Archives for category: Fiction

Stressed out? Blue about “who you are”? Feeling like you “never get it right”? Feeling twisted, broken, angsty, or aggrieved? I have some good news for you, and you may not be ready for it (or even willing to accept it, quite yet)…

…It’s mostly all in your head. For real. Most of our stress and weirdness, most of our chaos and damage, most of our baggage – definitely most of our baggage – is not only “all in our heads”, we very carefully made that shit up. We built our narratives from bits and pieces that “feel right” to us, that “seem true” based on our own perspective and understanding of truth. We don’t spend much time checking our assumptions, or fact-checking the circumstances we assume we understand so well. We make mistakes, and ignore them. We misunderstand, without any awareness of it. We seriously bumble around with a head full of made up nonsense we give profound names such as “this is who I’ve always been”, and “if you loved me, you’d ___”, and “I can’t”, “I always”, “I have to” – I mean, just for starters, every one of these beginnings of sentences is demonstrably false, built on assumptions, and fragments of internal narrative that may not even be based in fact, at all. We don’t notice that, much, but make ourselves live on that stew of stress and drama.

…And it’s not even tasty. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

How is that even “good news”? Because – and here’s where it gets kinda hard – we choose it. Since we choose it, we can choose differently. ๐Ÿ˜€

One of the key understandings to unwinding the skein of bullshit that lived in my head for so long (and keeping things generally tidied up much of the time, now), is understanding that repetition is learning. Repeat something often enough, and it seems true. What loops are you playing in your head each day, that color your thoughts about you? Maybe pick one and knock that shit off? ๐Ÿ™‚ “I’m ugly.” Says who? I mean, whose opinion counts but your own, and why the fuck would you say some shit like that to yourself over and over? “No one likes me.” Almost certainly false, and again, why the fuck would you kick yourself around in that heinous fashion? If those things are not true, but you repeat them again and again, and you grow to believe them… does this literally and actually mean that you could, in fact, choose something else, repeat it again and again, and you would grow to believe it? Hehehe. Yeah. It does.

The “positive affirmation” movement is sort of built on this basic concept, and in principle, it’s a great approach. I’d suggest making some attempt to be accurate about any re-programming you may choose to do. Really think it through. Trying to force yourself to believe you are a stunning beauty may come at a cost if “down deep” you don’t “believe” it. It’s best to take a more authentic approach. Start with undermining the negative things you tell yourself every day – by disagreeing with those rote statements playing on a loop in the background of your thinking. Add things, as you notice, that you value and appreciate about yourself right now, and get those new loops going. Reinforce what is both true and uplifting. Undermine what is not true, and what tears you down. Slow progress. Trying to get ahead on the pace of incremental change over time can sometimes result in more frustration than progress, and a fallback on “that doesn’t work for me”. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s a lot to ask of someone to love the person in the mirror, if they’ve been talking that bitch down for a lifetime. Start slow. Maybe just enjoy some time with the person in the mirror. Maybe just go to coffee “together” in a positive moment, in the context of positive, secure, self-reflective inner dialogue. You can be a pleasant experience of “companionship” – for yourself. And why wouldn’t you be?

I guess I’m just saying – there’s a more positive experience available to you, of life and of the world, and although you may have to do a little self-work to get there, I’ve found it well worth the journey, myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

How do you get from “here” to “there”? Well, for starters, you can begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚ When you catch the negative self-talk in progress – disagree. Firmly. Out loud if necessary. Counter that knee jerk bullshit with an observable fact or experience that is quite different. Once you have, enjoy that moment. Don’t rush it. Savor the positive qualities you observe about yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a journey. There are verbs involved. Your results will vary. Incremental change over time is a slow thing – and there’s no point giving up. You’re going to fail; we learn best from our failures. So… now…

Begin again.

Every time. Every time you fail. Every time you fall. Every time you falter. Every time you face disappointment with yourself. Learn from that.

Begin again.

 

This morning, before I quite realized what I’d done, I’d gotten lost in my newsfeed within moments of sitting down to write. I didn’t write. Well, I did write – but I wasn’t writing in a rational, purposeful, helpful way that supports me as a human, or shares something of value. I was mad. I was… posting replies. Oh my.

Once I noticed I was putting myself at risk of an angry screed, I pushed my chair back, sat fully upright, and took a couple deep deep cleansing breaths, and let myself relax. I held on to the awareness of that moment, breaking free of the tantalizing sticky trap of opinion, pulling myself free of the outrage machinery. (There is so much to be outraged about this days, no lie, that’s real.) Differences of opinion so easily become anger. We each feel so certain we are “right“, and that if only we could share the nuances of our personal perspective, everyone else would get it, too! While that may be true, now and then, it mostly just isn’t, at all. We are each having our own experience. It’s not actually fully share-able.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a “relativist“. While I do recognize that context, culture, and variations in human understanding and experience can change the truth of a proposition, I also understand the nature of reality to have unchanging elements (that I may or may not be fully able to recognize or understand, myself). I think how we define the terms we use matters a great deal, and definitely affects our ability to have meaning dialogue, generally, every bit as much as “the nature of reality”. I have an ethical framework, as an individual, that suggests to me that some actions and choices are “wrong” – meaning, not consistent with my ethics, as an individual. So far so good. Where things get messy, and I think this is true for a great many of us, is when my own sense of “wrongness” pressures me from within to make a point of calling it out when I see others taking those actions, or making those choices. Do I really get to decide right vs wrong for anyone but me?

Yes.

…Also, no.

So… “yes”, in the limited sense that I’m utterly free to express my opinion on the matter. However, in doing so, I’m a wiser happier human if I can also remain aware that my opinion on such things is not likely to a) change anyone else’s opinion (or actions) or b) have any great persuasive weight in the world, generally, and also… c) it’s not for me to decide what everyone else will think or do. I’m just saying. I mean that – I’m literally merely, simply, only, and “just” saying words. Someone may hear my words and change. Someone else may hear my words and double-down out of pure resentment and fury, because in their view I am clearly wrong. Still someone else will disregard my words without ever hearing me out,. We are each having our own experience. I don’t really get to decide what anyone else understands right or wrong to be – but I am not required to respect, value, share, or appreciate their perspective, beyond hearing them out, and accepting their agency.

I don’t personally take any of this to be an expression of futility, or as a reason to “stand down” or “keep my opinion to myself”, because humanity’s culture has formed around our opinions and understanding of the world. Our shared ethical commitments become our shared understanding of right vs wrong, and ultimately informs entire communities, and whole nations, allowing society to enact change. We do need to share our individual sense of right vs. wrong with each other to help steer this cultural ship through the waters of change and growth over time. It’s the anger and outrage of social media specifically (before coffee) that is problematic; too much noise, not enough signal. So, I give myself a break, sip my coffee, and bring my moment closer to home. I have plenty to do to make change happen right here. I have work to do to be the woman I most want to be. That’s a project I have real influence over – every day. My example, as an individual, has meaning without extending my reach “to the world” by replying to all manner of media detritus in a reactive moment. Hell, I don’t even respect the opinions of 100% of every human; some are worth far more than others (this is likely true for you as well), and we each “rate” the value of another person’s opinion on different criteria!! (Totally true, too.) So… another good moment to practice non-attachment. lol

I finish my coffee and begin again.

Eventually, there comes a time when “forgiveness” comes up in many discussions of past pain or trauma (even very recent pain and trauma, honestly). Sometimes it comes in the form of someone seeking forgiveness, other times it comes in the form of someone wondering if providing forgiveness is overdue… or possible at all.

Forgiving someone for something they have done to hurt us isn’t about the person who hurt us, at all. That’s an important detail we sometimes forget (as do seekers of forgiveness). So… there’s that.

Forgiving someone for hurting me has been a peculiarly tender and personal thing to learn to do. It took me a while to figure it out; so often the conversation around forgiveness has seemed to center on the actions being forgiven, or the person, and it’s actually not at all about any of that. Forgiveness is letting go our attachment to pain – that deep down personal aggrieved attachment to feeling wounded, and carrying the anger associated with that hurt. Forgiving is the process of letting that go, and moving on, ourselves.

You know what forgiving someone is not? It’s not permission to repeat that hurtful behavior. It’s also not any sort of agreement to continue inviting that person into our life to continue a shared journey as though there had never been any hurt. In fact – forgiving someone has nothing at all to do with the nuts and bolts and practical details of whether they are a part of our life ever again at all. Forgiving someone else is a way of allowing ourselves to move forward from a painful moment.

I’ve long ago forgiven my first husband for the injuries and scars that still sometimes hold me back, or at least affect my day-to-day experience of health. I’ve forgiven my second long-term partner, now also an ex, for the prolonged slide into learned helplessness and chronic frustration that come from being gas-lighted and manipulated for years. I’ve forgiven childhood enemies for their transgressions, and adults more recently who’ve mistreated me in one way or another, over time. Learning to forgive became almost easy once I understood that to do so did not require me to also invite people back into my life to repeat those behaviors – there is no expectation or requirement to do so at all.ย I can forgive, and move on with my life, allowing them to move on with theirs.

Forgiveness is powerful. I highly recommend it as a practice. I also, and without conflict or contradiction, highly recommend maintaining – and enforcing – healthy boundaries. Respect your own boundaries, respect the boundaries of others, and yes, even when you’ve forgiven someone. Non-negotiable relationship deal-breakers remain non-negotiable, and also deal-breaking, even in the face of “forgiveness”. That’s totally correct and appropriate. That’s proper. Having forgiven my first husband for his violence in no way suggests or requires that I allow him back into my life. ๐Ÿ™‚ Forgiving him is for me, not for him.

When people seek forgiveness from us, the intention often seems to be to re-ingratiate themselves in our favor, as though “all is forgiven” also means “do over” and “no harm done”. That seeking suggests that the forgiveness is somehow about the person who has transgressed – but it isn’t, at all. I understand wanting to be forgiven; it sucks to ache with the pain of having hurt someone we care for. Too bad. It’s actually supposed to hurt if we hurt someone or treat them poorly; to remind us to do better, and to nudge us into making it right. Being forgiven doesn’t get someone off the hook for having to make amends, or somehow right our wrongs, and we’re mistaken if we assume that it does.

Being forgiven does not wind back the clock as though what was forgiven never happened. Relationships end on the backs of some pretty heinous deal-breaking words and actions – they should. Forgiving someone for those words or actions in no way suggests continuing the shitty relationship is going to be a thing, or that somehow the pain of what went down will just stop existing. We are each accountable for our actions. We face consequences – real consequences – for our choices, for our words, for our behavior, and whether or not we are forgiven by someone we’ve hurt, this is true.

I spent some time reflecting on forgiveness this weekend, having overheard a remark to the effect that “he’s not going to forgive me this time…” from a woman aware she chronically and repeatedly abuses her mate. I was astonished at the phrasing, which suggested she did not at all understand that the forgiving of her shitty behavior is not in any way related to whether or not the relationship itself would, or should, continue. It got me wondering about forgiveness, generally, and boundaries, and I found myself looking over past moments, myself, that I had forgiven. I felt pretty relieved that forgiveness has been so hard to learn, for me; the result has been that it did not become the kind of leverage that could be used to get me to “stay with a sinking ship” or “run back into a burning building”.

Here’s a thing that ranklesย me about that overheard remark; it also suggests that the speaker does not understand accepting forgiveness. Understanding that one has been forgiven requires a change in behavior – because accepting forgiveness implicitly acknowledges the wrongdoing. Once we know we have wronged someone, there is an obligation to change the behavior. No change? Well…um… why the fuck would a reasonable person expect that relationship to continue?? Furthermore, continued poor behavior, once forgiven, and having been acknowledged as poor (and undesirable) behavior – is willful. Yep. I said it and I mean it; if you know it’s unwelcome behavior, you’ve previously expressed regret for it, previously been forgiven for it, and you continue that behavior? You are deliberately, willfully, and yes on purpose,ย doing this hurtful thing. Seeking further forgiveness for the same shit is fairly sick, very manipulative, and in the face of chronic behavior, just a way of holding back that person you are hurting from seeking healthier relationships, and keeping them mired in bullshit with you. Particularly since the forgiveness isn’t about you. lol

For those faced with forgiving someone yet again for the same old same old, maybe also consider getting off that fucking hamster wheel at some point. Forgive, yes, but damn – respect your own boundaries, and be prepared to follow through on your non-negotiable deal-breakers. It’s okay to do that – and more to the point, it’s healthier to be free of abusive relationships than it is to attempt to “fix” them in the face of chronic mistreatment. Forgiveness is not tantamount to permission, or an agreement to ignore the damage done. ๐Ÿ˜‰

It’s a whole new day. It’s a grand one to forgive old pain! It’s also an excellent day to stand strong on your resolve to treat yourself well, and to respect your own boundaries. It’s a lovely day to begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

I had a wee moment yesterday, that teetered on the edge of the day going very wrong. It didn’t. I managed a step back, and some perspective, long enough for things to sort themselves out well. It’s really enough that things worked out, and not at all necessary to live life without such, or disappointing to have experienced it. In fact, because I didn’t become emotionally invested in the moment itself, or build it up to become a mountain of circumstantial anguish. It was more illuminating of my self and values, than at all disturbing. I didn’t know I would “get here”… hell, years ago, I did not even understand that “here” existed to arrive at. lol

We make up most of what causes our worst suffering, in our own heads. It’s ours. It’s hand-crafted painful narrative, and we often rely upon it a great deal to illustrate points, prove we’re “right”, and show “who we are”, to gain sympathy, or justify refusing to change, or to reinforce our insistence that we have no choices – without much attention to how entirely made up that bullshit really is. It sucks. It sucks to suffer in the first place, but oh does suck to understand we’ve done it to ourselves. Still – once I knew, I could stop fucking doing that!!

Life has been much better – easier, rich in cherished moments, low in drama, characterized generally by contentment – since I stopped putting myself through all that. It was not, unfortunately, something with an easy set of steps to follow, or something anyone could help me with.ย  I can try:

  1. Don’t be so down on yourself; you’re human.
  2. Don’t be so full of shit all the time; other people see through that crap, so can you.
  3. Do your best to be the person you most want to be, moment to moment.
  4. Repeat

No super helpful, I get it. It may be worth noting that, most commonly, I see the mostly likely point at which I am most prone to stepping from “what clearly actually is” to “I made this shit up myself, see?!” follows the word “because”. Maybe just… don’t do that. “I feel hurt” is honest, and clear, and fairly to the point. “I feel hurt because…” holds so much potential for magical thinking, disorder, lost reason, and lashing out at someone, that we often quickly stop sharing information that is legitimately provable true in real life, and start… making shit up. We often can’t tell we’ve done so, either. We believe our thoughts, and in this era of people behaving as if their opinion is every bit as worthy as actual truth, it can be hard to pull ourselves out of the slime long enough for honest self-reflection, and anything so wholesome as “truth”. “Because” is actually a pretty useful word, but fuck; fact check yourself.

Truth exists. It’s just sort of hard to stand firm to the process of telling it, honestly, particularly about ourselves, and especially when we may be quite definitely “in the wrong”. That’s right, I said it; we err. We make mistakes in reasoning. We excuse of ourselves things we do not excuse in others. We justify our bad acts. We’re “only human” – while we make that other person out to be a villain. It’s not actually okay. Here’s the thing that’s weird about it; it’s hard to call each other out for those lies (yes, they are) – we don’t want to be called out, ourselves, and… what if that person is “well-meaning”, or… they clearly believe what they’re saying? (Reminder: that we “believe” something is not in any way connected to the truth of it.) Yeah. I admit it – standing next to a friend telling me (or others) a tale that they clearly believe about “who they are” (or what actually happened) that I know, for a fact, is not true (from my perspective) – because I was there – is uncomfortable. I have nothing to say here about what to do about it or say to someone else who may be spinning up a bullshit narrative about themselves. I do make a point of trying not to be the person causing that specific category of discomfort, or indulging the particularly human quality of “making shit up”… unless I am literally writing fiction; it would be appropriate, then. lol

The way out of our pain in life is through it. Excusing it, camouflaging it, transforming it through skillful use of internal narrative – none of that “fixes” anything. We’ve all got to walk our own hard mile, deal with our own vastย Augean stables, and become the person we, ourselves, most want to be, as honestly as we are able. (And, yeah, there are verbs involved – so many!)(Yep. Your results may vary, too.)

Why am I thinking about all of this, anyway? Life and the world, really, nothing fancier than that. The White House Correspondent’s Dinner got me thinking about it (Michelle Wolf’s comedy was brilliant and edgy). A moment I had yesterday seemed relevant. too. I woke feeling thoughtful, and I just went with it. lol

…I’m still out of coffee, but I remembered to start packing for the weekend. LOL

So how about today? New day, new beginning – are you ready to be who you are, as a starting point to becoming the person you most want to be? You can. You have choices. You can begin again. โค

Expectations and assumptions are a fast track to some shitty experiences in life. Most people move through their experience seemingly unaware, much of the time, that the outcome they are railing against is built, in part, on their implicit expectations, unexpressed emotions, and unverified assumptions. It’s so easy to make up the larger part of what we think we know, entirely in our own heads, of bits and pieces we’ve cobbled together from fragments of awareness, something we heard, and things we think we recall reading. It’s not an ideal approach to living well, I think.

Maintaining a comfortable awareness of the vastness of all that I just don’t actually know is something I practice. Seems worthwhile; I tend to be less annoyed with people as a result, generally. I tend to cry a lot less. I don’t feel so hurt, so often. I enjoy the day-to-day of life as a human primate a great deal more without attempting to do so leaning into the disappointments that are so inevitable when I’m holding on to carefully crafted expectations and assumptions.

…I still have nightmares that seem to be about nothing besides uncertainty, itself. (Fucking hell, even many of my nightmares are weirdly meta) I dislike being uncertain – and I’m grateful to have learned at some point that the opposite of “uncertainty” is notย “feeling very certain of the made up narrative in my head”. lol (Because it isn’t that, at all, emotionally; the opposite of uncertainty is being comfortable with not knowing.)

I chuckle to myself and sip my coffee. I don’t actually know that stuff, either. I’m guessing, maybe, or coasting on new assumptions and a different understanding of things, until those also fall to a failed attempt to check them against reality. Cycles of growth and learning. Incremental change over time. The understanding of life and love that met my needs at a teenager, are unlikely to be at all similar to my understanding of life and love as a growth woman past 50, and will also be, most probably, quite different from those I’ll have as a woman of 90.

I’m okay not knowing. I avoid tempting myself with guessing to fill in the blanks – definitely where people are concerned. We are each having our own experience. We filter our understanding of the world through our limited lens of that experience, framed in the context of our fears, and whatever lingering childhood brainwashing we’ve hung on to over the years. We are each so similar. So human. We have much to share with one another. Stories to tell. Trails to walk. Lessons to teach and to learn.

It’s Friday. A busy work day. Another doctor’s appointment. A long weekend ahead. A trip down to see my Traveling Partner for a couple days, and hang out where love lives, watching the shadows on the mountain shift, and the many tiny chickadees picking between the gravel of the drive. It’s been a couple weeks, and although I definitely needed the break from the frequent trips down, and time to really rest and also care for my current residence, I have missed being there.ย 

Each trip down to the The Place Where Love Lives feels a little more like “real life” and less like being a welcomed guest, which is lovely. I make a point each trip to find some new way to feel more at home, to be more appropriately prepared for life there, and inevitably I leave a bit more of my heart behind when I return to The Place Where I Live, myself. This time I am taking art down with me. ๐Ÿ™‚

I notice my coffee is finished. The clock advances the day minute by minute and it’s time to participate. ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy the weekend! (Hell, I think this weekend, I’ll even write…)