Archives for category: grief

Today is off to a rough start. I’m writing early, with tears on my face. This morning begins with a challenge. I’m not always ready to measure my words, to smile accommodatingly at the world, or to be prepared for things to skid sideways unexpectedly over some random thing and handle it with grace and diplomacy. I’m not that skilled or resilient, yet. I’m taking my coffee in the studio, this morning, as far from other human beings as this house permits. Fuck humans. This morning I have already had enough of people.

…That didn’t take long…

An innocent seeming remark, taken personally, wrecks what had some small shot at being a good morning. It sucks. Weekday morning. I’ve got work in a little while. I’m wreckage. God damn it this sucks all kinds of completely.  We’ve got a house guest too, on top of just sucking generally, so on top of the general sucking – we’re having an argument at 5 o’clock in the morning while a guest tries to sleep through our bullshit. Fucking hell. Not okay. On top of the stress of this, generally, I’m also deeply embarrassed by our basic rudeness.

Fuck people. Fuck relationships. Fuck having to deal with any of it, ever, at all. I am feeling bitter, and I am feeling blue. I am angry that a small well-intentioned observation that was emotionally neutral at the moment it was spoken, turned into this shitstorm of emotional sewage so early in the morning. I feel robbed of a pleasant morning. He does too, enough to make a point of expressing unhappiness that I would choose to be in my studio, writing, instead of hanging out with him, even as things are right now. (I admit, I don’t get that – I don’t even want to be around me right now.)

…I slept like shit…

…I woke up feeling cross and headache-y…

…I was already “not in a good place”…

…I’m in pain…

Realistically, I can’t put this morning on my partner. My emotions? Mine to deal with. I apologized to him. He didn’t hear me. He apologized to me. I didn’t hear him. We repeat the cycle. Eventually apologies are audible. We hear each other. We acknowledge those words. He wants to talk. To engage. To restore emotional intimacy. I want to withdraw to the safety of solitude. He feels hurt by my rejection. I feel hurt by his lack of understanding that I want to provide myself with some basic self-care right now. We repeat the cycles we’re most familiar with. Doing differently is serious work.

…I haven’t even had my first cup of coffee…

Making predictions about the day may tend to “lock in” the assumptions I’d have to make to do so. It’s a poor choice. I breathe. Exhale. Let it go. I keep at it. Breathing. Exhaling. Focusing on my breath. Letting my shoulders relax. Pulling my posture upright. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. I hear my typing cadence begin to become even. Regular. A steady beat. Less chaotic and tempestuous. There are choices here. Verbs. Effort. Will. The journey is not always an easy one. The road ahead is not always smooth under my feet when I walk it. There is no growth or forward momentum in what is easiest, only joy and contentment. My results vary. I need more practice.

…I’ve gotta admit, I do like the joy and contentment, though…

I sip my coffee. Contentment can be built. More verbs. A lot of practice. We become what we practice. What am I practicing? (I can’t do a fucking thing about anyone else’s practices, only my own, that’s just real.) Am I, as I sit here, the woman I most want to be? (I could do better.) Still human. So human.

It’s a fairly shitty morning so far. I could definitely do better. I guess I have to begin again.

…Time to get on with that…

Fog is weird stuff. We pass through it easily, still, it blinds us and alters what we see of the world around us. Try to shine a bright light directly into fog, and it becomes more difficult to see, rather than easier. So weird. So… metaphorical.

Sure is foggy… am I really so certain I know what’s hidden out there?

How many times have I driven a familiar road, blinded by fog? Or walked some foggy trail listening to muffled steps through the mist, with only my thoughts for company? Or just sat quietly, in the dense damp of morning fog, imagining whimsically that the fog held more meaning than mere droplets of water densely dispersed in the air?

Fog is a pretty good metaphor for the various thinking errors I find myself prone to, and even the “obscuring mist” of misleading assumptions that can so easily crowd out any perception of my reality in the moment. I think about that, on and off, from that first moment standing outside, early this morning, wondering if the mist were properly fog, or more likely the smoke of distant wildfires. Both, maybe. The stench of it suggested at least a considerable portion was – is – smoke. Blech.

…Maybe rain tomorrow? The weather hints at the potential. So does my arthritic back. Fingers crossed! We could use some rain. We could use a way out of the fog.

Yes, of course, it’s a metaphor. 😉

Begin again.

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes predictably so, sometimes unexpectedly. It’s going to happen. That, by itself, is pretty certain. Life can get messy, complicated, painful, and unpleasant, sometimes.

…Still worth living…

Begin again. Take a breath. Cut yourself some slack. Take a step back and look at the situation differently. Make healthy choices. Express sincere regret, and offer (and accept) an unreserved heartfelt apology. Give people (including yourself) room to be human. Listen deeply. Breathe.

No, seriously – breathe.

Eventually tears dry. Eventually angry words stop lingering in the air. Eventually there is an opportunity to reconnect. Make a point to give room for those things to happen. Beginning again sometimes requires us to let go of hurting, or at least be aware of the hurting of those we have, ourselves, inflicted hurts upon – and ideally seek to do something about that.

I definitely pay the price when my meditation practice falls apart.

No finger-pointing or blame-laying here. I’m a mess and every bit as human as I could possibly be. This is not written from the perspective of me telling you, from atop some lofty tower, these are reminders for me. The woman looking back at me from the mirror is not always the person I most want to be.

I have some things to reflect on. Things I need to grow from. Things I need to make amends for. Things I need to make right. I could do better. I know there are choices to be made. There are practices to practice. There are verbs involved.

…First I’ve got to begin again.

Yesterday was hard. Very. The day before that was easy. A exceptional day. I didn’t write on either day. I don’t recall the reasons, now, but by the end of yesterday I was feeling very much like it was a massive self-care fail that I hadn’t been writing. The whole day was drenched in similar fail-sauce. Communication breakdowns. Loss of emotional balance. Taking shit personally. Mild frustration in one moment or another becoming, over the day, a sort of chronic feeling of being “over-extended”, with too much to do, too little time, and everyone wanting “a piece of me”, leaving nothing at all left of me for me. It was entirely subjective. It was shitty, as experiences go, and the result was an abyss of internal chaos that spilled out into real interactions with others – most especially my Traveling Partner.

Sometimes apologies don’t cut it. (A very unhelpful observation.)

Since the move, we’ve done a lot to improve how we’re set up in the house, how well things work, and continue to make repairs and small quality of life improvements. Since the AC leak and associated water damage have kicked me out of my studio temporarily, I feel even more displaced than I did from moving – while I’m trying to get settled in, and build new healthy routines that support my mental health and emotional wellness in a new place. Yesterday was clear evidence that I’m struggling with the “getting settled in” process. I’m finding very little traction as I work toward building new healthy routines for living my life; every fucking thing is constantly changing, even moment to moment. Mostly good changes. Still changes. I can’t seem to “get used to” anything. I’m overwhelmed and feeling the instability in my environment in a very visceral way.

“This too shall pass.” Still true. Doesn’t make this shit “easy”. (No one said it would be.)

The days are mostly good days. This life is a good life. I focus on the observation that I feel generally okay, and things are generally good… This experience is not about how things are, though, it is a very personal experience of how I feel, which may not even be tied to reality in any direct way. (Doesn’t serve to make the experience of those feelings any easier.)

The solitude I woke to this morning lasts very few minutes. My Traveling Partner wakes early. I make him coffee and return to my writing. A minute or two later he asks “What are you doing?” I reply “I’m writing.” His surly, mildly sarcastic reply, “wonderful”, is followed by “I’ll be somewhere else”. As he leaves the room, I feel my anxiety level rise in the background. Is my typing extra loud? Am I hitting the keys super hard, or very fast? Does my typing convey my emotions (or suggest an emotional experience I may or may not be having but is uncomfortable to listen to)? Yesterday was hard on both of us. I don’t resent his irritation, or take it personally. He’s having his own experience, too.

Damn I want my studio back. I can’t paint. My gaming computer is in there, too. I generally write in there; it’s also my “office”. My studio is a haven where I can experience and explore strong emotion without interfering with other people (and similarly they would not be interacting with me). I feel, subjectively, like I “can’t get a minute to myself” or “can’t hear myself think” or “can’t get any cognitive down time”. I’m not sure those things are objectively true at all. I suspect they are not. I do know the chaos is incredibly uncomfortable, and I’m not dealing with it well (or wasn’t, yesterday). In spite of decently restful sleep, I don’t feel “rested”.

…The pandemic isn’t helping. My Traveling Partner and I, aside from a small number of errands that get run by necessity, are together 24/7 and take “the lockdown” very seriously. I do enjoy his company. I also very much enjoy solitude. I feel a need for both. Without my studio to retreat to, I struggle to set healthy boundaries, and yesterday’s meltdown makes it clear this is not a sustainable set of conditions. Looking back on yesterday, I can see how the day started as a poor mix of me working from home, and his enjoyment of my presence prompting him to seek out more interaction with me, in spite of my (clearly inadequate) boundary setting and expectation setting about my work day. It could have been a lovely day, in spite of any of that, but at some point I lost my grip, and my perspective. “Everything” felt like “too much” at some point, and things spiraled out of control for me from there.

I can tell from my partner’s tone this morning that he is still feeling hurt by yesterday’s chaos and I feel that sad lingering concern that “I’ll never get any better than this”. Probably a common feeling for trauma survivors still struggling with their chaos and damage over time. I remind myself that context, perspective, and self-talk matter. I remind myself that my partner and I are indeed “separate people”, and to avoid fusing with his emotional experience, and seek instead to tend to my own, and care for myself more skillfully. Sitting down to write is part of that. Even in the dining room. Even when I don’t feel encouraged. Even when time is short.

…I remind myself how loved I am, and how much love I feel for this other human being who is now more or less forced to deal with me without a break…

I breathe, exhale, and relax. I let go of the persisting anxiety about how my partner is/may be feeling, what he is thinking, and remind myself that we are each having our own experience – that’s not only unavoidable, it’s okay. Nothing to fix. I focus on the day ahead. How do I get back on my path, make wise choices, care for myself well, and be the person I most want to be? What practices will matter most, today? I look at the time… and my half empty cup of coffee. I have time to take a walk before work. I check my work calendar. I’ll have a good opportunity to soak in the hot tub a bit later. Another errand to run. I look for a good time and put that on my calendar, too. What about meditation? Where will that fit in…? And household chores…? The work day? I start feeling the anxiety rise up, again. I breathe, exhale, relax… definitely need that walk.

…It’s time to begin again.

Not for consumption. Do not take internally.

Seriously; human beings can be mean, callous, insensitive, rude, inconsiderate, and yes, even deliberately hurtful. Don’t drink the poison just because it’s offered to you. 🙂 It can be quite difficult in the moment, when we’re feeling the emotional sting of something mean, cruel, hurtful, or just factually incorrect (based on our own also very human recollection), to remember that it isn’t actually personal at all; those hurtful words are a reflection of the thinking (and values, and intent, and practices) of the person saying them. Nothing to do with you, actually, unless you accept it, and internalize it, and make it your own. Why do that? Let it go.

We’re each human. Each having our own experience. Each writing our own narrative in our heads, cobbled together from our recollections, assumptions, expectations, values – and things we think we understand, about which we generally know far less than we assume we do. Even when we’re certain? Even when we’re “quite expert” in the field? Yep. Maybe especially then. We’re human. Thinking errors are built right in. I’m just saying, it’s very likely for any one of us that we are far less correct than we tend to assume, far more of the time than we’d ideally want to be, and waaaaaaay too willing to attempt to force our assumptions and thinking on others without even asking the simplest clarifying questions.¯\_()_/¯

…We could do better. I mean… I know I could.

recommended summer reading

I sip my coffee and let the day begin. Nothing fancy about it, although it feels very different. My workstation is in the dining room, and my fingers on the keys “feel loud”. I’m temporarily “kicked out” of my studio due to a leak my Traveling Partner spotted Friday (I’m damned glad he did!), and although we’ve gotten that fixed, there is some damage that needs repair, and some mold remediation required, too. Rather not sicken myself working in a potentially unhealthy environment, so with my partner’s help, a temporary workstation is set up. Homeowner stuff. :-\ It’s hard to grouse about it too much; it’s one of the things I signed up for, right? Taking care of everything that ever goes wrong? Yep. That’s on us now. LOL Fuuuuuuuuuuck.

Friday, when we spotted the damage being caused by the leak we later identified, was much harder. Paintings were damaged. I wept. There’s still a weight to the grief of that piece of this situation. It’s possible those paintings will have to be destroyed. 😦 The pain of it comes and goes, but seems mostly behind me, now. (I’m at the “paintings are just things” stage, this morning…) To get through it, to process the enormity of the emotional ache, I’ve spent rather a lot of time this weekend meditating on non-attachment (and how many of the things and experiences we become attached to in life serve only to cause us pain – because of the attachment, itself). I found it helpful, and rather more obvious, after all, that seems reasonable, when I do feel so much hurt. Letting go of some things is far easier than letting go others. Just being real.

I sip my coffee and contemplate all the many things I’ve let go of over a lifetime – often with considerable emotional resistance, sometimes because I’ve been literally forced to let them go by circumstances. I think about the pain of loss, and the relief involved in letting go of attachment. I consider how very many of life’s most painful disappointments feel that way because of the sudden severing of some unnoticed attachment to a thing, person, experience, or outcome. I wonder at the slow progression of healthy attachment toward unhealthy attachment that sometimes occurs in a relationship. I replay things my therapist has said about non-attachment, and practices useful for avoiding becoming “fused” with someone else’s emotional experience. The pre-dawn darkness slowly becomes morning light, and a new day. I finish my coffee. There’s a day ahead, and it’s time to begin again. 🙂

Where does this path lead?

*addendum and a wee follow-up note: I’m fully made of human. I really struggle with this one, like, nearly every day. Avoiding the pitfall of taking other people’s words, or experience, or emotions, personally – becoming attached to the feelings that causes me, and fused with someone else’s emotional experience is a shitty way to treat myself. So, I really work on this… a lot. Tons of new beginnings. Tons of self-compassionate reminders. A lot of moments to reflect on handling life more skillfully, and more comfortably. My results vary. That’s why I write about it. 😉