Archives for category: Anxiety

It’s a new year, eh? New cup of coffee here on my desk, too. New morning, new day – a Saturday. The season has turned, and Winter is truly upon us. Here that mostly means cold, wet, and rainy, with occasional flooding, and the sounds of trees cracking when the wind blows on a freezing day. Other places, other weather.

Out on a nearby trail, taking note of the recent winter storm damage; fallen trees open up new views of the sky.

It’s been a few days since I sat down to put words to a blank page. The holidays passed, as holidays do, and this is a time when best intentions set boldly of a New Year’s Eve begin to fall to the mundane, the routine, and the unexceptional – change is quite a bit of work. Did you commit yourself to some specific change or improvement in life for this new year? Are you already frustrated? I try to avoid “resolutions” – it just hasn’t been a successful approach for me, personally. Still, this year I do want to “do more, better” – and be more that person I most want to be. It wants a new beginning, though, because I am deeply flawed, fundamentally very human, and entirely capable of bad decision-making, errors, and falling short of expectations and commitments. I’ve disappointed myself a number of times this year, once in a serious, significant, and painful way. So, as is so common, I set myself to putting things right as the new year approached, and tried to sort out what really crap-tacular shit is holding me back, and what baggage I can maybe put down , and what things I can do better, generally. I’m back in therapy, working on difficult specifics.

What sorts of changes am I looking for, this year, myself? It’s an assortment. Last year I got in 1 mile per day (average) over the second half of the year (started in July, finished on 12/31/21). This year I’m going for 2 miles per day, all year. 730 miles. On foot. I mean… it’s not “all that”. People do through hikes that are far longer, and conquer those in shorter time. 🙂 For me, working from home full time, during a pandemic, 2 miles a day on foot still manages to feel like a (healthy) stretch, particularly if I am making a legitimate attempt to do some portion of that every single day. So. I’m doing it. I’ve at least started. I sip my coffee and wonder if I’ll give up, or feel inclined to “cheat”. (There is no “cheating” on such things; either I succeed or I fail. Miles on foot are miles on foot. Doesn’t mean there won’t be something within me inclined to wonder if I could “find an easier way”. I’m very human.) Various other small things; get more done with less bitching (housekeeping shit, I mostly mean), really embracing the direct personal value to my quality of life that those efforts have, and maybe stop fucking resenting the necessity. That gets super tedious for me, even from within. “Do more, bitch less” seems a good place to begin. So far this year, I’ve been hitting the mark there pretty well, just making a bit more effort, with a bit less resistance to the effort required. It does seem to make things actually easier.

I’ve got bigger changes in mind, too. This partnership means the world to me. My Traveling Partner is special in my heart. Surely I could be a better partner? Better friend? Better human being to make a life with? I mean… there may be some things about me that may not improve much, however I fuss and practice, but that can’t be what stops me from growing and improving in all the ways I can improve, right? PTSD and brain trauma are for sure ass-kickers, as life challenges go, but I’m not without potential, and I’m pretty wonderful in so many other ways – there’s no legitimate reason to allow my issues to define me, or hold me back from making more progress, and walking my path with future successes in mind.

I wrote a bunch more words, deleted those when I noticed that my mind was wandering, and my words had become… unfocused? Purposeless? Too… something. My Traveling Partner stops by to invite me to share an experience with him later – doesn’t matter what sort, really, it’s the invitation to enjoy each other that matters most. Sounds like fun. I enjoy his company, and sharing time and activities. I smile after he walks away; we’re both pretty grumpy first thing in the morning, and don’t always want to “deal with people” – including each other. It’s a wonderful morning when we’re already exchanging smiles by 8:00 am on a Saturday, and making suggestions for shared experiences to enjoy.

Other than one errand I plan to run this morning, I’m hoping to spend most of the day here in the studio (painting, instead of writing). It’s a good day for it, I think, rainy, cold, dreary… the bright lights in the studio are probably good for my emotional wellness in winter months. 🙂 I’ll make cocoa… and begin again.

Stop.

Seriously, just put it all on pause for a minute or two. You’ll be fine. The work will wait. The pings and texts will wait too. That urgent whateverthefuck you just have to get done right now? Yep, even that will wait for a couple minutes. Take care of you for a minute. Breathe. Exhale. Relax.

Turn off the music. Quiet as much of the noise as you can control. Just sit for a minute. Another breath. Need a timer? I’ve got you… here, try this one. You’ve got two minutes for you, right?

…<sigh>… Feels good. Just a quiet minute or two…

There’s a lot to get done. Life sometimes feels so crazy busy that I walk around with a chronic lingering sensation of something being incomplete, unfinished, or forgotten. Sometimes, when I stumble on the thing driving that sensation, it’ll turn out to be something forgettably unimportant like being interrupted while reading a receipt, and having the sensation of “an unfinished conversation” that turns out to be with myself. lol I’ve found, more than once, that the “secret” to feeling less busy, less frantic, less consumed by the details… is to slow down. So. Do that.

Do it again.

Set expectations with yourself and others about how much you really can (or are really willing) to do. Take care of yourself. “Human” comes with some known limitations. Respect your limitations – and your boundaries. Tired? Rest. Hurting? Heal. Cross with the world? Take a step back and enjoy you for a little while. Recognize that everyone around you needs those same things – rest, healing, and time to just be who they are, and enjoy that experience.

Look, I’m not telling you what to do. I’m telling you what I’m doing – and going to do, and planning to continue to practice until I get properly good at it. It just doesn’t make any damned sense to be the person in the world treating me the worst. lol I am practicing treating myself – and my loved ones – as well as I know how to treat anyone at all. Every day. Every interaction. Moment by moment. I expect to fall short of my goals – maybe a lot. Failure is an option – pretty commonplace, actually – and we learn more from failures than from successes, so… there’s that. 🙂 You’re gonna fail at some things. That has to be okay. Start over. Begin again. Understand where things went amiss, and do something different or change the context. Just don’t give up on yourself. You have room to grow – and even that journey can be fun, and even pleasant, and rewarding, and filled with love. 🙂 Worth exploring, I think.

…I’m in so much pain today. Arthritis in my spine. Cervicogenic headache. The consequences of injuries, aging, and cold weather… and it seems so completely ordinary as to defy being worth bitching about…but here I am. I think I’ll just begin again, myself. 🙂 I’m certainly too busy to let pain tell me what to do. 😉

This morning is weird. I woke early, no idea why. Maybe I just had to pee? I feel generally okay as the morning begins. The usual amount of pain, in the usual amount of places, and I feel decently well-rested in spite of the short night. The weekend was strange. Strained in some moments, infused with a too-fragile joy in others. I struggled to find balance. From my own limited point of view, it seemed my Traveling Partner did, too.

…Very human…

I wanted to spend the weekend painting; I’ve got some good ideas and feel inspired, but that intent went awry, skewered by other moments. It’s a routine Monday, today, and my to-do list is a mix of errands, phone calls, and shit left from the weekend that didn’t get done – and work. I’m not bitching, just saying that is where things stand today, on a chilly damp autumn Monday.

I pull my attention back to me. My focus back on this moment, here. I lift myself more erect, correcting my posture to preserve my comfort. I take a deep breath, listening to the sound of it mix with the sounds of the house. I feel where my pain is. I make a point to also feel where it isn’t. I take a minute to reflect on the things I would like to get done today. I’m hoping that by doing so, I’ll be more likely to remember them all and get them done.

I’ve “lost some progress” emotional-health-wise over the course of the pandemic. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m back in therapy. I’m not saying that with any particular sense of failure (although I sometimes feel a certain pervasive sense of “catastrophic futility” when I’m taken by surprise in some bleak moment); it’s a complicated journey, and realistically, there’s a high probability that I’ll sometimes struggle with some trauma-relevant detail of my experience or another, now and then, all my life. If I set the emotional wellness goal at “just as perfectly whole and well and balanced as if I’d never experienced any moment of trauma ever at all”, I’m guaranteed a lifetime of struggle, failure, and futility. It’s not a realistic goal. That’s why I focus on contentment – which I can build – rather than chasing “happiness”, which is not only fleeting, but also damned difficult to define clearly. I have at least learned to avoid setting myself up for failure. Mostly.

I finished the book my Traveling Partner recently gifted me, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?“, by Alan Alda. First rate work on communication, and I plan to read it again, immediately, and maybe also buy the e-book so I can easily highlight passages I’d like to study further, savor, or share. It’ll go on my Reading List shortly (yep, it’s that good).

I take time with my coffee to properly reflect on my recent business trip. I think over what I learned (about various things, including some travel practices that could improve my experience if I am to do this sort of thing regularly). I think over even details like “what I packed that I did not need” – there’s an art to traveling light, and still having “everything I need”. I’m rusty. The last job I had that required regular travel was… the Army. Trust me when I say that it was a very different style of travel! I’m surprised to find that I genuinely enjoyed being in the office for a couple of days – and I got a lot done. I also enjoy working from home very much, and find that day-to-day my “baseline” productivity is generally much higher working from home. It’s the “living life” part of work-travel I haven’t figured out; I finish those work days wrung out, in physical pain, and cognitively exhausted, just as I often do at home, and lacking any reserves with which to do anything much recreational. I got my walking in. For now, that’ll have to do, and I guess I’m okay with it.

I sip my coffee and consider what value my Traveling Partner may get out of my occasional business travels. We miss each other so much when we’re apart, but it seems to have a healthy positive value to get that “bit of space from each other”. How to do that in a way that does not create moments of insecurity and doubt would be helpful as a skill. I think more about what he may want and need out of life, generally, and ask myself some hard questions about whether I provide those things, and how I could do a better job of that? Then I turn a mirror on that question, which is super hard for me, and I ask myself what I want and need out of life generally – and whether I am providing myself with those things (or communicating them skillfully to my partner), and how can I do a better job of that, too? It’s a profoundly different question – and deeply relevant to my emotional wellness. In a very real way, I can only treat people around me as well as I treat myself. I’ve been letting myself down rather a lot, sacrificing pieces of myself to the job, to the world around me, to the household, to my partner, and to those vacant slack-jawed moments of cognitive ease that end up being my inadequate substitute for legitimate self-care, too often, lately. (I could “blame the pandemic”, but I recognize it is more complicated than that.)

…Damn, I’m glad I got back into therapy…

Here it is, the edge of a new day. The beginnings of a beginning. There are so many other things to reflect on, to consider, to handle differently, to work at… it seems like a lot, taken as one colossal single monolithic unsatisfying uncompleted “project”… I sigh, sip the last swallow of my first coffee of the day. One step at a time. One task at a time. One reminder at a time. Eventually, things get done, and incremental change over time becomes part of the here and now. “Could be” becomes “is”. It still takes so much practice. So many new beginnings. I stare into my empty coffee cup. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I am enjoying a Monday off.

It is, in some locales, “Columbus Day”. Other places now celebrate Indigenous People’s Day, instead (“in addition to”, while appearing to be sort of a thing, doesn’t really make any sense; the ideas are very much an either/or sort of situation, from my perspective). I grew up with Columbus Day as the holiday being taught, and celebrated, and I recall early confusion regarding what, exactly, was actually being celebrated about the bloody land-grab that was the colonization of North America by European settlers. As an adult, I try to honor the day more honestly, educating myself about various “First Nation”, “Native American”, and indigenous cultures of the continent, and taking time to appreciate the moral and ethical complexities of this country I live in, in a more complete and frank way.

Today? I’m mostly just having a Monday off. Later I’ll meet with my therapist (it’s been awhile, and I think I need a “tune up”). Run an errand after that. Enjoy the day as a whole and complete thing, rich in its own complexities.

I’m thinking about seasons and cycles. Partly because some background portion of my mind is still nibbling at a work problem to do with “seasonality”, partly because the season has changed from summer to autumn, almost “overnight”. Certainly, it seemed to take only days from the last hot afternoon to the first chilly morning. Now, leaves are turning fall colors: gold, russet, flaming orange, deep reds, and moody purples. I enjoy the display, and the cooler days.

One day, recently, my Traveling Partner said to me (I was having a rough go of the moment we were standing in and feeling very sad and diminished), “If I could give you just one thing, it would be “hope”…”. This morning I feel hopeful. It’s nice. Pleasant. Hope tends to make the uncomfortable seem more endurable, and less significant. 🙂 I smile to myself and have another sip of my coffee; it has already gone quite cold, on this leisurely pleasant morning. I’m okay with that. It’s good coffee.

The holidays are approaching. I haven’t really “made a plan” as far as what we’re doing for us, here at home. It feels appropriate to have a relatively frugal holiday season – mostly because we have our basic needs met. By “frugal” I’m not meaning “privation” and going without – I just mean a holiday more about moments, warmth, and cookies, and less about retail endeavors (whether online or locally). I’m not any less excited at the prospect. I’ve got a good mixer, and a lot of excellent cookie recipes. lol 😀

I sip my coffee thoughtfully, realizing that during this pandemic, even the price of butter can result in holiday treats being quite costly, and thus, rather luxurious. What is luxury? I guess it could be the distinction between cookies made with on-sale margarine and discount chocolate-flavored chips instead of plugra butter and carefully selected varietal baking chocolate. Those small luxuries are often just as out of reach as the large ones… Struggle is real. At least today, this year, this life, this moment, I can make the choices with care, and enjoy the occasional luxury, eyes open, no shame. 🙂

I look at the time. Already? Time to begin again. 😀

“E” is also for effort. Sometimes “easy” isn’t within reach. This morning is one of those times. The weekend, so far, has its ups and downs. My head aches today. My arthritis joined the party before I even woke up this morning. My sleep was restless, disturbed, and filled with strange nightmares of failure and inadequacy, and being tangled in dense sticky spiders’ webs. It was not a restful night.

I remind myself to begin again. To stay open to success. To choose. To choose again. To practice good self-care, to practice self-compassion. To treat myself and my partner well in spite of where I find myself this morning. I breathe. Exhale. Let my shoulders relax (again). I acknowledge my pounding headache, and sip my coffee as if the headache doesn’t matter. Later, I’ll pull myself together into some form similar to an adult human being equipped to handle the needs of the day, and go do those things I’m up to doing. For now, I’m here. Thinking my thoughts. Sipping my coffee. Hoping to one day be a much better version of myself than I was yesterday. (Right now, the bar seem relatively low there, so perhaps I do have a shot at that, in spite of how I feel right now?)

…All too human. The anhedonia and ennui are dragging on me a bit. It’s not as bad as despair would be. I make myself fully consider those words as I type them; this truly could be much worse. Another breath, it becomes a sigh. I exhale slowly, deliberately. I let the feelings come and go, observed but not interfered with. Acceptance and awareness are important steps for change.

My coffee grows cold. My thoughts begin an unproductive spiral. I shake it off. It’s time to begin again.