Archives for the month of: March, 2016

I sip my coffee quietly, considering the day ahead. I think for a brief moment that I have no plans, but realize it isn’t so. I dither, wondering if accepting an invitation to hike this morning would have been a better choice, instead of being here. Right now, here doesn’t feel very good…and I’ve no idea why. Humans being human. It happens.

Words are powerful tools for love. They are not always used that way. I try to use mine gently, wisely, well – with consideration. I try to use them a little more skillfully, and with greater care every day. I hold on to the hope that in doing so, I improve my own experience of myself, of the world I live in, and my relationships. It isn’t always a notably successful effort – still human – and I’m not certain sometimes that anyone else notices or cares much – they are still human, too. Each having our own experience.

Something has gone wrong with the morning. I don’t know what, and I examine my expectations, first; have I somehow crafted this experience with assumptions and expectations? I do a ‘self inventory’ with considerable tenderness, looking for where I may be struggling with something else in the background, or a missed self-care detail more important than I recognized. I feel myself earnestly wanting to connect with my traveling partner pleasantly, merrily, intimately; there is so much potential for joy in who we are together. Somehow, now is not the time. My gentlest approach this morning is met with a frown. I escape to my studio, hoping his morning gets better over his coffee. I contemplate going back to bed, which feels like a childish over-reaction to something that isn’t about me. I work on letting it go, and staying in the headspace I woke in; calm, rested, curious what the day holds, eager to enjoy the companionship of my partner, when he finds himself ready, too.

Expectations and assumptions are the Boss bad guys of relationships, aren’t they? I can’t know what someone is assuming (about me, about us, about the circumstances) but it quickly becomes clear that assumptions are being made when conversation lacks understanding. I sometimes find myself holding onto expectations, unstated, that later detonate and turn my pleasant moment into an emotional blast zone, when my unnoticed expectations are not met by real life.

Last night I expected to arrive home to my partner’s smile and a hug and some time hanging out; he’d already called it a night. I felt disappointed, but understanding – it’s not personal, or tragic, when someone takes care of themselves. I woke this morning looking forward to enjoying his company, talking about my evening, hanging out over morning coffee. He wasn’t yet up, and that didn’t bother me at all. Hell, it’s not personal that the morning is difficult now – we’re neither of us actually ‘morning people’. I find myself feeling rather lonely in this particular moment – also not personal, and definitely more ‘weather’ than ‘climate’. Difficult in the moment. Moments pass. This one, in fact, passes as soon as my traveling partner steps into the studio, shares a few words about his evening, and asks about mine.

Take the time to enjoy the moment.

Take the time to enjoy the moment. Be kind. Be gentle.

Today will likely be quite a nice day, most especially if I am willing to set aside expectations, refrain from making assumptions, and refuse to take things personally. Today is a good day to use some verbs.

This morning was lovely. It’s enough to enjoy the moments, and linger on them in my recollection, later. The day begins well, and that is also enough for the moment I find myself in. Later will be here soon enough to matter when it gets here. Days old irritation with work is, for the moment, eased. It’s a comfortable moment, this one, characterized by contentment, and a certain comfort with the routine of the work day, modified by an early finish for a doctor’s appointment this afternoon, and by having completed a significant task with a few minutes in the day for writing a handful of words before moving on to the next significant task.  There’s not much more I would ask of this moment, it is quite enough.

This lovely morning, every moment enough.

This lovely morning, every moment enough.

I read an article this morning that tells readers somewhat alarmingly that ‘CBT is a scam!’. I move past the irritation with some humor, but I am irked by the tone of the article, which suggests that unscrupulous unnamed individuals have put one over on governments, care-providers, and patients with the suggestion that CBT (specifically) and other 3rd wave cognitive therapies (implied) are bullshit scams that don’t help anyone, leaving vulnerable people to continue to struggle with symptoms a couple of years down the road, no differently than similarly disordered peers who didn’t get any treatment at all. I’m annoyed because what is not being discussed is a fairly transparent thing, left unaddressed by the article; there are verbs involved. As with ‘dieting’ to lose weight; mental health treatment, however promising, requires practicing some practices. There are verbs involved. Stop doing the things that help, discontinue the practices that resulted in treatment efficacy, halt the growth and change initially being pursued when treatment began, and sure – the human being seeking wellness loses ground, potentially resulting in a return of all symptoms (and then some). That sucks. It sucks even more that a professional in the mental health care industry would overlook one potential root cause for treatment failure after two years; failure to continue practicing the practices that the patient found effective, initially. We do, however ill we may be, have some accountability for our growth and progress (unless we are so disordered that our impairments put choice and action out of our reach)! The suggestion that CBT itself is a wholesale failure without examining the effects of compliance/non-compliance is a little silly – as with switching from diet to diet to diet, without actually sticking with what worked long enough to see and hold onto the desired changes, it completely ignores the free agency of the person receiving treatment. There are verbs involved. There are choices to be made. Period. Do the verbs. (Reminder: the excuses we choose also communicate our choices –  to do, or not do, the necessary verbs involved in what we say we want from life.)

Better to pause for flowers than be immersed in borrowed stress.

Better to pause for flowers than be immersed in borrowed stress.

I finally shrug off my irritation; we each walk our own path, make our own choices, live our own experience, write our own narrative – my words are filtered through my own experiences, breaking like waves on distant conscious shores, sometimes soaking into the sand, sometimes splashing against the rocks. 😉

Isn't it enough to find balance?

Isn’t it enough to find balance?

Love, too, needs an investment in doing the verbs. Love isn’t a passive thing. This morning, I chose love over words, and a shared experience over solitary time writing. It was a worthy choice, and my mood is enhanced by the love I feel. I am carried through the morning on soft wings of enduring affection. There’s nothing much more to say about it for the moment; the experience is still very much ‘now’.  There will be time to contemplate it with broader perspective much later. Today, ‘now’ is more a doing than a thinking. This, too, is enough.

 

I am sipping my coffee and contemplating all the many times I started in therapy or began some sort of new treatment modality intending to ease my symptoms in some significant way, or to explain (or excuse) my behavior without really having to work to change it (or myself). It was both frustrating and pointless, and I didn’t get very far at all. Was it because all those different sorts of things, and all those many professionals, just weren’t effective or appropriate? Doesn’t that seem just a bit unlikely? It’s so common, though… So… What might account for how common it is for ‘therapy’ not working out, not working very effectively, or being ‘a bad fit’? I think it over and find my way to one fairly obvious conclusion; it’s the relationship.

Therapy – any sort of mental health treatment focused on interaction between professional care-giver and patient seeking treatment – is pretty intimate stuff. If I am not entirely comfortable, emotionally, with the therapist, why would I expect to get much out of it? I won’t be very likely to be open with a therapist I am uncomfortable with, would I? In such a scenario, I find myself feeling that the therapy ‘isn’t working’, when it is more properly stated that the relationship isn’t working – very understandable. So, there’s that – it’s a relationship, and requires commitment, investment, openness, trust – all the qualities any relationship must have to thrive.

There’s another characteristic, lacking which therapy is a mockery, and that is openness characterized by absolute frank forthright revealing honesty. Approaching treatment dishonestly absolutely ensures no progress is ever made, at all. Seeking a therapist who will be satisfied to take a paycheck, push some pills my way, write some notes I will never see, say nice things to me, and reassure me that I’m ‘not crazy’, allowing me to hear that as ‘it’s someone else’s fault’ (although that’s not what’s actually being said) isn’t ‘therapy’, and progress is not an outcome to be expected. It’s just more bullshit and game-playing. It’s just more drama. It is also a serious waste of limited precious life time and resources for no point; the world is generally not deceived when we play at deceiving ourselves. Certainly our loved ones are not deceived when we come home from therapy with excuses instead of progress; they are already living with our crazy, well-acquainted with our chaos and damage. It is not possible to bullshit the people we hurt with our madness for very long.

I find myself wondering if therapists and clinical professionals of all sorts find it frustrating to be aware when a client isn’t going to ‘do the work’, or when they observe that a client isn’t committed to recovering, to healing, but only to justifying their position, or excusing bad behavior? Do they experience a sense of precious time being wasted? Is the money still worth it? Is it ‘just a job’? Are they ever tempted to say out loud “I really don’t want to see you anymore, because you just aren’t making any effort”? It wouldn’t seem a fiscally good practice, if one were employed delivering therapy to people to earn a living…but… it would seem more honest, perhaps. I’ve ended treatment with a lot of practitioners of a variety of sorts (I count 14 therapists over 34 years of seeking help) – I haven’t had one end treatment with me, even when I was clearly not engaged, and getting no benefit (although two retired while treating me).

I find it, looking back, a rather sad waste of time to have paid so much money to spend time carefully crafting a narrative that resulted in hearing what I wanted so badly to hear in the moment – that I’m fine, it’s the world that’s broken, or my relationship, or my job, or… anything but having to choke on the truth that my own choices and my own behavior might have something to do with my experience, and that I might have to be accountable for the results – and responsible for making the needed changes. That may well have been the most singularly difficult step on this journey, just acknowledging that I have choices, that I am an active participant, that I am ultimately the architect of my own experience – and that I have moments when I am one fucked-up not-at-all-rational really-not-right-in-the-head fancy monkey that owes someone dear a very sincere apology, and a commitment to the real work involved in treating myself and others considerably better. It is, however, a step that had to be taken – because all the steps leading me somewhere different (and better) followed that one, and could not ever precede it.

We are each having our own experience. It’s not easy finding ‘a therapy that works’ or ‘a treatment that helps’. I find myself thinking that at least in my own case that was because it took me so long to understand that therapy involves relationships – one with the therapist, and one with the person in the mirror. Being dishonest with either definitely slows things down.

I smile and sip my coffee. I’ve been in therapy with my current therapist now since very shortly after I started this blog… February, 2013? It is the first time I’ve had the experience of mental health treatment being effective for anything beyond crisis intervention. I’m in a very different place than I once was. I’m still ‘myself’, too. My therapist is unquestionably very knowledgeable and skilled, and it is clear that the treatment modality is well-selected for my needs – both very important things, and I value those characteristics of our work together. This morning, I make time to appreciate ‘the other thing’ that seems so very much at the heart of ‘making it work’; I showed up. Seriously, I am engaged, present, open, fearlessly intimate even when completely uncomfortable, and most importantly – willing to do the actual work, the practicing of practices, the corrections in behavior, the repetition, the accountability, the utter frankness with myself and with my therapist, the willingness to embrace change; there are verbs involved. Turns out that matters a lot. “Easy” just doesn’t enter into it.

Enjoying this moment.

Enjoying this moment.

My coffee is cold now. I smile thinking about progress made, and progress to come. I think about the work day ahead, and the evening beyond it. I recall my therapist wrapping up our most recent session asking me to think about my goal for this next bit of work together and realize that what I heard was acknowledgement that at least in part, we’ve successfully completed a portion of the work we had begun so many months ago. Wow. I take a few minutes to enjoy that awareness, and to simply enjoy this woman I am, so much closer to being the woman I most want to be in my life. It’s a nice start to the day.

Getting sufficient healthy rest remains an ongoing challenge for me. The connection between PTSD and sleep disturbances is well-documented, and most definitely part of my own experience. I’ve at least gotten to a point where being wakeful doesn’t cause me additional separate stress of its own to compound the stress of whatever woke me, or the impending potential stress of the fatigue that results from inadequate rest. Progress.

Last night I was awakened from a deep sound sleep sometime after 2 am. I didn’t bother to check the clock to verify it, my traveling partner told me the time when he woke me (not realizing the noisy new neighbors who woke him hadn’t yet woken me). I was awake, physically comfortable but sleepless, for the rest of the night. “Sleep maintenance insomnia” is what that one is. I feel a moment of irritation when I notice that the article I linked manages to ‘place blame’ for poor sleep almost entirely on the sleeper, pointing out problem scenarios like women trying to get more/better sleep by going to bed ‘too early’ and waking in the wee hours. Yes, good sleep hygiene and good sleep practices are important, and for some of us the thing goes a bit beyond our choice of sleep schedule, lighting, diet, or time management! LOL Nothing in the article directly addresses real-life externals like noisy neighbors, and the effect of being awakened in the wee hours to the irritation of someone else awakened by the noise. (Eventually, the noise would no doubt have awakened me in turn; it sounded rather as if they were tossing shipping crates against the shared wall at several points, or hosting an event in an octagon ring!) My sensitivity to, and concern over, my partner’s ability to get the rest he needs, himself, likely drove my sleeplessness in some small way. It doesn’t actually take much to disrupt my sleep, even now.

Two nights short on sleep so far this week. It isn’t ideal, and I don’t do my best work – or my best anything, really – when I am distracted and numbed by fatigue. I think ahead irritably to the boundary setting, expectation setting conversation that needs to happen later today. My neighbors are young, and on meeting them the other day they seemed well-intended sorts. It’s likely that the inconsiderate amount of noise is nothing more than that – inconsiderate. They may be unaware how noisy they are – although surely less so after my traveling partner was gruff with them during the night. Still, it mustn’t be allowed to pass unnoticed; what we tolerate, we must endure, and I’d honestly rather not have this go on for weeks. My thoughts turn next to the work day ahead. Yeah. Still feeling irritated. Is it going to be that day?

It's too early to be cross already. It is a better choice to begin again.

It’s too early to be cross already. It is a better choice to begin again.

I begin again. Meditation. Deep cleansing breaths. A moment of fresh air out on the patio before dawn, steaming mug of coffee in my hands. Full moon glowing beneath, between, behind the passing clouds for some little while longer before daybreak comes. I think about the patio roses and how lovely they look so far. I contemplate what the patio will look like when the roses are blooming. The studio feels cozy and warm after the morning chill outside. I take time to appreciate the full measure of the quality of my life here; there is so much more to it than a night or two of poor quality sleep. I make a point of lingering over ‘all the things that work’ – it’s a better way to begin my day than fussing about a handful of things that could be improved upon.

Today will be a very good day to take care of this fragile vessel, practicing the practices that support emotional balance, and over-all wellness. I will do my best. 🙂

I woke this morning from a deep sleep. It took me some seconds longer than is typical to understand the sound that woke me, to find the alarm clock by feel in the darkness, to understand that electric lights exist…and to wake up. I went to bed fairly early last night, unsure whether sleep would come easily, but very much aware that an investment in healthy rest and quality sleep would be needed after the interrupted night of poor quality sleep the night before. A leisurely fun evening of South Park, pizza, and good company provided quiet entertainment between the end of the work day, and my early bedtime, and I enjoyed it in the good company of my traveling partner. Good communication and self-care practices for the win, yesterday! I woke with some effort this morning, in good spirits, and well-rested.

The day-to-day investment in exceptional self-care matters a lot for my continued well-being. There are verbs involved, and continued practice. Yesterday, The Big 5 was relevant; I communicated my fatigue openly, considerate of the possibility he may have also been short-changed on sleep. He demonstrated consideration, respect, and compassion regarding my fatigue. I made choices regarding my self-care and the shared evening to come that leveraged respect for his time, consideration of his tastes and needs, expressing appreciation for his support. Our conversation set clear expectations, the support offered was reciprocal, and the affection demonstrated was unreserved and without conditions. We had a lovely evening together, and ended it pleasantly. I crashed out early, and got up early with the alarm clock. He was, I’m certain, up later – and at least so far, I have managed not to wake him prematurely this morning. 🙂

I have missed this day-to-day intimacy and his presence in my everyday experience. I enjoy living alone – I may even, perhaps, prefer it – but I have missed this man’s presence, his scent, his humor, his warmth, his good-natured concern that I treat myself sufficiently well, his support for my endeavors, his willingness to share his own with me, his strength, his vulnerability, his sense of honor and consideration. I have missed having love by my side in moments of ‘bad weather’ emotionally. I have missed having the chance to share the lovely ‘climate’ of my great wilderness within, as I have improved my quality of life, understanding and awareness of myself, and skill at enjoying this amazing journey. I am making a point, every day, of taking time to appreciate what I am enjoying now, that I have been missing, hoping to fill up on love’s delights and wonders while circumstances are such. I suspect I am a far better lover than I once was, and hope that this is true. I keep practicing. 🙂

Speak with love. Act with love. Be love.

Speak with love. Act with love. Be love.

Today is a good day for love, for loving, for all the verbs that doing so implies. There is surely ‘time enough for love’, but I don’t think there is sufficient time to waste on choosing not to.