Archives for category: grief

There’s this place in life’s wilderness that we sometimes wander into, a deep mire of negativity, doubt, and conviction. The mire of our heart. Few of us would choose to live there, once we understand we don’t have to.

The weather in the mire is a permanent, sullen, bitter gray.

At the edge of the mire is a sunny meadow. The woman who lives in the meadow wears a smile. She has worked hard. She works still. It isn’t about wanting to work so hard, or enjoying the effort, or being without pain and fatigue, but she knows that this is her life, and the enjoyment to be had living in the sunshine, among the meadow flowers, is so much nicer than stagnating in the mire. She knows too well; she used to live deep in the mire, well beyond any place that sunshine could reach. The way out was tedious, the path stony and uncomfortable, the distance was great, and the decision to trudge on down that path one uncomfortable step at a time was its own torment. Her constant companions were doubt and despair, but life in the mire had already made those her companions…so… what was there to lose along the way? She was at least moving.

She slowly exchanged “can’t” for “can”. She began noticing sunrises. She began to consider whether she could feel better, more often, and began choosing to do so, unsure (at least initially) whether it really was a choice. (It is.)

Sunrises came and went and as she reached the edge of the mire, more often “can” than “can’t”, more often saying something uplifting to a passer-by than offering criticism, sarcasm, or a pessimistic observation, and even learning to treat herself more gently. It took years to get to the edge of the mire. It took years to see that indeed there is a meadow beyond the mire, and sunrises for days, and flowers in the garden of her heart. She smelled the flowers, gathered seeds, and began to tend her garden.

She looked back into the mire and saw a friend standing there, mired. Deeply committed to the muck, and the pain, and the disappointment, and the sorrow… only… none of those things were really there. From her vantage point, having stepped into the meadow and looking back into the darkness, it was so clear – there was nothing holding him back from leaving the mire at all. There never had been. Sure, there was a short distance of path to trudge across (how had that felt so infernally long?), and the way never had seemed so clear as looking back across it, but… it was the simplest of journey’s, once the journey had begun.

She called to her friend from the meadow, throwing armloads of flowers into the sunshine, casting their petals and fragrance into the breeze, but the breeze doesn’t reach the mire. “Come this way!” she called to her friend. He stood there, ever so motionless. “Look,” he replied “I can’t.” She sighed. Puzzled. “Oh hey!”, she called back “I thought I couldn’t, too – but I did, so I could, which means you can… if you do.” He looked frustrated, bitter and annoyed. “I said I can’t!” he confirmed rather angrily. “Nothing works for me. I have nothing and no one will help me. No one cares. No one will talk to me. Nothing works out.” She wept to discover she was “no one” and paced awhile back and forth along the edge of the mire, feeling sad in the sunshine.

Another sunrise came. Other sunrises will come. The woman in the meadow lives in the flowers she planted, smiling among the breezes and the birdsong. There is work involved in tending the garden of her heart. There are weeds to pull. There is always work maintaining all the sunshine. It’s not artificial light, and even the work puts a smile on her face. The mire grows more distant, and she plants more flowers hoping to make the path from the mire to the meadow easier to follow. Maybe someday the man in the mire will walk a different path.

She can see him there in the mire, any day she chooses to look back. He swears she has always lived in a meadow, and that her life has always been this flower-filled lovely garden. She shakes her head, frustrated and sad that he doesn’t see her pulling weeds, planting seeds, and laboring to create this beautiful meadow from the edges of the mire where she once lived. He refuses even to come to the edge, to see what she has done. He accuses her of luck, and she does not argue that she hasn’t been lucky, because she has; she got out of the mire, didn’t she?

Every mire can become a meadow. It requires only all of the verbs, most of the time, and incremental change. It requires effort and will, and a willingness to care. It requires walking on, and beginning again. It requires practice. It requires that we plant our own flowers along our own way, and also pause to appreciate them when they bloom.

A man who says “I’ll never amount to anything”, doesn’t. Most particularly if he truly believes that, and practices the practices it takes to hold himself back. We become what we practice. Mire or meadow, we make our choice, and harvest from the garden we plant.

I woke from a deep sleep to some kind of noise…a persistent sound of some sort…a beeping, or chiming, or… and it wasn’t stopping… Oh. My phone was ringing. Only one number rings through my “Do Not Disturb” settings; my Traveling Partner. I quickly lurch from bed and careen through the apartment, stumbling on shit that doesn’t match my mental map of my apartment; there are stacks of boxes everywhere. I reach the phone and answer it, delighted to hear his voice. No emergency, he’s just back in town and wanted to hear my voice. πŸ™‚ It was a short call, and a quick return to sleep…

…only…

Nope. Not sleeping.

…I couldn’t so easily return to sleep. Β Just as I was about to drift off my brain decided to attack with a barrage of insecure doubt and anxiety and dread, and oh, just all the things available to keep me laying wakefully for some time. I did eventually return to a restless unsatisfying sleep. Nightmares of loss and loneliness occupied my sleeping mind until the alarm went off.

I woke feeling okay. Feeling thoughtful. Feeling… thought-filled. lol This too will pass. I make a point of reminding myself how pointless rumination is, and that anything of substance that truly needs to be considered will still need to be considered later… after I wake up, after meditation, after my morning coffee, and perhaps even just quite a lot later today – after work. Perspective is helpful. Context matters. Oh, and also – brains make shit up all the damned time. lol My imagination is just as likely to work against me as to delight me. So, I shrug off as much of the weird lingering insecurity, anxiety, and doubt as I am able to, and I push on with the morning.

I have a practice for this one, and although it works, it’s not to be undertaken lightly first thing in the morning by a sleep-addled brain. (I learned that the hard way!) My practice for dealing firmly with insecurity and anxiety is to look my fears in the face without flinching. Seriously – I consider as frankly as I can whatever bundle of fears and bullshit that is freaking me out, and I consider it as if it were simply a given and life is no kidding going to deliver on all of it as if it were a promise. Feeling insecure about my relationship? I consider life without it, no bullshit, no drama – what does that look like? Could I still be okay? What advantages might that bring? Is there a future from that point that may still be quite nice? Does it change who I am? What am I truly afraid of? Is there an opportunity for growth, here? This works for any sort of insecurity, doubt, and anxiety, really. Emotions are powerful. It’s a good idea to choose some moment when it feels truly safe to fully consider my deepest fears. Results vary. Scary, tense, anxious, insecure, doubtful emotions can go sideways so easily, plunging me into real despair… but, all the more reason to learn to face them unafraid of the emotions themselves, and there is so much to learn.Β They’re still only emotions; getting to know them well, becoming comfortable with emotion, generally, and working to develop a measure of emotional intelligence that supports good quality of life is not only completely achievable, I have found that improving my emotional intelligence improves my interactions with others, too, and sort of “tidies up my thinking”. πŸ™‚

So much of what goes on in our heads is actually completely made up bullshit going on in our heads. πŸ™‚ I am as likely to find my anxiety provoked by things that are delightful, or changes that suit me better than whatever had changed ever could, as I am by things that are legitimately worth being anxious about. Silly primates – given both emotion and reason (which work so nicely together), and yet time and again we keep trying to choose one over the other. lol

I sip my coffee and watch the dawn slowly becoming day. I consider my imminent move. Just two more work shifts before that actually becomes a thing happening in the moment…and one of those work shifts is today. This is happening!! πŸ˜€ My conversation with my partner last night opened some opportunities in the context of moving that I hadn’t considered, and although I spent some time wracked with anxiety (because changing plans sometimes causes me anxiety), the opportunities themselves are worth considering fully. Later.

The calm of the morning develops like a Polaroid. I feel settled and secure, and focused on changes that meet my needs over time. I feel content. I feel loved. Fears and doubts fade away as the sky lightens, and anything that lingers to day’s end can be fully considered at some later point, in a comfortable, practical way.

It’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚

Living alone sometimes also means feeling lonely. I’m fortunate that it doesn’t come up that often for me; I enjoy living alone. In the words of my Traveling Partner, I “thrive on it”. It’s true. I’m content, I’m happier, I rarely struggle with my symptoms (aside from noise sensitivity and shitty sleep), and it’s been ages since I had a bad meltdown. My symptoms and bad flare ups are mostly triggered by… people. So yeah, living alone works better. But.

Life is a funny thing, is it not? It seems, often, to force me to deal with the shit that is the most difficult when I feel least prepared to do so. Living alone works for me. But. And it’s what comes after the but that is a heavy burden to bear this morning – and I’m “not alone” on this one – but, I am lonely. This morning I ache with it. I woke with it. I went to bed with it. I felt it as a sharp pain late last evening, cuddling the wee stuffed puppy my Traveling Partner gave me as a gift on a whim. (I already love this little stuffed dog, fully house-broken, and very quiet. lol) Loneliness is a real thing, and I really feel it now and again, and it is painful. Anxiety may be a liar, but loneliness? Loneliness is a bully who follows me home, relentlessly mocking me where I am most vulnerable.

Loneliness is actually painful. When you feel it, and you notice, and you wonder that you actually physically hurt – no need to keep wondering, that shit is real. It is uncomfortable. Biology probably intends to drive us to seek out companionship, which makes good sense; we are social creatures, who thrive in company, who succeed together, who celebrate in groups and tribes and families… alone we are… vulnerable to attack. Less well-defended. Small. Singular. Loneliness sucks, and chronic unaddressed loneliness can become mental illness or physical ill health, and even be fatal.

The little stuffed dog surprised me; gift wrapped and left on the front seat of the car, which I’d come to pick up for the week of moving, a couple days early since he wouldn’t be using it, himself. There it was. Soft. So soft. Cute button eyes that sparkle a bit. So soft. I turned to my partner has he came around the corner smiling and tears came to my eyes. His embrace wrapped me in warmth and love and we stood wrapped in each other’s arms a long moment. I miss specific things about cohabitation, mostly to do with intimacy and touch. Like it or not, I’ve made a specific willful exchange in life; I have exchanged hugs, kisses, everyday interactions, contact, intimacy, and frequent sex in favor of improved mental and emotional health (it is generally an unmistakably positive choice that benefits me).

An alternate spelling of “I love you”.

Today, I am lonely. I ache with it. I miss being greeted at the door when I get home in the evening. I miss shared meals. I miss hugs – I miss hugs maybe most of all, even to the point of hugging occasional strangers (in contextually appropriate moments) (if you know me in life, you get how hilarious this actually is). I miss being an everyday part of my partner’s life. I miss having sex, pretty much any day I don’t get to. This morning all of these things make me feel sad. I’m also feeling fairly practical and realistic about it, and understand myself well enough to “get” that it isn’t about inviting random strangers into my bed (didn’t work in my 20s, isn’t the solution now), but I am unquestionably still searching for a really comfortable balance between living alone, and finding/creating the quantity of emotional intimacy and touch that I need to be emotionally well over the long haul.

This morning is hard. My hand reaches without thinking to the little stuffed dog. I scratch its ears as though it were real. I stroke its soft “fur”. A real dog? A real cat? Other pets? I’ve got both baggage and boundaries in this area. Pets are not a good solution to the loneliness issue for me. Β I used to have cats. They absolutely destroyed some precious things I could not replace…and… they walk in their poop, then all over everything else. Just no. Dogs? I grew up with dogs. I even like dogs. But… being responsible for another living creature’s entire livelihood and well-being isn’t something I’m super well-qualified for, frankly, otherwise I might have done the motherhood thing… and… dogs smell bad (to me), and caring for a dog well is a huge time commitment…and… okay, okay, I just have baggage and it wouldn’t be a great fit, can we leave it there? lol Chinchillas? More chaos and damage, and… they seem to me to be every bit as sentient as any primate, so that just feels too much like keeping a prisoner. I can’t. Guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, reptiles… I’ve had pets. Lots. (I’ve got an aquarium now, and that’s about my speed, really.) They don’t fully “solve for X” in this equation.

Filling the hole in my experience labeled “I miss being touched” with animal companionship would be, realistically, a second best (for me). Instead, I’ll attempt to be more aware of my needs, learn to communicate them more clearly, learn new/more/other ways to take care of me that may meet those specific needs – bitch about it, undoubtedly – and walk on, wiping my tears away and getting back to other things.

But. I do get lonely. Yes, it hurts. Finding some sanity, contentment, and balance are actually worth the hurting right now, even in this shitty lonely moment. I just have to begin again, and do my best to take care of the woman in the mirror. We’ve always got each other. It’s generally enough.

It’s a simple message. It doesn’t require a lot of words. It doesn’t take any fancy equipment, or elaborate planning or preparation. Just go outside. Get up, step away from the computer, or the television, and put your head – and your thinking – outside the confines of this space.

It’s a challenge, I know, but don’t let yourself drown in the bullshit and drama – even at the congressional level. lol Once you’ve read the coverage once, there’s no special value or extra credit for reading each re-hash of all of those same details. Seriously. News outlets are trying to make money, generate clicks, views, likes, and put their advertisers in front of your eye holes. Advertisers want to sell products. The end goal does not happen to be either truth or accuracy, and it is important to be aware of that.

Go outside.

This is outside.

I’m just saying that there is value in new perspective. There is value in fresh air, sunshine, and even walks in rain showers. There are moments yet left to live – to really live – and most of those don’t happen to become what they could be, seated at a computer, fingers poised over the keyboard, or eyes vague and unfocused as brain candy trickles into one’s visual field.

Also outside.

Some of us don’t have the easy option to “just go outside”, due to physical limitations, illness, literal confinement… things. So – if you’re not in one of those limiting situations, how silly is it to waste the chance? No fooling – the chance to go outside may not exist “forever” (very few things do)… so… What are you waiting for? Get up. Move around a bit. Go outside. Self-imposed isolation has some potentially very unhealthy elements, and…well… outside there are flowers blooming, clouds hanging decoratively overhead or sweeping across the sky, birds, bees, butterflies… There are some lovely sights to see, and paths to wander.

Yep. Outside.

Of course, I write these words speaking from a certain privilege, and I don’t mean to; I’m not plagued by allergies, and I’m still pretty comfortably able to walk, and I don’t immediately burn to a crisp at any hint of exposure to the sun, and… well… I like it outside. lol So, if you have terrible allergies, hate the sun entirely or just crisp up immediately, or can’t put weight on your feet at all, or loathe being outdoors… well, shit. Then I sound like a clueless dick, because I’ve overlooked that we are each having our own experience, and that isn’t at all what I’ve meant to do. Perhaps, instead of going outside, you can distract yourself from the delights of the glowing screen in front of you with a good book, or a conversation with a living person in your actual space, or learn bonsai, or grow a wee container garden, invent a calorie-free-eco-groovy-healthy gummy bear, or… something other than this strange alien digital connection that pumps pre-processed information into your brain by way of your eyes and ears, requiring only that you sit there quietly, scrolling, clicking, viewing, and liking?

That’s really what I am getting at, I think; don’t just let your life pass, sitting there quietly receiving pre-processed, re-hashed, unchallenged information! Make actual use of all the squishy bits stuffed into your cranium! There is a fairly profound difference between “finding stillness within”, by the way, and just sitting still, facing your screen. These are not at all related things.

So.

Go outside. Go outside your comfort zone. Go outside your normal thinking. Go outside your usual routine. Go outside your safe feeling space. Go outside your expectations. Go the fuck outside before the whole of your life is wasted on repetition and distraction. Live your life such that there is something to be distracted from, in the first place. πŸ™‚

This is outside, too.

You know that thing you want to do? Why not go do that? Get a start on it at least, start doing the homework, laying the groundwork, learning all of the things…

How about that stuff you want to know more about… maybe a language you have always wanted to learn, or a place you’ve considered traveling, or something that has always interested you, that you’ve not yet acted on? That’s a nice start, too.

What’s holding you back? Probably the same stuff that holds me back – that holds each of us back; there are verbs involved. Effort. Will. Commitment. The requirement to begin it.

So… ?

Definitely outside.

I sip my cold coffee, wiggling my cold toes in the morning chill. I opened the windows and patio door to cool down the apartment this morning before I was awake enough to recognize that it would not be a warm day. I haven’t bother to close them; I am listening to bird song, feeling the meadow breeze, and watching the cottony gray clouds shift and roil overhead. I’ll finish here and then tidy up a bit; my schedule has changed some, to a later start time for the summer months. Shorter evenings, of course, but… longer leisurely mornings, which I love. I feel very unrushed, which I am enjoying rather a lot this morning. What will my perspective be on the other end of the day, I wonder?

It’s time to begin again… I think I’ll go outside. πŸ˜€

One more work shift, and then…

Soon…

I’m overdue for a few days out in the trees. Waking to birdsong Taking long leisurely walks that turn into vague concerns about being sufficiently up to the challenge and finish with a feeling of accomplishment – and laughter. Getting by on my own preparedness and self-sufficiency. Watching small forest creatures live their lives. I’m overdue, too, for being too hot, too cold, and having too many bug bites… yep. All of it. The aches, the pains, the moments of doubt, too. I’m down for all of that. The wakeful bits during the night, hearing something in the darkness, feeling uncertain – I’ll manage. I’ll enjoy the hiking, the reading, the sketching, the writing, the taking of pictures, and cooking by a fire. I’ll enjoy the stillness of unmeasured time. I’ll frustrate myself with the one thing I managed to forget – whatever that turns out to be, I’ll think I really really needed that.

Nights may be “too” cold.

Mornings I may feel stiff.

Yoga in the dirt? Eww… or… Meh. Okay. It’s really not a big deal. πŸ˜€

Ants… bees… spiders… mosquitoes…

Miles of trails.

Hours of quiet.

Measured distance from everything else that brings me closer to the woman in the mirror – no mirror required.

I’ll be back soon – Sunday, sometime, most likely. Then? I begin again. πŸ˜€

The destination is the journey.