Archives for category: Anxiety

I tend to think of “challenges” as negative, and to think of “being overwhelmed” as a byproduct of generally negative emotional experiences or circumstances. You, too? It’s a misleading oversimplification, though, isn’t it? I think for a minute about the experience of an “overexcited” or “overstimulated” exhausted toddler, well-past the point that can be supported by their as-yet-undeveloped emotional resilience, frustrated over some “nothing” moment (when viewed externally, as an observer), dissolving into tears or tantrums. Doesn’t matter that the day behind them was excited, fun-filled, positive, rewarding, engaging, or adventurous – they’re tired, they’re done, and it’s finally all just “too much”. They yield to their emotions. I’m 59 years old and it still happens in my experience of life, too. Hard to be irked about it, it’s just a thing. Part of the human experience. I’m sure it serves – or once served – some clear purpose for human primates. Maybe a warning to slow down and let my brain catch up on all the newness and excitement?

Things have been exciting around here. I’ve been helping my Traveling Partner get his business started. Very exciting. His business – our future. It’s a big deal. There are new tools and machines to learn. New processes to master. New skills to pick up. There are other skills to refine and improve. There are tasks yet to be completed – I know we each have our own focus, and our own “to do list”. It’s his business, but I’m 100% about supporting that endeavor with him; we’re a team. A partnership. All of that is exciting and positive – not a single legitimate “down side”, other than the other positives piling up that simply require some effort (mostly in the form of cognitive work, learning some new software, and a couple of really cool tools that I’m excited about artistically, for my own creative endeavors). Still, there is so much new stuff coming at me day-to-day right now, there’s been no time to write. I mean, that’s what it has felt like. I’m sure I could have made other choices, but I’m not ashamed to be making a point to choose supporting my partner’s developing business.

My brain is tired. I have been mostly sleeping pretty well, but kind of a lot. I go to bed pretty early. I sleep as late as circumstances permit. My list of shit to get done exploded over the past couple weeks. I feel chronically behind on just about everything. Hike with my new camera? It rains too hard to go, or too hard to take the camera out into the weather. I feel held back by that and frustrated. I’m eager to get out into the garden. Some days I just haven’t got the strength to do the work. Other days the rain keeps me in. Build a website for my partner’s business? Unfamiliar interface and new software to learn. I feel a bit stalled, but not terribly frustrated; I at least expected to face a learning curve. More to learn. There’s the laser cutter, the Cricut, the pen tablet… so much to learn. Gardening, too. I’m no master gardener. I just sort of get by doing my best. I’d like to do better. I’d like to feed us from our garden.

If I just stack everything up or put it on a list, it does sort of start freaking me out. I feel so behind on “everything”. I had terrible nightmares last night that I had invested so much of my time and attention into all the new stuff to learn, do, try… that my friends all just sort of… slipped away. I was just starting to achieve mastery of “everything”, and turned to share this with my Traveling Partner… and… he wasn’t there. Gone. Just… gone. I looked out my window and society appeared to have crumbled. There were few people, and all strangers to me. I looked at my hands, in my dream, and they were withered with age and effort, and I was feeble and weak. All my “new knowledge” and skills were already … out of date. Useless. I woke feeling sad and lonely, and it persisted for some minutes after waking.

Nightmares are unpleasant. They have a visceral quality that lingers. They are crafted directly from our emotions and feel somehow inescapable. They’re still only dreams.

The thing is, there’s more good here than struggle. It’s just… a lot to take in. Yesterday I harvested lovely peas and Swiss chard and radishes from the garden, and dinner included that bounty. It was delicious. Spending hours with my Traveling Partner designing, building, making, learning – those are happy hours, well-spent in each other’s good company. Learning new skills? Great for keeping youthful well-being and perspective. Every detail taken individually is pretty fucking splendid. I sip my coffee and reflect on that. On the splendor. Feels pretty good. I feel fortunate, and even “blessed”. It’s a good place to be. That “to do list” doesn’t need to drive my experience. It’s just a wee map. Tells me where the turn up ahead is to be, and where to go next. Useful.

Today a friend will come around to visit. There’s been so little of that with the pandemic. I’ve missed the companionship of my friends. Losing touch with so many feels uncomfortable. I tell myself I could do better to stay in touch… which is a lot of pressure to put on one human. We’re all in that place. We could each do more, better, somehow. It can quickly snowball into a spiral of frustration and dismay. I sip my coffee figuring I won’t do that today. Small bites of life are enough to taste it. 🙂 Today, a little housekeeping in the morning. A little hanging out in the afternoon. An evening spent wrapped in love with my Traveling Partner, steadfast and true, best friend, lover, spouse, business partner… I am fortunate indeed.

A glance at the clock tells me it is already time to begin again. 🙂

I’m still “work in progress” as a human primate. I’m aware of that. Lots of character – lots of “character flaws”. Sharp as hell… dumb as fuck. Filled with good intentions, infused with vision, sparked by inspiration, and eager to exert my will to create the life I most want to live… mostly. I’m also capable of unreasonable anger, making incorrect assumptions and poor decisions, and sometimes barely have the will to lift my hand to take a drink of water when I’m thirsty.

Sometimes I get wrapped up in a moment, and without realizing I’ve done so, I get lost in someone else’s emotional experience, vacillating between wanting to “solve the problem” and wanting to be emotionally supported – over an experience that isn’t even my own. I forget that I’m a separate person, and put effort into “centering myself” and my experience, and completely lose any comprehension that someone else has actually come to me for support. Not particularly helpful, and definitely unpleasant for that other person, who probably feels not only unsupported, but also regretful that they ever brought whatever it was to me in the first place.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

Today my Traveling Partner came to me, frustrated, angry with a project going wrong, dealing with the challenge of the day. I managed – I think – to listen. To be available and present. To hear him out without trying to solve the problem (he did not ask me to solve the problem, just to listen). My only assertion, beyond sufficient response to ensure he knew I was listening (in spite of the busy workday just over my shoulder), was to acknowledge his obvious frustration, and to share that I was sorry I did not have some immediate solution I could offer (at all). He thanked me for listening. He went on with his day.

This was, for me, still a very deeply emotional experience – but it wasn’t mine. It was his. The intensity of the emotions I was feeling? A mixture of his emotions being shared, and my PTSD shrieking in my consciousness that intense negative emotion from a male partner is dangerous – “fix it, fix it NOW, or get out! Get away! Danger!” Today, I pushed my fearful consciousness into the background long enough to really listen and be there for my aggravated partner. I stayed present and engaged, in spite of his obvious emotion. It was hard. This is one of the most difficult things I ever have to do, even when my partner’s emotions have nothing to do with me or something I’ve done/not done – in spite of requiring only as much physical effort as it takes to not run away. (It surprises me how much physical effort that does take, though.)

I got back to work when he walked away. My mind still struggles to let it go and really move on. There’s this “sensation in my spine” that tickles my awareness with a lingering sense of urgency and restlessness. I know these things will pass. I keep “wanting to help” – in spite of my absolute lack of potential do so in this particular circumstance. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I sit with the awareness that my desire to help is most definitely built on a foundation of terror; my PTSD reminds me of all the things that could follow, leftovers from another life and a very different relationship. Another breath. This is not that life. Not that relationship. I hear music in the other room, and the sounds of my Traveling Partner working.

Men have emotional lives. Men need to talk about their feelings (just as anyone else might need to do). It’s okay to listen – really listen. Be there. In the abstract, I know this, and it is “so obvious”. In the moment I’m actually called upon to be there, listening, it’s still sometimes quite terrifying. I sip my tea – made for me with such love, earlier this morning, by this human being who puts so much heart into listening when I need to talk. I’ve got a lot to learn about love, and I’m not surprised that there are so many opportunities to practice. This tea is pretty sweet, and I am pleased to “do more/better”, this time, even though it feels a bit as if I’ve done nothing much at all. I see the progress. I let myself sit with that awhile, reflecting on the moment over this nice cup of tea. Soon enough, it’ll be time to begin again.

…I wonder how things are going now? I will fearlessly check on things when I take my next break…

My neck and back hurt. I did my physical therapy “magic moves”, with limited benefit. I catch myself “pulling on” my neck, even knowing that is not helpful. Background stress drives physical pain, much the same way physical pain makes me more vulnerable to background stress. Yep. It’s a cycle. How best to break that cycle? Choose the most appropriate practice(s) and do that(those) thing(s). “Simple!” (It isn’t.)

Trigger Warner for Snowflakes: discussion of gun control.

I’ll go home early today. I’m fortunate to have a job, a role, and a boss, with room for empathy and compassion. A lot of folks are suffering emotionally this week. Maybe everyone. Another school shooting. Another round of back and forth bullshit over gun ownership vs violence, and the regulations we may need to reduce the latter as a consequence of the former. I have my own thoughts on that. You’ve got yours. Honestly, I’m not opposed to civilian ownership of firearms generally…but… I also think that there are individuals that likely ought not fucking have firearms within easy reach! (Um…duh.) My thoughts? Maybe overly simple…

  1. To own a firearm, I think a person should be required to have specific training on the use and safety practices of each individual type of firearm they wish to own. No exemptions. Pass a fucking test. (There don’t seem to be many objections to the requirement to pass a test to drive a vehicle… just saying.)
  2. To own a firearm, I think a person should be required to be licensed for that firearm in their state – and I think the training requirement and knowledge test isn’t enough; get a mental health “physical”, and demonstrate that you are rationally and emotionally fit to have that weapon. (People routinely have to pass a physical exam to get a commercial driver’s license, or a psychological screening to work in some environments – how is this any different?)
  3. To own a firearm, I think a person should have to carry specific insurance against the chance that their firearm is misused, used in a crime, or accidentally injures someone. (Again, own a car? You’ve got insurance. Own a home? You’ve got insurance. Own a business? I bet you’ve also got insurance.)
  4. One last detail – I don’t think “open carry” is appropriate everywhere, and should be explicitly prohibited for civilians. I think “concealed carry” should be heavily restricted. If your firearm is a “home defense” weapon, keep it at home. If it is a hunting or sporting firearm, keep it secured until you go hunting, or lock it up at the gun club where you do your target shooting.

I’m just saying, I see a huge difference between responsible gun ownership and every ass clown with an agenda having “a right” to have a gun. I don’t understand why any potentially responsible gun owner would object to 1. getting training and passing a test, 2. passing a mental health screening to ensure emotional fitness and ability to assess risks, 3. having insurance to protect themselves financially against any potential bad outcome associated with their firearm, or 4. not carrying their firearm in places where firearms ought not be. What am I missing?

Oh. I know. I know what I’m missing; it’s a misleading question. What I am “missing” is that there are quite a few angry or emotionally wounded individuals who know they are, who want a gun knowing they are potentially at risk of using it inappropriately – or even explicitly intending to – who do not want their “rights” restricted. There are a lot of other folks who just don’t even want to have to deal with the question “should I really have a gun?”, because they have doubts. My next question is – why would we ever let those people make the decisions regarding access to firearms, for everyone?

Too often I read the news, and someone says “obtained the gun legally”, followed somewhere by “could not have predicted…”, when, actually, it’s often far too predictable, because that eventual killer started out as angry, violent at home (or known to have expressed violent ideations on some forum or another), and struggling with their overall emotional wellness. Yes, we fucking could have known – someone probably did know. Maybe someone even reported the individual to law enforcement because they did know, and were concerned, and tried to do the right thing? How horrific is that? To have the solution within such easy reach… and just let it happen all over again?

Maybe get the fuck up out of women’s reproductive decision-making for one fucking legislative season and work on something that really does need (and have) a solution?

Wow. It feels good to get that off my chest. Thanks for reading. Please write and phone your legislators. Ask them to stop being dishonest assholes about this issue and develop some realistic, responsible gun ownership laws. This is not a partisan issue; I promise you none of the slaughtered children were Republicans or Democrats.

…This is me, seated by a big window at my boarding gate in the terminal. My flight will board on time; it’s already parked at the gate, empty of passengers, and being stocked up for this journey. It’s been a long while since I have flown. 2016? I think so…

I’m generally not bad at waiting around, most particularly if the environment is relatively calm and quiet, more or less. I wasn’t always. Used to be that a long wait, especially if it were unexpected, or likely to throw off carefully made plans, would not just wreck my mood, it would even (and quickly) degrade my mental health. These days I am as likely as not to actually embrace waiting- it’s good “me time” snatched from busy circumstances, allowing me to catch up with my thoughts and reflect. Tonight is like that.

What did it take to make such a profound transformation? A lot of practice. Meditation. Breathing. Non-attachment. Letting small shit go. Self-reminders that it isn’t all about me.

Soon enough a new journey resumes. Soon enough I will begin again. For now, I wait.

…It’ll be another. 🙂

In this case, it’s a lovely sunny Spring morning, a Friday. I took the day off because I’ll be on a plane heading to a work conference late tomorrow evening, sleeping thousands of feet overhead as I wing my way to the conference location. I’m not exactly excited about it… I’m not exactly not excited about it. I spent so many years as the partner staying behind, staying home, venturing out seldom, that this still has some novelty and interest – especially after two years of pandemic life. But, whether I am excited or not, I definitely do want and need time to chill, to plan into it, to prepare with care – because when I give up that time and don’t do those things, my experience feels frenetic, chaotic, and stressful. Besides all that, a Saturday departure makes a short weekend with my Traveling Partner (who is the more likely of the two of us to be staying at home, these days). I didn’t want to undermine those limited precious minutes we share, so taking the day off results in something more or less like a normal weekend, at least in duration.

I’m sipping my coffee contentedly. Just finished off the payday stuff – that’s a pretty low stress endeavor these days, and I feel that. The lack of stress, I mean. It’s pretty splendid that the mere mention of a payday, or a bill, or indebtedness, or budgeting doesn’t send me into a massive anxiety attack of some kind, or trigger my PTSD. A lifetime ago, being even a penny off on the painful process of balancing a checkbook with my first husband would almost guarantee I’d have terrible dark painful new bruises afterward. Literal violence, over pennies. What a lot of horrible bullshit. I can look back now and see that I should have walked away much sooner, but it wasn’t so obvious at the time. Understanding now that I was also viewing life through the lens of a fairly serious brain injury that was not actually rehabilitated (and that I was not, at the time, aware of), I am much more compassionate with that younger version of me.

Have you ever thought about that? How easy it actually could be to cut your younger self some fucking slack? Bad decisions are pretty commonplace when we’re young; we have limited life experience, and we’re the sort of creatures that commonly learn best through our mistakes. So… yeah. Every one of us has fucked something up, probably pretty badly. The world is going to make a point of ensuring we get a proper reckoning, more often than not. We could at least be there for ourselves, after the fact, right? We could bring our wiser perspective to our recollection of events, be kind to that younger self who just didn’t have all the tools or knowledge to do things much differently, and be just a bit more nurturing of ourselves on that look back – couldn’t we? And why not? The events of the past are past. Treat yourself more gently now and then. It’s okay to be your own best friend.

I’m not saying ignore warning signs that you need real help – definitely seek out and get the help you need. Think your mind “doesn’t work right”? Get therapy. Just like you would if you had a broken bone, or a terrible case of flu – get qualified help. Get treatment. Embrace change. Don’t like who you are? Make other choices. Change your thinking. Change your practices. Walk away from a situation that you are not thriving in. Jobs? There are plenty. Find one that you enjoy and doesn’t entirely drain away your joy in life! Relationships? Yeah, I know, we get attached, we feel that connection, we hope… But a bad situation is a bad situation. You could walk away. Maybe you should? Don’t like where you live? Move! Okay, resources are limited, so maybe that feels out of reach – but setting a goal is within reach. Making a plan is within reach. Exploring options is within reach. Steps. Incremental change over time adds up.

Anyway. It’s a lovely day, in spite of this being a world filled with violence and chaos, and threats to our freedoms, and shitty entitled ass-clowns seemingly just every-fucking-where… it’s okay to choose joy, and to live life. Savor what feels good. Seek to change what isn’t working so well. It’s okay to look back on yourself with kindness, and with respect for what you have endured so far, and how far you’ve come to get where you are now.

…It’s okay to begin again. 😀