particularly resonated with the religion.  I remember as a child going through the motions in church but not having any type of connection with the big guy upstairs.  Visions of big sandaled feet, a flowing beige robe and a big bushy beard doesn’t really epitomize Christianity and no less what G-d looks like!  I remember the service book and with the many services I’d attended found that I could recite it by heart plus as a child I always mistook, ‘Thanks be to G-d’ as ‘Thanks Peter G-d’, after all, everyone has a first name, right?!

A number of years later I discovered Judaism.  My first encounter was in 1999 at a summer camp.  We kept kosher, celebrated Shabbat and learned many of the Hebrew songs.  It was then that a connection was forged.  I loved Judaism, I felt like it just made sense to me whereas Christianity had not.  Throughout my lifetime I have had the opportunity to take part in the Jewish traditions and rituals thanks to many special friends who are of the Jewish faith.  It felt so right that I began attending Synagogues of different denominations to discover which would be right for me.  I kept kosher and studied the Hebrew language with a view to converting.  However, it materialized that this was not my intended path.

It is important for me to clarify that this blog is my personal opinion and originates from the experiences I’ve had and my responses to them.  I am not imposing any of my personal beliefs upon others, nor am I being disrespectful or critical of others who seek and find comfort in their own faith.

One of the issues that I struggled with as I learned more about various religions was that at base level they are created by man.  It was at that stage I explored other, perhaps ‘unconventional’ beliefs, or in some cases lifestyles.   Tied in with the use of complimentary therapies, my clairvoyant abilities, finding solace in the earth and Mother Nature and with a lack of materialism, it was confirmed that I really didn’t conform to any religion!  I veered more to the spiritual side of life.

I don’t feel comfortable using the word G-d, I find ‘Spirit’ a more comfortable term as it doesn’t have associated connotations for me.  Spirituality has opened many doors.  Without a sense of constriction, I was able to gain knowledge in diverse areas.  I was able to take on board elements that felt right and that I wanted to live by.  This has expanded over the years with assorted components providing me with a firm grounding for all that I encounter.

It feels a very organic way to live as it spills over into countless parts of my life making it easier to comprehend and manage life events.  It assists with understanding why things happen, accepting ill health and being proactive in resolving it by knowing what approaches to use. I developed a heightened awareness enabling me to tune in with my body, recognizing what it’s telling me and honing the skills to listen and act upon it.

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With an imminent surgical procedure in a few weeks, it’s the time to implement skills that I have learned along the way.  With the introduction of Louise Hay (thanks Mum!), there is the opportunity to explore deeper in to why this ailment has arisen.  Having read her first book, ‘Heal your body’, it offers an insight into ill health from a metaphysical perspective.

‘The word metaphysical means to go beyond the physical to the mental cause behind it’

An example of this is cancer.  The representation of cancer is:

‘Longstanding resentment.  Deep secret or grief eating away at the self.  Carrying hatreds.’

It’s now time to venture into the deepest darkest corners to evaluate life and discover what may have been suppressed or not dealt with.  Our bodies have an incredible way of providing warnings to remind us of issues we need to address.  By choosing not to listen, the warning returns but with greater severity until it reaches the point where it is deafening, taking complete control.

Unfortunately, there is much skepticism surrounding this theory but for those who have tried it, they simply add to the growing number of people who have had positive results.  Having practiced this previously with great success, there is a necessity to put it into practice once again and this time I will most certainly have my work cut out!

 

 

The Pink Effect

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This week I begin anew, a fresh with none of the days tainted by prior events.  It is simply a blank canvas.  Some elements may carry over but they will be innovative in their content and will ultimately bring me to a place of peace and good health.  I watch as the last seven days are transported into the distance, I wish for the rollercoaster of emotions to follow as its traveling companion.

I originally thought that I rattled with my two AED’s alongside the vitamins in my system, I was proved quite wrong.  With a current plethora of antibiotics and painkillers differing in brands and levels of strength, I’m at the stage where I could probably run my own internal pharmacy.

Over the last nine weeks I have attended doctors and hospitals like it’s going out of fashion.  It’s never a good thing when you call the doctor to make an appointment and they ask, “Is that Freya?”  A sense of wanting to sink through the floor with embarrassment instantly washes over me.  Despite this, I do cling to the hope that it is due to my English accent rather than the fact I’ve been calling on a regular basis!

Aside from the other hospital visits related to the epilepsy, I have shaken up the conventional ‘pub crawl’ and added my own spin on it adapting it to a hospital crawl.  I have probably broken all records by frequenting the most hospitals in Seattle.  I’m sure you’ll admit this isn’t bad given that I’ve only been living here seven months!

It is also over the last week that I have really considered the concept of mortality.  How life is lived and the notion that we assume we are exempt from ill health.  We tend not to contemplate this until a friend or family member passes or we ourselves are diagnosed with a serious illness.  It is then that we sit back, take stock of our lives and appreciate just how fragile life is.

With this belief of invincibility, we act in such a way that it takes advantage of our bodies.  In its complexity, it both manages and rectifies the harm we impose upon it. I sadly took advantage of my body and looking back it’s amazing that it was able to cope with the damage I inflicted on it.  Being on the AED I was, I soon learned that it allowed me to drink like a fish, smoke like a chimney and get very little sleep without any repercussions other than maybe a few more absences but I figured that was a drop in the ocean.

At that point I was running away from problems I wasn’t ready to deal with.  Starving my body of food in order to punish it and binging two weeks later from pure hunger still saw it functioning in the scrupulous way it always had.  In hindsight, I am extremely lucky that my body didn’t rebel causing significant health problems.  In many instances, it is only as time goes by that the payback slowly begins to happen.  When the body isn’t as competent as it once was the consequences become visible. As we become older we are given the opportunity to acquire the wisdom and awareness to change our ways.  The respect and care we have for our bodies is exhibited through the decisions we make.  As they say, ‘Your body is a temple’; however, many continue to miss this fact pushing their body and abilities to its limits.

Having been in pain for a while now, it was last week that I had a lucky escape.  With a potentially grim prognosis it made me reflect on how I live life and the changes I would make if life altered dramatically.  After a hospital appointment, I walked down the hill in the sunshine thinking about the possibilities.  When I thought of things I should change I realized that actually I live life exactly the way that I believe it should be lived.  With my awareness, positivity, gratitude and the desire to help others, I decided that I am an overall good person.  My attitude towards my existence is something that I felt I wouldn’t need to change and I am proud of myself.  We all make mistakes and aren’t perfect so I am in no way blowing my own trumpet but we all make choices reflected in our actions for the type of people that we want to be.

With a sense of calm and peace, I learned that whatever life throws at me I shall work through a step at a time.  I will find my inner strength, grab hold of it with both hands and look for the silver lining in each situation.  Everybody possesses this strength it’s just a matter of rooting around deep down to locate it.

 

 

 

Epilepsy – The Options

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Continuing from my last blog concerning all the wonderful options that are available for those with epilepsy, I shall now go into greater depth.

It was only when I moved to Seattle, attended the support group and got involved with the Epilepsy Foundation that I discovered all the various possibilities.  It showed me how out of the loop I was with the research and the developments taking place.  On a personal level, I believe it was an indication of a lack of acceptance on my part of my condition which led me to be disinterested and subsequently ignorant of what was taking place in the medical field.  However, after a swift catch up, I’m in the know and back on track!

So where to start?  Well, medication is always the first port of call and if that isn’t successful then other options are considered as stated below.

Brain Surgery

The most important deciding factor here is whether the seizures fall into the generalized or partial category.  If they are generalized the entire brain is affected whereas partial is restricted to one area.  When it comes to surgery suitable candidates are those who have partial epilepsy.  This is because they remove the brain tissue from the affected area having confirmed there will be no damage to other parts of the brain which influence major body functions.  The other surgical procedure is to interrupt nerve pathways where the seizure impulses travel.

Suitability for surgery is a rigorous process, the pros and cons are weighed in respect of post-surgery with the speculation of improvement as well as benefits and risks. For some, this procedure is successful in eliminating all seizures but for others this doesn’t always guarantee a seizure free existence.  It may minimize their regularity offering a better quality of life or for others there may be no change.

Brain surgery

Vegas Nerve Stimulator

This option is used for those with partial seizures.  It is a device implanted in the upper chest issuing electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve allowing impulses to extend to the brain in a variety of areas.  In addition, there is a magnet provided which is used in one of two ways which activates or prevents the electrical impulse.

Slowly gliding the magnet over the VNS will switch it on sending an impulse to the vagus nerve.  The other technique is to hold the magnet over the VNS which turns it off and prevents an impulse from being sent.

Many people have auras prior to a seizure which allows them to swipe the magnet over the VNS to prevent the seizure from occurring; however, it can also be used during a seizure.  The technique being relatively new is known to reduce seizures but rarely offers complete control.

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Medication

Medication I covered in my previous post but an additional piece of information is that surgery becomes an option if three or more medications have been tried and have failed to provide seizure control.

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Ketogenic Diet

This is a method that I have tried and tested.  Predominantly used for children, it has also been proven to assist some adults as well.

It involves a high fat low carbohydrate diet, similar to the Atkins diet.  It is based on starving the brain minimizing carbohydrates within the body and increasing the fat levels.  The brain burns fat rather than carbohydrate which increases the number of ketones in the body.  This puts the brain into a state of ketosis which has been found to possess anti-epileptic effects.

This requires a great deal of dedication and I will be the first to say it is tricky!  It requires a great deal of commitment from the whole family both as a support as well as maintaining responsiblity of preparing meals.

This diet is started in hospital under the watchful eye of a doctor; however, in my case I was directed by my herbalist.  Unfortunately for me it was unsuccessful in respect of my absence seizures though for some it is effective.

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Lifestyle Changes & Complimentary Therapies

Doctors promote that certain lifestyle changes can decrease seizure activity.  It’s adapting ways of living in order to reduce the activities that create seizure triggers.  In my experience and I speak for many when I say this, stress plays an enormous part in their frequency.  Factors such as diet, stress minimization, an appropriate amount of sleep, emotional states and reducing alcohol all have a positive impact and with additional activities such as yoga, meditation, maintaining fitness and even making sure you get fresh air all can make a difference.

The journey of finding wellness with this condition or any other condition is all about research and experimentation.  Epilepsy isn’t generic therefore the condition affects everyone differently so what works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. This makes the situation a voyage of exploration!

Diagnosis – The Realities

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Finding myself a little behind in my blog ‘kick off’ time (most appropriate with the World Cup having finished yesterday!), ironically the delay has provided me with today’s subject matter.

Since my diagnosis of epilepsy at the age of three I have known nothing else.  Life progressed with changes in my condition being dealt with and moving forward.  Decisions had to be made taking into account what the doctors advised was in my best interest along with consideration for my parent’s choice of what they felt was best knowing me as a whole.  In hindsight, my mum did a flawless job in her decision making, plus all the love and support she and the rest of my family provided me with.

As I got older, I thought about my ability to drive in the future.  I counted down the years getting excited at the prospect of learning how to drive, getting a car and gaining more independence.  I’m sure sub-consciously I had acknowledged it but I never really thought that driving would be something I couldn’t do.  I remained positive and continued to count down the years.  Seventeen came and went and it was only in my early twenties did I realize driving would probably not be an option for me.  I have always made my way on public transport and England has a great transport system, (as much as I would grumble about delayed trains, buses etc.!) as has the US and Canada.  Good transportation has dictated where I live; with the need to be independent, towns and cities are ideal for me.  As much as I love nature, (and I truly do) I am a city girl at heart.  I thrive on the people, the focus, getting from A to B, the ability to remain anonymous and even, dare I say it, the insular attitudes on the bus or train which many find a negative.  Depending on my destination, particularly if I’m off to work, I like the opportunity to be with my own thoughts in preparation for the day ahead.

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I count myself as one of the lucky ones.  ‘Why?’ you may ask, well with a diagnosis at three I have known nothing else.  Living life with epilepsy has me prepared for the unexpected, ready to to catch whatever life throws at me throwing it right back and giving it a run for its money.  However, if you have a ‘normal’ childhood and continue in the same vein into your teenage years without restrictions if your first seizure happens out of the blue in your teens or later life is partially or fully established.  Therefore, the diagnosis at that stage I think is harder to deal with.

A diagnosis of epilepsy will be overwhelming, a shock and likely to turn your life upside down.  It will be a challenge to get your head around, let alone conquering acceptance.  Life will require a review and adjustment potentially bringing your independence into question.  Driving, if able, is the one factor I am told that can be one of the most difficult life changes, particularly if it is work reliant.

If one seizure occurs, a diagnosis of epilepsy will not be given immediately.  It is only after two maybe three seizures that a diagnosis is issued; however, many go years before reaching that point.  Having your first seizure is frightening; the necessity to face more can generate a great deal of fear not only for the person experiencing the seizure but also for those who are responsible for their safety and care.

Seizure type will dictate the life modifications that will need to be made.  This can include living arrangements, employment and driving; studying, pregnancy, drinking and socializing amongst others.

However, adapting to epilepsy does not always have to be as challenging as it may seem.  Life can still be lived to the full and I am living proof.  In this day and age the research that has been undertaken offers so many options for seizure control dependent on seizure type.  There are twenty five different AED’s which have been approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and it’s the first method tried for control.

If one AED is unsuccessful, there are others to try alongside combinations which can be extremely effective.  If you are ‘refractory to treatment’, the term given to somebody who does not respond to medication, there are other options.  I will cover this in greater detail in my next post but they include the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, Ketogenic diet or brain surgery, if you are an appropriate candidate.

Having touched on the diagnosis of epilepsy with brief coverage of some of the considerations that accompany it, I have included a number of useful links below for further information.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZHKfXAWVvI

http://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/just-diagnosed#.U8RuyPnMSAg

https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/employment/transport

https://www.aesnet.org/clinical_resources/practice_tools/employment_resources

http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/olddrive/Seizures%20Web/

https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/law

 

 

Camouflage, One Of The Great Superpowers

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Mother Nature, such a treasured entity and highly underrated.  She surrounds us in so many ways but goes unnoticed as we become caught up in the everyday trivialities.  My eyes were opened when her creations of inexpressible beauty were bestowed upon me on the stunning island of Kauai.  From the majestic craggy canyon dotted with plunging waterfalls to the petite little lizards darting in and out of the foliage containing intricacies that overwhelm the human mind if you choose to really open your eyes and see past the immediacies of life.

It was during this time that I realized just how small and insignificant we humans are in comparison to the big wide world.  The elements and the beings that evolved for hundreds of years before we existed continue to maintain the legacy of their species with a silent strength.

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As I sat on my lounger basking in the warmth of the sunshine and reading, every so often I lowered my book to watch the palm trees swaying from side to side and admiring Mother Nature’s splendid work which quite frankly, isn’t too shabby!  On peeking over the top of my book I had the unexpected delight of seeing a little lizard wandering around in the hot sun.  Unaware of my presence and watchful eyes, he proceeded to go about his business.  His coloring was various stripy shades of brown.  It supplied him with a camouflage effective enough to exclude him from the prying eyes of birds should they mistake him for a tasty snack.  Perfectly motionless whilst he checked his surroundings, he intermittently cocked his head to the side extending his dewlap.  He had one back leg lifted in a ‘yoga-esque’ position which was held with such stillness that I was put to shame when I was reminded of  the stamina (or lack of) that I had when attending my yoga classes!

It was his camouflage that got me thinking.  How useful a tool to possess to use in everyday life?  From the perspective of living with a condition such as epilepsy, at times it could be a real saving grace.  With the experiences I have had over the last thirty years, the absence seizures have understandably presented occasions when there has been a need to explain my situation primarily for safety reasons.  Many didn’t know about epilepsy so there was a need to convey the details and educate which is the basis of raising awareness. The knowledge provided could potentially be used in the future if necessary; however, this process is a little exhausting for me!

I liken it to an actor attending an audition.  I have a monologue that I have rehearsed which includes all the related aspects for the role.  In order to fit with the character, for each audition I will need to tweak the monologue so it relates to the different elements required by the director. Additionally, I will need to be prepared to answer any questions.

Questions are an important component in the education of epilepsy and I am always so pleased that people have an interest and that they want to ask questions.  If anything, I find they don’t want to ask because of a concern of causing offence!  I am very open about my condition; however, it does create a certain amount of vulnerability to be in such a position.  As I open up and communicate the necessary information, which at times is of an extremely personal nature, to a degree there’s a feeling similar to that of being naked (yes, strange I know!). It’s almost like everyone can see your body in all its glory which can bring a sense of embarrassment and self-consciousness.  It’s on these occasions when providing the details and actually having the absence seizures that the camouflage would be desirable.  Being able to go unnoticed to avoid explanations or the concern that people will assume you’re being rude or unintelligent if unable to keep up would, at times, be a blessing.

Purely by chance, I stumbled across a wonderful quote associated with the subject of camouflage which sums up how often some people with epilepsy can feel.

“I quickly, swiftly, reach in, pluck out, and peer into the mirror.  ‘I am still here.’ I am in the glass, in this moment. After this moment, I may not be here; I may be a person who does not know where she is, or why. I leave the kitchen table to bathe, and to dress for church. If only my closet held on its shelves an array of faces I could wear rather than dresses, I would know which face to put on today. As for the dresses, I haven’t a clue.”                                                                                                                        – Tim Cummings ORPHAN stories

 

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Painting by Masood Kohari