Archives for category: loneliness

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…

I’m sipping my second coffee on a proper day off. I highly recommend taking the occasional actual day off from work (and yes, even from non-work routines). Real down time. Don’t check that email. Don’t answer those calls. Don’t participate in “just one meeting”. Be available for you, once in a while.

…There are very few things that feel reliably more luxurious, satisfying, and nurturing than having my own undivided attention for a few hours, a day, or a weekend… Just saying. Totally worth doing, even during a pandemic. Even if social distancing. Even staying right here at home. I like the woman in the mirror, rather a lot these days, and I enjoy her company greatly. (If you don’t feel well-disposed toward that human being you face in your mirror each day, well… it’s a great place to begin again, on better terms!)

It is a lovely autumn morning, well-suited to all sorts of things I might like to do with my time.

Autumn is already more than just hints of color, or occasional leaves found on the deck.

It is a chilly morning. Yesterday, there was even ice on the windshield of my car, well past sunrise. I enjoyed my morning coffee with my Traveling Partner. I took time to soak in the hot tub, watching the morning sunshine warm the dewy rooftops, steamy vapor rising into the air. I listened to the birds in the neighbor’s pear tree arguing over the not-yet-ripe pears, hoping they’d leave a few unmarred by pecking, but not particularly concerned about it. My mind wandered briefly to chores and housekeeping, and weekend meals, and I made some “mental notes” (promptly forgotten) about things I could add to my list. No pressure.

Today is definitely about “no pressure”, and that feels good.

The holiday season crossed my mind. Gifts to think about. Meals to consider. Guests to invite. No guests; there’s a pandemic going on. No, seriously – and it is serious – we’re okay here at home, and fortunate to enjoy each other in close quarters over a long period of time. (I sometimes suspect our military experience gives us an advantage; we “work as a unit”, even when we are aggravated with each other.) I know there are people who are frustrated with the constraints placed upon them by pandemic life. I get it. I just think it’s worth making the effort to be generally safe, generally respectful of the wellness of others, and generally fully compliant with the requirement to practice social distancing, to wear a mask, to avoid crowds. Yes, even close family crowds at important family events; those people will go home (and so will you), having shared whatever they’ve been exposed to, and to share what they were exposed to at the event. It’s not an acceptable risk, from my perspective. We see it play out in the news every week; a big gathering, a spike in new cases of COVID-19. It honestly just seems like an easy choice to me… so, since March, my partner and I stay home, except for a handful of difficult to avoid errands. It complicated house hunting. It complicated the closing. It complicated the move.

…Both of us remain well. Worth the complications.

We relaxed enough to allow my partner’s son (my step-son) to visit after we finished moving in. I regretted that more than a little bit, as much I enjoyed seeing him, particularly after he admitted to attending gatherings of friends, more recently than two weeks prior to traveling to see us… and… he did have to travel. He was here less than two weeks. Yes, it caused me stress to consider that with greater care – too late to change the planning. I am unlikely to make another exception as we head into flu season. I’d rather not even get the flu, or a head cold, and social distancing and mask wearing has definitely reduced my exposure to those risks! Win.

…But… Thanksgiving…!?! Giftmas??

Yeah. Thanksgiving. Giftmas, too. Fuck your Thanksgiving feast and holiday parties if they send half your family home to far away places with new exposure to COVID-19, and with increased potential of losing loved ones to it. I mean, seriously? Weddings too. Baby showers. Parties of all kinds. Music festivals. Worship. Celebrations. All of it. Fuck every minute of every “important life event” any one of us chooses to attend that results in the loss of someone else’s life. What right do we have, as individuals, to be callous with someone else’s risk of death?

So. Holidays will be simple this year, here at home. Cards. Letters. Calls. Merriment. A comfy holiday at home – intimate, joyful, and low-stress. Healthy, too, maybe…? (I am one of those folks who nearly always has a head cold, or is “just getting over” – or just catching – the flu, right around Thanksgiving or Giftmas – maybe not this year?)

I sip my coffee and smile. We’ve already figured out where the Giftmas tree will go… and there’s so much room for it… 🙂 Right now, that’s enough. I look at the time. The lovely day stretches out ahead of me. It looks like a good one to take a walk on an untraveled trail… or simply to begin again. 🙂

The sun is up. I slept in a bit. Sipping coffee, barefooted, on a weekend morning, late in the spring. It’s a lovely moment. I’ve got nothing to bitch about. Nothing nagging at my consciousness. No drama. No baggage (in this moment). No chaos. The morning is quiet. My mood is calm. My outlook on life is merry. I’m okay, right, in every sense of the word that matters. 🙂 My coffee tastes good. My roses have begun to bloom. My aquariums are thriving. The computer my Traveling Partner built for me while we share Life in the Time of Pandemic, together, is working beautifully – and by that, I mean it is both a wonderful upgrade in performance, and also a beautiful technological piece, aesthetically. I smile every time I sit down at my desk, feeling very loved. I feel content.

“Baby Love” blooming in a pot on the deck. 🙂

Let’s be super real on this notion of contentment and ease; I’ve worked years to get here, and there have been many verbs involved, and many tears shed, over time. My outlook matters more than material details. I could live this life, identical in all practical details, and be mired in misery. PTSD has that power. Healthy emotional wellness practices really matter that much.

No click bait here, no “secret practice your therapist doesn’t want you to know about” in an eye-catching thumbnail. I’m not about that. I’m just saying, perspective matters. How I treat myself matters. How I treat others, and how reciprocal those interactions are, matters. It’s been a long journey, and I’ve often felt I was stumbling haphazardly through the darkness, quite alone. I’ve known despair, and futility and frustration and sorrow and, yes, madness. I’m not alone in that – and that’s why I write. Reminders for me, and maybe, just maybe, a light in the seemingly endless darkness for someone else. Someone that I’ll likely never meet. There have been so many such souls on my journey… human beings on their own journey, helpful co-travelers, sometimes unrecognized until much later, because I simply wasn’t ready to hear what they were saying to me, then. We all walk our own hard mile. (You too.)

Life is pretty good these days, even in spite of the pandemic. It’s not about material success (I’m not wealthy), or finding one true love (I’m fortunate to enjoy a great relationship with someone I love very much, but in dark times love does not “cure” our sorrows, or ease the weight of our baggage). Life is pretty good these days because more of my choices take me in that direction, than choices which don’t. Verbs. Choices. Beginnings. Perspective. Sufficiency. These are only words, but the words represent concepts I’ve found key to making my way, a bit at a time, to a life that feels, generally, characterized by contentment, and joy.

I’ve put in many hours of therapy and study. Reading books isn’t enough; the ideas have to become changes in behavior and thinking. The epiphanies and “ah-ha moments” have to become new practices. Practices that work have to be sustained over time. There is a commitment to treating oneself well involved – this may be the biggest challenge (it has been for me).

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.

I think I’m just saying… “you’ve got this!”. Unhappy with life? Choose change. Rethink your most basic assumptions. Re-examine your expectations of life, of people, of yourself. Try a new combination of real kindness and firm boundary-setting. Ask the hard questions. Consider all the options. Take care of yourself – because you matter to you. No reason to expect it to be easy, or that you’ll never cry again, or that “the world” will ever be “fair”. Be your own best friend – and your own best self, because you can make that choice from moment to moment, and when you fail (and you will, I promise you that), begin again. Just begin again. Don’t beat yourself up over your fundamental humanity – examine your errors with some emotional distance, gain understanding of yourself (and others) from your mistakes, learn, grow, and move on with increased perspective. Accept that you are human – then also accept that everyone else is, too. Make room in your thinking for what you can’t know, or don’t understand; there’s nearly always something new to learn. Check your assumptions.

There’s a lot of baggage to put down. There’s a lot of bullshit to let go of. It’s easier to give yourself closure than to seek it elsewhere. Don’t drink the poison. Tame your own barking dog. Consider your outlook on life, generally. Yes, it’s a lot of work, I know. It probably seems so much easier to get a prescription for some boldly advertised new drug. I’ve tried that, myself. It didn’t work reliably well for me, which is how I found myself at 50, filled with despair, trying one more therapist, one more time, unconvinced that life was worth living. A huge stack of books and a few years later, life looks (and feels) very different to me. I’ve made a lot of changes – to practices, jobs, relationships; I rebuilt basically my entire life (and lifestyle) to better support becoming the woman I most wanted to be, living a life of contentment and joy. Worth it. So worth it. (Not infallibly perfect – that’s not on life’s menu, right?)

So… what do you say? Are you ready to begin again?

My news feeds have blown up with pandemic stories of the shock and outrage variety. Apparently, quite a lot of people do not actually “get” that social distancing means… wait for it… maintaining social distance. You know. From other people. I would have thought that was so basic as to be unavoidably understandable, but no… there are apparently a notable number of people who think that if the group of people is smaller than 5… and they stay away from other groups of people that size, you know, by about 6 feet, that’s “good enough”. It just isn’t. Seriously. Stay home. Try solitude. It’s not that scary.

If you’re “going for a walk”, but bringing along 4 or 5 family members (or worse yet, strangers off the internet from nearby communities), you’re really not helping.

Stay home.

Seriously. Mostly just stay home. It’s not that complicated. (Seriously – how can you be bored already??)

I’ve been finding a variety of mindfulness practices helpful, myself, and, admittedly, I’m fortunate to be in a relationship with someone I actually enjoy spending time with. No kids to distract or entertain. A fondness for reading has been helpful, too. I don’t think we ever turned on the TV yesterday, at all, choosing to spend our day, instead, working on various individual projects, and reading quietly. I spent more than one delightful hour just watching the fish swim.

Every bit as entertaining as broadcast media.

I get that with various hits to the way our economy works, it’s getting complicated to order things for delivery (already), and maybe you don’t have all the things on hand to easily do some particular task or hobby. It may be hard to get parts, tools, supplies – but the nearly-infinite inventiveness of human primates has kept the species going for quite awhile. I bet you’ll think of something, if you give yourself a chance, and stay open to the possibilities. 🙂

Just stay home, though.

I’m not saying that “life in the time of pandemic” is easy. Clearly not. I’m just saying some small details aren’t that damned hard, and we can all choose more wisely, and show greater care and consideration for our fellow human beings, with improvements in our decision-making. I’m not pointing a judgmental finger, either; I could do better, myself. The once or twice I’ve gone out for things could likely have been wrapped up in a single trip out and back, with some foresight. Less interaction face-to-face with other human beings in the community is the literal goal, here.

I finish off my morning coffee with a sigh. Another day at home, and I’m over the head cold I had last week. It’s a routine workday, and lacking the morning commute, time easily gets away from me…but… there’s also very little pressure (for me) to comply rigidly with a specific start or end time (in my role, currently). This first cup of coffee was delicious… and, it’s already time for work, a new day ahead of me, and time to begin again. My lovely “stay-cation” that turned into “staying home sick” morphs into “working from home”… and all of it feels fairly similar, right now.

…That’s even okay. I’m content with it, working, living, loving, within the confines of social distancing is okay, too. It just takes practice. 😉

 

Well, I must say, I’m already a bit “over” the continuous 24/7, all-channels, all-topics, doorbell-to-deck, coverage of COVID-19, pandemic or not. Seriously. There still remains so much else to also observe, discuss, and yes, enjoy. Having said that, I am staying home, working from home on work days, and doing only those things that can be done in that context. I’m fortunate to enjoy a comfortably merry, loving, and emotionally connected relationship (this partnership certainly reduces the potential loneliness of “social distancing”). I am reaching out to friends over text message (I gave up most social media some while ago, and kept only Instagram). Friends I haven’t heard from in a while are regularly surprising me with text messages, too. It’s fine. Limiting, but generally not a big deal.

I went to the grocery store, yesterday. The aisle that usually has paper products such as facial tissue, toilet paper, and paper towels looks like an old photo of soviet era shortages in iron curtain countries. The parking lot of the grocery store was nearly full, but the store was weirdly empty; people who do go out seem to be doing so alone. The streets are quiet. No “traffic”, even during “rush hour”, which no longer seems to exist (here). The trip to the store felt almost exciting – an “outing”! I got the staples I needed, stayed well back from the cashier as I paid, used hand sanitizer frequently, and did not converse with passers-by. Mostly fairly typical for me, except the additional distance, and the hand sanitizer.

I filled the gas tank of the car, while I was out, and chuckled to myself about “how long will this tank last?” knowing I am not going out much. Then I felt a bit of anxiety and a re-thinking on that; how long will gas stations be able to stay open, and resupplied? I took a breath, and exhaled with care. It’s not helpful to borrow panic from future such concerns, presently. I think about the panic-buying of toilet paper, and the impact on people who did not succumb to panic in that moment, who now struggle just to buy what they actually do need, while others sit on vast hoards of toilet paper that will likely last them into next year. I frown, to myself, aware that there is already identifiable profiteering going on, for products such as toilet paper, on eBay. We could do better, as a society, and as human beings.

…So… Do better.

It’s a complicated time. I am grateful for, and appreciative of, those that are still on the job, still interacting with the public, still providing critical services. I am also, admittedly, harshly critical of those businesses not willing to maximize the safety net for their employees, preferring to maximize profit instead. It’s also an election year; the posturing, the spin, and the insider trading are galling in times like this. I’m grateful for honest news, where it exists, and so glad that comedy continues. Art. Science. Music. These things are still real, still going on. Creators still create. The world continues to turn.

…I think about spending time in the studio, myself…

I read, this morning, that ISPs and streaming service providers are beginning to make decisions to limit bandwidth. I cynically wonder how they will turn that to their profit when the pandemic wanes? I hit my vape. I sip my coffee. I type some words and plan the day ahead. Saturday on a (for me) long weekend. The vernal equinox, something I generally celebrate “out loud”, passed by sort of without notice this year. Fairly certain I never mentioned it, myself. I commit to enjoying the time I am sharing with my Traveling Partner, and doing what I can to make that time merry, and even productive. Bills get paid, and great care given to the budget; there are still a lot of unknowns, for all of us. It is what it is.

Today, my project is both a bit of work, and a bit of entertainment – a lot of bother; I’ll be setting the aquascaping of my aquarium right, after living with the chaotic, rather haphazard and sloppy outcome of moving the tank here, almost 3 years ago.

The day the tank arrived at the new place. This shot was taken before the water even had time to completely clear up.

The tl;dr is that the moving team that moved the tank was at the end of their work day when they finally arrived at my place with my tank. They had one more job yet to go to, and were feeling rushed… so… they rushed the work. The large river rocks that decorate my tank were not placed with care, nor were the paperweights that function as the ornaments. The plants were sort of just dropped in, without being correctly anchored at all, and where they were anchored, they were not where I wanted them. (I’d have to re-do all of it, myself, and I knew it at the time.) I settled for “good enough, now just go, please” and went on with things, expecting to have plenty of time for restoring order to that bit of chaos… once I finished getting moved in and settled.

Life happens, and change happens, and within a couple weeks of moving in, my Traveling Partner relocated for work. Then I began an almost weekly “commute” back and forth to see him each weekend (almost), which meant my only leisure time for big projects was on weekends that I did not travel (and often those were selected based on exhaustion, or illness), and in the evenings (when I could generally count on being “too tired”). The chaos got worse, and after a prolonged power outage, most of the fish died. The tank sat quietly, being little more than an aquatic garden of sorts. Over time, after the last fish finally died, I began to ignore it, and after awhile, even became rather embarrassed by it.

Yeah, it got this bad. Inadequate filtration. Lack of routine maintenance. Heater failed.

After my Traveling Partner moved back in with me last year, I started considering taking it down to reclaim the space for something else… Then, I spotted something unexpected. One solitary surviving resident.

Shy clown pleco spotted hiding behind a glass paperweight. One of my original fish, purchased in 2013.

Well, that certainly changed things for me. I got excited about my “universe in a box” all over again (and a bit peeved at myself for being such a poor care-provider). I cleaned the tank. I upgraded the filter, the heater, and the lighting. I began restocking. Today it is a vibrant little planted freshwater community, populated by shrimp, tetras, snails, a betta, and of course, my wee clown pleco, now almost 7 years old.

This morning, after so much work (over the past couple weeks), with much still left to do. 🙂

It still needs some pruning, some tidying up, and I’ve certainly got the time at home this weekend to tackle the aquascaping more seriously. So. With some trepidation, I think I shall. Part of the plan, and the timing, and the “order of operations” is also to do with moving the tank to the other side of the fireplace to make better use of the space. (And, finally, there won’t be two light switches in every photo of the tank!) The needs are different for two people living here, than for one. 🙂 So much work. So much fun. So much love. Plenty to challenge me, and stave off any potential for boredom.

My perspective on my circumstances changes when I understand how other lives may be affected by my choices. (Pictured: a much happier, still shy, clown pleco.)

This is my life in the time of pandemic. It’s not perfect. There are challenges. There are opportunities. There is “room to grow”. There is this strange moment in my lifetime that holds so much potential to become “that time when we all reconnected”, and I hope to take advantage of it. What about you? What will you do with your time at home? How will you deepen your relationships? Where are your opportunities to grow as a person? Will you make use of the time well and wisely… or… not?

It is another time to begin again. 🙂 (However bad things may become, I know I can begin again.)