Archives for the month of: November, 2016

The alarm beeped at me for some time. I was sort of confused about where the noise was coming from, initially, shutting it off was not a reflection of greater clarity of thought. I groggily rushed through showering, dressing; I really wanted to get to the part of the morning with coffee in it.

Finally. Coffee.

I sit staring blankly at the computer screen, warming my hands on the my coffee cup. I sit this way, nothing much on my mind, for some while. Longer than I expected to, longer than I realized I did – it doesn’t count as meditation. My brain is idling. I’m still not entirely awake yet. I fidget a bit. Sip my coffee. Let my consciousness drift awhile longer. It is morning, and the morning is mine. It’s not even a unique or rare experience; this is often the sort of morning I am having when I don’t write at all. 🙂

Some minutes later, I realize I’m stalled, again, just sitting here, thoughts adrift. I take some deep breaths and stretch. I get up, do some yoga. I open the patio door and gaze out into the dawn sky, sucking in the cool morning air, exhaling with a sigh. I feel sluggish. Groggy. Definitely still not awake yet. “More coffee?” I ask the gray dawn sky.

Mornings like this one have been complicated by shared living arrangements in the past; I’m barely a functioning adult right now at all, communication and consideration of the needs of another human being would be quite difficult this morning. I realize with some surprise that I haven’t brushed my hair, or brushed my teeth. I get up and do those things. I give thought to a more usual morning and step through bits and pieces of my wrecked routine that got overlooked on this one. Slowly, with some effort and another cup of coffee, I begin to really wake up.

This isn’t all that interesting, I know. It’s a fairly roundabout way to say “these things take time” and “your results may vary”. My most serious TBI is about 40 years old… next on the list is 30 years or more. I’m fuzzy on specific dates, without looking them up. (Who’m I kidding? I’m fuzzy on lots of stuff – especially this morning!) My PTSD has been with me a very long while, too. Go easy on yourself when you’re having a hard time! Healing takes time, improvements can be so small as to seem imaginary, and in both cases more so if you’re unclear on what might help, or where to start, or haven’t actually begun that journey quite yet. Healing is a journey – sometimes a damned long one. I’m still on it – totally not “there” yet. It’s not even reliably all forward momentum; there are setbacks, pauses, moments of doubt – and more than occasional groggy mornings. Still… incremental change over time is a real thing. I’ve learned to count on that. I’ve learned to begin again, and to be patient with myself.  Any improvement is still an improvement. We become what we practice.

My calendar says I am scheduled to get my hair cut today. Over my shoulder I notice that I’ve left dishes in the sink from last night – rare – also, how did I not notice that while making two different cups of coffee an hour apart?? My momentary frown eases into a tolerant smile. Very human. I run my fingers through my hair with a sigh, smiling as I remember with some appreciation that I did remember to brush it. There are practices yet to practice, this morning. I’m starting to wake up.

Today is a good day to practice the practices that have proven to be most effective in my own experience, and today is a good day to trust myself to take the very best care of the woman in the mirror. We’ve come a long way together, she and I. I get started on the dishes; I won’t want to come home to them.


I got off work yesterday in a good mood, tired, enthusiastic about the walk through town and over the bridge at twilight, and looking forward to a quiet evening at home. The commute wasn’t merely uneventful, it was also a miracle of coincidence and great timing. I arrived home, still smiling.

Some enchanted evening...

Some enchanted evening…

What follows is a cautionary tale about emotional health.

As I waited for dinner to cook, not wanting to wander off or be distracted, I picked up my phone, and opened my news feed. I noticed there seem to a be lot of articles about hate, hate crimes, and the general mistreatment of human beings toward one another. I dove right in and read one, then another, and another… over minutes, I read several. I was also cooking, and pretty focused on that. As minutes passed, I found myself no longer smiling. Feeling somewhat discontent. Generally a bit aggravated. A few minutes further on, I was feeling annoyed. Irritable actually. I sat down with dinner, finding fault with small things that typically don’t bother me at all. (Damn, are the guys next door going to be so noisy all evening? Seriously? Is that a leaf on the floor from where I came in, earlier??)

I ate my dinner in a mood of aggravation and discontent. It seemed a mysterious change, and it was some minutes before I connected my roiling stew of negative emotions looking for a fight with reading the news some time earlier. Then I did make the connection. I put down my device. I tidied up the dinner dishes feeling a bit thoughtful and pre-occupied. Had I really made a point of willfully turning a lovely mood sour by my own hand? What was I thinking? I sigh, recognizing the temptation of turning my negative emotions on myself, rather than helping myself into a better emotional place with at least the same effort I brought to wrecking the pleasant mood I was in, in the first place; it’s easier to be hard on myself than it is to change.

I gave the news a rest, and renewed my commitment to not treating myself so badly in the first place. News retailers are in business, and business is focused on profit, and what is profitable is holding consumer attention, and what holds consumer attention is… outrage. Yep. We gobble up news about hate, about fear, about the outrageous and “what is wrong with the world” – and then wonder why we’re angry, outraged, or frightened. We’re some fancy fucking primates – not all that smart about some things, but damn, we’re fancy. We write news, put it in front of other primates, sell what we can – and write more of that. Think about that for a minute – if the point is sales, and profitability, and what sells are the stories about hate, doesn’t it seem quite obvious that more stories about hate will be written? I’m not saying that the world isn’t full up on hate these days, but I am saying that whether or not it were, if stories about hate are what sells the most views, clicks, and subscriptions, then aren’t there going to be just a whole bunch more stories about hate? To read. To be consumed. To set an impression of the world we live in, generally?

I put myself in a gentle time out and spent much of the evening meditating. It was a significant improvement over reading the news. I ended the evening feeling soothed and balanced. Hate in the world is not eased or relieved by fear, or anger, or more hate. Awareness that hate in the world is an issue is something to cultivate, but succumbing to it myself is to be avoided. That seems practical and obvious (to me). I don’t need to read even one more article about some human being treating another badly “because Trump” – I am aware that human beings mistreating each other is a problem. It was a problem before the election, and it will likely continue to be a problem after the next four years is behind us; some people choose some really vile verbs. Hate exists. Fear exists. Anger exists. People having those experiences are probably having them in fashion that seems justified, reasonable, or even appropriate to them in the moment. There are some hateful things going on. There are some scary circumstances (and scarier people) in the world. There are good reasons to be angry, and things worthy of being angry about.  It remains a worthy endeavor to treat people well, nonetheless – including the person in the mirror.

This morning I woke to the alarm. A new day. A chance to begin again. I don’t start with the news. I renew my commitment to myself to choose what I read with great care. Sensational headlines get my attention; that’s why they work, that’s why they are written that way. It’s generally enough to read the headline, sass it silently, and move on. Advertising and color commentary masquerading as actual news can be distracting – and emotive. I remind myself to avoid it. Hell, at some point, continuing to read and reread the same tired bullet points spread across media outlets, being used to stoke new outrage and keep reader engagement high, actually takes time away from taking action on causes that matter… in some cases, the very causes that are so engaging to read about. (How many news stories have you read about DAPL? Have you taken a leave from work to get out there and help? Donated money? Written letters to congress? Any verbs at all – or just reading along? How about the lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan? Local homelessness? Foreign wars? Just saying; there’s plenty in the world that could use some well-chosen verbs.)

I’ll point out that all the same choices and practices that soured my mood could be made more selectively, more skillfully, and used to build a great mood from a bad one: intellectual distraction, investment in a specific emotion by choosing experiences that tend to reinforce and enhance it, repetition, and mindfully engaging that emotional experience deeply.

Today is a good day to put down the news, set aside the outrage machinery, and choose some verbs. If the point of life is to live it… why would I be spending my precious limited lifetime reading the news, anyway? 😉

My coffee is still too hot to drink. The alarm clock seemed very loud when it woke me. I feel a bit as if I am moving especially slowly this morning; the clock corrects my very subjective perception of time. It’s a Monday after a long weekend. As if on cue, my brain launches a salvo of small anxiety-provoking attacks about this or that detail at work; I quash them with a minute or two of mindfulness, breathing deeply, present in this moment here. Work can at least wait until I actually get to the office! 🙂

Summer is definitely over. Autumn nearly over, too. Thanksgiving is done. The holiday season – my idea of holiday season, I mean – has begun. It is a beginning I wait for, plan for, and cherish each year. I have my own traditions, built on my values, refined over an adult lifetime, added to by one partnership, then another, over the years. The specifics are less meaningful or shareworthy, I think, than that I do have my own, chosen with care, selected from the celebratory traditions of my childhood, and then made my own, quite willfully. I like the way I do the holidays. It is rare for me to be overcome by ennui or despair during (or over, or about) the holidays, and I’ve tended to attribute that to doing them my own way… though, I don’t have any cite-able proof of that; it is my subject experience, only. For me, that’s enough, at least on the topic of holidays. 🙂

As days go, today doesn’t stand out in any obvious way. The beginning of a new work week. The beginning of the holiday season. I like beginnings, although they usually follow endings, which I often tend to think I dislike (compared to beginnings), but again, I have no clear evidence of that impression, and find myself wondering if the words truly reflect my thinking, or only some moment in my thinking that will quickly dissipate when my attention turns to other things? Change is. Whether an ending, a beginning, or some transitional point on a spectrum between those moments, change is part of the scenery on life’s journey.

I think of my Traveling Partner and smile. We have different approaches to living life in the moment; I prefer to plan, and to maintain a high level of readiness for many likely outcomes, and to cultivate a benevolent tolerance of circumstances that fall outside my planning, with frequent “rest breaks” from the hectic pace of life when I can retreat to a quiet corner of the world to take it all in, before returning to the busy-ness of life’s default settings. He has the boldness required to freely take life utterly as it comes, seemingly fearlessly and without anxiety; embracing change with a spontaneity that awes me, and often leaves me feeling unsettled.  We handle our emotional lives quite differently, too, both very human, both capable of great depths of emotion, both embracing intimacy and connection, and yet such different people day-to-day, in spite of shared values, shared experiences, and sharing (to this day) our journey in life over years. He finds too much planning constricting, and expresses feeling pressured. I find too little planning chaotic, and feel… pressured. lol We are more similar than we are different. This is likely true of each and all of us; more similar than different. Any human being’s most basic needs are likely to be pretty much the same from one person to the next. So many arguments between human beings are about meeting the same basic need in different ways, informed by prejudices, filtered through individual experience, limited by individual perspective, and individual understandings of definitions of terms. We’re still more similar than we are different – right down to not listening very well when another one of what we are is talking to us about their own experience. 😉

Taking time for simple pleasures matters, too.

Taking time for simple pleasures matters.

My coffee is not so hot now. I drink it down and consider a second one… there is time for that. I look across the table, the holiday tablecloth, placemats, and centerpiece are happy reminders of the weekend spent immersed in a wonderland of holiday memories, colorful trinkets, and tiny lights. The entire room is transformed. The tree stands in the far corner, and canisters of freshly baked cookies beyond that, on the bookshelf in that corner. Everywhere some Yule detail catches my eye. I smile. The soft glow of the room feels like it sources from within me. Sure, I’ll have a second coffee. Today is a good day to take time to enjoy simple pleasures. I’ll go do that. 🙂

I woke too early this morning, and by “too early” I mean that I definitely wanted to sleep later, certainly had the time for sleeping later, and just could not convince my brain that sleeping later was the thing to do this morning. I finally got up at 5 am, after tossing and turning, meditating, fussing, and daydreaming for about two hours. I feel well-rested, I just didn’t “feel like” getting up so early. I’m definitely awake, though.

Yesterday was spent quietly; easily achieved without having the temptation of television lurking nearby all the time. I don’t miss the TV. I’m getting by, computer-wise, on my work laptop, although it is not truly a substitute. I can at least write, much more easily than if I had to use my phone each morning. I’m content with things as they are. I have what I need, and that’s enough.

Yule is on my mind this weekend, as I set up the holiday tree, and decorate the house for the holiday season. Each year when I open the box of ornaments, it is as if I am holding precious memories in my hands. I decorate the tree, and remember things. Each ornament is a story, from a place and time before now. Each year I add one or two more ornaments, significant in some way, and they add to this strange memory box that only gets opened once a year – but always does get opened, yearly. Each year I consider who I am in the context of a lifetime. Each year I emotionally gorge on an intense assortment of recollections, until, by New Year’s Day, it is both timely and necessary that it all be put away for another year. Each year I hold in my hands small fragile reminders of good times and bad, of past versions of the woman in the mirror, of old pain, old sorrow, old joy, and old delight.

When I was much younger, the ornaments were selected with less care, more randomly, more about “ooh, shiny!” sorts of moments and impulses, and much less about what story they could tell, later. In recent years, new ornaments have been selected with great care, and the ornaments themselves become part of the story of who I am, told (mostly) in glass… and glitter, sequins, ceramic, paper, and twinkly lights. There is a gap in these memories (my own memories as well, it’s just placed differently in time); when my first marriage ended, I took only my “personal effects”, and my artwork, leaving everything else behind – including 13 years of Yule celebrations, 6 of those in Germany (the lovely ornaments purchased at the Augsburg Christkindlesmarkt we visited each year – all gone).  In their place, the worn cardboard box of small glass ornaments, 18 balls in assorted colors, that were the first ornaments I bought (at the local discount store next to the apartment complex I moved into) to begin rebuilding Yule after my marriage ended (they’re now more than 20 years old). I had visited my Granny that year over the holidays. In a wily Machiavellian act of master manipulation, she engineered a reconciliation between my parents and I, ending an estrangement that had lasted longer than my first marriage had, itself. I returned home with ornaments from childhood, a gift from my mother. She later sent me others. They remind me of childhood Yule celebrations, and more subtle things.

I’ll finish the weekend by finishing the decorating, savoring the moments revealed one by one as I hang the ornaments on the tree. Finally getting to the ornaments I made in that last holiday before I chose to live alone; it was a peculiarly awkward, sometimes rather grim holiday, that year. I celebrated mostly alone, in a shared household. The ornaments I made are lasting reminders that love can’t be forced or negotiated with, and once lost it is gone. They also remind me how much of my experience is chosen, and that even in the difficult moments in life, happy memories can be made, cherished, savored – and can become the lasting recollection of a trying time in life. I’m still working on that; there are verbs involved. 🙂

I sip my coffee and look across the dining table, still covered with ornament boxes of a variety of sizes. I’m only half-finished. It’s a time-consuming process for me to set up the tree alone; I pause for memories rather a lot. Some years I cry rivers of tears, too. This year hasn’t been that way; I celebrate with a quiet joy, and reflect more on what is, than on what isn’t. It’s not a process I rush. I have time – all weekend. Hell, I have a lifetime to unpack what memories I have, to cherish them, to savor them, to return them to their tidy boxes when the moment is done. Time enough to ask myself “why is this one significant?”, and “still?”, and “even now?”, and remind myself it is okay to set down some baggage this year (every year) and go forward a bit more the woman I most want to be.

The story of life's climate, and the emotional weather are told in so many ways; memories, however real they seem, are not moments. :-)

Memories and moments, today will be filled with both. 🙂

Today is a good day for a cup of coffee and a handful of memories. I smile and think of my Traveling Partner, and the memories we have made together, and this strange wonderful somewhat unconventional choice to be both quite partnered and quite solitary. I sip my coffee contentedly. Isn’t contentment enough? Ah, but what about changing the world? Let’s not forget to do that, too. 🙂 I get up to make a second coffee… as with most things, including changing the world, there are verbs involved. 😉

Thanksgiving is over, and the holiday season has begun. Black Friday is a memory.

Thanksgiving was simple, quiet, intimate and amazing – unscripted, and as it turned out, entirely unplanned. We’d made dinner reservations to go out. It seemed the better choice at the time we made our plans; I have a very small kitchen, and although more than a year has now passed since I moved into my own place, my kitchen efficiency is still somewhat limited by the loss of some favored gadgets and appliances that I have not yet replaced… like my Kitchen Aid mixer, which I miss greatly.

I’d had my mixer for decades; it was a wedding gift left from my first marriage. It had become redundant when I moved in to the big house “with everyone”, and the newer mixer on hand won out. Mine became someone else’s cherished favored kitchen appliance (I no longer remember who). It was a painful moment to move out with the hurt and anger of the break-up flavored by the poignant loss of an appliance I’d never have given up except – love. It’s strange to me that the intense feelings over the break up have diminished, but the irritation over allowing myself to be so short-sighted as to be persuaded to give up my mixer, when there was ample room to store it more or less forever, somehow persists, particularly as this kitchen, now, is so small that there is neither space to store it, nor space to use it. lol Silly primates, emotions lack substance. Better to let such lingering ire just go; it serves no purpose now save to remind me that I do want to replace that mixer – which, I am well aware of, without the emotional reinforcement.

My Traveling Partner and I planned to be spending the afternoon and evening together. At some early point in the day, we agreed neither of us was particularly enthusiastic about our dinner plans, although the restaurant is one we both enjoy. I canceled the reservations. Hell, frozen waffles and powdered hot cocoa shared with my traveling partner in a tent in the dead of winter, wrapped in love and enjoying each other’s good company would still be a Thanksgiving to cherish; it isn’t about the venue or the menu. I looked over the pantry, committed to using what I had on hand. The drenching rain that had fallen all night, and continued through the morning was ample discouragement from any grocery shopping, and most places were closed. Could I pull off an unplanned Thanksgiving dinner for two? Neither of us had any specific expectations beyond sharing the time together and enjoying each other. I would do  my best. My best would be enough.

It was a simple meal. Chicken breasts baked in foil, seasoned with sage, onions, and chives from my container garden. Steamed baby Nero di Toscana kale, and savory baked heirloom carrots, from my autumn vegetable garden. Canned corn and box stuffing; durable staples always on hand from my pantry. I even had a solitary can of cranberry sauce left from… whenever. It was a lovely meal. We had a great evening. Around the time that our friends next door returned home from dinners with family, we were also settling in to relax and we all gathered together over music and friendly conversation. It was appropriately festive and joyful. It never needed to be elaborate.

I slept in Friday morning, and woke to my Traveling Partner awake ahead of me, working on his set list for a gig later in the day. We had coffee together. A bite of lunch a little later. When the time came he packed up his gear and I played roadie helping load it into the car. Then he was gone and quiet filled my solitary space, along with happy daydreams of love, and good intentions about housekeeping that never quite came to fruition. 🙂

I did my traditional Black Friday thing, which is to say, I stayed home and did not participate in the retail frenzy that exploits so many workers on a day of the year when they might like to be at home with their loved ones. (Go ahead and take a moment to reflect on how few potential four-day weekends exist for most “entry level”, retail, restaurant, or service industry employees, and then reflect on how much you have valued and needed that precious limited down time in your own life…I’ll wait.Do you suppose you really needed that discount on a crock pot more?) I’m okay with paying a reasonable price for goods and services, and I’m more than okay with doing my part to refraining from adding to the literal Black Friday body count that seems unique to American greed.  It is my tradition to spend Thanksgiving weekend setting up the holiday tree, lights, baking holiday treats… it is a long weekend, suitable for all those things. I didn’t do any of that yesterday, I just relaxed in the happy glow of being well-loved, reading, meditating, daydreaming about the future, and just generally enjoying myself quietly and in a state of great contentment. It was lovely. It was enough.

Misty mornings seem to offer the potential to remake the world, differently.

Misty mornings seem to offer the potential to remake the world, differently.

This morning I woke from a night of peculiarly interrupted sleep, and feeling rested, in spite of that. I gazed out over the misty meadow, considering where to the put holiday tree, sipping my coffee, watching the Canada geese stepping through the meadow, feasting on whatever it is they pull up from the mud along their way. My squirrel visitor returned, too, and enjoyed breakfast while I had my coffee. The Northern Flicker who comes by regularly joined us, taking a few moments to enjoy the seed bell and the suet feeder before departing. A flock of red-wing blackbirds took his place. There is nothing spectacular about this gentle morning, nothing to exclaim about, nothing I am inclined to change. I am content. As it turns out, contentment is quite every bit of “enough”, and far more easily reached than “happily ever after”.  I smile, and sip my coffee; it has grown cold in the morning chill of the room. I pause my writing to consider lighting a fire… later, perhaps. A lovely long walk on a misty morning, first, sounds like just the ideal thing to precede a hot shower, a mug of cocoa, and a crackling fire in the fireplace. 🙂

As with most things, even "enough" is a matter of perspective.

As with most things, even “enough” is a matter of perspective…

...What is "within reach" depends, too, on our perceptions, and our tools...

…what is “within reach” depends, too, on our perceptions, and our tools…

...We are each having our own experience.

…We are each having our own experience.

I’m still sitting around in comfy clothes, sipping my now-cold coffee, smiling out over the meadow whenever I glance out at the world. This feels good. I feel safe. Content. Loved. I have enough to get by on – and not that “oh fuck what now, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, we’ll all get through this, just breathe” level of “enough” that requires real commitment to staying present in this moment. (We all have those moments, eventually, it’s part of the human experience.) This morning it is the “oh hey, nothing to fear, nothing to want for, it’s all good my friends, can I pour you a coffee?” level of enough, and those times can feel so delicate, so precious and rare… I think because it has taken me so long to understand that they must be enjoyed with the same deep commitment to savoring them, lingering in that headspace, and revisiting the recollection again and again, as one might do for some grave challenge or anxiety-provoking moment, otherwise they seems to slip away. So, this morning, I’m here, enjoying now, enjoying me, and even enjoying my cold coffee in this chilly room, before I do something different – just to be sure I don’t forget how awesome this moment here also is. 🙂 Today, this is enough.

Merry Everything, everyone, and Happy All-of-whatever-the-fuck-this-is-right-here! May your day be merry and bright; it’s not holiday-dependent. Enjoy this moment, too. 😉