Archives for the month of: December, 2022

I was once a compulsive diarist. I wrote page after page of prose, poetry, commentary, peculiar emotional screeds, and quite a bit of inappropriate this-n-that. I began writing sometime in the 4th grade.

My first journal was in a blank book like this, that I nicked from my Dad’s workbench in the basement.

I wrote compulsively. I wrote most days – for years. When I left for the Army, I left my journals (those that I had, which were of my high school years) in a box, hoping they would be held for me, or sent along once I was at my duty station. Those are now lost volumes. The handful of volumes I wrote during the years between 4th grade (I’d have been… 9) and the start of high school (when I was 14) are also “lost volumes”. I’d dearly like to have those once again; they would span the “before and after” period of significant head trauma. (Who was I before that injury??)

My violent first marriage doesn’t have much writing in it, and what writing I did do, lived in volumes “safely” stored in safety deposit boxes I didn’t keep (in some cases forgot about, in others did not or could not maintain) – or hidden (and subsequently lost somewhere in my shitty memory). Those are also lost. (Well, except for one very peculiar volume that I’ve strangely held onto – that’s a story for another time.)

What remains are the volumes I wrote from the very afternoon I left my violent first marriage (finally), in 1995, until I realized my writing was undermining my emotional wellness (years later, after I returned to therapy to save my life), in 2013 (ish?). There are 916 weeks in the timeframe I know I was writing (and I have these volumes). 75 volumes, I counted. More than 15,000 pages of intimate uncensored (sometimes deceitful, sometimes incoherent) personal writing detailing my subjective experience of the events of my life in those years (and what I observed of the lives of many close to me, too). My 30s. My 40s. A lifetime spanning 3 very different career fields , many different jobs, 5 different addresses, 8 cats, 3 significant relationships, quite a few lovers, and numerous tales told – and I’m no longer at all certain this clutter of words needs to live on in durable media. I’m fairly certain it does not. I’m attached to the idea of the volumes, the legacy of so many words, but… I don’t read them. I don’t want to. I don’t hold on to them with purpose. They just sit in a bin, gathering dust and being “clutter”. I have occasionally used them to look up some specific event to clarify a recollection. That’s been a rare thing.

I had an idea about how best to deal with all these journals, that doesn’t amount to “put them in a bin in the attic crawlspace”, because honestly, why am I storing their physical forms now? SO. I’ve decided to sort them out, photograph the assorted volumes, and maybe take some shots of especially good or interesting writing, or the details of some important moment that lingers in my memory (or doesn’t). I’d like to preserve the poetry that may have been written somewhere in these volumes. I’d like to save original sketches that may be lurking there. There’s no reason to keep the totality of this body of work though, and there are quite a few reasons to let it go. Once I’ve gotten a few pictures – so that I have the lasting memory that these did exist, and what they looked like, and their very vastness of thought – I’ll destroy them. Shred the pages. Dispose of the covers (or give them away to be repurposed, perhaps).

Today, on this last day of 2022, I’m getting started on it…

Something like 20 years of living… in so many words.

It’s been a peculiar day, flipping through these volumes, year by year. Spotting some… moment… and reflecting on it, briefly, then moving on in time. Strange patterns emerge. Details that did not seem significant in my lived recollection become oddly prominent from this new perspective. A lot of it – most of it – is ferociously hormone and lust fueled reverie (and recollected misadventure)(or wishful thinking) that is neither especially novel (human primates being what we are), neither is it good writing (I’m no Anaïs Nin or Henry Miller). I found that most of that simply amused me ever-so-slightly. It has been easy to let that go. Harder were the forgotten traumas, the despair, the hedonism… and the friendships that have been lost to time, geography, and poor memory. Embarrassingly, some of those friends were lovers. “Ghosts” now, I guess – memories, half-recalled for an instant before being lost again. Those poignant “oh, remember… I wonder how they’re doing these days…” moments. I cried kind of a lot in the morning, before it sort of sunk in; this is all 100% in the past. Part of how I got where I am, and little more.

…It’s been nice to find so many “lost” sketches and beautiful poetry…

Anyway. It’s the last day of 2022. New Year’s Eve. It’s a good time to put down baggage. A good mark on the calendar for letting things go. It’s so choice for making changes that we have a funny culture that embraces “new year’s resolutions”, then also the inevitable self-mockery because it’s equally commonplace to fail to follow through. That doesn’t have to be your way, though. What is your way? My way, as I sit here thinking of the woman I most want to be, the woman I want to see looking back at me in the mirror each morning, is to embrace change, practice the practices that will get me where I want to be, understanding that we become what we practice. My way? My way is to cultivate calm and contentment, to develop wise perspective (and humility), to be kind, and to follow my path without aggression. My way is to assume positive intent, and let small shit stay small. I mean… my results vary. This is the path I seek to follow. Doing my best. Still quite human.

…I mean… there’s no plan in mind to be anything but human, I’d just like to get quite good at doing that well. lol My idea of “living my best life” isn’t about vast wealth or accolades or fancy titles. I would like to be a good person. Kind. Not a raging bitch. Wise (if I can get there), and humble (because I won’t have gotten very far alone). Chill. Merry. Fun to be around. I won’t say I want to “be happy” – it’s a trap. I’d like, instead, to feel joy more often than sorrow, and a genial contentment just generally. I’d like to live a strong sense of sufficiency. I think all of this is within reach… I think I can practice a lot of it.

So here it is the eve of a new year. Time to turn the page and begin again.

I am sipping my coffee and looking over the payday budget details.

I take a minute to properly appreciate how far I’ve come over the years, and how little stress or anxiety are associated with handling family finances and working with my Traveling Partner to develop (and stick with) a plan that supports us now, and prepares for our future. It feels good to see the bills paid reliably on time, and to feel so little tension (or terror) over money stuff. I give myself a mental pat on the back for a job well done, and offer my partner a silent thank you for his day-to-day encouragement and support, and the many excellent suggestions and strategies that have been part of getting us where we are. Nice to have a functioning partnership with everyone on the same page payday after payday.

Yesterday was a good day. My Traveling Partner and I enjoyed the afternoon together. I got quite a lot done. We enjoyed dinner together and had a pleasant evening – right up until things went unexpectedly wrong in conversation somehow. I’m still not sure what the fuck happened. My baggage collided with his, and the evening ended on an irritated note. Rather peculiarly, I actually got a good night’s sleep in spite of that, and woke feeling rested. I hope he did, too.

The house was quiet and dark when I got up a few minutes before my artificial sunrise could wake me. I had considered working entirely from home today, but seeing that my partner was sleeping, I went ahead on in to the co-work space, and started my day there. I’ve really been enjoying the quiet time this gives me to write without any concern whatsoever that my typing might wake my partner. I had barely seated myself and gotten my workstation logged in when he messaged me asking if I was okay; he remembered I had said I was planning to work from home today. I let him know I’m okay and was simply giving him room/opportunity to get more sleep. He didn’t reply, and I don’t know whether he went back to bed, or is still holding onto anger from yesterday…

…I could let myself get spun over the uncertainty of “where my partner’s head is” this morning… I decide against it and instead I finish the budget stuff, and then get another cup of coffee and enjoy some quiet time writing. Letting myself get carried away with insecurity and anxiety that has its source in untested assumptions is 100% bullshit and I like to avoid it when I can. 🙂

I look over my to-do list for the day (and weekend) ahead. It’s all pretty routine stuff. My partner and my physician are both concerned with various aspects of my current health, and as we all close in on the new year I am feeling more motivated and recommitted to taking care of myself with greater skill. I even picked up a blood pressure monitor to use at home, since there have been signs that my blood pressure may need attention. May as well keep an eye on that. I’ve got a project I want to complete before the end of the year (or at least before the holiday weekend is over) and it has emotional elements, some literal heavy lifting involved, and a fairly profound “letting go of baggage” element to it. Hell, it will even serve to reduce clutter once completed. It is to do with a rather colossal bin filled with my pen & ink journals spanning more than 30 years of my life… they have become more a millstone around my neck than anything of legitimate value, and it’s past time to do something about that. Getting actually started on it is… complicated. I’ve stalled too long. This weekend I’ll want to do that, and then also take down the holiday decorations (as is my practice). I’m glad the rest of my to-do list is all utterly routine stuff like laundry. lol

I’m amusingly excited about cooking these days. It’s amusing partly due to the absolutely mundane necessity of feeding oneself, and partly due to my ongoing eagerness to do so more skillfully, based on healthier recipes and ingredients, while also seeking to focus on calorie/portion control, fitness, and reduced waste. LOL It’s a bit comical, is all. It’s a lot to ask of a kitchen, or any given meal. 2022 saw the addition of the wok to my repertoire, and now the Instant Pot, and some gleaming new stainless steel cookware, too… I’ve got a lot to work with, and a lot to learn. Should keep me plenty busy in 2023. 😀

So… it’s a new year ahead. A new path to walk. How many literal miles on foot will I walk in the year ahead? I managed to average more than 1.5 miles a day in 2022… but… my goal was quite a lot higher than that, and I only hit my goal 57 days out of 365. I could have done better – and I could have done more. I’m not shaming myself or giving myself a hard time, just taking a closer look and recognizing where I came up short. I did find a local walking trail that could be a really good choice for close-to-home walking (just getting in the miles) that doesn’t look at all crowded, and appears well-maintained…so… there really isn’t any excuse not to get off my ass and onto my feet for a couple miles every day. I mean, aside from pain or “running out of spoons” – and I already have a long-standing commitment to myself not to let pain call my shots. 🙂 My results vary. (How very human.)

…How many spoons in a mile…?

It’s time to begin again.

Another morning. Another cup of coffee. I woke with a song in my head. Yesterday was an okay day followed by a pleasant evening. Another peculiarly short night, though. I fell asleep, but woke shortly after, and read awhile until I was sleepy again – around midnight. I woke feeling a bit groggy, but sufficiently rested to push through another day.

I am thinking over some things I’d like to change (in my routine, in my environment, in my day-to-day experience of myself, or in my relationship). Success is dependent on practice, which leans hard on committing to a goal and a willingness to fail hard and begin again as often as necessary. It helps to set a careful well-considered pace to such things. Experience suggests a lot of “new year’s resolutions” fail because we are so prone to over-committing initially, then failing to practice. lol

One thing I definitely plan to work on is continuing to improve my approach to self-care and making a point to put myself at the top of my to-do list. Such a small thing – it sounds so easy. lol I regularly disappoint myself on this one, though. I’ll go out of my way to do some little thing for my Traveling Partner, but persist in short-changing myself when I shop, make decisions, and manage my time. It’s weird. I don’t think it’s unusual or uncommon, though. I’m not waiting on January 1st, either.

This year? I gave a lot of thought to something nice I could do for myself (that would have potential to be a nice quality of life boost generally, too) – I settled on a little something in the kitchen. I am enjoying improving my cooking. Decided to “level up” the quality of my pots and pans, as a token of my enjoyment, appreciation, and celebration of progress. “Something nice for myself.” Some careful shopping and a short wait later, and last night a couple of gleaming new beautiful high-quality stainless steel cookware items arrived, replacing the problematic non-stick cookware I’ve been using. Another sort of new beginning. 😀

…Even made in America…

I made additional commitments to myself:

  1. New cookware in? The old item it replaces goes out. (Non-negotiable)
  2. Any old non-stick cookware that isn’t used at least once in the next six months? It goes. (Clears clutter)
  3. Take the kind of care of the new stainless cookware that I aspire to take of myself. (Living metaphor to reinforce self-care practices)

Small things. Small changes. Practice leads to incremental change over time. 🙂 I smile and finish my coffee. This feels like progress. I think about dinner…

I begin again.

…But maybe it is?

I am sitting in the co-work space, hours before my work day needs to start. I’m alone. It is quiet. There isn’t even any cheery pop music or inexplicable disco playing on the PA system, just the steady low “shhhhhhh” of the heating, and the occasional sound of a passing car, or passing storm. My coffee? Just an ordinary cup of hot liquid pulled from the name-brand coffee-pod machine on the counter in the break area. It’s fine. Ordinary. Comforting.

Although my Traveling Partner accepted my apology yesterday afternoon for delivering an unexpected and hearty helping of my bullshit and bad temper yesterday, he is icy this morning, and our interaction as I prepared to leave was minimal, and emotionally distant. He seems pretty hurt and mad, still. That’s him working through his shit, I guess. I don’t dig into it, I just get my shit together and head out. I continue to consider him kindly and with love as I head to “the office” – I mean, what else? I love that guy. We’re both quite human. He’s got his bullshit and baggage, and I’ve got mine. Sometimes shit gets complicated. Love is love, and there’s no lack of that. We’ve each also got trauma-built behaviors that once functioned as coping mechanisms that are no longer appropriate (that the other one thoroughly dislikes) – there’s plenty of room for further growth and incremental change over time. I know when I’m feeling angry, let down, or hurt, it can be really difficult to trust that he is working on such things – I can only imagine it must be similarly difficult for him to be certain I am “working on me” under such circumstances.

…Later I’ll talk to my therapist about all of this, and much more…

Last night was the second night of unexpectedly shitty sleep. Night before last it made some sense; the storm outside was noisy. The wind and rain were an understandable cause of my interrupted restless sleep. I napped about an hour when I first went to bed that night, woke and remained awake until sometime close to 1 a.m., returned to sleep and woke to my alarm feeling groggy and out of sorts. It wasn’t a great start to the day. Last night followed a similar pattern; I crashed hard and slept for about an hour (I think) then woke abruptly (but feeling as though I’d never slept) and didn’t go back to sleep until around 1 a.m., again waking to my alarm. I am so tired. Being deeply fatigued tends to also make the subjective experience of my arthritis pain much worse. So. There’s that.

…What the hell is fucking with my sleep though?? My thinking is fuzzy, and my emotions are raw and near the surface. I sip my coffee and take a breath. I take a moment to appreciate how nice it is to “have someplace else to go” that allows me to stay on track with work and whatnot, while also getting out of my partner’s space so he can maybe get some additional rest, or work without interruption (as can I).

While I was awake last night, I reached for a book. This one; The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. No time to read? The author summarizes it here. Apparently, it’s even been made into a movie that will hit theaters in January… could be a good way to start a new year. This is content that lands in the “self-help” space, and is largely very practical mindfulness & self-awareness focused. The language is more 21st century American than any one of several options from amazing teachers such as Thích Nhất Hạnh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, and Rick Hanson. Many voices, a fairly basic consistent message. Choose the language and teacher that you find suits your style most, I guess (and there are others, many). I read a variety of them and value the repetition. My results still vary. lol I continue to practice the things that seem most likely to help me become the person I most want to be; we become what we practice.

My Traveling Partner pings me with a video share. “This“, he says. I pause my writing and queue it up to watch it. He often makes very useful and apropos recommendations. And also? Love and respect. I appreciate that he took the time, and I “accept his bid“.

Growth doesn’t come from what we’re good at, or what comes easily to us. One of life’s painful truths right there. Growth is often ridiculously uncomfortable and fraught with conflict or comes out of actual misadventure. “Progress” is often paired with growth – or so it seems to me, sitting here with my coffee this morning – it’s just that “progress” is on the other side of growth from wherever we started. An outcome. A result. At least, that’s what I’m thinking this morning.

I hear myself sigh aloud. My coffee is almost gone, and already cold. It’s time to begin again. Again.

Later, I went to my email and found the latest Just One Thing newsletter from Rick Hanson in my inbox. The content is (hilariously) relevant and very apropos. The topic? “See Your Part”. Timely. I figured I’d add a link to it – good content, and worthy of a moment of self-reflection.

I am alone with my anger right now. It’s not my favorite state of being, but if I am angry, I generally very much want to be alone with that shit. “I’m sorry” doesn’t sound at all the same if I snarl it at someone. Barely matters if I mean it, at that point, you know?

“Please leave me alone.” That’s some first rate boundary setting, I guess. Simple. Practical. Actionable. To-the-point. “I don’t want to be yelled at any more today.” Also pretty clear.

I don’t know what the fuck just went wrong with my day, my mood, or my interaction with this human being I generally enjoy so well. I was barely in the door with lunch in my hands and a smile on my face when shit went sideways most spectacularly. I’m medicated very differently now, and I was for sure caught off guard when my temper flared up. I don’t have an appetite, now. What a waste. I could have stayed warm and dry and merry in the co-work space, working. Instead, I am sitting here dealing with my bullshit and wondering very much what I could have done differently and better that would still have been… me.

I’m in (physical) pain (my arthritis, this headache). It’s not an excuse, just context. Don’t know what was up with him that “this” was the outcome – I only know my end of things, really. I for sure overreacted to what felt like – subjectively, in the moment – an encroachment on my freedom of thought, or use of language, or… something. I don’t know that it even was, though. I knew I had gotten too angry too quickly for something so small as… what was it, exactly? It felt like I was being “yelled at”, and that’s a trigger for me. No “emotional runway”… what the hell?? I don’t like that I blew up over something so small, and it’s scary that it happened so quickly (doesn’t matter at all that no violence came of it, it’s still just not okay). Subjectively, my impression is that he took what I had said by way of a reply to something he said quite personally, inappropriately so. That’s a judgment on my part. An opinion. Was I right? Wrong? Neither? Is that what matters most? I don’t think that it is.

Who blew up first? Doesn’t matter as much as that we both lost our tempers. Who is right, who is wrong? Also less important than treating each other well regardless. I dislike how easily provoked I can be. That’s a thing I’d very much like to change. The keys to that kingdom are, rather annoyingly, within The Four Agreements:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

Well, shit. More practice. More verbs. More failures. More beginnings. I am, if nothing else, so very human. Right at the moment, I’m feeling pretty “broken” and “flawed”. The woman in the mirror lets me down on the regular, and I’m annoyed with myself over it. It is what it is. I have these raw materials to work with, and a finite mortal lifetime to make some fucking sense out of things.

My Traveling Partner leaves the house angry, without telling me. He texts me with his own anger. I respond with an apology and ask that he be safe out there in the world. (It’s windy and rainy, and the driving conditions are pretty bad.) He returns home; it’s just not safe to be out there driving while stressed out. I know he’s home; the slamming doors are a giveaway. He leaves me alone. That’s what I’d asked for. I feel chilled to the bone; it’s a stress response. I know it’s not actually cold in here.

I breathe, exhale, and try to let shit go somehow. I’m not succeeding immediately. I keep at it. I remind myself that this will pass. My “lunch” sits next to me on the desk, silently mocking my lack of appetite.

Funny (not) thing, though; I’ve often had some difficulties with fully understanding “be impeccable with your word”… it’s clear, reading the book, that this is not solely an admonishment to tell the truth, or an emphasis on “honesty”. It’s bigger than that. It’s about using language, generally, in a way that is not hurtful, based on a couple of quotes from that chapter…

The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life.

Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds.

Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

I sit reflecting on those words. I hear power tools running out in the shop and feel worried about safety and my partner’s state of mind. I’d like to know what to say to “make him feel better”. I want him to feel similarly inclined toward making things right with each other. First steps are sometimes complicated by the assumptions that exist in my implicit thinking. Why, for example, would I doubt that he does want to make things right with each other? Why would he assume that I would want anything else, myself?

“Don’t make assumptions” is very good advice. “Don’t take anything personally” is also very good advice. There are verbs involved. My results vary.

I would do well to take a different approach toward flat assertions of causality than equally bland assertions to the contrary or equivocating language, I think. Would the conversation have proceeded in a commonplace pleasant and agreeable way if instead of sounding contrary, or feeling forced to agree with something I wasn’t certain I agreed with 100%, I had asked a clarifying question about the cause/effect connection observed? I’m not certain. This headache does not support my best thinking. 😦

I can’t honestly say I did my best on this one. My results vary. A “do over” would be awesome, but in realistic terms there’s no getting around my partner’s hurt feelings; the answer and resolution require me to consider those and address the hurt directly, with kindness and compassion, and quite likely making room to listen. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Being the likely “bad guy” in this scenario sucks severely.

I’m just going to have to begin again anyway.