Archives for the month of: February, 2015

I love fairy tales, and stories with a strong heroine, who faces a challenge, learns a lesson, and grows to become someone wonderful. I like a happy ending. I read a lot of ‘happily ever after’ endings over the years, and at some point ‘happily ever after’ became an implicit goal. That’s especially maddening because that is basically the least attainable goal ever imagined. I enjoy feeling happy. I find ‘joy’, ‘delight’, and all manner of pleasant happiness-related, happiness-producing quite wonderful and worth experiencing. I didn’t have much success making the whole point of existence getting to some difficult to define ‘happily ever after’ place. Quite the contrary, I think making ‘happily ever after’ something to chase resulted in a lot of personal unhappiness.

I don’t actually understand why happiness seems so much more common now that I’m not chasing it…but it does tend to be the experience I am having.

Unfolding like spring flowers.

The loveliness of simply being.

I am okay right now. It wasn’t my best evening. I enjoyed the day in relative physical comfort. By the time I arrived home, after a chilly drizzly commute, I was in pain and irritable. If I could fold time, I would put this moment, here, adjacent to my arrival, and perhaps enjoy myself and my family more, being in a better mood, and less pain. I’m not complaining, and I don’t recall being unpleasant, just in pain and perhaps too tired to be more considerate with my phrasing; I know it takes a lot to hurt my traveling partner’s feelings, and I know I succeeded. I will make amends in the morning, learn from the experience and move on. It’s okay to treat myself with great care, even though I feel badly about the evening going a bit sideways, and I have spent the evening gently, managing my pain, watching South Park, and writing. It was my intention to do these things when I arrived home hurting so much, and it’s pretty satisfying to find that good self-care has indeed helped a lot, although I am still in too much pain to be able to sleep just yet; yoga will help with that a lot, and meditation afterward is a nice way to finish the day.

Every time something works out just a bit better, I take time to really appreciate it, notice it, and hold onto the experience for some minutes. I ‘let it soak in’. I make a point of continuing those practices, and even investing more time in those that are regularly part of some new moment of personal success. In the most difficult moments, I am sometimes very briefly so bitter and hurt that I am unsure these things really matter, or that I am actually making progress day-to-day. The doubts are incredibly painful, and I am very relieved each time I get past that moment, to this place when ‘I am okay right now’, and able to enjoy the moment of progress, or resilience, or emotional safety – successes, all.

Stormy sky, quiet evening.

Stormy sky, quiet evening.

I feel more vulnerable sharing successes, than I do ‘failures’, or learning experiences. Vulnerable is okay, too. It’s a nice evening.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. The evening, too, was gentle and pleasant. My overall level of pain felt manageable, and by the end of the day my anxiety had almost entirely dissipated. I enjoyed the walk between the office and the train station, taking time to appreciate the subtle colors of the cloudy sky.

Evening sky on a strangely warm winter evening.

Evening sky on a strangely warm winter evening.

Initially, it seemed quite nice to hear from a faraway old friend on such a mellow evening. Life’s curriculum isn’t always an obvious lesson at the outset. My boundaries were quickly tested with OPD (Other People’s Drama), and firmly reinforcing those boundaries resulted in conversational strategies I find objectionable: manipulation, wild assumptions used as ‘proof’, personal attacks, assertions regarding the thoughts or intentions of others unsupported by confirmation, and even deceit – followed up by a demand that I involve myself in this friend’s personal drama by taking actions on their behalf, in the context of circumstances I am not part of, have no exposure to, and do not care to participate in, regardless. I ended the conversation when it was clear it was not a frank one; hidden agendas irritate me.

Like a tree silhouetted against the sky, I see that I am no longer who I once was.

Like a tree silhouetted against the sky, I see who I am now.

I found it relatively easy not to become involved. Setting those boundaries didn’t feel as difficult as it once might have. I didn’t get sucked in – although I am contemplating the conversation, itself, even now (learning from it matters that much). Considering the potential end of a friendship doesn’t feel very comfortable – but I am not to be used, taken advantage of, or made into a tool or weapon for someone else’s gain, without my explicit consent and willingness to participate. I would have thought that was an obvious thing – but to be fair, it wasn’t obvious ‘before’, so why assume it is now?

I didn’t go on the offensive with my friend in conversation, but I did ask clarifying questions about the assumptions being made, and point out where life experience (my own) suggested specific assumptions must be verified, rather than acted upon, because they didn’t seem rational, or likely to be correct. Admittedly, pointing out logical fallacies isn’t always the most tactful choice in conversation, but it can be done gently and with reasonable good-nature and a positive approach, to further the conversation with greater clarity – and a disinhibiting TBI makes it damned difficult not to point an obvious logical fallacy, at least for me. When clarifying questions result in personal attacks, I know it’s time to set a firm boundary and walk away.

Perspective matters; we are each having our own experience.

Perspective matters; we are each having our own experience.

Now what? Well, now I have more information than I wanted to about this friend’s circumstances, behavior, and thinking on some sensitive topics – about which we clearly have very different values and understanding. Now I am aware that this friend may be more interested in how I can be useful, than how I’m doing these days. I found the conversation so off-putting in both content and outcome, that I am wondering what the state of this friendship really is…and whether it is actually a friendship, at all.  When we change and grow our friends don’t always come along on the journey; I still find that very hard to take, sometimes.

Sometimes there's more to it than circumstances; we choose much of our experience.

There’s more to it than circumstances; we choose so much of our experience.

It’s a lovely morning, and a new day. I slept pretty well, and woke feeling rested. No anxiety this morning, which is always a nice thing. Always. My coffee cup is hot in my hands, a pleasant sensation in the morning chill. The house is quiet. The weekend is only hours away. Today is a good day to accept change, and turn the page on life’s text-book to the next lesson.


This morning I woke with anxiety riding shotgun. I woke early, and abruptly, feeling unable to take a breath. In the face of imminent panic, I managed to grab hold of the nearest practice – in this case, simply breathing – and focused on that, instead of the anxiety.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

With the first deep breath, in and then slowly out, I observed the quiet environment, and the lack of immediate threats to my safety or wellness.

With the second, I observed my own body and state of being, finding and gently letting go of tension, then self-soothing by improving my posture, and comforting myself with reminders to be present, now, and letting the safety and comfort of the moment soak into my awareness more fully.

With the third breath I acknowledged Anxiety traveling with me this morning, and instead of panic, I gave myself a mental pat on the back for dealing with her – and my PTSD – so well these past couple days.  I took a moment to refresh my understanding that my TBI sometimes prevents my chemistry from appropriately returning to baseline because the inhibition/disinhibition circuitry – and other executive functions – are impaired; this too will pass, but it may take longer than I’d like, and I’ll probably have to help it along.

By the time I complete 5 deep cleansing breaths, my heart stopped pounding, and the surreal terror eased. Was it something in my dreams that woke me so badly? It hardly matters. I am okay, and a new day is beginning. I anticipate the anxiety may come and go today, as it eases over hours without new stimuli. I smile realizing that it feels almost natural… almost easy… to take care of me in the face of my anxiety. It is quite deliberate, very structured, almost ritualistic, extremely practiced, and in no way ‘natural’ or ‘easy’ – but it is lovely that it feels that it easy, and that’s more than enough to bring a smile to my face, this morning as I sit with my coffee, quite alone, and recognizing anxiety as merely an emotion, rather than envisioning it as some powerful super-being capable of destroying worlds.

The tools and practices I have invested so much time and study in really do make a difference. Using SuperBetter regularly helps me stay focused on practicing good self-care practices, and reminds me of all the variety there is in self-care tools and skills, and in creative ways to break problem patterns of thinking and behavior. Directing entertainment consumption towards the educational (TED Talks, SciShow…) has proven helpful, too; the brain is a sort of ‘use it or lose it’ tool, itself, and the sharpest elders I know are people who continue learning well into their elder years as a lifelong passion.

…And then there’s love.  I don’t want to overlook or underestimate the value of supportive relationships, emotional nurturing by loved ones, the comfort in someone listening, or the emotional safety in being accepted and loved – exactly as I am.  Being loved is a bit like buried pirate treasure, though; even though I suspected it might be ‘out there’, and even with a map that had a spot marked ‘X’ to point the way, it took some searching and some persistence, mostly because I did not understand that the love I most yearned for above all others needed to come from me, and until I found my way to that safe haven, no searching would ever turn up the pirate treasure of romantic love in the arms of another (because, even if someone loved me that much, in that way, I would struggle to recognize and feel it, having no similar feeling about myself).

It’s a lovely morning, and a good day to tell anxiety to take a hike – I will choose, instead, to walk with love, deliberately and willfully. Today is a good day to practice good practices, and to take care of me. Today is a good day to enjoy what works, and improve on what doesn’t work so well. Today is a good day to change the way I deal with my world.


Have you ever considered how strange it is that we put so much into the idea of a resume or curriculum vitae to get the job we want…but don’t put anything like that kind of time into detailing our experience and qualifications for a new relationship? That seems odd to me, given the greater importance of connecting with others over ’employment’, to the quality of our human experience.

Have you ever considered how strange it is that we allow ourselves, that is to say many of us do and much of the time, to treat people we care about, and even love, less well than we treat relative strangers, or colleagues? This also seems very odd to me.

There is likely a valuable understanding or change of priorities to be gained by giving these thoughts more consideration. Certainly, if nothing else, I find myself curiously moved to attempt to write a ‘relationship resume’ just to sort of ‘see where I stand’ in the love market! (I keep my resume up-to-date routinely, whether I am job hunting or not.) The elements that catch my attention are the simple and fairly classic format: an introductory paragraph or ‘personal statement’, relevant education and certifications, a list of relevant skills, and then the important experiences on which I hope to build my future. I’ve never taken a look at me domestically or romantically from the perspective of a resume. It seems a worthy exercise in self-knowledge and preparedness for life and love…possibly fun.

All the practices...

All the practices…

This morning I am using one of many practices to defuse the anxiety I woke with. I woke early. My sleep was adequately restful, I suppose, but interrupted and waking more than half an hour early often has the potentially to start my morning with some irritability. This morning, I also woke to find my aquarium lights didn’t come on. I stubbed my toe heading to the bathroom. I dropped most of my pills into the sink instead of into my mouth. I spent the first several minutes of the morning feeling nauseous. None of it has proven especially challenging so far – I have practices. This morning, distraction – intellectual sleight of hand using problem solving, and learning – has gotten me past most of it. That, and meditation and breathing.

It still blows my mind how powerful breath is; in any stressful moment, pausing to take a few deep cleansing breaths, exhaling fully, and doing so with disciplined awareness, and self-compassion is often enough to nudge me well past any serious turmoil to a place where I can manage things more comfortably. Breathing. Who knew?

Randomly, I observe that I’m over 500 posts here now… and often find that I, myself, benefit from re-reading something I wrote some time ago, working out some similar challenge or puzzle, or just being very human and valuing the reassurance that “I’ve got this” that I sometimes find in words I have written before…or, still struggle with, and could use some perspective. It’s a bit much to wade through more than 500 posts, and I’m rarely so certain I know just what I’m looking for. Instead, I generate a random date and read that post from a new perspective, or look at the dashboard to see what older posts are being read most by other people – and tap the zeitgeist by rereading that one, along with ‘everyone else’.

Have you ever considered how small a number ‘everyone’ may sometimes be, by the implied parameters of a statement? That seems odd to me…but I definitely do that, myself (see above).

Thanks for reading. My writing is another practice that has a lot of potential to calm me, and lower my anxiety, and I appreciate your help with that.

Today is a good day to practice the practices. Today is a good day to change the way I see the world.

If you were to find that you must quickly, and immediately, depart for ‘points unknown’, and do so in as prepared a fashion as you could with minimal time spent ‘getting your things together’…what would you take with you?

Too much? Not enough? What matters most?

Too much? Not enough? What matters most?

Think about it for a moment. You can use any resources you may have – but whatever you take along on the journey needs to be light enough to manage alone, and serve you well for having rated high enough to be considered to take along, at all. You don’t know the destination – but I’ll at least observe that there will be challenges, and potential risk to your health, perhaps even your sanity. So. What do you take with you to handle most of your basic needs?

Are there also things you know with utter certainty you must leave behind?

If this scenario develops unexpectedly, in the wee hours perhaps, or late in the evening when you are already quite tired, or when you are in poor health, or hurting – does your packing list change? What about the time it takes to figure out the details?

What is on your list of essentials on life’s journey?

Today is a good day to consider questions. Today is a good day to travel light, and to be prepared for change. Today is a good day to reconsider my ‘packing list’ and lighten the baggage I carry day-to-day.