Archives for category: inspiration

Thanksgiving kicks off my winter holiday season, and always has. Here it is the Sunday after Thanksgiving and my leggings are dusted with bits of glitter after being on the floor wrapping the tree stand with its skirt after I somehow failed to successfully vacuum up all the fallen glitter left behind from making this year’s holiday cards. I experienced so much joy and satisfaction making the cards, I imagine I’ll do it again next year. Maybe start earlier and rush less…?

Handmade holiday cards were a fun weekend project.

Thanksgiving itself was… fine. It was fine. It was a lovely warm holiday spent in the company of my Traveling Partner. At some point we quarreled. We sorted it out and enjoyed the day. Commonplace enough and it didn’t ruin the day. Later, I did an astonishingly poor job of dinner. Well, I omitted a dish my partner really likes, for one thing, (and I generally make it, but had been doing so without understanding the relative importance to him, and so… I made a menu change that seemed a small detail, and it was a big disappointment for him). The other miss, dinner-wise, was the turkey. Straight up raw. It wasn’t done when I thought it was done. I checked the internal temperature of the bird, and must have managed to stick into the one spot on that fucking carcass that was at “done” temperature – the rest of it? Uncooked. Literally everything else I prepared was ready for the table, and the table was set, and I’d pulled the bird out thinking it was done, and it just was not. Yeesh. The disappointing discovery was made as my partner carved the turkey. It definitely put us both off actually eating turkey. What a waste.

…What’s not wasted? Any affection between my partner and I. He saw how crushed I obviously was over the dinner failures, and quickly offered me these words “I’m not disappointed with you, or upset about dinner. I couldn’t care less about what’s on our table. I care that you’re here with me. That’s what matters; we’re here together.” I felt very loved. Also rather disappointed with my dinner preparation, but yeah – very loved. That does matter more. We enjoyed the meal together anyway – there just wasn’t any turkey or corn. lol The mashed potatoes were creamy and delicious. The stuffing… had too much garlic. (What the hell?!) This may very well have been the worst Thanksgiving meal I have ever prepared. No kidding.

Yesterday evening I made a second “Thanksgiving-ish” meal, using delicious leftovers, and instead of turkey I made chicken strips. It was a satisfying, excessive, and quite a delicious meal. It was… Thanksgiving. We were both even appropriately thankful, and with good reason. Delicious meal in each other’s good company. What about Friday? I don’t even remember. I was in so much pain on Friday that the day ended up lost in it. I don’t think I made (or ate) dinner at all… and I’m not sure I got anything done. I was in that much pain. It’s rare for it to be that bad, but it does happen, and I am most likely to have that experience during the cold autumn days and nights on the way to winter. Yesterday was better. Today has been better still.

Today I finished up the holiday cards and got them in the mail. Did some housekeeping. Stood the tree and checked the lights. Wrapped the skirt around the base. Next up is the garland and then the ornaments. I don’t have much hope that I’ll finish tonight – and I don’t have to. There’s no need to dress the tree trimming in an additional layer of anxiety and stress over that kind of foolishness. LOL There’s no pressure. This whole mess is meant to be joyous, so… yeah… I’m cool taking my time with it. 🙂

Tomorrow a new work week begins, and the year begins the speedy race to the end – with twinkling lights, charity bell-ringers, and holiday carols playing everywhere. I am grateful to be where I am, here at home, wrapped in love, ready to begin again. This is enough. More than enough.

I am sipping my coffee – an eggnog latte, my fond seasonal weakness coffee-wise each autumn as the Yule season begins. Thanksgiving… holiday parties… Hannukah… the Solstice… Giftmas (more commonly called “Christmas”)… Festivus… Boxing Day… Kwanzaa… it’s a season rich in celebrations and merry-making. Oddly, it wasn’t what I was thinking about over the weekend, in spite of Thanksgiving being just days away…

I sit in the stillness of a local co-work space, alone with my coffee. It’s quiet. The usual background music is not playing, and the stillness feels complete, interrupted by occasional trucks passing on the street outside. I came into “the office” early this morning to avoid waking my Traveling Partner. He’s put in some heroic hours laboring in the shop, making it ready for the new (larger) CNC machine that will arrive soon. He was obviously exhausted by the end of his day, yesterday, and I sometimes rattle about rather noisily in the mornings. It’s not any particular inconvenience to go into the office and give him a better chance at deep sleep, and when he actually asked me if I would, I readily agreed. So… here I am. 😀 Getting some quiet time to write, and sipping on a delightful holiday beverage. It’s a promising start to a Monday.

There have been a lot of items in the news (I’d say “lately”, but truly it’s a relatively common thing) about various celebrities, sports figures, cultural icons of one sort or another, and some problematic tidbit – something they’ve said, or not said, or some bad act (some such are fairly petty or trivial, others quite horrible). We lament the fall of our heroes, when we’re honest enough to accept their human failings at all. Other times, we can’t accept what we’ve seen/heard… and we make excuses for their shitty behavior, or seek to explain it away. We do it for star athletes. We do it for actors. We do it for politicians. We do it for friends and loved ones. We do it for the gods we created in our own image.

I didn’t link any examples, and that’s intentional; we all experience this toppling of our heroes at some point, even if only in the discovery that our own parents do not know everything and don’t get everything right, or perhaps that first time we correct a teacher on some small detail of a subject we study passionately, that they were simply incorrect about.

…It’s hard to separate the art from the artist, isn’t it?.. To separate the author from their story? To separate the musician from their music? The soldier from their service? We are each so human…

Why the hell do we so often set ourselves up – and each other – for failure by creating a heroic caricature that no one could possibly measure up to? Why is it so difficult to “hate the sin” and still deal with one another entirely humanely? Why are our expectations of one another so complicated and often so unreasonable? What are we even doing here??

I only have questions on this one. Catchy bon mots and conveniently pithy slogans of one sort or another came and went with my thoughts over the weekend. I never really got anywhere besides “human beings are not heroes and neither are the gods they create”. We begin life with no perspective, experience, or wisdom, but commence judgment and decision-making immediately… we age and our thinking changes over time as we do, but entirely too late to change our previous decisions or actions based on flawed thinking. If we’re fortunate, we get somewhere good with all that mess. More often, it’s … complicated.

I remember how I felt upon learning that John Lennon mistreated women. “Heartbroken astonishment and disbelief” describe the initial feeling, but it quickly morphed into just disbelief, and from there? Apologist nonsense. Took me awhile to get to a place in life where I could both enjoy his music and also accept that he was a flawed human being, possibly even one I could not personally respect and might not wish to hang out with. Some of his music remains personally meaningful to me, in spite of who he was or may have been. This is just one example. There are so many others! (You, too?) In some cases, I couldn’t get past the human being behind the art, and I avoid it altogether. It sort of depends on how great the art, and how terrible the failure, sometimes. Over the years, I’ve become much less inclined to make excuses for human failings, and also much more inclined to be compassionate. It’s… complicated. I do think that when we insist on super-gluing our heroes to their pedestals in spite of their failings, we set ourselves up to treat people around us more callously – because we’re insisting on preserving the lie of heroism. There are no heroes. Only people. Some people are pretty fucking horrible. Other people are damned nice. No people are living embodiments of perfection in life (don’t argue, just look closer), and we’re each having our own experience. We’re walking our own paths, doing our own best, and generally hoping the outcome will be good more often than not. Can we each do better? Yeah, probably. Having a “role model” feels helpful sometimes. Making our role models over in the image of a god or a hero is probably not. (It’s also probably a lot of weight to have to carry, being someone’s hero…)

What do you value? How do you live that value in your life every day? What do you need a hero for? You have the path ahead, you have the choices in your hands, you have this day. Topple your heroes, then… become the person you most want to be.

Begin again.

There are so many tea-related metaphors. I’m more of a coffee drinker, frankly, which you probably know if you’ve read more than one or two of my blog posts. I do occasionally drink tea, though…

Proof I do drink tea. Sometimes.

Here’s a thing, though; tea has been around a very long time. It has ancient origins. The idea of having a cup of tea to relax, or as a pick-me-up, or as a shared moment among friends, or a celebratory or thoughtful ritual, is not new. (This is going somewhere…)

…I mean…damn. Have some tea. Think about how that connects you to your ancestors – and the world!

Life has been “busy”. My anxiety has pushed me back into therapy, because although I worked a long time to manage my anxiety generally (in the face of trauma, stress, and emotional pain), I haven’t actually done much to deal with my anxiety in the face of … success and contentment and a pretty good life. Turns out, that also massively aggravates my anxiety! Fuck. Seriously? Well, shit.

Even a lovely colorful pleasant life rich in love and joy can be a source of stress.

One of the things I had talked over with my therapist is this idea that I feel unprepared for things to go well, and as if I am constantly vigilant, waiting for “the other shoe to drop”, which is a weird source of anxiety, seems to me. I also gave voice to my frustration that I’m struggling to stay on track with my meditation practice – in spite of my awareness and direct experience that it is profoundly helpful for managing my anxiety. How is that even fair? lol

All through the summer, I explored area parks and nature areas with my camera. Thinking, walking, taking pictures of flowers, trees, and birds.

I zoomed in close-up to examine small details.

I developed favorite spots as the weeks passed. I switched up my routine to put me out on the trail with my camera almost every morning for a hour or so before work. It did a lot to inspire, soothe, and entertain me. It met real creative needs that I’d been struggling to meet well for rather a long while. I still do it most days, even though the sun rise is (much) later. I start my work day later, too, and stay closer to home on work mornings (saving the further away spots for weekend mornings). I’m grateful that I can.

Just this morning, at dawn, I had a realization…

I think I’ve been “getting too close” to the issue at hand, and as a result failing to find a thread that connects some of it in a useful way, with other things that are also going on with or around me…

It’s easy to get too close to something, and miss the important details I’d easily see if I took a step back.

I drink a lot of coffee in the mornings. I often write in the mornings. I do camera walks in the mornings. I feel fresh and wide-open to possibilities in the morning. Once my two coffees for the day are over, I’m generally pretty well wrapped up in work, or moving on with a list of things that need doing, or errands that want running. By nightfall, I’m exhausted, irritable, in pain, and struggling to find emotional balance. There’s a lot of time between the end of that second coffee and the end of my typical day. I’m going to start stopping for a cup of tea in the afternoon. 🙂 An easy moment from which to begin again, to reset, to reconsider, to reconnect with myself… I plan to make a commonplace ritual of it, as so many people do, and I will seek to be very mindful, and deliberate, and take advantage of the break in my routine each day to really pause, reflect, and appreciate my circumstances.

…If nothing else, it will use up the tea in my cupboards, and give me a reason to use the tea cups in my porcelain collection. Delightful. Self-reflection, a break in the afternoon, and delight?? Sign me up. (Oh, wait, I already did…) A new practice. Sometimes it takes a bit of new along with the routine to find my way along the path. Something with which to begin again. 🙂

Self-care is hard sometimes. I’m sipping my first cup of (less than good) coffee this morning, and reflecting on the challenge of managing my self-care, when the actual act of caring for myself and meeting my own needs is one of the actual anxiety triggers I find myself fighting. Yeesh.

I needed some time to think deeply without interruption, and to weep or rage if that is where my thinking happened to take me – without concern about criticism, or self-consciousness, or needing to “put a good face on it” if someone attempted to offer help expecting a result for their efforts. I “had some homework to do” and needed time and space to do it with care. So, I booked an inexpensive room on the coast (love the off-season specials!) and took my camera, my laptop, and my madness out to the coast for an overnighter of self-reflection. I mean… that’s all this trip was honestly good for. “King tides” and absolutely terrible rainy weather definitely kept me mostly indoors, other than breezes and rain and fresh air out on the balcony.

…Hell, I was so focused on the self-work I wanted to be working through, I explicitly planned not to go out for dinner (or lunch), and brought along a pack of ramen noodles and some snacks. Good enough. 🙂

Funny thing is, I was started on my “homework” before I even got to the coast; just making the plans took me through an anxiety “fun house” as I tried to communicate my needs and how I wanted to meet those – and I hadn’t even booked the room yet! See, it’s like this; if going to the coast meets needs of my partner’s, I feel quite relaxed about going, and even eager to enjoy that time. Fair enough. Why not? But, each time I framed the trip (in my own thoughts) as explicitly for me, my anxiety went through the roof. This is not uncommon in my experience with my anxiety; willful, considerate acts of self-care and choice often come with a huge increase in my anxiety that taints both the planning and the experience itself. Makes it very emotionally difficult to balance my needs with the needs of those around me; mine cause me anxiety, and I tend to select away from that emotional experience. Over time, my resentment builds until I can’t mask it anymore, and that creates an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Not ideal. I can do better….

…Can’t I?

So. I danced around wanting to do an overnight on the coast. I brought it up once. Twice. I wasn’t getting traction on the idea with my partner; he was eager to have me around, having completed the most complicated set-up work with the new CNC. He misses me when I’m gone. Shit. This kept getting more difficult each time I tried to sort of slide into the idea for a win. Then I really took a look at what I was doing and saying, and observed how I was failing myself. My partner even explicitly said to me “I sure won’t stop you if you want to go to the coast for you, Baby.” He invited me to take care of myself. He simply expects me to own that in an honest way. Makes sense.

So. I tried again, Friday afternoon. I clarified that I wanted to go to the coast and do some emotional homework and reflect on my anxiety without concern that my emotional experience may be encroaching on his, or awareness of his presence (and his needs) that could distract me from the self-work I wanted to do. I laid out my plan, and asked him to tell me if any of the details were a pain point for how he would manage his day on Saturday. He pointed out that if I lingered at home into the afternoon, I would cut his productive time in the shop short. So I adjusted my plan to account for that; I’d enjoy morning coffee with him, run a couple local errands right quick, then head to the coast around 10:00, putting me at the hotel shortly before noon. I arranged an early check-in with the hotel for convenience. It felt good to be heard, and to have a clear plan that supported my needs. It also caused me quite a bit of anxiety into the night on Friday – just because I made a point (and a plan) to meet my own needs without also couching that in the terms of meeting the needs of others as well. It passed.

I woke feeling light and merry yesterday. We enjoyed a lovely morning and shared coffee together. I ran those errands. While I was out and about, my Traveling Partner pinged me to ask “Are you going to the coast today?” My anxiety spiked hard. Did he not know? Had I failed to clearly communicate? Was it not okay to go after all?? I stopped the car nearby and parked for a minute. Nothing he said was at all a criticism or an attack; he just asked a question. Commonplace stuff that, to check one’s assumptions and expectations. Nothing to fear from that. I breathed through the moment, and answered the question. “Yes”. He sent back smiles and kisses and hearts. Huh. That wasn’t scary at all. It’s as if he was just asking a fucking question. Anxiety is such a liar.

I finished my errands, headed back, and started getting ready to go to the coast. My bags were already packed (it honestly took no time; one overnight, and my camera and laptop bags are pretty much always ready to grab-and-go). “You’re going?” my partner asked. I could see he would actually rather I stayed, and that he would enjoy my company. Anxiety. I shook off the momentary inclination to abandon my plans and smiled “yep, I’m ready.” We kissed good-bye and exchanged loving words and well-wishes, and off I went.

…The traffic wasn’t even bad, and the heavy rain didn’t seem to rouse my anxiety any further. Huh. Something to think about.

The entire drive to the coast was “productive” time alone with my thoughts. Uneventful autumn drive with some truly lovely spots in spite of the heavy rain obscuring that sometimes obscured my view, so I spent it thinking deeply… about anxiety. About, specifically, my own experience of anxiety. I didn’t spend that time berating or criticizing myself, just thinking about how it seems to “work” and what most often triggers my anxiety (specifically in my relationship with my Traveling Partner). Thinking about how I communicate, and where that may be undermining my emotional wellness when anxiety becomes “a thing” in a given moment. Thinking about “fear” and “anxiety” and also thinking about “anger” and “anxiety” – where those overlap, or fuel each other, where they seem to be at odds, and what I can do about – or with – any of it. I spent quite a bit of the drive simply reflecting on how different the outcomes were trying to planning this overnight, depending on how I attempted to communicate my needs, my plan, and how I sought his thoughts or support. It’s a lot. Which sometimes also causes me anxiety.

Once I settled into the room, I sat on the balcony in the chilly wind, watching the tide recede, and thinking about anxiety. I had a list of questions to reflect on and to answer for myself. I got to work on that. No, I did not “solve for X” and wake this morning having cured my anxiety… but I feel pretty good, and I think I have a clearer understanding of some useful ways to diminish my anxiety in the moment, and allow it to dissipate more readily. Do I still need help with it? Fuck yes. I’m grateful to have a loving supportive partner and a really good therapist. 🙂

Late in the evening, my partner pinged me with a progress report on his day and some loving chit-chat. He asked if I would be home “in the morning”. I understood him to be saying he’d like me to be home in the morning (vs later in the day). He asked if I would bring donuts. 🙂 Hell yes. 😀

So…now I’m sitting here sipping hotel coffee, watching the dawn unfold, rainy and gray. I woke to darkness and a low tide. No surprise; Daylight Savings Time ended last night and I also read the tide tables yesterday. lol The featureless gray that woke me as “daylight” wasn’t actually daylight at all, really, it just wasn’t quite dark, and I was well-rested. I’ll be gone before the next high tide – so I’m glad I saw the one yesterday. 🙂 The wind blew so hard during the night it scooted the chairs on the balcony from one side to the other. It’s a stormy sort of morning, lovely to watch from the warm of this room. I enjoy my coffee.

…It’s already time to start packing and getting dressed; I don’t want to miss the good donuts. LOL

Weird day. Weird week. I think one of the most challenging things about learning to manage my mental health and emotional stability over time has been also holding on to an understanding that I can do 100% of my best, make a ton of progress, gain resilience and emotional intelligence as an individual – and still struggle enormously in the context of any one relationship with another human being (who is on their own journey, having their own experience). It’s that parenthetical that gives it away, right? We’re each walking our own hard mile. Each having our own experience. It won’t matter much however much self-healing and emotional recovery from trauma I do in some relationships; that other person’s own pain and trauma is going to have a lot to say about how much we’re able to understand and enjoy each other. Sometimes that sucks. It’s certainly complicated. I can’t do much about another person’s journey besides doing my best to be a considerate fellow traveler.

I sit with that for a minute. Grateful to come as far as I have. Frustrated when it is clear that some days, in some interactions, the “us” is affected by elements outside my direct control. Yesterday (was it only yesterday? I check my email for confirmation, yep, yesterday), I had a seriously difficult day. Some of it was me. Physical pain sucks ass. Anxiety is a motherfucker. Expectations can throw a wrench into the best machinery and shut things down until the details of a shared understanding emerge. At the end of the day, yesterday, I took a minute to look at stats on this blog; I couldn’t recall if I had posted and if I had, whether I was just bitching pointlessly and creating new drama from old drama. Oddly, a different post had been linked as one that was viewed, and since I find it interesting where the curiosity of folks who read my blog may take them, I clicked the link to see what I had been writing about that day

…You may recall that I’ve said I write for myself, as a way of reaching out to myself with hopeful reminders, and useful tips that I may one day lose track of…? Yeah, this was one of those lovely moments of serendipity, and the blog post that was linked seemed almost to speak directly to me now:

Don’t sit there being miserable, filled with frustrated rage, stalled, wounded, or oppressed. Choose something different… and yeah, maybe even if that means walking away from everything you have chosen before, to choose differently, with greater wisdom, with more self-reflection, with greater awareness, and more commitment to the person you most want to be.

…Maybe you need to hear this…? You did not “ruin everything”. You are not “a complete fuck up”. You are not “the reason all of this went wrong”. You are neither master of the universe nor the single cause of all the world’s ills. You just aren’t. You aren’t that significant, actually. Neither are you unimportant. You matter. You just aren’t to blame for every fucking thing. Ever. Let that shit go? If nothing else changes, today, in this moment, you can choose to let  that shit go…

…Yeah. Wow. A bit on the nose, and I really really needed to hear that – and I needed most to hear it from me. I’m pretty fucking hard on myself, sometimes. Far more so than is necessary. Too often I internalize someone else’s emotional experience, take it completely personally, getting more hurt and more angry and more painfully aware that they (may) be taking something I’ve said or done quite personally themselves…without seeing my own error. Messy. Messy…human…and fairly fucking stupid. I mean…yeah. Easy mistake to make, and once a human primate is convinced that someone has wronged them, it’s fucking hard as hell to get them to walk that back and reflect on the part they played themselves in how things went sideways. I’m not pointing fingers here – I’m talking about me. Why would I be breaking this down if it were actually about what some other person did or said? The most I can do about that is bitch about it. If I focus my thoughts on my own words and actions, and reflect on the differences between those and what I might expect from the woman I most want to be, I may be able to understand myself more deeply – and do better.

…Let’s be super clear on an important detail, though; I’m not trying to be the best version of me that anyone else has in mind. I just want to be the best version of me that I can, myself, envision. She’s probably still not “perfect” – and I’m quite certain some of the things I like most about her won’t at all be what anyone else wishes I would become. I’m okay with that. It’s me that I have to satisfy. When I look back on this life, the only scorecard that counts is the one in my own hand. “Was I the best person I could be? Did I make time for the people I love? Did I do some good in the world? Was I the woman I most want to be?”

…Moving on…

I woke this morning wanting to paint. I finally got around to it shortly after 2 p.m. My Traveling Partner wanted to hang out, and our mortal time together is too brief, so I put off painting to hang out. I’m not sure that was 100% my best decision-making… I tend to fall short on self-care first, and where I currently am mental/emotional health-wise, I need this time with a canvas in front of me and a brush in my hand. Fuck I love that guy, though, and he’s got his own stress to wade through. I definitely want to be there to give him the support he needs when he needs it. As individuals we are so… similar and also so different, it’s easy to get taken-over by each other’s emotions. We are definitely at very different “mile markers” on our journey, and neither one of us has a map. Complicated. There are verbs involved.

My head is full of inspiration, sitting here in my studio. My painting playlist is loaded up and my ears are filled with yet another layer of inspiration. In spite of the stress of the week that is ending, I feel hopeful and grateful. It’s a good life, in spite of my challenges. I’m fortunate to be where I am in life these days. I’m aware of how fleeting good fortune can be and I do my best to stay humble and to prepare for whatever may lie ahead on life’s journey. For me, though, hope and joy and love and gratitude are rarely the well-spring of my artistic inspiration; these feels are so much more than enough on their own. It’s the hard stuff, the darker stuff, the hurts, the trauma, the tedium, the tears, the unexpressed anger that so often push me to my studio. Funny… how is it those are the things that seem so hard to express “appropriately”? Canvas and paint = no censorship, no excuses, no holding back. Art doesn’t have to worry much about being polite in good company, or taking care not to hurt the feelings of others. It can just be what it is. Strangely, even knowing this about myself, what hit the canvas today, so far, has been very much about this tiny hopeful flame that ignited within me very recently. It’s complicated (what isn’t?). I don’t know quite what sparked it, and I very much don’t want to extinguish it. So… I tend “my hearth” and look after my heart, and I take some time to put on canvas what I can’t put into words so easily.

…She’s not finished yet…I don’t know what to expect from her once she is. She’s a late addition to a series I’ve been painting for awhile. You get to see her “first” (well, after my Traveling Partner, who looked in on my progress a few minutes ago from the shores of his own journey).

“Every Dawn a Beginning” 12″ x 12″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, glitter, and resin details. 2022

It’s time to begin again. Again. May there ever be a new beginning.