Archives for category: Free Will

Warning: this article has no point. No proper theme. No clear metaphor. You have been warned.

I woke early this morning, although it felt like sleeping in; it’s a Monday holiday, and I’ve got the day off. My Traveling Partner slept in. I did some yoga. Enjoyed a hot shower, and a first cup of coffee while I looked over new seed catalogues. Quiet morning. I think about a second coffee. I think about a walk in a foggy Pacific Northwest forest. I think about pancakes I intend to make later. Walk first? Seems the correct order of operations, or pace, for a holiday Monday. Leisurely. No pressure. Some housekeeping later? Sure. There are things to do that need to be done.

I think about the parts that make up a entire lived life. I think about ages, in years and in time frames. I think about “work” and “life”. I think about passions – for things, for people, for experiences, and for those random affections and fondnesses for this or that, that become attachments to “who we are”. “Time at work” is part of this lived experience of mine. “Time in the studio” feels more “important” emotionally… clearly, in practical terms, it is less important if I define that time by what it brings to the finances. Subjectively, I experience a sense that I “don’t spend enough time in the studio, creatively”, while also routinely down-playing my desire to be there for “practical reasons” or because something else “seems more important”. There are other ways I fondly use my time to invest in personal joy and moments of heartfelt delight. I think of time spent on love and loving. Time in the garden. Time spent reading… walking… hanging out with my partner… Time spent in the kitchen.

I sip this glass of water I am drinking between coffees. I think about the ways I spend time. I think over which of them I enjoy. What do I spend time on that I merely endure? Where is the greater value? Where is the necessity? Grimly, my brain tosses in a random remark about the inevitable heat death of the universe for fun. I mentally roll my eyes at myself.

Unfinished thoughts.

I think about posts I started to write, then never finished. Or… never actually wrote, at all. I wonder whether I’ll ever resurrect any of them, start or finish them? If I did, would there be any chance at all that they would be what I might have written when the thought first struck me? How would they have morphed and changed in my thinking over the course of some measure of time of this lived experience? What was I even thinking?

My smiling partner breaks in on my thoughts; a welcome diversion, this morning. This? Here? Not really “going anywhere”. I’m okay with that. It’s time for a second coffee – and a good time to begin again. 😀

Most details of this delightful love I share with my Traveling Partner play out in our kitchen. Discussions about recipes, cooking techniques, taste preferences, costs and sources of various ingredients, and sharing suggestions, tips, and offering practical help, or even just hanging out to watch and share the experience, are all very commonplace happenings here. We both cook. He’s quite good at it. I’m a perpetual novice, tackling every new recipe as if cooking for the first time. I’ve learned quite a lot from my partner, in our kitchen. Even subtler nuances of love play out in our kitchen; how our dynamic works (or doesn’t, now and then), the search for balance, mutual autonomy, mutual respect, and the way our obvious fond regard for one another eases the strain of occasional conflict. How to communicate. How to follow instructions. It’s all in the kitchen.

I personally have a strange mixed up relationship with “the kitchen”. In my childhood, this was the place women gathered – or were directed towards. “Real chefs” were respected in the world… women in the kitchen were not. I have a lingering fuck-ton of baggage about misogyny, the kitchen, feminism, equality, and what it means to be a woman in the kitchen, in American life. All mine. I don’t think my partner shares that garbage (he’s no doubt got his own to deal with), and this too becomes part of the theater of life – and the kitchen.

…I do love cookbooks. This may seem odd considering my strange relationship with the kitchen and with cooking. I long resented the dishes (as in “dirty, in the sink”) as emblematic of servitude, for like… decades. No idea when I got over that… I think it was when I realized that it was my own desire for order that drove my stress about the dishes, that I was finally able to put some of that down and walk on from it. I even like cooking. I like taking ingredients and making them something more than they once were – something worth sharing, and experiencing. The effort has meaning and value, when I allow myself to wholly enjoy the outcome, authentically, honestly, and fearlessly. I mean – let’s be real here – I’m not the most fantastic cook on the block. lol I’ve got a lot to learn, and mistakes have been made. 🙂 I’ll probably enjoy learning more about cooking for a long while to come.

I’ve learned a few things in the kitchen, in this relationship, and not just recipes or gadgets. I’ve learned more about “the dance” of lovers in close quarters working on separate tasks; kitchens are often small confined spaces, and in some cases even two people is one person “too many” for ease and convenience. Coordination becomes relevant. Communication is important. Acceptance, and understanding, and the assumption of positive intent keep things merrily moving along toward a successful, hopefully tasty conclusion. 🙂 There are some really useful lessons to be learned in the kitchen.

Friday I said I wanted to work on my pancakes this weekend. They’re okay. Not “great”. They’re perfectly good pancakes, but not such that anyone is going to ask me to make them. LOL So, okay. I made pancakes yesterday. Re-learned the lesson that is “make sure your surface is hot enough before you start cooking the pancakes”. Important lesson there. 🙂 In the evening, I remembered my plan to make pancakes and spoke up about my intention to do so again today for breakfast. My partner’s reply? “Waffles?”. Yep. I learned to make waffles pretty well last year, around this same time, I think. At that time, my Traveling Partner was kind, and very clear about it “I don’t really like waffles, but…” he was totally open to supporting my efforts by eating waffles now and then. He just didn’t want me to be disappointed if he just wasn’t wowed by waffles. I appreciate expectation-setting, especially when done with such care and love. I made the waffles. They were “okay”. We ate them. I made more waffles, and the next time or two they were beyond “okay” – we ate those, too, obviously. My waffles are pretty good. Good enough to freeze any excess and using them as homemade freezer waffles for later. lol My partner asks me to make waffles – because my waffles are fucking delicious. 😀 There’s a lesson here. There’s a metaphor here. I think it over and sip my coffee.

Soon, it’ll be time to begin again. In the kitchen. Making waffles. Feeling loved.

It’s a new year, eh? New cup of coffee here on my desk, too. New morning, new day – a Saturday. The season has turned, and Winter is truly upon us. Here that mostly means cold, wet, and rainy, with occasional flooding, and the sounds of trees cracking when the wind blows on a freezing day. Other places, other weather.

Out on a nearby trail, taking note of the recent winter storm damage; fallen trees open up new views of the sky.

It’s been a few days since I sat down to put words to a blank page. The holidays passed, as holidays do, and this is a time when best intentions set boldly of a New Year’s Eve begin to fall to the mundane, the routine, and the unexceptional – change is quite a bit of work. Did you commit yourself to some specific change or improvement in life for this new year? Are you already frustrated? I try to avoid “resolutions” – it just hasn’t been a successful approach for me, personally. Still, this year I do want to “do more, better” – and be more that person I most want to be. It wants a new beginning, though, because I am deeply flawed, fundamentally very human, and entirely capable of bad decision-making, errors, and falling short of expectations and commitments. I’ve disappointed myself a number of times this year, once in a serious, significant, and painful way. So, as is so common, I set myself to putting things right as the new year approached, and tried to sort out what really crap-tacular shit is holding me back, and what baggage I can maybe put down , and what things I can do better, generally. I’m back in therapy, working on difficult specifics.

What sorts of changes am I looking for, this year, myself? It’s an assortment. Last year I got in 1 mile per day (average) over the second half of the year (started in July, finished on 12/31/21). This year I’m going for 2 miles per day, all year. 730 miles. On foot. I mean… it’s not “all that”. People do through hikes that are far longer, and conquer those in shorter time. 🙂 For me, working from home full time, during a pandemic, 2 miles a day on foot still manages to feel like a (healthy) stretch, particularly if I am making a legitimate attempt to do some portion of that every single day. So. I’m doing it. I’ve at least started. I sip my coffee and wonder if I’ll give up, or feel inclined to “cheat”. (There is no “cheating” on such things; either I succeed or I fail. Miles on foot are miles on foot. Doesn’t mean there won’t be something within me inclined to wonder if I could “find an easier way”. I’m very human.) Various other small things; get more done with less bitching (housekeeping shit, I mostly mean), really embracing the direct personal value to my quality of life that those efforts have, and maybe stop fucking resenting the necessity. That gets super tedious for me, even from within. “Do more, bitch less” seems a good place to begin. So far this year, I’ve been hitting the mark there pretty well, just making a bit more effort, with a bit less resistance to the effort required. It does seem to make things actually easier.

I’ve got bigger changes in mind, too. This partnership means the world to me. My Traveling Partner is special in my heart. Surely I could be a better partner? Better friend? Better human being to make a life with? I mean… there may be some things about me that may not improve much, however I fuss and practice, but that can’t be what stops me from growing and improving in all the ways I can improve, right? PTSD and brain trauma are for sure ass-kickers, as life challenges go, but I’m not without potential, and I’m pretty wonderful in so many other ways – there’s no legitimate reason to allow my issues to define me, or hold me back from making more progress, and walking my path with future successes in mind.

I wrote a bunch more words, deleted those when I noticed that my mind was wandering, and my words had become… unfocused? Purposeless? Too… something. My Traveling Partner stops by to invite me to share an experience with him later – doesn’t matter what sort, really, it’s the invitation to enjoy each other that matters most. Sounds like fun. I enjoy his company, and sharing time and activities. I smile after he walks away; we’re both pretty grumpy first thing in the morning, and don’t always want to “deal with people” – including each other. It’s a wonderful morning when we’re already exchanging smiles by 8:00 am on a Saturday, and making suggestions for shared experiences to enjoy.

Other than one errand I plan to run this morning, I’m hoping to spend most of the day here in the studio (painting, instead of writing). It’s a good day for it, I think, rainy, cold, dreary… the bright lights in the studio are probably good for my emotional wellness in winter months. 🙂 I’ll make cocoa… and begin again.

We’ve all got a story (or stories) to tell, haven’t we? (It’s a rhetorical question. We do.) So often, it also feels as if “no one is listening” – even if they just fucking asked for a bedtime story. LOL Being human sometimes seems needlessly complicated.

My Traveling Partner stopped into the studio with chocolates and a smile. I’d just finished with a phone call he’d earlier expressed interest about, wanting to know the outcome. So… okay… I start to share, but the timing is a poor fit – he’s livestreaming, and needs to get back to that rather promptly. I’m invited to come along to where he’s sitting, to share any relevant (to his experience) information. Cool. Awesome – I do that. Only… I’ve misread the moment and begin to go down the path of “sharing my story”, instead of simply “answering his question”. Those are rather different things, in any conversation. 🙂 I get it wrong a lot, and I work on it often. Story-telling is about a carefully crafted narrative with a “larger purpose” (sometimes educational, sometimes entertainment, sometimes something else) than just answering a simple question. Stories have meaning and context and plot and are about more than one question, one answer. He sets a clear boundary in the moment; he’s not available for a story right then, and recognizing that is already a win for me. 🙂 I answer the simple question and walk away, and although I still needed to deal with my momentary hurt feelings (no one likes rejection, and being shut down pretty much reliably feels like rejection, regardless of the intent), the interaction felt like a “win”, generally.

I get over my emotional moment pretty quickly. Realistically, his idea of an interesting story and mine are quite different, anyway, and I too-often overwhelm him with narrative details that are neither useful nor actually interesting to him. Better communication skills are still something I work on – a lot. Every bit of progress I make is useful in all my relationships (personal or professional).

I turn my head left, to my other monitor. Another sort of “carefully crafted narrative” is unfolding there, and I watch the video as it does. The work day is already over. I think about the afternoon ahead. Other moments. Other stories to tell. More opportunities to practice skillful communication, and more chances to be the person I most want to be. It’s a journey. I take a moment to think about the many miles I’ve walked on many trails… and the stories I could tell. They don’t all need telling. They don’t all have an audience, if they do. 🙂 Figuring out the difference is one more thing to practice.

I “slept in” – for some values of that expression – and woke to a rainy rather mild winter morning. I made a point to go to the store one last time, yesterday, hoping to enjoy the entire holiday weekend at home without venturing into retail spaces at all. I made this excellent coffee which I continue to sip on, now. There is holiday music playing in the background, with a warm, cozy holiday café scene as a backdrop on my monitor. No children live in our home – I’ve still got NORAD’s “Santa Tracker” up, where I can see that famous fat man in red flying around the globe in a sleigh pulled by reindeer (somehow, it still “makes sense” to me that this is even a thing! lol). Giftmas at home.

So merry

…Giftmas. At home. So many moments lead to this one, now, and I feel content, merry, and wrapped in love. My Traveling Partner woke around the time I did. It’s a lovely morning. So far, every detail of the holiday is just delightful, and seems lavish and rich in keeping with childhood expectations of the season, without actually being costly, or built on unaffordable excess. It’s just… pleasant. We took a modest approach to the holidays this year to focus more on longer-term goals. You know that pandemic thing? Yeah, that’s still going on, too – so the thing we’d likely both like most to do more of, which would be socializing in various settings, maybe having a holiday dinner or a party, these are all things that are pretty much not on the menu for us. We’re still masking any time we go out (or answer the door), and practicing fairly strict social distancing – we’re definitely not ready to invite a mob of friends over to party. Not yet. Hell, we haven’t even had a housewarming party yet, or had my partner’s brother over (who lives rather close, a couple towns up the road).

…As content as I am to spend time alone, or with only my partner for company, I am also “feeling the pandemic” as it wears on, month after month. Funny how much life we’ve lived in spite of that, and how much we’ve gotten done. lol I miss friends, though. I take a minute imagining how much harder it may be on my partner, who is much more social. He’s pretty much stuck with “just me” for company day-to-day. I doubt that he finds that boring – but it probably gets super annoying, sometimes. Maybe lonely, too.

Holidays aren’t always so easy as this one. I feel fortunate, and grateful. I think about other Giftmases, some long past, some even quite horrible, others so magical as to become defining moments in how I celebrate the season, even to this day.

When I was a kid, I didn’t really “get” how much actual work my parents both put into making Christmases magical for us. I mean it was pretty hardcore stuff that I only learned later; late nights into the wee hours assembling various “some assembly required” items – like my first bicycle, one year. Mornings no doubt came far too early for them, with eager kids waking nearer to 5 a.m. than to sunrise. When we were little, even the tree itself was part of the magic; it sat in a bucket of water for a handful of days, on the porch, and I truly believed then that it was part of Santa’s work to put up the tree, and decorate it – because for a couple years (at least) that’s how it all went down; no tree when we went to bed, and a world transformed on Christmas morning. Wow. The wonder still saturates my memories. That is some difficult shit to live up to! LOL It’s no wonder my Mom’s first thought on Christmas morning was coffee.

One year, Santa deviated from his usual routine. I must have been around… 9? (Sisters at 6 and at 3 years then.) I woke early on Christmas morning – super early – and there was… something heavy on my legs. I quietly turned on my light and discovered my Christmas stocking was there, at the foot of my bed! OMG OMG! Santa had come!! I went to my parent’s bedroom and tried to wake my Dad and tell him… he woke only enough, and only long enough, to tell me to “go back to bed for a little while” and that I could open my stocking quietly, and enjoy that. “Santa must have known your Mom and I want to sleep in a bit.” (“Sleep in” my ass; they’d probably just barely dropped off to sleep at that point! LOL) So, I did go back to my bed, and crawled back into the warm blankets. I started joyfully exploring the sweets and toys in my stocking as quietly as I could; it was stuffed almost to bursting. My sister woke minutes later, and came into my room (seeing the light under the door, probably) and excitedly told me about their stockings, on their beds, too. I passed on the encouragement to enjoy those, in bed. I think we were all still happily playing, nibbling chocolates, and enjoying our quiet holiday when my parents woke later (still properly early, but closer to something like 7 a.m.). It was splendid! It happened that way every year after. For me, it made stockings singularly important to the holiday in a whole new way.

Thanks for the magic, Mom & Dad. I haven’t forgotten.

Santa’s flying over Pakistan, apparently. This cup of coffee is almost gone. The rain continues to fall. Merry Giftmas. Here’s wishing you the happiest of holidays, however you choose to celebrate.