Archives for category: Despair

Last night was rough. Bad dreams. The kind of shit that, over time, makes my “sleep aversion” flare up.

…Last night the whole world was burning…

Something woke me – my Traveling Partner? I think so; checking on me – I’d been having a difficult day (although nothing much seemed “wrong”, really). I remember telling him to “stay close to the dogs, they’ll guide you away from the firestorms”. We don’t own a dog. It was weird and terrifying. I remember trying to drag myself from sleep to make sure my partner was safe, and waking more fully in the dark, alone.

“The Nightmare City” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas w/glow

Eventually I made my way out of the Nightmare City and slept more deeply. Fewer dreams. Woke in the morning, feeling unsettled, uneasy, with tears dried on my cheeks. I have a vague recollection that my Traveling Partner may have said something about being awake all night – watching over me, or? But that may have been part of my dreams.

Be kind to people. It costs you nothing to do so. The world has some issues right now, war, femicide, exploitation, earthquakes – and soon enough, somewhere, the forests or savannahs will be on fire. Again. Damn, we could do so much better. Could have done better, beginning so much longer ago. It’s only necessary to listen to some of the lies businesses have told about products they sell that they knew were dangerous to human (or other) life, or spend some time looking over the many ways various governments have abused or exploited their citizens, to know we could have been doing better. A lot better. We’re not individually exempt; human beings are less civilized that we like to make ourselves out to be.

I guess it’s all just sort of “working on my mind” lately. I sip my water and think about that. Where is the balance point between “letting it go” and “changing it”? How do I make doing my own best count the most for … everything and everyone else, too?

I rub my eyes. Tears begin to well up, and I grit my teeth and force my emotions down. I have shit to do today.

I sigh and begin again.

I’m sipping my coffee and reminding myself – again – to stop picking at my cuticles. It’s more like a “tic” than a “habit”, and it comes and goes with my background anxiety or general level of stress. I’m less than ideally skilled at managing it. I sigh out loud and begin typing. I know that I can’t pick at my cuticles while also typing…so… there’s that. Helpful.

A glance at the news doesn’t need to go any deeper than headlines. Click-bait-y or not, the news in the world is pretty grim. Earthquakes. Murder. War. Femicide. Sexism. Racism. Xenophobia. Greed. Human primates are a fucking dumpster fire of mistreatment and poor decision-making. It’s ugly out there. I feel “the weight of the world” as a big disappointing bummer. A metaphorical weight holding me down. Bleh.

I feel, momentarily, that I have little power to change the world. I guess that’s mostly pretty true… another sip of my coffee. I think about the coffee itself. Where it likely comes from, far away, in a hotter climate, and likely the product of a great deal of back-breaking manual labor that was not well-compensated. I frown at my coffee. At the world. We could do better. Every fucking one of us, most likely. Me too. You too. All of us.

Another sigh. Another sip of coffee. A glance at my work calendar for today. I’m feeling low and unmotivated. My dreams were troubled and my sleep was restless. If it weren’t a work day, I’d maybe just go back to bed and hope to wake in a different place, emotionally. So much less work involved than trying to sort myself out in this moment.

…”Do better.” I remind myself…

I take a breath. Take a break. Walk around the block feeling the cold morning air on my face. Funny – I don’t recall ever needing to take a break while I was writing in the morning, before. Strange. It’s not about the writing. It’s about the human being doing the writing (clearly). I take a minute to think about things that make me feel good. I think about love. I think about my Traveling Partner sleeping at home. I think about sunshine, Spring, and meadows covered in flowers. I think about forested trails and the sound of a creek flowing beneath a bridge. I think about rain showers and days at the beach. I think about quiet afternoons with a good book. I think about the many beautiful miles I have walked in a lifetime, and how many more miles there are to walk that I’ve never yet set foot upon. I think about the beautiful things my Traveling Partner has made for me (or us) since we moved here to this little house. I think about his smile and his laughter. I think about the warmth of his embrace and the way he misses me when I’m not with him. I think about the first time I ever heard The Sultans of Swing on the radio. I think about my first set of oil paints, my first really good brushes, my first easel. I think about the roses in my garden, and my plans for Spring this year.

…There’s more good than bad, more delightful moments than unpleasant ones, in this one life of mine. I’m fortunate. Trauma has left some scars, and imprinted me in some unfortunate ways. We are changed by trauma, it’s true. I still have choices. I still have opportunities to grow, heal, and improve. I still have so much to say about how I experience moments – even if I can’t do much to change the world. (Individual people do change the world… it’s just fairly unlikely, statistically. lol) Still… our choices matter. How we treat each other matters, and the small things we do to be our best version of ourselves, and enjoy our lives and lift each other up all make an huge difference… if only in small ways. 🙂 It’s still worthwhile to do our best.

…and then do better than that, too…

One moment at a time. One choice at a time. Today I’ll just do my best, and hope to get it more right than wrong, and do better tomorrow. 🙂

I’m ready to begin again. Again.

Weird weekend. (I could stop right there, honestly…)

“Baggage” is a tough challenge for people who have been traumatized. It can be super hard to put that shit down, and properly “begin again”. Our baggage tends to linger in our hidden corners, tucked away carefully where it’s difficult to see how problematic our thinking has become. We struggle with decision-making and outcomes that create an unpleasant experience or prevent us from thriving in our lives. It’s hard sometimes.

I’m hopeful that a particularly painful and difficult conversation with my Traveling Partner really does have the promising positive outcome it appears that it may… I’ve just got to set down some baggage and back away from it, then do some things differently going forward. Him too, I suppose, although in this instance the focus was for sure on me and the chaos and damage I sometimes struggle with.

Love and words. So many words. So much love.

Once we were “on the other side” of that difficult conversation, we enjoyed our evening together. I woke this morning feeling loved (and hopefully he did too). I’ve got a massive headache, still managed to enjoy a cup of coffee with my partner before I left for the local co-work space I sometimes work from. So far a promising start to the day and week. Nice.

Moving back into my studio was a sort of mix of manual labor and thoughtful work and careful selection. Now that it’s finished, I can’t fathom why I stalled for so long. I find myself returning to my studio again and again, thinking about creative projects. I’ve rekindled my eagerness to finish a particular manuscript that has been languishing in a file on my hard-drive for awhile – almost a decade. Long overdue, and I did not understand that two things were holding me back: 1 poem I had included that I had serious second thoughts about, and those journals tucked away in a bin. Funny; I took care of the journals, and now project after project that had been stalled seem to percolate to the surface for their moment.

What’s holding you back? When will you tackle that?

How much baggage are you dragging along every day? How much can you “just set down” and walk away from? Are there things you could let go of, that you… just don’t? What is that doing for you? (Seriously, you probably wouldn’t cling to some of that sticky bullshit if you weren’t getting something out of doing so, if only the strange comfort of familiarity – which is totally over-rated.)

I’m no therapist, just saying – lightening the load makes for an easier journey. 😉

I sip my coffee and think my thoughts. There’s a garden to plan. A life to live. Love to embrace and nurture. Already time to begin again.

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about my recent meltdown, and the later realization that it may have been connected in some way to the recent clutter-reducing destruction of many years of paper journals. After so many years of working to improve my emotional wellness and heal whatever I can of my PTSD, it took me by surprise to have such a bad episode so recently. I was completely taken by surprise – and frankly, that’s almost comical; intellectually, I know not to just “tick a box” and call myself “well”. Mental illness doesn’t work like that – it’s more a journey taken over time. A lifetime.

When I began talking it over with my therapist, it became pretty clear that the chaos and damage that surfaced in those painful moments sourced with some of my earliest adult trauma in my first marriage, and I know that that had its foundation in the childhood traumas that are older still. I was (and am still) dealing with the lasting effects of family violence. In the here-and-now, where such traumas are not part of my current experience, I was nonetheless “primed” for panic because the daily news is filled with stories of family violence, family killings, and domestic violence related femicides (I do my best to avoid reading those articles, but the headlines are everywhere).

Firstly, let’s just get this out of the way; don’t kill people you say you love. (This seems obvious…?) Don’t raise your hand in violence outside the explicit requirements of actual fucking warfare. Just… don’t. Violence is ugly, unnecessary, and the outcomes are unpleasant and often quite permanent. If you are an American in the United States, our social contract with each other states – in writing – that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are “inalienable rights”, and this means you are explicitly agreeing that these things are sacrosanct and not to be taken lightly. So… yeah. Don’t fucking kill people. Especially do not kill your fucking family. Jeez… who are we that this has to be said??

So, yeah. Here I am almost 60, and I am still dealing with the traumas inflicted on me as a child, and those inflicted on me as a young adult. We’re talking about horrors of many years ago… more than 30 years ago. Fucking hell. You’d think spending something like 30-40 years in therapy (on and off, and most recently a pretty consistent 10 years or so) would mean… no more chaos and damage. No more panic attacks. No more freak outs. No more tears.

It doesn’t work that way. It’s more like the crumpled paper analogy suggests (used as a lesson for anti-bullying, but quite relevant). The damage is done. The lasting outcomes are… lasting. The lost trust. The peculiar defensiveness. The hyper-vigilance. The thinking errors. Some of it can be corrected and eased over time… with practice. Some of it… maybe it’s always part of who we are as survivors. Scars that tell the tale.

Note: having been hurt doesn’t get us out from under our own obligation to be the best human being we know how to be. Being hurt is not an excuse for inflicting hurts on others. Just saying… adulting is hard.

I’m not sitting here feeling gloomy or tragic. I mean, fuck yes it’s a major bummer, and frustrating as shit… but… there’s hope for further improvement over time. I come back again and again to the tools that work, and to the lessons learned over time. I take a moment to reflect on how much progress has been made, and how much easier things actually are. So many new beginnings. The chaos and damage doesn’t tell the whole story, and living mired in my nightmares is no longer my way. That’s something. My results still vary. I still need practice practicing the practices that shore up my wellness and promote healing. That’s just real. It’s a commitment to healing – and to living well.

The harder part here may be balancing what I know through experience and study with what I achieve through my words and my actions – making the understanding a living experience isn’t an instant win. There are so many verbs involved. Try, fail, try again… repeat. Very human. (Don’t give up, just keep practicing and improve over time.) While I’m not personally to blame for the horrors or violence inflicted on me, I am personally responsible for those that I inflict on others subsequently – whatever the hurts that shaped me.

I sip my coffee enjoying the quiet time to reflect on the powerful impression trauma makes on our entire being, and the way it can shape who we become and color how we see the world around us. Worth a moment or two of self-reflection and I find myself wondering if it is too soon for another trip to the coast to watch the waves pound the beach on a stormy afternoon while thinking about the lasting effect of trauma, and how best to begin again? If not that, well then, it’s another work day, and other beginnings have my attention.

Another day, another new beginning. 🙂 Time to choose my adventure…

I’m drinking water and counting myself grateful to have indoor plumbing, hot and cold running potable water from a tap in the house, and additional filtration that ensures the water is clean, and free of weird tastes or sediment. It’s nice. I’m drinking water because I’ve already had my coffee and frankly I do need to be drinking more water. Recent longevity-associated articles reporting on the value of being well-hydrated did not go unnoticed. I started paying attention to the differences on days when I am not well-hydrated vs days when I am – and nights. Yes, drinking more water definitely results in getting up to pee more often during the night, but that doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with whether I sleep well and deeply, or how easily I return to sleep, so… small price to pay? Well, I guess I hadn’t previously thought so, until I noticed that being well-hydrated seemed to also reduce my snoring (noticeably), as well as improving my ability to lubricate naturally (still a pretty big deal for me, personally, in spite of being post-menopause I really enjoy sex), like, a lot. So I’m pretty committed to drinking more water.

Keep practicing.

…I learned quite recently, and yes “the hard way”, that one bad spell with my mental health can wreck that progress in mere hours. Friday evening I went through some shit and had a nasty flare up of my PTSD on this whole other difficult to describe level. It was bad. I put my Traveling Partner through some bullshit over it (always regrettable and complicated). It got bad enough that I actually had a flashback, and those have gotten to be very rare. The ridiculous level of hysteria I ultimately reached (calling it a “panic attack” doesn’t do the chaos justice at all) caused me to cry a quantity of tears that finally resulted in a loss of moisture that definitely resulted in me more than a little dehydrated by dawn. I woke Saturday morning with a stuffy head, swollen eyes, and feeling like “everything had come crashing down”. It passed, but… it wasn’t good. The low point was the painful awareness that even medicated, I am at risk. I am grateful to have the partner I do. The chaos and damage don’t reliably “take no for an answer” once shit skitters sideways. The self-directed shame and disappointment immediately add an additional gut-punch that makes bouncing back hard. On top of all of that? Damn few people actually “get” what flashbacks are actually like, and they aren’t portrayed in the movies or in media very skillfully (how could they be?).

It’s important to take care of myself. Regardless of the chaos and damage, regardless of my personal starting point on life’s journey, or where I am standing when I begin again. Problematically, this is true for everyone; self-care matters. I don’t “get a head-start” when I practice good self-care – I don’t even get to start at the same starting point as “everyone else”. I’ve started this journey where my starting point happened to be. Self-care is a thing that it is very helpful to do – for everyone. I’m still me. Still have the issues I have. Still have to work on those issues. Still have to trust that incremental change over time will improve things. Still have to recognize that my results are going to vary. My demons got the better of me on Friday night in a big way. I’m fortunate to have a loving partner willing to support my long-term wellness and growth. I’m grateful that I can understand that there is no implicit promise that having a loving partner will actually make this shit any “easier”. I’ve still got to walk my own hard mile. I’ve still got to do the work. I’m still going to fall down now and then, and have to pick myself up and start over. Begin again.

Some practices are more critical than others. Some practices are more emotionally nourishing than others. Some are more or less effective for me as an individual. I did not imagine the simple act of drinking enough water would be one of those very simple very big deals among all my practices, but here we are.

Selecting good practices is a bit like building a healthy diet… fruit is delicious. Sooo tasty. Filled with nutrients we need. Yum. The thing is, though, it’s also full of sugar. Like a lot of sugar. For many of us, building our diet around tasty fruits is not notably healthier than building it around any other tasty sweets. [Note: I am not a nutritionist or dietician, nothing I say in this blog should be construed as medical or dietary advice. I am using “diet” and nutrition metaphorically here.] Veggies may not be as sweetly delicious and tempting in the way luscious ripe fruits can be, but they do make a far better foundation for my diet. So… it matters to choose with care. Whether we’re talking about a healthy diet, the practices we choose for our emotional wellness, the partnership in which we spend our days (and nights)… or the practices we choose for our physical wellness. Turns out some of the most basic practices for my self-care support both my emotional wellness and my physical wellness (looking your way drinking water and eating more veggies!!). It’s worth thinking about for more than a moment. Abandon any one of those cornerstones of a good life, and the foundation isn’t solid enough to rest upon.

Get right down to it, and there’s just no magic bullet, or pill, or single solution to “all of the shit we go through”. No partnership can bear the weight of all of our bullshit. We’ve got to do all the things we can – everything we know to do, as reliably as we’re able to learn to practice. Through practice. Sounds like a huge thing to commit to, but taken a practice at a time, doesn’t it just amount to living life? I think about it a while, let the songs play. Watch the tiny bar of sunlight creep across my desk.

My partner comes in and rubs my shoulders and neck for a moment. “You writin’ a book?” he asks with a laugh. I laugh back; there are no shortcuts.

It’s time to begin again.