Archives for the month of: January, 2023

For love or money? Justice or mercy? Kindness or fairness? There are choices to be made, and I make them for myself every day, all sorts of choices large and small, significant and insignificant, major – and trivial. I’m not sure, though, that I am always quite clear on the difference between a choice that is trivial, and one that shapes my life. Part of the experience is simply making a choice in the first place, or choosing to coast on circumstances and the will of others. Yep. Even that is a choice.

I like to think that reason dictates the majority of my choices, but I am aware that what tends to be the case, in fact, is that emotions dictate many of my choices, and they make reason their bitch by insisting on solid rationalizations for why the choice “made sense”. Self-knowledge, and authenticity have rather firmly demanded that I understand the role of emotions in my decision-making with greater clarity, so I play a fun game with myself based on the underlying assumption that emotion is indeed the foundation on which my decision-making it built – then I go looking for the feeling at the heart of some particular choice. (Ideally before I make that decision in some firm way and back it up with actions. lol) In practical terms, I rarely make “important” decisions without a moment to reflect on it, often giving myself at least a day or two to think things over for major potentially life-altering choices.

Would you make all your decisions the same way if you knew with certainty going into it that you were not going to do so based on reason at all, but were quite likely to ‘react’ to circumstances and make your choices based solely on your emotions? Would you be able to make more skillful, wiser decisions that serve your needs more efficiently over time, and with greater life satisfaction, if you simply acknowledge the role emotion plays in your choices in the first place? Would you be more inclined to delay important decisions for moments that were in a specific emotional context to secure a specific (better or wiser) outcome?

“Mastering” my emotions has proven to be so much less about squashing them down, repressing them, controlling them, keeping them within some acceptable boundary defined by someone else, or denying them altogether than it is about embracing them, honoring them, making use of them to enhance my experience, and being more mindful of my needs over time, reflecting on what emotions say about my values and understanding of the world. Emotions are powerful, and they whisper things to me about what I value, and what I need; it’s worth finding the time to listen. It also appears to be a true thing that by giving myself some time to explore (and feel) my emotions, I reduce the likelihood that they will “explode all over the place” creating some sort of drama or messy bullshit emotional vortex that sucks the fun out of life and drags everyone around me into it.

Pro-tip: cultivate practices that limit or reduce your desire (or habit) of “venting” your emotions. Consistent with “we become what we practice” venting, as a practice, tends to make one very good at … venting. It sometimes feels like a relief (thus having the name “venting” as if to release pressure), but the longer term consequences are less than ideal. Practice venting your anger or frustration? You get good at venting anger or frustration – not dealing with it, not skillfully coping with your feelings, not understanding yourself or your experience, and for sure not communicating your emotions skillfully as an adult. Just saying. There are other potentially much more useful (and harmonious) ways of communicating emotions than “venting”. We are not pressure cookers, and likely ought not aspire to be such. lol

I am sipping my coffee on a quiet Tuesday. Payday tasks are handled, and the budget is updated. My Traveling Partner sends me an acknowledging reply. It feels good that all this feels so absolutely ordinary and routine. That reflects enormous progress from the profound anxiety I once felt any time I had to “deal with money”.

The future unfolds ahead of me, and I’m untroubled by my lack of view into events that are not yet. It’s a bit like walking a path through a dense forest that curves regularly; I’ll see what lies ahead a bit at a time, for a very short distance, and the view will change, and change again. That’s fine. There’s plenty to see and do and experience along the way, and it’s worthwhile to engage this moment and be present in it. Another choice that is mine to make. 🙂

…I think I’ll begin again. Perhaps with a second coffee?

Weird weekend. (I could stop right there, honestly…)

“Baggage” is a tough challenge for people who have been traumatized. It can be super hard to put that shit down, and properly “begin again”. Our baggage tends to linger in our hidden corners, tucked away carefully where it’s difficult to see how problematic our thinking has become. We struggle with decision-making and outcomes that create an unpleasant experience or prevent us from thriving in our lives. It’s hard sometimes.

I’m hopeful that a particularly painful and difficult conversation with my Traveling Partner really does have the promising positive outcome it appears that it may… I’ve just got to set down some baggage and back away from it, then do some things differently going forward. Him too, I suppose, although in this instance the focus was for sure on me and the chaos and damage I sometimes struggle with.

Love and words. So many words. So much love.

Once we were “on the other side” of that difficult conversation, we enjoyed our evening together. I woke this morning feeling loved (and hopefully he did too). I’ve got a massive headache, still managed to enjoy a cup of coffee with my partner before I left for the local co-work space I sometimes work from. So far a promising start to the day and week. Nice.

Moving back into my studio was a sort of mix of manual labor and thoughtful work and careful selection. Now that it’s finished, I can’t fathom why I stalled for so long. I find myself returning to my studio again and again, thinking about creative projects. I’ve rekindled my eagerness to finish a particular manuscript that has been languishing in a file on my hard-drive for awhile – almost a decade. Long overdue, and I did not understand that two things were holding me back: 1 poem I had included that I had serious second thoughts about, and those journals tucked away in a bin. Funny; I took care of the journals, and now project after project that had been stalled seem to percolate to the surface for their moment.

What’s holding you back? When will you tackle that?

How much baggage are you dragging along every day? How much can you “just set down” and walk away from? Are there things you could let go of, that you… just don’t? What is that doing for you? (Seriously, you probably wouldn’t cling to some of that sticky bullshit if you weren’t getting something out of doing so, if only the strange comfort of familiarity – which is totally over-rated.)

I’m no therapist, just saying – lightening the load makes for an easier journey. 😉

I sip my coffee and think my thoughts. There’s a garden to plan. A life to live. Love to embrace and nurture. Already time to begin again.

I’m sipping an especially delicious hot cup of tea. It’s made from a deeply smoky Lapsang Souchong black tea, steeped with a bit of lemon zest, and lightly sweetened with a bit of palm sugar. I made a point of setting a timer, and steeped the tea for just 3 minutes, the result being a lightly brewed cup of tea with a hint of citrus and a mild sweetness that I am finding quite lovely. I made my cup of tea in a humble plain white porcelain mug that fits neatly in my hands, cupped around it to enjoy the warmth. I slow myself down and enjoy the moment, the tea, and my thoughts.

My Traveling Partner and I began the morning over coffee together, and this evolved into a discussion of trunnions, trivets, and things to do in the shop. It’s an ordinary enough Sunday morning. I’d already started a load of laundry, and done the dishes. Nothing feels rushed this morning. I feel relaxed. The morning thus far is pleasant.

…Nothing fancy about any of this, so why go on and on about it? Well, here’s the thing; we put a lot of time, energy, and effort into pissing and moaning about the shit that goes wrong in life, the stressful moments, the crap we see on the news that distresses or angers us. When we don’t invest similarly in the things that go well, the things we enjoy, and life’s pleasant moments, over time we build an implicit understanding of life and the world that tends to be skewed in the direction of disaster, chaos, and unpleasantness – and although those things may be “real”, and even (far too) commonplace, giving them all of our attention every day throws off our ability to bounce back from stress, and reduces our ability to maintain balanced perspective on events (both internal and external). Just saying; I find value in giving my attention to what is working, a lot. Often. So, I take time to observe these pleasant moments in detail. I write down my thoughts on some of them, as I might with things that distress me. I seek to be as likely to discuss what I am enjoying as I am to bring up something that troubles me. I savor my joys – even attempting to put more effort and time into that than I do with giving any attention to my sorrows.

I’m not saying suppressing one’s emotions is a good thing. That’s not the point at all. Neither am I suggesting there is value in bullshit positivity that is inauthentic and forced. There little value in that, either. (It’s actually potentially pretty toxic.) I am saying pay attention to the pleasant moments in your life. Enjoy those. Explicitly and deliberately give yourself time with what you enjoy.

So, this morning? I am enjoying this cup of tea, and appreciating the time I took to tidy up my studio and “move back into it properly” after my Traveling Partner built me a new (better) desk. It’s quite a lovely change. Order from chaos. I can “feel myself think”, undistracted by clutter and shit left without attention for too long. I smile with some amusement; some of the order came at the cost of shifting some portion of the clutter to a different room, which now needs attention and tidying up. lol It’s a process. I’m okay with that. There’s more to be done, and this is generally true (in my life) day-to-day, so… nothing to see here. 🙂

I sip my tea and think my thoughts. Soon enough it will be time to begin again. Again. 🙂

Ask the questions. Do the verbs.

This morning I woke early and got a walk in along a misty vineyard path. It was lovely. I was rather damp by the time my Traveling Partner pinged me a cheerful greeting alerting me he was awake. My arthritis has been a serious nuisance for days. I feel it. Try not to bitch about it too much – just deal with it best I can. Today it’s pretty bad. I take my medication early, and a hot shower after I return home from my walk. I feel it, though. I breathe through the pain, aware of it, letting it go, moving on to other things. I do this as often as it crowds its way into the forefront of my thoughts. I have other shit to think about today.

…Spring is coming…

I reflect on impermanence and think about the new year of gardening ahead. I managed to grow some tasty vegetables last year. Not enough to “feed us”, but enough for a taste, and that felt like a win. It’s at least a beginning. I like beginnings (you may have noticed). So, I sit down this morning with my garden map, my pictures of last year’s gardening, my thoughts and a cup of coffee. Where will I begin this year? I know that the amount of preparation I put into my garden will make a difference to the outcome. The quality of the seeds and plants, and the skill and labor I put into it will matter, too. A lot.

…It’s a metaphor…

If I approach my garden haphazardly, with poor quality seeds strewn hither and thither without any effort to “make them comfy” and give them a good start, then give them no more attention than an occasion sprinkling of water on a hot afternoon, my results will likely be minimal germination, weak thirsty disease prone seedlings that produce little fruit. I’ll be disappointed. How do I know this? I’ve done it. LOL

If I plan with care, choose good quality seeds and varieties that are known to do well in my climate, plant them in prepared soil that is in good condition with real care, watering them in properly and tending them as they break ground by removing competing weeds and thinning to prevent over-crowding, I’ll likely see robust seedlings that thrive to become strong plants that fruit well. How do I know this? Well, I could point to many videos and books… but I’ve done this, too, and so I know the likely outcome.

Sometimes the effort involved in getting a great result seems like… much. Even “too much”. The thing is, the results don’t care about my subjective experience of the effort involved. It’s true that the feelings are only that; feelings. Sure, sure – feel those. I mean, how else? Just don’t expect your feelings (or sensations, or emotions) to change the results of your effort. That’s now how it works. So, commit and do it, or don’t – your results will vary based on the verbs you’ve used, the skill you applied, the materials you made use of, and … yeah… some luck. And help. Probably. For real. Life and the results we get are not truly 100% within our own hands – we don’t get where we’re going alone.

Ask the questions. Do the verbs.

I smile and think about the day my Traveling Partner and I built the raised bed planter. What a lovely surprise that was, and what a delightful anniversary. Every day that I go into my garden, I am reminded of his love. He’s not “into” the gardening itself, but he loves me, loves that I enjoy the gardening, loves to make it easier for me to do more (and more skillfully), and enjoys helping me figure out various challenges. He clearly gets something out of making things for me and seeing me delight in using them. I think about the new year. I’ll be asking for a second raised bed planter this year, to add to the first one and extend the garden a bit. The practical details of love – and cooking! I enjoy growing veggies that later make their way onto our table.

I think about last year’s failures. Those are more valuable right now than the successes; they tell me what and how to change. They are what I learn from. I consider the total failure of gardening efforts out in the back, beyond the deck. It’s just too shady, and it’s frankly a bit hazardous getting up and down from that garden space on the earthen steps, which are often slick with dew, or muddy from recent rain. Less than ideal, and I ended up putting in less than the necessary effort down there. So. Not again. Nope. My Traveling Partner called it correctly the year we moved in; that space is not well-suited to gardening and should simply be kept tidy and free of clutter. On it. I turn my attention to my “to-do list” briefly and add some items about clearing away all remnants of gardening attempts back there. Restore order. Move on. That was the big failure. The other notable “failure” honestly has to do with a neighbor… the orange cat next door that digs in my raised bed. If it were just the digging, I might “look the other way” and shrug it off, but he’s pooping in my damned garden. That needs to stop. I contemplate what an easily removable wire cover might look like… and think creatively about what other solutions I may have. (I tried just asking him to stay on his side, but I clearly have not gotten through. LOL)

It’s a lovely morning to think about gardening, to plan, to prepare, and to seek solutions to ongoing challenges. That’s probably true of more than gardening. If nothing else, it’s a good morning to begin again.

I am sipping my coffee and watching the sunshine beyond the window brighten the stucco of the wall across the street. I think of my spring garden; it’s time to plan the new year’s crops. It’s a small garden, and the planning is a considerable portion of the fun in it for me. I look forward to contented weekend moments with seed and plant catalogs open to page after page of brightly colored flowers and tasty looking fruits and memories of gardens past becoming a plan for Spring. It tempts my attention away from work for a moment. Healthy. We are not our jobs. 🙂

I open a separate tab while I write – my “to-do list” – and jot down notes as the thoughts drift through my mind. Why wait and risk losing a worthy idea? I make notes. Just a handful of words. The names of specific spaces.

In spite of the obvious sunny day beyond the window, my arthritis shrieks at me about it being winter. I’m in pain. I take steps to make it as manageable as I am able to do. I grief myself momentarily over my nails – I need a manicure but don’t feel like dealing with it at all. I let that go. It can wait, and giving myself shit over something so petty makes no sense. I’d rather read a book. lol More likely to distract me from the pain I’m in, too.

…I think I’d like a nap…

I sigh out loud in this quiet room. It sounds louder than I mean to be, and I hear that expression from deep within alerting me of unmet needs of some sort. I think about self-care. Damn, a long hot soak in the hot tub would be nice… the water needs changing. It’s that very strange time of year in winter when thoughts of Spring get ahead of the weather a bit too far. I’ll settle for a hot shower later – and a plan.

…I like having a plan…

A handful of years ago, I completed a manuscript of my poetry. That’s honestly the end, right there. That’s as far as I actually got with it. I just… stalled. I’m not even sure why. I let myself think it was to do with a painfully angsty and adolescent poem I included and had second-thoughts about… but no, when I was inspired to revisit this manuscript last night I discovered I’d already removed that. Then I found a spelling error. Then I remembered the poetry I salvaged from my journal destruction project on New Year’s this year. Then I noticed a formatting error. One detail at a time I corrected the errors I found, and cleaned things up a bit. I reached out to the friend who had written the original forward for my manuscript (“Can I still use this?”) and got his enthusiastic approval. I feel far more ready to see this published than I had previously… this year? That’s what I’m thinking, yeah.

My Traveling Partner asked me what I was working on at some point. I shared. It was a sort of “why now?” moment… Yeah… Why now? I’m not sure, really. I think, like the destruction of those old pen & ink journals, it’s just that the time has come to clean up loose ends. Put down old baggage. Finish stalled projects – or toss them in the bin. Clear the clutter. I need the stronger foundation to support my emotional wellness. Clutter is an impediment.

…This weekend I’ll start with getting moved back into my studio now that my new desk is built. 😀

Already time to begin again.