Archives for the month of: October, 2014

I woke too early for a Sunday morning, and by that I mean, I’d have liked to sleep a bit longer, but I am awake. I woke with a sense of urgency, and a heart full of troubling emotions. The urgency turned out to be easily addressed by indoor plumbing; being human remains a very biological experience.

Have a flower

Living things, living.

The remaining emotions seem, even now, a hodge-podge of weirdness on the blue end of the emotional spectrum, and some anxiety thrown in there for added ‘fun’. When I faced the emotions head-on, with compassion for my experience, they mostly receded into the background. This is consistent with my experience of emotions that are not specifically tied to actual here-and-now events or experiences. So, I woke with linger emotions from dreams, perhaps, or simply with some built-in chemical cocktail coursing through my blood stream that my brain interprets as ’emotions’, but may not be. Last but certainly not most rare, I could be misinterpreting what I am feeling; anxiety and excitement have a lot of chemistry in common, and I am going on a date with my traveling partner today – very exciting, indeed. ­čÖé

Taking inventory of the experience I’m having right now, I feel rather breathless, as though it is actually difficult to take a deep breath; my diaphragm feels very tight and deep cleansing breaths require both focus and effort. I’m in pain, but less than has been so common recently, still, my back feels still and my muscles send me clear indications that the positions I took during the night may not have been ideal for later comfort; shoulder and neck pain in my muscles give that away. The snap and pop of joints that don’t hurt reminds me to be gentle with myself, to slow down, and to move with purpose; I’m still losing weight, and there’s some slack in joints, tendons, and connective tissue that puts me at risk of easy injury.

I’m still finding this breathless, rather anxious-feeling core, unmitigated by yoga or meditation. I take another deep breath and relax, feeling the ebb and flow of it. Although I did read “The Giver” before bed last night (perhaps not ideal nighttime reading for someone with sleep and nightmare challenges, honestly), my own dreams were not filled with it, they were filled with love and lust and sex and life…considering it in this now moment, the feeling of ‘anxiety’ and breathlessness suddenly spikes. Oh. I get it now. It’s the sex thing. lol. Damn it. Being 51, and post-menopause, has done not one thing to reduce my sex drive, or my interest in sex, or curb the maddening libido that is one of life’s gifts to me, if anything it seems more pronounced than ever – and now I needn’t worry about pregnancy. Younger me, back in the distance time of my 20s, would be so thrilled! lol. I mostly find the din of urgent sexual desire to be an impediment to contentment, because there really isn’t much chance at fulfilling the seething┬áneed; it’s too much to ask of another person, there are a lot of other things going on, and we all have so much to do… I love the feeling of being aroused, eager, excited, even yearning for sexual contact and satisfaction is largely a very positive and life-affirming experience…but I also have to take time out to work for living, get some things done around the house, take care of me… and my partner is ┬áhuman, too, with his own needs, desires, limits, workload, time and lack of time, energy and lack of energy… in short; everyone at this party is human. ┬áI have spent most of my adulthood feeling like my sexual needs are not needs that can actually be met in any sustained way, you’d think by now I’d be used to it. lol

A much younger me, a bubblebath, and possibly contemplating similar challenges at a different time in life.

A much younger me, a bubblebath, and possibly contemplating similar challenges at a different time in life.

51 is a funny time of life to be this horny, too. It seems unexpected to some people, as though there is some magic shut-off switch at 49, and sex tends to be a less comfortable subject once the conversation isn’t also about people 18-40-something. lol. That, however, is not my baggage. ­čśë ┬áWhat is my baggage is learning to comfortably manage unmet needs; unaddressed these emotions potentially lurk in the background waiting to hijack my experience with some unexpected tantrum or moment of generalized pissed-off-ed-ness that can really mess up a lovely day. As ideal as it would be, sex itself is not always the solution available. This particular conundrum is still in the ‘more about questions than answers’ stage, too. So.

Autumn leaves, rainfall, green grass... there's got to be a metaphor here, somewhere.

Autumn leaves, rainfall, green grass… there’s got to be a metaphor here, somewhere.

Today is a beautiful day to be so fortunate as to feel excited to be alive. Today is a good day to be able to feel profoundly excited by my partner, such that just living alongside him day after day is this exciting. Today is a good day to be human, to be a being of emotion and sensation. Today is a good day to feel and to love. Today is a good day to practice willfully treating others well, regardless of my emotional state. Today is a good day to respect my own experience, with love and kindness, and recognize I am not alone. Today is a good day to be human; every piece of the puzzle rich with meaning, and potential for growth. Today is a good to enjoy the moment, and appreciate my great capacity to love. Today is a good day to change the world.

 

It’s a very purposeful and to-the-point title, is it not? ­čÖé

I spent last evening out, on a rainy night, and there was rather a lot of walking involved. I went out with my camera, and thoughts of taking some very interesting pictures at a time of day I am rarely downtown. It rained, and it rained pretty continuously. It rained too much to have my phone out all the time; my phone is my primary camera, these days. (Unpaid endorsement: camera on the HTC One M8 phone is amazing!) The time wasn’t wasted; I walked, considered things, observed things, and remained present and engaged in my experience as a practical exercise in ‘free-range mindfulness’.

Very busy primates, building things and chasing away the starry night sky.

Very busy primates, building things and chasing away the starry night sky.

I reached a point, during the evening, when I suddenly felt disenfranchised, alone, disappointed in life, discontent, and cross with myself in a vague way that had me looking for causes. My brain immediately started pointing out all the small things in life that aren’t ideal, and highlighting any moment of doubt, or insecurity. This seemed, at the time, headed for a familiar outcome. I could feel a future fight or argument sort of percolating within my consciousness, although moments before I had been enthusiastic about my evening, content, eager to walk on and see the night… why the change?

Differences in the way my evening began really had me off to a good start, so I took a step back and did some ‘taking in the good’ exercises, and almost out of ┬áhabit I made a point of giving myself my full attention; how did my body feel right now, rather than just noticing the content of my thoughts and the flow of my emotions? I was warm and dry, because I had remembered to wear weather-appropriate clothing, and had even zipped my raincoat before I left the building. I had worn comfortable, waterproof hiking boots, because I knew I’d be walking a lot. I had taken care to manage my calories well over the course of the day…and realized I was hungry, and that it was dinner time – was my blood sugar low? That would explain some measure of irritability, easily. My ankle was aching from all the walking, even with my cane, but I had also been attentive to pain management all day long…oh. It was past time for my medication – that’s not good for my level of pain, which can drive a lot of unhappiness, discontent, and discomfort, but it also affects my mood when I don’t take it on time (one of the consequences of yielding to the need for an Rx pain reliever). So…hungry…hurting…and late with both calories and medication. Yep. That definitely stirs up some random emotional bullshit and discontent.

I took time for dinner, and enjoyed it without rushing. I made a point of carefully choosing for nutritional content, and appropriate calories (which in this case, meant eating somewhat less than half the portion served, the remainder I very neatly boxed up and gave to a homeless guy at the transit center rather than have it go to waste, he made interesting conversation and appreciated the hearty meal). Getting off my feet for a few minutes helped reduce my pain. I took my pain medication, and reminded myself with a glance at the time that it would be about 70 minutes before it was fully effective. Warm and dry, well-fed and nourished, rested and medicated, I walked on about an hour later. The wait staff at the restaurant was very kind; it was just past dinner rush, and I made a point of letting the hostess know I would want to linger for about an hour because of the pain I was in. She seated me such that I could, without inconveniencing business, in a small booth for two somewhat out-of-the-way. My waiter must have been tipped off, the service was both exceptional and very supportive. Communication for the win!

I made my way here and there, and eventually headed for home, earlier than I’d planned. The rainy weather wasn’t a good fit for the notion I’d had for the evening. Once home, I had a warming hot shower, and made a mug of chamomile tea, and connected with my partner, who was surprised to see me home, and welcomed me eagerly, and with love. It was all quite lovely, and sweet, and warm.

How we care for ourselves is actually a really big deal. I still have to make a point of acknowledging it very specifically when it comes up, because I am very prone to taking the emotions that come up due to poor self-care and making them ‘about’ other things entirely. This morning, too. I slept poorly last night, not falling asleep until sometime past one, and not managing uninterrupted sleep at all, waking every 90 minutes or so. I made myself get up, at one point, when I woke near to the time I usually get up for work, and took my morning medication, had a big drink of water, and went back to sleep for another little while. Self-care: the timing on some medications matters a lot. Taking this step ensures that I am at less risk of mid-morning nastiness from taking my meds off schedule. That’s an easy one.

Making my way home on a rainy evening, smiling, and content with the night.

Making my way home on a rainy evening, smiling, and content with the night.

I woke up, at last, fairly grumpy, and very nearly stumbled over the self-care issue in spite of the evening considering it; I was somewhat terse with my partner – who was making me a latte (surprise!). I’m pleased that I quickly recognized that this was another self-care related incident; sleep matters that much for our emotional balance, resilience, and good cognition. We exchanged loving words, and I went on to write this post and sip on this tasty tasty latte. (My traveling partner is not a barista, however he makes a very good espresso beverage, and most particularly his lattes and mochas are quite smooth and wonderful.)

The practical details matter. Are you having a shitty day? Have you checked in with yourself?

  • Did you get adequate good quality rest?
  • Are you in pain? Have you taken appropriate steps to manage that?
  • Do you take emotion/cognition altering medication? Did you take them on time?
  • Are you in good health? If you may be ill, are you taking symptom relieving medication?
  • Is your symptom relieving medication potentially emotion/cognition altering? (many are)
  • Have your nutritional needs been met, including quantity of calories appropriate to your needs, and food choices appropriate to your health?
  • Are your clothes uncomfortable? (no kidding, it matters)

So often when I am on course for a bad mood, or a bad day, if I attend to the practical basics of self-care I can turn it all around*. It’s the details that matter, and not attending to my own needs quickly results in all sorts of crappy negative emotions that aren’t really about anything, but can quickly become so. I’m learning to refuse my own attempts to make events out of fleeting emotions. It’s a nice change.

Today is a good day to take care of this fragile vessel. Today is a good day to heed the only warning system it has to alert me of needs – feelings. Today is a good day to support myself, and make choices that meet my needs over time. Today is a good day to change how I take care of me. Today is a good day to be mindful that each of us faces these same needs. Today is a good day to change my perspective on the world.

*There’s still a ton of verbs involved, and no matter how good the ideas, practical self-care requires actual practice, and actual action.┬áThere was some irony in that the morning following writing this post took a turn for the worse, although not in a permanent way, and did so because I allowed myself to be distracted from my awareness of time, and timing, and wound up not taking care of morning calories, and afternoon medication in a timely fashion. I don’t write because I have answers; I write because sharing the questions has value for me, all on its own. ­čÖé

 

This morning, my coffee is tasty and hot, and I’m pleased with how lovely the espresso shots I pulled just happened to be; I am not a professional barista. I do my best, and even first thing in the morning I try to pull each shot mindfully, with great care, exactly as I have learned to do it. I enjoy the result.

This morning, the trickle of the aquarium in the background is soothing, and calls to mind little brooks and creeks. I enjoy some moments watching fish swim, and observing their awareness of their environment and each other. I contemplate free will, intention, consciousness, and wonder again what fish might ‘think about’.

Stormy weather.

Stormy weather.

I consider the day ahead, in the context of the day behind me. Yesterday went sideways in a most peculiar way, but very telling. It would be difficult to share much more about it without sharing too much, which quickly becomes both tedious, and riddled with rampant emotion of limited perspective. Let’s not do that. Let’s talk, instead, perhaps, about how much our values actually matter – to ourselves, to each other, to our relationships. Having a clear understanding of what we value, ourselves, is challenge enough; having an understanding of the values of others, enough to really ‘get them’, has so much to offer… and sometimes seems very hard to come by.

Can you answer this question: “What are your basic relationship values?” I answer it with my Big 5 (Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Compassion, and Openness). I have some important personal values, too, upon which I am attempting to build the life I want to live: Mindfulness, Perspective, and Sufficiency. That I know my values doesn’t ensure my choices are always based on such, and this is the nature of adult value decisions; we choose our values. The values of our childhood are instilled in us through education, example setting, and experience. Adulthood allows (requires?) us to re-examine them, and choose wisely based on what we have learned, values that represent the best of who we are. We have the opportunity to make those choices, make changes, and live well. We have other choices, too. The values we demonstrate, whatever values we say we hold, are the values we communicate to others through the power of our actions, as well as the clarity of our words.

I guess the test of success is ‘do your chosen values support the life you really want?’ As we are each having our own experience, the choices, and the evaluation, belong to us individually. In that legendary ‘perfect world’ so many laud and yearn for, our relationships are with others who share our values. We’re human beings. Each having our own experience, and making our own choices, and it is most assuredly not a perfect world. Still, we could do worse than choosing our relationships based on the values we truly hold.

Beyond the storm.

Beyond the storm.

Today is a good day for love, and for living my values. Today is a good day to make my best choices to meet my needs over time. Today is a good day to recognize that everyone makes their own choices, chooses their own path, and that the map and the journey are customized; we rarely see the world or our circumstances quite the way someone else does, however dear they may be. Today is a good day to respect the path someone else chooses to walk. Today is a good day to change the world.

This morning I woke to the alarm, and not that happy about it. I slept decently, and woke in a more or less ‘normal’ amount of pain, certainly nothing extraordinary. My coffee is hot, and tasty, though I don’t feel especially eager to drink it. I feel pre-occupied and vaguely distracted, by nothing I can put my finger on. My morning yoga sequence eased my stiff joints, and improved my range of motion. It seems, in general, a pleasant autumn morning…why is there this sense of something unsettling lurking in the background? I’m learning to let those things go, rather than continue to troubleshoot a vague fleeting emotion until it becomes something problematic and real; the change is an improvement, generally speaking.

Hot flashes and night sweats? Yeah, still. It’s hard to call it ‘hormone hell’, though, it’s just not that big a deal anymore. Menopause, so far, has been worth reaching. There’s a lot less turmoil and volatility.

This morning lacks the chill serene harmony of a typical quiet morning; I feel restless and unfulfilled. I wonder briefly what that’s about, and recommit to ‘now’ and let it go. Autumn is a season of change, and I can accept that a certain amount of restless unease may be part of that experience. My heart is filled with maybe’s and ‘I wonders’, and I yearn for something new, or more, or different, or… something. Maybe I’m just yearning for sexual contact, or romantic intimacy; pain is an impediment to every day adult fun, and the physical side of love that is part of my everyday struggle for balance, contentment, and sufficiency. (Certainly, menopause has done nothing to quash my ludicrous natural drive.)

My appointment time was interesting yesterday, insightful, worthwhile, cooperative, collaborative, and useful. I didn’t cry all the way home – or feel like I wanted to (I often do after particularly difficult discussions with my therapist). The evening was lovely, chill, and quiet.

We interrupt this program...

We interrupt this program…

My traveling partner interrupts to inquire if I am “going to be writing all morning, then doing a couple of chores and just taking off?” this morning. I feel irritated by the back-handed approach, and struggle not to react in the moment to what is essentially a request to hang out and enjoy my company. I’d find that desire so beautiful and loving if he’d actually just said “I’d love to hang out this morning, will you make time for that?” or something sweeter and more direct. It is what it is. These words here? I value them, and I value this morning time with me. I also value love.

Today is a good day to set other things aside for the sake of love.

I woke early, and in pain. I crashed early last night, after dozing off sitting up, shortly after getting home from work…but didn’t fall asleep until past 10 pm, although I drifted in and out of real wakefulness without any particular schedule. I’d have probably slept, I try to tell myself, if it weren’t for the blast of icy cold water in the middle of my hot shower…but as a long time insomniac with a variety of sleep disturbances, realistically, I know that isn’t necessarily true. Last night, as tired as I was, just wasn’t a night I was going to sleep well. Pain is an everyday challenge, and autumn – my favorite season – is the worst for pain every day.

Mushrooms after rain.

Mushrooms after rain.

Today isn’t a bad day. I just hurt. I don’t hurt more than what is endurable (see? I’m here, enduring it.), but it isn’t pleasant. Perspective is in the recollection of worse pain on other days, and the understanding that there are other people who hurt more, out there in the world, right now. There is value in not obsessing over it, and in not making it worse with the power of my thoughts; I smile as I observe the phrasing and note that my traveling partner would almost certainly point out that I framed it up ‘in the negative’. He would, perhaps, wonder if there were more positive emotional value in it, if I used positive language. ­čÖé (We learn from love. Love helps us become who we most want to be – when we allow it.)

One of my challenges, a small one in the scheme of things, is learning to use more positive language. ┬áI tend to reply to a question like “how are you?” with something like “not bad”. ┬áIt is phrasing that lingers from a much more discontent, wounded, fearful time in my life; admitting how good something seemed was a direct path to having it taken from me. Harsh. That’s not my life now, and there’s no danger in saying I’m in a good place today, or that I enjoy something. ┬áPositive language doesn’t come naturally to me. I keep at it; growth and change come with practice, over time. Change is what changes us.

When conditions are right, growth happens.

When conditions are right, growth happens.

No coffee this morning. There’s only enough left for one beverage this morning; I forgot to pick up coffee last night. I’m not surprised at the miss. I was so tired walking home from the train station that I don’t actually remind┬áremember the walk at all. I leave the remaining coffee for my partner, who will wake unaware of the shortage. This morning I am enjoying a cup of tea, brewed very strong. It’s not at all the same experience, but it is an acceptable morning beverage enjoyed by millions every day, and I am content with tea this morning. I’ll pick up coffee today.

When I take time to look, I see. When I take time to listen, I hear.

When I take time to look, I see. When I take time to listen, I hear.

It’s a quiet morning, on a therapy day. My work schedule has caused me to cancel a couple of appointments recently to attend important training. I find myself wondering, just for a moment, ‘important for who?’ ┬áIt is a worthy question, and answering it is one more small challenge. I was going to add yet another rather mundane challenge du jour, faced with needing to track down some military paperwork…then while I was framing the thought and wrapping it in words, I found the paperwork precisely where it most rationally would be based on the way I organize such things. lol Clearly, that one was only a challenge in my thoughts, in anticipation of the action. The finding of the paperwork was actually a bit of a let down. I find myself smiling at the incongruity; pleased to find the paperwork, and ever-so-slightly irked that it really wasn’t a challenge – it was the anxiety around not finding it that was the challenge, and that turned out to be entirely in my head.

Our storms are not without value; it is after the rain falls that mushrooms grow.

Our storms are not without value; experience teaches perspective.

When I feel overwhelmed, however large or small the individual challenges, issues, needs, or upcoming events may be, every one of them seems huge, insurmountably difficult, and together they seem too numerous to easily manage. Often I find myself later admitting what a small thing most of them were, taken singly. I think for a moment of some common call center advice that seems applicable, “take the calls one at a time”. Yep. The challenges are easier one at a time. Problems that need solving are often much less puzzling taken individually. Decisions that I face are often less complicated separated from all the other decisions to be made. “Each time for the first time. Each moment the only moment.” (a favorite Jon Kabat Zinn quote) Sort of brings me back around to the mindfulness practices that are tending to see me smiling every day, even in the face of challenges. I can’t stop life from adding challenges to my experience, and change is. I can breathe calming breaths, and take the challenges one by one; it is enough.

Today is a good day love, and let love in. Today is a good day to take the challenges one by one, and be mindfully aware we’ve all got some. Today is a good day to be kind. Today is a good day to change the world.