Archives for category: Logic & Reason

Is the dim light of dawn, before sunrise, “too early” to go for a walk? Does coffee actually “taste good” at all? Is a desktop 3D printer “worth the money”? Am I “beautiful”? Am I “fat”? Am I “stupid”? Is that remark on the tip of my tongue “in good taste” or “hurtful”? Is that bag of groceries “too expensive”?

…Is this a moment I can afford to waste on trivia?…

It’s a matter of perspective in every case, and for each question that I’ve listed so far, isn’t it? Is there a single objective truth answering any one of these questions? I don’t think there really is. Perspective is a tricky piece of adulting. We seem to develop perspective over time, and if we’re fortunate we begin from a helpful place with parents, educators, and elders, leading us through learning, with great care to “stay real”. Doesn’t happen for everyone (that’s pretty “real” all by itself), and certainly a great many human primates reach adulthood either lacking any sense of perspective, or mired in weird distortions created by emotional chaos, thinking errors, and misinformation. Perspective is a big deal.

The dim light of dawn, before sunrise, is “too early” to go for a walk, if the path will be treacherous, slippery, or known to be the active hunting territory of a cougar. Certainly there’d be better times to walk such a trail. On the other hand, given a level paved suburban “trail” through a safely lit park, in the company of a friend, maybe not so hazardous after all?

Which one is this?

Coffee only “tastes good” to those who have a taste for it. Just saying; if you don’t like coffee, no, it doesn’t “taste good” at all. Hell, I enjoy a good cup of coffee – and I not-uncommonly quaff a cup that is… just not good. So… yeah. Perspective weighs in, again.

I suppose, with things like “affordability”, the questions are very relative. A desktop 3D printer is probably super affordable given adequate income, bills all paid, surplus resources, or a likelihood that it may itself become a source of revenue. It wouldn’t be “worth the money” if viewed as an entertaining toy coming out of a limited budget that would result in not paying the bills, or not being able to buy groceries, or fill a prescription for life-sustaining medication. There’s definitely more to “affordability” than the price tag of an item.

Beauty, and the evaluation of beauty, is so incredibly subjective and individual. Am I beautiful? I sometimes think so. Sometimes other people say so. My mirror doesn’t lie to me, though, and I am an entirely ordinary-looking middle-aged woman. What is “beauty”? If it is a feeling and sense of self, I could easily call myself beautiful and feel that I truthfully am, most days. If it is a practical matter of size, shape, symmetry, and fashionable aesthetic? I’m most likely not even “pretty”, “cute”, or “attractive”, to most people. I’m just a 58-year-old woman with a few extra pounds. I’m sufficiently comfortable with who I am and how I look that I don’t make any practical effort to change it with cosmetics, and that works for me. I like comfortable.

The “fat” and “stupid” questions work a lot like the “beauty” question, really; they are subject not only to my own perspective, but also to the subjective perspectives of others around me. Am I fat? Well… I guess, yeah. My doctor would use medical language to say as much, and my health would benefit from losing some weight. A male friend of many years acquaintance would disagree; he likes the aesthetic, the softness, and the hug-ability of a plump woman. Is he wrong? No, just has a different perspective on the matter of weight and fitness. Similarly, if I am having a conversation on a topic I know well, with someone who knows much less about it, I may sound very smart. On the other hand, if I were to attempt to chat up a physicist by fronting and showing off how much I know about physics? I’d sound very stupid indeed, and I’d look a major fool. Very relative. Standing alone in a room considering all of what I know in the context of all there is to know, I’d hesitate to call myself “smart” – there is so much more I could learn, know, or come to understand. 🙂 I’d also hesitate to call myself “stupid” – that there is vast knowledge available, and I only know a fraction of it, is not the defining characteristic of stupidity in my dictionary. (Your results – and your dictionary – may vary.)

Is the remark on the tip of my tongue “in poor taste” or “hurtful”? God damn, it sure could be. I hope it isn’t. I’ve grown a lot over the years, and it is not my way to hurt people carelessly (or by intent, generally), or to present myself in a way that is objectionable for people to be around. I would not even be “the one” to get to decide whether a remark is in poor taste or hurtful – that would need to be decided by the recipient, or the individual I hurt by it. In that instance, it is their perspective that matters, not mine.

Groceries can be expensive. Sometimes that is a matter of perspective, sometimes it’s just a painful punchline to a joke that isn’t funny in a life full of struggle. “Can I afford groceries for my family?” is a question I hope none of us this morning has to ask. Wishful thinking. No doubt someone out there is very worried about this question, and it’s a legit source of stress and heartache. Perspective, here, is more about getting through, getting by, and for those of us not facing that specific struggle, perspective has to extend to being kind at the check out line day-to-day; we don’t know what that other person is truly going through.

It’s a strange time. The pandemic had been seeming to recede, and people got excited (and careless). In that careless excitement lurked the ongoing hazard of new variants with new characteristics, and here we all are, trying to sort out when and where masks still just make fucking sense, and whether or not it’s worth the obvious risks to socialize in groups, yet. For me, my own perspective, it seems a bit premature. I enjoyed my coastal getaway, but I still keep my mask handy. I still avoid groups and close contact with strangers. I still avoid crowds and enclosed shared spaces. I go here or there to run an errand, but attempt to minimize my direct contact with people. I work from home and feel fortunate that I can. I hang out with my Traveling Partner, so grateful to share this peculiar time with this singular individual, fortunate to live and love with a human being I value and enjoy. Feels weird to have moved to new community, but never dined out in one of the local restaurants, or set foot in the shops in the downtown area, but… would it be worth dying for? My perspective is that it can wait – living and loving matters more. So, I take care, take precautions, and stay mindful that this is not a universally shared perspective. 🙂

I stare down into my coffee cup, and then at my to-do list for today. Another Sunday. More housekeeping. Aquarium maintenance, gardening, a quick trip the hardware store… It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I woke to a misty Spring morning. I even slept in. I woke feeling rested, content, and calm. My Traveling Partner woke, expressing similar feelings of rested-ness, and a similar sense of having slept deeply through the night. A pleasant start to a misty Spring morning. The scents of imminent summer mornings are already being carried along on the Spring breezes. Birds are nesting in the trees beyond the deck; it may have been their morning chatter that woke me so gently.

Lovely Spring morning.

My writing cadence is somewhat diminished lately. I’m adjusting to new routines; Spring in this new place, the progressively less restrictive-seeming restrictions of the pandemic, the new job – new work hours, new workload, new expectations in a new work culture – the end result of it all is that there is so much to process, and so little time for living, that I’m just not crowding my writing into that space very often. lol

…Am I “here”? Finally “arrived” at that legendary mythical destination called “happily ever after”?… Um…No.

No. No, I am not “there yet” – because “happily ever after” is more fairytale than possibility. I’m okay with contentment, and joy, and occasional moments of happiness that linger in my recollection. That’s enough to demand of a good life. Certainly, it’s more than I would commonly expect for myself. 🙂

My Traveling Partner and I are both made of pure human. In most my fragile vulnerable emotional moments, my partner can sometimes seem a bit of an insensitive dick. Sometimes (often?) (whether I want it or not) I need his practical refusal to succumb to my emotional weather, although I’d prefer to see his more tender, kinder, more encouraging side (obviously). Realistically, neither of us reliably 100% has our best nature facing our partner when our partner needs it most; we’re each very human. I can be a bit much. I know this about me. I can be emotionally intense. I can be a ceaseless chatterbox. I can be excessively, cryptically, whimsical to a point that I become… hard to understand. It’s a bit as if we share our sense of humor, but occasionally just don’t get a particular joke… Oh, hey, that’s a real thing too, isn’t it? What matters, what works (for us), is that there is bountiful enduring love here; we “get” each other, and we both want to be here (as far as I know… I mean, that’s one of life’s scariest questions, is it not? “Do you really want to be here, with me, as I am, sharing this lifetime, loving me?”).

I’m smiling on a sunny Spring morning, sipping my coffee, writing a few words before I hop in the shower, before a second coffee, before running a couple errands. I think of faraway friends, overdue for an email from me… I’d been writing last weekend, but a sour moment, a wrong note in love’s symphony, put me off writing. I entirely lost interest. I’d been sharing joy, and didn’t care to share sorrows or aggravation. lol Instead, I dove headlong back into sorting things out and loving my partner with my whole being until our momentary sorrows began to ease. Why not? What matters more than love? (Ok, ok, to the practical out there, yes, breathable air, drinkable water, nutrition food, adequate rest… chances are good these things all “matter more” in the most practical way. LOL)

…My Traveling Partner pops into the studio to share a thought, another practical idea to solve a practical concern, and I feel my spirit lift in the way it does when I see him. Good idea, too. 🙂 It makes me eager to begin again. 😀

I remind myself that “we don’t grow from comfortable situations”, but it feels hollow. Tears well up, and I grit my teeth and stifle them, frustrated, angry. With myself, mostly. With the circumstances, definitely. There’s too much good fortune in my experience right now for this bullshit, I tell myself, echoing something my partner said to me moments ago, from his own pissed off, frustrated perspective. The feeling of futility I am presently mired in is a painful challenge to overcome. It’s all too human. It’s also baggage, and bullshit, and probably almost entirely self-imposed, if I could get to a clear-headed place to examine it with less visceral emotional involvement.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

My writing stalls. My coffee just sits. There’s no eagerness to embrace the moment. No acceptance from with which to step forward, walk on, and begin again. I exist, presently, as a moment of pain. A living, breathing, emotional wound… but I’m not quite sure what this hurt is truly about, and so don’t know how to comfort myself or heal me. I think about my partner, doing his own best in another room. Cross words exchanged before we could even enjoy our coffee. I’m disappointed with myself for losing control; I know how much damage emotional volatility can do in a single moment. That delicate balance that is feeling the feelings while also holding oneself to a standard of appropriate behavior suitable for all circumstances, that lives my values moment to moment, in spite of whatever emotional storm is blowing in… is hard. It’s a feat that requires steady practice, and it has to matter… and, and this is the hardest bit, the win nearly always comes in spite of someone else’s volatility, turmoil, or provocation. It’s not enough to be steady, calm, and to listen deeply alone in a silent room. It’s about a practice that makes that possible in the face of someone else’s storm of emotion. My results definitely vary. This morning I failed utterly. I’d barely woken up. I honestly don’t even understand how or why everything went sideways so suddenly… nor do I think there is much value in troubleshooting that. It would be a distraction.

…From…? I don’t even know, right now. This headache is complicating my ability to think clearly and reason well.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

I’m annoyed with myself. That’s not helping. I said some ridiculous (and vile) things, and it’s not okay, and at some point, how much does an apology really help? I take a deep breath. The breath “timer” pulses on my desktop out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know how much it really helps. I’m so frustrated with some of the challenges I face each day… I keep expecting at some point any part of this will feel properly routine and effortless, but any amount of study makes it immediately clear that my results may “always” vary – for any practical definition of “always” – and some damage is lasting. Frustrating. (Incremental change over time is a real thing…but some increments are too small to see individually.)

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

I’m struggling to be positive. I look back on my own words – recent, and less so – and there is so much positivity reflected there. So much will. This morning, right now, I just feel… bleak and defeated. I struggle to find meaning. I find myself reliably “missing the point”. The promising morning ahead that I was facing so eagerly has morphed into something less enticing. I’m eager to see darkness return, to go back to bed, to start over tomorrow… on a work day. That saddens me, further, and I feel my hopefulness sort of just trickling away.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

It’s all very dramatic, is it not? Fucking hell. My head aches (partly from crying). “You’re creating this experience,” I remind myself. “Let it go,” I suggest, more helpfully than not (I hope). I feel a bit like a mechanic facing an easily repairable problem… without tools or parts to work with, and too stupid to look behind me to see that the tools are neatly laid out on my bench, with the parts ready to go. I suspect my partner feels a bit more like a parent in a grocery store trying to discreetly deal with a toddler having a screaming tantrum over something they can’t have; their love for their child is undiminished, but fucking hell – right now? Seriously? What a shitty experience all around. I could choose differently… couldn’t I?

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

Damn, I fucking failed hard this morning. My brain reaches for The Four Agreements, because… yeah… this could have gone a lot better, even if the only thing I’d done differently was these four things. For real. Not fancy.

Where this really started, back in 2010, and a moment of gratitude for the love of the man who shared it with me, then, and remains with me, still.

11 years is a long time to work on something without seeing lasting permanent verifiable results that have positive impact. If that were legitimately where I were standing this morning, feeling this despair become futility would make a lot of sense. That’s some real shit. BUT, and this is important (for me to observe and acknowledge, for myself), that’s not where I am standing this morning, at all. I take another deep breath and let it out as a loud sigh. Life is very different now than it was 11 years ago, this morning’s drama doesn’t even show on the same scale. Yes, I’ve still got challenges. Yes, the brain damage creates some headaches (literal and metaphorical) that continue to trouble me (and complicate my relationships). Yes, the PTSD complicates things rather a lot, and I utterly rely on every good health and emotional wellness practice I can master to maintain my balance day-to-day – and my results do still vary. I’m just saying, if you are mired in despair right now, feeling a profound sense of futility and hopelessness… I hope you take away from this reading the following things:

1. You are creating a large part of that experience, yourself, and you can choose to change it.

2. It won’t feel easy or comfortable to make changes, possibly ever.

3. What you practice you do become.

4. When you fail, however horribly, you can begin again.

Yeah, okay, I’ll be honest on that last one – there are no guarantees regarding the outcomes of new beginnings. I can begin again a million times, and likely will – it does not provide me any assurance that my relationships will be unaffected by my chaos and damage, or that every traveler on my path will choose to continue to travel with me. I’ve lost friends. Some I chose to let go, others turned away from me. Relationships come and go. People are human and it’s not fair or reasonable to expect they will endure our bullshit indefinitely, ever. So… the value in practicing the practices that allow me to become the woman I most want to be is in becoming the woman I most want to be. Period. End of goal-setting. Be a better human being, generally. Would I like to live that experience in the company of my current partner? Definitely. Do I have any guarantees? Nope. Not ever. Gotta just let that one go, too. There is a ton of work involved in lasting sustained love, and no guarantee of success. Definitely makes sense to treat each other well along the journey.

I take another breath. I sip my cold coffee. I think about The Four Agreements. When I am “impeccable with my word” I refrain from saying vile upsetting shit when I’m angry, because I’m committed to truth and working to keep my raw emotions separate from the words I say about my experience. That would have been an improvement this morning. When I avoid taking things personally, I am less likely to escalate emotionally when my partner is frustrated with me, or when I am frustrated with him. That would have been super useful this morning. I could certainly use more practice there. When I avoid making assumptions, it opens to door to listening more deeply, and requires me to ask clarifying questions, and leaves room in my awareness to appreciate my partner’s affection for me, in spite of his emotional experience in the moment. It would have been very helpful this morning to have refrained from making assumptions about my partner’s thinking, and to have given him a chance to share it in words. I suppose all these things are true for both of us, really. Good practices often work that way. I’d love to insist I was doing my best, this morning…that is, after all, the fourth agreement referenced in The Four Agreements… but… was I really? Pre-coffee? Less than an hour after waking? I give that a “maybe”, and a very frank admission that it’s quite likely I could have done better by being more willful, more present, and by taking my own bullshit less fucking personally, myself. So… Yeah. I could have done nothing more/better/differently than to have practiced the 4 simple practices outlined in The Four Agreements, and the morning would likely have gone very very differently. Maybe it wouldn’t have… but… did I really give it a chance? I see room for improvement.

…Breathe… Exhale… Relax…

I’m not in this relationship alone. That’s true. We’re in this together – and we’re each also having our own experience. We’ve each got our own personal demons. Our own chaos and damage. Our own trauma to heal. Our own baggage to lug around. Our own intolerable bullshit that we’re both each working individually to resolve or to master. It’s very human. It’s not about fault or blame, though, and it’s not about who is guilty or wrong, or who said what to whom… there’s little value in that. I can’t really work on anyone’s issues but my own, though, so I sit down and reflect on what I can do, what I can change, and how I can be the best version of this particular human being that I happen to be. Love asks us to unpack our own baggage.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

…Begin again.

I’m sipping my Sunday morning coffee in solitude. Best that I do so. I’m in a lot of pain after a long walk on a windy winter beach, yesterday, which, while it provided wonderful time to reflect and listen to my own thoughts, was also physically taxing. I’m definitely glad I wore base layers, too; it was chilly!!

Windy, rainy, cold, and the tide coming in. There’s no stopping the tide.

Things went seriously sideways Friday night, and Saturday’s walk on the beach was moody and bleak. It felt wholly necessary, but there was little joy in the moment. This saddens me, even now. It is, at this point, just something I’m adding to the recollection. I breathe, exhale, and let that go.

…I got some great pictures…

Friday might not have turned into the emotional shitstorm it did if I had been paying more attention… or… if I were altogether someone else, I suppose. My Traveling Partner woke in pain Friday morning, and was in an absolutely foul mood as a result (not unlike where I find myself this morning). He made a point of saying so, and was very kind and careful in our interactions all day, although he was cross and irritable. I finally ended my work day and … the whole delicate considerate assembled-with-care framework crumbled. I’m still sipping my first coffee, right now, this morning, and my brain is not yet entirely “on line”; I struggle to recall specifically what went wrong. Something I said, or my reaction to something he said, and suddenly we were lobbing raw emotions at each other in the form of angry words. I wept. We took turns shouting. We both ended up triggered – and triggering each other – and just fucking mired in our individual pain and heartache. To call it “unpleasant” seems insufficient. To make more of it than that seems simultaneously disrespectful of any underlying legitimate concerns that ought be addressed with love and consideration – but also seems likely to elevate those painful hours to something more important than what they were. Chaos fueled by emotions. Emotions that had less to do with the moments we found ourselves in than other moments, in other relationships, that left us scarred. Both unpleasant and unfair. How is it “unfair”? Isn’t it always unfair to ask love to sweep up the mess left behind by circumstances that had little, if any, actual love in them?

Friday morning became a painting, instead of an argument. 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas, untitled.

Yesterday was strained and awkward. This morning I woke up in pain, and found myself saying so, much in the same manner that he had on Friday morning. A cold chill rolls up my spine, and my mouth goes dry, and my anxiety spikes over fear that today will be another Friday, and end poorly. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I do it again. Then another breath. Followed by another. I keep at the breathing until the hinted-at-future-but-not-now feelings of anxiety recede. I definitely don’t need to invite or cultivate that shit.

I sit with my coffee this morning, thinking about my walk, my work, my relationships… I consider how my TBI affects the way I communicate, not just the part where I talk (a lot), or interrupt (too much), but also the part that is the step beyond listening; my ability to make sense of what I am hearing, and to correctly reply to what has actually been said. I do pretty well, generally, but… when I am tired, or in pain, or distracted, I’m not just “less good at that”, I’m pretty horrible – and when I look at that, and also consider the “performance pressure” I tend to feel that pushes me to answer any question very quickly, I see how easily this can go very wrong, leaving someone trying to have a conversation with me feeling perhaps I am not listening at all. It’s rough. It can go a bit like this:

“Did you hear from your friend about that painting?” someone asks.

“No.” I say, “Well, they texted me. I didn’t feel up to talking right then, so I said I would call back today after work,” I add, followed by “They did say they really like the painting, in their message to me.”

(no shit, a real conversation I had)

So… yeah. What the hell?? When I see it written down, I totally get why that would be not just incredibly frustrating to wade through to get a simple “Yes, they liked it.” It also tends to seem potentially … dishonest? Misleading? Manipulative? Crafty? Vague? Withholding? Dissembling? A whole bunch of adjectives could apply. It’s not actually about any of that, though. I started answering the question I was asked before I actually understood the question at all. Along the way, my brain mixed up “hear from” with “speak to” – similar but quite different – and entirely missed the point of the fucking question until I’d provided a bunch of utterly unsolicited other information. So… slow down? Fuck yes. Easy, right? Well… maybe? It’ll take practice. I’ll say very bluntly that I’ve had “reply immediately” literally beaten into me (first marriage was a domestic violence nightmare I’m lucky to have survived). It’s hard to change behaviors that were heavily reinforced with violence or trauma. It takes more work and practice and commitment and awareness and encouragement and kindness and support than I can describe. It can be done. My results vary, though, and every failure is heart-breaking for at least a moment of pure distilled disappointment with myself.

…This isn’t “all about me” though. This particular challenge is very specifically the sort that commonly affects the people interacting with me, most. I’m kind, honest, open, and well-intentioned, but I’ve also got PTSD… and I’ve got brain damage. That’s going to present a combinations of characteristics some people just aren’t going to be willing to deal with long-term. So far my Traveling Partner still chooses to share this complicated journey with me. I’m very fortunate, and very grateful. I know it isn’t easy.

Caution.

So, yesterday, I walked on the beach alone, reflecting on my challenges, my abilities, love, and life, and work, and gave some thought to life’s curriculum on the topics of boundaries, and of communication. I was missing my partner long before I noticed my knees were aching, and headed home when the rain began to fall heavily.

I find myself, now, bringing my thinking “back to basics”: breathing, listening deeply, my “Big 5” relationship values (Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Compassion, Openness), and the book my own beloved recommended to me, early in our relationship…

It’s hard to go wrong with good basics…

Yep. I am re-reading The Four Agreements, again. Sometimes beginning again is simply a step forward, with new thinking. Sometimes beginning again means a new commitment to something that is proven to work well, when applied consistently. Now there is a day ahead of me… I see sunshine through the window shade. The aquarium needs maintenance. There is housework to be done. In spite of aching knees, I’d enjoy a walk in the forest, now that the storm damage from the recent ice storm is cleared away. All of that, and Love to nurture besides… looks like a busy day ahead.

…I guess it’s time to begin again…

The morning is off to a difficult start. I woke in pain after a restless night. My Traveling Partner also woke in pain, and considering every time I was awake, he was also awake, I’m reasonably certain both of us have had less than ideal sleep. I make coffee. We don’t manage to enjoy it together – we aren’t enjoying each other very much this morning. While this does suck, it’s a temporary thing, and it will pass. I focus on other things.

I seek to be kind with my words, and to speak gently.

I already suspect today is one of those days on which whatever my best effort happens to be, it may fall short of ideal. I’m tired. I’m dealing with unmanaged pain. I’m aggravated. Is it me? Is it “us”? Is it just one of those very impermanent situations that will pass when it passes and simply be forgotten? Is it more important than that? I fuss quietly to myself, sip my coffee, and work on breathing through it, and letting it go. I work on not taking it personally. These are “practices” for me because they do indeed require practice. Steady. Regular. Repeated.

Kinda feels like I’m almost always standing in hot water. It’s frustrating, and this morning it is holding me back from enjoying this moment.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I focus on “now”, bringing my mind back to my breath, again and again. It’s something. Is it enough? I find myself wondering what conversations my Traveling Partner has with himself on mornings such as this. I wonder what he does to get past the difficult moments of life with a brain injured partner with PTSD. Doubtless it is not always an easy experience… How does he avoid fusing with my experience? How does he nurture and soothe himself?

Tomorrow, I am taking a break for myself, and driving out to the coast to walk on the beach, and listen to the wind and the waves, and be still and solitary for a little while before returning home. Another breath. Another moment to relax. I contemplate the drive without much eagerness in this particular moment right here. The morning is a difficult one, and I’m struggling to distract myself.

Human primates seem always to be trippin’ over something or another. Emotions are part of the human condition.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I turn to respond to my partner when he opens the door to ask me to empty the little trash can in my studio; it’s trash day. He’s preparing to take the bins to the curb for pick-up. Life is… so ordinary. Difficult moments are only that, moments. They pass. They are finite. Sure, they recur. My results definitely vary. I often find myself wanting or needing to begin again. I keep practicing, and instead of “looking for signs” that things are somehow worse than a moment gone wrong on a difficult morning, I let it go (again).

We put caution signs everywhere… but we create the hazards, too.

I am reminded that we make most of our own drama, and routinely blow small shit way out of proportion. Human primates are messy, complicated, and emotional. We aren’t as smart as we think we are. We’re prone to reasoning poorly, and reacting emotionally to circumstances in which our emotional reaction lacks value or utility – and expecting our emotions to have all that going for them is asking a lot of feelings. “Do not touch the edges of this sign.” No kidding.

Also? Stay on the path. Breathe. Keep practicing.

Begin again.