Archives for the month of: July, 2014

I’m waking up, this morning, on the other side of change. It’s interesting to feel it  unfolding in my experience; different actions result in different outcomes. My appointment yesterday was somewhat intense, challenging, very intimate and connected, and…personal. It didn’t feel ‘bad’, or cause me great distress. That alone is a change in my experience. The everyday practice of taking a few moments for real stillness, for calming my mind and my heart simply as an exercise in mindful presence, and doing it regularly, has definitely changed my emotional resilience, and reduced my level of panic when I am overwhelmed, which happens less easily, and less often. Progress.

When I choose to behave differently, I change the way I interact with the world, and potentially open new opportunities and choices for people involved in my life. It isn’t about ‘fair’ or who did what first. It is very much about making real choices to be who I most want to be, to willfully and deliberately choose to honor my values, and act in accordance with them. It is about who I am, and how I treat fellow humans along the way. I create the world with my choices and my actions, or at least that small piece of it that revolves around me. Sounds so simple. Figuring out those pesky choices is the challenging bit. I’m definitely certain, at this point, that repeating ineffective behaviors again and again is not going to change an unappreciated outcome.  I’ve also got substantial empirical evidence to support the idea that treating myself badly limits my ability to treat others well, and that treating others badly generally results in two outcomes: one, people react and behave in life in accord with the way they are treated by others, and two, it tends to set up a perception of ‘who I am’ in their experience that isn’t very pleasant when reflected back on me in the way they choose to interact with me later.

I don’t always see my progress. I definitely experience my challenges in a visceral and immediate way. It can make for a pretty negative experience without the balancing effect of a daily meditation practice. At least, that has been true for me. (Your results may vary.) What I bring to my experience, myself, definitely colors that experience, affects my understanding of my experience, and filters it through the context of my chaos and damage – often in spite of efforts to be more present in the moment, more ‘now’, more mindful, more aware – and less ‘think-y’.  I guess that’s why it is ongoing ‘practice’ with no ‘mastery’ in sight.  This morning is a little different from other Thursday mornings, largely because Wednesday evening had a different outcome; we made different choices, my partner and I. I am more aware of small everyday differences in my choices, decision-making, and experience, these days.  It’s more important than I understood that I, myself, acknowledge and validate my small successes from within; it’s part of that ’emotional self-sufficiency’ notion, and it feels pretty good to enjoy this experience of recognition, alone in the dim light of dawn over my morning coffee.

There’s a lot of violence and tragedy in the world. Humans killing humans. Humans treating other humans badly. I can choose differently, myself, and although I am ‘just one person’ – I am also, actually, one person making choices, and that matters. I can choose, myself, to be non violent. It makes a direct and immediate difference in every one of my relationships with individuals, every time I make that choice. That is true of each of us, each time we make any one choice we do make; it matters, and it changes the world. I suggest, based on my own experience, that when we choose actions that result in violence, that result in overstepping the boundaries of others, that result in actions which violate another human being, or our own values, it also changes the world – and every one of those choices is an act of will.  Choose differently, if you want a different outcome.

Beyond grieving, beyond acknowledgement, what will you choose to do to make it better?

Beyond grieving, beyond acknowledgement, what will you choose to do to make it better?

So, here it is Thursday, and I’m headed to  work. Today I won’t bomb any school children in their sleep, or violate boundaries willfully. Today I won’t steal, murder, or deliberately put other human beings in harm’s way. Today I won’t use my ideology to justify the maltreatment of others.  Today I will not go to war. Today I will not justify bad acts with my experience of anger. Today I will not make choices that worsen the circumstances of others in order to profit. There are probably very few among us who ever do most of these things – but I snuck in a couple that I know many of us do choose. It’s pretty easy to casually use ideology to justify mistreating someone whose ideology is different; the ease of it doesn’t make it excusable, or less ugly. Certainly, many of us have used our own subjective experience of anger to excuse treating someone else badly, and my observation is supported by the plethora of news articles about domestic violence, and police brutality; the reality  of it doesn’t excuse it. Wheaton’s Law truly covers the basics;  that and The Four Agreements could easily ‘save the world’… but there are choices involved, and ideology and anger can get in the way of good choices.

Today is a good day to treat human beings with humanity. Today is a good day to love and to help. Today is a good day for compassion. Today is a good day to change the world.


I like a bit of dessert now and then. Yesterday pie sounded good, and the blueberries in the front hedge are plentiful this year. By day’s end, I didn’t really feel like making a really good pie crust, but still wanted that fruit + baked-something-or-other experience. I knew I had options. Cobblers, buckles, crumbles, slumps, Betties, pandowdies… there are quite a few simple, rather home-y, baked goods that combine something a bit biscuit-y (USA ‘biscuit’ rather than UK ‘biscuit’ fyi) with some fruit. All so similar, all so simple…and so many words that describe them, each potentially something subtly different.

A cobbler is fruit, in a baking dish, with biscuit or dumpling on top and baked. Yum.

Put the fruit on top, before it is baked and it becomes a buckle.

Bake that cobbler on the stove-top and it becomes a slump.

A crumble is a cobbler sort of thing, but with a streusel topping, often using brown sugar. Also, yum.

Add oatmeal to the streusel topping, and that basic crumble becomes a ‘crisp‘.

A fool is something very different, being fruit folded into custard or whipped creamy goodness. Again, quite yummy.

It’s just a bit as if each cook met a need, tweaked a recipe, found a way – and gave it a new name, and made it their own.  There are so many words for ‘fruit baked with biscuit’. The words themselves don’t change the experience, and as I learned last night, the words themselves don’t even offer an assurance of recognition, understanding, or shared meaning. I discovered that in the discussion of tasty baked goodness that I shared with my at-home partner last night. “What’s a cobbler?” was quickly followed by “what’s a buckle?”, “what’s a slump?” and “what’s a fool?”, very nearly throwing me off course from actually preparing dessert!

Cobbler was made, and eaten; shared and enjoyed over conversation it became more than a meal. We enjoyed the cobbler together, savoring the berries from our own garden, and the good company, and friendly conversation. It became a moment of connection. It became an experience. I enjoyed baking for the two of us. We enjoyed sharing the experience of eating tasty cobbler together, and talking, and sharing the time as well as the dessert. It’s a small thing, in the bigger picture, but I can’t help wonder how much more peace would be in the world if we were each and all more focused on the small pleasures we can all share than on ‘being right’ about something, or pushing our ideology on the world. ‘Being right’ is highly over-rated, compared to ‘being close’, ‘being connected’, or ‘being content’.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor in here somewhere… I know I’d have had to put more work into baking a pie from scratch, and the joy of sharing the dessert would have been no greater. Even the flavors themselves, of baked fruit and pastry, wouldn’t have been so distinct from each other as to justify the additional work, late in the evening, after a long, hot day. Sometimes ‘easy’ is the way to go. Sometimes sharing matters more than what is being shared. We can choose easy. We can choose sharing. We can choose to savor the lovely simple moments of connection in our busy lives. We can choose to nurture ourselves, and our loved ones.

No matter how hurt or angry we are, it’s not productive – or healing – to bomb the @#$^*&!! out of everything around us (metaphorically speaking), and certainly it gets us no closer to being understood, or understanding others; we’d be better off baking a cobbler, and sharing some conversation.

Why choose conflict, when cobbler is a possibility?

Why choose conflict, when cobbler is a possibility?

Today is a good day for dessert. Today is a good day to share the bounty of life. Today is a good day for smiles, and hugs, and compliments. Today is a good day to change the world.

It’s 5:48 am. Nothing spectacular about it, it’s just a moment in time, and I happen to be living it. I woke to the alarm, with a stuffy head, a headache, and a feeling of resentment (over the headache, mostly). “Aliens.” Yep. That was the first word to drift recognizably through my consciousness. I frown at that thought, and realize it’s my brain reminding me we still have a house guest, and one whose preference is to sleep with the bedroom door open; wandering sleepily down the hall with bare feet, naked, and hair in disarray would be…inappropriate. I paused long enough to let my consciousness catch up to me a bit, before I headed down the hall. A shower. Yoga. Meditation. Facebook…and utterly  shameless about prioritizing that; a very dear friend had a baby late yesterday, and that’s where the updates are going to be. Now, here I am. 5:48 am.

I’d like to have more to say this morning. I could fearlessly share the subtle sadness that goes with seeing someone so dear to me, who is so exquisitely skilled at motherhood, and whose partner so clearly adores and supports her, having a baby with this person she loves so deeply…it’s not an experience I will have. Motherhood isn’t just a big deal culturally, and it isn’t merely necessary to further the existence of the specie, it’s a unique individual emotional experience and biological function of femaleness – at least until science goes somewhere different with that. I’ve been pregnant, sure. 5 times, actually. No babies. At this point, the equipment is offline, and it isn’t likely to come up short of a potentially religion-changing miracle. I don’t have a clear regret about it; I knew when I was 18 that the path of motherhood wasn’t the one I cared to choose. Still…when I look into my traveling partner’s eyes, when I am in his arms, there is this incredible yearning to have the experience of motherhood with him. It’s very biological. Very emotional. It is profound. I see the picture on Facebook welcoming this tiny new life into the world, already so loved, and I ache – it’s not just any baby that trips that circuit, only babies held in arms of exquisite encompassing love. I would so do that with him. Any time. Ever. I’d quit my job, I’d change my life…it’s the most peculiar thing, because outside the context of loving this particular man, I rarely experience this particular feeling.  Neither he nor I actually wanted to have a child, when we got together, and I was already old enough that raising a child to adulthood would inevitably be a cruel test of a child’s love for a dying parent…and now, the opportunity, the choice, is simply off the menu.

Why am I crying? This is a life I chose… Eyes open. I knew the responsibility, the emotional grandeur, the intense financial and logistical commitment, the lifelong dedication to the life of another human being, were not for me.  I miss my traveling partner very much right at this moment; being in his arms, feeling his love and understanding, go along way to sooth this particular subtle sadness.

I find myself contemplating life, lives, connections, relationships, values, meaning…looking at a picture of this man I so adore. Choosing love has been the most singularly wonderful choice I’ve ever made. I don’t actually regret not choosing motherhood, this is the woman I am. I do feel sufficiently moved to want to choose wisely, and choose love; this is my life.

Daybreak has lightened the room, and my mood.  Emotional profundities ideally don’t linger at this hour; it is too early to swim in the deep end. This quiet moment is precious all on its own.

Today is a good day to savor each moment.

Today is a good day to savor each moment.

Today is a good day to welcome new life. Today is a good day to love, to share, and to connect. Today is a good day to recognize the complicated beauty in who we choose to be. Today is a good day for good choices. Today is a good day to change the world.

I’m  not blue, and it is Monday. I was allowing my mind to coast a bit, considering first this, then that, hoping this morning’s writing would coalesce into something coherent, at least. I thought of songs I know themed on Monday and went to Google. It still hasn’t stopped surprising me how much coincidence, chance, and serendipity gently bring my attention to things that support my growth, my progress, or enhance it somehow. This morning, my Google adventure resulted in finding a blog with a post about songs themed on Mondays.  An interesting find, worth exploring further, and another traveler’s narrative.

The weekend was mostly about exploring spontaneity, and practicing doing so mindfully. For me, this proved to be an exercise in strangeness, and overall I enjoyed it enough to find it was well spent, although I don’t care to utterly abandon my preference for planning. 🙂

Flowers and sunshine.

Flowers and sunshine, whether I plan them or not.

Yesterday morning I shared breakfast with a dear friend, and took a stroll through the local farmer’s market, and beyond that spent the day in study and contemplation. I took a chance on a lovely day and did some yoga outside. In the afternoon, I lost track of time, meditating in a shady spot for what turned out to be a couple of hours well spent. Later, studying spontaneously became napping, and while I’m sure I needed the rest, it resulted in being awake far into the night, hyper-vigilant and overly aware of our house guest, my partner’s Dad, staying over.  I’m hoping I am sufficiently well-rested that the short night doesn’t come at an emotional cost later. Of course, there are choices that matter; choices affect thinking and behavior.

A new week begins. In these first moments of Monday I gently remind myself of the work ahead, of the professional self I carry to the office, of how that does or does not fit in with supporting my needs over time. I no longer allow an employer to call my shots as a human being; I am more than the sum of my professional skills.

I miss my traveling partner fiercely. There’s nothing to be done about it, of course, besides tend my heart with care, and honor and respect my emotional experience.

The resident feline models ideal behaviors for 'how to miss someone'; she takes care of her own business, until they return.

The resident feline models ideal behaviors for ‘how to miss someone’; she takes care of her own business, until they return.

I feel vaguely unsettled and uneasy this morning. It’s a small thing. The morning is a quiet and delightfully still morning…but there is a stranger sleeping in the room next to mine. I know, I know… my partner’s Dad. That’s family, right? Well…yes and no. Her family. For me, he’s a man I’ve met a number of times…3? 4? Hung out with briefly. I don’t actually ‘know’ him. I take my partner’s word for it that it is safe to have him in the house – that’s the simple truth of it. He is her family, she vouches for him as a human being. I don’t actually know him. I must have given her an odd look in the evening when she said something pleasant in passing about me having my quiet morning, this morning, since she’d be gone by… because, really, although the morning is quiet, the subtle tense awareness of a stranger in this space is palpable. I don’t really know how to communicate to someone else that this is an uncomfortable feeling for me. I am on alert, waiting…watching the clock.

I remind myself how unlikely it is that anything alarming, dangerous, frightening, or unexpected might happen due to his presence. I take some deep calming breaths. I return my awareness to the moment and cherish my wounded heart that will most likely never trust a human being solely because they are a parent, even of someone I care for (perhaps especially of someone I care for; I know them, and the damage left behind in childhood’s passing).  What reason do I have for that sort of trust? Then in a moment of beautiful perspective, I think of a friend and our broader circle of shared friends, all on ‘baby watch’; she’s past due and eagerly awaiting the birth of her son. How beautiful and wonderful to see a child already so well-loved, waited for, prepared for, who will be received in such total love! She is a woman of remarkable heart and grace, and wholly suited to motherhood, not because she has nothing else to offer the world, but because she chooses to offer her love as a mother, in addition to so much more, and does so skillfully. If I could have chosen someone to mother me, as I headed for mortal form, surely I would choose such as she. So… parents, not all bad. lol

Choosing awareness. Choosing presence. Choosing 'now'.

Choosing awareness. Choosing presence. Choosing ‘now’.

Balance. Mindfulness. Perspective. Sufficiency. Today is a good day for big ideas that require only one word. Today is a good day to change the world.

It’s been an interesting (strange) weekend so far. I rarely spend my weekend in an utterly spontaneous unscripted way. I nearly always have a plan…and a ‘plan B’, in case the plan falls apart because of circumstances, or someone else’s rampant spontaneity. This weekend, I had made loose plans, weeks in advance, that after being sick all week either no longer interested me, or for which I am frankly not quite well enough for the required level of exertion. So. I unplanned my weekend, moved things on my calendar, and made the choice to go ‘unscripted’. It’s been very relaxed, and I’ve enjoyed that. It’s also been exceedingly unorganized, which is somewhat discomfiting, and I feel less than ideally ‘productive’ – but my productivity isn’t being measured on my leisure time by anyone but me, so letting that go also lands on my ‘to do list’.

Yesterday, I decided to head out to the local aquarium store I favor, considering buying a couple of fish. It sounded like a nice outing. It was a lovely day. I enjoyed the walk to the light rail station and the ride downtown was fine…except…it was crowded and people were noisy. I quickly felt more than a little overwhelmed, and realized I was also particularly ‘noise sensitive’. My idea about going to the fish had completely lost its appeal by the time the train reached the downtown station – a midway point in the trip. I thought perhaps my blood sugar was low, and couldn’t recall if I’d had a bite of breakfast (no plan, remember?). I hopped off the train, hopeful that appropriate calories would put me right.

I was wrong. I mean – having breakfast was a good choice, no mistake there, but it didn’t improve my immediate experience of the moment. I dithered briefly, downtown, walking from the eastbound platform, to the westbound platform, and back – a couple of times. The fish no longer seemed a reasonable purchase, my journey felt more uncomfortable than pleasant, and really… I just wanted to go home.  I took advantage of my adult status to simply choose my course, based on my needs, and headed west, toward home, toward quiet, and toward the unknown. No plan.

I have a frontal lobe brain injury. I also have some impulse control issues as a result. Sometimes that’s been a characteristic I can easily identify as a limitation, or a handicap, but yesterday it was simply a characteristic. I unexpectedly decided to hop off the train at the Washington Park station, underground in the Robertson Tunnel, and take the opportunity to enjoy a sunny day at the zoo.  As with much of the day, it was an odd choice; it was midday, it was hot and sunny, it was a weekend and the zoo was crowded with children and families, and the zoo is currently undergoing a significant make over and there is a lot of construction. Spontaneity. No plan.

The map is not the journey...the plan is not the experience.

The map is not the journey…the plan is not the experience.

It was an excellent way to get in a 3-mile walk. I got some interesting pictures, and overheard some strangely amusing bits of conversation out of context. I was inspired by the engaged eagerness of bright children. I was startled and confused by a woman in very very tall stiletto heels; it was an odd footwear choice for the terrain. I was puzzled by the number of young girls dressed more for a night club than a longish walk, and wondered who they thought might be at the zoo that they needed to put themselves on display? I saw some animals; it is, after all, the zoo. In the midday heat, though, most of the animals were crashed out or out of view, and most of the entertainment was in the more easily observable human primates all around me.

Each having their own experience...

Each having their own experience…

...some, primates in cages...

…some, primates in cages…

...some 'free range' primates.

…some ‘free range’ primates.

There were non-primates, too, of course…

Some, exotic, and out of their element...

Some, exotic, and out of their element… other creatures, more familiar, no less wondrous.

…an other creatures, more familiar, no less wondrous.

And wonders that weren’t about the habitats of beings as much as the journeys they take.

Inside the Robertson Tunnel, hearing the train approaching.

Inside the Robertson Tunnel, hearing the train approaching.

I was glad to get home, when I did. I enjoyed a cold brew, a rare treat, and followed with cold water, and many moments of rapt appreciation that plentiful safe drinking water of good quality is so easily available for me. I stood at the window of my suburban home and felt a deep gratitude for my good quality of life, when for so many just a roof, or a moment of calm, or a glass of potable water are luxuries. The feeling of contentment, and gratitude continued through my shower, my yoga, my evening meal, my evening… if for no other reason, the day leading to these moments was so worth it!

Today is similarly unscripted. There’s always the local farmer’s market…or the garden…or the art museum…the Saturday Market (which is also open on Sunday)…I could re-attempt my trip to the aquarium shop, but suspect the same arguments against it would find their way with me, too. Yoga, shopping, the county fair…it is a wide open world of places, and events, and people. I still find value in planning. The unlimited vast expanse of choices and opportunities finds me stalled and uncertain – at least for now, as I write, and sip my morning coffee.

I haven’t yet learned all I can from this unscripted weekend. There is more to do. Certainly there are even mundane everyday chores to account for – which I only now remembered! I find myself resisting the impulse to make ‘just a small plan…’. There is always this and more to contemplate, to cherish, to savor; I am having my own experience.

The sufficiency of one moment of real presence.

There is sufficiency in one moment of real presence.

Today is a good day to be present and engaged with my experience. Today is a good day to enjoy the moment. Today is a good day for smiles and acceptance. Today is a good day to be gentle with myself. Today is a good day to change the world.