You’re going to miss out on some things. Trust me. It’s unavoidable. You’ll miss cool shit happening you just didn’t know about, and things that you thought you could do some other time, but never did. You’ll find yourself exhausted, over-committed, distracted, or overcome by circumstances and miss out on some amazing experience. It’s going to happen. There is no preventing it, or planning it away. No amount of scrolling through feeds, or staring blankly into the gaping maw of the internet will prevent you missing out on things. The human experience is just that fucking vast, and even if, somehow, our lifetimes were long enough to do everything, go everywhere, meet everyone; we could never spend that lifetime experiencing what has gone past and is no more. So… get over it. No fear of missing out; you’re going to miss out.

I watched this yesterday. I hope you watch it today.

Reflect on it, if you can hold your own attention long enough to do so.

The way we use the internet is changing who we are. Maybe that’s unavoidable, too. I know I scroll through my feed too many times, too often, too much of the time, and many more times than is required to read what matters to me.

I need to be outside more, out in the trees. I need to be in my garden, and out on the trail. I need to turn the tv off more often, for longer, and silence the background noise for more hours of my day. I have books to read and miles to walk. My “inner voice” has been raising hell about this with me for a while now.

No matter how many times I check for messages, scroll through a feed, read the news, or use the internet to explore or plan life, it’s not time spent living life. I’m not missing out on less by being so “connected” – I’m missing out on more.

Have we had this conversation before? (Probably. It seems likely… this has been on my mind, off and on, since I first noticed a specific change in my cognition and preferences; I now find it hard to choose to watch a movie, and favor much shorter content instead, day-to-day. The linked video really resonated with me, because of this particular change.)

Not one of my most precious memories, or noteworthy experiences, of the past years have been things that “happened” online. Not one. I’m just saying… what is most memorable for me, personally, are moments in life, not online.

Am I who I most want to be, making use of the amazing technology that connects us all, in quite the way I do? Can I do better? What does that look like? What practices would that involve? Is it something to change – or would I be fighting evolution and progress… a curmudgeon… a dinosaur?

First thing this morning, I looked at my Facebook feed before I did anything else. That’s some shit that’s going to stop right now. lol I know. I’ve said as much before, have I not? (I have.) That’s how I know it will need practice, and that there will be verbs involved. It’s time to change – because there are changes I want to make. It’s time to sort out what those need to be.

It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I woke feeling better this morning, after a rather dismal early night of feeling fairly ill. It’s behind me. I feel better. I’m grateful.

I made my coffee, and read messages from my Traveling Partner, while waiting for water to boil. I smile, reminded that today is payday. I didn’t quite scamper to my desk with my coffee; time to pay bills!! 😀

…Wait…

…I don’t even like paying bills or “dealing with the money shit“… What is this about?

I sit down and review my budget, look over the banking details and the pending and upcoming bills, even those set to auto-pay (which is most of them). The auto-payments are all set to minimums, though, and generally I like to do better than that, particularly on debt with finance charges or interest. So, I make a few changes, and hit send on some payments.

There’s less cash in the bank account very quickly, but this amazing feeling of contentment, achievement, satisfaction, and… safety. I feel emotionally safer when my bills are paid. This particular feeling “seems new” – it’s at least new-ish, in the sense that for many years I did not at all understand how much of my anxiety and day-to-day discomfort in my own skin was about debt, poverty, privation, not having basic goods and services, not having enough to enjoy small luxuries… “getting by” often did not feel very good at all. I didn’t really connect that experience with my shitty money management.  Back then, I “managed” my finances by way of fear, anxiety, desperation, and panic. It was a less than ideal approach.

Something has changed. My finances are decently well-managed. I’ve come a long way in my career, and my ability to manage my finances (with a lot of help and emotional support from my Traveling Partner). When I need something (like, say, a car), I can usually just go for it. I don’t have the resources to live a fully cash-based luxury life, far from it, I have to plan, and be mindful with my finances, and make it a commitment to look after my resources with care, aware of the future ahead of me, which still has a lot of fucking uncertainty. Still… I’m okay right now. It’s a nice feeling.

This morning, I’m also just… yeah, my mind is still completely blown that the high point of my morning has been paying my bills. lol Something has changed, over time, about the way I view money, and how my experience of dealing with it feels. Having a few weeks riding the ragged edge of dragging my cash accounts back in time to near-zero balances, however briefly (waiting a few more weeks to buy the Mazda would have been, perhaps, wiser) was some eye-opening perspective. Once I got past the initial anxiety, and became more explicitly aware that I was processing trauma associated with money, it stopped being so worrisome, and became nothing more than a few days of waiting, and an opportunity to share my experience with my Traveling Partner, and coordinate limited shared resources more skillfully, with great care, for a couple weeks. 🙂

What a nice place to be with myself. Oh, I no doubt still have some baggage about money, and about not having it. I can do better. There’s more to practice. More to learn. Still… these small celebrations of forward momentum, and positive changes that result in improved quality of life, are important; celebration means awareness, and holding these positive changes happily in my explicit awareness for a time, makes them “more real” in my implicit sense of self.

…And I just love feeling good.

I feel good. 🙂

It’s time to begin again. 😀

Well. Shit. And, in some senses of the word, I guess I mean that literally. lol Omg – being a human primate can be so distressingly gross sometimes.

The tickle in my throat night before last wasn’t a thing, I guess, although my throat was a bit raw by the end of the day yesterday… it could have been because I talk too damned much. lol Just as I was forming a “hey, I guess I feel okay…” sort of thought, “other symptoms” hit me and I was making my exit by way of the restroom before I could get to the parking lot and get in the car. (Frankly, that was a good call, and I don’t think I’d have been able to make the drive home without that detour to the restroom!)

I don’t like being sick.

I felt lethargic and drained (lol) all evening. I went to bed very early, and apparently slept deeply through the night. I woke drenched in sweat, hair tangled and knotted, and feeling sort of shaky and weak, but aside from that, sort of mostly okay-ish… I think… So far…

I get through the morning routine pretty easily. That first sip of coffee isn’t treating me very well, though, and I uncomfortably wonder what to do about that?

What strange fragile vessels these meat suits are. My enthusiastic loose plan to hike on the weekend is taking on the shape of a gentle walk along an accessible path. lol My eagerness to see my Traveling Partner becomes a hope that whatever this is does not get shared. I reconsider my plans and place my focus on self-care, wellness, and “recovering”, tacitly admitting to myself that I feel unwell. Ah. Well, there it is, then. Apparently, I’m not well. lol Thanks, Brain, I wasn’t sure where I stood on that topic. Got it. Thanks for clearing up any confusion on that.

My coffee is of no interest; I’m not feeling wholly well this morning. I’d definitely work from home, but didn’t bring my laptop home with me last night – I’m feeling a little stupid over that poor choice – so I at least have to go into the office to get it. lol Fucking hell. Two more work shifts, and then a weekend.

I’m really over being sick on weekends. Damn.

I take a breath, then another; being annoyed over being sick can so easily turn into some bullshit emotional storm of frustration and volatility, and that’s really a pretty pointless waste of time. We are mortal creatures of flesh and emotion, and sometimes being sick is a thing we go through. Beating myself about being ill is fairly foolish, and I am not up to it this morning. I shrug and let it go. The work week is almost over. It makes sense that weekends are as much about recovering from exhaustion or illness as they are about leisure-time recreations.

I notice the time… yeah. I work at resetting my expectations of the day, and finding my way to a new beginning. It’s definitely time to begin again. 😉

I woke ahead of the alarm, and realized groggily that I never wrote a word that wasn’t in the service of my employer yesterday. Wow. So unlike me. I’m tired. The lovely weekend comes at a price, and that price is fatigue. My disrupted sleep unavoidably has its moment to weigh in on my well-being.

I scroll lazily through my feeds, not really reading, just skimming headlines and posts in the weird “I used too few words” extra-large font. I’m not yet awake. The delicious fragrant mug of chai tea (with almond milk) definitely takes longer than a cup of strong coffee. I’m sneezing a lot this morning. My throat is a little… raw. Shit. I hope I’m not coming down with a cold. The timing is poor; I have a life to live and shit to get done. lol

Walking and thinking – a favorite practice for gaining perspective.

Yesterday, I forgot I had a late meeting on my work calendar, and got into the office at the usual very early hour. Early enough to get a lovely 2 mile walk in, along the waterfront. Early enough to get back to my desk, still quite a bit earlier than I had planned to be in – or needed to be. It was a long day, with very little leisure in it. I was pretty glad, by the end of the day, to have taken that walk in the morning. I was less pleased with the commuter traffic when I hit the road heading home around 5:30 pm. Wow. So glad I am generally home earlier. lol

This morning I find a lot to be content with, and it feels good.

I sip my tea and let my mind wander to the day-to-day misery and drama of being a woman in America. My feed is filled with it. Fuck. I’m grateful for menopause, and being generally beyond many of those storms now. You could not pay me to go back to being in my 20s (or 30s), particularly if it meant also having to return to that volatile emotional world of extreme highs and lows, and strange chaotic emotions. I wish I could sit with each of my agitated, distressed, sorrowful, wounded, beautiful friends, listen and let them feel truly heard, give them hugs, and maybe, just maybe find some way to share practices – or perspective. It’s a chasm that is quite difficult to cross, though. I can remember so many similar situations in which an “older sister” or elder in my life did attempt to communicate to 20-something me that this would pass, that I could master and, yes, even control my reactivity – with practice. I could not really fathom what was being said to me. I didn’t believe what I heard when it was shared with me. I did not follow through on any of the practices that were suggested. It was all completely out of reach. I wasn’t ready.

(I still try.)

I’m not saying their experiences “aren’t real” – not at all. Those chaotic emotionally difficult experiences are wholly real, in the sense that they are being experienced, for real. Totally real. Even, in fact, and like it or not, entirely appropriate and reasonable, from some points of view. Culturally, we don’t treat women well. This has unavoidable outcomes in the emotional health of women. We each play a part in creating that culture, and hurting our women. We could do better. (They can do better, too, but it’s a tale for another day, perhaps.)

This morning, I’m just sipping my tea and trying to wake up, and wondering how it is that so many of us, as human beings, being human, are so terribly unhappy… and wondering what I could do to help in any small way. Incremental change over time is slow. So slow. Change does happen, though, and we do become what we practice…

It’s the practicing that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Yeah. Here, too. I do “try”… but… and this is a thing… it’s really more about doing. Many of the practices that have helped me most with emotional volatility require me to “let go” – to practice non-attachment – which means having to yield to circumstances, and give up that righteous feeling of whatever I am feeling so righteously. lol An urgent desire to “be right” – and holding on to that feeling – creates so much fucking misery, and often on many sides of a discussion. I noticed more than once or twice that once I am attached to feeling righteous about something, I’m no longer willing to listen at all, and everything I hear is run through a filter that demands my position be defining for everyone’s experience. I gave up, quite purposefully and deliberately, the “need” to be right. It’s not helpful. (I learn more if I’m wrong, anyway, and often circumstances just aren’t even that clearly defined.)

Listening is hard. It is quite frankly one of the most demanding practices I practice each day. I often thoroughly suck at listening deeply, listening with my full attention, listening skillfully… It takes a ton of practice. Here’s the thing, though, a lot of my experiences of contentment, and balance, have their source in listening – and rarely have their source in talking, in expressing myself, or in “being right”. (Here’s where I slip in a reminder that “listening deeply” needs to be something I also do for myself; really hearing the woman in the mirror, understanding my experience and needs, also requires practice.)

One very cool thing about practicing practices, though? It doesn’t matter at all how many times I fail to “get it quite right”… I can keep practicing. I can begin again. 🙂

…I just hurt, is all. Like… predicting a hard early winter levels of arthritis pain, here. Pain sufficiently severe to present a chronic distraction, to drive volatile moods, to aggravate me to the point of anger-driven anhedonia… the cluster-headache-pain of spinal pain. I hurt, and I’m fussy, and I’m irritable, and I’m… not at my best. The problem with the pain is less about the pain than the sabotage. No kidding; pain shrinks my world and limits my focus. Worse still…?

…You can’t see it. Some of us are pretty stoic about pain, most of the time. You’ve no idea what you’re up against when you interact with someone with invisible injuries like chronic pain. Was I terse with you? Yeah, well, I couldn’t stand up without my cane this morning, and every step hurts – except the ones that don’t require my spine. Breathing hurts. Moving hurts. Not moving hurts (actually more so than moving, over time anyway).

“Take something for it. Duh.” Uh-huh. I like that idea. So, after I finish ruling out the OTC stuff that may be problematic for some other health conditions and the Rx  non-opiate pain relievers I can’t have because of some contraindication or another against those, that leaves, generally, just opiates and cannabis. I’d rather not deal with the political and medical minefield of opiates, but if I could be without pain… then? Rarely. I dislike the sexual side effects, and yes, I said it; I’d rather endure my pain and still be able to enjoy sex than be 100% pain-free but not able to enjoy sex. So. Get over that with me, I’m human, and I’ve got a lifetime of experience with my priorities – the pain management options available to most of us are fairly shitty in one way or another. It’s a thing that some of us are entirely too aware of. Cannabis? Yep. Definitely. As much as I can, and it is my “go-to remedy”, but let’s be frank with each other; it’s not a perfect fix, and it is not appropriate for all circumstances (or all pain).

This is not a quantity of pain that is easily medicated away. Pain is a signal from our body about our health or circumstances. It shouts loud because it is supposed to. Drowning it out is a major task; our body would much rather we fixed whatever is actually wrong. It’s complicated, and it’s imperfect, and there are so few days in the year that I’m entirely pain-free that they become cause for real celebration. I hurt so much of the time, and have for so long (since around 1990), that I’m seriously bored of bitching about it. (Can’t people who actually know me somehow just also know that I hurt…? Like… mostly always? lol)

I plan my life as if there is no pain. I don’t know how else to do it, really. I still want to live my life. I still just fucking hurt. Sometimes I hurt too much to hike. Sometimes I hurt too much to party. Sometimes I hurt too much to do housekeeping or even to get dressed. This weekend, I filled my calendar with cool stuff I was seriously looking forward to doing, and people I am eager to see. By the time the weekend actually came, and with it the welcome rain and the autumn weather I enjoy so well, my pain had come back, too. This weekend ended up being less about going and doing, and more about connecting (with my partner) and chilling (at home). It was lovely. So worth it, in spite of my pain.

Fuck pain.

Autumn and winter are worst. Then Spring. I get some relief in the summertime heat. Most years I even get to put away my cane. It’s been in my car, unused most of the time, since May. Four and a half months almost pain-free this year… less than the year before, which was less than the year before that. I find myself wistfully remembering years ago, when it seemed like I only hurt like this in the coldest months…

I got into the elevator at the end of my day and ignored the tears that just started spilling down. I got into my terrifically hot car with a real “aaaaaaahhhhh” moment of relief; however brief, totally worth it. “Pain management”. lol It’s more like “endurance” if you’ve got chronic pain. It is an endurance test filled with well-meaning suggestions, well-wishes, and an utter inability to communicate what this experience is like to people who don’t have it; we all feel our own pain, and can’t feel someone else’s. I’ve had some amusing experiences with people whose most serious pain in life has been a hangnail, stubbed toe, or bump in the night, who don’t understand chronic, relentless, serious pain, and how it wears away at one’s enthusiasm, and will. “I hope you feel better soon! Have you tried…” Uh-huh. Yep. That too. Yeah, and that. No, it didn’t “work”… What to say when someone who really cares tries so hard to offer support and comfort? A weary chuckle and a reminder that “chronic” pain is… um… not going go away, really, probably ever. That’s when I gave up the Rx pain relievers; between the fucking hassles getting them, and the constant nagging about their use, the side effects, and the fact that this shit is fucking forever…? Nope. I actually still work for a living. I have shit to do. People are counting on me. I’m counting on me.

I’m so not saying I hurt more than you do! I’m not saying my pain is worse than… anything. I’m just saying, frankly, in clear explicit terms that chronic pain is a thing I do deal with. Daily. You, too? I’m sorry to hear that. “Have you tried…” (jk jk lol)

What I am saying is that it is not possible to sufficiently well-medicated to truly stop hurting, only to get medicated enough that I care even less about the pain in the background, for a while. Shit. That sounds bleak. Don’t be sad. Sometimes it helps a lot. Sometimes it helps enough. Right now, today, nothing helps; it is the beginning of autumn, and I go through this every year… and…

I’m glad. I mean… it’s a fair trade. It could be worse. I’m still walking.

In 1986 I broke my back. It was pretty bad. My spinal canal was more than 60% occluded by a piece of vertebrae that had broken off from the impact, and gotten jammed into my backbone. There was real concern I would not even walk again. I was kept on a backboard for a couple days, very still, and partially restrained while we “worked out the next steps”. I wasn’t allowed to roll over, ever, without calling for nurses, who would ever so carefully roll me onto my side, re-secure my body so I couldn’t roll forward, backward, or move much at all, and put supporting pillows here and there to try to make me comfortable. I was heavily medicated. My back was broken in two places. My wrist was broken, and I had a head injury. I was not in the best shape for decision-making, but I had a good medical team. My surgeon offered me an option; a somewhat experimental procedure that could result in staying on active duty, being able to walk, and fully recovering from my injury, with some lengthy convalescence…, or, well… some less than perfect outcome in that basic “still walking” context. I took the deal. I absolutely did. (If he’d told me I’d be facing a life time of pain, would I still have made the same choice? Well, sure; we don’t know what we don’t know. I’d never known a lifetime of physical pain of this type or magnitude, and would not have been able to imagine what it might be like.)

I was in the hospital for months, then recovering on active duty long enough to be certain that I needed more time. It was going to be two years before I could “go back to work”, but that was in some rosy optimistic future I couldn’t yet envision any differently than “a full recovery”. Arthritis? That’s something that happens to old people, right? I worked hard throughout those two years of convalescence – and I returned to active duty feeling pretty fucking triumphant, no kidding; I was lean, strong, fit, and flexible. The pain came later. About a year into being back on active duty. Something definitely felt wrong… I kept going back, appointment after appointment. I wanted a diagnosis, and then I wanted to be treated, and I wanted to recover.

“Well, it looks like you’ve got a touch of osteo-arthritis…” I got my diagnosis. Shortly afterward, and feeling fairly heartbroken about it, I also got my discharge. That “touch of arthritis” has continued to spread over the years, commandeering my spine and my experience one joint at a time. I’m still walking. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the hikes, for the downtown shopping on foot, the strolls through gardens, the slow dash to a meeting… all of it. It could be so much worse in some way. Most of the time, it’s just pain. It’s mostly manageable. It is… what it is. We age. We feel pain. We are mortal creatures.

I live my own personal Little Mermaid allegory. lol

But fuck. I hurt. Damn it. Sometimes I’m so fucking tired of hurting, and I forget myself, and end up taking it out on… maybe you? People. People who matter to me. People who couldn’t have known. People who have things to get done and need something from me. People who want to enjoy my company. People who have never hurt. People who, also, always do.

In spite of my pain, I feel very appreciated. 🙂 I could do better at demonstrating that. 

…I try “not to bitch”. (My results vary.) I do my best to manage my pain without making it anyone else’s issue. (Again with the varying results.) It doesn’t always work out well. This weekend, my Traveling Partner reminded me gently how much better a shared journey can be, when each moment and step is taken from a fully present place, in a completely authentic way. We talked about the pain. I’m glad we did. It stopped feeling like a shameful secret. It stopped feeling like a weakness. It’s just an experience.

Suddenly I’m not sure whether to post this one. Too many words about an experience no one likes to have (pain)…

…It’s time to begin again. I’ll go try some things… maybe I’ll feel better soon. 😉