By the end of the day yesterday I was in so much pain I was showing every moment of my 53 years, and possibly borrowing some extra years, besides. Today, I’ll be kinder to myself and resume walking with my hiking staff, because the additional support is helpful. Winter isn’t my favorite season, and it’s mostly to do with my arthritis. I’m not bitching, really, it’s just a thing that is part of my experience, these days.

One morning...

One morning…

I got home from work, cold, tired, in pain… I put it behind me with a leisurely hot shower, pain medication, and a quiet evening. At some point, I was commenting on my pain to my traveling partner – as I recall, something about it “being much worse than…”, and he gently reminds me that it is always worst just as fall shifts to winter. He’s right, and the reminder stops my aggravated fussing with new perspective. I crash early, but don’t actually fall into a deep restful sleep for hours – I took an Rx pain reliever. I took it knowing it had a fairly predictable risk of messing with my sleep. Two nights in a row without getting the sleep I need; it shows in my typing. My spelling and syntax are off, and I make more grammatical errors even than usual. I am so tired this morning.

...followed by an evening...

…followed by an evening…

It’s Friday. I miss my Traveling Partner… but all I can think about is sleep. And laundry. How is it that there is so much laundry to do (and conversely, so little clean stuff to wear)? Did I not do laundry this past weekend…? Why didn’t I? (Does “why?” matter? Really?) The weekend ahead feels reassuringly planned around the obvious needs: housekeeping, laundry, and taking care of this fragile vessel (sleeping – oh, please let there be sleeping!!!). I can’t recall if I have plans with my Traveling Partner… maybe we do. Maybe we don’t. Maybe that won’t matter and we’ll see each other regardless… His birthday is this weekend. I catch myself thinking I’ve overlooked getting him anything, and then bust out laughing, out loud. I’ve totally already taken care of that – he’s enjoying his birthday/holiday gift in advance this year.๐Ÿ™‚ I know he has plans to go out, to party, something boisterous, something joyful – and I’m stoked that he does. I’m uncertain whether I will seek to join him… for the moment, what sounds exciting to me is… sleeping. lol I take a moment to consider his planning, and remind myself to invite him to come around for brunch or lunch or dinner or something on Sunday…

...a different morning, similarly gray...

…a different morning, similarly gray, still very much its own morning…

I spend some minutes contemplating perspective, and how subtle changes can still seem to change “everything”, and how the “everything” I think I know amounts to so little of all of the everything that actually is.๐Ÿ™‚

...each morning, from the same vantage point, another perspective on life...

…each morning, from the same vantage point, another perspective on life…

There is more to know that I ever will know. More to do than I will ever be able to make time for. More choices on life’s vast menu than I can hold in awareness.

...mornings...

…mornings…

Some days are easier than others. Some are more exciting or stranger or peculiarly without memorable feature.

...evenings. Each very much it's own moment.

…evenings. Each very much its own moment.

Today is a good day to take moment by moment, task by task, opportunity by opportunity. I listen to the rain fall. Each raining morning so similar, each nonetheless its own moment, a unique experience – a chance to begin again. A chance for a shift in perspective.

 

I woke at 3:30 am, to a message notification that shouldn’t have reached my wearable while my phone is on do not disturb. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I spent a quite lovely hour meditating, then enjoyed a leisurely shower unconcerned about time or timing. It’s a nice start to the day…but…

…I don’t really have much to say this morning, and don’t much feel like writing at any length. It’s a lovely morning to soak in the peace and quiet, as if my entire apartment is some sort of deep soaking tub for my mind. Hell, I may take a break for a day or two, or switch up the timing a bit. Writing in the evening could be a thing for a while, or shorter posts during my lunch break at work – that would certainly result in taking a lunch break at work. I sort of suck at doing that particular self-care task; I find myself completely engaged in some bit of analysis, some workbook or another, or facing a deadline on a task that other tasks are dependent upon… no lunch.๐Ÿ™‚ I know better. Good self-care really matters.

Today is a good day to invest in contentment, in peace, in love. Today is a good day to treat myself well, and treat the world well, too. Today is a good day to be the woman I most want to be, and face my challenges with all the skills I’ve learned, and all the goodness of heart I have to offer. It’s enough.๐Ÿ™‚

The alarm beeped at me for some time. I was sort of confused about where the noise was coming from, initially, shutting it off was not a reflection of greater clarity of thought. I groggily rushed through showering, dressing; I really wanted to get to the part of the morning with coffee in it.

Finally. Coffee.

I sit staring blankly at the computer screen, warming my hands on the my coffee cup. I sit this way, nothing much on my mind, for some while. Longer than I expected to, longer than I realized I did – it doesn’t count as meditation. My brain is idling. I’m still not entirely awake yet. I fidget a bit. Sip my coffee. Let my consciousness drift awhile longer. It is morning, and the morning is mine. It’s not even a unique or rare experience; this is often the sort of morning I am having when I don’t write at all.๐Ÿ™‚

Some minutes later, I realize I’m stalled, again, just sitting here, thoughts adrift. I take some deep breaths and stretch. I get up, do some yoga. I open the patio door and gaze out into the dawn sky, sucking in the cool morning air, exhaling with a sigh. I feel sluggish. Groggy. Definitely still not awake yet. “More coffee?” I ask the gray dawn sky.

Mornings like this one have been complicated by shared living arrangements in the past; I’m barely a functioning adult right now at all, communication and consideration of the needs of another human being would be quite difficult this morning. I realize with some surprise that I haven’t brushed my hair, or brushed my teeth. I get up and do those things. I give thought to a more usual morning and step through bits and pieces of my wrecked routine that got overlooked on this one. Slowly, with some effort and another cup of coffee, I begin to really wake up.

This isn’t all that interesting, I know. It’s a fairly roundabout way to say “these things take time” and “your results may vary”. My most serious TBI is aboutย 40 years old… next on the list is 30 years or more. I’m fuzzy on specific dates, without looking them up. (Who’m I kidding? I’m fuzzy on lots of stuff – especially this morning!) My PTSD has been with me a very long while, too. Go easy on yourself when you’re having a hard time! Healing takes time, improvements can be so small as to seem imaginary, and in both cases more so if you’re unclear on what might help, or where to start, or haven’t actually begun that journey quite yet. Healing is a journey – sometimes a damned long one. I’m still on it – totally not “there” yet. It’s not even reliably all forward momentum; there are setbacks, pauses, moments of doubt – and more than occasional groggy mornings. Still… incremental change over time is a real thing. I’ve learned to count on that. I’ve learned to begin again, and to be patient with myself. ย Any improvement is still an improvement. We become what we practice.

My calendar says I am scheduled to get my hair cut today. Over my shoulder I notice that I’ve left dishes in the sink from last night – rare – also, how did I not notice that while making two different cups of coffee an hour apart?? My momentary frown eases into a tolerant smile. Very human. I run my fingers through my hair with a sigh, smiling as I remember with some appreciation that I did remember to brush it. There are practices yet to practice, this morning. I’m starting to wake up.

Today is a good day to practice the practices that have proven to be most effective in my own experience, and today is a good day to trust myself to take the very best care of the woman in the mirror. We’ve come a long way together, she and I.ย I get started on the dishes; I won’t want to come home to them.

 

I got off work yesterday in a good mood, tired, enthusiastic about the walk through town and over the bridge at twilight, and looking forward to a quiet evening at home. The commute wasn’t merely uneventful, it was also a miracle of coincidence and great timing. I arrived home, still smiling.

Some enchanted evening...

Some enchanted evening…

What follows is a cautionary tale about emotional health.

As I waited for dinner to cook, not wanting to wander off or be distracted, I picked up my phone, and opened my news feed. I noticed there seem to a be lot of articles about hate, hate crimes, and the general mistreatment of human beings toward one another. I dove right in and read one, then another, and another… over minutes, I read several. I was also cooking, and pretty focused on that. As minutes passed, I found myself no longer smiling. Feeling somewhat discontent. Generally a bit aggravated. A few minutes further on, I was feeling annoyed. Irritable actually. I sat down with dinner, finding fault with small things that typically don’t bother me at all. (Damn, are the guys next door going to be so noisy all evening? Seriously? Is that a leaf on the floor from where I came in, earlier??)

I ate my dinner in a mood of aggravation and discontent. It seemed a mysterious change, and it was some minutes before I connected my roiling stew of negative emotions looking for a fight with reading the news some time earlier. Then I did make the connection. I put down my device. I tidied up the dinner dishes feeling a bit thoughtful and pre-occupied. Had I really made a point of willfully turning a lovely mood sour by my own hand? What was I thinking? I sigh, recognizing the temptation of turning my negative emotions on myself, rather than helping myself into a better emotional place with at least the same effort I brought to wrecking the pleasant mood I was in, in the first place; it’s easier to be hard on myself than it is to change.

I gave the news a rest, and renewed my commitment to not treating myself so badly in the first place. News retailers are in business, and business is focused on profit, and what is profitable is holding consumer attention, and what holds consumer attention is… outrage. Yep. We gobble up news about hate, about fear, about the outrageous and “what is wrong with the world” – and then wonder why we’re angry, outraged, or frightened. We’re some fancy fucking primates – not all that smart about some things, but damn, we’re fancy. We write news, put it in front of other primates, sell what we can – and write more of that. Think about that for a minute – if the point is sales, and profitability, and what sells are the stories about hate, doesn’t it seem quite obvious that more stories about hate will be written? I’m not saying that the world isn’t full up on hate these days, but I am saying that whether or not it were, if stories about hate are what sells the most views, clicks, and subscriptions, then aren’t there going to be just a whole bunch more stories about hate? To read. To be consumed. To set an impression of the world we live in, generally?

I put myself in a gentle time out and spent much of the evening meditating. It was a significant improvement over reading the news. I ended the evening feeling soothed and balanced. Hate in the world is not eased or relieved by fear, or anger, or more hate. Awareness that hate in the world is an issue is something to cultivate, but succumbing to it myself is to be avoided. That seems practical and obvious (to me). I don’t need to read even one more article about some human being treating another badly “because Trump” – I am aware that human beings mistreating each other is a problem. It was a problem before the election, and it will likely continue to be a problem after the next four years is behind us; some people choose some really vile verbs. Hate exists. Fear exists. Anger exists. People having those experiences are probably having them in fashion that seems justified, reasonable, or even appropriate to them in the moment. There are some hateful things going on. There are some scary circumstances (and scarier people) in the world. There are good reasons to be angry, and things worthy of being angry about.  It remains a worthy endeavor to treat people well, nonetheless – including the person in the mirror.

This morning I woke to the alarm. A new day. A chance to begin again. I don’t start with the news. I renew my commitment to myself to choose what I read with great care. Sensational headlines get my attention; that’s why they work, that’s why they are written that way. It’s generally enough to read the headline, sass it silently, and move on. Advertising and color commentary masquerading as actual news can be distracting – and emotive. I remind myself to avoid it. Hell, at some point, continuing to read and reread the same tired bullet points spread across media outlets, being used to stoke new outrage and keep reader engagement high, actually takes time away from taking action on causes that matter… in some cases, the very causes that are so engaging to read about. (How many news stories have you read about DAPL? Have you taken a leave from work to get out there and help? Donated money? Written letters to congress? Any verbs at all – or just reading along? How about the lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan? Local homelessness? Foreign wars? Just saying; there’s plenty in the world that could use some well-chosen verbs.)

I’ll point out that all the same choices and practices that soured my mood could be made more selectively, more skillfully, and used to build a great mood from a bad one: intellectual distraction, investment in a specific emotion by choosing experiences that tend to reinforce and enhance it, repetition, and mindfully engaging that emotional experience deeply.

Today is a good day to put down the news, set aside the outrage machinery, and choose some verbs. If the point of life is to live it… why would I be spending my precious limited lifetime reading the news, anyway?๐Ÿ˜‰

My coffee is still too hot to drink. The alarm clock seemed very loud when it woke me. I feel a bit as if I am moving especially slowly this morning; the clock corrects my very subjective perception of time. It’s a Monday after a long weekend. As if on cue, my brain launches a salvo of small anxiety-provoking attacks about this or that detail at work; I quash them with a minute or two of mindfulness, breathing deeply, present in this moment here. Work can at least wait until I actually get to the office!๐Ÿ™‚

Summer is definitely over. Autumn nearly over, too. Thanksgiving is done. The holiday season – my idea of holiday season, I mean – has begun. It is a beginning I wait for, plan for, and cherish each year. I have my own traditions, built on my values, refined over an adult lifetime, added to by one partnership, then another, over the years. The specifics are less meaningful or shareworthy, I think, than that I do have my own, chosen with care, selected from the celebratory traditions of my childhood, and then made my own, quite willfully. I like the way I do the holidays. It is rare for me to be overcome by ennui or despair during (or over, or about) the holidays, and I’ve tended to attribute that to doing them my own way… though, I don’t have any cite-able proof of that; it is my subject experience, only. For me, that’s enough, at least on the topic of holidays.๐Ÿ™‚

As days go, today doesn’t stand out in any obvious way. The beginning of a new work week. The beginning of the holiday season. I like beginnings, although they usually follow endings, which I often tend to think I dislike (compared to beginnings), but again, I have no clear evidence of that impression, and find myself wondering if the words truly reflect my thinking, or only some moment in my thinking that will quickly dissipate when my attention turns to other things? Change is. Whether an ending, a beginning, or some transitional point on a spectrum between those moments, change is part of the scenery on life’s journey.

I think of my Traveling Partner and smile. We have different approaches to living life in the moment; I prefer to plan, and to maintain a high level of readiness for many likely outcomes, and to cultivate a benevolent tolerance of circumstances that fall outside my planning, with frequent “rest breaks” from the hectic pace of life when I can retreat to a quiet corner of the world to take it all in, before returning to the busy-ness of life’s default settings. He has the boldness required to freely take life utterly as it comes, seemingly fearlessly and without anxiety; embracing change with a spontaneity that awes me, and often leaves me feeling unsettled. ย We handle our emotional lives quite differently, too, both very human, both capable of great depths of emotion, both embracing intimacy and connection, and yet such different people day-to-day, in spite of shared values, shared experiences, and sharing (to this day) our journey in life over years. He finds too much planning constricting, and expresses feeling pressured. I find too little planning chaotic, and feel… pressured. lol We are more similar than we are different. This is likely true of each and all of us; more similar than different. Any human being’s most basic needs are likely to be pretty much the same from one person to the next. So many arguments between human beings are about meeting the same basic need in different ways, informed by prejudices, filtered through individual experience, limited by individual perspective, and individual understandings of definitions of terms. We’re still more similar than we are different – right down to not listening very well when another one of what we are is talking to us about their own experience.๐Ÿ˜‰

Taking time for simple pleasures matters, too.

Taking time for simple pleasures matters.

My coffee is not so hot now. I drink it down and consider a second one… there is time for that. I look across the table, the holiday tablecloth, placemats, and centerpiece are happy reminders of the weekend spent immersed in a wonderland of holiday memories, colorful trinkets, and tiny lights. The entire room is transformed. The tree stands in the far corner, and canisters of freshly baked cookies beyond that, on the bookshelf in thatย corner. Everywhere some Yule detail catches my eye. I smile. The soft glow of the room feels like it sources from within me. Sure, I’ll have a second coffee. Today is a good day to take time to enjoy simple pleasures. I’ll go do that.๐Ÿ™‚