Archives for category: Despair

However much we love the people we love, however good the hearts of those around us, especially in such trying times, it’s not a reasonable expectation to think it will always be easy, or that we will always “get it right”, just because we want to (perhaps even more than we usually do). Sometimes an otherwise comfortable moment may skid sideways, and suddenly become a challenge, or moment of conflict, hurt, or sorrow. So human.

…I could say “deal with it” or “happens to everyone”, and try to shrug it off irritably. I’m not really that person, though, and more often, I simply retreat to “sort myself out” and cry for a few minutes. Generally just some handful of tears of frustration and disappointment, sometimes tears of hurt, or tears of anger. It’s true, though; I cry over shit. I used to be very strict with myself over crying, working furiously to shut it down, stuff it into a dark corner of my consciousness, wrap it up quickly, hide it, wiping those errant tears away as quickly as I could, before anyone could see them, splash some water on my face and move on with things. It was not a helpful approach. Now? Now I just go ahead with it, generally, and cry. (I often seek out some privacy for that purpose, because I also don’t find someone else’s intervention, disapproval, need to “fix” things, or whatever like that at all helpful in those moments, either; sometimes I just need to cry.)

I only bring it up because I often feel some better after having – and experiencing – my emotional moment. It matters to be present with those feelings. To feel and acknowledge them, without shame, without guilt, can be incredibly freeing, and a big step toward restoring balance.

Things in the world are pretty scary right now. The media isn’t doing much to help with that, with the ceaseless 24/7 COVID-19 coverage painting every news story as somehow “about” that, and presenting a picture of the world that somehow suggests there is nothing else newsworthy going on, at all. It’s a weird lens through which to view the world. Eventually, it may “get to you”. Go ahead. Have that moment. It’s okay to cry over it, too. Give yourself a break if you do; it’s a very human thing, and honestly, not at all harmful. 🙂 You may even feel a bit better for a while, having giving yourself a chance to feel it.

…Then, begin again. Move on from that moment. Let it go. Grief is a real emotion. Feel it when you feel it. It does not have to own you, or make you over in a new image. You can choose to let it go, when you’re ready.

I am sipping my coffee in the studio. Starting my day. It’s another work day. Another Tuesday. Another day in the time of pandemic. My Traveling Partner wakes early. We’re both struggling with physical pain, this morning. Rainy day ahead? Maybe. I don’t give myself the time to over think it; it is what it is. Another sip of coffee, and I do what I can to let even the mundanity of physical pain “just go”. (It’s not that effective, right now, and my results definitely vary on this point.) I breathe, exhale, and relax. Just another work day in the “new normal”.

I glance at the clock; already time to begin the day in earnest. (I’ve been making an effort to keep to my usual schedule for a sense of normalcy.) Time, in fact, to begin again. 😉

So… maybe you’re “stuck at home” practicing “social distancing” during this pandemic, and potentially feeling a bit bored or restless or feeling cut off? That seems entirely within the norms of human experience, doesn’t it? Are you there, yet?

Not me. I mostly don’t expect to be. Succumbing to boredom isn’t a major concern for me. I could say “because I have an internet connection”, and while that’s definitely helpful (games, news, entertainment, and even shopping… all right there), it’s not actually what my contentment rests upon, where avoiding boredom is concerned. For me, that’s about something so “old school” that it rather amusingly escapes many people’s attention as an option. I’m talking about the humble book.

You heard me right, People. I said it. Read a book. Read several. Become immersed in worlds you never previously imagined. Tackle those “hard” books you’ve dodged for years. Slog through something you’ve always felt you “should” read, but just… haven’t. Read out loud to each other, if you are “stuck at home” with a loved one, or a room-mate. Seriously, though? If that’s not enough – write one. You heard me right, People. Reading doesn’t interest you? How about writing your story? Yes, you, Human. Why not? Got a story in your head? Head over to the computer, sit down, and begin typing it out to share with the world. Self-publish on Amazon. How quickly can you call yourself an author while you’re socially distancing yourself during this pandemic?

No, I’m not joking. I’m just pointing out how silly boredom actually is, if  you haven’t read all the books, if you haven’t taken time to write your memoirs, or a story you made up in your head that you just keep coming back to, or even a cookbook of those family recipes you cherish. Seriously.

I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just saying, you have options. Don’t want to read? How about tidying up? Work off some of the tasks on that to-do list that’s laying around. Fix that drawer that sticks. Clean the garage. Get the spring garden started. There is a lot to living life that doesn’t require constant companionship or crowds. 😉

Well, damn, look at the time! Already time to begin again. 😀

I was sipping my morning coffee in the dim of dawn, sun not yet peaking over the horizon. I was thinking about a friend who often seems to default to negative self-talk, and assumptions about others that are built on suspicion, fear, and mistrust. I know enough about my friend’s personal history to have some limited understanding why they would hold such a bleak perspective on life, relationships, and yes, even on the person in the mirror. I hold my friend in very high regard, and our mutual affection and appreciation has lasted many years…but even I am not immune to being the recipient of my friend’s mistrust, suspicion, and doubt.

My thoughts this morning, after recently having coffee together, were less about how uncomfortable it can feel to be viewed as an adversary, unexpectedly, and absent any input on my part to justify or support that view, and more about how unpleasant it must be to go through life that way, living in the context of some implicit certainty that everyone, eventually, is an enemy. It saddens me, and I struggle to balance my understanding and compassion with my feelings of helplessness and frustration – and lack of being understood clearly. My own communication challenges don’t make it easier. My own emotional baggage and personal history with relationships with other human primates don’t make it easier, either. I sipped my coffee, breathing, exhaling, relaxing, and consider my perspective, and where I can, also the perspective my friend expressed, with as much depth, and understanding, as I am able to do.

Perspective changes what we understand of the world.

I think back to articles I’ve read about mindfulness, and the handful of those that point out that undertaking a mindfulness practice can throw emotional health and balance into chaos for some people. I even accept that this is one of the potential experiences people may have; when we have adapted to darkness, the brightness of being flooded with light is not necessarily and immediately helpful, comfortable, or pleasant experience. Some of the things we keep to ourselves over a lifetime, dismissing our concerns, diminishing our sense of self, or building our narrative on a ton of self-serving made-up shit to compensate, perhaps, for the bleakness of our sense of doubt and futility, end up being powerful (and possibly successful) coping mechanisms for the hardest shit we don’t want to face – and having coped with, we don’t have to. Then along comes some “healthy” mindfulness practice that sounds awesome, that our friends are into, and we hop right into it, eager and enthusiastic… then, we find ourselves face to face with the darkness being dissipated by a light so bright we can’t see what it hides from us, and… we run, terrified and damaged, fearful of change, resisting what so bright a moment of illumination might really show us. After all, we’d coped with all that bullshit. We’d found a way. Now, here we are, facing our self, unexpectedly. Not always a pretty picture, and we’re not all ready for that.

Changing our own perspective doesn’t always feel comfortable. Whether or not “mindfulness” can be said to “work” is more than a little bit dependent on what we expect it to do, and whether that is what we actually want – or are ready for.

My friend and I talked about my journey, and theirs. We spoke of expectations, and of “reality”. My friend had, at one time, been a huge advocate for me finding my way to a more positive perspective on life. At that time, they seemed so unbelievably positive to me that it was hard to understand the thinking behind those words – wasn’t it a matter of “character” or personality? Wasn’t my personal history “real”, and sufficient to justify my chaos and damage… and negativity? Wasn’t my cynicism perfectly “reasonable”? Here I was sitting over coffee, after far too long out of touch, and I was the positive one, the contented one, the one bouncing back. My friend seemed overly negative, and out of touch with their own emotional experience, lacking in a certain authenticity and “presence”, that felt strangely dishonest and uncomfortable to me. The conversation came around to meditation, and mindfulness practices, generally. “All that’s bullshit,” my friend said firmly. “I tried that stuff back in the day, and it only made me cry a lot, and made me doubt my relationships.” I sat quietly listening (which can be difficult for me), then replied “What did your therapist say about that experience?” My friend answered abruptly, “I quit therapy. It was expensive, and kept making me doubt my place in the world, and my relationship with my partner.” She gestured vaguely, something like waving off that topic with her hand. “I didn’t need all that, I’m unhappy enough without help. Self-reflection bullshit just made me rethink everything. Who needs it?”

I keep turning the conversation over in my head, in the time since. So much of what she had shared seemed unhappy, and infused with a sense of having failed herself in some mysterious way, punctuated by occasionally accusations of some other person setting her up for failure. If she is so deeply unhappy in life, in her relationships, wouldn’t she expect self-reflection to hold up that mirror, and show her precisely that? Doesn’t that open the door to the potential that change could be made – chosen – and offer the chance to walk a different path?

No answers, this morning, really. Just questions, and self-reflection, and the illumination offered by shining a bright light into my own dark corners. There’s always an opportunity to begin again. 🙂 I am my own cartographer; I choose my path.

It’s the sort of statement that sums up most things; this won’t last forever. The current presidency? Won’t last forever. That fantastic sale in a flyer that came in the mail? Won’t last forever. This rainy morning? Won’t last forever. The nuts I put out for the squirrels? Won’t last forever. American “Democracy”? Won’t last forever. Western civilization? Won’t last forever. A terrible moment of panic or anxiety? Won’t last forever. The saddest thing about all of that that is the vast number of lovely things that also won’t last (and how many of those we overlook, in favor of yielding our attention to things that suck). The most precious thing about that is that we do get to enjoy those lovely experiences, and all of life’s joys, if we slow down long enough to notice they are happening. That, and the comfort in surrendering to the awareness that however bad things may seem… it won’t last forever.

“This, too, shall pass.”

We have choices, though, and the choices we make determine, often, how fleeting the worst of our experience may be, and even how enduring our joy can be. Something to think about. What are you choosing? What do you practice?

If we are permanently focused on the the things that stress us out the most, full-time, continuously ruminating on the disasters humanity seems mired in, or the shambles our own life is in, or how terrible this or that experience is, in some limited moment, we put ourselves at risk of coloring the entirety of our experience in this way. Tragedy and terror and sorrow can become the whole of our experience, and could do so regardless what percentage of our lived minutes are actually of that character or quality. Think about this with some care; if you spend all your content-consuming minutes watching the news, spun in a way to engage your attention, and evoke an emotion, and don’t make some effort to lift your head to experience your own actual moments, here and now, what will the quality of your experience become?

…I’m not saying don’t be angry about the things in life that warrant anger, and change – for sure, lift your voice in protest. Take action to make a change in the world. Definitely do that! Just don’t sit around allowing your own life to slowly crumble under the weight of the world’s exaggerated decay.

I’m living my life these days far more than I spend time reading or watching the news. I already know our government is corrupt. I already know that war is a terrible thing and that the cost is always too high. I already know that far too many people are willfully cruel to others, with the flimsiest justification. Human primates can be pretty fucking horrible creatures. I do my best to be better than that, myself, with my own choices, in my own life. It is, if nothing else, a starting point.

This morning, a quick glance at the headlines assures me the world is burning, and humanity is doing little to stop that from happening. Perhaps we really are rushing headlong to our own destruction (and doing so for the sake of power or profit, for fuck’s sake – damn we’re stupid creatures, sometimes). This morning, my morning, doesn’t have to be marred by any of that, in this moment. Instead, I’ll walk and consider how best to be the woman I most want to be, myself, in spite of all that. I’ll consider how to treat others well, with great consideration, and also without ethically compromising myself, and without being dishonest. Seems a good goal to have in life. (I’ve heard worse.)

I sit watching the rain fall, thinking about what trail to walk, this morning, waiting for the rain to stop, drinking coffee… and thinking about beginning again. 🙂 The thoughts are nothing, unless I get some verbs involved. True of walks. True of political protest. True of ethical behavior. Nothing lasts forever – but we sure don’t have to wait around for forever to prove that.

I think about the weight I’m losing, slowly, steadily… I think about the pain I am in. Focusing on one results in feeling encouraged and upbeat. Focusing on the other pulls me down, infuses my moment with futility, and frustration. Whichever I choose colors my experience.

What do you want of the world? What do you want of yourself? If you don’t see it in your life right now, what will you choose to do to bring change? It’s always a good time to begin again.

I slept well last night, and got enough rest. I woke gently, and quietly made coffee, hoping not to wake my still-sleeping partner. I headed to the studio, sat down with my coffee, and started trying to put my thoughts together, words on a page, on a quiet Sunday. I’m grateful to have had an entire night’s sleep. Today, it looks like I’m going to need it.

This morning, my writing is interrupted, several times, for what I can only describe in this moment as “difficult interactions”. I’m not yet fully awake, and lack adequate emotional resilience for the irritated (I hear it as angry) tone of voice, so early in the morning. My thoughts are fractured, scattered, and now focused on feeling hurt, instead of nurturing something within me. My studio door gets slammed, probably without intent. My tears spill over. A quiet morning is apparently not on today’s agenda, and I am the hapless villain in this story – but who is the author? I feel frustrated, sad, and isolated (as much because I don’t really know what to do with these feelings, in this moment). It irks me that I woke up feeling so soft and amiably inclined toward my partner… and at the moment, I feel only the sting of his irritation, his disappointment with me (“What do I have to do to help you remember??”), and the visceral sensation along my nerves of a slammed door.

Sometimes “doing our best” isn’t enough to overcome opportunities to fail at something, or to miss a detail, and “trying hard” is not enough to ensure success. This is true with or without a brain injury. We have to choose again and again to “do the verbs” and to try again. We have to choose again and again to walk our path, or select a new one. It is also true that we don’t generally grow from the things we are reliably good at, or which we find comfortable and easy. So, okay – routine human shit between human primates. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it isn’t comfortable. Sometimes it is necessary to be reminded what the point of it is, and refocus our efforts, because it matters enough to do that. It reliably takes practice.

…What a shitty morning so far…and less than an hour into the day. Disappointment with myself, with the morning, with the circumstances, it all fills me up and spills over as tears, while I watch a little brown bird on the stoop, picking enough sustenance from the ground and from the sidewalk, just to get by another day. I watch the little bird, and try to nudge myself in the direction of recognizing that I am just experiencing some emotional weather; the climate in my heart (and, I assume, my partner’s) is fine. This? It’s just a moment. It’s useful to begin again, if I can start on that, somehow, then it’s not “a shitty morning” as much as a shitty moment. Moments are brief, and they pass.

This time, when my Traveling Partner opens the door to the studio, his face is softened, and he looks at me with love. The irritation is gone. He steps close, and strokes my hair. I apologize for the difficult start to his morning, through my slow, steady, tears. He tells me “it is what it is” and “I’m not angry”. He’s human, too. If I allow it to, the morning will shift gears to a happier place; we’ve made that possible, now it is just a matter of accepting that change and going with it. A matter of beginning again. I give myself a moment to appreciate having a partnership with so much resilience and potential to bounce back from a difficult interaction. I savor the feeling of gratitude that seeps in, as I contemplate the difference between this partnership, and others I’ve had.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Allow my heart to slow, and my posture to lift me more erect. I sip my coffee, and begin again.