Archives for the month of: November, 2013

Remember that one Thanksgiving, the hard one, the one with the moods and the tantrums, the stress, the hard work, the tense conversations and everyone trying so hard? Me, too. We probably all do – or something very like it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I’m thankful to see another one come and go. I’m thankful that generally speaking I don’t have a lingering recollection of the challenges of the holidays, only the fun, the recipes, the wonder.  Yesterday will be one of those Thanksgivings.  Long after all reminders of the difficult moments have faded, I’ll still be remembering the delicious turkey, the flavorful potatoes,  the exceptional cranberry sauce, and the look in a toddler’s eyes trying that flavor for the very first time – wide-eyed wonder and awe, and delight.  Years from now I will still remember with fond gratitude how my partner happily took on serving the pie I made earlier in the day, because I was just too tired to handle that one more task.  I’ll remember how my other partner seemed always at the ready with that extra pair of hands someone needed in the moment.  I’ll remember the quiet beauty of the classical music in the background, and the delicious sweetness of the Ipsus we served with dessert. I’ll remember the tasty pork loin brought over for the meal by a dear friend of many years, and his excellent biscuits. I’ll remember how good everything tasted, and how happy I was with the pie crust I hadn’t planned to make from scratch, but did.  I’ll remember how lovely the table looked, how gracious my partners were, how well-behaved the baby was. I’ll remember the affection and the warmth of the holiday meal.

Happily, and in no small part due to my TBI, I’m probably going to forget about my mood swings, hot flashes, headache, aching knee, arthritis pain, the incredible workload, the pace of the day, and the rather extraordinarily ugly tantrum I had in the morning when my PTSD met me in the corridors of hormone hell after I got an unexpected email from an ex.  (Yep. Still very very human. I checked. O_0 )

Unfortunately, my partners probably won’t have the luxury of forgetting the difficult bits. I’m thankful to be so well loved in spite of that.

This morning I woke feeling sad. Feeling angry. Feeling discontent and dissatisfied.  I woke seething. I woke on the edge of tears. I woke early and without any recollection of the content of my dreams.

My slowly waking consciousness flailed in the darkness for some event or offense to hang on to, to point toward and say ‘this, this is the thing that hurts me now’.  One or two likely items were obviously on the menu… and as new tools and skills kicked in, I recognized that making assumptions about my emotional state was likely to cause me further pain and unhappiness, and result in struggling with myself for hours. I took a few moments to observe the darkness around me, and within me. I took some deep breaths and found that my body was tense beyond explanation, and my heartsick feelings were side by side with significant physical pain – and a stuffy nose.  Another deep breath as I admitted silently in the darkness that pain and a stuffy nose, and unremembered bad dreams could easily result in waking with a feeling of discontent and sorrow. (It isn’t as if I am lacking a history of troubled sleep. )

It’s nice to sit here now, more contented, calmed, enjoying a morning coffee without tears and without festering rage waiting to explode unexpectedly in the face of any attempt to interact with me. I am choosing new practices, and building new skills. I am taking an active role in becoming.

In general, life feels much better than it did a year ago. I feel calmer, so often that it is tempting to say ‘always’ or affix some measure of awesomeness to the improvements. I’ve also learned that sometimes those measurements can lead to a desire to pursue accolades, recognition, and validation rather than simply enjoying growth and change. Sometimes defining progress and growth in a firm way even stalls further progress and growth by creating expectations or a sense of entitlement or a ‘deserved’ outcome.

Meditation this morning was an interestingly deep experience. Making room for the hurting, the sadness, the anger, and without insisting on explaining, or justifying them in my experience in the moment, feels strangely comforting and nurturing. The feelings dissipated and quiet compassionate tears slid down my face without shame or embarrassment.  I let go of feeling the lack of things so strongly, and found myself open to feeling the strength of what I’ve got now.  I felt the grief and sadness of what-is-no-more, and honored the memories of wonders and joys and loves of the past without resenting the absence of any one moment or experience that has gone before.  Having given myself the respect of honoring my experience, and feeling my feelings, the warmth of wonders and joys and loves in my now began to fill my awareness. It was a lovely and moving moment.

What woke me? I do wonder, then I let it go.

Yoga. Pain. More yoga – because it isn’t the yoga that hurts. It’s not that sort of pain. It’s just the pain of my arthritis. The headache of my TBI. These are long-time companions that accompany me so many days that for years I didn’t bother to tell people I was hurting. What was the point of bitching about something that was so everyday? The yoga does help.  Eventually I feel less stiff. I hurt some less, certainly enough to begin the day. Even the headache recedes a bit, although that is likely more about putting some distance between my difficult waking moment, and my right-now.

Thanksgiving tomorrow… a festive dinner with friends, baking, cooking, eating, talking… I look forward to it every year.  For me it isn’t even a little bit about Pilgrims and Indians. Why would it be? Hell, it isn’t even about turkeys, or childhood holiday crafts. It is a harvest feast, a celebratory moment shared with friends and family, a tradition of gratitude in a world that doesn’t appreciate very much, or very often. It is the start, for me, of ‘the winter holiday season’. Thanksgiving,  birthdays,  Hanukkah [the official WordPress spelling], the Winter Solstice, Yule, more birthdays, New Year’s, and sprinkled throughout there are parties and dinners, and occasions for merriment of all sorts*.  I love ‘the holiday season’.  I love celebrations! Something more significant than a party, something that supports a value larger than one person’s joy – these are some of what is best about who we are. We gather and share joy, memory, humanity, culture.. and cookies. 😀

This year I am baking cookies. lol. I didn’t last year, we were in the middle of moving, and the kitchen was not really in a reliably ‘baking-ready’ state. I spent some time last night tracking down my own personal favorite holiday cookie recipes, and finding traditional family favorites I remember from childhood.  I haven’t yet brought mindfulness to cookies…

Face to face with a piece of the past.

Face to face with a piece of the past.

Hunting down those cookie recipes brought me face to face with my past in the form of recipe cards of a series called My Greatest Recipes.  It was a mail order subscription, and not a great idea for someone on a tight budget; a cookbook would have been cheaper. I still love these recipe cards, though, and they were one of the few things I did ‘just for me’ at that tender age, long ago, when I was in my 20s. Texas? No, earlier. Virginia. I’ve long ago lost the clear plastic box they came with, and the cards follow me through life nestled in a plastic food storage container without a lid. They don’t fit in it well. lol. Some of the cards are stained, or the edges frayed. Some are written on in ball point pen, in most cases notes about favorite modifications, in one case a phone number. Most are recipes I’ve never tried. Some are recipes for dishes I prefer to prepare differently, and have a favorite recipe safely stored elsewhere, and then there are the recipes I love…those worn cards, those stained cards, cards I can hold in my hand and be reminded.  🙂

Funny that these recipes cards seem to be some sort of collectible now. lol. They were at one point a rather troubling experience for me, arriving faster and more frequently over time, billing me unexpectedly when I was short of funds already.  I still wanted to have them ‘all’, but like episodes of InuYasha, they seemed limitless and infinite in number.  I ended my subscription before I ever got close to having a complete set (and where the hell would I have stored a complete set?).  Probably a good thing, it was getting really expensive. lol.

There will be cookies this year, and recipes, and holidays, and celebrations, and perhaps more good days than difficult ones. This holiday season holds a lot more mystery than usual – new tools, new skills, new practices. For now it is enough to quietly contemplate whether my Russian Tea Balls will be preferred to my Cardamom Cookies, or if it is worth making the fairly everyday (but tasty) Broken Cookies instead of the more festive and elaborate Butter Horns that I first made in 2010 with a dear love by my side, using his Mother’s recipe. (What a precious memory.) I don’t yet know what cookies I’ll be baking, this year, but I do know there will be cookies. 🙂

Yes, there will be cookies. :-)

Yes, there will be cookies. 🙂

Today is a lovely day to consider recipes, and memories, and to celebrate what has been, and what may be.  Happy Thanksgiving.



*My list of holidays is not, and is not intended to be, inclusive of all possible winter holidays. It merely reflects the holidays I am most likely to be involved in celebrating, myself, at this time in my life, based on lifestyle, personal beliefs, the beliefs of loved ones, and calendared events I have accepted.  If I were to be invited to celebrate Kwanzaa, Diwali, or Ramadan (when it falls in winter), I would include them. 😉

Emotional strength and resilience don’t seem to be limitless in my own experience. I got to thinking about it as I walked home last night quite exhausted following a rather ordinary day.  I thought, too, of watering my garden with rain water next year, collected in rain barrels, very green friendly… the thinking got all jumbled up, and of course, a parable resulted from the cognitive disarray.

A rain barrel [image from lifehacker]

Consider the rain barrel.  Rain falls plentifully in some places, less so in others. Collecting rain water allows it to be used later, and applied where most needed – I would water my greenhouse with rain water.  If I set up my rain barrel well, and it collects water efficiently, and I have plentiful reserves, my garden remains lush and well-watered, nurtured and capable of supporting life.  The rain barrel must be open to receiving the water, and must also be able to contain it – to build a reserve.  If I set up the barrel to collect water, but I leave it open, too, at the bottom, so that the water is continuously used as soon as it is received, no water is stored, no reserves are built, and when a dry time comes and no rain falls, my garden is dry and at risk of dying, and unable to support lush and fertile life. Crops would be bitter and less flavorful.

Don’t our emotional reserves, the strength of our heart, and our ability to ‘bounce back’ work similarly? If I am constantly at war within myself, or having to buoy loved ones in times of personal turmoil, with no support for myself, my own heart, my own needs, without taking time to ‘refill my rain barrel’, I become bitter, exhausted, and unable to support life. The very real personal rewards to growth and change are powerful, and capable of nurturing my heart on a profound level – unless I am unable to rise beyond constantly ‘spending my savings’, using the rainwater as it comes, instead of building stored reserves for dryer times.

Today I will love well.  Today I give myself as much compassion as I show others. Today I will also take care of me.


It is a Monday. It isn’t a good or bad day, it’s barely even gotten started.

Yesterday evening I had a moment or two of down-deep grieving.

In one case, I experienced the pain and sorrow of seeing people dear to me behave in completely unacceptable ways, and however understandably so, still not okay.  Lingering concerns ride shotgun with me this morning as I ready myself for the day.

In the other case, the wee fish Wyatt surprised me after work by being dead.  That’s just not ever a fun sort of surprise.  As life lessons go, I would have preferred another day, a different fish, or not at all.  I wept without reservations, and found comfort with my partner, who was near-by reading, and as surprised as I was.  He’d also been enjoying looking in on the new guy now and then and had seen him moving about contentedly earlier in the day.  (Oddly, this bit of grief felt so intense in the moment, and seems to have passed.  To be fair, Wyatt had only been mine for about 5 days.  He hadn’t even left quarantine. )

I took it pretty hard in the moment, tears and a feeling of failure, blaming myself – what did I/didn’t I do?  As my emotions began to ramp up my partner turned up, put his hand on me gently and said ”fish die”.  My whole being paused for just a moment, hearing that.  Well, of course. “Fish die.” Yes, they do. Things that live eventually become something that died. Fish, people, dreams… “Fish die.”  It was simple, true, and an observation in the moment that helped me become grounded and calm.

I’m pretty human. I do have a brain injury, and post-traumatic stress. Keeping an aquarium is new for me, and filled with complex process work – I study the tasks and processes that support life in my aquarium as though there is going to be a final exam at the end of the semester. Of course there is; fish die.  It is my honor and responsibility to create a habitat for my fish that supports life for them, that allows them to thrive, not merely endure.  That sense of responsibility is one I bring to my other relationships, too, a step beyond ‘above all do no damage’.

I did some science-y stuff to ensure I learn what I can from the experience: tested the water, looked for process missteps (found a couple that ought not have proved fatal, but better attention to details would have prevented them nonetheless). I observed the environment closely after the fact and made notes about improvements on the next quarantine, and checked those observations against my thriving community tank to ensure I wasn’t carry errors from one to the other.  I made notes improving process steps for my quarantine tear-down/set up checklist. I took a few deep breaths, and said good-bye to Wyatt.  I cried. I cried like a little girl to find him dead.  Some of life’s curriculum is pretty deep.

Today is an entirely new experience. I woke calm this morning, and curious what the day will hold. I slept well and deeply.  I sit, sipping  my coffee, and considering the struggles we have as beings, some shared, some that feel so solitary.  I contemplate the choices we make, and how easily we can choose and choose again, and rage against the outcome of our own choices, seemingly unaware that if the outcome is repeatable, and predictably follows a specific identifiable choice, then we utterly control that experience, not only through our reactions to it, but through the choices that bring us there.  Don’t want it? Don’t choose it.  Simple enough, generally, however tough we may make the process of making a different choice.

Today I choose compassion. I choose tenderness. I choose kindness. Today I choose to smile; there is a lot to smile about. Today I choose eye-contact and conversation; we all spend far to much time feeling alone. Today I choose to change the world.

It’s early on a Sunday morning. The house is quiet. My usual vanilla latte is exceptional this morning. My heart is calm. My loves are safely here at home, and from this limited perspective of a quiet peaceful morning, all seems well with the world and the most important event thus far is seeing that the new plecostomus, still in quarantine, is out and about busily going about the business of being the fish that he is.

My morning meditation concluded with a strange sense that I was somehow ‘unstuck in time’. My consciousness was feeling very open to the future, aware of the past and vaguely disconnected from both, poised comfortably between them in this pleasant ‘now’. I soon found myself thinking about work, aware there are only 11 working days left- counting today. Left of what? Well, left of now, certainly, where work is concerned. There may be others in the future. There’s that word again. ‘Future’.

The thought of fortune-telling crones, and hucksters, of psychics, and favorite aunts with a gift for guess work, filtered through my thoughts alongside thoughts of my work (meaning employment). I’m an analyst by trade, and have been for most of my adult life. I make my living ‘telling the future’ in a sense, although I do so using math and trending and spreadsheets, rather than tea leaves, Tarot cards, stones, runes, or the stars in the heavens.  The interesting thing about that, though, is that I’ve come away from a number of jobs wondering if the people who make use of analysts actually have a real understanding that it is something different than guesswork, tea leaves, or shamanism.  It starts to cause me a moment of bitterness and frustration, then I left it fall away with a deep breath and a smile. Because it isn’t actually relevant to my own experience what someone else thinks about the work I do, beyond providing me with data to make a wise decision about whether or not to do such work for them. lol.

Yep. Getting to this place was that easy. Nice one, brain, happy to have you on board with the new processes. 😀

This morning, what is real and important is that I love, and I am loved in return – first and foremost by my own self, invested in me, and supporting my experience.  The safety and comfort of my family, and by extension our more distant family members, our metamours, our friends – those are important, too. Even that wee fish in quarantine is more important than most of the things the world would have me attend to, using media slight of hand, and verbal trickery. That wee fish, living his life, figuring out his new world, discovering that he is safe and well fed, and finding whatever fishy contentment he may – even he is more important than most things, because he lives.

Ideologies do not live. Industries do not live. Governments do not live. Laws do not live. Societies do not live as entities independent of their individual members. What is more important about us, as individuals, than this precious life force, this simple existence, this presence to be felt, to experience, to share? All the rest is myth, lies, ‘color’, ‘spin’ – and distraction…or so it seems this quiet morning as I weight what matters most to me now. Where I to face the end of my life tomorrow, wouldn’t it be vastly more important as a measure of my humanity how I treat my friends, my family, my lovers, even a simple fish, than any task I ever completed for any employer? Life is quite specifically not about the paycheck.

So… on to more important things, then. 🙂  The wee fish is quite shy.  Knowing he could be expected to be shy caused me to watch him ever so closely, and in just a day or two it was clear that the under gravel heater in the quarantine tank wasn’t keeping the water quite as warm as my community tank – nor as warm as the new guy would like it. I was also finding it irksome to keep referring to him as ‘the new guy’.  He’s pretty fancy, as fish go, and really rather deserved a proper name all his own.  Science doesn’t serve me well there, personally, and I found his taxonomic name rather cumbersome (Hypancistrus zebra). I purchased a better heater, and one of my partners – who understands how much I value the whimsy of words and of naming  – helped me out with an exceptional name suggestion.  This morning, I delighted in watching ‘Wyatt’ (his whole name is Zoot Suit Wyatt. lol) explore his world; the temperature change definitely improved his experience.

Mindfully living. Mindfully loving. Mindfully tending my underwater garden and the life it supports. It’s a lovely Sunday for compassion, for affection, for kindness – and it is a wonderful day to change the world.

Zoot Suit Wyatt - the new guy makes himself at home.

Zoot Suit Wyatt – the new guy makes himself at home.