Archives for the month of: September, 2015

I woke smiling this morning, although in pain, and feeling light-hearted, balanced, and calm. This would seem almost commonplace, except that last night, at the end of a wonderful evening with my traveling partner, some particular turn of phrase, repeated several times in conversation in relatively quick succession, triggered my PTSD symptoms. My emotions quickly spiraled out of control, and somewhen in the midst of it, I directed my dear love to go, to leave, to walk on…and found myself alone and crying; he respected my boundaries, which sucked then, but this morning it is something I cherish. I can count on him so utterly.

p.s. I love you.

p.s. I love you.

He phoned me after he left, upset and concerned. He pointed out my symptoms (because I am not always aware that I am interacting with some other experience). We talked.  Afterward, I took time to meditate. I calmed and soothed myself – relying on emotional resilience and self-sufficiency that I am building over time through all manner of practices (like meditation). I reflected later on what went down, and how and why. Moments like last night are outstanding for monitoring growth and progress – but they still suck completely and entirely. I emailed him an unreserved heartfelt apology, making no excuses for my behavior (let’s be real here, it’s been much much worse in the past, and that’s not relevant to treating someone I love badly now!), which was uncomfortable for both of us, and unpleasantly emotional. I was already over it such that I could also express gratitude and appreciation for what he was attempting to discuss and help me with, and I had taken time to follow up on our shared concern and the practical relevant details… like a grown up. 🙂

I made a note for myself to follow up later on developing more effective ways to gently communicate that some particular detail, phrase, approach, or behavior has the potential to trigger me – not in the hope of having it avoided, but because in real life these things come up, and one by one I must move past them, for my own emotional well-being, and as a loving investment in my relationships, and wouldn’t it be nice once in a while to just say ‘Oh hey, could you rephrase that one this time? I’m still working on that and I’ve got some challenges with that verbiage’. It takes time, but I no longer view improving on these things as unachievable; I may have some measure of PTSD for the rest of my life, but there is nothing about that which suggests I can’t continue to improve, to grow, and to become the woman I want most to be.

We've all got some baggage.

We’ve all got some baggage.

When my traveling partner had gone, and I was sifting through my chaos and damage, it was quickly very clear that the entire problematic exchange wasn’t at all about or with him (or us) in any way at all; I could feel my violent first husband standing in the room with me. It was an eye-opening moment to be so able to clearly sense the anachronistic miasma of ancient fear and pain. It was also part of what allowed me to move past the moment – and my symptoms – so quickly last night, once I was alone. I could really feel that it didn’t source in my real experience of the moment in any way at all. I had been triggered – and I don’t mean mainstream press too-pc-for-adulthood-don’t-say-things-I-find-discomfiting- “triggered”*.  I mean no bullshit, I was having a post-traumatic stress flashback. Generally, in the past I have had no way of clearly discerning that such is the case until well afterward. This is growth. I don’t know what to do with it, but it is very promising, anyway. I haven’t had a flash back in a long while (months, and well before I moved into my own place, back in March).

Every moment of growth is as a rainbow in a stormy sky; a promise of better things.

Every moment of growth is as a rainbow in a stormy sky; a promise of better things.

Last night – and a couple of times early in the day – I was having a strange very severe headache in a weird location, that throbbed with a deep dull nauseating ache that pulsed every 10-15 seconds or so. I’ve no idea if it was related, causal, or worth consider a serious concern… except that any headache that is unusual is also of great concern for someone with a TBI and a family history of stroke. This morning I made a point of emailing my physician to make note of the headache, and ask if I should make an appointment. I haven’t felt it yet today, so perhaps it was just a headache.

Today I'm not making this complicated.

Today I’m not making this complicated.

I am okay right now. Love is okay right now. Human beings persist in being human, and life offers opportunities to learn, to fail, to grow, and to connect our hearts through what is difficult more often than through what is easy. It’s worth becoming skilled at managing my worst moments more skillfully; I can count on most of the best moments to take care of themselves.

It helps to have the right tool for the job.

It helps to have the right tool for the job…

Today is a good day to practice good practices. Today is a good day to take care of me – and to take care of love. Today is a good day for listening deeply, and connecting honestly. Today is a good day for authenticity and vulnerability. Today is a good day to say thank you, when love shoulders the heavy load my post-traumatic stress carries every day. Today is a good day to walk on, and enjoy blue skies. I am okay right now. 🙂

...and perhaps a change of perspective.

…and perhaps a change of perspective.

It's a journey. Each step I take is my own.

It’s a journey. Each step I take is my own.

*Just an afterthought…Can I just say that I find it damned inconvenient that people have undermined the value and meaning of the word ‘triggered‘ by diluting it for their everyday over-sensitivity or bad-tempered moments? For someone with post-traumatic stress the experience of having symptoms triggered is not a mildly uncomfortable moment, or inconvenience – it’s a pretty big deal, associated with brain chemistry, volatility, mood, physical experiences, and isn’t something that can be easily turned away from or ‘managed’. By mis-using the word to cover feeling uncomfortable to read the ‘fuck’ in a news article, or because a moment of provocation caused a bit of temper, people who really need to express an experience are robbed the language to do so. Knock it off – go find your own words. Seriously. There’s a big difference between being a bad-tempered over-sensitive little bitch, and being having one’s post-traumatic stress triggered – trust me, I’ve had both experiences, and I’m pretty clear on the difference. 🙂

This is not a blog post about science, water, or the seashore.

This morning I am sipping my coffee and contemplating this empty text box, and letting my thoughts wander where they will. I am pre-occupied with the evening of love ahead of me, and content with morning quite precisely just as it is. This morning, the titular aquatic metaphor is a reflection on differences in thoughts, and thinking. Some of my thoughts are an undercurrent to the busier consciousness of the immediate moment, with wakefulness interrupting my dreams and beginning a new day being rather like a tide of consciousness rolling in. My momentary considerations of some one title or another on which to build this morning’s writing are as waves, hitting my awareness, being considered, then receding.

I continue to sip my coffee and think about love. What a very sweet beginning to the day to choose. And love? Love, itself…? More than enough. Today is a good day for love.

Be love.

Be love.

I woke very early this morning, minutes after 4:00 am. It’s a work morning, so making any effort to sleep longer isn’t likely to be very satisfying. I get up, and linger in the shower, while I take the chill off the apartment by pre-heating the oven. I’m up early enough for a proper breakfast. No idea what I’ll make, or whether it will actually require the oven. It’s definitely autumn, now; I am no longer making any effort to cool off the apartment. I have been here in my wee place long enough for the seasons to change. 🙂

Enough.

Enough.

There is very little drama in this experience. I sip my coffee and let myself wonder what ever kept me in any abusive relationship, ever, in the first place? Love? No – because that sort of treatment doesn’t qualify as being loved, and doesn’t tend to produce love as a reaction. I learned that the hard way. Fear of being solo, of being unqualified to adult all alone? Could be, at least the first time. I was very young when I married my first husband, and mostly did so because I earnestly wanted to move out of the barracks and ‘didn’t know how’ otherwise…and… it seemed expected, culturally, that I would marry. Now that, right there? That’s a shitty reason to get married, or be in a relationship of any other sort. Loneliness? I suppose loneliness is an important reason people may stay in an abusive relationship – loneliness sucks that much, sometimes – so much that self-care and good decision-making are undermined in favor of the mere idea of love.

Be love.

Be love.

Living alone? Not so scary, honestly. By far better than living with chronic mistreatment, neglect, disrespect, deceit, evasion, misdirection, or physical, emotional, or financial abuse. Do I get lonely? Sure. I’m human, and I miss touch, and the everyday intimacy and connection of living with someone I love dearly – but I’ve got to be honest, I’ve only approximated that experience in most relationships, generally very short-lived during the newest weeks of the relationship, and with only the most superficial level of connection, and very little real intimacy – because I didn’t have well-developed skills, practices, or understanding of what relationships take to build and maintain in the first place. My own ignorance and lack of personal development definitely limited my ability to forge the bonds I didn’t know I was looking for in the first place. Now I have the skills, the desire, the partnership – but we are separated, day-to-day, by 14 miles that sometimes feel infinite. Now… I am also learning that however common love can be, when we live from a loving place, a love like the one I share with my traveling partner is on another order of magnitude entirely, and it is not affected by the distance between us, even in lonely moments, when I yearn to be near him.

"You Always Have My Heart"

“You Always Have My Heart”

I sip my coffee and think about love, and loving. Is there some magic, mystical secret to this powerful love we share? I suspect not. It’s quite probably part chemistry, but I feel fairly certain that the larger portion of it is simply that we treat each other truly well. The Big 5 are pretty consistently in play (respect, consideration, reciprocity, openness, and compassion). We’re human, there are moments that challenge us now and then, but day-to-day, moment-to-moment, I can count on my traveling partner to treat me well, to support my growth, to encourage me, to listen deeply, and to be connected and really with me when we are together, and he can count on those things from me. It’s quite lovely, and it’s all in spite of being quite human (the both of us), with our own baggage, our own chaos and damage, and our own view of the world.

"Cherry Blossoms" 12" x 16" acrylic on canvas 2011

“Cherry Blossoms” 12″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas 2011

There are other reasons to build a relationship than for love, even marriage is not always built on love. Even the most practical, logistical, or political basis for a long-term relationship benefits from The Big 5, and suffers without them. I think so, anyway. I think a lot about treating people well, and what that means, and how I get there. How we treat people changes us. What we endure in our relationships, and the treatment we receive at the hands of loved ones, changes us. We become what we practice. When we treat someone poorly, however valued we may say they are to us, we change them over time; the damage piles up and changes how we are treated in return. Living alone, I have only one person to count on to treat me well day-to-day – and I’m still learning a lot about taking care of me, and treating myself truly well…but I’ve got a lot less drama while I do, and I’m not having to expend precious resources, or waste valuable time, healing fresh wounds.

"Communion" 24" x 36" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow. 2011

“Communion” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow. 2011

I know you want to be treated well. I think everyone probably does (in the way they define that, themselves). This morning, I’m not thinking as much about how I want to be treated – I’m thinking about how I treat others. How about you? Are you treating your loved ones truly well day-to-day, or do you let your temper get the better of you and say vile things you regret later, then expect people around you to ‘stop taking things so personally’ or ‘grow a thicker skin’? Maybe you justify the terrible hurts you deliver with your words by rationalizing the truth of them, or the necessity of hearing them said, or because you are ‘right’? Do you excuse your own bad behavior by saying it’s your hormones, or you had a rough day, or you hurt or don’t feel well? Are you aware you are still causing someone you love pain, and maybe even tearing down something you built that was once beautiful? Treating someone you love poorly is like spraying political graffiti on a precious work of art, or painting over a mural, or… well… it’s actually just not okay, and is entirely unpleasant, and doesn’t show any hint of love. Just saying. Even a heartfelt apology does not make the words unsaid, or take away the experience of being hurt – and no one forgets those things, not really. In a good relationship, it’s simply that the good moments outweigh the difficult ones a lot.

"Contemplation" 11" x 14" acrylic on canvas 2012

“Contemplation” 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas 2012

I am humbled by the wonder in the realization that I am good at love. (I wasn’t always, I’ve worked to get to this place.) This is a powerful place to be in life. Practice matters, even on this, and it isn’t the bit about being loved that needs the practice, generally. Loving isn’t just a word – it’s a verb, and one that requires quite a lot of things, like kindness, and deep listening, and attentiveness, and authenticity, and vulnerability, and compassion, and patience, and surrender, and tenderness, and being comfortably wrong as easily as being right, and laughing, and touching, and sharing experiences, and eye contact. I enjoy how many verbs there are from which to choose to show love. Practicing them is both entirely necessary, and highly rewarding… I mean… If you want to love, and be loved in return. Some people only want to be loved (or maybe just worshiped, adored, or served); it’s much less work, but eventually love dies when it isn’t nurtured.

p.s. I love you.

p.s. I love you.

Today is a good day to love well, and to deliver on the promises made by love. Today is a good day to treat every heart well, not just my own. Today is a good day to make eye contact, to be kind, and to really listen when someone is talking. Today is a good day to practicing loving. The world could use a little more love, and we become what we practice.

I am sipping my coffee and feeling fairly comfortable with change, although somewhat uneasy. I got a call yesterday, late in the afternoon, that the A/C needs to come out of my window right away so that contractors can replace my front window – something I expected would be done in the spring. Caught by surprise during a busy work day, I felt overwhelmed, and I’ll admit it, frightened. No real reason. Generally, beyond the tantrums and the freak outs, I’ve got this. I am very adaptable, but I also find changes to my ‘safe space’, my  personal environment, my haven from chaos and damage, to be incredibly disruptive. It’s not so bad this time. I emailed my traveling partner, uncertain whether I would need his help, but knowing his counsel would be valuable regardless, and then gave the matter further thought.

In minutes, and with the help of a couple of deep breaths, and a perspective-providing reminder in the form of an exceedingly complicated spreadsheet I was contentedly in the midst of updating, I realized, again, “I’ve got this.” The panic itself is the bigger issue sometimes. Many times. (All of the times?) This morning I am calmly sipping coffee, and content that things are handled…and more than a little curious about the new window. Will it be much better at keeping out spiders than the previous window? Bonus! In the meantime, I have arranged to have the landlord remove the A/C, which needs to come out for the year, anyway.  (Now I just have to figure out where the hell to store it over the winter – space is limited here.)

Still, the whole ‘replacing the windows’ thing pushes my issues with having my safe space disturbed into the foreground. I think of it as only an issue with changes that are imposed upon me, rather than selected, but experience suggests otherwise, and the “consequences” are not always immediate, and sometimes linger for some days or weeks until I feel settled into whatever was changed. New windows and a new patio door may change the ambient sounds of the apartment, and if so, may tend to affect my sleep, or sense of safety, for example. I don’t predict or expect it these days, but I know the risk is there, and I observe as the experience unfolds.

Small things matter; it irritates me to see a stack of paintings now in a view of the room that generally includes the fireplace, but instead now shows off how many of my paintings are not hanging. lol I often just don’t look to the corner of the room where those paintings usually sit. I find myself irked with my own irritation; I could choose to deal with the surplus paintings quite differently. Should I be looking at my budget with an eye on climate controlled storage? Fuck life is expensive sometimes. “Less clutter would be good…” I think to myself with annoyance. Recalling that the ‘clutter’ is art, paintings that I don’t have room to hang, grates on my nerves. For a prolific artist, there is no living arrangement with enough wall space to hang everything. I take a moment to sooth myself with the recollection of past delight with being able to rotate my displayed art with the changing seasons, or rearrange it for holidays, and how lovely it is to be able to hang work that reflects my mood, or changes in life, and how much I love it when I sell a piece that was hanging – and can easily fit something different into that place on the wall. I’m okay. I’m just having my windows replaced. 🙂

Today I'm not making this complicated.

Today I’m not making this complicated.

Change? I got this. Today that’s enough. 🙂

I take pictures. I take a lot of pictures. My camera goes everywhere with me, although to be fair that’s not a challenge; I use my camera phone as my primary camera. Sometimes that’s obvious, since as cameras go, it’s still a phone. I don’t consider myself, creatively, a photographic artist first; I am humbled daily by the images shot by any number of other photographers – including my 16-year-old niece, who recently took up photography, and has since shot any number of outstanding images of insect wildlife, dog facial expressions, and life*.

I take pictures of squirrels.

I take pictures of squirrels.

I take a lot of pictures without worrying much about whether or not I am ‘good enough’ to be ‘a photographer’. By definition, a photographer is one who shoots photographs. I’m that. I’m a lot of other things too. What sets me apart from any professional photographer (who earns a living taking photographs with a level of technical ability worth paying them for), or an artist who works in photography as their medium (who, whether they earn a living or not, takes wonderful photographs, images that capture something about life and the world, that people want to see), is The Ratio [of great shots to wasted ones]. I am a student, an amateur, a woman with a camera phone; I take uncounted pictures to get one great shot [maybe] – and am quite willing to make use of pictures that communicate something to me, personally, but which are not particularly skillful or extraordinary pictures. A professional would take potentially many pictures, and get many that were precisely what they were looking for, and a professional would be unlikely to make use of poor quality images. An artist might take more pictures – or not – but would likely have many more shots that capture something quite extraordinary. The ratio of great shots to ‘why did you bother’ shots is very different for someone just snapping pictures along life’s journey, and someone who is skilled, studious, gifted, or driven by artistic purpose – or all of those things at once.

A favorite floral shot; some pictures capture something that lasts.

A favorite floral shot; some pictures capture something that lasts.

One lovely thing about life is that practice is a thing; I could become a more skilled photographer with study and practice. (My photography has improved quite a lot over the past couple years.) I could become a captivating artist with a camera, with more study and practice. (I occasionally take some amazing shots even now.)  There are all those verbs involved, and results that vary based on choices and opportunities – and inspiration. With practice, the ratio of great shots to wasted shots would change in favor of great shots – because we become what we practice. Yep. Some things are exactly just that simple. I can’t actually see any particularly obvious dividing line between ‘dinking around with my camera phone’ and ‘I’m a photographer’ – Only a ratio of great shots to crap shots, a ratio of meaningful images to trite images, and a ratio of great pictures taken to all the pictures taken.

Sometimes I don't quite capture what I was going for.

Sometimes I don’t quite capture what I was going for.

Having said all of that, I’ll add that I’m not certain the ratio has ‘real meaning’ or value beyond words; I love taking pictures and don’t care much whether I am ‘a successful photographer’ by any definition but my own. I enjoy taking the pictures, and in some cases even those that ‘didn’t turn out’ capture something of value, or are meaningful to me in some way. I could definitely grab hold of the ratio as an idea and beat myself down for not being ‘good enough’, or not growing fast enough – instead, this morning, I just observe that it’s there, as a thing – maybe – and that there are differences among us. My young niece has far more talent and aptitude with a camera than I do; it shows in the pictures. Happily, life is not a competition; I am free to enjoy her photographs alongside my own.

It's a journey. Each step I take is my own.

It’s a journey. Each step I take is my own.

Today is a good day to see the world with new eyes. Today is a good day to enjoy beauty and wonder. Today is a good day to be who we choose to become – by practicing. There is so much freedom to choose who we are, and who we want most to be. The labels are less important than the verbs. There is a whole world to explore on this journey.

*I am choosing not to use any of my nieces images in this post, although I am thinking about her work, and have it open on another tab of my browser, where I can look at it while I write. My choice to use only my own work in this post is based on my Big 5 relationship values; I have not been given explicit permission by the artist (my niece) to use her photography in my blog. It’s irrelevant that she is 16, or that she is my niece; she is the artist, and her images are her own work, owned by her, and using them without her permission is a theft of intellectual property. Yes, I’m serious. Please be considerate of the work of artists, get permission, give credit, and don’t seek to profit financially from their work without authorization – in advance. It’s just common courtesy.