Archives for the month of: July, 2015

I could as easily ask ‘what time is love?‘ – same answer: at the tone the time will be…’now’. It’s always ‘now’, actually, and never any other moment…unless, I suppose, we count the possibility of time travel, or perhaps the influence of huge quantities of certain hallucinogens. So… sure, okay, a few things may shake the unavoidable ‘now’…but…generally…’now’ is the time. Here we are. This is it. Whatever it is…it is.  This morning, ‘now’ came early – at 3:17 am, actually. I turned off the alarm once it was clear I was definitely entirely awake, and headed for the shower.

It’s still ‘now’. A shower, yoga, meditation and preparing coffee…and although it is later, it remains very much ‘now’. I can look ahead…it’s still simply ‘now’. I can look back…still, here I am, fixed firmly in the ‘now’ moment. Wherever I turn, ‘now’ is what I really have to work with. It’s not that the future is unaffected by ‘now’ – it is most definitely affected by ‘now’; every choice I make ripples through my future. Even the past is altered by ‘now’; my perspective changes with experience, with new information, with the passage of time itself. Still, however busy life is, all I have to work with, to enjoy, and to live is ‘now’.

Taking a few moments to consider an idea.

Taking a few moments to consider an idea.

What time is it? Right now it’s coffee time. My coffee this morning is quite dreadful. I am considering pouring it out and making a fresh cup. ‘Now’ matters that much; if I am not present in the moment, my actions may not be sufficiently relevant to my needs, and I may be unaware even of what my needs in the moment actually are. Me, personally, at 4:43 am…I need coffee, and frankly, my preference is that it be, if not exceptional, at least quite good. So…now I am going to make a fresh cup of coffee because this one… yeah… it sucks. It’s definitely important to pay attention while making coffee if using something that requires an artful touch, and some precision, as with a pour over. “Paying attention” is one way to describe mindfulness.

Second cup, no second thoughts – and it is still very much ‘now’. That’s how it tends to be – ‘now’. What will I do with the moment? I rarely pause to consider it, I simply do and be much of the time, and I don’t make that observation with any hint of criticism. I find life is to be lived. I strive to live well, and mindfully, and mostly doing so is more pleasant than not, and tends to result in a certain sense of worthiness to the entire endeavor – which seems worth having, and reason enough to work at it attentively, investing in good self-care practices, and learning to cope compassionately with my injury and my damage. ‘Now’ has become a pretty big deal.

Here’s something noteworthy about ‘now’, though – it’s easily wasted. It can slip away in an instant and become hours that have passed me by without action, without effort, without any investment of will and intent, and without significant result, or activity worthy of later recollection (I’m looking at you, television!). I find that almost any moment spent mindfully aware, even the painful ones, and yes, even the ones spent in stillness, meditating or watching clouds drift by, is a moment well spent. I remember more when I am awake, aware, and present. I have the sense that I am doing or achieving more, regardless how much ‘got done’. Life feels lived – as though the noun itself comes alive and gets all verb-y straight away – when I approach it mindfully, aware of my choices, deliberate in my actions. Time itself passes more slowly – and ‘now’ becomes of even greater value, extended, prolonged, and significant.

There’s nothing actually ‘easy’ about mindfulness. It’s also not actually ‘difficult’. It isn’t expensive to pursue it, and it requires no costly memberships or equipment. It need not be attached in any way to profit-generating activities, although it is clearly finding its cultural moment, and along the way many people are finding ways to market mindfulness or profit from it. The current popularity of mindfulness as a word, as a concept, and as an endeavor don’t make it any more likely that people will actually practice the needed practices to become more mindful – though many will say that they will, or do, or are. I don’t worry much about any of that, although I am sometimes frustrated to read articles that seem critical of practices I find have such value, myself. I worry, sometimes, that people innocent of the marketing bullshit, the hype, and the inevitable disappointment of people who expected it to be ‘easy’ or to ‘fix everything’ will result in someone who really needs what mindfulness has to offer not finding their way to it – that was my own experience. I didn’t get ‘here’ sooner; I was distracted by other people losing their way, being discouraged, and because I was discouraged, myself, the first time I was exposed to meditation – there were verbs involved, and more than one sort of practice, and… and… and… it’s not easy! (“Isn’t there some prescription, or…?”)

Mindfulness practices can be very simple and very basic. My own favorite meditation is not any sort of elaborate guided meditation with a soothing voice, lovely visual image, or lofty conceptualization – it isn’t necessary that it be such, and those don’t ‘work for me’ in the sense that although they may be soothing and pleasant, what I need myself is to become very centered, present, and calm within myself. I rely on meditation to keep me from standing on the precipice, to pull me back from the brink of disaster, to clean up the chaos and damage; the only world I am looking to change with any urgency is the world within. My own favorite meditation is simply to focus on my breath, to remain in this ‘now’ moment until I achieve stillness and inner calm. Yes. I have to keep at it. Yes. My mind wanders. Yes. I am sometimes distracted by physical discomfort, noise, stray thoughts, having to pee, and suddenly remembering other things that arise in my recollection attached to a sense of urgency. There’s no rush, no pressure, no report card, no internal criticism; I just keep at it until I do find that inner stillness. If’ I’m uncomfortable, I adjust – and begin again. If I am distracted, I take another breath, and begin again. If I have to pee, I take care of that biological need and begin again. If I remember something important that has been forgotten, I take a note and begin again (and often meditate with a notepad very near at hand for that reason). It’s called a practice for a reason – and there are most assuredly verbs involved.

“Does mindfulness work?” is a question with similar value as “what time is it?” – It really depends on what you are trying to find out. I find mindfulness practices very effective, myself, but the outcome is entirely dependent on my actions, my own investment in practicing the practice, and how well-chosen the practice is for my needs. If I were to discontinue the practice of meditation, would meditation itself be less effective because I stopped practicing it? Um…no. I might be less effective – but it would be a choice I make for myself, not a failure of meditation as a tool or practice.

The Stillness Within

“The Stillness Within” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

The time is ‘now’. If one practice has failed, try another. If the ‘failure’ is simply a lack of actual practice, easier still – begin again. There are verbs involved, and there is all the ‘now’ in the world to use them. 🙂


I slept well, and deeply, and even slept through the night. My coffee is prepared – I haven’t tasted it yet. This morning, like so many mornings, is pleasant and quiet. The morning seems to lack any connection to the stress and weirdness of the night before. That’s pretty pleasant, itself, and represents a significant improvement in outcome. Practice may not make ‘perfect’, but it definitely has the potential to change things; I know to be thoughtful about new practices, mindful of the new outcomes, and careful about attempting to choose wisely what will meet my needs best over time.

Last night it was basic self-care and self-compassion for the win, and I am okay. I was okay last night, before I went to bed. Hell – I was ‘okay’ even while I was crying, really. The emotional moment passed – I knew it would. Nothing so intense is really sustainable. And, as is often the case after the fact, I’m not at all sure now what it was that was actually upsetting me so much. There is no requirement that I have certainty about what may have caused prior tears; deep-diving those details is just asking for more, and it is a process that generally lacks the value it seems it might have…or feels as if is should have. There are other, more effective practices, and certainly there are other, more pleasant, uses of my time on a quiet morning.

Summer berries, summer sky.

Summer berries, summer sky.

So. Here it is morning, again, and another lovely one. I’m content with having made progress such that pleasant mornings are so commonplace. I miss my traveling partner – that’s not uncommon in the mornings, although I also very much value the deep quiet of solitude, greatly; it’s very good for writing. Still…we do well together in the mornings, and I miss having the occasional unexpected quite exceptional latte, made by loving hands. It was my traveling partner who taught me the value of quiet leisurely mornings, so of course I do associate the experience with him, even though it is quite rare that he is up so early, himself. Shared mornings are less common living apart, making them even more precious when they occur.

That’s one element of living alone that I treasure beyond words; the profound way my traveling partner and I are able to make every moment together count. There hasn’t been a single trivial argument – or any argument, actually – and so little stress between us that I can’t recall it at all, since I moved into my own place. We just don’t waste time on negative bullshit, or drama these days. The time we share is limited, precious, and put to the very best use: love and loving. Mortal lives are short – there really is no time to waste on contentious foolishness or game playing. Letting go of that sort of thing has resulted in a life that feels rich, warm, and uplifting most of the time, resulting in an environment that really promotes growth and healing – we are on a shared journey, with shared goals. It isn’t really relevant that we live in different buildings at all. Cohabitation doesn’t dictate the quality of a relationship – and a building isn’t the essence of ‘home.’ You probably already knew this stuff – I’m very much a beginner in the School of Life. (Did you know there actually is a School of Life on the internet? It’s pretty awesome.)

Oh hey…I got distracted by thoughts of love…and sex… lol. Time has passed. The morning begins with smiles and thoughts of love – that’s a good start to the day. There remains time enough to hit ‘publish’, and do a little housework; I love coming home to a well-kept tidy home, and I love waking up to one. Each morning I do some housework to prepare for coming home from work…each evening (often before bed) I do a bit more, so that when I wake I step into a lovely orderly space. This suits me. It is ‘my way’.

Summer flowers.

Summer flowers.

Today is a good day for beginnings, and good practices. Today is a good day to appreciate love and lovers. Today is a good day for gratitude, awakenings, and growth. Today is a good day to heal. Today is enough.



I had a lovely dinner with my traveling partner, after a very productive and thought-provoking appointment with my therapist. “Effective” is a good word. Maybe follow that one with “important” and “relevant”, maybe add “needful”… now I am alone. Alone is hard right now.  I don’t even know why I’m crying, right now… It is a measure of progress that I know it won’t last and that trying to stop the tears has other, sometimes profoundly negative, consequences. The tears themselves serve a purpose, the science says, and will reduce my (apparently high) cortisol levels faster than most other things might.

The a/c is on, and the house is cool. The day has been very hot. I got home with a headache from the heat, and more than a little noise-sensitive, uncertain if I might be ‘dealing with the appointment’ – there is often a delay between the appointment dialogue itself, and ‘when it hits me’ later. Often. More often than not.

It passes. I remind myself that it will. I breathe. I let the tears fall. I feel grateful that I didn’t get to this place while hanging out with my traveling partner – he is supportive on a supremely deep and connected level, but I know that going through these things with me is hard on him, too. It is, frankly, one of the reasons I moved into my own place – some of this is ‘easier’ to face alone. Sometimes is just harder, in general, to face it at all.

I have all the usual choices in front of me. All the practiced practices supporting my emotional resilience – much improved over the past two years – and I feel equipped to take care of me, even now – but fuck it’s harder than I want it to be. I think back to the morning’s contentment and ease. There is another morning tomorrow, and surely I will not still be weeping. I don’t understand why I am weeping now…unless it is simply that some stuff really is worth crying over – at least once – and some of it I just never got to that part at that time. I was too busy enduring, surviving, overcoming, managing, withstanding, and holding on to whatever fragments of self I could maintain in the chaos. The damage piled up, and now I am crying. So. Okay. Now what?

A bit like squinting at fruit I can't reach, with the sun in my eyes.

A bit like squinting at fruit I can’t reach, with the sun in my eyes.

A few more deep breaths. A big drink of water – it’s a hot day and the headache itself is enough to make me weep. A cooling shower…comfy clothes…yoga…meditation…medication (medical cannabis, I’m looking your way on this one!)…and being gentle with this fragile vessel and the tender hurt thing resting within it. We’ll be okay, this woman in the mirror and I; we’re making this journey together – and we aren’t traveling alone; I’m never far from my traveling partner’s thoughts. I could call, right now, and he would answer.

Hell…incremental progress over time is – and in fewer than 500 words, harder already seems a bit easier. I wonder for just a moment whether posting this is “necessary” and realize…maybe that isn’t about me, at all. It wouldn’t be a very complete narrative if I just take the bits I don’t find comfortable out of it. Isn’t that part of what hasn’t worked for me before? It seemed ‘too easy’ – and not relevant to the very real ups and downs. The failures. The struggles. How much harder it sometimes seems…the tears. I get back up. I start again. I let it pass.

It rained the other day, quite a lot. It isn't raining now.

It rained the other day, quite a lot. It isn’t raining now.

This morning I woke with the alarm, and having shut it off, lay quietly a moment – and nearly fell asleep again, then couldn’t recall if the alarm had gone off… or perhaps I’d only dreamt that it had? I checked the clock somewhat reluctantly, not really wanting to find out what I already knew; it’s morning, and yes, the alarm went off. I rose without giving the matter further thought, and was already in the shower before I realized my arthritis pain is much less today – hot weather? It’s in the forecast, so, probably.

The a/c was off through the night, and the apartment felt a bit stuffy – another sign of a hot day to come – so I opened the patio door to let the pre-dawn chill fill the place. I looked out over the lawn, lit in places by the lights along the walkway between buildings and the pool; there are rarely any other windows with light showing at this hour. I spotted … a large long-haired cat? No – a raccoon. Quite the largest raccoon I’ve ever seen in my life. She sat very still, watching me watching her, then – rather strangely I thought – she started slowly moving toward me. How peculiar…or…oh. Not peculiar at all. Half a dozen or so guinea-pig sized youngsters were playing on my patio, quite near my feet, without a care in the world – they’d found some stray gladiolus bulbs in my garden gear – apparently those are quite the fun objects for play, for small raccoons at dawn. I went for my camera – I definitely wanted a picture of the racoon family visiting this morning… They were still there! I remembered the flash, too – I was as excited as a little girl, and it was hard not to bounce, giggle, exclaim, or otherwise inadvertently terrorize my wild neighbors. Camera ready….and…

...and I forgot to open the screen door. The flash warned off the racoons, who quickly departed.

…and I forgot to open the screen door. The flash warned off the racoons, who quickly departed.

My coffee still tastes good. I still got to watch what appeared to be a small herd of wee raccoons enjoying the morning on my patio, so near to me I could potentially scoop one up to cuddle it (which, I’m just saying, seems like a very poor choice of action in practice, and I did not attempt it; that mother raccoon was simply huge and entirely fearless). I still have a lot to learn about taking pictures. 🙂

Surprises and happenstance work like that, don’t they? Opportunity, chance, coincidence – the unlikely win, the happy accident, “good luck”? There are wonders to be seen, and great things to experience – but when I am not aware, observing, and present in the moment I miss out on a lot of loveliness, fun, and experience – and overlook so much of my good fortune. I’m learning to let spontaneity have its moment; I find it a bit scary to face life without some structure and planning…but raccoons don’t seem to mind, and the missed shot with my camera reminds me of something important; it’s the experience itself that really matters, that has substance and value in my recollection – the picture is a memory in a share-able format, nothing more really. The map is not the world. The documentation is not the circumstance. So many of life’s richest and most precious moments can’t easily be captured in a photograph.

There is a lot of wildlife nearby Number 27. I have a lot to learn about taking pictures of animals living their lives; they don’t take direction well, and do insist on simply going about their own affairs. Certainly, I am doing the same, and don’t ‘set up the shot’ when I am living my life. There’s probably a lesson in there some where.

I did get a rare picture of my very shy clown pleco, yesterday morning - catching a glimpse of him so unexpectedly delighted me.

I did get a rare picture of my very shy clown pleco, yesterday morning – catching a glimpse of him so unexpectedly delighted me.

Similarly, on the commute, I had a chance to enjoy the company of a fairly large squirrel, enjoying his morning stroll along the commute to work.

Similarly, on the commute, I had a chance to enjoy the company of a squirrel, enjoying his morning stroll along the commute to work.

From the commonplace to the fantastic, there is more to life than I have the ability to experience all at one moment, even when I’m “really watching”. Awareness – mindful presence in the moment – is the thing that brings so much of what I do experience into my field of view. Self-involved rumination, and obsessive mental gear-grinding definitely result in a much narrower world-view with fewer ‘points of interest’ to delight me. Frankly, if I’m chewing my nails and worrying grimly about this or that, I’m just not looking around me at the world. There are verbs involved – and now, raccoons!! 😀 (I still grin every time I recall seeing those tiny raccoon faces looking up at me, just at my feet – I almost missed them – and they were so tiny and adorably cute!)

One concern I had when I moved into Number 27 was that I might find myself living a life of such routine, and rigid habit, in order to be assured of taking good care of myself, that I might not easily distinguish one day from another, and that life would be wasted on the mundane without forward momentum… just… time… passing… until, inevitably, death. Grim. It hasn’t been that way at all – neither has life unraveled until chaos took over. It’s seeming to be quite well-lived, with sufficient structure to feel secure, safe, and comfortable, and sufficient looseness of habit, and prominence of spontaneous use of will to be an everyday adventure… every day. I’m quite enjoying it.

Most days I drink my coffee black; it is my habit.

Most days I drink my coffee black; it is my habit.

Sometimes I choose differently - whim, or choice? Are those different?

Sometimes I choose differently – whim, or choice? Are those different?

Now and then I do unspeakably delicious excessive things with coffee and ice cream... also a choice... and a very tasty reason to have good habits, generally. :-)

Now and then I do unspeakably delicious excessive things with coffee and ice cream… also a choice… and a very tasty reason to have good habits, generally.  (Kids, don’t try this at home…or…if you do, skip the rest of your meals; this one is ‘calorie rich’!) 🙂


I expected to be painting more, sooner – but there is no lack of creative inspiration, or the drive to follow through on it – I am simply more focused on my writing for the time being, and often combine those experiences to write little note cards to friends, family, and loves with sketches and fun doodles, bits of poetry and such. I remember quite fondly how much I enjoyed writing letters when I was much younger – before the world was digital. I remember, too, how meaningful such things were when received from far away (particularly during war-time). Here too, in the smaller routines and experiences of daily life, being comfortably free with my choices makes so much difference; I harm no one to choose writing over painting, or sketching over poetry, or yoga instead of dancing, or reading instead of meditating… there are so many ways to take care of me, and meet my needs over time. It matters most simply that I do – and there are verbs involved.

Sometimes it's less about the individual details than it is about the feel of things, generally.

Sometimes it’s less about the individual details than it is about the feel of things, generally…

...but the details do matter, and there are wonders within reach if I am willing to see them.

…but the details do matter, and there are wonders within reach if I am willing to see them.

It’s a lovely morning. I’m quite content. That’s enough. 🙂

I woke ahead of the alarm, and almost immediately my thoughts turned in a dark direction, filling with negativity, doubt, imagined hurts – all in the seconds after waking, before my broken brain really has a chance to boot up and fight the demons in the darkness. With a sigh I flip on the light – and reach for the alarm clock. No way to I want to hear it go off – my internal alarm bells were already clanging away.

I took my morning medication and went straight for the music – “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” for openers, first thing, and loud enough to hear in the shower. In this case, the ‘bitch’ in question is the woman in the mirror – and I sing along, right to her face, all through my shower and getting dressed for the day. Seriously? Acknowledging the power of my own freedom to choose, and the potential it has to color my experience, means on a morning when my own brain attempts a sneak attack – it’s totally okay to call me on my bullshit, myself. By the time my coffee is ready, I expect to be past the difficult waking moment, without using up the emotional reserves necessary to deep dive the chaos and damage; it’s enough to recognize that I have more than my share, and understand that it can make for some challenges now and then. (At least, that’s definitely enough at 4:30 am on a work morning, before I am even completely awake!)

By the time my coffee is ready – I’ve recovered my now-utterly-routine peaceful leisurely morning. I celebrate with my favorite bounce back anthem. Dancing from the kitchen with my coffee, singing along as I cross the room with a wink and a smile at the woman in the mirror – that crazy bitch knows I am not taking her bullshit today! lol [Reminder: there are no literal voices in my head, and I am just this one person right here – but I do find it handy to face the woman in the mirror on terms that allow me to communicate more easily with myself across the chasm of this injury and the vast piles of chaos and damage left behind from other experiences with other people.]

It’s a morning for music, I guess. I am moved.  Listening to “Love Sex Magic” when it comes up in the playlist, I grin and feel the residual heat and fervor of my love for my traveling partner…and on some other level, my pure delight and animal enthusiasm for healthy adult play, generally. Few things chase the demons back into the darkness like a really good playlist. 🙂

Aside from the complicated moments immediately after waking, it’s a lovely morning. My coffee is tasty, smooth, hot – and I managed it without spilling boiling water on the counter when I moistened the filter, or getting dust from ground coffee all over the floor – I often do both. It’s okay; I’m learning not to take my own humanity personally, or treat small such ‘mistakes’ as any reflection on my worth as a human being, a partner, a lover, artist, writer, or woman – hell, it’s not even “about” having a brain injury. Every human, everywhere, has moments of clumsiness, makes mistakes, causes a mess by mistake, or falls short of their own vision of who they can be on some occasion. Perfect? It’s not a thing in real life. I’m over that. I haven’t lost anything but some needless heartache to let go of emotionally brutalizing myself over ever action or outcome that could be viewed as a mistake – and with good reason, frankly; too many of them turn out to be, if not utterly necessary in some unanticipated fashion, just not a big deal at all, and definitely unworthy of the drama, turmoil, and hurt. I figure, over time, continuing to treat myself well in this fashion will also result in having the reaction, itself, come up far less often. That tends to be how incremental change over time works out.

My arthritis is hurting a lot this week. Dancing helps – hurts, but it does help, and the easiest way to overcome the inertia of pain is to find movement irresistible – that’s dance, right there, isn’t it?  Turning on the music this morning was a good call for my body, as well as my heart and mind. My playlist is mostly dance tracks, hip hop, crunk, and couple of other favorites that ‘don’t really belong here’ (Santana, Billy Idol, Skrillex) … only… this is my playlist, and they do ‘belong’. How much easier would so much of life be with practices that made the practicing itself irresistible? There’s often a real thrill or moment of gratification associated with experiences in life that present the greatest risks of negative outcome… sex… money… rage… That’s more than a little bit inconvenient for a woman with a dis-inhibiting brain injury, trust me. I’m glad I can yield to the urge to dance without concern for adverse consequences. 🙂

A summer day, a journey that continues.

A summer day, a journey that continues.

The point this morning, as much as anything, is that I am often in my own way more than anything else is. Injuries do happen. Pain is part of the human experience. The constant struggling is a choice. Learning to make my choices differently is a process. Today is a good day to practice the practices that are working best for me. It’s a good day to remind the woman in the mirror I won’t be taking her shit, either; we need each other, but I won’t be allowing her chaos and damage to call the shots, when I can avoid it with other choices. Today is a good day to enjoy the journey.