Archives for the month of: May, 2013

It’s just 14 days to my 50th birthday, now. It feels ‘imminent’. Life is rich and filled with experiences, with connections, with opportunities, with emotion, and with growth. It’s quite wonderful…wonder filled…and the smallest things seem large, or important, or memorable. Things I might have overlooked quite easily at other points in my life. Small things stand out, meaningful, and cherished. I am learning appreciation…and gratitude. I am learning to recognize the affection of others, and to welcome it – even embracing a more genuine (and rather extroverted) experience of myself that finds me with a lingering smile and joy in my relationships with others.

Today, a lot of that joy in my experience is represented in a fun moment with friends – who happen, also, to be colleagues. A funny moment of solidarity and shared experience in #33 Starry Blue, which we are all wearing today. I do love glittery nail polish, and sharing the fun of it with friends is … fun, and sweet, and delightful, and… connected. ūüôā

What are connections made of?

What are connections made of?

I used to shy away from connections…fearful…awkward…inept…confusing my own fears and insecurities with a dislike of ‘my fellow man’…confusing my love of safety in solitude with introversion, and running from what I didn’t understand about life and love and connecting, rather than exploring what frightened me so much. ¬†I’m definitely not the woman I was at 14… or 33… am I ready to be the woman I am at 50?

There’s so much I am learning; I don’t know how to share most of it, or even how to determine whether sharing it is a thing that matters. Perhaps simply ‘being’ is enough? I know that I am grateful to have so many wonderful friends, and in spite of my doubts and hormones and the chaos and wreckage in my heart and my head, this is a wonderful life to share with them, and to enjoy, myself.

I wonder what the second half holds?

…I bet I already know how you finished that phrase, if you speak American English as a native. lol. Actually, I have rocks in my thoughts, so perhaps you aren’t far off? ūüôā ¬†I’m 15 days from my birthday…my new aquarium is standing in its place, ready to be leak tested, and waiting a final equipment check. ¬†Yesterday I delighted my senses with a visit to a nearby landscaping business for some choice rocks for the decor. (Yes, I am the sort of being who finds searching great piles of river rock for just the right ones quite entertaining and satisfying.) ¬† My experience is one of ‘creating a world’. lol. Grand of me, I know, but it is the sort of imagination I have, and really the metaphors while I also ‘work on me’ are endless and wonderful.

...a box of rocks.

…a box of rocks.

The box of rocks is exciting on its own, but it also got me thinking about aphorisms, homilies, figures of speech, slogans, and idioms; shortcuts we take to communicate. ¬†Thinking on that ‘box of rocks’ and how we take communication shortcuts that rely on our listener’s own experience, history, and culture to understand us (by implication) as much as explicitly through our own unique verbiage, (if not more so) quickly put my attention on the clear contradiction between embracing a genuine life and genuine sense of self (sense of genuine self?) and taking verbal shortcuts. ¬†Only 15 days left, and the first half ends…so, I will commit to avoiding the use of figures of speech, slogans, idioms, homilies, and aphorisms for the next 15 days. ¬†Why? I mean, we all use them (some of us more than others). Aren’t they pretty harmless? Well… maybe, but it struck me that colorful or not, expressive or not, they are both lazy and imprecise – and in no case is a choice to use someone else’s phrasing truly ‘my own voice’. Worse still, so many times lately, at the heart of some bit of logical fallacy, error in reasoning, failure to take care of myself emotionally, or moment of treating someone else less well than I could have, I find some verbal shortcut that has become, over time, ‘programming’ instead. ¬†It starts with nursery rhymes and rote memorization in childhood, and slowly becomes who we are.

Maybe you think I’m taking this too seriously? ‘ Making a mountain out of a…’ ¬†I don’t need to finish that, do I?¬†Ok,¬† maybe it seems a small thing, and unlikely to change the way any of us view the world we live in. Perhaps. I mean… Science is safe from sloppy language becoming programming, right? Hmmm… maybe. Again, maybe. What if I ask you what the moon is made of? If the little voice inside your consciousness quickly quips ‘green cheese’ in the background – even though you know it is not¬†factual– just maybe this is a bigger deal than seems obvious. ¬†I’m at least going to give myself 15 days to be who I am, using my own words as much and as often as possible – even correcting myself if I catch myself taking a short-cut through the programming. lol. Why? Because ‘I love you, too.’ means more when it isn’t a knee jerk reaction to someone else saying ‘I love you’, and ‘because I want to be heard’…my own thoughts…my own words…the things that matter to me, about me, to be understood by others.

While I walked to work, I gave the matter of words a bit of thought, well, a lot of thought. I came up with uncountable numbers of simple phrases heard over my lifetime that have become something beyond a sentence or a simple thought – they are cultural programming. ¬†I won’t list them, you no doubt have your own, I simply suggest that for me, it is time to retire as many phrases, and sentences, that I quickly reach for every day, in favor of more genuine heartfelt communication. ¬†If it auto-completes in my head, I’ll be looking for other words. lol.

…In other words, 50 seems a nice point in life to be who I am.

Being one, among many.

Being one, among many.

Desire...

Desire…

It’s a simple enough thing that we all share, I think; ‘desire’ – for a thing, a person, a moment, a feeling, an event. The seeking, the craving, the wanting – certainly those feelings are part of my experience.¬† Not long ago, I participated in the simple search for ‘a tray’. An item. A thing. A functional purchase intended to fill an underlying need for … convenience.¬† Doesn’t matter what the need is, though, does it? Wouldn’t a need for information, or understanding, or change, or growth result in a similarly committed search? So, I went shopping with my partner, some time ago, for a simple tray of a certain ideal size, and the item just wasn’t to be found locally at all. We must have looked ‘everywhere’ – or what felt like ‘everywhere’ – and it just wasn’t. It was maddeningly frustrating. We eventually found one that was suitable, perhaps not ideal, and more expensive than seemed truly reasonable – but it was, and we accepted it, rather than delay the fulfillment of that need. There’s got to be a metaphor in there…because yesterday, we were just wandering about indulging our senses, and there they were – all the trays in the universe, stacked. lol. We didn’t need one.

Wishing, planning, and wanting...

Wishing, planning, and wanting…

I had a difficult weekend on some levels, but on others it was quite splendid. At one point, while I was walking from a starting point to a destination, I noticed a large patch of small mushrooms that had burst forth quite overnight. I thought for a while about that bit of life’s curriculum.¬† It seemed apropos and worthy of contemplation; the mycelium of a ‘patch’ of mushrooms is a living thing that in some species expands to cover a large area beneath the surface of the soil or whatever loosely covers it, expansive and unseen. Rain, sunshine, temperature, and other factors all influence precisely when a given type or patch of mushrooms suddenly fruits and becomes seen.¬† It’s a little like growth and change, isn’t it? I can read a book, I can study a lesson, I can do the exercises, but until ‘conditions are right’ those things don’t amount to new understanding, or change, or growth, or an epiphany.¬† I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and what it means for me with regard to learning new things, and pursuing new knowledge. I don’t have any witty or insightful conclusions; I keep pondering mushrooms.

What is valuable? What has meaning?

What is valuable? What has meaning? (detail from ‘Icon’ 2002)

I had occasion over the weekend to be struck by how many people in my life who had hurt me deeply, injured or traumatized me, or committed ‘great acts of evil’ against me, also prepared me for some future challenge in life, some greater understanding of something, or shared with me some indescribable bit of beauty: art, music, literature, poetry, sensuality, or experience.¬† It caused me to wonder a lot of things, not the least of which was – how do we determine what has value to us? Why can something we learned by rote as a child, and learn later is demonstrably untrue,be still likely to have such a hold on us over time, even nurturing the lies we tell ourselves, and complicating our understanding of the world around us? (Case in point: racism. I find very few people who are racist because they learned as adults that some race or another has some evident flaw that puts their safety or experience at risk. The racists I have been acquainted with learned it at home, from their parents and families, same with homophobia, and most other forms of personal bias.) How is it that we can gaze upon some gilded half-truth (or complete falsehood) passed down through generations and not recognize what is the true truth, the real reality? I thought about that some, too, this weekend. Still, no answers.

Fleeting inspiration...and nature shows.

Fleeting inspiration…and nature shows. (detail from “Inspiration” 2010)

I walked to work today, smelling the wet, fresh fragrances of spring garden and spring rain. I am inspired to paint; I have something in mind.¬† Everyday things keep getting in my everyday way… every day. lol. I could force the issue, throw down a drop cloth, drag my easel out of its hiding place, lay out my paints and brushes. I will. At some point. Eventually. For now, the stillness of mind that comes of simply contemplating inspiration is pretty satisfying.¬† In 16 days I will be 50. I have a few more things on my mind that painting, although the painting on my mind is relevant to my experience…it can wait.¬† Actually, it seems oddly much more ‘urgent’ to relax with my loves and watch ‘nature shows’ – those documentaries that are heavy on the exquisite photography of the world we live in, reassuringly narrated by some firm, calm ‘voice of reason’.¬† I remember with great fondness “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” from my childhood…and Jacques Cousteau…and lately we’ve been enjoying “Life” (BBC, narrated by David Attenborough) and the “Wonders” series (also BBC, narrated by physicist Professor Brian Cox).¬† How is it I never get bored with that sort of thing?

Power, and clarity, and keeping it simple.

Power, and clarity, and keeping it simple. (“Eye of Horus” 1995)

I’m finding value in clarity and simplicity lately…not just in words, but in plans, and actions, and thinking, too. My thoughts and my eyes return again and again to simpler things; captivated by ‘now’. It’s more powerful than I could have known to put down the words and the thoughts and all manner of complicated tangles of hurts and yearnings and lost moments, and simply breathe and be. I don’t have any way to convince or persuade, or share with any real efficiency, what a strange sudden and abrupt turn all of life – my own, at least – seems to have taken, and in such a wonderful way, so I watch it all unfold. Observing. Being. Enjoying the stillness within the chaos.

What it is. (detail of "Emotion and Reason" 2012)

What it is. (detail of “Emotion and Reason” 2012)

So…still more questions than answers. 16 days to my 50th birthday. I don’t think I am ‘the same person’ I was even 6 months ago. I’m not interpreting that, or judging the experience, I’m just making an observation. Change is very real, isn’t it?¬† Where does the idea that some sorts of people ‘don’t change’, or ‘can’t change’, come from? I remember years ago being told that my violent spouse-at-the-time would likely ‘never change’… but I don’t know now how true such a statement can really be. I’ve changed rather a lot over the years. I don’t doubt that the risk of waiting around for some people to change might be unacceptably high, or too emotionally, physically, or financially costly… but ‘never’ is one of those words I understand to pretty nearly assure a logic fallacy right around the corner – ‘never’ is sort of big. So is ‘always’. Or ‘everyone’…How about ‘no one’?. I try hard to avoid those, especially during conflict. Even where there might be some slim chance of offering a logical proof, the likelihood such an argument would be productive is slim.¬† I’m learning.

Only 16 days to go… I guess at 50 I’ll be ‘a grown up’ for real… or so I was recently advised by a bright young man of 3 in the waiting room of a recent appointment. lol. He also suggested I would ‘be able to do anything I want’… that would be a hell of a birthday present indeed (I had to decline his offer that I could be his grandmother if I wanted to. lol).¬† I am more than satisfied with reaching that milestone in good company – that would be the ‘anything’ that I want; the affection of my loved ones, and the pleasure of their good company.

I woke ‘too early’, though I suppose it’s never too early to spend pleasant moments with a lover…only, I am alone now, with my coffee, impatiently watching the clock to head to my Friday appointment.

The morning started wonderfully well, then took a detour through ancient pain through the wonders of human communication and all it’s grand potential to have pitfalls and consequences. Now I am withstanding the nearly inevitable attack on myself from within that so often follows dialogue that even brushes past damage…and this morning was more like ripping off a scab by mistake, because it looked like a bit of nothing-or-other to be brushed away.

I am feeling frustrated, on a couple levels, and incredibly angry ‘with the world’… which I think may be more accurately described as ‘angry with people who hurt me long ago’.¬† It is the heart of my struggle with anger. This anger is largely unresolved, unaddressed, and ever-present, the sort of thing no one in my here/now experience deserves directed at them, and without any hope of being addressed with the appropriate individuals. I have the perception it must surely be the most vile and horrific expression of terrible rage ever in humanity’s history with anger, too, because as soon as it ever begins to come up, everyone around me immediately moves to do or say whatever it takes to shut it down. I have a lifetime of experience that says to me that my anger is unacceptable. I try and try to deal with it alone, and I suck at it in a most extraordinary way, I admit.

We each have our challenges and issues. I doubt mine are truly unique, and there are women who have and will suffer worse, more, and longer. I have survived some nasty shit. Broken, but perhaps not beyond repair, frustrated, but loved…things are better than they were, but god damn, I am so tired –¬† fatigued – from continuously working to address first one bit of damage, then another, with a frequent experience that feels a bit like scrubbing a huge expanse of floor, and just when I take a moment to appreciate the work well done, someone walks up and says (in a totally well-meaning way) “you missed a spot”. It’s frustrating…almost seems like the floor just keeps getting bigger.

Am I just bitching? Maybe…I am still headache-y, and feeling disappointed that I have challenges getting the emotional support I need…but a great deal of that is likely tied to my lack of skill at asking for what I need. Harder still to communicate that some particular thing is very important to me, especially when I have my own doubts that it makes sense, or what I need from the moment as a result.

I don’t feel well understood this morning, and something I was trying to communicate got swept aside for something else also important… I feel lonely and not well cared-for, right now, which has me doubting… so many things. That is the nature of this morning’s brain attack: doubt. My rational mind ‘knows’ this doubt and depressed bit of morning is illusory (thank you mindfulness!)… the feelings are what they are, just feelings.

How do I tell a lover that all I really want is a few minutes with strong comforting arms around me, and reassuring words while I cry really hard for just a few minutes, when I have so much trouble acknowledging it for myself?

Friday’s experience is brought to you by trauma, damage, and a will to survive… There’s hope for the day, yet; I got an early start.

So many metaphors...hard to choose just one.   (detail from "Anxiety" 2011)

So many metaphors…hard to choose just one. (detail from “Anxiety” 2011)

I’m saying good-bye to an old friend.

A steady rain falls this morning, like a lifetime of tears falling in a day; the sort of respectable rainfall that farmers count on, and that quickly turns a pleasant walk into a test of endurance. I like rain. I especially like rain from a warm, dry vantage point with a hot cup of coffee. I’ve got my coffee, the rain, and if I want to reach into my heart and touch something that hurts, I have my share of tears, too. I also have a headache. The headache is part of this particular good-bye.

You see, after more than a decade, I am finally saying good-bye to prescription anxiety medication. Aside from this headache, and a few somewhat surreal days, it hasn’t been too difficult. I was most concerned about some potential that I’d suddenly be taken over by the level of anxiety that was my everyday experience before I embraced Big Pharm’s tempting sales pitch. A decade is a long time to take a drug, and I’m not surprised that the experience of withdrawing from it is more profound than the assurances and platitudes the literature provides; nearly all the research I’ve been able to access is based on clinical trials of short-term use (6-8 weeks), and none of it is based on a decade or more of continuous use.¬† Actions have consequences. A decade is a long time to take a drug.¬† There is too much information available, and a lot of recent reporting, regarding how business interests have resulted in a substantial amount of medical research being suppressed, or actually manipulated for a desired outcome, and similar sorts of things that frankly scare the hell out of me every time I look in my medicine cabinet. I’m painfully aware, too, that doctors are people, not gods, and just as prone to fraud, deceit, greed, error and simple incompetence as anyone else. I am serious about embracing a genuine experience of who I am – of being myself. Really being myself. So, the time had come to back up my recent progress with real trust that my experience is improved, and that I am more whole than I had been, and am capable of continuing to grow and improve my experience, and heal my ancient hurts. I decided to take care of me in a different way. Big Pharm didn’t fix my issues, and couldn’t – they had 10 years to make it happen. lol. My turn. For real. I’m learning, healing, growing…and I am happy to see 50 without having to take mind-altering drugs to endure my experience, pacify my fears, or ‘make me presentable’ for the rest of the world. The headache today is worth it.

...not going to dwell on it... (detail of 'Broken' 2012)

…not going to dwell on it… (detail of ‘Broken’ 2012)

I’m still human. I still feel anxiety. I still have things to work on, to work out, to understand more clearly. I have more to learn. I still have PTSD, and I’m still learning new skills for managing that experience more effectively. I still have a TBI, and I’m finally learning things that address that part of my experience directly, and that matters more than I ever know how to describe.

There’s always another lesson in life’s curriculum, isn’t there? My morning thoughts and contemplation are interrupted. I am finding that my concentration is limited for now, as I say good-bye to this ‘old friend’. I’m not sorry to see it go. But it is a complicated good-bye.

...each having our own experience.  (detail of "Emic" 2012)

…each having our own experience. (detail of “Emic” 2012)

It is sometime later, now. The serenity of the¬† morning didn’t last, and while that is disappointing, I’m finding that I am ok, myself.¬† Anxiety is what it is, and I’m ok. My own experience, right now, right here, is one of relative calm; concerned, aware, and finding significant perspective in the beauty of a rainy day, and the many shades of green I see. Some experiences have more value than others, and for the moment a rainy day trumps anxiety and ‘what if’ scenarios.

Respect…consideration…compassion…reciprocity…openness…my ‘Big 5’ only look easy on paper. I’m finding that getting there is still a destination, and the journey requires an everyday commitment to mindful choices, and awareness. I want it to be easy. I accept that both effort and will are required; this is not about easy.

I’m tired and my head aches. That’s worth it, too. I’m giving myself my self for my 50th birthday.

"Who am I? Wait...I had something for this..."  (detail of 'Kronos' 2002)

“Who am I? Wait…I had something for this…” (detail of ‘Kronos’ 2002)