Archives for category: Despair

This morning I’m all smiles. I had a lovely day with my Traveling Partner, yesterday. It finished well. Life feels balanced, and I am contented. Sure, sure, still looking for a job, so there’s that, but I don’t see that it has any requirement to be a massive continuous buzzkill every minute of every day… or… any minutes. Ever. I know “this too will pass” – doesn’t matter whether it’s a good mood, a bad mood, a wonderful moment, a tragedy; moments are moments. Transient. Finite. Limited. Very little in a single human life is so dire that despair is truly warranted (that’s one of the things that makes despair so terrible and terrifying – it feels like “everything”, and it’s very “sticky”). I enjoy the smile on my face, take a sip of this glass of water, and listen to a video that makes me smile with such tremendous delight it’s hard to move on to the next one. No, I’m not linking it; delight is not “universal”, and what tickles me so profoundly may be disturbing or offensive or puzzling for someone else. No point. Hit up Google or YouTube, find your groove. 😉

Different day, different meadow.

I went to the nearby nature reserve this morning to get shots of birds. I got there just at daybreak; first car into the park. Choice. The summer-scented air was fragrant with meadow flowers and a hint of marsh. The morning was very quiet and quite overcast. I grabbed my gear and walked down the path to a spot I know is a good one for taking pictures of birds. No birds. It was rather as if the wildlife decided to sleep in on this quiet gray morning. I walked on. Snapped some pictures of flowers, the skyline, reflections on the water. Kept walking. Eventually my Traveling Partner pinged me.

My last trip was more “productive”, if I choose to define it that way – there were more birds.
I got a lot of chances to improve on my skills at taking pictures of birds that day.

There’s no expectation that I’ll cut my camera time short when my partner wakes, although I do try to “stay gone” long enough for him to sleep in, should he choose to and find himself able. Still… not much going on in the nature park, so I turned back and walked back to the parking lot. I passed a lot of other visitors with cameras. By the time I was within view of the parking lot, the path down to the meadow looked like a fucking camera convention. Individuals and groups, each taking some favored spot, waiting, watching, hoping for a great shot of… something. (Anything – other than each other.) lol I see a lot of really fancy gear as I pass other visitors. I could easily be overcome with dissatisfaction and “gear envy”…but it’s not my way. Like, I mean, explicitly not my choice to be thusly overcome; I get some great shots with my modest gear. I enjoy it as it is. It’s often so much more about location, timing, and willingness to walk on, or sit quietly awhile, and less to do with the gear, generally. 🙂 A lot of life is like that. Even mindfulness practices – anyone can (people often do) spend a ton of money on coaches, consultants, therapists, or “specialists” to learn to sit quietly, breathe, and relax. (It’s even possible to take an expensive destination retreat at an actual monastery, should you have the desire and the resources. It’s not necessary to do so, though, at all.) It’s not even a certainty that spending that kind of money on breathing exercises and mindfulness practices will “pave the trail” for you more skillfully than taking it upon yourself to read a book and begin practicing practices. It’s more about the verbs than the dollars.

…I’m one of those people, by the way. No kidding. I was at the edge and still spiraling down, and I felt wholly defeated. I spent a notable amount of my limited resources on therapy. Doing so saved my life. Looking back, I can see how easily I could have made that journey, perhaps, without spending that money…only… I didn’t, because I wasn’t able to. I did not know what I did not know. I needed that help. So I did the needful and took steps to get the help I needed. Did my therapist do more than point me in the direction of reading different books, or helping me practice other practices? Oh, for sure. Real therapy. I needed a lot of help making that healing journey (that is still in progress), and part of that process was gaining a better understanding of my actual legit issues. Still… it is possible to make a healing journey without a map. It isn’t about the money.

I prepared my reading list so that someone who maybe can’t at all afford the expense of therapy in their here-and-now could still benefit from the foundations of the journey I’m taking myself. I write this blog for that same reason – and also because I often find that I “fail to take my own good advice” because I’ve lost perspective over time. This blog is something of a repository of my notes about this journey, and my changing perspective over time – a reminder that it can be done, because I’ve done it, just in case I find myself doubting. (I’m very human.)

What a lovely morning this is, so far. It may last the day. It may not. So much of that is up to me. I’ve got choices to make. Practices to practice. Verbs to put into motion. It’s time to begin again.

Good steps to begin a journey:

  1. Do something differently. (Follow-up)
  2. What about self-care?
  3. Maybe just don’t be in your own way?

What a fucked up mess this moment is. I mean, it could be worse. Really, I’m fine. I’m just… an emotional pile of shit. Chaos and damaged piled high, this morning. I didn’t see it coming. So often, on days when I yield to unexpected fortuitous happiness, joy, or profoundly good moods, I don’t see the twist that sends it spiraling off course equally unexpectedly (and with a whole fuck-ton more baggage, resentment, and disappointment … in the moment, in myself, and yeah, even with the entire fucking world).

Um… no, I don’t have any helpful suggestions for these sorts of trying moments. I suppose, besides being utterly human, they are also probably more commonplace than any one of us damaged fucked up little chaos primates would like them to be. Fuck my bullshit – and fuck yours too. Sorry. I mean… I hope you’re having a good day (legit). Right now, I’m not, and I’m still seething, and stuck on the edge of tears. It’s not “necessary”. It’s not even “rational”. (It’s definitely not “rational” – these are emotions, for fucks sake.) “Wait it out.” That’s a suggestion; these things pass. “Breathe” is another helpful-ish sort of suggestion. I mean… that one is sometimes like telling a hysterical person to “calm down”, though; it’s correct and useful for what it is, but who the hell wants to hear that shit in the moment?? Nope. Me either.

So…yeah. Fucked up moments are a thing in our human experiences. Sometimes our hysterics, tantrums, or blow-ups make sense for scale, urgency, or magnitude of our hurt… other times not so much. I can only point out that refraining from taking action in the heat of the moment, and ideally even mustering some self-restraint with regard to what we might choose to say out loud, makes a lot of fucking sense – but it won’t end the moment (or our hurt) any sooner. Just reduces the mess there is to clean up afterward.

Around here? Nothing damaged, nothing broken, no one injured, no violence occurs… it’s just sad and frustrating and disappointing and aggravating (and did I say sad?) when tempers flair, or feelings get hurt. My head aches from the stress, and from crying. My Traveling Partner has gone a long way toward soothing hurts and trying to heal the moment; he’s pretty good like that. I am less skilled at that sort of thing, and I’m a bit “stuck” right now. Nope, no advice to offer from the perspective of “in it” right now – only perspective. It’ll pass. I know that with certainty. Emotional weather, just a squall. The climate around here is exceptionally pleasant. Weather still happens. (It’s a metaphor.) It’s a bit of an endurance test, and I know I can pass.

…I’ve just got to begin again…

…Sometimes that isn’t easy.

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.

Queue “Love Rollercoaster“… or…maybe “Love Rollercoaster“? Love has its ups and downs, not unlike a rollercoaster; it’s an appropriate metaphor. We deal with our own challenges – and our partners’. I’m confident that my Traveling Partner loves “all of me“. I count on his enduring love, “right down the line“. Maybe ours is an uncommon sort of love story – maybe not. I know this is our love – and it’s where I want to be. Sometimes love is like dancing, and I feel like I’ve “got the right dancing partner”, at long last.

Valentine’s Day? It was lovely. Spent lived, out loud, and wrapped in love. There are other experiences worth having. 🙂

I originally wrote a very different post under this title (on Friday). It was hurt-sounding, and infused with strong emotion, seasoned with pointless frustrated tears, and more than a hint of self-pitying catastrophizing. As the weekend proceeded, quite differently I’m pleased to note, my thinking on the writing (and events) of Friday evening continued to morph, evolve, mature, change, and deepen. I ascribed to the events first greater significance, then less, dwindling in magnitude of catastrophe and emotional pain over happy days spent in my partner’s good company, feeling loved, and loving, and enjoying our precious mortal moments together. At several points, I re-wrote, edited, adjusted, and refined my written thoughts, as my lived thoughts of the moment themselves changed. Mostly, I focused on being a better partner, better friend, and better love, and didn’t put nearly as much into writing about any of those things.

I spent quite a bit of time in a thoughtful place, reading “You Are Here” by Thích Nhất Hạnh. You’ll see a lot of his written work linked in my reading list – or on my book shelves. This one was a recent gift to me from my Traveling Partner to ease my sorrow when I learned of Thầy’s passing. Funny, I was so moved by my partner’s gift that simply receiving it was emotional and memorable; I felt so loved and understood. Diving into the work and actually reading it, this weekend of all weekends, I could see so much of the depth of my partner’s affection; every page seems to speak to our “here”, our “now”, and the very nature of Love itself. It led my thinking onward, gently, over the course of the weekend. Like a map, it helped me “find my way”.

Yesterday, on Valentine’s Day, I woke to an entirely different understanding of Friday evening’s moment of hurt and conflict. I found myself looking at it through a very different lens – one of real compassion and empathy, and awareness of what my partner is/may-be going through, himself, and pushing myself out of the hero’s role of the narrative in my head, to view our experience of each other through a more… equitable(?) perspective. We both have PTSD – and for both of us, the majority of that damage comes from intimate partnerships (other than our own, though at this point we’ve done ourselves a fair bit of emotional damage over a decade) or familial relationships. I now find myself painfully aware how often I insist I be nurtured and supported, while also pretty reliably overlooking his triggers, and his need to be emotionally supported, also. I shut him down when I “don’t feel heard”, instead of listening deeply because I care. I could do better. For sure. Like… probably a lot.

The tl;dr on Friday’s misadventure was simple enough; I triggered him (and did not recognize that in the moment), he reacted, and his reaction triggered me. I threw a fucking fit, and behaved incredibly poorly, and had a nasty temper tantrum we both could have done without. I wrecked a lovely romantic moment in the making, and we had a shit time of things that evening. (I feel fortunate that our love endures our individual and mutual bullshit.) We turned things around together over the course of the weekend, each of us “doing the verbs” to live our best versions of ourselves, and to love each other in the most healing way we could. Win and good; we enjoyed a lovely weekend together.

I thought about posting the original writing from Friday’s moment…but reading it, and even reading various edits and footnotes, I just “couldn’t find room for it” in my current thinking – I’ve already adjusted my thinking, and made room in my awareness to be more supportive and directly nurturing of my partner’s needs, and less strictly focused on my own. Self-care is supremely important, and boundary and expectation-setting is a pretty big deal for building lasting love – no argument there – and I’m not saying that it is any part of my plan to undermine those things (I’ve worked too hard “to get here”!). What I am saying is that I’m more aware that I’ve got room to grow and improve on how well I identify my partner’s need for emotional support, and could use some additional work on those skills, too. Love is a verb. Balance is a healthy quality.

…As silly as this is likely to sound, I put a ton of study and practice into self-care, and meeting my own needs, I somehow almost entirely overlooked how best to support a partner and their unique emotional needs in the context of their PTSD. I mean… for fucks’ sake, really?? Omg. Definitely time to begin again!

Damn. Rollercoaster ride of a few days. Crazy. Some lovely on-again-off-again rainy days, which I find generally quite pleasant. Less pleasant is the ebb and flow my anxiety. I had a lovely relaxed weekend with my Traveling Partner – it seems ridiculously far away, now. I’m not certain either of us actually recall it.

My last surviving grandparent died over the weekend. It hit me harder than I expected. I keep making that observation, in various conversations. I’m not sure why I feel I need to explain or excuse my feelings. Grief and grieving are very personal processes. My partner is loving and considerate of my grief. He’s good like that.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ – and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

My partner is less loving and considerate of my anxiety; it tends to provoke his, which then causes mine to worsen (seeing him anxious), which, of course, aggravates his (seeing my anxiety increasing) and around we go. He does his best – and his best is pretty good. I’ve been – often right here – “working on” my anxiety for years now. Study. Practice. Consult. More practice. Repeat. It’s hardest on us when we’re both having an experience that is characterized by feelings of anxiety. “Background anxiety” is particularly insidious. I too often feel that I’m managing things skillfully, feeling good…but miss some detail that could predictably be a thing that might trigger his anxiety… and we’re off. My fairly chronic picking at my cuticles, for example, although it is a sort of a “tic”, and hard to shut down or “break the habit”, it functions as a trigger for his anxiety (likely by sending subtle “anxiety signals” to him that suggest I am anxious, myself) – I’ve fought this “habit” for years. It’s nowhere near as terrible as it once was (I can not now imagine what observing that horror show must have been like for onlookers), but I still bite my nails sometimes and pick at jagged cuticles something awful, and often without being aware of it. Yeesh. I could do better. It’s hard, and there are verbs involved, and it is a major bummer to see so little obvious progress over time. I keep at it.

Anxiety and grief. My week, this week. That’s already a lot to take, but on top of that – I woke yesterday from a late afternoon post-crying-over-death nap with a serious case of vertigo. Did I sleep on my neck wrong? Do a poor selection of dumb bell exercises? Was it because I was working with the 3D printer on my hands and knees, instead of sitting comfortably and being aware of my posture? Is it viral? Was it doing all the show-and-tell stuff my physician asked for during yesterday’s video appointment? I rose from bed with care, severely dizzy, and fighting the anxiety that comes with the vertigo (hard not to panic, it’s very scary). It soon made me physically ill, and I gotta say, I did not enjoy the experience of cleaning up puke while also still fighting the spinning of the room. I did impress myself, though (less by the quantity and distance I achieved, more the unexpected success with the clean up.) I went back to bed – not much else I could do (literally). I just didn’t have the balance to be doing things. I woke a couple times during the night, still spinning. Managed to make it to the bathroom without an incident. This morning? Not quite as bad, and I worked, more or less as is typical.

Well.. I worked, and I juggled the anxiety. Mine and his. I don’t really know what caused his – maybe mine. For sure a portion of mine is caused by his. It’s a pretty problematic feedback loop that seems solved only by literal distance from each other, at least lately. His tense request is that I do a better job of managing my anxiety. I can’t even argue with that; it’s a reasonable request. “Already on it!” is what I’d like to reply, but don’t want to sound flippant, or dismissive, or in any way take away from his message – which is that he is struggling to feel comfortable and manage his own anxiety, when he is with me. Especially hard when he wants to be with me so very much. I want that too.

My arthritis pain competes with my anxiety for my attention, and with the vertigo continuing to flirt with my awareness from the periphery. Adulting is hard. I sigh and email my therapist to request an appointment time. There are steps to take. There are things I can practice – or practice more. There are things within my power, right now, to do better/differently to care for myself with greater skill. It’s not about “easy” – there are no promises that it will be, and I don’t expect it to be. More failure than success? Comes with the issues being tackled here. Incremental change over time is slow. Anxiety fights back. S’ok. It’s a process. Failure doesn’t truly characterize the journey unless I stop moving forward entirely. 🙂 One step at a time, walking this hard mile. I’m having my own experience – and I feel fortunate that I am also sharing the journey with someone who truly cares about my wellness, and to see me thrive as an individual. More practice? Sign me up. It’s really that simple. I don’t have time for blame-laying, I just want to heal and be well. I’m willing to work pretty hard for that, and willing to do so in the face of literal years of failure and frustration, just to manage some small improvements. I’ve had to be. Is it “worth it”? That’s not really a question I can answer for anyone else.

It’s time to begin again. Again.