Archives for the month of: July, 2017

I am brushing off my practice of not scrolling through Facebook, reading the news, or clicking shared links about events, and giving is a good restart. It messes with my head to be tossed into the festering pool of hate and despair that our political dialogue has become, and first thing in the morning I have little ability to protect myself from being sucked in, and reacting to it. So… Β there’s that. No more reading the news in the morning (again). It’s a poor practice for me as an individual.

This morning, I am thinking about the “no words” – boundary-setting language. I am thinking about what works, what doesn’t, and the how/why boundary setting can be so objectionable for some people that they immediately begin to rationalize, manipulate, or defy boundaries that have been set. I don’t know why I’m thinking about this, today; I woke up thinking about it. Well, sort of…

I didn’t sleep well. I was tired fairly early, went to bed “on time”, fell asleep promptly, but… it didn’t last. I woke around 2 am. I never slept particularly well after that, if I slept at all. I wasn’t distressed by my sleeplessness, that no longer plagues me in that fashion. There wasn’t any anxiety or stress over it, even knowing that if it persists for another day or two, I won’t be well-rested to make the 5 hour drive to see my Traveling Partner this weekend. I wasn’t laying awake in the dark thinking about boundary setting, though. Still… it’s what was on my mind as I woke. No idea why.

So I start the morning with my coffee, hot, and ideas to do with boundary setting swirling in my consciousness: agency, consent, saying “no”, saying “yes”, “reasonable” boundaries, consideration, respect… and on it goes. My thinking hasn’t really become anything especially share-worthy. My words this morning are unlikely to excite, inspire, or even to truly communicate. I am adrift in a sea of thoughts about boundaries, and boundary setting. There’s no stress over that, either, it’s rather a calm sea. πŸ™‚

I’ve been struck by the seeming general lack of consideration between and among individuals of late. It’s probably quite subjective. It may not be at all an accurate experience of life. It just seems to me that people I observe are much less considerate than they were rather recently ago…but… when I attempt to take time to prove that assumption for myself, it falls apart when I attempt to show things were previously actually any better. I still subjectively feel that something “has changed”. I don’t know that the change is anything that affects the world… it could just be me. I am, perhaps, more sensitive to inconsiderate behavior, regardless who it affects, than I once was? Consideration is a big deal for me, personally. It’s one of my “Big 5” relationship values – something I value so highly, I both seek to practice it reliably in every relationship and interaction, and also require it, reciprocally, from others. My idea of “decency”, “civility”, and basic good manners requires consideration be a default behavior. Yes, and there are verbs involved.

The sky has grown lighter, and the morning is on the other side of day break. I finish my coffee, and notice that the house has cooled off completely. The morning breezes have blown through the open windows. It’s forecasted to be very hot all week. I’ve been very grateful to have already moved. My last place, without any trees shading the west wall, a floorplan with limited air flow, and no AC, quickly got into triple digits indoors if the outdoor temperature exceeded 86 degrees (F) or so, and if temperatures remained high, it gradually worsened, and reached dangerously high indoor temperatures poorly suited to human life. No joke. (It wasn’t that bad before the property management company cut down all the trees.) The new place is quite different. It is both well-shaded, and also has AC – and a floorplan that allows air to move efficiently through the place. Very livable. I pause to really appreciate how nice this is… and remember that I will need to water the container garden on the deck.

I hear a bird or creature of some sort, just beyond view outside the window. Curiosity pulls me to my feet… and the day begins. πŸ™‚


Yesterday I hung a few paintings. I vacuumed, did laundry, did dishes, watered the garden on the deck, hung out a bit with a friend who made the trek out my way, figured out what will hang over the mantle and got it to the framer’s shop. It was a sweet, quiet weekend, and yesterday was every bit as lovely as the day before it.

By evening, I was sort of just chilling with my foot iced and elevated, and staring at the empty book shelves was nagging at me severely; it seemed inconsistent with the rest of the weekend that the bookshelves were empty. One by one I brought in boxes of books, and emptied them onto shelves… which resulted, more than anything else, in a mess of books out, just everywhere, in small stacks here and there, crowding onto shelves that suddenly appeared to be “the wrong shelf for that one” and now my previously tidy living room is messy with books. A lot of books. A tiny library of books gathered over a lifetime, filtered by moves and gift-giving, added to, subtracted from, and the result being about 500 or so books very precious to me worth dragging around over a lifetime of moving.

Books are heavy. By the end of the evening, which snuck up on me rather unexpectedly, I was really tired, and also a lot more moved in… well, aside from (because of?) the mess of books that I created. πŸ˜€ I guess next weekend I’ll be connecting the tv and stereo (maybe tonight)…

…It hits me that my weekend is over. Today is a work day. It’s a new work week. I take a moment to get my expectations and sensibilities in order; being late is still something that causes me rather a lot of stress, so avoiding that circumstance is desirable, generally. πŸ™‚ I look at the time. I look at the weather. I make a note to ensure the air conditioning is on, and that the thermostat is set to keep the house comfortable through the upcoming actual not-fucking-around-it’s-summer-for-real heat that is in the forecast for this week. 110 degrees (F)?? In Portland, Oregon? What the fuck is that about? I stick to a promise I made to myself yesterday, and quickly finish my coffee, and fill up my water bottle.

As I head back to my desk I notice a huge spider struggling in the sticky trap at the edge of the kitchen floor. Wow. A big one. There was one in the bathroom trap this morning, too… Curiosity gets to me. There really haven’t been many spiders on this move. Just 4 so far. (I’ve been keeping count, yes.) There are large ones, and some small ones, in every trap I placed over the weekend, after waking up with a single spider bite on Thursday morning. Yeesh. Ick. I sit down in my studio, paintings stacked everywhere (like spider condos…) and a grim chill runs down my spine; there are no sticky traps in here. (I ran out.) I find myself wondering how many spiders are watching me from crevices and corners right now…

I’ve creeped myself out completely now. So. Yeah. Great. It’s time for work. lol

… It’s time to start a new day. I can begin again. πŸ™‚

I woke up early. It makes sense. I went to bed early, too. I woke during the night. No surprise there, I often do. There’s no stress over any of that. My head is a jumble of random beginnings of thoughts seeking a narrative in which to play a role. My morning is a strange sequence of broken routines and randomness. I’m not concerned about that, either. Again and again, I pull myself back to this moment, here, now.

I sit down with my coffee, eventually, some two hours after waking (which is only one of many odd random bits of altered behavior that seems without cause or purpose).

The first track on my playlist right now is an old favorite. I want very much to play the bass line; I am not yet sufficiently skilled (and realistically, there is chance I never will be). I can try to play it, and fail. I could do that repeatedly. I could do that repeatedly until I am frustrated to the point of disliking what I am doing, although I am doing it because I enjoy it… a lot of people approaching learning something challenging in just that fashion.

I take another approach, instead of “trying”… I practice. That’s it. My approach to a lot of stuff I’m not good at, don’t yet know, haven’t yet found my way around, through, over, or into, or need to do and don’t quite “get”, yet. I practice. I practice the basic skills that would be required to do the thing. Too complicated? I break those things down further, to more elemental basics, until I can begin assembling simpler behavior or actions (or understandings) into more and more complex combinations, and – if all goes well – have learned to do the thing, have gained a new understanding, have completed some complicated task… whatever it is. Most things seem to work out pretty well this way, although it is not the fastest process by which to achieve success. It’s a bit like… a through hike on an unmarked trail, while all the way along observing what appears to be a freeway almost within reach, on the other side of a fence. I could waste time trying to reach that freeway, or I can walk on.

I still get where I’m going. That’s enough.

It may be an uphill climb, some days. I still practice taking time to enjoy the journey, and to look for beauty.

I enjoyed a strangely intimate and emotionally nurturing yesterday. I hung out with a dear friend of many years. We haven’t made time to hang out in about 4 years, and it was overdue, welcome, and comfortably intimate. She is someone I love, though we’ve never been lovers. We’re at very different places in life, and that has been an interesting characteristic of our friendship all along. She was the friend who said to me, so many years ago, “have you heard of ACT?”. Words that would later prove to be another piece to the puzzle of healing and learning to care for the woman in the mirror, because they would still be lingering in my consciousness on that grim December day when I began checking off my list of things to do before I would end my own life. That last item? Try therapy one more time. Her words were a hint at a new direction; “third wave cognitive behavior therapy”. There are several, some very rigid and formal, others less so.

Have we covered this before? Sure. It’s buried in the details, in much older posts. The eagerness of this new way to experience life, more authentically, with greater self-compassion, erupts in my words post after post after post. Life happens. I write about that too. Now and then I add something to The Reading List; my journey is paved with stepping-stones made of books, and practices, and the words of dear friends.

A current favorite track on my playlist feels timed for the moment. My heart fills with tenderness, and gratitude. I’m glad I stayed. Warm tears splash my glasses, and my shoulders shake with sobbing, and I’m just fucking crying now… I’m not unhappy. I’m relieved. I might have missed this precious moment right now. I might have missed yesterday… the lovely color work I got done on my hair… the phone call with my Traveling Partner later in the day… the conversations with friends. Fuck I am so glad I stayed around awhile longer… My heart aches with a powerful need to say “thank you” or.. “I’m sorry”… or… something. Β There are literally no words for this strange strong emotion of thankfulness I feel that I chose to live. I’m okay with that too. I’m not afraid to feel.

Another good morning on which to begin again. I don’t know that I’ve done anything that changes the world, but so much as changed about the woman in the mirror. πŸ™‚

I woke this morning one demon short in the pack that nips at my heels over the distance I’ve traveled in life. It was interesting to notice it, in such a commonplace way. I woke early, feeling well-rested, and it’s my day off.

Today is also pay-day, rent coming up at a new place (new landlord), a move recently completed, new and different bills, different due dates… I made coffee, sat down, and began updating my financial calendar, my budget, my financial planning software, doubling checking due dates, correcting those where needed, taking stock of debt, of assets, of the costs of this most recent move, of upcoming expenses… quite properly all the grown up things that have to do with taking care of life’s expenses. I sat back, some short time later, feeling satisfied that I had accounted for all the changes, and that I am ready to move forward, and on to restoring a safety net depleted by an ill-timed, unexpected move. I swallowed the last of my coffee feeling both content, and vaguely puzzled… Had I overlooked something? A bill? An account? A “hidden expense”? An urgent need? I made uncomfortable frowny faces at my monitor and chewed on my nails for a moment, before I realized what the uncomfortable emotional experience of feeling incomplete was all about; I am feeling the loss of financial anxiety. No panic. No stress. No fear. No freak out. No resistance to taking care of the details. No cockiness, either. No feeling of great relief to be finished with the task at hand. No catching my breath. No feeling of having gotten away with something because I survived a financially challenging life change. Just… nothing like that at all. A woman, a computer, a payday, and some banking software… No demon.

There’s a small soft surge of subtly congratulatory pride, a bit more joy than contentment, and a smile. This was a major demon for me. The ghost of future destitution, the panic of imminent financial free fall, the demon of “you will never have a financially stable life” and all the fear and anxiety and lack of preparation in life that went with that has apparently been put to rest. Overdue, honestly, it’s been a while now that I’ve been handling my own financial affairs with some skill, enough that I don’t need day-to-day fiduciary assistance. That’s been nice – but that didn’t stop the anxiety every time a bill came due, every time I got paid, every time I went anywhere or spent any money. That stayed with me. The anxiety had faded somewhat in these past two years, becoming a pale shadow of a former threat to my emotional resilience, but it was lurking there nonetheless, waiting to catch me unaware in some moment when I really needed to adult skillfully, waiting to prove I’m not strong enough, not good enough, not ready…

This morning? I’m enough. I’m ready. I’m taking care of the woman in the mirror. It’s pretty nice, and another moment of confirmation that incremental change over time really is a thing. One demon down. πŸ˜€

I try to take a sip from my empty cup of coffee. Right. Great metaphor, and a reminder that the next many weeks need to be lived with care, frugally, on a tighter budget, until that precious safety net is restored and I’m back in the black on my financial goals. No problem. Later today, I’ll eagerly sit down to review my planning after thinking some things over, and sorting out what matters most.

It’s a new dawn, a new day… and time to begin again.

There’s this place in life’s wilderness that we sometimes wander into, a deep mire of negativity, doubt, and conviction. The mire of our heart. Few of us would choose to live there, once we understand we don’t have to.

The weather in the mire is a permanent, sullen, bitter gray.

At the edge of the mire is a sunny meadow. The woman who lives in the meadow wears a smile. She has worked hard. She works still. It isn’t about wanting to work so hard, or enjoying the effort, or being without pain and fatigue, but she knows that this is her life, and the enjoyment to be had living in the sunshine, among the meadow flowers, is so much nicer than stagnating in the mire. She knows too well; she used to live deep in the mire, well beyond any place that sunshine could reach. The way out was tedious, the path stony and uncomfortable, the distance was great, and the decision to trudge on down that path one uncomfortable step at a time was its own torment. Her constant companions were doubt and despair, but life in the mire had already made those her companions…so… what was there to lose along the way? She was at least moving.

She slowly exchanged “can’t” for “can”. She began noticing sunrises. She began to consider whether she could feel better, more often, and began choosing to do so, unsure (at least initially) whether it really was a choice. (It is.)

Sunrises came and went and as she reached the edge of the mire, more often “can” than “can’t”, more often saying something uplifting to a passer-by than offering criticism, sarcasm, or a pessimistic observation, and even learning to treat herself more gently. It took years to get to the edge of the mire. It took years to see that indeed there is a meadow beyond the mire, and sunrises for days, and flowers in the garden of her heart. She smelled the flowers, gathered seeds, and began to tend her garden.

She looked back into the mire and saw a friend standing there, mired. Deeply committed to the muck, and the pain, and the disappointment, and the sorrow… only… none of those things were really there. From her vantage point, having stepped into the meadow and looking back into the darkness, it was so clear – there was nothing holding him back from leaving the mire at all. There never had been. Sure, there was a short distance of path to trudge across (how had that felt so infernally long?), and the way never had seemed so clear as looking back across it, but… it was the simplest of journey’s, once the journey had begun.

She called to her friend from the meadow, throwing armloads of flowers into the sunshine, casting their petals and fragrance into the breeze, but the breeze doesn’t reach the mire. “Come this way!” she called to her friend. He stood there, ever so motionless. “Look,” he replied “I can’t.” She sighed. Puzzled. “Oh hey!”, she called back “I thought I couldn’t, too – but I did, so I could, which means you can… if you do.” He looked frustrated, bitter and annoyed. “I said I can’t!” he confirmed rather angrily. “Nothing works for me. I have nothing and no one will help me. No one cares. No one will talk to me. Nothing works out.” She wept to discover she was “no one” and paced awhile back and forth along the edge of the mire, feeling sad in the sunshine.

Another sunrise came. Other sunrises will come. The woman in the meadow lives in the flowers she planted, smiling among the breezes and the birdsong. There is work involved in tending the garden of her heart. There are weeds to pull. There is always work maintaining all the sunshine. It’s not artificial light, and even the work puts a smile on her face. The mire grows more distant, and she plants more flowers hoping to make the path from the mire to the meadow easier to follow. Maybe someday the man in the mire will walk a different path.

She can see him there in the mire, any day she chooses to look back. He swears she has always lived in a meadow, and that her life has always been this flower-filled lovely garden. She shakes her head, frustrated and sad that he doesn’t see her pulling weeds, planting seeds, and laboring to create this beautiful meadow from the edges of the mire where she once lived. He refuses even to come to the edge, to see what she has done. He accuses her of luck, and she does not argue that she hasn’t been lucky, because she has; she got out of the mire, didn’t she?

Every mire can become a meadow. It requires only all of the verbs, most of the time, and incremental change. It requires effort and will, and a willingness to care. It requires walking on, and beginning again. It requires practice. It requires that we plant our own flowers along our own way, and also pause to appreciate them when they bloom.

A man who says “I’ll never amount to anything”, doesn’t. Most particularly if he truly believes that, and practices the practices it takes to hold himself back. We become what we practice. Mire or meadow, we make our choice, and harvest from the garden we plant.