Archives for category: Brain Injury

I am sipping coffee on a Sunday. Good coffee. Pleasant Sunday. I am reflecting on what makes some moments “special” and others so seemingly “ordinary” and wondering if there is really any difference outside my own subjective impression of each moment.

I recently went to the seashore for “a bit of a break” and some “me time” away. I walked the beaches and nature trails. I took pictures. A lot of pictures. Many of those were pictures of entirely ordinary birds standing or walking along the beach, or parking lot, or some strip of not-quite-lawn. Why did I bother? They weren’t special or fancy birds… just gulls, crows, jays, and little brown birds of a variety of sorts. What’s so special about those birds? Nothing, right? It was getting the picture at all that was special (to me) – taking pictures of birds is hard. lol

A dandy gull strolling along in a parking lot. He was aware of me, and unconcerned, just walking along.

Were the moments themselves particularly “special”? I don’t actually recall them as unusual moments in any way, aside from being part of this particular beach trip. If I were to glance quickly at one of the many hundreds of beach photos I’ve taken over the years, I’m not sure I could easily identify one trip from another. They illustrate a more general experience of “going to the coast” and “being at the seashore”. Special inasmuch as it is not the routine day-to-day experience of life…but often very similar to each other (if for no other reason that I am always me when I go do these things, and generally I am doing them with similar motivation and goals in mind).

This crow was not interested in being photographed and quickly walked away when it noticed my gaze.

In a certain sense, isn’t every moment “special”, in that there is a predictably finite number of them for any one of us? We don’t even have the advantage of knowing in advance how many there will be – only that they will eventually just run out, often unexpectedly.

Even for little brown birds on mellow summer days; moments are finite and limited.

It seems far more likely that all moments are special than to assume no moments are special – it’s easy enough to identify one or two special moments (just look for lingering significance or fond memories!), which immediately debunks the proposition that “no moments are special”. So… moments are special in a quantity somewhere between “some” and “all”. Tough to know going into a particular moment how special it may prove to be, even immediately afterward. Some moments are so spectacular it’s probably obvious that those will become lasting fond memories for someone (or recollections of profound tragedy – “special” isn’t always “good”, right?).

Thoughtful? Distracted? Just having a moment?

This last beach trip was special, for sure. I was out on the coast giving my Traveling Partner room to work on complicated CNC build details without me being underfoot, or becoming a distraction. That’s not what was special about it (for me), although it is always wonderful to know I am missed when I am away. What made it special was the combination of finding new awesome locations to take pictures, new trails to wander, and also – that’s where I was when I got the call from my new employer with their offer, and knew that I would be returning to work soon.

I got the news sitting in my car, parked, watching the waves roll in, just after getting off the phone with my partner, after receiving an automated rejection email sent in error. lol

When I was mired in the worst of my bullshit, baggage, chaos and damage, I often felt as if “nothing is special”. That feeling (and experience) has a name, anhedonia. Life feels gray, meaningless, and very much as though nothing matters and no effort will change that lack of meaning. It’s grim. It’s bland. It’s very hard to pull oneself out of that pit. I had it wrong. I mean, obviously (anhedonia is an experience of disordered thinking/feeling). It’s just that I’m sort of blown away by how wrong I’d gotten it (as a result of poor mental health) – because it’s apparent now that the truth is so much closer to “everything is special” (even to the point of potentially numbing us to the “specialness of the ordinary”).

I smile and finish my coffee. I’m happy to be where I am these days. I delighted with the pictures I’ve been getting of birds. I’m okay with the birds themselves being entirely ordinary. Most things are. Moments, too. I’m done with insisting that anything “special” also be entirely out of the ordinary – that seems, now, to be a needlessly high bar to set for what is special to me. Sure – love is special, and very much out of the ordinary… but a great cup of coffee, a picture of a bird that turns out well, or a gentle relaxed Sunday morning are all pretty ordinary experiences – and also comfortably special. I’m good with enjoying the specialness of the ordinary, and embracing contentment and joy.

It’s time to begin again.

I am sipping my second coffee of the morning, listening to garden videos, and reflecting on a recent profoundly pleasant compliment a colleague paid me. I realize I am allowing myself to maintain layered distractions, which doesn’t really work well for me. I pause the video to sit with my thoughts and focus on my writing. The coffee? Not much of a distraction, really, although I must admit I am not being especially mindful to juggle my coffee and my thoughts. Would be more mindful (and focused) to do one or the other (and I often sit silently sipping my first cup in a quiet room, or out on the deck, with that in mind).

Compliments feel really good. They also, rather oddly I think, feel like “validation” – as though indeed I had “earned” whatever lovely words came my way. It’s hard to get comfortable with the idea that these lovely words and pleasing compliments are no more personal (or “real” or “true”), than the unwelcome slights or criticisms (or trolling) I may be exposed to in the course of a day. It’s all very subjective, and tends to say more about the person giving the compliment (or insult) than the intended recipient. It’s an opinion. Often an unsolicited opinion. It’s for sure much nicer (even welcome) to hear pleasant compliments than to have to deal with insults, just saying; there’s nothing personal in either one.

On the other side of the interaction, it sometimes feels very gratifying to savage someone with words when we are hurt or angry. It’s reliably unkind. Generally unnecessary. Rarely actually useful. Certain to damage a relationship (if any exists). I know, for myself, the wiser choice is to consider my anger and hurt, discover the source of my pain and deal with it myself honestly, and let go of lashing out at some other person. Even if I feel I have been “wronged” in some way, it’s rarely worthwhile to seek some kind of paybacks or punishment, however emotionally satisfying it may feel to do so in the heat of the moment.

Compliments are altogether different. They feel just as good to give as they do to receive. Giving someone honest positive feedback, or offering a pleasant observation, and seeing them light up (because it does feel good to be appreciated) is a lovely mood booster. I tend to choose to give encouragement often and quite freely (while also keeping it authentic and real). I avoid adversarial or authoritarian sorts of criticism or negative feedback, mostly because it feels pretty shitty to receive it, and rarely gets put to any sort of good use as a result. There are better ways to communicate concerns, boundaries, needs, and expectations than through negative feedback and criticism. That’s my own position on it. Obviously, you do you – but if you explicitly prefer negative feedback (sometimes called “painful truth”), let’s not hang out, shall we? LOL It’s just not fun. We both have better things to do with our time. πŸ˜‰

Every sunrise is a new beginning. What will you do with it?

I woke early-ish, but pretty near to the sunrise. I dressed quickly, and was surprised when I noticed my Traveling Partner already awake and up for the day. Generally, half the point of my morning camera walks is to give my partner a bit of time to sleep deeply without having to endure my snoring! He didn’t-quite-invite-me to stay home this morning, pointing out that since he was up I didn’t have to go… I really enjoy my camera walks and time out on the trail or alongside a meadow in the mornings, though, so I went. For me. It was nice. Chilly, though, and it is clearly autumn. There are fallen leaves on the street. The air has “that fall smell”. It wasn’t raining, though… I thought about driving out to the nature reserve to get pictures of water birds and nutria on the marsh, but changed my mind as I drove when I passed a flipped over wreck of a one-car collision that must have happened sometime late yesterday. I lost my enthusiasm to drive any distance – and almost turned around to return to the safety of home. Instead, I went to the nearby meadow trail that I favor on weekday mornings. The sunrise was lovely.

I am focused on the garden today (at least for now). I’ve got plants to plant. Seeds to sow. Beds to clean up for fall. Seeds saved from earlier crops to clean up and put in labeled packets for later planting. …I’ve got a list…

New roses waiting to be planted, and seedlings almost ready to be planted. There’s probably a metaphor here somewhere. πŸ™‚

I guess what I’m saying is that this coffee has gone cold, and the garden isn’t going to take care of itself; it’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚

I sat down with some water, to write and reflect. My first week at a new job wrapped up quite pleasantly and productively. I’m listening to Lizzo remind me “It’s About Damn Time“. I’ve got a little stack of flower seeds for fall sowing. It’s time to decide specifically where they go and put them there. Other fall seeds are sown in modules, waiting to be planted in the raised bed. Summer-sown veggies are sprouting in the autumn sunshine. We got our first real rain of the fall this week, too – so lovely!

While my Traveling Partner’s son visited us, I made a short trip up the road on a wee adventure to look at garden statues and the sorts of dΓ©cor suited to turning some corner in a garden and discovering some delight. Why not? It’s the sort of thing (for me) that daydreams are made of. I went to Dundee Garden Art, and wandered their lovely collection of things for gardens. So worth the visit!! I see several things I want for my garden… but this is where planning and dreaming collide; the moment of whimsical speculation, the “what if…?”, the temptation, and the wondering. I don’t need to rush this, or take any sort of immediate action. This kind of aesthetic detail, I find, benefits from some time and consideration. I’ll daydream about it awhile, and eventually probably do the thing that caught my fancy first. lol

Quan Yin is surely worthy of a place in my garden.

My Traveling Partner asks for my thoughts on some upgrades to the shop. His business is developing, and already the small CNC machine that was “enough” when he got started is no longer enough machine to do the jobs he needs to do. It just can’t be counted on to get the job done. We sit down and look over his plan. This is no time for daydreams; we are practical and cautious, with an eye on hopefully just doing this the one time. (Things don’t always work out that way, particular now that so many items have to be purchased unseen, from an online store. Return-and-try-again is a real risk.) Our results vary. We roll with it. Talk it over together. Finalize a plan. Take action.

The Autumn sunshine sneaks through the blinds, filtered and softened. I smile. We’re in a good place together. Sunshine and love.

The new job is hard to assess from the vantage point of the first week. I’ve been doing “onboarding” tasks, and tackling various “annual compliance training” modules. No daydreaming. No planning. Just action, a bit of task processing and box ticking. I’ve got a checklist. πŸ™‚ I’m enjoying the vibe, though, and the company doesn’t waste time on excessive meetings. It’s nice to have the time to get real work done, even if I’m just onboarding right now. πŸ˜€ In all identifiable respects, so far, this is a great job for me. I enjoy the team I’m on (and I’ll get to meet them in person next week), and there are enough familiar faces around to feel very much “at home” with my peers. I’m even having fun. No complaints. πŸ˜€

Time passes. I’m not the woman I was at 21 (I’m fairly sure I would have found her insufferably arrogant, and doubtless she’d have viewed me similarly harshly). Am I a better person than she was? A better human being? I can’t be sure of that, but I know I am happier, more content, more resilient. Finally. All those new beginnings have gotten me somewhere… and I didn’t even have to give up my daydreams. πŸ™‚

It’s time to begin again; my path does not end here. I think I’ll have some tea. πŸ™‚

The sun rises later these days than it did back in June. The Autumnal Equinox is tomorrow. It’s quite early and I am at a local trailhead adjacent to a meadow, not far from home. I am waiting for the sunrise, drinking coffee, yawning, and wishing I had slept in. I’ve got my camera ready for my morning walk.

My morning camera walks serve a purpose; they get me out of the house with my camera for a bit of fun, exercise, and “me time”, and they also give my partner a shot at some deep sleep. (When I am asleep I sometimes snore, and when I am awake I am often a bit clumsy and noisy at least until I am fully awake). This approach works for us, but tends to be a seasonal solution. Already I have begun to resist waking up so early, where in past weeks I struggled to sleep during these early hours. The later sunrise is the culprit.

…The early hours betwixt day and night are a good time for meditation and reflection.

An orange glow begins as a thread on the horizon, becoming a sort of messy smudge as minutes pass. Still not enough light for my lens, and the trail alongside the park and meadow, which passes through a vineyard, is still quite dark. I wait. I yawn. I tried to snatch a few minutes of nap time for myself, but the mornings are now also too chilly and I don’t even doze off for a moment – I just yawn. lol

Waiting for the sunrise.

…I think about work and routines and future mornings and finish my coffee. I develop a cramp in my right foot and shift in my seat until I can easily massage it until the cramp eases. The western sky takes on hints of ultramarine and dark lavender. The eastern horizon becomes more peach and tangerine, with swaths of gray-blue clouds sweeping across the sky. This is not wasted time; I love watching the sun rise.

The dawn of a new day.

The sun is up. The coffee is gone. I’ve gotten a good walk in and snapped some pictures. My Traveling Partner sends me a message; he is awake. The day begins in earnest. I have no idea what today will bring… looks like it’s time to get started and find out. 😁

I’m on my third coffee this morning. I slept poorly. My Traveling Partner slept poorly. I slipped away early in the morning hoping he would be able to get some better sleep, but that didn’t work out ideally well. I am sitting in the studio, drinking coffee and considering the causes and the potential outcomes, and wondering how best to be helpful.

“Being considerate” may very well be one of the most powerful skills (and practices) that a person can bring to social relationships (of all kinds). I have found it sometimes a bit difficult to define “consideration” – in spite of placing it high on my list of things to look for in relationships. I see people who are “considerate” practicing deep listening, explicit expectation-setting, skillful boundary setting, asking clarifying questions, testing their assumptions, yielding their natural desire to be “right” preferring to be kind, making an explicit effort to refrain from “centering themselves” in every circumstance or conflict, and being very comfortable making a prompt apology when another person points out a transgression. That seems like a lot to manage, but it really does all map to “consideration” – as in, genuinely considering what those around them are going through or may need.

Let’s be clear on one point; I don’t see considerate people being doormats or open to being abused or mistreated. They use boundary setting and expectation setting with great skill and comfort. They consider their own needs along side the needs of others, and make a point of practicing good self-care, too.

Lacking fundamental consideration leads people to casually mistreat others without intention – and often without noticing, and sometimes following-up by callously doubling-down on that mistreatment by attempting to deflect blame (by way of excusing their actions as “unintended”). Doesn’t really “make things right” to do things that way, and feels still more inconsiderate. People who are inconsiderate are by far more common than people who are considerate! It has become socially “normal” to see (or have to accommodate) inconsiderate behavior from others. People are busy. Self-involved. Dealing with their own shit. Struggling to heal trauma. Uneducated about the impact their choices/words/behavior has on others. Unaware how much difference consideration can make. There’s a lot going on with inconsiderate people. Most of it is even shit everyone has going on in life. One thing that isn’t going on with inconsiderate people; they are not being “considerate” (probably a huge timesaver, I don’t know…).

Consideration and considerate behavior isn’t “natural” to human primates; we learn it from our social group(s) – and therefore must teach it to our companions, explicitly. Children generally get taught “sharing” – a part of consideration. Every element of consideration probably needs to be explicitly taught. As a culture we’re clearly falling down on the job, there, based on the general rise in inconsiderate behavior, basic rudeness, and prevalent violence. I’m pretty certain that very considerate people are likely less prone to violence. It’s something to think about.

Today, I’m struggling with “my nature”; I tend to be very considerate (of others), but also tend to fail myself on the self-care and boundary-setting side of things. Knowing my Traveling Partner did not sleep well, I consider what I can do to be helpful, or to at least minimize the potential for stress or conflict in our relationship due to the both of us being fatigued and in pain. It’s complicated. What does he need? What does he want? Can I provide those things? Is guessing at them wise? What about me? What do I need, myself? Can I meet his needs and my own? When do well-intentioned inquiries about what he needs become invasive or pestering? How do I prevent my own boundary and expectation-setting needs from being swept aside in the pursuit of a gentle day together (under difficult circumstances)? What is reasonable, and what is excessive? How far do I take “not taking things personally” before it becomes entirely necessary to “push back” or point out a boundary – and how do I do that gently enough to also avoid sounding “bitchy” or unreasonable?

My anxiety simmers in the background, and that’s not at all helpful. Consideration, like “mindfulness”, is something that takes quite a bit of actual practice (at least for me). It’s not my “default” human behavior. It is, however, something I value quite a lot – enough to keep practicing. Enough that it matters to achieve mastery – and balance.

It’s a new day. There are opportunities to be a better person than I was yesterday. There will be verbs involved, and practice required. My results will no doubt vary. It’s a good time to begin again. πŸ™‚