I’m up earlier than I need to be; it’s Saturday and I could sleep in. Only… I’m awake, so… that isn’t happening. 🙂 Being attached to that outcome (sleeping in) has messed up so many beautiful mornings on which I earnestly wanted to sleep longer and couldn’t. I think, generally, I’ve let that go. It feels pretty good to be awake, okay with being awake, and simply enjoying the additional minutes or hours of the day.

The treeline obscured by fog; I assume the world exists beyond although I can't see it.

The treeline obscured by fog; I assume the world exists beyond although I can’t see it.

Last night was strange. I was not in the mood for company at all, and by the time I got home all I wanted was the peace and stillness of solitude. I started a fire in the fireplace, and sat down with a rare treat – a glass of sherry.

Just as my nerves started to unwind, and I began to relax into a state of lasting contentment, the smoke alarm went off. Okay, startling, but I silence it and settle down. It goes off again. The room does not appear to be smokey at all. I silence the alarm. I sit down, pick up a book. Smoke alarm. Okay, damn it, this is bullshit and I begin to feel agitated. It was an effort to pause the fast-building rage that is my purely animal reaction to frustration. I open windows, doors, and turn on fans. Clearly the smoke detector thinks there is smoke… why don’t I?

I step outside into the cool rainy night air, and breathe deeply; it is by far fresher than the air in the apartment. Okay… maybe there’s something to this? I look out into the night, it doesn’t seem any clearer… I turn and look back into the apartment, still not seeing “smoke” at all. I go inside and head for the little cloth I use to clean my glasses. Ah. Yep. That’s it; my glasses are so smudgy I couldn’t see that the air in the apartment wasn’t entirely clear – it was, in fact, a bit “smoggy”. Well shit. I keep airing out the apartment, feeling a bit aggravated – why tonight? I take time to sit down directly in front of the fireplace to watch it crackle away merrily – it cares not one bit about smoke alarms. I listen to the wind and wonder if it might be preventing the smoke from going up the chimney? Then I notice that the flue lever is much farther “open” than I it going, generally, and also that reliable small curls of actual smoke are indeed rolling past the opening of the fireplace and into the room. So, while not billowing out in a definite noticeable way, there has definitely been smoke making it into the room since the fire got started. (Hey – smoke alarm, I’m sorry I was mad at you; you were right.)

Adjustments made, rooms aired out, windows returned to their closed position, fans turned off, alarm silenced… I can sit down, breathe, and relax. Well. I can choose to. I can make the effort. I can begin again. I can also quietly sit until the evening feels quite late, before being overcome by fatigue and calling it a night. Aside from dealing with the smoke alarm, I really didn’t do anything last night. It was exactly what I wanted out of my evening. No television. No music. No people. No fuss. No media news. No conversation. No. Just no. None. Not any. Only the quiet, my glass of sherry, and the stillness.

It was quite lovely, once I finally got to really settle down. I make a point of remembering that I did get to settle down and relax, quiet, content, without stress or fussing – and it’s important that I do that, because as I wrote about all the rest, all the rest became more prominent in my memory, reinforced in the telling. Amusing anecdotes about stressful things can work like that, too; we tell the tale, and it becomes the larger part of our recollection. It is one of the terrible truths of PTSD; the more our trauma haunts us, the more prominent the recollection of it becomes, the more significant in our implicit memory, the more “real” – even compared to other factually real events and experiences that may be going on now. Yikes. So, this morning I make a point, once the tale is told, to also savor the portion of the evening that followed, because the stillness and contentment can be a bigger portion of my experience, if I choose it to be so. Verbs. Choices. Practice. I enjoy the stillness more than the stress.

I’ve no idea what today holds. It is the weekend, and my traveling partner is far away. There is no chance we’ll see each other today. I’m okay with that; although I miss him, I’ve been needing some reliable consistent quiet, and have been struggling to create that within myself in his company. There has been so much busy-ness in my calendar (and my life) since I returned to work: a visit from my step-son, a couple of parties, my traveling partner coming and going a bit more than usual, OPD, a new work routine, a new commute… Every detail of my everyday life was completely overturned when I returned to work. Life has been so busy – and so social – I’ve been left with no time to sort it all out. The timing of my partner’s trip in this instance could not be better.🙂

I still miss him, greatly, and it is one source of my background stress. I’d very much like to have a living arrangement in which he could come and go utterly freely without concern. Another source of my increasing background stress is my commute; it consumes 10 hours a week of my precious limited lifetime. The transit portion of that commute is rarely pleasant, and puts me constantly at risk of illness. I make a point of living close to work for a reason, and that reason is that I dislike wasting my life commuting. I want that time back! By itself, this is not a big contributor to my stress, it’s a small thing; it drives thinking about moving, though, which causes me major stress.

Mist obscures the autumn skyline of the trees on the far side of the park. I assume they are still there.

Perspective matters. Letting go of attachment helps. 

I remind myself “this too shall pass”. I breathe. Relax. Sip my coffee, and look out across the meadow, into the misty morning; I will have to give up this view in favor of another. More upheaval. My anxiety kicks in, and I breathe through it. This will be something to face, to deal with, and to process for months to come… and that’s okay too. I feel things, and I have tools to process my feelings.🙂

Today is a good day to consider what I have, what I need, and what I’d choose to change. Today is a good day to embrace that change and make wise choices. Today is a good day to begin again.

This morning the minutes slip away as I consider my next move. I dislike moving, but the lease here is up just a bit more than 90 days from now. It’s time to give the matter some thought.

I woke on time, and as was the case yesterday, feeling a bit groggy. This morning’s okay though, as was yesterday, and I’ll get through the day just fine on the rest I got. I’m still feeling some stress, but I am also more aware that some of that is simply circumstances forcing my attention onto the need to move, again. I dislike moving. I sometimes find it difficult to enjoy traveling. I like to feel “at home”, safe, secure, and content. I can’t recall if this is something that has “always” been characteristic of my sense of self, or a newer thing, or the “why” of it.

One thing I know, although it took me a long time to figure it out; “home” is something I build for myself, and I can do that almost anywhere, given an opportunity to settle in and do so. I’ll probably grieve this lovely safe space 100 times before I ever actually move, but it’s not the building I’m attached to, nor is it the address, or the location, or the community – it’s the home I’ve made for myself here. I can do that again, someplace new. I even know that I enjoy and find deep satisfaction in that process of home making. I just dislike the process of moving.🙂


“Home” moves with me, even my garden waits in pots for a different arrangement, in another place.

This year the holidays will be lean and carefully managed in order to prepare logistically for a comfortable move. If I am ready to buy, and find the right little place, that’ll be the thing – if not, I’ll find a suitable rental nearer to work, and get back some of the time in my day while I look for a more permanent residence, something that suits my needs, and those of my traveling partner. I feel some of the anxiety and stress recede with a few moments of internal planning dialogue.

Today is a good day to remember that I am my own cartographer, and this journey really doesn’t have a map – or a destination. Today is a good day to plan, and to let go of attachment to places – and planning, too. Change is. Impermanence is, too. I’m okay right now.🙂

…Sometimes tears. Sometimes life is a party… sometimes it’s a sadder song. Today I practice because practicing is what it takes, sometimes more than others.

Sad songs ring truer tonight, and not for any obvious reason worthy of such moody bullshit. I sigh aloud in the quiet of my studio. No music playing; I have been yearning for quiet, and recognizing that the stillness I seek has to come from within, I continue to yearn, restless and weary, distracted and discontent. It’s a place. A state of being. One version of now, now and then. In every practical way I am okay right now, even mired in this feeling, stranded just on the edge of tears that have not yet begun to fall.

...What? All I said was "cry me a river"!

…What? All I said was “cry me a river”!

It’s a nothing much type of emotional trap; I feel terribly lonely, but having been thrown back into a lifestyle in which I spend 50+ hours a week surrounded by and interacting with multitudes of other human beings very much live and real-time, I am also feeling desperate to be entirely alone for at least a little while. I miss my traveling partner in a wholly discontented and irritable way, but find myself wondering with what’s left of a meager supply of wry amusement whether I would even be able to enjoy him if he were here right now. I’m irked with the whole mess, and feeling frustrated with myself, with circumstances, with life rather generally – which is entirely so much complete bullshit; I have what I need in life, and a good measure more. I’ve got very little to bitch about, frankly. Small shit… like emotional splinters; I can feel the irritation, the pain, the annoyance – but I can’t quite get a hold of the real issue to put it to rest. Rest. Maybe that’s the thing. I haven’t been sleeping well…

It's always a good time to begin again.

It’s always a good time to begin again.

Fuck the bitching. I’m constantly on about choices and practices and incremental change over time. Some tiny bitter corner within mutters “don’t hold your breath…” I’m in no mood for back chat from the woman in the mirror, tonight. I put on some music, apropos and gentle, and start down my list of crisis management practicesbefore I find myself in crisis.

[passage of time… no handy metaphor comes to mind]

It’s much later. Healthy calories, a tall drink of water, a luxurious shower with a favorite fragrance, warm dry clothes on a cold damp day, some yoga, meditation, a few minutes gathering my thoughts without any other agenda besides me, now, here. Stillness. A lack of distraction. A setting-aside of burdens – however small, however large, however urgent-seeming. Life moves so much faster now that I am back in the workforce. There is a lot about that which doesn’t suit me at all. It is, as they say, what it is. Making time for me is non-negotiable – when I don’t do it, I will pay a price.

I take some time to (be aware of and) respect my own feelings – that’s harder that it seems it could be, sometimes – tonight, for example. I’m frustrated by how easily “other people” (any other people) can change my experience “on a whim” – lack of planning, tantrums, coercive emotional bullshit, changes of plans… Circumstances or will; it doesn’t matter whether the intention is deliberate or even anything to do with me at all, sometimes the outcome affects me without regard to anyone’s specific will or intention. (…And now you know why “consideration” is one of my Big 5 relationship values; because without consideration the damage we do to those around us is frequent, unmanaged, unmitigated, unnoticed, and likely far more significant than we know.)

Closing in on my core needs with real awareness isn’t a comfortable process; some of what I need presents logistical challenges, emotional challenges, and definitely a big scary unsteady pile of verbs. I took time to give further thought to the cornerstones of this life I build for me: mindfulness, perspective, and sufficiency. I’m not sure I’m any closer. It’ll be a lifelong journey. Feeling the feeling of disappointed frustration, tears well up, my chest gets tight, and I feel stiff, as if resisting my feelings – or myself. I breathe deeply. Relax. Several more times. I pace around the apartment a bit, warm coffee mug in my hands. Thinking. Thoughts. The restlessness grows, the mindfulness pales. Shit. Begin again, I think.

Well, sure. This.

Well, sure. This.

Tonight is hard. Some nights are. My accounting of the facts of the day and evening indicate there is nothing really wrong, at all. I am okay right now. Life is pretty good right now. I’m not even in much pain right now. Last night I got the rest I needed. What is there to bitch about? “I feel trapped and pushed around” a tired voice in my thoughts calls back softly, and the tears come. Real or not, valid or not, support by facts or not… feelings. I am alone and safe here, and it is okay to admit that I feel. Sometimes the feelings are not the pleasant lovely ones. This too will pass. Pretty much everything pretty much nearly always does.🙂

Eventually my tears stop falling. I sigh, and take note of my breathing. I nudge myself back onto healthy practices, and good self-care. I have more awareness of self, and a sense of the “real issues”; my autonomy and sense of emotional safety is feeling threatened by OPD (Other People’s Drama) in relationships that are not my own, and also a little overwhelmed by the amount of time I am having to spend “on my best behavior”, surrounded by people who are relative strangers in the work environment, and on top of that working purposefully to get back on track with a major life goal – a place of my own. (Really my own. Mine. As in – a homeowner. I want the safety and security of having my own place, no landlord, no tenant restrictions, no limitations on design, form, and function – artistically, aesthetically, and practically, actually my own home. A place to retire. To live. To thrive on my own terms.) It’s a lot to juggle to “be there” for people who are dear to me, also take care of myself, also go to work every day and do the things… So much going on. It’s daunting, and I guess I’m not surprised that I’ve hit a wall. I’m very human.

Today is a good day to slow down, listen deeply to my own voice, and take care of me. Today is a good day to love – and make sure some of that love is for the woman in the mirror. Today is a good day to be purposeful about the future, without letting it pull me away from this moment, now. There are verbs involved – and clearly, my results vary. 🙂 Tomorrow will be a good day to begin again.

It’s an odd sort of morning following a somewhat peculiar evening. It was a pleasant evening, and it is a pleasant morning. It would be easy to lose sight of how pleasant it is to focus on the oddity. The pleasantness, for me, is more important.

Evenings are quite short these days, a common experience for people who work and commute some distance. I arrived home about an hour earlier than usual, yesterday, which is enough time to make a difference. I enjoyed a bite of dinner, and meditation, and was headed to the shower when my traveling partner arrived. A whirlwind of greetings, moments, departures, and arrivals later, and the apartment was full of people, laughing, talking – it’s fairly easy to find a party breaking out at my place when both my traveling partner and I are at home; we two enjoy both company and solitude, and if we’re already together (and thus not alone) it’s a handy time to get other friends together, too. Parties happen.🙂

I sip my coffee and for some moments think about far away friends, and long for their company, too. Magical thinking could intervene here, and leave me feeling lonely, or annoyed, or even inappropriately “abandoned”, or sad over what is not. It’s a choice, and I choose not to head down that spiral. I cherish my far away friends over my coffee, smiling with grateful delight at technology like Facebook, that so easily keeps us all in touch over the years. Any perceived distance melts away like morning fog as the sun rises, when we get together again. In the meantime, there are pictures of life, of new babies, of dance recitals, of fun and adventure, of love – all shared with affection, preserving a long-distance connection.

"Long Distance Connection"  18" x 24" acrylic on canvas w/glow, 2010

“Long Distance Connection” 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, 2010

Last night I crashed pretty early, and the party moved next door out of respect for my working hours and early mornings. I actually slept well and deeply. I woke with the alarm, feeling comfortable in my body, content with the woman in the mirror, and ready to start a new day. No noteworthy pain – so I make a point of noticing the lack, and making that, itself, noteworthy by being aware of how good I feel right now, savoring it, lingering over it, enjoying it without any dismissive internal commentary. I take time to be okay with being okay. Being miserable can become a very bad habit; we become what we practice.

I sit quietly, sipping my coffee, living my life gently, feeling contented. It’s a lovely start to a work day. I think about the  years and years I didn’t start my days this way, and then the years that I tried… and tried… and tried… and often found some delicate fragile moment of contentment or delight would skid unexpectedly sideways off life’s highway, leaving me stranded in tears by the side of the road, unaware that I only needed to dust my self off and walk on. There are so many choices, and so much of my experience is in my own hands. It can be daunting. Then, too, there’s all that “positivity” stuff out there, and “faking it until you make it” encouragement; those things didn’t work for me at all. Authenticity is demanding, and some of the moments of a life well-lived are… challenging? Unpleasant. Some of life’s moments are frankly awful. Still… I couldn’t force positivity down my own throat, and no amount of repeating scripted affirmations or pasting fake smiles on my face got me anywhere. I gave up, and in giving up felt even worse about myself and my circumstances.

I tend to be a very positive person these days – but I didn’t start here, and getting here wasn’t the goal. I started with taking better care of myself (physically and emotionally), and took up practices that supported my wellness, and nudged me gently towards my long-term goals by improving my self-care, my awareness, and my willful actions, over time. I suppose someone could respond that they feel like a screaming spoiled toddler, and if they are (mis)behaving it is merely an expression of their authentic self… I guess that’s where having a conscious awareness of my values is helpful for me; I don’t think to justify bad behavior on the basis of “authenticity” – because that isn’t the woman I most want to be. I don’t find myself having to “fake it” – I do find that choices are necessary, and there are verbs involved. I begin again, regularly. When I fuck up and hurt someone, I apologize sincerely and without reservations or excuses.

It’s been a long while since I had some terrible meltdown. I take a moment to appreciate that – because, honestly, realistically, and being so very human? This too shall pass.🙂 It’s likely that sometime in my future I will be frustrated, or angry, or childishly disappointed, and I will have to deal with it appropriately.  I may hurt someone’s feelings and have to apologize. I’ll be wrong about some things. I’ll fail at some others in spite of trying. I may kick myself while I’m down, or revert to a bad habit unexpectedly. Still… we become what we practice. I’ll begin again. Over time, in small sometimes hardly noticeable increments, change will occur.

We do become what we practice. I stopped practicing having relentless temper tantrums and yielding to primitive frustrated rage – but not by “quitting”; I began practicing something different. That’s my own version of “positivity”. More a doing than an undoing. For me, it started with the most basic mindfulness practices, a few minutes each day for myself that I could really count on, and the will to begin again day after day, as if my life depended on it. (From my perspective, it very much did.) My reading list is built on the resources that got me here, now. I can share titles of books forever, and perhaps you even read them – but without the verbs, the practicing of practices, and the will to begin again, they’re only books filled with mere words. Just saying.

My coffee has gone cold. It’s almost time to head to the office. I’m still smiling. Life feels different than it did three years ago, in a number of very good ways. We become what we practice. My results vary – but I can begin again, often. Today is a good day to practice. Who will you choose to become?🙂

It’s a quiet morning. I’ve had very little sleep. I went to bed in pain, which is not uncommon in the cooler, wetter, autumn months. I didn’t fall asleep until much later, although I wasn’t restless – just sleepless. Sometime after 11 pm, I finally slept. I woke at 2 am, in pain. More pain? Different pain. Chest pain. I spent some time fussing and dithering over it, tossing and turning, trying to find a comfortable position, and finally giving up on all that, taking a chewable aspirin, and spending what remained of the night meditating.

Hours later, it’s morning, and time to begin a new day. The dull ache I still feel might be my “chest” – or might be my arthritic back being felt differently, because of the peculiar position I’d finally fallen asleep in, sort of curled in on myself. Awkward. The uncertainty causes some stress, but I’ve been here before; the last time I “took it seriously” and made haste to the ER it was nothing. Clearly it’s not “nothing”; I am in pain, and uncomfortable. I feel quite normal, “besides the pain”… only… even that has a certain normalcy in my day-to-day experience. Generally, I can count on most of life’s discomfort to be less than urgent, and so this morning I treat myself gently, watchfully, aware that I am hurting, and mindful that this could warrant further attention. I’m about due for a physical, anyway. I set a reminder to make an appointment.

I sip my coffee contentedly. The yoga this morning helped with the pain. Now I feel that I was probably just “twisted up in knots” more than anything else. I’ll regret the lack of sleep as the day wears on, possibly, but even that is commonplace. I think about a friend going through some changes. She is struggling, and it sometimes feels that I can’t really communicate across the gap in years… How do I share what I’ve learned? How do I say “this too shall pass” in words she will be willing to hear? How do I communicate that so much of the struggling is a choice? We are each having our own experience…and living from such differing perspectives. I make a commitment to hang out, to listen, to be “be here”; we all want to be heard.

My traveling partner sleeps in the other room. I smile, thinking fondly of his presence, his love, our shared journey. Pleasant thoughts to start the day on. Even that is a choice that changes my experience over time. In a life filled with turmoil and chaos, it can be a profound act of rebellion to choose calm, to craft stillness, to cultivate compassion, and even simply to enjoy one quiet moment without guilt, reservations, or rushing it through. It does take practice.🙂

We become what we practice.

Today is a good day to be the person I most want to be. It takes practice.🙂