Archives for category: health

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’m on my third coffee this morning. I slept poorly. My Traveling Partner slept poorly. I slipped away early in the morning hoping he would be able to get some better sleep, but that didn’t work out ideally well. I am sitting in the studio, drinking coffee and considering the causes and the potential outcomes, and wondering how best to be helpful.

“Being considerate” may very well be one of the most powerful skills (and practices) that a person can bring to social relationships (of all kinds). I have found it sometimes a bit difficult to define “consideration” – in spite of placing it high on my list of things to look for in relationships. I see people who are “considerate” practicing deep listening, explicit expectation-setting, skillful boundary setting, asking clarifying questions, testing their assumptions, yielding their natural desire to be “right” preferring to be kind, making an explicit effort to refrain from “centering themselves” in every circumstance or conflict, and being very comfortable making a prompt apology when another person points out a transgression. That seems like a lot to manage, but it really does all map to “consideration” – as in, genuinely considering what those around them are going through or may need.

Let’s be clear on one point; I don’t see considerate people being doormats or open to being abused or mistreated. They use boundary setting and expectation setting with great skill and comfort. They consider their own needs along side the needs of others, and make a point of practicing good self-care, too.

Lacking fundamental consideration leads people to casually mistreat others without intention – and often without noticing, and sometimes following-up by callously doubling-down on that mistreatment by attempting to deflect blame (by way of excusing their actions as “unintended”). Doesn’t really “make things right” to do things that way, and feels still more inconsiderate. People who are inconsiderate are by far more common than people who are considerate! It has become socially “normal” to see (or have to accommodate) inconsiderate behavior from others. People are busy. Self-involved. Dealing with their own shit. Struggling to heal trauma. Uneducated about the impact their choices/words/behavior has on others. Unaware how much difference consideration can make. There’s a lot going on with inconsiderate people. Most of it is even shit everyone has going on in life. One thing that isn’t going on with inconsiderate people; they are not being “considerate” (probably a huge timesaver, I don’t know…).

Consideration and considerate behavior isn’t “natural” to human primates; we learn it from our social group(s) – and therefore must teach it to our companions, explicitly. Children generally get taught “sharing” – a part of consideration. Every element of consideration probably needs to be explicitly taught. As a culture we’re clearly falling down on the job, there, based on the general rise in inconsiderate behavior, basic rudeness, and prevalent violence. I’m pretty certain that very considerate people are likely less prone to violence. It’s something to think about.

Today, I’m struggling with “my nature”; I tend to be very considerate (of others), but also tend to fail myself on the self-care and boundary-setting side of things. Knowing my Traveling Partner did not sleep well, I consider what I can do to be helpful, or to at least minimize the potential for stress or conflict in our relationship due to the both of us being fatigued and in pain. It’s complicated. What does he need? What does he want? Can I provide those things? Is guessing at them wise? What about me? What do I need, myself? Can I meet his needs and my own? When do well-intentioned inquiries about what he needs become invasive or pestering? How do I prevent my own boundary and expectation-setting needs from being swept aside in the pursuit of a gentle day together (under difficult circumstances)? What is reasonable, and what is excessive? How far do I take “not taking things personally” before it becomes entirely necessary to “push back” or point out a boundary – and how do I do that gently enough to also avoid sounding “bitchy” or unreasonable?

My anxiety simmers in the background, and that’s not at all helpful. Consideration, like “mindfulness”, is something that takes quite a bit of actual practice (at least for me). It’s not my “default” human behavior. It is, however, something I value quite a lot – enough to keep practicing. Enough that it matters to achieve mastery – and balance.

It’s a new day. There are opportunities to be a better person than I was yesterday. There will be verbs involved, and practice required. My results will no doubt vary. It’s a good time to begin again. 🙂

It’s a good Tuesday to work from the co-work space. It’s a good day to follow-up on outstanding applications for positions I could be a good fit for. It’s a good day to submit new applications on new leads. A good one to study new skills and new tools, or refresh an out-of-date credential. I’m seated comfortably. My equipment is working. There’s just this one detail that is amiss; I’ve got a massive headache, and it’s quite the distracting nuisance.

I breathe through it. Take breaks. Hydrate. Stretch. Take a headache remedy. Get a walk in. Correct my posture. Have a coffee. Focus on other things. I mean, for real, I’m just throwing solutions at this fucking headache and hoping for the best. lol I’m pretty glad I’m not in my office at home, while my Traveling Partner is working on complex design and problem solving tasks. He’s very sensitive to my “state of being”, and neither of us needs this headache pinging on our consciousness at all. I can, at least, take it out of his environment and do my thing elsewhere. So, that’s what I’m doing. He’s further free to focus on work because I had not even mentioned the headache at any point this morning before starting “the work day”, so it’s not on his mind as a concern even in the background. 😀

…I’ve got a bit of a case of the blues, though I suspect it’s just one more byproduct of this fucking headache, so I work on letting it go and not taking it personally. It’s an uphill fight today; the headache keeps dragging me down. I keep clawing my way back to a positive perspective. (I remind myself that this headache will pass.)

I have an amusing moment, as I sit working; my keyboard speed (on this manual keyboard) is distracting to the two dudes sitting near me (one of whom is staring into a boldly colored spreadsheet, the other appears to be scrolling up and down in some massive list of things). They shift uncomfortably, the faster I type. I am distracted by their being distracted. LOL One finally turns to me and says out loud “wow, you really get going on that keyboard…”. I look up, unsure at first if he is talking to me, then smile politely and reply “yeah, I’ve heard that” and get back to business.

…This fucking headache, though, g’damn…

Between the headache and my arthritis pain, today, I’m really struggle with “the blues”. I remind myself that it is the pain, and that these are common feelings. Humans hurt. Humans struggle. Humans feel. It’s not personal, even when it very much feels like it is. I keep fighting the distraction. Keep returning to the tasks in front of me. Keep working to “lift myself up”. Processes and practices. Having the luxury of being able to invest my time in self-care is pretty handy. It would be lovely to have the security of employment and a steady paycheck right now, yes, but… it’s also pretty nice that I am not having to choose between self-care and work right now. (Although it’s fair to define the job search and continuing education stuff as “work”, it’s very much self-paced, and no pressure.)

I recently heard from two very dear old friends. The Goth Technician and The Author replied to email I had recently sent of the “how are things?” variety. Makes me smile even now, though I read those emails and replied quite some time ago. It’s the connection. There is so much value in our human ability to connect with each other, even over email. It prompts me to send another friend and email – it’s been too long – and yet another. Somehow, these don’t aggravate my headache at all, as though to direct my attention to building and maintaining relationships, and away from task-processing like a machine. 🙂 Something to reflect on? Probably.

I sit sipping my water, thinking about lunch time (which I plan to spend at home with my partner), thinking about sunrises and new beginnings, and thinking about… this fucking headache. LOL Very distracting. I definitely need to begin again. 🙂

Every sunrise is a new beginning.

However smooth life’s path may seem, there are going to be some painful moments, challenges, unexpected detours… you know, “potholes in the road”. Just saying, even when life is purely delightful, don’t expect universally sunny days and smooth sailing (do expect mixed metaphors – at least here! lol).

The dinner planned for yesterday came together nicely. My Traveling Partner and I worked on it together; we had to.

I am learning how much I rely on my left hand. LOL

I was at the end stages of preparing dinner. Sauce cooking down, house filled with the delicious aroma. Cheese was grated and set aside, ready and waiting. Pasta weighed out for two servings, ready to cook once the sauce was nearer to being done. Garlic butter was all whipped up and ready to be spread on the bread that would become garlic toast. Good time to slice that batard and spread both halves with the garlic butter, I thought…may as well have it ready. I explicitly cautioned myself to use care; sharp knife.

With great care, I cut myself rather badly across my forefinger and middle finger. Shit. Totally my foolishness, too. I made an explicit point of taking note of the fucking risk then stupidly still cradled the batard of bread in my fucking hand to cut it. For real? Fucking hell, just take away my license to adult, right now. lol

Two cuts. One fairly minor, the other quite deep and too damned close to the finger joint to brush it off as “nothing really”. My Traveling Partner was concerned it may need stitching (or worse). Both were bleeding quite a lot. Urgent care is very nearby, so we agreed I would keep pressure on them, keep my hand elevated, and drive the short (less than a mile) distance to the clinic, while he kept an eye on dinner – that sauce wasn’t going to stir itself!

Left hand more or less useless made turn signals hilariously awkward, but the drive was uneventful. “We’re so sorry! We don’t have a provider on site today, we’re just doing tele-medicine appointments today!”, the startled woman at the reception desk said as she eyed the blood oozing between my fingers where the wad of paper towels in my grip didn’t absorb it. “You can go to the other urgent care… or the ER…” she suggested. I carefully loosened my grip on the paper towels to check the bleeding. The smaller cut on my index finger had stopped bleeding, the other not so much. I got directions and made my way to the other urgent care… which was closed. Fuck. I call my partner, share the details, and look at the injury again. It had finally stopped bleeding… so… I went home. Didn’t seem like much of an emergency at that point… More of an anecdote.

I got home safely. Dinner was ready, and it was delicious. Before serving it up, my partner bandaged up my fingers and splinted them so I would not reopen those cuts by absentmindedly trying to use that hand. Dinner was delicious. Hilariously, I know I’ll look back on this fondly as a wonderful evening with a moment of misadventure… I mean, the dinner was that good, and a cut? Just a minor mishap. My partner is still teasing me good-naturedly about it; he had just done the same thing last month!

It was only this morning that I was confronted with numerous wee inconveniences resulting from impaired use of my left hand. lol Typing being one of those. There are lessons here. I hope I learn them. In the meantime, I’ll be asking for help with a few two-handed tasks… and beginning again.

Sick time activities tend on the easy low-effort side, for me, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time the last few days (between naps and hot showers) looking over pictures of previous camping trips to the same general location I’ll be going next. I noticed fairly quickly that “the numbers don’t add up” – the campsites are numbered, and I reliably snap a picture of the site I’ve selected, and note the number in my itinerary and various writings. I tend to favor sites that are the most distant from other campers, wherever I go. As I’ve said before; I go for the solitude. 🙂

Like, seriously, out among the trees, camped surrounded by dense tall nettles. Manufactured solitude. 😀

During the pandemic, I didn’t get much camping in. (Duh) There was that last trip in August 2019 – before the pandemic – and then “at long last” another in August 2021, when pandemic restrictions were beginning to lift (rather briefly, as I recall, before returning for some while…I hope I am remembering that correctly). That most recent trip was not down into the deeper, quieter, hike-in camping – that camp ground was closed for substantial repairs, and even the trail down into that area was closed. There had been some serious storms that took down trees, flooded trails, and caused a lot of damage (I read, but did not see for myself). When I went to book my upcoming trip, I noticed something odd… there was a particular site I was considering reserving… only… it didn’t exist on the map at all, now. Actually – there are two fewer sites than there had been, and two of those that were removed were among the four sites that were singularly “remote” (by a notable distance) from the others (and each other). One of these now-missing sites was one I greatly enjoyed. Change is. The other I hadn’t yet tried out, but found visually very pleasing, and had considered it more than once. These changes briefly tested my sanity; could I really be remembering things this incorrectly?? Could I be so wrong about where that site was??

This is no longer site #9. This is the past. Gone now.
This site is gone, too. I wonder what reminder of the past may linger there now?

Now there are just two sites in the hike-in campground that truly stand out as being quite a bit more distant from any other camp sites. One of those is a “walk-in only” and can’t be reserved at all (and is generally occupied any time I’ve gone there). The other? My personal favorite spot. The thing that I found amusing-confusing is that the numbering (of course) had to be updated to “make sense” on the ground for folks seeking their reserved site… and now, the carefully recording numbering of prior visits that I see in my notes and pictures makes no sense; it doesn’t match the map as it exists now. My preferred site was #23, which “no longer exists” but strictly speaking it’s right there on the map – just bearing a different number. So many lovely visits to #23… only… now it’ll be #21, and of course the one trip I had previously made to #21 would be better numbered, now, as #17. Sites #22 and #9, as they had existed, are simply gone now. There is no need for a #22 at all and #9 is attached to a different site altogether. Vexing. But… change is. These are certainly the sorts of changes that can screw with a person’s memories of the past, though. lol

Sometimes I get hung up on such details. What something is called now versus what it used to be named. Street names. Business locations. Changes in which streets are one-way. I sometimes struggle to reconcile what I recall with what I see in front of me. I don’t think that’s unique or unusual; I think we all deal with it because change is. Sorting out these photos and getting them organized by camping trip has been fun and I love the reminders of each one. The pictures take me back down trails as they once were, and each visit has its utterly unique and splendidly different moments… on the same trails. Different weather. Different light. Different flowers in bloom. New or old signs. Well-maintained or falling into disrepair. These small variations don’t reflect “poor memory for details” at all, they simply remind me that “change is”, and that this affects us all, with every experience. The map is not the world. The trail is not the hike. Each moment is an experience all its own.

Still the same favorite, but the number has changed. LOL It’ll be #21 on the new map. The map is not the world.

I’ve camped at this place in March. I found it a bit chilly (and definitely unpleasantly so at night). It was rainy. I find that I would rather wait for later weeks, generally, instead of camping in March. lol

I’ve camped here in May. May was also rainy, but the nights were pretty comfortable, and the thimbleberries along the trails were ripe. It’s a lovely time for wildflowers. The trails are sometimes muddy.

I’ve camped here in July. The summer heat often hasn’t really gotten going, and everything is lush and green, and the trails are dry and easy to walk.

I’ve camped here in August, several times. Comfortable nights, followed by cool mornings well-suited to long hikes. The afternoons are hot – good for napping after a hike. The birdsong, crickets, and peeping frogs make a delightful racket.

I’ve camped here in September a couple times, too. Chilly evenings develop from warm afternoons. Sometimes it has rained briefly, most often it has been dry. Creeks are at their lowest flow. Trails are dry, and so are the meadow grasses. A few wildflowers remain.

Funny thing… while it makes quite a bit of sense that I don’t typically camp earlier than March (don’t like being cold all the time)… looking over my photos, I am a little surprised to see that I have not camped later than mid-September, either. Why is that so odd? Well, the weather around this location is quite mild and suited to camping well into November before it begins getting properly chilly again. Not that it matters relative to most other things, I just found it peculiar, and find myself wondering if I should plan something for October this year? Catch the autumn in her glory, perhaps?

What I was getting to, though, is that each experience has been quite different for reasons other than camp site or season. That March trip? It was dreadful, and I cut it short. I was out there primarily doing a “gear check” for longer more remote trips into wilderness areas with only dispersed camping available, and no “conveniences” (like potable water and vault toilets). I utterly failed to be adequately prepared even for the chill of a pleasant March weekend. lol I forgot my coffee. (Nooooooo!) Seriously? I even forgot any sort of hot beverage, even tea or broth. Forgot my bee sting kit (omg, bees in March??). Couldn’t start a fire – just, for whatever reason, completely forgot how to make that happen on this whole other “do not go solo camping you nitwit” level. The ultra-light cot I had such high hopes for? Flimsy and would not support my weight. Fucking hell. After one overnight I was tired, stressed, and miserable. After two? I called my Traveling Partner to come get me. Embarrassing. I still get occasional teasing about that one. lol

Most of my camping trips are just excuses to hit trails I can’t easily reach on a weekend morning, and to get away for some “me time” and take pictures of flowers. They sort of blend together – until I see the pictures, and look back on each trip as its own thing. A singular experience. Each one of them is quite different, and by making a practice of savoring every pleasant moment at great length, my longer-term memory of all of them is of these wonderful experiences out among the trees – even that March trip.

How often do we taint our memories of the life we live by focusing on the shittiest moments with the whole of our attention, picking them apart, re-analyzing them, talking and writing about them at length, thinking of them often – while failing to do the same for all the pleasant ones? When I stopped doing that, and started putting more of my focus on the choice moments, joyful moments, a-ha moments, and wow moments instead, my experience of life over-all improved quite a lot. I recommend it. When I catch myself ruminating on some bullshit moment of chaos or unhappiness, I make a point to follow that with reflections on lovely moments. Legit. Real. Mine. Doing this has definitely changed my “implicit memory” of life and the world for the better. It’s a choice I make regularly. It’s been very effective as a strategy for ensuring that life feels worth living, every day. Figured I’d share that with you. 🙂 I hope you find it helpful.

…The tl;dr? Don’t get mired in your own bullshit. Reflect on your joys, your wins, what works, and what you love. Take time for that. Sip your coffee (or tea, or… you know, whatever you like) and focus on what delights you in your surroundings right now. I mean… I’m not telling you what to do, just sharing what has been working for me. 🙂 You’re walking your own path, of your own choosing. You can begin again.

Choose your path and walk it. Your results may vary.