Archives for the month of: December, 2015

…Unless you are ready to choose change…unless you use verbs…unless you begin again. And again. And yet again…until the thing about which you propose to be resolved becomes a quality about who you actually are. Just saying. It’s said better here, perhaps. Or here. Or here.  All of them are fairly easily summarized – you can choose change, it does require verbs. There are no shortcuts, and there are no excuses.

Sometimes it feels like an uphill climb.

Sometimes it feels like an uphill climb. There are unexpected obstacles. 

The most frustrating thing about ‘New Year’s resolutions’ is that they so rarely result in real change (for many people – your results may vary). The ‘why’ of that is so simple; there are verbs involved, and a requirement that our intention, our will, and our actions align to result in change. No verbs? No change. I can want to lose weight, intend to lose weight, and make a good plan to reach a reasonable goal; if I do not practice the practices that get the desired result, I will not lose weight – and the frustration and disappointment of personal failure can so easily (and thoughtlessly) be transmuted to emotion-driven over-consumption of unneeded calories. Bummer. A lot of things work that way; feelings of futility and frustration easily result in a level of ‘giving up’ that results in not only not making the desired change, but even over-indulging the undesirable behavior. Huge bummer.

It’s not easy to stick with a commitment to change, whether the change involved is quitting smoking, losing weight, or giving up being a colossal psychotic raging bitch 24/7 to people you say you love; the nature of the change itself is almost irrelevant to the success or failure of the endeavor. How much you want it doesn’t have much to do with whether you will succeed or fail, either; the most earnest heartfelt desire for change is still simply an emotional experience (although one that can be leveraged for motivation, still just a feeling). Add to that the discouragement of loved ones in our support system being less than ideally encouraging – or frankly skeptical of success – and it can seem an insurmountable roadblock to change, just having emotions at all! Harsh – we’re so human! How do we get past all that? I don’t actually have an easy answer there; I begin again when I ‘fail’, and use the opportunity to learn and grow. There may be an easier answer, but I haven’t found it – and at this point, I’m not looking for easy answers. I’m content with questions… and verbs.

Go ahead. Choose change. Make a resolution. Be the person you most want to be in 2016! It may not be ‘easy’. You may fail – you may fail a lot. Incremental change over time is a real thing, though, and we do become what we practice – no kidding, that’s real, too (and true of behaviors both nurturing and damaging). Begin again. Start over. And again after that. Use a verb – use a lot of verbs – exert effort fearlessly; all you have in this lifetime is this lifetime, itself. Spending an entire lifetime not even making the attempt to be all you most want to be (as a human being) seems pretty… empty. Pointless? Wasted. So…later in January? February? Whenever you find you’ve quit, given up, or stalled – begin again. That’s actually ‘all it takes’ – begin again. Did you fail again? Okay – begin again. Again. And again. It’s the nature of practice to require repetition. 😉

One last bit on this, from a different perspective… Some of you out there could stand to treat your fellow human beings better than you do. (You know who you are, and your neighbors do indeed hear you; the world sees you in action pretty much every day and very few people are actually deceived.) Are you relying on rationalizations and excuses to get a pass for the mistreatment you heap upon your fellow human being? (Hormones, fatigue, alcohol, pain, illness…) Maybe you just feel righteous and justified or entitled. You can choose change, too. You can also refuse to choose change, but you don’t get to choose to avoid responsibility or accountability for your damaging behavior from that moment that your loved ones wake up to the awareness that you are in fact choosing who you are, and choosing to behave in a damaging ways to your loved ones (whether you call it abuse or not). If you have been told that your behavior or language is hurtful and you continue it, you are choosing and your behavior is no longer easily defined as ‘unintended’; it is not an accident, and you did indeed ‘mean to’.  2016 could so easily be the year you choose differently, learn to love, and learn to treat other human beings well. 2016 could also be the year that you don’t choose to behave any differently (sadly this is more likely)… but 2016 could also be the year your loved ones finally wake up to their value as human beings and that they don’t deserve to be mistreated, and don’t have to take it anymore – and walk on, to a life in which they are valued, loved, and treated well. (They are free to choose change, themselves, instead of enduring your abusive vile shifty behavior or mistreatment. 🙂 Just saying; it’s a system that works nicely with adequate use of verbs.)

Practice the practices that take you closer to being the human being you most want to be.

Practice the practices that take you closer to being the human being you most want to be.

So…here it is… the cusp of a new year. As arbitrary as that really is, it is a moment – and you can choose change. Will this be the year you become the person you most want to be? Will you change the world? Will humankind’s global experience improve in your hands? Will you love well? Will you speak kindly? If practice makes perfect, what kind of world are we perfecting in 2016?

I am content. Today has been peculiarly productive with all manner of adulthood-related commitments and tasks. In spite of pain I’ve managed it all quite efficiently and will reasonable skill. I am seriously hurting today. The weather is quite wintry, and I spent an amount of it outdoors. The cold seeped into my arthritic bones, and I am stiff almost to rigidity from my waist to my shoulders – and I hurt. Still…I am mostly fairly merry, and lack any shred of irritability or ire today. I have taken care of me in so many ways today, big and small. It’s definitely a bit beyond ‘enough’.

When conditions are right, growth.

When conditions are right, growth.

I have an opportunity to move into a somewhat larger apartment in the community, one that is directly adjacent to the park, and has all the nice features of this unit. That’s exciting for a number of reasons. It is an unexpected and delightful recent development; the associated practices will be mostly to do with feeling the excitement and anticipation of a move I want to make, without becoming invested in the outcome before the lease is signed. I’ll make the observation that life tends to be much easier, and less about drama, having turned my attention toward cultivating an experience of sustainable contentment, rather than chronically chasing happiness and feeling mired in sorrow. Not only has life tended to be ‘easier’ – I’m also actually happy more often. (Your results may vary.) (Oh – and there are verbs involved.) (Ooh – Dude – don’t forget about the choices! You have choices.)

It’s a time of year I spend a lot of leisure time reflecting on what has been working, what hasn’t worked out so well, what I am yearning for and not finding, what I may be stuck chasing that I don’t even want, where I am headed – every journey begins somewhere, so I am also reflecting on where I am right now. My traveling partner was so right; he observed years ago, when we were first becoming friends, that I would benefit greatly from living alone awhile – his thinking was based on my fairly chronic complaint that I did not ‘feel heard’. He suggested, and he wasn’t the last to do so, that the person not listening just might be me. I dismissed that notion out of hand, and went on to fill out the narrative with some understandable, more or less, feminist grievances that seemed to hold up to scrutiny. They may or may not have real substance. He was correct, though; I wasn’t listening. Whether anyone else was is almost irrelevant where I stand in life now. I am hearing me, and it was my own attention I needed most – or at least first. It has been an important experience living alone. I discovered something quite nice; I like living alone. It works for me.

I also discovered some things that are less comfortable. Feeling lonely sucks. Coming home to a cold darkened apartment feels empty. Those are uncomfortable. I greatly miss living with my traveling partner… generally. That’s not uncomfortable. It’s not even uncomfortable that sometimes I don’t miss living with him. Nope. What’s uncomfortable is how incredibly unskilled I am at simply having the experience of feeling the feelings. It takes practice to allow myself some compassion for complex or intense emotions, and to treat myself kindly; I keep practicing. What is uncomfortable is the sensation of missing him alongside the awareness that I also very much enjoy living alone. What’s uncomfortable is that these things really do co-exist – and as it turns out, I have no reason at all to consider the experience one that comes with a comfort guarantee. There is likely to be more to be learned from my discomfort than from my joy. Life’s curriculum being delivered right on time.

Today is a good day for reflection, for choices, and for contentment. Enough really is enough – that’s why it gets called that. 🙂

Today isn’t a difficult one. I woke well-rested after crashing out quite early last night. I am in a pleasant mood and feel mostly physically comfortable, although I am very stiff and in some pain – it’s manageable. I am easily distracted this morning, and it took more than usual time to shower, dress, make coffee – and I find myself continuing to be so easily distracted this morning.

Meditation is no less important to my all-day well-being on a morning like this than on any other; meditating on a morning like this is very difficult.

Frustrated with myself in a small way, I nonetheless indulge my restlessness with music videos, science videos, and digital communication. I am not helping matters in doing so, I’m just calling it out. I’m very human. (I suddenly imagine an AI blogger calling out her humanity regularly as a ‘proof’ and reminder, for very different reasons, and wonder if it is worth writing the short story? Another distraction. Nice one, Brain.)

The music has the power to get me moving, even early in the morning, and that’s got some good things going for it, without regard to its phenomenal power to distract me from just about everything else – motion means gradually easing the stiffness in my joints, and my pain will be considerably lessened, too. So… there’s that excellent rationalization for relaxing and enjoying the music. 🙂 It has become clear over time that I benefit from acknowledging the positive outcomes in my experience as specifically as I would ever bitch about the challenges; what I invest in becomes of greatest significance to me, what I savor becomes more powerful in my memory of life.

I listen to music awhile longer, sipping my coffee, thinking about love when I listen to love songs, thinking about life when I listen to songs about living the moment fully. I listen to songs about drama, and appreciate how little of it I really deal with these days. Another track manages to remind me that there is value in meditation, and that beginning my day with tested good practices is something I count on. A good reminder.

A good morning to begin again.

A good morning to begin again. Aren’t they all?

Today is a good day to practice good practices. It’s time to set this aside for meditation – as practices go, meditation has continued to do so much to build and maintain an emotional foundation of contentment, self-sufficiency, resilience, and calm. Choosing differently knowing the value seems unwise. Besides – I’ve finished my coffee. 🙂

I am at home now, slowly warming up enough for a hot bath to be comfortable, sipping tea, looking forward to clean dry clothes, and catching up on calories and medication.

The only picture all day isn't of anything much; the photos are not the experiences.

The only picture all day isn’t of anything much; the photos are not the experiences.

I hit the trail at mid-morning with my hydration pack and emergency gear carefully checked off, map in a side pocket within easy reach. I felt utterly prepared for the hike ahead of me – new trails to explore, and a good plan for 6 to 8 miles of beautiful forested winter countryside, and considerable solitude along the way. I hopped off the bus with a smile at the trailhead most convenient to both mass transit and miles I had not yet walked. I crossed the street and headed up the trail – which in this case was rather literal, as the trail headed steeply upward, renewing my appreciation for my anti-shock hiking staff. I spotted the first snowflake as I neared the hilltop, and the drizzle carrying it along to the ground was quickly becoming more tiny snow flakes than drizzle. I wasn’t discouraged in the least, and visibility was not particularly impaired, except at a distance. There would be no distant vistas to view today. I walked on.

As I walked I contemplated how very prepared I felt when I departed for my hike – and how little my preparation seemed relevant in the present moment, unplanned snowflakes falling all around me. I considered this other solo journey I am taking – the one we each take, every one of us, through this wilderness territory called life; I am my own cartographer. Another way of saying that is – I don’t actually have a map. Yep. I’m making it up as I go along, aren’t I? Aren’t we all?

I turn the ideas on their heads a few times and consider things I do each time I hike to depart as well prepared as possible for all those many things that may come up along a journey, unplanned. Even the snow – I didn’t expect it, and in that sense I didn’t plan, but I did take my day pack, and checked my emergency gear quite carefully before I left, removing the Deet that isn’t needed in December and adding things that seemed more likely to be necessary for a winter emergency, then checking off my basics: a compact emergency shelter, bivy sack, an emergency blanket, first aid gear, water, fire – and my map. I hadn’t planned for snow – but I had done my best to plan for ‘whatever’ might come up that could find me out in the cold over night, and maybe lost or injured.

I hike solo most of the time, and being prepared is one of those things that is about more than me; my traveling partner relies on me to depart prepared to come home safely. Getting home safely may very well be dependent on preparation handled before I ever leave the house at all – and there’s no way to know in advance if this is the hike on which it will matter that I had my _____. With my injury, my PTSD, and the implied potential limitations of each, and both together, I take my time preparing for new trails. I study maps. I read trip reports by other hikers, and articles from the Forestry or Park service overseeing the area. I outline the route, and study alternate routes and connecting loops that may offer scenic opportunities also worth exploring. I make a plan, and share it with my partner. I pack, inventory my gear, re-pack, try it on for size, and double-check my choices against recent experiences in similar areas – I’ll ask myself what I have overlooked, more than once. I’ll ask friends to share stories of recent camping or hiking outings to glean likely circumstances I may not have considered from my own experience. When I am finally ready to put boots on the ground, I generally feel very well-prepared, and by day’s end sometimes find myself wondering why I ever bother to take some of the things I do – like an emergency shelter. Really? Even hiking a nearby park, wrapped entirely in suburbia? More than once I’ve laughed at myself for being over-prepared.

Some time after noon, the snow flakes had plumped to the fat fluffy sort that splat on impact, my glasses were no longer helping my vision, and I had removed them. Visibility – with or without my glasses – is about the same forward, as it is looking down at my feet, and the muddy trail beneath my feet is slippery – another opportunity to be very happy to have my hiking staff; I really need it as the trail turns, twists, and heads down hill. This is no time for photographs – and I had already determined some time ago that the wet cold was not ideal for camera or camera phone – I stay focused on the trail, a dark line ahead too muddy for snow to stick to. I stop at a trail crossing, rest a moment, check my map and finish the last of the still-hot coffee in my hydro-flask (another piece of gear to appreciate today). My hands are not cold; my gloves keep them warm and dry. My feet are not cold or wet; I chose my hiking boots with great care and they serve me well. My rain gear keeps most of the rest of me dry, too, but the flakes of wet snow have begun to sting my cold face, and I think of gear I don’t yet have that would do nicely right then, and even consider whether I am prepared, at any point, to admit I can’t proceed and take shelter. I breathe the winter air deeply and smile; if I need to set up an emergency shelter, I’m ready for that, too. I walk on.

I stood some wet tedious minutes waiting for the bus that would take me out of the woods. I exchange messages with my traveling partner so he knows I am safe, and heading home. I keep thinking about life; it’s a hell of a journey to have to take without a map, without ‘all the right gear’, without feeling prepared…without even the certainty that our experience is a shared experience that will be understood in the telling of the tale; we are solo-hiking through life, and we do it without a map, making it up as we go along, and hoping for the best. Hell – sometimes we start the journey without having even a destination in mind at all! It’s no wonder life can be so confusing, so surprising, so difficult sometimes.

The tea has taken the chill off me as I write. I smile, and think about the ‘gear’ I now ‘pack’ on my solo journey through this wilderness, life: mindfulness practices, meditation, a healthy approach to fitness and to food, an understanding of my physical needs day-to-day, and some ideas about what it takes to be the woman I most want to be, like emotional self-sufficiency, critical thinking, perspective, and an understanding that contentment is an excellent stepping stone to happiness, and more sustainable. I still don’t have a map – but this journey isn’t going to take itself, and it’s time to get going; the journey is the destination. The map is not the world. One year ends, another stretches out in front of me, an unexplored trail – it’s time to plan the next hike! 🙂

No rain today. It’s not a holiday. Today is simply a weekend day wedged between one holiday and another. I am not working, and it isn’t raining; I walk a few miles. It’s a good day to walk (from my own perspective most of them are). After considering many trails within easy reach on such a day, I decide in favor of the closest paved trails through forest and meadow (only recently passable on foot) and head out with my camera and my thoughts, and commit to walking farther on foot, versus traveling farther to walk fewer miles in the same time.

Some of it is about what is in the distance, on the horizon, possible or probable; there will be verbs involved.

Some of it is about what is in the distance, on the horizon, possible or probable; there will be verbs involved.

It’s the end of one year, the beginning of another, and consistent with my tendency towards organized hierarchical thinking (as a human primate – it’s a thing we favor) the ‘new year’, as arbitrary as it really is, seems a fine time to wrap things up that no longer have value, or have reached a natural end, to reach out to initiate new things, shore up works in progress that need a boost or re-commitment of will, or to take a deep breath and re-calibrate this whole experience in some way through reflection, consideration, or discussion. In short, it’s a time of year I often spend on self-reflection.

(I re-read that last paragraph and I am reminded of my traveling partner’s observation that there is room for brevity in life, in poetry, in text messaging – and surely in my own use of language as well? Fair enough, Dear One, you are quite correct. I’ll reflect on that, too; it’s a lovely moment to reach out for healthy changes, and to refresh my thinking on all manner of things – even language.)

Today I just walked. Footsteps over miles. Miles of mud. Miles of pavement. Miles under clouds. Miles alongside small local waterways. Miles of trees, squirrels, crows, ducks, geese, and the sound of nearby traffic and all of the busy-ness mankind has created to occupy time. Miles of musing about things I have seen, things I have heard, and things that I wonder. I wander. Miles. Miles of tiny mushrooms in a variety of shapes and sizes and habits of growth. Miles of opportunities to pause. Miles measured in moments, one after the other, each so very precious – each now only a memory. I reflect on the miles, and I reflect on the moments. I reflect on what is behind me, and how far I’ve yet to go.

Sometimes it is a matter of details, perspective, and a willingness to be aware, without judgment or interpretation.

Some of it is a matter of details, perspective, and a willingness to be aware, without judgment or interpretation.

Today is a good day for reflection.