It’s an odd sort of morning following a somewhat peculiar evening. It was a pleasant evening, and it is a pleasant morning. It would be easy to lose sight of how pleasant it is to focus on the oddity. The pleasantness, for me, is more important.

Evenings are quite short these days, a common experience for people who work and commute some distance. I arrived home about an hour earlier than usual, yesterday, which is enough time to make a difference. I enjoyed a bite of dinner, and meditation, and was headed to the shower when my traveling partner arrived. A whirlwind of greetings, moments, departures, and arrivals later, and the apartment was full of people, laughing, talking – it’s fairly easy to find a party breaking out at my place when both my traveling partner and I are at home; we two enjoy both company and solitude, and if we’re already together (and thus not alone) it’s a handy time to get other friends together, too. Parties happen. 🙂

I sip my coffee and for some moments think about far away friends, and long for their company, too. Magical thinking could intervene here, and leave me feeling lonely, or annoyed, or even inappropriately “abandoned”, or sad over what is not. It’s a choice, and I choose not to head down that spiral. I cherish my far away friends over my coffee, smiling with grateful delight at technology like Facebook, that so easily keeps us all in touch over the years. Any perceived distance melts away like morning fog as the sun rises, when we get together again. In the meantime, there are pictures of life, of new babies, of dance recitals, of fun and adventure, of love – all shared with affection, preserving a long-distance connection.

"Long Distance Connection"  18" x 24" acrylic on canvas w/glow, 2010

“Long Distance Connection” 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, 2010

Last night I crashed pretty early, and the party moved next door out of respect for my working hours and early mornings. I actually slept well and deeply. I woke with the alarm, feeling comfortable in my body, content with the woman in the mirror, and ready to start a new day. No noteworthy pain – so I make a point of noticing the lack, and making that, itself, noteworthy by being aware of how good I feel right now, savoring it, lingering over it, enjoying it without any dismissive internal commentary. I take time to be okay with being okay. Being miserable can become a very bad habit; we become what we practice.

I sit quietly, sipping my coffee, living my life gently, feeling contented. It’s a lovely start to a work day. I think about the  years and years I didn’t start my days this way, and then the years that I tried… and tried… and tried… and often found some delicate fragile moment of contentment or delight would skid unexpectedly sideways off life’s highway, leaving me stranded in tears by the side of the road, unaware that I only needed to dust my self off and walk on. There are so many choices, and so much of my experience is in my own hands. It can be daunting. Then, too, there’s all that “positivity” stuff out there, and “faking it until you make it” encouragement; those things didn’t work for me at all. Authenticity is demanding, and some of the moments of a life well-lived are… challenging? Unpleasant. Some of life’s moments are frankly awful. Still… I couldn’t force positivity down my own throat, and no amount of repeating scripted affirmations or pasting fake smiles on my face got me anywhere. I gave up, and in giving up felt even worse about myself and my circumstances.

I tend to be a very positive person these days – but I didn’t start here, and getting here wasn’t the goal. I started with taking better care of myself (physically and emotionally), and took up practices that supported my wellness, and nudged me gently towards my long-term goals by improving my self-care, my awareness, and my willful actions, over time. I suppose someone could respond that they feel like a screaming spoiled toddler, and if they are (mis)behaving it is merely an expression of their authentic self… I guess that’s where having a conscious awareness of my values is helpful for me; I don’t think to justify bad behavior on the basis of “authenticity” – because that isn’t the woman I most want to be. I don’t find myself having to “fake it” – I do find that choices are necessary, and there are verbs involved. I begin again, regularly. When I fuck up and hurt someone, I apologize sincerely and without reservations or excuses.

It’s been a long while since I had some terrible meltdown. I take a moment to appreciate that – because, honestly, realistically, and being so very human? This too shall pass. 🙂 It’s likely that sometime in my future I will be frustrated, or angry, or childishly disappointed, and I will have to deal with it appropriately.  I may hurt someone’s feelings and have to apologize. I’ll be wrong about some things. I’ll fail at some others in spite of trying. I may kick myself while I’m down, or revert to a bad habit unexpectedly. Still… we become what we practice. I’ll begin again. Over time, in small sometimes hardly noticeable increments, change will occur.

We do become what we practice. I stopped practicing having relentless temper tantrums and yielding to primitive frustrated rage – but not by “quitting”; I began practicing something different. That’s my own version of “positivity”. More a doing than an undoing. For me, it started with the most basic mindfulness practices, a few minutes each day for myself that I could really count on, and the will to begin again day after day, as if my life depended on it. (From my perspective, it very much did.) My reading list is built on the resources that got me here, now. I can share titles of books forever, and perhaps you even read them – but without the verbs, the practicing of practices, and the will to begin again, they’re only books filled with mere words. Just saying.

My coffee has gone cold. It’s almost time to head to the office. I’m still smiling. Life feels different than it did three years ago, in a number of very good ways. We become what we practice. My results vary – but I can begin again, often. Today is a good day to practice. Who will you choose to become? 🙂