Archives for the month of: July, 2014

I remember a younger me, angry beyond the point of explaining it, beyond any reason (although, I felt at the time with very good cause). I remember the ferocity, the righteous rage, the convenient slogans, the certainty of Aristotelian logic, the convenient disregard for any experience but my own ever-so-limited experiences. I remember the sting of frustration, the mockery of cultural enemies, the chronic anger of not ‘being heard’ – my lack of awareness that I, myself, was also not listening. At that point in my life, I was unaware of my TBI, and already struggling with PTSD from living a life of emotional and physical violence, deeply aware of a sense of being broken, damaged, different…struggling to communicate, to be  heard, to be understood. I was easily led, but had no sense of it; I considered myself a ‘free thinker’ and ‘my own woman’. Sometimes, perhaps, I even was.

Most of the time, someone was ‘managing’ me. I didn’t understand things that way at the time. When I finally ‘got it’, it was both incredibly freeing, and incredibly heart-breaking.  My parents, grandparents, the Army, a spouse, a lover, a partner, an organization with an agenda, an employer… Everyone who had their shot invested time and effort in convincing me theirs was the right and true truth, the way, the only obvious conclusion, the needful thing, the most righteous of right, the most just of the just. Generally all lies, or as nearly all lies as matters; people with an agenda, in my experience, are rarely about truth.

A difficult night; conversations with my self.

A difficult night; conversations with my self.

I slept badly last night, and my dreams were populated with different iterations of a woman I once was, angrily trying to ‘talk sense’ to the woman I am now, the woman I am becoming – a woman who finds that people matter most, and that relationships of all sorts are the thing most worth investing in. A woman who understands there is no ‘justification’ for warfare – these days all that violence and destruction seems a childish tantrum on a very grand scale, and clearly ineffective, unless the purpose is simply the destruction, itself. I don’t understand how any one of us can take the view that our hurts justify killing someone else. There’s a lot of it in the news. I try not to read it, but it isn’t possible to reflect on the world and not see it going on.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating. I read a story in which a man who was upset over getting divorced killed the woman who had been his wife. Killed her. For not wanting to spend more of her life with him. Her life. I seriously doubt anyone can offer a rational justification for that act.  It’s actually so commonplace I didn’t link it; a Google search will turn up hundreds of such articles. Of course, there’s more, and some of it is on a grand scale indeed. I mean… Gaza? Seriously? Why is an imaginary line on the planet an acceptable justification for killing? For genocide? How is it ever acceptable to deploy troops from one country to another to use violence to enforce an ideology not freely chosen by the people being attacked? It’s all very odd that we allow it to go on, that we do it, ourselves. We regularly attempt to force others to our point of view, and regularly fight for our own – or succumb to another.

I don’t usually write in a particularly political way, and if this is sounding political to you, you may be missing my point.  My point is, why not just stop killing people? What right does any one human being have to transgress on the life force of another human being, to rob or rape or kill them, or blow up their home, or do them an injury, or take their life or their possessions? What right at all? If no one human being can rationally justify those behaviors, how do we permit it of our governments? It’s bullshit, and honestly – we just need to stop. It’s been said. I’m not first here. (I doubt anyone is really listening – or this nastiness would have already ended.) But…I woke angry with the woman I once was, and found that simply to satisfy myself that the conversation had been concluded, and I have been heard – by myself – it feels necessary to say a few a things with as much clarity as I can to that damaged enraged delusional young woman still storming and screaming that she wants to ‘burn it all down’, who lingers in my past, still hurting, still raging. She had her chance to be heard in my restless dreams…so…for her. For me…

Have any religion you like; don’t force it on me. Live where you like, enjoy the customs of your people; but don’t force them on others, or steal to gain land or territory. Don’t rape, kill, or mutilate other people; do what you will with your own body, call it art, call it tradition – but do not visit it on others, most particularly not in violation of their reasoning consent. Don’t violate the consent of others. At all. Ever. Don’t assume your values and opinions are the one true truth; everyone I’ve ever met has their own thoughts on that subject. Govern yourself.  Help more than you injure. Build more than you destroy. Share when you have more, and be gracious when those who have more share what they’ve got with you. Listen with your whole attention. Recognize the fundamental humanity of every human you interact with – and all the ones far away that you only hear about. Understand that you are but one, and that you are who you choose to be, and you can choose differently if you are unhappy – and I encourage it. Happy is wonderful; you won’t get there at the expense of others. People matter. Their pain matters. Their hearts matter. When you lash out at others and do them damage, injure them, violate their consent, you are not one of ‘the good guys’ regardless what you use to justify your bad acts. Collateral damage is still damage. You can’t heal yourself through harming others, however satisfying vengeance may sound in the abstract. Make your own choices, understand they are yours, and don’t rob others of their opportunities to make choices for themselves. You are not wiser, smarter, stronger, better, or more reliably right than any other one human being – you are human. Only that. Be who you are – no one else can do that as well as you can – but don’t attempt to force others to your way, they are not you. And… one last thing? Don’t be a dick. All those other people in the world? Yeah – they’re people, too, like you.

Today is as good a day for humanity as you choose to make it. Choose wisely.

Today is as good a day for humanity as you choose to make it. Choose wisely.

 

I’m almost over this cold. I’m grateful that although I’ve been sick it hasn’t been ‘that bad’. It’s been bad enough, however, to distance me from loved ones and fun, and that has sucked. My traveling partner will head out again later today, and the entire week he’s been home, I’ve been sick. Two years ago, or more, I’d probably have thrown some nasty tantrum over it, which wouldn’t have helped anyone enjoy their experience more, nor would it sooth my hurt over missing out on connected, intimate time. This time…it just didn’t occur to me to be temperamental about it. He’ll be away, then he’ll return. Seems a practical matter more easily supported by being easy and supportive.

So here I am. Contemplating farewells for another time, getting my shit together for work, and knowing that I’m facing a weekend opportunity to focus on self-work, meditation, and  yoga with a lot more focus and patience with myself than is sometimes possible with a full house, and a full calendar.

Contentment through perspective; sometimes it is enough.

Contentment through perspective; sometimes it is enough.

Today is a good day for smiles, and a good day for generous well-wishes, and fond farewells. Today is a good day to invest everything in love; the return on investment is still the very best, anywhere. Today is a good day for kindness, and a good day to offer to help. Today is a good day to share laughs, and links to good news. Today is a good day to recognize what ‘enough’ is all about, and have some of that, too. Today is a good day to change the world.

It’s not a demand, really. “Always do your best” is the fourth of the Four Agreements. I keep coming back to it, however many learned tomes I immerse myself in, however many notes I take, or cross-references I make, however many relevant observations or light bulb moments come to me from hours of study, or therapy. I regularly find myself considering, again, the Four Agreements.  (My traveling partner had recommended The Four Agreements, a few weeks into our association, and before we were lovers. I often think of him with love when I am reading it.)

The basics, and a good starting point.

The basics, and a good starting point.

If I had truly mastered these, would I face so much struggle? Would I have hurt so much for so long? If they were nothing more than saccharine platitudes, would I find renewed relevance so frequently, or so often find myself thinking ‘yes, of course’ in contemplation of a missed opportunity to practice one or more of these simple ideas?

I have suggested, and shared, and gifted this small book so many times… As with anything else, there is a verb involved, and the will, choices, and actions of the individual. I think there is a relevant ‘old saying’… how about ‘you can lead a person to knowledge but you can’t make them think’? Oh that’s not it, is it? It’s ‘lead a horse to water…’, but not so very different, truly. 🙂 We don’t live each others lives, and ideally we don’t make each others choices, or undercut each others opportunities for growth; it’s nice to have help once in a while, but the life we live, the path we walk, the choices we choose belong to us alone. A person can read The Four Agreements as many times as they care to, and never benefit because they chose differently, or did not act on what they read. We have the amazing freedom to choose poorly, any time, to be short-sighted, to hold on to grievances, to struggle, to hold on to resentment; we choose who we are. We create our experience.

A rainy day flower. Beauty needs no excuse.

A rainy day flower. Beauty needs no excuse.

Yesterday, in spite of being ill, was a very pleasant day. It was a pleasant day in spite of one partner having to come home to work because construction noise in the office was so significant it was causing major stress. It was a pleasant day in spite of my traveling partner being very focused on preparing for the next trip away. It was pleasant in spite of the rain, and in spite of the headache. We made good choices, and treated each other well. Sure, I’d like not to be sick, but being sick did nothing to diminish the lovely day, yesterday.

Yesterday, maybe because I am ill, I also had a serious nightmare – terrifying enough to launch me from my bed, all my bed clothes in hand, body pillow clutched to me, cowering in the corner, against the back of the bedroom door when my nearest partner came to check on me, having heard the bang of my frightened self slam into the door, or the wall, whimpering. I don’t recall the dream now, only the sense of tremendous relief when my open eyes began to see, and I was safe in my room, my partner gently soothing my fear with tender touches, and soft words reminding me where I was in the moment, and that all was well.  As fatigued as I felt, it was hours before I could persuade myself to try sleep again, and strangely my bed just didn’t ‘feel right’ after that, until I woke this morning, quite comfortably and on time, a tad amused that I’d forgotten to set my alarm at all, and that it didn’t really matter.

There is a part of me that is curious what the nightmare was about. There is a wiser part of me who understands that doesn’t matter at all, and the kinder choice for my experience is to let it go.

What is 'enough'?

What is ‘enough’?

Today is a good day to listen well, really listen, without waiting to speak. Today is a good day to do my best, and understand with compassion that most people generally are doing their best, as well. Today is a good day to avoid making assumptions; assumptions are only stories we tell ourselves, and they have a lot of power to cause needless suffering. Today is a good day to ‘be impeccable’ with my words, using them well and with kindness, and understanding that clarity does not require callousness, or cruelty.

…In sickness and in health…

Life's simple glory, complicated, simple, strange, wonderful, new or familiar; it matters every bit as much as it doesn't matter at all.

Life’s glory, complicated, simple, strange, wonderful, new or familiar; it matters every bit as much as it doesn’t matter at all.

This is a pretty fragile vessel I occupy. Backaches, tendonitis, headaches, sore feet, bumps, bruises, bad days, and…head colds; being human isn’t pain-free, convenient, or particularly easy some days. Today is one of those, and I do indeed have a head cold. Worse, I have a head cold on the handful of days that my traveling partner is visiting home. I have a cold instead of hugs and lovemaking, because I choose to take responsible steps to prevent the spread of illness, where I can. I find employment, generally, in call centers. It’s humble enough work for an analyst, and head colds go with the territory – in fact, I have numbers on that, and some trending. lol  Love isn’t hindered by a head cold, though, and I enjoy the companionship of my partner in spite of it.

Annoyingly enough, this is also an extraordinarily busy week at work; as much as I’d like to, taking the day off to be sick isn’t an option. From my perspective, neither is getting all my coworkers sick, however trivial the illness, so I am working from home today – for as long as I can bear to toil over numbers. Every choice we make matters, in some context or another, to our own experience, or to someone else’s. My sleep was disturbed and restless last night and I woke from some surreal dreaming meditation on this particular strange thought; it all matters so very much, and it’s so interconnected, I lose sight of how irrelevant and unimportant any one detail really is. Perspective, balance…and the strangeness of the observation that ‘the opposite of what you know is also true‘. Is it? Isn’t it? Certainly it is an idea, for me, that sparks contemplation on perspective.

What we face, what we turn away from; we choose the world we see.

What we face, what we turn away from; we choose the world we see.

I can focus on the head cold if I choose, certainly it tends to be in the forefront of my thoughts and awareness this morning, or I can choose to be aware, awake, and observant of other details. The taste of my coffee, the trickle of the aquarium in the stillness of dawn, behind me, the internal glow of being well-loved, the moody gray sky outside my window…being present and in the moment, for me, still involves choices; what do I attend to, and what do I turn away from? For a lot of my life, I have ‘turned away from’ myself, and anything else I could turn away from, that built on ancient pain. I didn’t understand that by ignoring myself and my own needs, by showing myself no compassion, by disregarding my hurts in life and treating myself callously I was teaching myself that this was an acceptable way to behave towards others, and that it was also acceptable for them to treat  me poorly. It set up a see-saw of emotional abuses over time, many of them self-inflicted through assumptions, thinking, and internal story-telling that have done a lot of damage to my relationships, and my own experience of life, and myself.

Lately, I am making it a point to treat myself well. I don’t mean lavishing myself with expensive trinkets, costly vacations, or inflating my ego; that doesn’t work for me, personally. I am learning better habits about treating my heart well, though, and studying the neuroscience of emotion, practicing nurturing behaviors, learning self-compassion…and the results are more valuable than sparkly jewels, by far.  As with meditation, there’s a verb involved and practicing requires actual practice. Having a head cold, I rather expected it would be pretty easy to treat myself well…but being human isn’t really different just because I am feeling ill, and the requirement to be aware, present, mindful, and making choices that meet my needs are over time still requires small, continuous acts of will. It is, admittedly, harder to care when I feel ill…but surely in that case it matters even more to make the effort?

We create beauty by seeing it, we create love by loving; so much of who we are is what we choose to be.

We create beauty by seeing it, we create love by loving; so much of who we are is what we choose to be.

So. Yeah. I have a head cold. I’ll try not to be cross or irritable. I’ll choose to treat myself and others well, in spite of feeling poorly. Today is a good day for choosing wisely. Today is a good day for kindness and consideration. Today is a good day to change the world.

It was wonderful to welcome a traveler home. I missed my partner while he was away. Interestingly, there was no real stress to it; I knew where he was, that he was safe and in the company of people who wish him well, and had I needed to reach him, I easily could have. “I need a chance to miss you once in awhile.”  He said it to me early in our relationship, and it resonated with me. We all need a chance to ‘miss each other’ now and then, perhaps…like a favorite food, or a favorite book, or a favorite movie; eventually it is necessary to do other things, if only for variety.

I like routine. I admit it. My life becomes emotionally and logistically incredibly chaotic without it, in part because of the TBI; it effects how my memory and thinking work. I work hard to build habits that care for me, that care for my environment, that keep things orderly and keep me ‘on time’; without them, I am all over the clock and all over the calendar without any particularly predictable result, and a lot of things just don’t get done.

On the other hand, creativity isn’t especially ‘routine’, and inspiration isn’t tied to a calendar event, and intimacy and connectedness don’t always follow through on an invitation. Routine can easily slip from ‘planned’ to ‘stale’. Routine can as easily halt growth as support it.  Change and choice and novel stimuli all contribute to being interesting, fun, engaging, and ‘having something to say’. Once again I am faced with a balancing act…

interrupted by an unexpected moment of clarity

interrupted by an unexpected moment of clarity

…And a poorly chosen metaphor. My consciousness is jarred by how often we dismiss what is important in our lives with a diminishing word. We express so much of our experience as ‘an act’, ‘a game’, ‘going through motions’, ‘measuring up’ or ‘checking a box’. How serious am I about who I am and what matters to me? Serious enough to be honest with myself? To be vulnerable with other people? Am I serious enough to look a coworker in the eyes and say “Actually, I’m having a terribly difficult time with life, these days, and I’m not sure I’m up to it” when that is what is true and real in the moment? If we can’t be honest with someone else, what supporting evidence is there that we are honest with ourselves? How honest are you with yourself about who you are, and where you are heading in life, and what you really want out of you? Every day.

Balance is a big deal for me, personally, and I’m suddenly irked with myself for allowing the trite figure of speech to diminish how important it actually is – in my own thinking! Words have immense power to guide us, and to mislead us. We quickly learn to continue to punish and hurt ourselves, furthering the damage done by others, through the use of language. It’s no wonder I still feel so much pain from events in the past; I continue to hurt myself through the use of language. Guilt, shame, social anxieties, fear, resentment, chronic anger, chronic frustration, a sense of being held down, held back, and diminished – all these things can be byproducts of the shitty way I sometimes treat myself…out of habit, having learned to do so from others who also treated me badly. I see it in others, too, and while it can be tempting to criticize or judge, or suffer the pain they inflict as intended; we’re all so incredibly human. Each doing what we think, in the moment, is ‘right’ or ‘good’ or ‘necessary’ or some other combination of still more words to justify the shitty way we’re treating that other human being. Very few people think of themselves as ‘the bad guy’, however heinous their actions.

What are your relationship values? Have you chosen them wisely? Do you practice them willfully? Can you state them in simple language? Are you ‘one of the good guys’ – or are you…not? If your relationships are generally contentious and unpleasant and fraught with anxiety, perhaps embracing and cultivating different values is something to consider? Choice. Change. It isn’t really likely you can control or change the behavior of another human being, unless they choose to allow it. Certainly you have no particular direct influence over their thinking, but no one out there has as much power over yours as you do. I’m just saying…make your choices for you.  Unhappy? Choose change, but choose it for you; you have no real right to force change on someone else.

Don’t forget Wheaton’s Law. “Don’t be a dick.”

Today is a good day to remember that other person over there is a human being, too, with all the rights I have myself. Today is a good day for kindness. Today is a good day to be who I am. Today is a good day to appreciate what I have to offer the world. Today is a good day to choose wisely. Today is a good day to change the world.