It is a very quiet morning. The keyboard ‘sounds loud’. I park my mechanical keyboard and opt to use the soft quiet keys of my laptop, typing with the most delicate touch I can manage. I am alert and a bit sound and light-sensitive today, and recognize it is something to be aware of as the day wears on. I don’t often get such a good opportunity to get ahead of my issues this way. I even have a good idea what the drivers are, this morning. Hello, PTSD-as-residual-of-domestic-violence. It can be a complicated experience.

I am not surprised that I am faced with managing my symptoms; my traveling partner is spending a great deal of time here, struggling with his own challenges, needing more than usual emotional support, frustrated, hurting, and understandably angry with the use of emotional weaponry in another relationship. It’s too easy to let his anger, the emotional experience itself, resonate with me; he does not ‘deserve’ this, I often find myself thinking. While that’s true (I mean, who does?), it’s counter-productive to providing emotional support. I practice listening deeply. I practice compassion. I work on finding a comfortable balance between soothing the hurts, and providing requested input without making it about me – this is sometimes complicated by my reliance on metaphor and comparison to similar experiences I’ve had to gain understanding or clarity. I keep practicing. I definitely need the practice. This isn’t mine to ‘fix’.

I began re-reading The Four Agreements. “Be Impeccable With Your Word” is most specifically the agreement I am reading, although… it’s the first one, and I’ll read the entire book. I am re-reading it for a refresher and deeper understanding of the first agreement, “Be Impeccable With Your Word”. I think of other experiences in life, other relationships, and of finding myself on the receiving end of some angry accusatory tirade in which some practice or way of thinking, recommended in the self-help aisle has been launched against me as a weapon. I remember also a tense, peculiarly cathartic sight of  young, angry, 20 -something, literally throwing a self-help book at the face of a partner in a public argument – a public moment of a human being lashing out directly at another human being physically – screaming “it’s a self help book, you asshole!” I had almost burst out laughing with understanding. We can only ever work on ourselves, really.

Being impeccable with my word, The Four Agreements makes clear, is not about ‘telling the truth’ precisely, or about ‘keeping promises’ either, well… not only those things. It’s vastly more complicated, subtle, and nuanced. It is a favorite practice of mine, and my own understanding of it is as a fundamental statement of mental and emotional purity, as in ‘don’t fuck with people’s reality, and especially don’t do that on purpose’. Lying counts, so does misleading someone with great care through choice of language or use of misdirection. Explicit expectation setting on which there is not intent to follow through is also a failure to be impeccable with one’s word. Then there is name calling, beratement, judgement – yes, even that; the things we say to people can cause them great pain. We all know it. Sowing discontent is another way to undermine the impeccability of our word. Mean jokes, too. Even just being irritable and cruel. Yeah…basically, the idea is that language is a powerful shared tool for human primates akin to actual magic. Being impeccable with my word is a practice intended to keep me on the path of treating myself and others well. (I may not say out loud the words I use to/about myself, but those count too.)

I breathe through my increasing irritation about how my traveling partner is treated in another relationship; I can’t fix it, and it’s not mine to fix. It’s hard to be on the sidelines watching someone use their words as weapons against someone so dear to me such that he is further hurt, further tested. I contemplate my own similar experiences, the choices required to take care of myself. I know there are verbs involved, and that it is a journey with many choices. It’s hard to watch, though. I find myself puzzled why more people don’t recognize that they are crafting their own hell-on-earth with the way they mistreat people they say they love – hell, the way they treat people generally. Sounds a little judgmental when I see the words hit the page. I return my thoughts to my own experience, my own actions – things I can affect directly through my choices. I am human. I can do better, myself. I observe in moment of cynicism, that this is one of the great challenges in a human life; I acknowledge I can grow, change and do better – a lot of people do – and then there are others, seeing that acknowledgement and replying through their own choices and actions ‘you go right ahead working on you, thanks, you owe me that and I’m not changing shit myself, so… yeah’.  It’s a thing. It’s frustrating – and more. Still… this is my own journey, my own path, and although there is immense power in the words used aggressively or wickedly by others, I don’t have to drink the poison. I can choose differently.

I hear the wail of the morning train not so far away. My cup is empty of even the last cold swallow of coffee. I feel the chill of the room sitting in a soft cotton camisole and wondering where I left the sweater I chose to wear to work. I feel a moment of gratitude that my traveling partner has such a good heart. It is a lovely quiet moment, this one, filled with opportunities to embrace the best qualities of my experience, and build my day on that foundation.

Today is a good day to walk my own path, and use my words with care, kindness, compassion, and awareness. Today is a good day to listen more than I talk.

Today is a good day to walk my own path, and use my words with care, and compassion. Today is a good day to listen more than I talk.