Archives for category: Love

I am sipping my morning coffee, considering the walk I am eager to want to take. I’m “not there yet”. lol My muscles ache from pushing myself, already. I’m not bitching about it, and I’m not unhappy over it. Sore muscles are muscles working a bit harder, doing more things that need done, and becoming more capable of more work. Consistency is a requirement for forward progress; if I skip the walk today over sore muscles, I don’t make as much progress toward my goals, nor as quickly, so… at some point? Walking. I’m not looking forward to the walking itself, although I’d like to. I am in pain. The walking helps the pain in my back and my neck (osteoarthritis), but is less helpful with the bad ankle that has to support the weight. Without walking, the weight remains an issue. With the walking, the ankle is an issue. I’m not saying it as though this is an unsolvable conundrum, either, just saying that these complications are part of my experience. 🙂 There’s a metaphor here…

It’s a journey with a lot of steps.

We become what we practice. Emotionally and physically. There’s not a lot of room to argue on this one. Are you hot tempered, easily frustrated, quick to react, and tending to fall back on negative feedback and criticism to communicate your needs? Well, that’s the person you become, over time, in a fixed and rather predictably unpleasant way. Are you tender-hearted, prone to tears in the face of negative feedback, (whether or not it is accurate or well-intended, or useful at all) particularly when it comes from someone whose opinion you value? Same slope; you become more of who you already are, and what you choose to do with the toxicity of the world around you, because it is what you practice. You may get called a bitch when you demand that your agency be respected, or when you insist on not being interrupted in a meeting, but that lack of boundary-setting? It’s a practice, too.

…Also? Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a bitch. Don’t call someone names, either; how about we start there? Speak gently. Be clear, and also honest. “Stay in your lane” in the sense that not every opinion you have actually needs to be shared (particularly with regard to your aesthetic, and someone else’s appearance). Check your assumptions – a lot of them are wrong (the science is in on that) – and practice deep listening, instead of waiting for your turn to talk.

Does it sound like I’m venting aimlessly, about commonplace bullshit we all seem to engage in, if not regularly, then once in a while? Well… then I’ve failed to communicate clearly. I’ll try again…

Your words matter. Use them with care. If you are communicating with someone you say you love, communicate with love – real love, using words and tone that make it very clear that the love is first and foremost in your mind, rather than some momentary frustration. Our bitterness, our hurt, our anger – once shared, it’s out there. Shared with emotional force, and absent the love that may be part of our experience, it causes real harms, real doubts about our affection, and can undermine that love we cherish so much.

Don’t let the sun set on a treasured relationship without saying something encouraging, supportive, authentically affectionate – the smallest moment of authentic appreciation and praise can change the color of an entire day. I am fairly certain most of us share negative feedback with cherished others almost every day… imagine the crushing weight of all that criticism, all that negativity, the constant pressure to raise oneself up from beneath the weight of it… Let’s not do that. Let’s handle our words with greater care, ensuring that we take more time for what is positive and uplifting that we do for things we see as problems needing correction.

I challenge you to practice even a 1 to 1 ratio of (authentic) compliments and (sincere) encouragement to criticism and requests for change. I hope you find that incredibly easy (and succeed) – because people need more love and encouragement than that, and as starting points go, it’s a bare minimum for success. I promise you that if you are only sharing negative feedback, that’s all that is being heard. That sounds like a pretty terrible experience to be on the receiving end of, just saying. Use your words as a force for good in your life, use them to lift others up, to encourage what is positive in everyone you meet.

A lot of people may grow up in environments in which very little positive feedback is shared, or the positive words are hollow superlatives about qualities they can’t control, and no attention given to the whole person. People coming from that place may not know how to give authentic positive feedback, and may genuinely not understand why it is necessary. They need to see it done, to feel it, before it will be something they can easily practice themselves. Is that someone part of your life? Be open to explicitly telling them what you need to hear – without excuses, or a need to justify yourself. It’s okay to need what you need, and it’s also quite okay to ask for it. 🙂 “I need you to say something nice to me right now.” may feel weird to say, but it is one place to start. 🙂

We’re all so human. There’s so much stress and hostility in the world right now. Our culture feels so toxic. Be someone who understands there is work to be done, and recognize you can do some of it. Be someone willing to do it. Be the change we need. Speak gently. Be encouraging and kind. Soften your tone. Be trustworthy. Be honest without being mean. Let small shit go. Don’t drink the poison offered to you. Don’t offer others poison.

Don’t like the world as it is? Be part of what changes it. We become what we practice. Practice being the person you truly most want to be. Every choice, every interaction, every day. Sometimes you will fail (I know I do); your results will vary. Practice more. 🙂 Be that better version of yourself, because you choose it, and it matters. Other people may not make these choices – don’t drink the poison they offer you, and walk your own path. 😉

It’s time to begin again.

I slept well last night, and got enough rest. I woke gently, and quietly made coffee, hoping not to wake my still-sleeping partner. I headed to the studio, sat down with my coffee, and started trying to put my thoughts together, words on a page, on a quiet Sunday. I’m grateful to have had an entire night’s sleep. Today, it looks like I’m going to need it.

This morning, my writing is interrupted, several times, for what I can only describe in this moment as “difficult interactions”. I’m not yet fully awake, and lack adequate emotional resilience for the irritated (I hear it as angry) tone of voice, so early in the morning. My thoughts are fractured, scattered, and now focused on feeling hurt, instead of nurturing something within me. My studio door gets slammed, probably without intent. My tears spill over. A quiet morning is apparently not on today’s agenda, and I am the hapless villain in this story – but who is the author? I feel frustrated, sad, and isolated (as much because I don’t really know what to do with these feelings, in this moment). It irks me that I woke up feeling so soft and amiably inclined toward my partner… and at the moment, I feel only the sting of his irritation, his disappointment with me (“What do I have to do to help you remember??”), and the visceral sensation along my nerves of a slammed door.

Sometimes “doing our best” isn’t enough to overcome opportunities to fail at something, or to miss a detail, and “trying hard” is not enough to ensure success. This is true with or without a brain injury. We have to choose again and again to “do the verbs” and to try again. We have to choose again and again to walk our path, or select a new one. It is also true that we don’t generally grow from the things we are reliably good at, or which we find comfortable and easy. So, okay – routine human shit between human primates. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it isn’t comfortable. Sometimes it is necessary to be reminded what the point of it is, and refocus our efforts, because it matters enough to do that. It reliably takes practice.

…What a shitty morning so far…and less than an hour into the day. Disappointment with myself, with the morning, with the circumstances, it all fills me up and spills over as tears, while I watch a little brown bird on the stoop, picking enough sustenance from the ground and from the sidewalk, just to get by another day. I watch the little bird, and try to nudge myself in the direction of recognizing that I am just experiencing some emotional weather; the climate in my heart (and, I assume, my partner’s) is fine. This? It’s just a moment. It’s useful to begin again, if I can start on that, somehow, then it’s not “a shitty morning” as much as a shitty moment. Moments are brief, and they pass.

This time, when my Traveling Partner opens the door to the studio, his face is softened, and he looks at me with love. The irritation is gone. He steps close, and strokes my hair. I apologize for the difficult start to his morning, through my slow, steady, tears. He tells me “it is what it is” and “I’m not angry”. He’s human, too. If I allow it to, the morning will shift gears to a happier place; we’ve made that possible, now it is just a matter of accepting that change and going with it. A matter of beginning again. I give myself a moment to appreciate having a partnership with so much resilience and potential to bounce back from a difficult interaction. I savor the feeling of gratitude that seeps in, as I contemplate the difference between this partnership, and others I’ve had.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Allow my heart to slow, and my posture to lift me more erect. I sip my coffee, and begin again.

I enjoy the thought that my Traveling Partner and I are sharing this journey, walking a shared path. Now and then I am reminded that it is, however pleasant, an illusion. We are each having our own experience. We walk our own path. Survive our own hard mile. We endure our own dark night of the soul. We, each, alone care for our innermost heart, and nurture our tenderest wounds. The reminder was powerful, and I am so grateful I was merely a bystander to two paths that suddenly diverged on a Saturday morning. I don’t know if this is a sad story or not, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t – certainly it is a story of change.

I was having coffee with a friend. We get together now and then, on a Saturday morning, and catch up on life and things. A couple, strangers, came in shortly after we sat down, and sat near us, sort of off to the side, definitely within our view, and close enough we could not avoid hearing their conversation, which I’ll share as accurately as memory permits…

He held her chair. This ordinary looking man of apparent middle-class means, allowed his companion to get seated, and they ordered. She thanked him for picking her up from the airport, and for taking her to breakfast. How thoughtful. She smiled. He shifted uncomfortably before speaking.

“So… welcome back..?” He laughed uneasily. His smile was fleeting, and somewhat nervous.

“Are you okay?” she asked, without looking up from her phone. This seemed somehow significant to her companion, and his posture straightened, and the look on his face became resolute, and more sure of himself.

“Yeah. So, about that. I’ve decided to end our relationship.” She laughed with a bit of disbelief, then looked into his eyes and her face sort of… froze. “I wasn’t sure how you’d take this, so… the least I could do was take you to breakfast…”

“You wanted to be in a public place so I couldn’t make a scene!” she hissed, leaning in close. Her face was tight with tears she was fighting. He… was still calm.

He inhaled deeply and sighed. “You’re right of course. I’m sorry. I needed to feel… safe. This is hard. Hard for me, too.”

“Why?” she demanded with a quivering voice, “someone else…?”

“No.” He sounded sad, and lost. “I just… there’s a lot I want to do for myself, to explore on my own. I just… I want to be myself, no compromise, no obstacles, no negotiation, and I haven’t felt able to. I’m sorry.”

They both sat quietly for some time, just drinking their coffee. My friend and I sat drinking ours. Occasionally looking at each other in a soft, sad, “what the fuck?” sort of way, each in our own thoughts, about our own partners, our own paths, our own lives.

Eventually, the man at the nearby table busy quietly breaking up with his partner spoke again. “So… I’ll need the keys to the apartment before I go. I … um… I had your stuff packed up and put in storage while you were out of town, and… um… yeah. I don’t want you to come back to my place, at all. I packed your clothes and things and they’re in your car… I’ll… I’ll just pay the check and take a car service home… is… what I planned.”

She sat looking astonished, helpless… I sensed that it might turn to frustrated fury at some point, and hoped that everyone would keep their heads, and find that calm center in their storms. “Is this happening?” she said quietly, in a child-like voice, as if disbelieving. “Five years, and then… this?”

“Yeah.” he said, “It’s happening. I’m going to go now. Please don’t call, I’d like this to just be… over.” He hands her an envelope, and her numb hands accept it.

“What is this?” she asked.

“It’s an inventory of your things. Please email me if I missed anything. Also… I, uh, paid off your car. I mean… I bought it, but, um… it’s yours.”

“You’re not taking it?” she accused, almost snarling the question.

“No. Why would I?” he asked patiently, “I don’t hate you. I’m just… done. Okay? I mean… I hope we’ve over this really fast, and we both move on with better… other things. …I’ve got to go.” He put his jacket on, and looked around as if he did not expect to see the place again, ever, and left.

The woman sat quietly, staring into her coffee. The other customers seemed also uneasy. Conversations seemed quiet, muted, as with a respectful silence. I know I was, myself, uneasy. I sat with my friend, each of us taking a turn at small talk, both of us thinking about two people – any two people – at any airport, seeing each other again, after some time apart, and suddenly, one path takes a sharp turn for a very different destination. Now and then I glanced her way, although I don’t know what I was trying to see.

My friend and I finished our coffee. We hug and agree to “do this again soon”. We both know we don’t really want it quite as it was, this time… I walk away feeling introspective, and a little bit blue. What if it had happened to me? What about you? What would that be like…? What would you do? I sigh, as I unlock the door of my car, ready – so ready – to return home to see my Traveling Partner, again…

…My “Traveling Partner”… nonetheless, we each walk our own path. We’re fortunate, any of us, to share the journey for a while, aren’t we? It’s not likely we’ll share the journey “forever” (that’s a child’s fantasy, I suspect). I spend the drive home contemplating love, thinking about what it takes to build, maintain, sustain, and nurture love. Thinking about what I’m good at love-wise, and what I still need so much work on. I think about all the things in the world I would like to see and do and be and experience along the way… and I think about sharing it with my Traveling Partner. I think about not sharing it with him. Would I love life any less if our paths diverged? I like to think not…but it would be so painful to find out. I put myself in her shoes, imagine myself sitting with my coffee, alone unexpectedly, no plan, no place,… I breathe, exhale, and relax, grateful that my path, for now, is different. No assumptions. No expectations. Aware that change is a thing that can happen unexpectedly, to anyone, at any time. Firmly, studiously, I am not taking love – this love – for granted. There are verbs involved. Choices. No map.

I took comfort in arriving home to welcoming arms, and a chance to begin again.

Sipping my coffee on a routine workday morning, the answer seems pretty clear; wherever I choose to go, is the “where” that answers the question “where do I go from here?” No guarantee of an easy journey, obviously (isn’t that obvious? It is obvious, right? I mean… seriously?),  but generally speaking, we chart our own course, as individuals, so long as we have the will to do so. I mean… the choices are ours (even the choice to refrain from actively choosing, which is, nonetheless, a choice). Getting hung up on outcomes and destinations is a lot of what makes the journey so fucking complicated, and often difficult. 🙂

Here’s a video my Traveling Partner shared with me the other day. It continues to resonate with me. It seems a timely share so soon after the New Year, particularly if you are prone to “resolutions”. 🙂

Today is a different day than yesterday. My Traveling Partner and I got past my bad moment. The connection and intimacy we followed it with resulted in some deeper conversations, about things troubling him, about things that continue to cause me unexpected distress and uneasiness. We are each so very human. We each do our best to soothe and support the other. We gently align on some basic ideas for the coming year (primarily the need to focus our attention, financially, on some specific things important to a comfortable future). The evening ended pleasantly. I slept fairly well, waking once or twice, briefly, but getting the rest I need. I woke in the wee hours, shortly before the alarm, just as he came to bed. We cuddled a while, until it was time for me to acknowledge the new day, and get on with things. I silently wish him “sleep well and rest deeply” as I rise from the bed, gently, to avoid waking him, hoping that thoughts he wrestled with through the evening and night give him some peace, at last.

How did we get past our rough moments in the morning, though? It was a small thing. He approached me so gently, checking in with me, and as he walked away, he said “I love you”. I didn’t expect it. I still felt so raw, so disrupted, so disappointed with life. Those simple words, in a dark moment of doubt, of feeling uncertain of being worthy of love at all… they turned my head, and reminded me more clearly to be kind to myself, too, and to give myself a break. Clearly, my partner was not rejecting me as a human being; once I could see that, once I allowed myself to see that, it was easier to let my own bullshit go.

Still… I’ll point out what looks obvious from the perspective of a new day; I get more “bang for my buck” resilience-wise, when I “work from within”, instead of allowing any measure of my sense of self, or sense of personal worthiness, to rest on the impression of me someone else may have. That may not be 100% realistic, as goals go. Love can complicate things a bit. We want the affection of those we love, so very much. Our individual baggage about love and relationships can twist our heads and hold us back. Yesterday’s challenge is a good reminder, too, that we can hold a lot of power over how someone else may feel, and without intending to wield that power at all a poorly chosen phrase, a careless word, a moment of anger, any of these can topple a lovely experience. It’s important to continue to choose to be the person I most want to be, and to continue to practice loving kindness, deep listening, and, yes, non-attachment (because so often, it is my attachment to “being right” or “being heard” or “being understood” that stop me from making room to really listen, and to make the wisest choices in my relationships).

This morning is a new day, a new opportunity to be the person I most want to be, a new set of choices, and a new moment to be present for. I’m good with that. I like a new beginning. 🙂

 

Whether 2019 was a good year for you or a seemingly endless series of trials and hardships, it is almost over. A brand new year will unfold ahead of us, and we’ll experience a new sequence of events, in order, by day and date, moment by moment, and subsequently, about 365 days farther along still, the survivors will be beginning yet again. So it goes.

2019 has been an interesting year. I don’t guess there’s any point to breaking it down in further detail; we were all there, each with our own perspective, our own “highlights reel”, our own chaos and damage. We all, generally, did our best with what we had as resources to work with, and our limited knowledge yielded results that varied. Mistakes were made. Some regrettable words were spoken. We didn’t always make our best choices. No gods here… and yet… we each have that divine spark within ourselves, and a chance at greatness. We get so many opportunities to do better, to be that person we most want to be. 🙂 And here it is, a solidly excellent time to begin again…

…Realistically, most of us will make grand plans build on visions of change, our inspiration and motivation both pinned to a date on the calendar. :-\ How well we do, how close we come to achieving our goals, relies heavily on what we’ve already done to ready ourselves for change, and the long journey in pursuit of our dreams. What have you been practicing? Do you have the resilience to pick yourself up and begin again…and again… and again… and again… until you succeed? Even the practices take practice – how much more practice is involved once you’ve built all those healthy practices? Yep. More.

I’m not saying any of this to be discouraging. Just pointing out what has become so obvious; there are a ton of verbs involved, and results may vary. 🙂 It always looks easier in the commercials. 😉

…Still, if you want it so badly that you’re willing to do the work, the practice, the repetition, the continued attempts after multiple failures, rebuilding yourself in the image you have chosen… you’ll totally get there. Time is a factor. Will is a factor. You only have so much of either. Choose wisely… and good luck. I mean that quite sincerely; you have my well-wishes that the year to come takes you directly to the places you most want to be in life. There is going to be quite a bit of effort involved, no reason to pile discouragement on top of anticipated effort. You’ve got this, if you want to work for it. 🙂

…Probably. I mean… realistically, it’s not 100% of always entirely in our own hands, how things turn out in life. I’ve got to at least acknowledge that, right? Still… most of the journey, as we make our way, is within our hands to some extent (even how we deal with obstacles on our path). “Choose wisely” seems like good practical advice. I’d add “don’t take anything personally” to that, and maybe follow up with a reminder that “life is what we make of it”, although that last, while true in large part, is not very helpful when things are going poorly, at all. I’m just saying, we each have choices (so many!). Make some.

Later I’ll head to the office, to work one of two remaining work shifts in 2019. I’ll run an errand. Get some things done. The clock will continue to tick toward 2020. What a complex experience this year has been. I sip my coffee and give the year some thought, adding context here and there, dredging up delightful memories, wracking my consciousness with some that are less idyllic or joyful – still real, still part of my journey. I smile; so many of these memories were made with the help of my Traveling Partner, part of a shared journey of love – I’m grateful for that, and feeling fairly fortunate.

I hear my partner wake, beyond the door to my studio. Coffee together in the morning? Yes, please! It’s a lovely way to begin again. 🙂