Archives for the month of: May, 2014

This morning I am sitting here in the quiet of dawn, and contemplating this sweet chill moment of satisfaction and contentment; I want for nothing. At least right now, this very specific and limited immediate moment of now, I am not experiencing desire, hunger, craving, yearning, or any urgent sense of need. It’s lovely.

It got me thinking, though, of recent tragedies, and lives lost to the dark side of desire: entitlement, jealousy, possessiveness, attachment, and yes, craving, yearning, wanting, ‘needing’ – those urgent hard-to-resist feelings that say there is something amiss in the world when some object, experience, or person is not available for ownership, possession, or purchase. I doubt it is the desire itself that is the challenge. My own experiences tell me that the difficulties (and horrors) develop when a person is overcome by the conviction that some outcome is their due. Expectation. Demand. Entitlement.

I’ve struggled with it, too. It’s very human to want something or someone so badly that it takes over reason and good sense, destroys compassion and consideration, impedes respect, or seems to justify bad behavior; it isn’t appropriate to take action on those feelings in any way that encroaches on someone else’s will, personal liberty, control of their own body, sense of safety, or freedom to withhold consent.  Rapists are a problem, and the lack of consent is the defining thing, and even in the face of the obviousness of it there manages to be discussion about it, as if there is some permissible amount of non-consensual conduct that is acceptable. (There isn’t.)

It took me a long time to get here. I have been wading through a lot of wreckage, and looking back on me over the years, I owe a number of very good-hearted people apologies of one sort or another; damage doesn’t truly excuse being a shitty human being.  I have struggled with myself, and I still do, figuring out the consent piece, for myself, as I find my way in the world.   I wasn’t exactly brought up to respect my own boundaries, to expect that my consent – or lack of it – would be respected, or even to say no and mean it in clear, explicit terms.  The result? I sometimes didn’t treat other rape survivors well; I treated them as badly as I treated myself. I didn’t understand the nature of consent, or that the word ‘no’ had any power to change events. My own experiences didn’t support that. I didn’t understand it is my right to choose, to say yes or no, and to have those choices be accepted and honored.  I spent years as an unwitting accomplice to rape culture; the survivor-apologist, so busy being ‘accountable for my own actions’ that I was willing to excuse my violation.  Getting past that and building a healthy understanding of the sanctity of my consent has been a complicated battle.

[Are you listening? It isn’t too late to show yourself compassion, to respect your own pain, to stand on your values and say ‘no’. It’s okay, too, to feel shame at the damage you’ve done as a tool in your own destruction – and to choose another path, now. You said it would matter if just one woman, one survivor, would say “I’m sorry I made things worse.” I’m here. I’m one woman. I’m sorry.]

So… here we all are… talking about the issues more openly, more insistently, more frankly. That, in spite of the pain and the circumstances, is an important step forward.

In the midst of pain, there is still beauty.

In the midst of pain, there is still beauty.

Today is a good day to talk about difficult subjects honestly. Today is a good day to be compassionate and concerned. Today is a good day to respect myself, and others. Today is a good day to change the world.

As recently as 5 years ago, my mobility (and joy in life) were incredible limited by my weight.  Over time I had continued to gain weight for a number of reasons, certainly including the very important reason that I really just didn’t do very much.  Between fighting my demons, taking medication to make that less difficult for those around me, and the slow descent into profound apathy toward life, in general, I gained weight at a predictably steady rate. When I started losing that weight, and slowing gaining some sort of motivation regarding life, if not actual joy in it, it was a process of choices and actions; progress was made over time.

I routinely walk between 5 and 8 miles a day, these days. I’m still heavier than I’d ideally like to be. My personal goal and sense of ‘this would be the most beautiful me’ are not particularly tied to cultural norms for beauty, over the years I’ve gotten past that bit of baggage, thankfully. I’d like to be healthy, fit, and able to live a long time.  Still, these knees and ankles don’t make it effortless, even now, and I’m not close enough to my goals to rest easy. There is more work to be done. I like enjoying my life, and for me that means freedom of movement, as much as I can manage. So, I walk. I do yoga. I get fitter. I get stronger. I make small gains in freedom of movement, gait, and comfort.

I still have a journey ahead of me, and with my partners eagerly embracing a new-found interest, or rekindling an old interest, in outdoor fun: hiking, kayaking, camping – I am struggling with a feeling of ‘falling behind’. It’s still a journey. It’s still my journey. The temptations of what I do not yet achieve with ease seem to be dangling in front of me, just out of reach. It’s hard not to be frustrated by that, sometimes. My journey, however, is my own, and it isn’t the same journey as the journey each of my loves, my friends, my associates takes; their journey is their own as well. I don’t grudge them their joys; I am human enough to experience envy and frustration at the tantalizing bits of those journeys I would like to share.

It isn't always obvious why the path is what it is.

It isn’t always obvious why the path is what it is.

So I wake this morning, quietly, hoping not to disturb the sleep of a partner heading into adventure today. I do hope for pictures, although I don’t expect them; life is best lived, full on, attentively, and in-the-moment. I wouldn’t ask him to sacrifice one second of that experience just to grab a photograph. I yearn to go along, sometime, and feel a poignant moment of recognition that I am not ready, yet.

So…more miles, walking, and it’s time to vary the terrain and stray from pavement. I’m shopping for a good daypack, and when I find the best fit, I’ll start walking with that, too. Every step forward, however small, is progress along the journey. It’s been a long time since Nijmegen, and I may never be fit enough for something like that again… but I’d love to be walking up a mountain trail with my loves, with my friends, to a destination in the wilderness, even if it isn’t very wild, or very far away; there’s a lot of beauty in the world, and I’d like to see more.

I spent the morning shopping for gear, feeling hopeful and encouraged, and ready to take another step.

Today is a good day for forward momentum. Today is a good day to experience life with eyes wide open, and an eager curiosity. Today is a good day to change the world.

I woke this morning with a headache, aching knees, aching ankles, aching back… funny, the thing that is on my mind is not the everyday pain of aging, or paying for youthful mistakes. I am thinking about love. Love is precious and peculiar, and for all the years I daydreamed about love, while dismissing it as fanciful bullshit for children, I had no understanding of what it might actually be, if I had it, practiced it, or experienced it. Love is a verb and a noun. Love demands much of us as beings, and the penalties for poor decision-making are very high. Totally  worth it, though, totally worth it.

Love is not what we think it is; love is what it is.

Love is not what we think it is; love is what it is.

So sure, I woke in a lot of pain this morning. That seems irrelevant every time I glance down at the orange knotted-cord bracelet one of my loves fashioned for me as we sat talking, while he packed his hiking kit.  Love isn’t a diamond tennis bracelet. Hell, love isn’t even this bright bracelet of sturdy nylon cord. Isn’t love the movement toward giving, the inspiration, the desire to take someone’s needs, interest, fancy, and delight and make them important to one’s own experience, and then taking action?

How is this orange knotted cord bracelet not the most precious of ornaments, simply because it is love?

This token of love doesn’t go with anything I wear regularly. It stands out boldly from my flesh. I don’t generally wear bracelets at all; I feel it as I move through my morning.  I am moved by, and aware of love with every small motion that brings the orange back into my view, or shifts the cord against my skin.  I feel a little silly, a little giddy, no different from feelings I might have were I 16… love excites me.

This morning, the pain vanishes from my awareness most of the time; because I am reminded so simply, so frequently, of how much I am loved. Love, and loving, are a pretty nice distraction to deal with on a Wednesday morning. I’m sure not complaining about it.

How often do we mess with the goodness in our experience at one moment or another because it isn’t what we expect, or what we dream of? How many tender joys are lost because they were one thing, and not another? Would you turn down orange knotted cord because it isn’t something fancier that you dreamt of longer? Are you truly open to love? To being loved?  I have to admit, to be fair to love itself, all those bitter years of certainty that love was a lie, a pretty illusion, a pointless treasure hunt – I wasn’t open to love, or being loved.  I had defined ‘what love is’ and because it wasn’t presenting itself to me in the form I demanded, I couldn’t see it when it did turn up. That is one of the saddest things about being lonely; it’s often a choice.

So, this morning I am aware of my pain, and in spite of that, I’m choosing love.  Taking a moment to feel the connection to a love nurtured, shared, grown over time; connected by a simple orange knotted cord, on a very early Wednesday morning.

Today is a good day to love.

Are we all secretly counting on miracles to make things right? Are we all after some sort of patent nostrum, magic potion, or a pill to make everything better? It’d be damned convenient, wouldn’t it? I mean, compared to having to build skills, habits, work through baggage, be accountable, and make good choices… a pill seems much simpler.

I’ve tried the pills; they don’t work. Well, they work, if by ‘working’ we agree to mean ‘have an effect of some kind’ for ‘some people’. Sometimes the effect they have fits the loose definition of ‘working’. Pharmaceuticals didn’t work out for me, personally. They tended to be too much, or too little, or had other more pronounced effects that were uncomfortable, unacceptable, or needed medication of their own. Over time I ended up taking a lot of pills, and for a net effect in improvement so slight that I was little more than a poster child for giving the medical community ‘a chance’.  I still struggled. I still suffered. I still hurt. I had a level of emotional volatility that wasn’t comfortable for anyone who had to live with me, and threw tantrums rivaling the most highly irritable three-year old, and did so with a ferocity and frequency that raw honesty requires me to admit was abusive to live with. I wasn’t okay.

This past weekend was a walk down memory lane, and serves to highlight how generally good the past year has been. Practicing mindfulness, meditating regularly, and learning different skills to identify and communicate my emotional experience in an appropriate way has done far more than any pharmaceuticals ever did. Still. This is a journey – and I’m far from reaching my destination.

So… pills don’t work. How about those miracles? Well, frankly, after this morning, I’m wondering if I should sign on to the miracle side of the argument… I woke early, damned early, crying in my sleep. The hot flashes the last couple weeks have been… extraordinary.  Over and over again, I find myself drenched in sweat, and right on the edge of freaking out because I’m overcome by feeling ‘too hot’.  Beyond being socially a bit awkward to be dealing with it so openly, it’s just seriously uncomfortable.  Take something for it! Sure! Except that medical science lags so far behind the hopes, dreams, and needs of women that it is little more than comedic at this point (are scientists even trying?). I mean, seriously? ED drugs are widely available, but in spite of the pure misery of billions of women dealing with their hormones and the effect that has on their relationships, there’s not shit of any real effectiveness available to deal with symptoms of menopause. Nope, we can all collectively go fuck ourselves, science is content with ‘bitches are crazy’ and leave it at that. Sorry. I’m feeling a tad bitter about the state of medicine and womanhood just at the moment.

I got distracted… by hot flashes. Go figure. The hormone thing is pretty attention consuming, honestly.

So. How about those miracles? Yep. Sitting here this morning, finding a moment of comfort staring at my monitor in the dim light of early morning, just sitting.  Taking a few minutes to calm myself and shush the infernal demons that woke me ahead of schedule. Feeling very alone. Feeling incredibly insecure about the future. Feeling pretty sad and overwhelmed. Wondering what the hell I could possibly ever do to make it up to people who love me, then feeling mired in suppressed rage that being female should feel like something I need to make up for… it was a rough start to the morning.  There was a quiet scratching at the door; at 5 am we’re all pretty cautious about keeping things quiet; everyone in the household has their own sleep challenges, and we all know how much it matters to get the sleep we can.  A wakeful partner checking in, a quiet ‘how did you sleep’ and a follow-up ‘are you up?’ from me.  Ordinary love, aside from Love never being at all ordinary… he headed back to bed, hoping for more rest. I resigned myself to continuing to face my challenges until the time came to leave for work.  I was settling in to breathing, being, meditating… and he quietly returned, crossed the room, and just stood near enough to touch, his tenderness palpable.  He said “I feel so helpless to do anything to help you with the menopause thing.” Honest. True. Loving. He headed to bed, and now I am writing about miracles.

It was a simple enough miracle of love; I felt lonely, my love connected with me, intimately, gently, honestly.  I need that, more than a cure, and feeling it matters so much this morning.  My demons have no real defense against love.

Today is a good day to love.

What time is love?

What time is love?

No pictures, please.

It’s been a difficult weekend. Hormones, fatigue, poor choices, the consequences of broken routines, the inevitable truth that we are each having our own experience, and no doubt any number of small other circumstances distilled into a weekend wrought of pure misery.  I could go on at greater length, say more than that it mostly sucked, but it seems unnecessary, really; although we are each having our own experience, the experiences we are each having remain human experiences, and given a moment to do so, they are experiences to which any one of us can likely relate all too easily.

I brought souvenirs from Las Vegas: t-shirts, playing cards, anecdotes, and photographs.  I also brought less tangible souvenirs: exhaustion, frustration, physical discomfort, and PTSD teetering on the edge of emotional disaster. Life is like that, isn’t it? Things we see, things we miss. Things we accept, things we reject. Things we desire, things  we have. The destination, the journey itself.  So often, there is more than what is obvious, and being aware really matters.

I’ve brought souvenirs from life along with me, just as I did from Las Vegas.  I’ve brought a pretty vicious and chronic case of long-term frustrated anger with regards to how I perceive my place in the world in the context of the culture I live in, and how I have been treated, myself, as a woman.  I’ve also brought years of unresolved pain over trauma and abuse at the hands of people who claimed to love me. I’ve brought extra tickets on the ride to Hormone Hell.  I’ve brought nightmares, quite an assortment of them, and the tantrums and mood swings that sometimes complicate my life because emotionality is a common consequence of disturbed sleep.  How is it these are ‘souvenirs’ and not just my baggage? Well… if they were just my baggage, wouldn’t I just shut the fuck up about them, and get to unpacking the bags and putting shit away? I would think so… Instead, I find that I have no particularly successful methodology for that process, and a great deal of real talent at sharing the pain.

Souvenirs. I bring it. You endure it. For what it’s worth, I’m working on me with indescribable devotion, but nothing about that makes amends. Sometimes it is hard not to lose my way in the fog of fuck ups, discourtesies, moments of inconsiderate temper, misplaced hurt feelings, frustration, and failure upon failure upon failure to treat people (who matter) like they matter (because they do), including me.

Yesterday started well, ended calmly, but in between those two points… yeah. It wasn’t good. I woke this morning still feeling the sting of it, the sorrow welling up inside me, ready to spill over a new day. Then something went right. For the first time since I started having difficulties with my right knee, I was able to fold comfortably, gently, into the crossed-legged sitting position that feels best to me for meditation. First one breath, then another – not just relaxed, and not ‘doing‘ meditation – meditating.  I felt lighter.  Another breath. Thoughts were just thoughts again. Another breath. The future began to unfold less like a hinged box or difficult puzzle, and more like … spring.  Another breath.  Attachment to emotional outcomes fell away.  Another breath.  Calm. Just calm. Just being. No timer, no limits, no fear or doubt.  I felt centered. Safe.  I felt awake and aware of how far and how quickly I had drifted from my heart’s safest shore… and I held myself, my heart, within my own compassionate awareness for a time.

Hours later, I heard the household beginning to stir. A new day. A new experience. My skin shivered with the ripple of other emotions on the current of my sense of ‘home’.  I felt a moment of understanding, and acceptance; living with me has some very difficult moments. I took a moment to appreciate the will and love that must go into that commitment, and honored the effort my loves bring to our relationships and our life together. I sat down and finished the manuscript I’d been fussing over rather pointlessly for a few days (weeks?). It seemed the least I could do to treat myself well in the aftermath of so much hurting, to finish something I started to meet needs of my own, on time, and as a high priority for myself.  It feels good to have the moment, and take advantage of it.

Hell of a weekend… I’m not sure I’d call it ‘recovering from the trip to Las Vegas’ in any accurate way, but today, for now, I feel as if I am at least ‘recovering from tripping’. lol