Archives for the month of: April, 2018

I’m awake. I don’t mean to be. I woke at 1:10 a.m. A great many of my friends would call 1:10 a.m. “evening”, and be unsurprised to be awake at all, and possibly working. For me, 1:10 a.m. on a Monday morning, before the Monday work day, is a less than ideal time to be awake.

I’m not stressing about being awake. This matters. I used to. I’d be awake, worried about getting enough rest, determined to go back to sleep, frustrated to fail to do so… I’d toss and turn, punch pillows into new dimensions of pillow-ness, get up for a drink of water, pace restlessly, sometime even reaching a point of being frustrated to tears about not sleeping as the minutes ticked away. It was fairly horrible. Then, I’d let being aware of having gone without sleep nag at me in the back of my thoughts all day, and yield to being cross about that in all my interactions with other people, too, until I finally went home at the end of a predictably shitty day. Yep. Thoroughly horrible. What a vile way to treat myself.

Why would I make those choices?? It took awhile to learn I was making choices, and that I had other choices available to make, if I cared to explore them.

It’s rare to find myself writing in the wee hours, these days. I woke and just wasn’t returning to sleep, and being disinclined to stress about that, at some point I got up for some meditation. Still not finding myself at all sleepy, and not interested in putting any effort into troubleshooting that, I chose between reading for a little while and checking to see if my Traveling Partner was awake. It was a nice opportunity to exchange a few words pleasantly. πŸ™‚ Then… I was sitting here… so…

The nicest part of this nocturnal adventure has been that as I’ve gotten nearer to this end bit here (you knew it would come eventually), I’ve become quite sleepy, and will head back to bed soon to finish the night. Convenient, and no stress. (I’d have been fine with it, if I hadn’t been able to return to sleep; I’d have started painting. No bad outcome.)

…Oh, wait, did I not say? This one’s about non-attachment, actually. Choices too, but one of those is the choice to let go of being stuck on whether or not sleep is attainable. I mean. Yeah – it’s that. Stop having it be so much the thing. If I can’t sleep, I let myself be okay with that as just … real. I find that once I’m not so attached to the outcome, I can act willfully – and in this particular case, that’ll mean going back to sleep. Sometimes it doesn’t. (My results vary.) By being okay with that too, I don’t endure the further stress of frustration. Not surprisingly, this resulted in being, generally, sleepless less often, for less time.

…I think I’ll try that sleeping thing again. πŸ™‚

I crashed early yesterday. I was tired, and also, sleepy. I figured it had to do with the combination of being sick recently, and also waking up before 3:00 a.m. I went to bed and thought nothing more of it, expecting to be awake very early. At almost precisely 8:00 a.m. this morning (about 12 hours later), I finally woke. It’s rare for me to sleep so deeply, so restfully, for so long.

I still haven’t made coffee. I’m so recently awake that I’m not quite awake enough to care to deal with that more complicated task. Writing is easy, and I’d left the computer logged in over night (fuck, how tired was I??). I am hoping that by sitting down to write, I can more easily prevent myself from randomly going off on some unscripted adventure – the result of not being awake, with car keys in my hand. (My driving and such are just fine before I’m fully awake; my decision-making, generally, is far less so – see “haven’t made coffee” as an example.)

I have the notion to drive to the coast. (I have other things I want, and have planned, to do.) It’s not very far. (It’s a bit more than 2 hours from here). It’s not that I have a plan or intent, or real something-or-other in mind that I’d like to do so see… (So, it’s not a legitimate desire to go there for some purpose, is what I’m saying.) I think I’d just like to have my morning coffee by the sea. (And it is a very bad idea for me to wait another two hours to have my god damned coffee! LOL) This? This right here? It’s a bit of my TBI in action; lack of impulse control. (As with many of the things associated with either my TBI and my c-PTSD, there are similar sorts of things that everyone may go through from time to time, though usually the magnitude of the challenge is quite different, and they are occasional experiences versus characteristics of every day life.)

Lack of impulse control used to run my life. It no longer does – at least, not full-time. It would be, probably, harmless for me to take the day, go the coast, come home in the evening – hell, it might be a lovely spring adventure, indeed, although I haven’t budgeted for it, or accounted for that use of my time in my planning for the week. I like a nice trip to the coast. It’s just not what I had planned, and amounts to undermining both my self-care, and my ability to get shit done that I would not want to be having to deal with immediately prior to heading down for a long weekend with my Traveling Partner, next weekend. So. No. Just “no”.

It’s bitter-sweet to tell myself “no”. Pretty much always. I’m both really good at it, and have done so many times to my detriment, building a sense of unworthiness and self-directed privation over time while others benefit from my nurturing and generosity, and I also suck at it completely, capitulating to whims that have cost me dearly with no legitimate benefit. Also a bunch of stuff in between. I practice hitting a sweet spot with my self-care, and personal decision-making about my life, that results in feeling supported (by my choices), nurtured (by being able to enjoy who I am), able to grow (through novelty and adventure), able to get to my goals for future me (by being discerning about what I allow from myself, and making skillful use of my resources)… you know, all the adulting things and stuff. It’s a lot of fucking practice. This morning, I admit, I cheated a bit by dropping my ass in a chair, fingers over a keyboard, eyes on a monitor; I likely won’t redirect my attention until I have finished writing. Which means I have bought myself the time required to fully wake up (meaning all cognitive functions are “on”), and do the best adulting I am able to do for myself. πŸ™‚

…I am now awake enough that coffee is most assuredly my priority. I way overslept when I usually have my first cup, and the resulting headache would be only an hour or two away, unless I make some fucking coffee pretty soon… What stopped me earlier? I feel puzzled about it now, but at the time it seemed so much more work than I wanted to do, and throwing on pants and sandals and driving up the road for a cup of coffee definitely seemed easier (isn’t, in fact, any easier at all). If I’d done that, I may or may not have actually stopped for coffee, and would almost certainly be on the road to… somewhere… by now! No telling what the impact would be to my time – or my budget.

Coffee now? That seems the thing. I’ll be right back… Here’s a great bass line while you wait…

…Aaand, I’m back. With coffee. I rediscover that the quality of coffee that generally results from effortless (or near effortless) coffee is reliably less good than coffee I really put my attention toward, with great care. LOL This cup? Drinkable… at best. That’s not going to stop me from drinking it; at this point, it’s medicinal. Funny/not funny. I’ll make a better cup later. When I’m more awake.

Mmmm… yeah. Coffee was definitely a better choice over driving to the coast before I was awake. LOL Here I am, lovely morning ahead of me, work laid out in the studio, most of the housework already handled… I don’t actually want to go anywhere. Not really. This is where I want to be; in the studio, enjoying a chill Sunday, painting – I’ve been looking forward to it all week. πŸ™‚ I found learning to discern between “things I actually want to do, no really” and “momentary whims driven by impulse that seem briefly very interesting” actually a rather difficult process. I still have to really work at it. It’s so easy to react. It’s so easy for impulse to take over. People seem, at least in my social network, personally, to place higher value on spontaneity than on planning, and to be far more interested in tales of whimsy and adventure than of plan, structure, and practice. Our attention spans have grown short with our increased use of devices. It is so easy to shirk the details of what must get done in pursuit of something shiny, and unexpectedly entertaining. The burden of deciding what I value, myself, is on me, though. The choice is my own. The verbs, too, are mine to labor over. The reasons have to be my own, as well, otherwise the will to stay the course is easily sacrificed in a moment of chaos, or whimsy. We become what we practice.

This morning I’ll be practicing the practices of a working artist, following a plan, and living the life I choose, quite willfully. If you need me, I’ll be in my studio…

It’s time to begin again.

I woke early this morning. Like… really awake. Rested. Alerted. Not sleeping. Inconveniently enough, at 2:17 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I wandered around the house in the darkness for a few minutes. Finally decided to go ahead and just be up and retrieved my glasses from the nightstand. I am up too early to take my morning medication. I make an iced coffee, black. I set a reminder about the medication.

I scroll through my “news feed” on Facebook and wonder if maybe Facebook should stop calling it that? I close the app, done with it, and committed to avoiding the old practice of just… endlessly scrolling. There’s nothing new to be gained in doing so, and much time to be lost. I sip my coffee. Cold, refreshing, served in a wine glass.

3:00 a.m.Β It has its own feel, doesn’t it? It does for me. The “quietest point in the night”. Stillness. Darkness. It’s rare to live with people who are awake at 3:00 am. I often am. I knew someone once who referred to it as “the bottom of the night”. I don’t remember who.

Other people feel differently about “the strange hour” of morning. Is it night? Is it morning? Should I be wakeful? Oh no, I’m not sleeping! I used to find maximum anxiety sleepless at 3:00 am… that was rather a while ago. Maybe a long time. These days… if I’m awake, I’m awake. I’ll sleep another time. Clearly not now. I sip my coffee in the studio and look over the work I have laid out, work in progress, the open sketchbook on the extended work surface created by storage cabinets filled with paintings. I smirk at my artistic productivity and feel a moment of sympathy for whoever has to deal with that when I’m gone. I make a note to keep better notes, to archive more meticulously, to practice better practices as an artist, not just as a human being. I am awake, being me, at 3:00 am. Who else would I be?

My open inbox on an alternate browser tab sits ready in case my Traveling Partner is also awake. It is undisturbed except for the trickle of spam emails from businesses and whatnot, arriving one by one during the wee hours. As they come in, conveniently one at a time, I unsubscribe. It seems too much effort when faced with a full inbox at 5:00 am on a week day. 3:00 am on a Saturday morning, one at a time? Ideal for unsubscribing (your results may vary).Β  (Turns out my Traveling Partner is awake, and he pings me back cute loving emoji; he’s working the trailing end of a Friday night gig, too busy for more, even at 3:00 a.m.)

This delicious quiet time took years to develop; it exists beyond the anxiety about sleeplessness, beyond the anxiety about “why am I awake?”, beyond the anxiety about “how will I go on?” and beyond the anxiety about all the things that plague a tired mind struggling to sleep at 3:00 am. This delicious gentle peaceful quiet time only exists because I created it for myself. Yep. You get to create this experience – choose it, build it, enjoy it – if you want it. Or, alternatively, you can also choose to dwell in anxiety in the wee hours. πŸ˜‰ Not my call to make for you.

There are other versions of 3:00 a.m., of course. The Party People know what I’m talking about. The performers know. Ravers. DJs. Bands. The graveyard workers know too. The breakfast cooks and bakers getting the day started before the dawn, they know. So many versions of 3:00 a.m. Sitting in the quiet darkness of suburbia, windows dark in the neighborhood, and only the eerie light of occasional streetlights glowing, marking the way for the stray early morning traveler, all I hear is quiet. The busy street at the end of my driveway is silent. It won’t last. The Saturday adventurers headed for fishing, hiking, camping or road trips, will begin to make their way up the road around 4:00 am. The community will slowly wake, a bit at a time, as the dawn unfolds. But right now? The stillness wraps me, effortlessly. I linger in it, luxuriously.

Coffee #1 for the day is almost gone. Coffee #2 is only a daydream, a hint of a plan, a thought that perhaps a lovely hot mug of coffee out on the deck, in the chill of pre-dawn darkness, listening to peeping frogs and early birds waking, would be a nice start to the Saturday. I laugh, realizing I started Saturday some time ago. Before 3:00 am. I hear the traffic begin and notice the time – 3:56 a.m.

It’s time to begin again. πŸ˜‰ It’s 4 in the morning.

Ready for it? Here it comes… The next opportunity to make a profound change, or improve something, or embrace something (someone?), or “make that next move”… coming up any second now… Watch for it…

Oh. Wait. I don’t mean to be a let down, or to mislead you… but… that’s literally every single moment, ever, and right now. Seriously. Don’t like your life? Make some different choices than you have been making. They don’t even have to be huge choices. I’m not talking about “leave-your-mate-quite-your-job-move-across-the-world” changes, here, although those exist, too; it’s the small every day changes. Does your quality of life leave something to be desired? Let’s just start there, with something small.

Look around you right now (I’ll wait).

Okay. Based on what you see, from your vantage point right now, what could you be doing differently that may improve the quality of your life? Just that. No need to overwhelm yourself, just some small thing. Maybe “there’s clothes all over my floor” becomes “I’ll stop dropping my clothes on the floor”, followed by “Oh, hey, I’ll just pick these up right now, too”? Small stuff. Not all of everything all at once. Just… something. Practice it until it becomes “natural” – and by “natural” I mean that it will, over time, become something that is just part of who you are, you just do it, and it doesn’t really occur to you not to. That’s a thing, and it really happens.

By the way – it already has. Take another look around you, and hold that thought; you practiced everything you do that results in the life you live, over time, until it became who you are. Yep. Dishes in the sink? Clothes on the floor? Books you never read? A job you hate? Even things like screaming tantrums and hormonal rages. Chronically shitty attitude about life? Yeah, you can practice a mood or state of mind, too, and omg that can feel so hard to change – I mean, aren’t you “just who you are”? Nope. Not a thing. We are a product of our choices over time, our environment, our genes – lots of things – but we can definitely change a lot of it. It’s our choices that make that possible. We’re highly adaptable. We become what we practice, even if that wasn’t who we were when we started our journey.

So… today? Today my devices don’t control what I’m doing with my time, and aren’t permitted to pull my focus from “real life”. I use them, they don’t use me. I’m not a life support system for a fucking phone. πŸ˜‰ That’s my change today – it’s actually pretty huge. I did okay with it yesterday. My notifications are off, and my ringer turned off during the work day, and when I’m driving (really anytime I don’t care to be interrupted by it). I don’t “need” Facebook, either, really, and the day went just fine setting firm limits with myself. I look at my phone when I need something from it. It’s not a tether that requires me to interact with the world on other people’s terms or timing. More practice today. πŸ™‚ Every day. All of the minutes. Nothing but practice. I expect to fail some. That’s okay. I’ll just start over. Endless new beginnings, and we definitely become what we practice. πŸ˜€

Language matters too; put the past in the past tense. Put the person you want most to be in the present tense – then be that. (It does still take practice.) Don’t be tempted to let others define you. Definitely “use your words”. πŸ˜‰

Time to begin again.

This morning, I got up, did some yoga, showered, dressed, made coffee, and sat down to write. Half an hour later, I found myself watching this video. Omg – I laughed and laughed. Then I made a frowny face at myself, because I’d been noodling around mindlessly on the internet for half an hour before video content provoked me to take yet another still closer look at what I am doing with my time.

Well, shit. Fuck you, Internet. We’ve got to come to an understanding. I have shit to do, and Adam Conover is right. Thanks, Adam. Clearly, I needed another reminder.

It’s not really the Internet that’s to blame, though. We’ve begun carrying a computer literally everywhere (so handy!) and rely on it for all sorts of communication and task management. Super useful, no doubt, but… I don’t know about you, but I do literally rely on my device these days. Perhaps “too much” (that’s pretty subjective). There are things about connectivity that I really appreciate, cherish, enjoy, and which enhance my quality of life… then there’s the time drain of mindless scrolling, checking, and clicking. That’s where the problem lies, for me. Content providers know it, too, and since their purpose is to engage me (repeatedly) and keep me engaged (as nearly continuously as possible) for profit (or data)… well… it’s on. I’ve got to take my time back.

Shit. More practices. More practicing. lol

I already do some things to limit mindless internet time-losses, but clearly not enough. It’s not the Internet that is “at fault” and the content providers are not “to blame” for my lack of attention span these days; it’s the mindlessness.

Here’s a question; is mindful internet use a thing? Can I learn to do that? I don’t have an answer to that question (yet), but it seems one worth asking. I’d certainly like to have my time, attention, and focus, back. I’d like to more skillfully curate the content that seeps into my brain through my faces holes. (Fuck, how much less angry would we all be if we a) didn’t continuously pump outrageous stimulus into our consciousness and b) gave our fucking brains a real rest now and then?)

My job is “connected”; much of what I do during a work day requires both basic connectivity and also browser-based tools. I’m skillful at remaining focused on work-tasks (and tools) on the clock. That’s a start. Discipline. Practice. Boundaries. Okay, I can do this, right? But… do what exactly? First I guess I need to have a clearer picture of which specific behaviors, moments, or circumstances are problematic, and address those quite directly…

Today I head back to the office with a question in my head. A purposeful undercurrent in my thinking that has the potential to offer me vast improvements in quality of life and available time for the things that matter most. By itself, this energizes me and fills me with purpose. These are feelings I enjoy. I pause to appreciate them, because savoring this moments is a worthy way to enjoy my time. (Far more so than scrolling through Facebook yet again!)

I’m concerned that “the damage is already done”, but aware that we become what we practice. This isn’t a hopeless scenario. I can craft so much of my consciousness – with practice, and incremental change over time. Today, I’ll go to work and return home, and make a point of being very mindful about my internet use – just today, very specifically seeking to understand more clearly the magnitude of the challenge ahead. πŸ™‚ Every journey needs a starting point. This path looks promising…

It’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚