Archives for the month of: November, 2014

It’s late, and the house is quiet. The weekend is over, Thanksgiving is past, and this moment right now is the space between waking and sleeping. I’m not quite ready to let the weekend go. I’m also not particularly in need of an audience, or someone with whom to share this quiet moment. My sharing, for now, is handled and this moment, now, is my own. It’s a very nice quiet one.

An annual celebration of light.

An annual celebration of light.

The loft has been transformed into a holiday paradise. There are very personal, particular, even… ‘magical’ qualities to the holiday season for me, that go far beyond jingles, sales, advertisements, tradition, marketing, habit, or expectations. I made the winter holidays my own, a very long time ago. Today, I sipped my last coffee of the day surrounded by colored lights, and fantastical glass ornaments of all imaginable sorts, quite content to enjoy the things about this holiday season that move me so much. I’ve tried hard for so many years, and in so many relationships, to share this particular experience, this magic, this wondrous transformative understanding of the winter holidays that is my own experience of it… I’m not sure that I’ve ever really succeeded beyond communicating with some modest success that these are holidays that matter to me. That’s enough. It has to be. We are each having our own experience.

Ornaments as metaphors; love is a lighthouse.

Ornaments as metaphors; love is a lighthouse.

For me, preparing the house for the holidays, decorating, setting up the holiday tree are more than tradition, or habit, or expectation; they are in important ritual in the cycle of my life, letting every year end on a note of warmth, love, generosity, appreciation, gratitude, and value – no matter how bad the nightmares, or how traumatic the reality. Each year I unpack the ornaments and treasure the moments I recall as I handle them, and look them over in the light. I place each one so carefully, considering even ‘now details’ and how the precious memories it holds fit the context of my life; I place some prominently, and tuck others around in the back where they are less likely to be seen, or asked about. Each year the tree is a monument to life, to emotion, to memory – to the content and meaning of life and love, experienced over time. Bits of sentiment, souvenirs, and trophies, too, perhaps; my life in glass and glitter cherished through the season, and packed away ever so carefully once the new year arrives.

Some ornaments are purchased, others are handmade.

Some ornaments are purchased, others are handmade.

I sat, hands warm and wrapped around my coffee cup, enjoying a moment of stillness and waiting on our evening meal, it finally became more real…how little need there is for any one else to ‘really get it’, so long as I am true to myself, my values, and I am accepted and valued within my relationships such that I can enjoy the experience that is my own without any particular hindrance.  A lovely moment, a gentle lesson in life’s curriculum; I almost managed not to wonder if I feel exactly precisely all of this every year, without being able to understand that I have, that I do, that I will… I did manage not to be frustrated with that thought, it too passed, and I enjoyed the stillness.

Holiday magic - everyone makes their own.

Holiday magic – everyone makes their own.

These simple harmless pleasures contribute to this amazing journey, enjoying them is part of who I am – and it’s one of the very best parts, too – I woke up to a better understanding about ‘experiencing’ and ‘sharing’ and how distinct from each other those ideas can be, and how utterly okay that actually is. It’s a nice idea on which to end such a nice day, such a good weekend.

Thanksgiving is already a memory, which seems a shame when I consider how many people seem to save their celebration of plenty and their gratitude for one day on the calendar; there is so much good in life that is plentiful, and so much to be grateful for. I woke this morning, after a restless night, still feeling appreciative, still grateful, still thankful…and…I think I’m also still feeling a bit overfed, actually. The U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving is a celebration of gratitude and plenty taken to excess. The food was exceptional, and having chosen to go out for our holiday meal this year, there was no stress around preparation, serving, or clean up…a lavish meal, an experience of gratitude and plenty, and more time spent on enjoying the company than laboring to create that moment of joy.

I did miss the cooking. I also missed the hours and days of conversation and planning leading up to the meal. Connecting joyously in advance of the holiday to imagine, and plan, and reminisce about other holidays, other meals, other recipes. This holiday was scaled down, and fairly quiet by choice and by popular vote. My enjoyment of planning and anticipation are not universally shared, and this year it was nearly impossible to get a single conversation going about Thanksgiving in advance of the holiday. I enjoyed the holiday outside the kitchen, as an exception and a treat, and it was lovely that there was simply nothing to fuss about, and no stress or frustration. No ‘holiday temper’.

Here it is “Black Friday”.  There will be terrible shopping anecdotes aplenty, and people – a lot of people – will behave as though they’ve never even heard of gratitude, thanks, or compassion. People who were dishing meals to the homeless yesterday may well be queued up outside some retailer today, waiting for the doors to open so they can begin to claw their way angrily through the throng of other shoppers to assuage their greed for goods at a low price. The year-long struggle to thrive erupts on Black Friday into a furor of entitlement leading up to a holiday about giving…revealing some ugly qualities of character among us long enough for some appalling video to reach the internet.  The greed is emblematic of the sickness taking us over. More for less. More goods for less money – regardless what it costs to produce those goods. More results for less effort. More. On Black Friday sufficiency is removed from the American lexicon, for more than a few people.

Gratitude isn’t really about ‘more’, though, is it?

A path, a journey, a moment.

A path, a journey, a moment.

It’ll be a quiet Black Friday for me – I’m taking advantage of some really great deals, today, too. I am off work today, and having that leisure time is an incredible value in additional time to read, to write, to meditate – to enjoy my experience of the day. I’ll take time to meditate at leisure at no cost, free, and if I act now I’ll benefit immediately! Yoga, writing, painting, reading… all at my fingertips, with no more expense than the investment in time and effort – the savings are huge! I’ll likely go for a walk at some point, and enjoy the loveliness of autumn before it becomes winter, and consider the holidays to come as I walk. I may spend some part of the day or weekend preparing for the holidays, it’s true, even being involved in gifts-to-be; I enjoy the inspiring work of hand-making gifts, gifts that are 100% not about money; paintings, clay figures, poetry, books I have loved and want to share, small tokens of great delight and fondness. The gifts I enjoy best – both giving and receiving – are the ones that connect me most closely to people, whatever sort of gifts those turn out to be. A great gift isn’t about what it cost, it’s about what it means.

I’ve spent days wracked with anxiety, but I woke without it this morning. Promising. Today is a good day to journey safely, and be mindful of what matters most. Today is a good day to spend more time than money. Today is a good day to turn away from greed. Today is a good day for gratitude, thankfulness, and perspective. Today is a good day to change the world.

Saturday I bought a car. I didn’t write. Sunday, I spent the day on small creative endeavors and enjoying the company of family and a friend. I didn’t write, or manage my time sufficiently well to meditate. I also didn’t have any sort of meltdown, in spite of some small amount of anxiety about buying a car, Saturday. Monday, I worked. I didn’t write. Tuesday was more of the same, only it began wonderfully well in the loving company of my traveling partner, who drove me to work in the new car. I still didn’t write.

I’m not actually writing today… I’m really just observing the non-writing, such as it is. What’s up with this? Did I use up all the words?

This morning I woke anxious. Anxiety with a capital A, resting heavily on my chest when I took my first waking breaths, and settled into my guts and accompanying my every breath, every moment, every thought…it’s been awhile since I last felt it like this. More than likely it’s the work piece that has my anxiety resurfacing in this very visceral way…but there’s not much I want to say about it; I would rather feel it melt away, forgotten, than discuss it.

Tomorrow…Thanksgiving. That one’s a biggish deal for me; this year will be the first Thanksgiving I’ve gone out for dinner that I could have cooked at home. It feels a bit strange, but I don’t know whether it ‘matters’. Maybe I’ll write tomorrow?

Today…is what it is. The day will unfold whether I write or not. Today is a good day to take care of me; the words will take care of themselves.

Each time for the first time, each moment, the only moment...

Each time for the first time, each moment, the only moment…

I’d like to write, but I’m not ‘feeling it’ today on some other level. I want to communicate, but words hold little appeal. I have no new pictures; it’s been too cold to whip off my gloves and pull out my camera, or rainy to hard to do so without risky the device. There’s a specific feeling of stress to the idea of not writing, too; it feels a bit like holding my breath. (I write that, and realize I am holding my breath…I exhale mindfully, inhale deeply, and continue.)

The day begins gently enough over a hot Americano, quite strong, black. Work tools at the ready to handle the day from home. I hear the sounds of other people in the household beginning their days. The espresso machine grinding another shot for someone else’s coffee. A cough in another room. I slept reasonably well, waking several times but returning to sleep with ease, and undisturbed by nightmares although my vivid dreams were strange and illuminating. They slipped away before I could hang on to whatever they may have offered, once I woke. I’m in pain, but that seems wholly unremarkable, today.

What do I want of life, and the world? How will I get there? What is the best of what I offer as a human being? How do I offer it – and to whom? Of the things that seem to matter most to me, what matters most truly? Where is my will located, and how do I prevent my emotions from undermining it?

Today is a good day for questions. I don’t have a lot of answers, but answers haven’t proven to be nearly as worthwhile as exploring the questions anyway. Today? Brevity. Perhaps silence.

I woke with a headache this morning, and I woke several times during the night, returning to sleep with relative ease. The headache matters, and it is necessary to maintain awareness of the impact of disrupted sleep over time; my reactivity tends to increase over days and weeks of disrupted sleep. The headache, like much of my day-to-day pain, also doesn’t ‘matter’ in the sense that I make an effort not to be limited by it or allow it to call my shots, this can also put me on the path of lost balance, and lost perspective; I try so hard my own frustration becomes the bigger issue. Menopause or not, it seems I am lingering at the gates of Hormone Hell, too – or at least driving around that neighborhood in circles, lost. Night sweats. Hot flashes. Irritability. Difficulty maintaining a comfortable emotional connection to another.

Today is still an entirely new day, all potential, choices not yet made, reality not yet fully determined… I will do my best with it. Making the best choices in each moment is not the easy thing it sounds like it could be; I observe that whether something ‘sounds easy’ sometimes depends as much on the words as their meanings, which can be misleading. (Is there anything at all in my experience that has no potential whatsoever to be misleading?)

My coffee is good – and it was easy. I find myself being critical with myself, momentarily, for ‘not drinking it fast enough’ as I yawn through the morning, thus far. Day-to-day I can be ludicrously hard on myself, demanding far more of me than makes sense, or is even needed. The damage I’ve done to myself with the constant internal bullying, berating, and lack of satisfaction or encouragement has piled up over the years, and become part of the chaos and damage I fight now. I take a moment to adjust, to back up off of pressuring myself to drink coffee faster, and remind myself how lovely a leisurely morning, unhurried, unpressured, really feels.

Yesterday was challenging, not horrible, and had some wonderful moments to it. The finish was difficult; I was volatile after therapy and tired, and that can make me pretty unapproachable. People who like and love me still make the attempt and while I love that people are willing, and value me that much, it comes with risks and I ended up in tears over something fairly mundane, and feeling hurt and angry on a level that far exceeded what the event could possibly require. I took a walk in the night, enjoying the feeling of the icy rain pelting me for a couple of miles, and filling my lungs with the fresh cold air. Self-soothing, for me, often requires a combination of exercise, distraction, meditation, and distance that a long walk really captures; I sometimes feel as if I am ‘walking away from what is hurting me’. I contemplated how difficult it must be for my traveling partner to discover through the outcome alone that I am sometimes not as strong as I appear. It is one of the peculiar challenges of pursuing change and healing; change happens fast, but I am making active choices and using verbs, and my demeanor and affect do not always give away the contents of this fragile vessel, or the effort involved in being the change.

I made the wise choice to take a sick day yesterday, with some urging from my partner. I’m glad I did – and I think it sucks that the world, in general, benefited thereby, and he still ended up dealing with the grief and bullshit, himself. That seems particularly unfair. (I keep ‘checking the contract’ for life and living – there’s nothing at all about things being fair; this, too, seems unfair. lol)

Today’s okay so far. I’m tired. I have a headache. The increase in my Rx pain medication has been helping, but doesn’t really kick in for about an hour after I wake. I hurt, and I am patient with myself about that, at least so far.

Today is a good day to be less hard on myself. Today is a good day to remember that acknowledging where I am is necessary to get somewhere better. Today is a good day for good choices, and mindfulness that the good choices themselves have value, whatever the outcome. Today is a good day to remember free will is shared equally; we are each having our own experience…

Love in the World

Love in the World

…I wrote those words as the yelling started in another room, not even 6:00 am. OPD. (For the unfamiliar, that’s ‘other people’s drama’ – but often those ‘other people’ are those dearest to me). It wasn’t the raised voices of anger as much as the raised voices of frustration, hurt, and confusion, and it conveyed powerful stress in seconds. I add to my own stress and anxiety my concerns about the safety of the household in my absence while I am at work; today suddenly feels less safe, and less secure. I haven’t seen physical violence directed at people by anyone living here, but one member of the household is a destructive force to be reckoned with when upset nonetheless – and I do mean seriously destructive. The destruction of several door frames, doors, drawers, dishes, and a 25 year-old mahogany sideboard I lovingly hauled around the world for years testify to that. Many of my paintings can’t be hung because falling to the floor would damage them, and the risk is too high; doors have been slammed so hard here that paintings popped right off the walls and crashed to the floor. I don’t like discussing it, but it is real, and it is part of my experience; these are, in fact, experiences I promised myself I would not endure again. It’s wanton destruction of an utterly inappropriate nature (from my perspective), and it’s hard to determine whether anything at all is sacred; setting explicit boundaries about what is sacred to me hasn’t been effective. The sudden lack of household calm says a lot, and for me at least it amounts to a substantial loss of quality of life because it recurs with regularity. I dislike emotional weaponry; it tends to be both imprecise and very damaging, regardless who it is pointed at, everyone in the vicinity is feels the impact. This morning it’s my traveling partner who is ‘down range’, but we’re both stressed and concerned, and we’re both affected. I will go to work anxious and trembling, and my traveling partner will be working at home, dealing with his stress and trying to remain calm and productive after the difficulties of the morning. Doubtless it will continue to stress and trouble everyone involved for some hours, and my writing feels constrained and self-conscious as I struggle with my words. I know from experience that secrecy begets continued problem behavior, as well as isolating me from support and the comfort of being heard; I struggle on, hoping to say only enough to feel heard, and to be accurate about my own experience of the moment.

This moment is harder than others. I don’t know what’s next, at all. Also hard. This too shall pass.  I will continue to do my best, practice my Big 5, take care of me, treat others well, make the best choices I can, and hope that these are ‘enough’, somehow.

Today is still a good day to be less hard on myself. It’s still a good day to do my best. Today is still a good day to take care of me, and make good choices – hard choices, too, some days. We are each having our own experience, sure, but we’re all in this together. Treating each other well may be the one thing we can all easily do to save the world from our own destructive power.

What do you see when you look at the patterns in your life; your choices, or circumstance?

What do you see when you look at the patterns in your life; your choices, or  your circumstances?