Archives for category: gardening

I am sipping my coffee and watching the sunshine beyond the window brighten the stucco of the wall across the street. I think of my spring garden; it’s time to plan the new year’s crops. It’s a small garden, and the planning is a considerable portion of the fun in it for me. I look forward to contented weekend moments with seed and plant catalogs open to page after page of brightly colored flowers and tasty looking fruits and memories of gardens past becoming a plan for Spring. It tempts my attention away from work for a moment. Healthy. We are not our jobs. 🙂

I open a separate tab while I write – my “to-do list” – and jot down notes as the thoughts drift through my mind. Why wait and risk losing a worthy idea? I make notes. Just a handful of words. The names of specific spaces.

In spite of the obvious sunny day beyond the window, my arthritis shrieks at me about it being winter. I’m in pain. I take steps to make it as manageable as I am able to do. I grief myself momentarily over my nails – I need a manicure but don’t feel like dealing with it at all. I let that go. It can wait, and giving myself shit over something so petty makes no sense. I’d rather read a book. lol More likely to distract me from the pain I’m in, too.

…I think I’d like a nap…

I sigh out loud in this quiet room. It sounds louder than I mean to be, and I hear that expression from deep within alerting me of unmet needs of some sort. I think about self-care. Damn, a long hot soak in the hot tub would be nice… the water needs changing. It’s that very strange time of year in winter when thoughts of Spring get ahead of the weather a bit too far. I’ll settle for a hot shower later – and a plan.

…I like having a plan…

A handful of years ago, I completed a manuscript of my poetry. That’s honestly the end, right there. That’s as far as I actually got with it. I just… stalled. I’m not even sure why. I let myself think it was to do with a painfully angsty and adolescent poem I included and had second-thoughts about… but no, when I was inspired to revisit this manuscript last night I discovered I’d already removed that. Then I found a spelling error. Then I remembered the poetry I salvaged from my journal destruction project on New Year’s this year. Then I noticed a formatting error. One detail at a time I corrected the errors I found, and cleaned things up a bit. I reached out to the friend who had written the original forward for my manuscript (“Can I still use this?”) and got his enthusiastic approval. I feel far more ready to see this published than I had previously… this year? That’s what I’m thinking, yeah.

My Traveling Partner asked me what I was working on at some point. I shared. It was a sort of “why now?” moment… Yeah… Why now? I’m not sure, really. I think, like the destruction of those old pen & ink journals, it’s just that the time has come to clean up loose ends. Put down old baggage. Finish stalled projects – or toss them in the bin. Clear the clutter. I need the stronger foundation to support my emotional wellness. Clutter is an impediment.

…This weekend I’ll start with getting moved back into my studio now that my new desk is built. 😀

Already time to begin again.

I like a good to-do list. I enjoy checking off the tasks and feeling that sense of accomplishment and “getting shit done”. I even, straight up, no kidding, add things to the list as I go along in my day doing things I hadn’t thought to plan on the list in the first place, just so I can also check that one off the list. lol Here’s a thing I have to keep in mind, though; the list is not the achievement. The list is not “getting shit done”. The list isn’t even any one of – or all of – the tasks listed thereon. Not at all. It’s just a list. There are still verbs involved, real work, real task processing, real effort. Sometimes items on a list are easily done. Sometimes it’s trickier than that. An item on a to-do list that I really don’t want to deal with can potentially throw me off course for days or even weeks, as I work around it – and sometimes something like that can stall me completely, when I know it really must be done, and I’m really just not doing it.

Today I got a couple things done that have been on and off one list or another for months now. Both were sort of “housekeeping”, sort of “work”, both required some commitment of my time and energy. One required my time, and also my Traveling Partner’s time – so needed to be coordinated across our shared availability, and account for our individual will and interest in any given moment. One required me to learn quite a few new skills, and enhance skills I had that were a bit “rusty” or “behind the times”. Both were useful, needful, and potentially profitable, if only I could find both the will and the time for every detail, and do so in the order such things were required to go forward. So complicated!

Interestingly, as I built my skills, or completed smaller elements of each project on my list, it wasn’t those details that felt like accomplishments at all (even though that’s truly where the accomplishments seemed to be) – it was when I checked off the projects from my to-do list, this morning. Wild. Human primates are such odd creatures. I didn’t give myself any shred of credit for the small achievements like learning a new application, or building on my HTML skills, or improving how my art images are archived – in spite of the work involved in each one of those things. I didn’t celebrate those moments, they just sort of went by largely unnoticed, glasses riding down my nose as I frowned at my monitor, studying. Bringing a web page to life? Cool, cool, sure… but I felt the joy when I checked it off my list. That seems strange and potentially misplaced. Something to think about.

…I sit quietly with some “thinking about things music“…

What have you gotten done lately that you didn’t pause to appreciate? What small moments of joy have slipped by without a chance to enjoy them properly? Are you looking at the world through the lens of maximum productivity, as if you are little more than machinery? Are you pushing yourself along based on programming and implicit expectations you’ve absorbed from elsewhere? Are you letting work define your life?

…I breathe, exhale, and relax. It’s a good day for it. I’ve gotten a few things done – but more than that, I’ve remembered to enjoy the moments.

I think about the Spring garden. Spring is weeks away yet, and it’s already time to plan. The earliest spring bulbs, hyacinths, crocuses, and such are already beginning to break through the soil. I think it might be nice to enjoy a hot cup of drinking chocolate and flip through seed catalogs.

Already time to begin again?

Coffee #2 going down easily after dropping a couple ice cubes in it. I didn’t really want iced coffee, but I also didn’t feel at all like waiting for it to cool to “drinking temperature” – or burning my mouth. So. Ice. Easy solution.

It’d be super handy if more shit were that easy to resolve. I’m just saying, from the small painfully tedious bullshit we’ve each got to overcome, master, or endure, to the globally-scaled huge threats to humanity’s survival (or quality of life), there often seem damned few things that fall into the set of “things that are easy to resolve”. It’s annoying. I’m sitting here sipping my very drinkable coffee feeling annoyed by a seeming plague of petty b.s. aggravations that lack easy resolution. I am very skillful at feeling annoyed, unfortunately, and less skilled at letting shit go.

I got some gardening done. Planted fall bulbs. Thinned some seedlings I hope to winter over. Watered. I’m in the middle of doing laundry, too. It’s a task that easily “stacks” with other things that need to get done. I look over my garden notes, still hoping to make my way to a less annoyed state of mind.

Just keeping it real, all these years of practices and progress (and there has been tremendous progress) don’t amount to a “cure” for an anxiety disorder (cPTSD) on top of a brain injury, and I still deal with my “issues” rather a lot. I don’t despair often, but when I do it can seem just as hard to claw my way out. I don’t feel mired in sorrow or a sense of futility or learned helplessness much these days, but when I am, it’s still brutally difficult to pull myself out of that spiral. My lack of skill with my anxiety, frustration, or anger can too easily result in an unexpected explosive temper tantrum – and trust me when I say there are no good outcomes from that sort of thing, it’s just messy and unpleasant all around. The lingering cognitive challenges of surviving head trauma (and a handful of transient ischemic attacks over the years) can wreck my ability to communicate well – and that is worsened when I’m under stress, or fatigued, or swamped by emotion.

Not one fucking thing I’ve learned, practiced, or changed, has amounted to a “cure” for cPTSD, or wholly resolved the consequences of my head injury. No one ever promised that they would, but damn I had sure hoped for a very long time that they might.

I’ve tried a lot of things to keep my background anxiety managed and to reduce the risk of panic attacks, or “funhouse mirror effects” on my perception of an experience. Some of them have worked, most haven’t – or only for a short while. Each incremental improvement is a pretty big deal, but they still don’t yet add up to “enough”. I put constant pressure on myself (that I simultaneously manage to resent) to take any steps available to minimize the impact on other people; I don’t honestly believe 100% relief is even possible for me, myself. Not gonna lie; it’s a fairly bleak perspective some days. I kinda figure I’m “stuck this way” – improvements are possible, nonetheless, and I keep at it. Every improvement matters. A lot.

It’s been a very long while since I was willing to rely on Rx relief of anxiety symptoms. I didn’t have a great experience of prescription anxiolytics. I experienced exceedingly uncomfortable side effects that while not life-threatening, were uncomfortable to the point of me being unwilling to continue down that path. I’ve tried using Benadryl for my anxiety; it worked very well for me, but the effect doesn’t last indefinitely. I’ve tried very low doses of nicotine, too (we’re talking single puffs from a 1mg concentration of “vape juice”, not whole 24mg cigarettes here). That worked too, but again, the effectiveness quickly diminished over time, and the side effects (on my voice mostly) were unwelcome. I gave that up, too. Herbal tea? Valerian was good… but not reliably effective. Same thing was true of lemon balm, although just cup-of-tea-wise I enjoy that one very much. Cannabis? Sort of helps. Sometimes doesn’t. Reliably leaves me feeling somewhat stalled and stupid, and because of that I’ve given it up as a mood stabilizer; the trade-off cognitively and intellectually isn’t worth it. Meditation helps, reliably, but… not enough, and not always when I need it most. I can’t fucking sit on a cushion all damned day. Controlled breathing? Super helpful if I’m having a panic attack, but with my brain injury being what it is, now I’ve backed myself into a corner where I am prone to inadvertently slowing my breathing when I just relax to a point that I start depriving myself of adequate oxygen (verifiable on a pulse oximeter). Fucking hell. Not one god-damned thing is easy about this shit. I’m annoyed by that, too. Buuuut, anxiety being the monster she is, I’m faced with returning to therapy to work on it, and bracing myself even to request Rx support (if only short-term). I’m frustrated by that.

…I am also angry, but my anger is a story for another time, perhaps…

I think I’m just putting words around this annoying observation that I still struggle. I’ve got a lot more “tools in my toolkit” for dealing with my anxiety than I ever have before. I’ve still got to deal with anxiety. It fucking sucks giant unwashed balls. I’m not feeling any despair over it, presently, though I sometimes do. Today I’m just annoyed. Lovely sunny day. I’m annoyed. It blows. I feel almost as if I “need something to be properly angry about” in order to release this energy, but that’s a shitty approach to doing so; it puts other people’s joy at risk and that’s really not okay. So, I focus on my to-do list and get a few things done. Try to focus on the positives as I experience each moment. I keep taking a new breath, exhaling that, and letting go of my irritation. I know it’ll likely be an all day sort of thing I’ve got to do, but facing it for the day is a whole lot less irritating than facing it for (the also likely) lifetime of work that may be ahead. One bite at a time.

The sunshine on the leaves of the pear tree beyond the window remind me that this is a lovely lazy Sunday. My list of housekeeping I’d like to get done keeps the day framed with productive tasks and wholesome distractions. I hear my Traveling Partner in the shop doing his thing and staying as far from my bullshit as he can easily do. I’m grateful he has that to turn to. I hope it’s enough to satisfy his needs. I keep working on me.

Time to begin again.

I am sipping coffee on a Sunday. Good coffee. Pleasant Sunday. I am reflecting on what makes some moments “special” and others so seemingly “ordinary” and wondering if there is really any difference outside my own subjective impression of each moment.

I recently went to the seashore for “a bit of a break” and some “me time” away. I walked the beaches and nature trails. I took pictures. A lot of pictures. Many of those were pictures of entirely ordinary birds standing or walking along the beach, or parking lot, or some strip of not-quite-lawn. Why did I bother? They weren’t special or fancy birds… just gulls, crows, jays, and little brown birds of a variety of sorts. What’s so special about those birds? Nothing, right? It was getting the picture at all that was special (to me) – taking pictures of birds is hard. lol

A dandy gull strolling along in a parking lot. He was aware of me, and unconcerned, just walking along.

Were the moments themselves particularly “special”? I don’t actually recall them as unusual moments in any way, aside from being part of this particular beach trip. If I were to glance quickly at one of the many hundreds of beach photos I’ve taken over the years, I’m not sure I could easily identify one trip from another. They illustrate a more general experience of “going to the coast” and “being at the seashore”. Special inasmuch as it is not the routine day-to-day experience of life…but often very similar to each other (if for no other reason that I am always me when I go do these things, and generally I am doing them with similar motivation and goals in mind).

This crow was not interested in being photographed and quickly walked away when it noticed my gaze.

In a certain sense, isn’t every moment “special”, in that there is a predictably finite number of them for any one of us? We don’t even have the advantage of knowing in advance how many there will be – only that they will eventually just run out, often unexpectedly.

Even for little brown birds on mellow summer days; moments are finite and limited.

It seems far more likely that all moments are special than to assume no moments are special – it’s easy enough to identify one or two special moments (just look for lingering significance or fond memories!), which immediately debunks the proposition that “no moments are special”. So… moments are special in a quantity somewhere between “some” and “all”. Tough to know going into a particular moment how special it may prove to be, even immediately afterward. Some moments are so spectacular it’s probably obvious that those will become lasting fond memories for someone (or recollections of profound tragedy – “special” isn’t always “good”, right?).

Thoughtful? Distracted? Just having a moment?

This last beach trip was special, for sure. I was out on the coast giving my Traveling Partner room to work on complicated CNC build details without me being underfoot, or becoming a distraction. That’s not what was special about it (for me), although it is always wonderful to know I am missed when I am away. What made it special was the combination of finding new awesome locations to take pictures, new trails to wander, and also – that’s where I was when I got the call from my new employer with their offer, and knew that I would be returning to work soon.

I got the news sitting in my car, parked, watching the waves roll in, just after getting off the phone with my partner, after receiving an automated rejection email sent in error. lol

When I was mired in the worst of my bullshit, baggage, chaos and damage, I often felt as if “nothing is special”. That feeling (and experience) has a name, anhedonia. Life feels gray, meaningless, and very much as though nothing matters and no effort will change that lack of meaning. It’s grim. It’s bland. It’s very hard to pull oneself out of that pit. I had it wrong. I mean, obviously (anhedonia is an experience of disordered thinking/feeling). It’s just that I’m sort of blown away by how wrong I’d gotten it (as a result of poor mental health) – because it’s apparent now that the truth is so much closer to “everything is special” (even to the point of potentially numbing us to the “specialness of the ordinary”).

I smile and finish my coffee. I’m happy to be where I am these days. I delighted with the pictures I’ve been getting of birds. I’m okay with the birds themselves being entirely ordinary. Most things are. Moments, too. I’m done with insisting that anything “special” also be entirely out of the ordinary – that seems, now, to be a needlessly high bar to set for what is special to me. Sure – love is special, and very much out of the ordinary… but a great cup of coffee, a picture of a bird that turns out well, or a gentle relaxed Sunday morning are all pretty ordinary experiences – and also comfortably special. I’m good with enjoying the specialness of the ordinary, and embracing contentment and joy.

It’s time to begin again.

I am sipping my second coffee of the morning, listening to garden videos, and reflecting on a recent profoundly pleasant compliment a colleague paid me. I realize I am allowing myself to maintain layered distractions, which doesn’t really work well for me. I pause the video to sit with my thoughts and focus on my writing. The coffee? Not much of a distraction, really, although I must admit I am not being especially mindful to juggle my coffee and my thoughts. Would be more mindful (and focused) to do one or the other (and I often sit silently sipping my first cup in a quiet room, or out on the deck, with that in mind).

Compliments feel really good. They also, rather oddly I think, feel like “validation” – as though indeed I had “earned” whatever lovely words came my way. It’s hard to get comfortable with the idea that these lovely words and pleasing compliments are no more personal (or “real” or “true”), than the unwelcome slights or criticisms (or trolling) I may be exposed to in the course of a day. It’s all very subjective, and tends to say more about the person giving the compliment (or insult) than the intended recipient. It’s an opinion. Often an unsolicited opinion. It’s for sure much nicer (even welcome) to hear pleasant compliments than to have to deal with insults, just saying; there’s nothing personal in either one.

On the other side of the interaction, it sometimes feels very gratifying to savage someone with words when we are hurt or angry. It’s reliably unkind. Generally unnecessary. Rarely actually useful. Certain to damage a relationship (if any exists). I know, for myself, the wiser choice is to consider my anger and hurt, discover the source of my pain and deal with it myself honestly, and let go of lashing out at some other person. Even if I feel I have been “wronged” in some way, it’s rarely worthwhile to seek some kind of paybacks or punishment, however emotionally satisfying it may feel to do so in the heat of the moment.

Compliments are altogether different. They feel just as good to give as they do to receive. Giving someone honest positive feedback, or offering a pleasant observation, and seeing them light up (because it does feel good to be appreciated) is a lovely mood booster. I tend to choose to give encouragement often and quite freely (while also keeping it authentic and real). I avoid adversarial or authoritarian sorts of criticism or negative feedback, mostly because it feels pretty shitty to receive it, and rarely gets put to any sort of good use as a result. There are better ways to communicate concerns, boundaries, needs, and expectations than through negative feedback and criticism. That’s my own position on it. Obviously, you do you – but if you explicitly prefer negative feedback (sometimes called “painful truth”), let’s not hang out, shall we? LOL It’s just not fun. We both have better things to do with our time. 😉

Every sunrise is a new beginning. What will you do with it?

I woke early-ish, but pretty near to the sunrise. I dressed quickly, and was surprised when I noticed my Traveling Partner already awake and up for the day. Generally, half the point of my morning camera walks is to give my partner a bit of time to sleep deeply without having to endure my snoring! He didn’t-quite-invite-me to stay home this morning, pointing out that since he was up I didn’t have to go… I really enjoy my camera walks and time out on the trail or alongside a meadow in the mornings, though, so I went. For me. It was nice. Chilly, though, and it is clearly autumn. There are fallen leaves on the street. The air has “that fall smell”. It wasn’t raining, though… I thought about driving out to the nature reserve to get pictures of water birds and nutria on the marsh, but changed my mind as I drove when I passed a flipped over wreck of a one-car collision that must have happened sometime late yesterday. I lost my enthusiasm to drive any distance – and almost turned around to return to the safety of home. Instead, I went to the nearby meadow trail that I favor on weekday mornings. The sunrise was lovely.

I am focused on the garden today (at least for now). I’ve got plants to plant. Seeds to sow. Beds to clean up for fall. Seeds saved from earlier crops to clean up and put in labeled packets for later planting. …I’ve got a list…

New roses waiting to be planted, and seedlings almost ready to be planted. There’s probably a metaphor here somewhere. 🙂

I guess what I’m saying is that this coffee has gone cold, and the garden isn’t going to take care of itself; it’s time to begin again. 🙂