Archives for the month of: December, 2019

Well. Here we are. 2019 is winding down, just hours from its commonplace celebratory finish. 2020 hasn’t yet raised itself up to become “real”. We exist in the space between, that place we call “now”. So temporary.

I sip my coffee and think my thoughts. I don’t assume I know anything at all about what 2020 may hold – why would I? Life is varied, the menu of possible human experiences is vast and complicated (and possibly in a different language…). This moment, and this coffee, right here, is enough for now. πŸ™‚

I woke ahead of the alarm this morning. I woke from dreams of something or another that had caused me some distress. It’s already gone now, the last remnants of recollection have already dissipated. All that was actually required for that result was to get up, and do some very routine things, in a very routine way, focused entirely on those routine actions in the moment. Once completed, those actions and my presence with them in those moments, cleared my consciousness of any notable distress from my dreams, including the memory of the content of those dreams, leaving behind only the most vague awareness that I’d had, perhaps, “some bad dreams”. I count this as an achievement. There was a time when waking from bad dreams would often wreck my emotional balance for hours, sometimes days.

Celebrating small successes is a pleasant start to New Year’s Eve day. πŸ™‚ I definitely recommend it. πŸ˜€

This holiday is the end to (my notion of) the winter holiday season. Tomorrow, I’ll celebrate the new year with rituals and routines of cleaning things up and putting things away. The tree will come down, and the ornaments will be cherished one last time before being boxed up safely and put away for another year. I’ll do some laundry, probably. Things like that. Bringing order to chaos is a pleasant start to a new year. Certainly, it’s enough.

The other thing I do in celebration of a new year, is to take an hour of time for myself, to meditate, to reflect on the year past, to reset goals, plans, and re-calibrate expectations that linger. It’s a time to take a look at the woman in the mirror, and ask some hard questions about where she’s headed. I value this time, and have taken it for myself for many years. It is a practice I encourage. Far too many people get to the end of a year and find they “just don’t have any time for” themselves. How ridiculous is that? Don’t forget to make time for your needs, and your plans, your dreams, all of that; you only get to walk your own path. Be sure the path you are choosing to walk is truly yours. πŸ™‚

…The last blog post of 2019. I’ve been far less “reliable” about writing this year, than in the years past (since I started this blog, I mean). Only 252 posts this year, clearly I’ve taken some time for myself this year. πŸ™‚

…So…yeah. 2020? Almost time to begin again. πŸ˜€

Whether 2019 was a good year for you or a seemingly endless series of trials and hardships, it is almost over. A brand new year will unfold ahead of us, and we’ll experience a new sequence of events, in order, by day and date, moment by moment, and subsequently, about 365 days farther along still, the survivors will be beginning yet again. So it goes.

2019 has been an interesting year. I don’t guess there’s any point to breaking it down in further detail; we were all there, each with our own perspective, our own “highlights reel”, our own chaos and damage. We all, generally, did our best with what we had as resources to work with, and our limited knowledge yielded results that varied. Mistakes were made. Some regrettable words were spoken. We didn’t always make our best choices. No gods here… and yet… we each have that divine spark within ourselves, and a chance at greatness. We get so many opportunities to do better, to be that person we most want to be. πŸ™‚ And here it is, a solidly excellent time to begin again…

…Realistically, most of us will make grand plans build on visions of change, our inspiration and motivation both pinned to a date on the calendar. :-\ How well we do, how close we come to achieving our goals, relies heavily on what we’ve already done to ready ourselves for change, and the long journey in pursuit of our dreams. What have you been practicing? Do you have the resilience to pick yourself up and begin again…and again… and again… and again… until you succeed? Even the practices take practice – how much more practice is involved once you’ve built all those healthy practices? Yep. More.

I’m not saying any of this to be discouraging. Just pointing out what has become so obvious; there are a ton of verbs involved, and results may vary. πŸ™‚ It always looks easier in the commercials. πŸ˜‰

…Still, if you want it so badly that you’re willing to do the work, the practice, the repetition, the continued attempts after multiple failures, rebuilding yourself in the image you have chosen… you’ll totally get there. Time is a factor. Will is a factor. You only have so much of either. Choose wisely… and good luck. I mean that quite sincerely; you have my well-wishes that the year to come takes you directly to the places you most want to be in life. There is going to be quite a bit of effort involved, no reason to pile discouragement on top of anticipated effort. You’ve got this, if you want to work for it. πŸ™‚

…Probably. I mean… realistically, it’s not 100% of always entirely in our own hands, how things turn out in life. I’ve got to at least acknowledge that, right? Still… most of the journey, as we make our way, is within our hands to some extent (even how we deal with obstacles on our path). “Choose wisely” seems like good practical advice. I’d add “don’t take anything personally” to that, and maybe follow up with a reminder that “life is what we make of it”, although that last, while true in large part, is not very helpful when things are going poorly, at all. I’m just saying, we each have choices (so many!). Make some.

Later I’ll head to the office, to work one of two remaining work shifts in 2019. I’ll run an errand. Get some things done. The clock will continue to tick toward 2020. What a complex experience this year has been. I sip my coffee and give the year some thought, adding context here and there, dredging up delightful memories, wracking my consciousness with some that are less idyllic or joyful – still real, still part of my journey. I smile; so many of these memories were made with the help of my Traveling Partner, part of a shared journey of love – I’m grateful for that, and feeling fairly fortunate.

I hear my partner wake, beyond the door to my studio. Coffee together in the morning? Yes, please! It’s a lovely way to begin again. πŸ™‚

I don’t generally get so many opportunities to simply relax in the good company of my Traveling Partner. The opportunities we do get don’t always work out ideally well (both of us being quite human, and dealing both with our own “baggage” and our own issues with being in physical pain). It’s been an extraordinary holiday season, filled with connected hang out time, together, enjoying favored content from here and there, relaxing, playing games, making conversation about topics of mutual (or separate) interest, and because it isn’t reliably an everyday experience, I’ve embraced it without any guilt or reservations about how I am spending my time – even when doing so may subtly undermine long-standing practices that support emotional wellness (like meditating), or “press pause” on routines and practices that create the foundation of this life that has become commonly characterized by contentment. πŸ™‚ So… without apology or excuse, I’m not writing as often, and I’m fully living in this moment much more, at least for the duration of the holiday season. It’s quite nice, and I am making a point to savor the opportunity, the experiences, and the moment-to-moment joy of being so well-loved, and having the chance to love so deeply, myself.

Today is a pleasant Saturday, in the middle of a long weekend (for me), planned well in advance as part of my holiday. My Traveling Partner and I are both in pain, today. It happens. No drama or bullshit associated with that; we’re both very much aware of each other’s physical limits and concerns, and we cherish each other’s efforts, and the shared will to explore joy in spite of pain. It is characteristic of this partnership that we do so, generally. Worth the effort (and yes, there is reliably effort involved).

Note to self: it’s worthwhile to make an effort at the things that you’ve determined matter most. Your results may vary, but the outcomes will prove to be reliably better than not making the effort. Sooner or later, effort goes into something – what better choice than to make that effort in support of the life you most want to live, the experiences you most want to have, or becoming the person you most want to be? Choices. (And verbs.)

I smile and think of cruise brochures, plans for our shared future, life right now, and all the things that have lead to this moment, here, which leads on to those moments as yet unexperienced. I think about potential life-style changes, wellness, and longevity. I pause a moment to celebrate this experience of being partnered with a human being I truly want to spend my life with.

The smallest tokens of lasting affection can feel huge.

Giftmas has come and gone. It was lovely. Warm. Joyful. Loving. A delightful holiday. Precious mementos will remind me for some time to come just how exceptional this holiday was. I hope never to forget any detail, but… “always” and “never” aren’t concepts I feel comfortable investing emotional energy in. lol I’m content to smile when I do remember, and let the warmth of being well-loved wash over me, in that moment of recollection. Good memories. πŸ˜€

I sit quietly for a moment. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I feel the pain… here. Over here. That one, there, too. This newer one. This one that has lingered far too long. This one that is so well-understood. That one, that I just don’t understand. I let each one go; recognized, accepted, and where possible, attended to as skillfully as I am able to do. Another breath. Another exhalation. A sip of water. A correction in seated posture. Moments tick by.

“This, too, shall pass.” Even pain is mostly fairly temporary, inasmuch as it is not truly unfailingly continuous. It matters to savor those moments in which pain is lessened, or isn’t there at all; doing so reduces the likelihood of becoming mired in an implicit experience of “always” hurting. “Always” isn’t very common. Neither is “never”. I smile and let them both go. They’re oftenΒ  just words for a more nuanced experience that takes ever so many more words to describe accurately. “Often” is useful, but less than satisfying when describing the experience of pain; I want the emphasis that is associated with “always”. So human.

…Being in pain is human, too. Way more people spend a lot of time in pain than people around them seem to recognize. Don’t be a dick to people; maybe they’re in pain. Maybe it would be more helpful to be kind, to listen deeply, and to refrain from taking people’s crossness or irritability at all personally? We are each having our own experience. πŸ™‚

The new year (2020, in this case) is approaching quickly. Just days away, now. I’m eager to embrace a quiet holiday, filled with meditation, and forward-looking thoughts. A refresh of the budget seems in order. A new “map” of the future, too, perhaps? An update to my “life in weeks” chart, also; it’s been an eventful year. Perspective on it is worthwhile. It’s time to contemplate what to keep – and what to cast aside. Time to consider what matters most, and commit to the effort to bring more of that into my life, and to the effort to stay focused and purposeful, over time.

What about you? What matters most? Where are you headed in life? What will you choose to do about any of that? (So many choices!!)

…It’s already time to begin again. πŸ˜‰

 

Merry Giftmas, one and all. πŸ™‚ I hope your holiday shines brightly, and is filled with warmth and love. Presents are nice, sure, but presence is what we’re really after, isn’t it? πŸ˜€ I hope you spend the holiday with those you love most, and who love you in return.

Just in case things skid sideways unexpectedly casting a dramatic shadow over your festivities, here are some thoughts:

  1. Breathe
  2. Don’t forget about self-care
  3. Listen deeply (maybe more often than you “hold that thought” to rush into a reaction or reply to a perceived error; we’re each having our own experience)
  4. We’re each having our own experience (that seems worth saying twice)
  5. Meditation helps
  6. Seriously, take a step back, get a few minutes of quiet time for you, and meditate πŸ™‚
  7. If you’ve got to make an assumption, begin with assuming positive intentions
  8. Let small shit go
  9. Savor the connected, beautiful moments of holiday charm, however small, however brief; filling our hearts with our best moments is a very good way to address the less ideal moments
  10. Put love first

Anyway – I hope you have a lovely holiday, filled with laughter, and joy, and all the most wonderful things about the holidays (whether you are with friends, family, or alone and far away).

…I’ll be home for Giftmas…

I’m finishing a short work shift, today, on Giftmas Eve. My thoughts (and heart) are with my Traveling Partner, waiting for me at home. The tree twinkles merrily, there, and I’m eager to find out if I made Santa’s “nice” list this year… pretty sure I did… I’ve been very good, this year. πŸ˜€

Treat yourself well. Treat others well. Your results will no doubt vary (mine, too) – it’s fortunate we can begin again. πŸ˜€

It’s been a wonderful weekend with much to celebrate and very little stress. πŸ™‚ Life doesn’t always hand out such lovely weekends, uninterrupted by bullshit and drama, characterized by laughter and love; warmth and affection saturated each welcome moment. It was beautiful. I’m sipping my coffee and smiling, and taking time for gratitude. I can even pin-point what made this particular weekend so incredibly delightful; kind words.

It is not an exaggeration to observe that when most people talk about giving “feedback”, they are talking about negative feedback. Let’s be real about that; negative feedback can also, generally, be called “criticism”, and being criticized, especially if it is a regular thing, is not pleasant. It’s quite difficult to give negative feedback in an encouraging way that lifts someone up, and promotes improvement and positive change. It fairly commonly feels like a beat-down, discouraging, punishing, and devaluing. Yes, even when well-intentioned, and particularly if there is no balancing positive feedback or encouragement offered. Negative feedback is hard to do skillfully, and can be damaging.

You know what isn’t all that difficult? Positive feedback – encouragement. You know what is also fairly easy to do skillfully, and rarely causes damage? Kind words. Yep. Negative feedback isn’t nearly as effective, but it does provide a certain something for the giver-of-feedback (that isn’t at all needed by the person receiving it); the satisfaction of insisting on being heard. Many people avoid clearly understanding what the negative feedback experience feels like for the recipient – until they are, themselves, receiving it. It’s a shame, because positive feedback, encouragement, and kind words, given honestly, and from an authentic place, work in the most remarkable way to actually change behavior over time. Seriously.

(No one is talking about “white lies” here! Or lies at all.)

The key to both positive and negative feedback is the honesty and authenticity, but without kindness and encouragement, negative feedback is often just… mean. Whether we intend it that way or not. It’s just that no one likes being criticized. Feeling rejected actually causes an experience similar to physical pain. It does not matter in the least whether we are “right”; negative feedback stings a little every time, and if it comes as a barrage of nagging and complaints, all the positive intentions in the world won’t ensure the person we are speaking to thinks of it as “helpful” or “welcome” or will recognize that we are well-intentioned, at all. It’s often what comes to our attention most commonly, and most quickly, though – all those things we see as “could have been done better”. We notice that immediately. We are irritated by things that aren’t “right”. We speak up quickly to offer “feedback” – or feel like we’re not being “heard”.

Kindness does take a bit more effort; it’s important to actually notice real things that please, impress, or support us, or which we want to acknowledge and reinforce. That means actually actively paying attention to that person we care enough about to give feedback to. It also means understanding what is important to us, and being very aware of words and actions that support what we see as something that “matters”. Where negative feedback has it’s own notification system in place to let us know when something isn’t quite right, positive reinforcement doesn’t seem to do that, and puts the burden of awareness in our relationships where it belongs; it our here and now, a practice we practice. Can you even count the number of kind things, encouraging words, that you’ve said to your partner or a dear friend in the past 24 hours? If you’re like most people, that number is pretty low, most of the time, and the number of criticisms, “negative feedback”, and back-handed compliments are probably pretty high. It’s a pretty sad state of things considering that there is science to support the need for healthy relationships to have a high ration of positive to negative interactions. Just saying. Do better. Be kind. Be present. Be encouraging. πŸ˜‰ Have pleasant weekends. πŸ˜€

…Now, having said that, it’s also a real thing that if we’re not playing the game of life by the same rules, within our relationships, it can get weird and unpleasant very quickly when we make a change in our behavior of this sort. If a person living in the context of a very negative, sarcastic, gas-lighting relationship starts trying to embrace positive feedback and kindness, it’s not going to “fix” the other person, or the relationship. It’s just not. (I’m not saying negative feedback and criticism are therefore the way to go; sometimes the way ahead isn’t easy, and a few small changes just aren’t adequate to put things right, generally.) What I am saying is that otherwise generally emotionally healthy people do well to treat each other truly well, placing more emphasis and priority on positive feedback, encouragement, and kind words, than on negative feedback.

This past weekend really proved that idea for me. The once or twice I was offered any sort of negative feedback in the moment completely fades from my recollection. I remember the points being made, and the suggestions, but not the negative words or moments. What I remember most about the weekend was the kindness, the compliments, the encouragement, the supportiveness, the listening, the connectedness, the shared humor… it was a wonderful weekend. I felt valued, appreciated, and loved. Words do matter. Assumptions do matter. How we approach each other as human beings does matter. All weekend long I’ve felt the heartbeat of this partnership in a warm, positive way, wrapped in love and held in high regard. So much kindness and tenderness. πŸ™‚

There are subtleties to consider. The difference between “a helpful suggestion” and “unwelcome criticism” is in things like tone, context, and intention; it’s super hard to make useful “rules” about how to do that skillfully, that I could share and someone else could make use of. I am painfully aware of the complexities and required nuance – I’m learning as I go, myself. (Sorry for the extra “homework”!)

Empty compliments are hollow, and don’t work as positive feedback. Content, authenticity, honesty, these things matter. The moment matters. The choice of words matters. Tone of voice matters. Sincerity matters (we can all hear a passive-aggressive “tone”, or sarcasm.) It does take some practice, particularly if we’ve tended to be very negative in our life (possibly framing our choice to be so as “taking care of myself” “expressing my needs” or “setting boundaries”). If you find yourself reading these words thinking “well, except for so-and-so, because I literally have nothing good to say to them”, well, now you’re in “if you can’t say something nice…” territory. Seems unlikely that any one individual could be someone with literally no redeeming qualities of any kind worth reinforcing or encouraging… certainly seems unlikely you’d have chosen to marry such a person, or build a life with them, or develop a deep friendship with someone like that, right? So, start where that positive feedback and those encouraging kind words will make the most profound difference; at home. This holiday season, don’t be a dick. πŸ™‚ Tell the people who matter to you that they do matter. Say nice things more often than you criticize or “correct” them. Trust me; it’s painless to be nice. πŸ˜‰

…And if you just have to offer up a “correction” or “criticism”, definitely try to at least soften your tone! Sounding angry or irritable is real communication of emotions. It’s helpful to be at least aware that the emotional experience we’re having is our own, and to acknowledge that honestly and not try to put it on the person we’re talking to in some kind of blame-laying way. πŸ™‚

Are you afraid of fucking this up? Are you worried about “being wrong” or “taken the wrong way”? I get it. Change – however necessary, or desirable, can be hard. Fortunately, there are a ton of opportunities to begin again. Go ahead – take a chance on being kind to people you care about. Hell, it’s the holiday season, be kind to everyone, as though each person you meet is human, and really matters. (They are, and do.) If you don’t like who you become, the new year is here, soon enough, and you can begin again, again. πŸ˜€