Early evening, in autumn, golden sunlight filtering through the vertical blinds over the patio door, me fussing a bit, somewhat uneasy, headache-y, annoyed. I am not sipping coffee; it is too late in the day for that, unless I’m planning to be awake all night. This is a fairly noisy time of day, here, even in the relative quiet of my comfortable space. I can nearly always hear the traffic on the commuter thoroughfare 100 yards away (ish).  Today the background noise isn’t in the background at all. Contractors are using power saws, hammers, drills, pry bars, and talking loudly all around the outside of my apartment. The noise is well-beyond what could be considered comfortable without hearing protection.

I came home from work to finish the workday in a quieter space; I’m feeling irritable, a tad stressed, and extremely sound-sensitive. There is no quiet to be had here, and the headache I arrived home with, hoping to feel dissipate quickly upon arrival in this chill safe space, now commands my attention from my lower back, on up across my shoulders, up my neck and over my skull, coming to rest as a sensation of tightness in my head, and teeth clenched, neck aching. I am numb to most of anything else going on just at the moment, wanting only to alleviate the pain in my spine, my neck, my head. My tender heart finds its own way to misery; I kick myself while I’m down, resenting the attention I am giving to my physical pain, when there are tears lurking so near to my eyes, waiting to spill out. I suspect my heart doesn’t quite understand that there’s nothing really wrong, I just hurt, and the noise is hard to bear. I promise myself that once the contractors are gone, I will soak in a long hot Epsom salt bath, then linger in a luxurious shower, indulging myself with the sensuous pleasure to be had in hair washing, and the simple sensations of warm water and lovely scents, listening to music I enjoy. It’s not ‘everything’ – how much ever is? It is, perhaps, enough – and enough will do nicely.

How 'real' is all this stress? What's it really made of?

How ‘real’ is all this stress? What’s it really made of?

So much for a change of perspective! In the moments when I hurt most, the practices that sooth me best can seem subtly out of reach. That’s very frustrating, and sometimes even ‘unreasonably difficult’. The noise is very nearly unbearable, and it is a physical feeling of its own. Hard to describe. Painful. Enraging. It’s quieter now, and later. I’ve taken time for a chat with my traveling partner. Had a bite of dinner. Did what I could to care for this fragile vessel in any way I can…any way that isn’t dependent on quiet, I mean. Quiet is just not available at the moment, even with ear plugs in.

I’ve gotten past the anger, frustration, disappointment, and yes even emotional hurt of getting home to find, instead of a quiet sanctuary, noise. A lot of noise. Irritating, ceaseless… wait… That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? This is the hard part. The part where practice shows off what has been built over time? This isn’t a drill, people!! It’s doesn’t matter what I expect. Preparation helps – but the map is not the world. The plan is not the experience. What I think is not to be confused with what is.  Learning the distinction between acceptance and futility has been a difficult bit of life’s curriculum for me. I hurt so much right now, there is real effort in refusing to yield to anguish, in drawing in line in the behavioral sand, so to speak, and finding the balance between taking care of me devotedly, and simply taking care, graciously, compassionately, understanding with some perspective that we all suffer with things like noise. I still hurt – but I haven’t lashed out at any of the carpenters, or my landlady, or the neighbor’s well-meaning child, or …well… you get my point. There’s no ‘easy’ to this piece of the journey, I do hurt, and the noise is making me just fucking crazy with irritation. I still have choices; focusing on the easy ones and excluding the difficult ones also limits my outcomes.

I take time to do some yoga. I breathe. I meditate with a warm cup of chamomile tea in my hands, warming my fingers and soothing me, enjoying the fragrant steam rising up from the mug.

Perspective matters. What I see is colored by my experience.

Perspective matters. What I see is colored by my experience.

There are moments beyond the noise. I can reach them; there are verbs involved. Not easy? No. Not easy. Still worth it. Still practicing.

There are all sorts of details I could have handled better today – but I handled things well enough, and I’ve taken care of me generally, and done so pretty well. I’ve taken care of the things most needing my attention, and I’ve put off some things that can comfortably wait for me to get to them another time. Success isn’t always obvious, or profitable, or heroic – sometimes it’s measured as ‘enough’. I’m okay with that – and I’m okay right now.