There are no shortcuts available in life, not really; everything that feels like a successful shortcut is probably a lack of understanding of the options available in the first place. Just go with me on this one, and also accept that we’re each making the rules – and drawing the map, and writing the narrative – as we go along on this journey. I’m pretty sure of myself on this point, which does nothing to validate whether I am correct, it just speaks to whether I am likely to be acting on these assumptions (and I am).

No shortcuts – there are verbs involved, and I don’t use all of them equally easily. When I allow others to dictate to me which verbs are available in the first place, and set limits on how and when I can use them, it can definitely feel liberating – and like a shortcut – to use a verb not on the ‘official list’. 🙂

Another reminder – to me, myself, but here if you need it – we’re all making this up as we go along; mistakes, successes, highlights, bloopers, heartfelt emotions, embarrassing moments, every bit of every detail resting on the foundation we give it. If I choose to build my experience on negative self-talk, boosting the volume on negative bias, and allowing my fears and doubts to lead the way on this journey it will be a very different one than it tends to be when I choose differently. It can be so incredibly difficult to remember this in a difficult moment. Like last night.

Perspective over coffee.

Perspective over coffee.

A simple errand taking advantage of a special offered to military veterans turned into an exercise in frustration that began with the heat of the day, and the inconvenience of the destination. Problematic circumstances complicated things; I left the office later than I needed to, traffic was much worse than anticipated and the public transit system was facing serious delays. When I reached my destination, still feeling positive, although rather tired and in a lot of pain, I found myself faced with business practices that put me at a disadvantage, and I came face to face with my arch-nemesis Frustration. (I’ve mentioned it before, but if you’re new here… I’m seriously not wired for frustration, and it’s a problem. My disinhibiting TBI and the common human experience of frustration do not play nicely together.)

I managed my emotions pretty comfortably for the circumstances. Although I walked away feeling on the edge of tears, I managed to hold things together and do the adult thing courteously. Trembling and in a lot of pain, I headed back into the heat and made my way home feeling more frustrated than I needed to (the errand wasn’t essential – part of the frustration, actually, was the wasted time), and more pissed off than felt comfortable. I could see how the scenario would likely play out. I’d hold back tears, gritting my teeth all the way home, rationalizing the experience and dismissing my emotions until I felt like I wasn’t being heard, and I would begin feeling disconnected from my experience, and once sufficiently overwhelmed by my utter disregard for my own feelings, I would likely crumble – perhaps in the shower – and cry for a long time until I was exhausted from that, collapsing into an unsatisfying sleep plagued by nightmares of futility and helplessness… Only… I do have choices…

In my darkest moments, I find value in asking myself 'dark relative to what?'

In my darkest moments, I find value in asking myself ‘dark relative to what?’ It helps to let small stuff stay small.

I figured I’d try some of the new things I put so much practice into, instead of re-hashing the same old emotional shit storm, and blowing the entire evening. On the way home I emailed my traveling partner (who is out-of-town for the weekend) and shared the experience in simple terms. I was honest about my feelings without projecting the experience into his. I owned up to feeling angry in simple terms, and didn’t make it personal (it’s just an emotion). I kept it simple, and didn’t ask for help, or encroach on his time – there wasn’t anything to do about it, and already the experience was in the past. I made a decision not to continue to do business there, myself – I didn’t feel valued as a consumer, and the business is not conveniently located, so that’s an easy win for me, and I felt ‘heard’ (by me), cared for (by me), respected (by me) and supported (by me). I got home and made choices that looked like shortcuts (like nutritious calories fast, rather than a long cooking process for a hot meal), but were really only different choices, ones that maximized my ability to continue to treat myself well, in the shorter amount of time available. Later in the evening, my traveling partner followed up with a phone call, hearing me, caring for me, and showing his support, too. No tears. No tantrums. No drama. No exhausted restless night. No nightmares. Practice, and good self-care for the win. 🙂

Perspective is a really big deal - we see what we are looking at. Limiting our vision, limits our options.

Perspective is a really big deal – we see what we are looking at. Limiting our vision, limits our options.

Last night could have gone so differently. I’m taking time over my coffee this morning to consider how differently, and why it went so well. Choices matter. I have so much power to change my experience, right in the moment. Emotions are powerful, so much so that they don’t always lead well. Reason has her place in life. I didn’t understand how much less tug of war there is between emotion and reason in a life built on mindful practices, and good self-care. It’s not the sort of thing that’s easy to explain in words. The unfortunate commercialization of mindfulness tends to promote these ideas in a way that suggests a fad…there are so many voices being raised that shout into the wind about the value of being mindful, the din sort of fades into the background. That’s unfortunate because nothing has worked for me as well as practicing mindfulness, practicing meditation, practicing good basic self-care…all completely free, available for the taking literally anywhere, and effective on an order of magnitude that makes monetization irresistible for the business savvy primate looking to stand on a taller pile of bananas. It happens to me too…I get excited about how well this is going for me, and I share eagerly, and then wonder…can I profit from the sharing as well as from the practicing? The answer is, I think, actually ‘no’ [for me] – and not because it isn’t possible to make money selling mindfulness to people (who perhaps don’t realize they can get there for free) – it’s totally possible to do that (just Google mindfulness, you’ll see).

The mindfulness being sold commercially isn’t that thing that is working so well for me; it’s a product that looks very similar, packaged and marketed for appeal, that has some potential to put real people on a more mindful path, potentially, with practice. There are verbs involved, though, and paying the money doesn’t change the need to actually practice.  There’s the disconnect; when we buy a product we’re rarely expecting to also do the work. We bought it, shouldn’t we have it? Mindfulness very definitely doesn’t work that way; no amount of money spent reduces the amount of practice required. While I could profit from selling a mindfulness product of some kind… it wouldn’t truly be this thing that has done so much to improve my own experience; that’s not for sale, and I also can’t withhold it from you. Mindfulness is free for the taking – it just requires practice. 🙂

Finding the lasting value in perspective and good practices.

Finding the lasting value in perspective and good practices.

I will admit that once it was clear that practicing mindfulness was easing my day-to-day symptoms, and potentially even improving my wellness, I bought a few books (more than a few) and read a lot about this experience, this path, these practices; educating myself was  worthy, and I was admittedly still looking for ‘shortcuts’. Where some new ‘shortcut’ seemed to be working out well, it was a matter of honest practice, an effort of will and intent with a lot of verbs involved, and had I known where to look, the information was available for free all along. I’m just saying – it’s the practicing, and you can do this – your choices, your intent, your will, your vision… your life. This isn’t about ‘being right’ about mindfulness, for me. I’m not making any rules for you, or ‘showing you the way’ – I’m just practicing, taking care of me, and sharing my experience is one practice I use, for me, to maintain perspective, build resilience, and tidy up some of this chaos and damage.

Perspective is a big deal; the spiders in life are not actually as big as they sometimes look.

The spiders in life are not actually as big as they sometimes look.

I remember being ‘lost in the wilderness’ with my PTSD, desperate for any voice of hope, no idea where to turn, what questions to ask, or what books to read, and feeling so lost. I write hoping my words can be a lighthouse in the stormy darkness of some heart, now that I know it is possible to reach a safe harbor, within. (With the challenges I have with my TBI, that heart is often my own – I come back often to these words.) Still…I guess what I’m saying is that the practice is still your own, whatever you choose to practice. I’m not really interested in selling you on these ideas, I’m just living my life, and sharing some small piece of my experience along the way. It’s still my perspective. Your results may vary. 🙂

Today is a good day to begin again. Head where you are headed. Be who you most want to be. Walk your path eyes wide to wonder and delight, and if you fall, fail, miss, slip, or pause… just begin again. Lead with love; it’s a good place to start.