Archives for the month of: July, 2017

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.

Peculiar morning. I woke from a sound sleep to the message from my Traveling Partner letting me know he is safely home. I felt okay when I woke… not “merry” or overly enthused, but calm and content, certainly. My emotions have shifted and boiled up since then, mixing, shifting, seeming detached from any specific circumstances. Moments of deep love, poignant moments of almost-grief, a lingering vague sadness, a certain tinge of disappointed bitterness with edges gilded in cynicism – variety, this morning, a sampler of feelings lacking in context. No point to be made. No knowledge to be gained. Random emotions in the hours after waking, only.

Last year a morning like this would drive me to my meditation cushion, seeking solace and self-soothing. Two years ago, maybe three, I’d have been feeling low over it, pensive and moody, wondering “what it all means”, but diligently avoiding becoming fused with the emotions, and putting a lot of effort into being present in the moment. 5 years ago, a morning like this one would have found me weeping quietly behind a closed door, frightened of shadows, certain there was no emotionally safe place to turn, filled with despair, and enraged that “it’s all happening again and I can’t make it stop!!” – and not sure what exactly I meant by any of that.

This morning I am a calm observer of my emotions as they ebb and flow, passing through me, sweeping over me, arriving, and then also departing. “This too shall pass” is pretty much approximately always a true statement, whatever the circumstances, if only I can allow it to be so. I open windows to let in the breezes. I enjoy my coffee as day begins to break. I watch dawn arrive from the deck, bare feet on wood, the hair on my arms raised in the pre-dawn chill. I meditate. I have my oatmeal for breakfast. I do my physical therapy stuff. I water the patio garden as the sky begins to lighten from pale to more obviously blue. This is my life, emotions and all. I am okay with that, and with them.

It’s a strangely emotional morning, though. No obvious cause and effect – that’s hard for me, because as human primates are often inclined to do, I really want my emotions to “make sense”, even though “making sense” and being “reasonable” are not their role. I am human, very, and both emotion and reason are part of that experience. I find that some of the power of emotional experiences is lost if I force some kind of rationalized context on them, instead of simply feeling my feelings. So this morning I am feeling things. I wasn’t expecting such a morning, or planning on it, and I don’t know where it may lead or what the day looks like if filled with such experiences.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details

I hear vehicles passing by. Some slow down near the cross-street nearest my driveway. My heart jumps each time – is it him? Each time, I feel that it could be my Traveling Partner. My emotions reach my consciousness first. Reason politely points out that although it is physically within the realm of possibilities that he could indeed have immediately gone from his RV to the SUV and headed this way, arriving here sometime around now-ish, it’s really not likely – he just finished driving hundreds of miles through the night, arrived home safely – and tired – and more probably is now soundly asleep. That’s “reasonable”. Reason gets to the party a little later than emotion does. How much fucking drama does that timing cause humanity day-to-day? I smile and sip my coffee. It’s nice to have the practical example in the moment.

Here. Now.

Pink clouds against a blue sky as the sun begins to edge over the unseen horizon. I know the sun is there, though I can’t see it. Peering at my life through my emotions is a little like that, this morning; I have reason, waiting in the background like that unseen sunrise, but for now what I see are those pink clouds of emotion, reflecting facets of what is, all colored up and altered, changing with the light as the sun does rise. Eventually, day light. Eventually, emotion and reason in balance, awake, and aware.

Strange morning. I have time for another cup of coffee. I have time to begin again.

Yesterday? Work, home, dinner, some chill time, and positioning bookcases. The day felt comfortably normal, comfortably routine. I still can’t quite find my way around in the dark here. The dimensions of the spaces are different (like the width of the hallway), in addition to the very different floorplan, generally. I struggled to fall asleep, still learning “new noises” – some of which sound very much as though they are inside the house (they aren’t, I checked).  Feeling really settled comes with time, and the unpacking of books, and the hanging of paintings, and the mental cataloging of noises. I remind myself there is no rush; I live here.

My commute was pleasant, yesterday. It’s an improvement over the old one, even if I take public transportation, which I did. There is a nearby-ish “park and ride”, and I am taking advantage of it to continue to let my foot heal. The bus I take is a straight shot to the office, no transfers, no delays, frequent service. Convenient. Shorter than the old commute, if measured in minutes. I am grateful to have the car, and can choose to use it.

I smile, thinking of my Traveling Partner, and his assurances that I certainly need the car more than he does, right now, and letting me have it for some while. The sky lightens beyond my window, and I wonder where he is this morning, and whether he is also looking at the morning sky.

This morning is the start of another day of “the new normal”. The morning traffic just outside my window, is the start of noisy, busy, Tuesday morning commuter traffic. I chuckle thinking about how much I bitched about the ceaseless quiet roar of distant traffic at #59… somehow it still managed to wear on my nerves more than the louder, nearer, traffic does here. Was it the broad expanse of meadow and marsh that made it such an affront to my senses? Or was it the lack of pauses, the lack of quiet even in the wee hours? I feel generally calmer here (so far). Planes overhead. Cars. Trucks. Buses. Cement mixers. Delivery vans. None of that drowns out the peeping tree frogs, chirping and singing of the birds in the trees alongside the deck, or the vocalizations of the squirrels and chipmunks. It’s lovely here, in spite of the traffic, in spite of the aircraft occasionally overhead, and even in spite of not being entirely moved in quite yet. (I’m down to the bit I can take my time with, and I’ll be more satisfied with the aesthetic outcome if I do take my time with it.)

Tuesday, huh? Precedes Wednesdays, generally. This week, that means another work day. I’ve grown rather accustomed to 3 day work days and 4 day weekends. lol Definitely a schedule I could enjoy long-term. 🙂 This week it’s back to full length work weeks, and Thursday feels rather far away.

A new normal will ideally include all of the best self-care practices that nurture this fragile vessel, and support an active life. It’ll need continuation of the practices that support my emotional and mental wellness, too. I guess I’ll get on with that… it’s a lovely morning to take a seat on my meditation cushion, looking out a different window, into a different morning view.

Taking care of me. I see changes to make based on the aesthetics of the view.

It’s a lovely morning to begin again.

I got home last night and stepped across the threshold still feeling a fairly firm commitment to work on my list of things to do. Moving in isn’t completed, really, until everything on the list is done. I sat and stared blankly at that list for a while. I had a shower. I came back to the list. I sat quietly awhile longer.

I mostly just sat quietly for rather a long while. I wasn’t even meditating, just… sitting. I found myself so disinclined to actually do anything that it was a major effort to figure out salad and a glass of water. It felt like real work to write an email to a dear friend. I did more sitting.

At some point it dawned on me (because even my thinking felt seriously slowed down) that I must actually just be that tired. As in, needing rest. Real rest. Not “failed action” or succumbing to exhaustion, but actual self-care-involving real legitimate uncompromised rest.

My evening became a lavish delight of the restful variety; I relaxed and looked out over the deck from my air conditioned vantage point. I watched fish swim in the aquarium. I read awhile – a favorite fiction novel that I can quite contentedly pick up or put down any time, at any point in the story, and enjoy myself quite thoroughly. Even meditation seemed like more effort than I could comfortably manage, yesterday evening, so I simply took gentle care of this fragile vessel and enjoyed a quiet evening of… quiet. I even went to bed a little early. It is telling of how much I did need some real rest that I fell asleep almost immediately, in spite of the earliness of the hour, and slept straight through to my alarm clock going off in the morning, quite dreamlessly.

At some point, much earlier in the day yesterday, I enjoyed a long phone call with my Traveling Partner. He’ll be heading home soon, and I will see him, and he will see the new place, and then –  far sooner than ideal, I’m sure – he’ll head out for the next thing out there on the future’s horizon. I’m eager to see him. Hell, I’m excited for him about the next adventure, too, although it will take him some distance away for a time. Neither the distance nor the time seem to undermine our connection. (There are verbs involved there, of course, and practices for maintaining emotional intimacy, managing self-care, and avoiding needless drama – and certainly, results vary from time to time, but… Love. My perspective is that loving is a verb, not a gift to be received, or expected, nor a resource to be mined, or wasted – everyone involved has to do the verbs, or Love withers, unsupported, un-nourished.) It will be a fun homecoming; I am excited to show him around the new place.

I sip my coffee, feeling the tug of a contented smile pulling on my face. Monday morning, the sky becoming light with a new day, just beyond the hedge. Today I’ll try the bus commute on for size. I haven’t yet switched over to a parking pass, still looking at my budget and making the necessary decisions about my commute – both the time and the money are factors to consider, and ease, and convenience, and reliability, and whether it will be miserable, comfortable, or fun. This is my life. Those details matter.  My Traveling Partner was right, though (as if he’s not right often enough!); I am pleased to have the choices in front of me, and it has been incredibly helpful to have the car – especially after I broke my foot! lol

I look around the studio at the managed chaos and disarray – it’s hardly a space I could paint in, as it is. There are paintings stacked everywhere, mostly by size. The hardest part of moving in is hanging art; every place is different, and wants different things on the walls. Each installation is new, and individual. The window looks out on the dawn, and reflects back at me those stacks of paintings, as if to suggest the future is just beyond those stacks of paintings that are waiting to be hung, stored, or sold. It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new life for me… and I’m feeling good.

“Beauty is everywhere” quote and photo by Thomas Harwood, 2017

Well… I suppose it is time to let new routines become old routines, and for life to “get back to normal”, whatever that is going to be, here in this new place. I have lived here now for fully 9 days. I sip my coffee, very early, before dawn, on a Sunday work day. It is so quiet here. It is quieter, at least before dawn on a Sunday, than the place I just moved out of. There is no traffic at all at this hour. All is still, and calm, and yes, eerily quiet. I scratch my arm absent-mindedly, I notice it seems quite loud in the stillness of this quiet room.

Yesterday was when I first noticed the shift in focus from moving to living, and realized that the move, as a thing all its own, is over. There’s plenty more to do, and the garage has quite a few unopened boxes remaining to be unpacked, but I really do live here now, and these things can be done over time. The big pieces of the puzzle are all in place. Life can be what it is. The rest of the unpacking, like dealing with any sort of baggage, is just part of living life. It’s just unpacking baggage. 🙂

I yawn and stretch. I sip my coffee. This is morning, here. It’s not so different than morning, for me, anywhere. I take my time with it. I sip coffee. I write. I contemplate my mortality. I consider my human legacy as an individual. I wonder where wisdom comes from. I watch a couple exciting movie trailers. I listen to the morning traffic begin, like a new section of the orchestra beginning to play in some grand symphony of noise. Life.

I’ll see my Traveling Partner soon. He’s been away a while. I am eager to hear his tales of adventure, and eager to share my own (somewhat less adventurous) tales. I will get his thoughts on placement of paintings, and his solutions for dark hallways. We will share the warmth of our embraces, and hear each other’s hearts beat. I will welcome him to this new place. 🙂

This feels like “the first day back to work” after a long time away. I haven’t been “away” at all, just took a couple long weekends. It’ll be the first work week since my thoughts became distracted with an imminent (then an in-progress) move, though. It’s been just one day more than a month since I gave my notice, and only a day or two more that moving has filled my thoughts. Wow. That happened fast. lol  This week, I’m just going to work, coming home, doing the things – no distractions. 🙂 It feels good.

I smile contentedly. Filling my awareness with birdsong and my feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. This was a singularly successful move. I make a point of taking time to appreciate how well it went. A good starting point for another of life’s journeys. I finish my coffee. It’s time to begin again. 🙂