Archives for category: art and the artist

It’s a mild Saturday morning. Not yet sunny. Also not raining. Just a morning. My coffee is hot, sitting mostly untouched in front of me. My Traveling Partner and I are “enjoying” our individual, somewhat overlapping, personal experiences of seasonal allergies. His, a lifetime struggle. Mine? Returning with a vengeance here in this new place, after decades mostly without allergies at all. I’ve minimized my allergies for years; they simply aren’t “anything” in comparison to what my Mom endured, or what my Traveling Partner goes through for so much of the calendar year that even suggesting those are “seasonal” could seem like a mockery. “I don’t have allergies” still seems mostly true for me… but this morning, my stuffy head and sneezes tell a story of Spring, and pollen (it’s the tree pollen that seems to be the issue; I can smell flowers all damned day without concern).

…And of course, my preferred walks each day? Forests. Trees. Shaded paths. Hilarious. 0_o (That’s a rare use of sarcasm; I’m not finding it all amusing really.)

It is a mild Saturday morning, suitable for gardening (I have a list of things to do), and relaxing. I’m eager to do a bit of gardening in this new place – gardening that won’t suddenly face the upheaval of moving away, gardening that can be planned for a future that exists. Maybe. I mean… the future is an uncertain thing, but at least here I can plan for some sort of permanence, as much as one ever can. No, I’m not feeling down or fatalistic, just disinclined to deceive myself with fanciful tales of “happily ever after” or “always”. Those are not helpful concepts, generally speaking. πŸ™‚

“Baby Love”, an early bloomer, will go into the ground this weekend. πŸ™‚

This cup of coffee is good. Not good enough to ease me past the morning frustration of dealing with allergies, perhaps, or to fix any of society’s ills, but it’s a nice moment on a pleasant morning, and that’s enough right now. I think of far away friends I’d like to take time to connect with, emails I’d like to write. Maybe pick up the damned phone now and then? (Does anyone actually answer the phone when it rings, any more? I rarely do… is that a “me thing”, or an “everyone thing”? Has the etiquette of a phone call changed since… before?)

At some point, after our anniversary was past, my Traveling Partner ever-so-gently brought up how much benefit I seem to get out of a weekend away, solo, and wondered aloud if I were, perhaps, due for one…? He admitted to having the thought on our anniversary, and shared that it seemed less than ideal to bring it up on that occasion. I appreciate his consideration… I’d had that thought, too, and felt like a complete jerk for it, considering the occasion. LOL He’s quite right, though; I’m definitely “feeling it”.

…And he definitely feels me feeling it…

I’m not sure why I’m feeling it so hard right now… the new job is intense (in good ways) and quite busy. I do spend nearly 100% of my waking time in the presence of at least one other human being, or on a call, or in a meeting (and yes, Zoom meetings are still every bit as “people-y” as in person, for me)… it gets fatiguing after a while. I enjoy solitude. I want to simply exist, free of social constraints or pressures to perform, conform, achieve, or relieve. I want to breathe my own breath. Think my own thoughts. Exist entirely in the context of my own experience. Make choices with little regard for other tastes, other needs, other timing. It’s complicated when people partner up who have very different needs in this area. I’m fairly certain that while I feel like I “never have a minute for my own thoughts”, my partner may feel that we “never get to spend any time together” – and both those experiences are legitimate perspectives on our individual experience as human primates. I’m fortunate to be in a partnership in which we recognize our differences and value them – and help each other find our best path forward.

Anyway. I’ve been vaccinated. I feel relatively comfortable making the short journey to the coast and taking a day for myself. Masked & distancing, yeah, that’s still a thing for sure. I’m okay with that, too. I got lucky on getting a pleasant ocean view room a few steps from the beach (131 actual stair steps, if reviews are to be believed) – next weekend. The weather is nice for painting. I’ll take my water colors and my camera along with me. My laptop. I’ll walk miles along the beach. Take some pictures. Meditate. Think. Write. Paint.

…I will miss my Traveling Partner so so much…

We benefit from a bit of time to miss each other. I sip my coffee and wonder what he’ll get up to while I’m away… besides missing me, I mean. πŸ™‚ I already look forward to sharing pictures and conversing about time we did not spend together.

…I’m already looking forward to beginning again. πŸ™‚

Time for a reset! It’s the last day at this job. There are a handful of days before the new one begins. Between now and then… new glasses… a vaccine (yay! my turn!)… then… what? How can I clearly and distinctly separate the one from the other, put down any stray baggage picked up along the way, and get some much needed “real down time”? I ask my Traveling Partner for his thoughts… he says out loud the words I am thinking in my own head, “Why not get a room at the coast, spend some time walking on the beach?” For real… why not, indeed? Caution + mask + social distancing + vaccinated…? Sign me up!

I make the reservation… beach view. I find my “weekend bag”. Camera. Tri-Pod. Sketchbook. Watercolors. Brushes. I start powering up my power brick, my laptop… and second-guessing all of it. Maybe I just go without all that fuss and bother and just… sit watching the waves, listening to the sea birds and the breezes, breathing along with the tempo of the world… Maybe. It’s a chance to embrace change.

It’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚

I’m sipping my Sunday morning coffee in solitude. Best that I do so. I’m in a lot of pain after a long walk on a windy winter beach, yesterday, which, while it provided wonderful time to reflect and listen to my own thoughts, was also physically taxing. I’m definitely glad I wore base layers, too; it was chilly!!

Windy, rainy, cold, and the tide coming in. There’s no stopping the tide.

Things went seriously sideways Friday night, and Saturday’s walk on the beach was moody and bleak. It felt wholly necessary, but there was little joy in the moment. This saddens me, even now. It is, at this point, just something I’m adding to the recollection. I breathe, exhale, and let that go.

…I got some great pictures…

Friday might not have turned into the emotional shitstorm it did if I had been paying more attention… or… if I were altogether someone else, I suppose. My Traveling Partner woke in pain Friday morning, and was in an absolutely foul mood as a result (not unlike where I find myself this morning). He made a point of saying so, and was very kind and careful in our interactions all day, although he was cross and irritable. I finally ended my work day and … the whole delicate considerate assembled-with-care framework crumbled. I’m still sipping my first coffee, right now, this morning, and my brain is not yet entirely “on line”; I struggle to recall specifically what went wrong. Something I said, or my reaction to something he said, and suddenly we were lobbing raw emotions at each other in the form of angry words. I wept. We took turns shouting. We both ended up triggered – and triggering each other – and just fucking mired in our individual pain and heartache. To call it “unpleasant” seems insufficient. To make more of it than that seems simultaneously disrespectful of any underlying legitimate concerns that ought be addressed with love and consideration – but also seems likely to elevate those painful hours to something more important than what they were. Chaos fueled by emotions. Emotions that had less to do with the moments we found ourselves in than other moments, in other relationships, that left us scarred. Both unpleasant and unfair. How is it “unfair”? Isn’t it always unfair to ask love to sweep up the mess left behind by circumstances that had little, if any, actual love in them?

Friday morning became a painting, instead of an argument. 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas, untitled.

Yesterday was strained and awkward. This morning I woke up in pain, and found myself saying so, much in the same manner that he had on Friday morning. A cold chill rolls up my spine, and my mouth goes dry, and my anxiety spikes over fear that today will be another Friday, and end poorly. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I do it again. Then another breath. Followed by another. I keep at the breathing until the hinted-at-future-but-not-now feelings of anxiety recede. I definitely don’t need to invite or cultivate that shit.

I sit with my coffee this morning, thinking about my walk, my work, my relationships… I consider how my TBI affects the way I communicate, not just the part where I talk (a lot), or interrupt (too much), but also the part that is the step beyond listening; my ability to make sense of what I am hearing, and to correctly reply to what has actually been said. I do pretty well, generally, but… when I am tired, or in pain, or distracted, I’m not just “less good at that”, I’m pretty horrible – and when I look at that, and also consider the “performance pressure” I tend to feel that pushes me to answer any question very quickly, I see how easily this can go very wrong, leaving someone trying to have a conversation with me feeling perhaps I am not listening at all. It’s rough. It can go a bit like this:

“Did you hear from your friend about that painting?” someone asks.

“No.” I say, “Well, they texted me. I didn’t feel up to talking right then, so I said I would call back today after work,” I add, followed by “They did say they really like the painting, in their message to me.”

(no shit, a real conversation I had)

So… yeah. What the hell?? When I see it written down, I totally get why that would be not just incredibly frustrating to wade through to get a simple “Yes, they liked it.” It also tends to seem potentially … dishonest? Misleading? Manipulative? Crafty? Vague? Withholding? Dissembling? A whole bunch of adjectives could apply. It’s not actually about any of that, though. I started answering the question I was asked before I actually understood the question at all. Along the way, my brain mixed up “hear from” with “speak to” – similar but quite different – and entirely missed the point of the fucking question until I’d provided a bunch of utterly unsolicited other information. So… slow down? Fuck yes. Easy, right? Well… maybe? It’ll take practice. I’ll say very bluntly that I’ve had “reply immediately” literally beaten into me (first marriage was a domestic violence nightmare I’m lucky to have survived). It’s hard to change behaviors that were heavily reinforced with violence or trauma. It takes more work and practice and commitment and awareness and encouragement and kindness and support than I can describe. It can be done. My results vary, though, and every failure is heart-breaking for at least a moment of pure distilled disappointment with myself.

…This isn’t “all about me” though. This particular challenge is very specifically the sort that commonly affects the people interacting with me, most. I’m kind, honest, open, and well-intentioned, but I’ve also got PTSD… and I’ve got brain damage. That’s going to present a combinations of characteristics some people just aren’t going to be willing to deal with long-term. So far my Traveling Partner still chooses to share this complicated journey with me. I’m very fortunate, and very grateful. I know it isn’t easy.

Caution.

So, yesterday, I walked on the beach alone, reflecting on my challenges, my abilities, love, and life, and work, and gave some thought to life’s curriculum on the topics of boundaries, and of communication. I was missing my partner long before I noticed my knees were aching, and headed home when the rain began to fall heavily.

I find myself, now, bringing my thinking “back to basics”: breathing, listening deeply, my “Big 5” relationship values (Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Compassion, Openness), and the book my own beloved recommended to me, early in our relationship…

It’s hard to go wrong with good basics…

Yep. I am re-reading The Four Agreements, again. Sometimes beginning again is simply a step forward, with new thinking. Sometimes beginning again means a new commitment to something that is proven to work well, when applied consistently. Now there is a day ahead of me… I see sunshine through the window shade. The aquarium needs maintenance. There is housework to be done. In spite of aching knees, I’d enjoy a walk in the forest, now that the storm damage from the recent ice storm is cleared away. All of that, and Love to nurture besides… looks like a busy day ahead.

…I guess it’s time to begin again…

I’m sipping my second coffee this morning, letting my mind take a break from work by looking over newly prepared canvases waiting for further attention, and a couple small half-finished pieces that I am working on a bit at a time. It’s a new approach. It reflects the feeling of permanence in this place. I sigh contentedly and sip my coffee, smiling.

…It’s not permanent. Very little, if anything, is. I sip my coffee staring into the colors on canvases, and lose myself in my thoughts…

Sometimes beginnings are untidy. It’s rare that an intention is effortlessly achieved. Things seem always to be “becoming”.

It’s a pleasant day to reflect on an unwalked path, an incomplete painting, or a dream as-yet-unfulfilled. I sip my coffee and try to do so in the context of impermanence, and a sort of accepting non-attachment… the future does not exist in my present. It’s up ahead, somewhere, waiting to become a moment all its own. I think about my notion that a cottage garden would be lovely out front… and the patience involved in seeing that become, first, a plan, then, over time, with some luck and persistence and any number of new beginnings… a garden worth lingering in. No certainty that it will be a “cottage garden”, really… That’s how things go; differently than planned. Often. πŸ™‚ My results vary. lol

Still… I can begin again.

It’s been a few days of dealing with an “interesting” increase in my anxiety, recently. Like… a distracting, persistent, defiant amount of anxiety, of varying intensity… the sort of thing that surges back seemingly stronger than previously known (it isn’t, really), and difficult to manage. It’s been disrupting my sleep, and pulling my attention away from things that (truly) matter much more. Frustrating.

β€œAnxiety” 10β€³ x 14β€³ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

I woke early, pre-occupied with work, because that’s just the sort of thing Anxiety enjoys nibbling on before the day even begins. Any detail over which I’m less than entirely confident and comfortable with becomes fuel to her fire. Fuck Anxiety; she’s a liar. Anxiety forces me to view the world through a lens of fear, doubt, stress, and insecurity, and prevents me from embracing other qualities of my experience. I haven’t had to do such fierce battle with my anxiety in a long while. It’s fueled by the competing experiences of home-ownership and difficult (unpleasant) work-place relationships. The sense of obligation that comes of owning a home causes me to feel I “have to” endure more that is unreasonable, to set fewer clear boundaries, to be more reluctant to “draw a line in the sand” with higher ranking colleagues… all of which are uncomfortable, less than ideal, and probably also seriously bullshit. lol Anxiety, remember, is a liar.

I woke early, and spent my first minutes on meditation. It helps a lot. Coffee came later, because over the years I’ve learned too well that Anxiety likes a good cup of coffee every bit as much as I do, and not in a helpful way. lol Meditation first. Coffee later.

I looked over my work calendar, and quickly identified the source of my stress – it was really just one meeting on my calendar (that I own), and only due to a change of format being requested, for which I have had too little time to prepare. So… that’s not even “about” me. I reschedule the meeting to give myself (and another affected colleague) more time to make the requested changes. No harm done. Hell, it’s even a short week (after a Monday holiday) and so far it’s going very smoothly. Hard to argue with those results. πŸ™‚

I feel my tension ease, my Anxiety receding into the background, returning to being “anxiety” with a lower-case A. Nice. A good start to the work week… I mean… good enough. Amply adequate, for sure. πŸ˜€

The weekend that is now over was a lovely one. I sip my coffee, free of the crushing weight of the anxiety that had been nagging me earlier, and think about the lovely miles of trail walking, the scent of fresh baked cookies that filled the kitchen all weekend, and my Traveling Partner’s smiles. A good weekend.

Sometimes the obstacles along the way are small enough to just step over them. πŸ™‚

So, a new week, new beginnings – and new challenges. πŸ™‚ Sometimes the “new” challenges just happen to be old familiar ones – I just get to practice handling them, all over again. lol Didn’t think I needed to take that lesson one more time, but there it is – and we become what we practice. πŸ˜€

It’s time to begin again.

One step at a time, eventually measured in miles. One day at a time, eventually measured in years. One moment at a time eventually becomes a life well-lived, on a beautiful journey. ❀