Archives for category: more than a little bit of bitching

Intense connected weekend, deeply emotional, profound, moving, close, intimate, filled with friendship, community, heart… and love. It was pretty wonderful. It was also very weird. Like all of our hearts were cracked open by our own pain and circumstances, and what spilled out was how much we all really care about each other. It was splendid… and deep. I can’t do a whole lot of that over a prolonged period of time, myself, I am open and raw, and struggle to manage self-care and boundaries. It can go very wrong if I don’t make a point to get a few minutes of space and take care of my own needs, also.

This past weekend was lovely. The closeness, authenticity, and emotional complexity of it all apparently hit me right in the immune system, though, or brought me into too-close contact with someone recently ill. By Saturday in the early afternoon, the itch in my sinuses was already giving me a heads up that I had picked up some passing virus. I thought little of it, and began drinking more water, and taking steps to be more well. Practices.

By evening, I just wasn’t “up for it” – any of it – and not in a mean or unkind way, I literally couldn’t cope with the sound of human voices talking over each other, however happily. The stream of information felt more like… a flood. An avalanche. A tidal wave. It was just more than my broken brain could handle in the moment. I took a step back. I returned later; no change. Apparently, this head cold comes with an optional “cognitive impact” package – no extra charge. I ended up taking my leave early in the evening – no hugs – and keeping to myself, drinking tea and drifting in and out of awareness. At some point I considered making the drive home that night… and thankfully either thought better of it, or just… didn’t. I wasn’t at all up to it. Hell, I wasn’t up to the drive home when I finally did get into the car on Sunday morning – but I was still holding out hope that I’d be working on Monday.

It is Monday. I’m not working. I’m home sick. The only reason I am “out of bed” at all right now is that the “coffee alarm” in my brain went off, and I got up to have my measured amount of morning coffee before I collapse back into bed to be sick “more skillfully”. lol I’ve literally “no business being out of bed right now” to quote my Granny from many years ago.

The drive yesterday was surreal. I don’t take some types of cold medicine (contra-indicated due to other things), so I made the drive feeling fairly shitty, but not further impaired by OTC mix-n-match weirdness. I observed the effect of this particular “head cold” (is it? I think it is…) over what seemed a longer than usual drive. I could still assess distance and speed fairly well, but my ability to determine relative risk (decision-making) was definitely impaired. I often felt confused, slowed down, or dithered when some choice suddenly wasn’t so certain – while driving at freeway speeds. I was happy to arrive safely home. There were definitely one or two points along the drive when it was not a given that I would.

I got home feeling a stew of aggravation, frustration, anger, and all manner of nuanced negative emotions. My heart felt like a snarl. Not a snarl, as in “tangled”, nope; I was the embodiment of snarling confrontation waiting for someone to step to me and make something of it. lol Omg. Seriously? Why is there even such a thing as head colds that tamper with emotional balance or cognition?? So not okay. I unloaded the car haphazardly, reserving 100% of my fucks to give for the precious cargo in the trunk; I have my paintings back. I make a point of pausing to really appreciate that. I settle in for the evening, make tea, have a shower, change into comfy clothes, bundle up, have more tea, and go to bed. I exchange messages with my Traveling Partner later, and go back to bed. Between 1 pm and 5:30 am this morning, I slept about 12 hours. I’ll be going back to bed for more of the same once I finish my morning coffee.

So many practices being practiced. Boundary-setting, self-care, communication… all involving careful use of practices learned over time such that they feel pretty natural when needed (which is good because right now I’d struggle to do anything “new”) – but, being sick, none of it “feels effective” – however effective it may actually be. It’s a good time to be alone, and calling out today is a wise choice. It’s hard though. It’s Monday. I try to “never take Monday off”. I notice the chills, again. I finish my coffee. Treating others well also involves not bringing further contagion into the office space where coworkers would soon be dropping like flies, themselves. Treating others well involves making the (hard)(adult) choice to respect work spaces, and the quality of the work experience, by not bringing heightened ferocity and reduced resilience into the calm productive emotionally neutral space that is our work area. Acknowledging that I am “not myself” is also less than ideally easy; we often don’t want to admit it when we are not well, sometimes due to nothing more than “FOMO” (for fucks’ sake, really??) because we don’t want to pass up some event, activity, or connected time “just because we’re sick” (no, really??). I allow myself to be the adult in the room in my own experience; I call out.

Coffee’s gone. Even when I’m sick there are opportunities to begin again. This is one of them; I’m going back to bed. lol

 

 

…And anyway, the point is, practice does matter, and it is there for me when I need it most.ย  The skills develop over time, and are useful in circumstances I may not have anticipated. I’m just saying; keep practicing. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ll head out this morning, and in a relatively short time (hours) I’ll catch up with my Traveling Partner for the weekend. Friends. Music. Goings on. The weekend. Lovely – and I am so looking forward to it! I’ve missed him greatly.

I plan my route with care this morning. See, there’s this particular experience I have pretty much every time I make this trip, and it’s not pleasant. There’s rather a long stretch of “highway” that is almost always gridlocked, aggravating, and populated with frustrated aggressive drivers, a handful of unskilled ones, and lurking in the mix, one or two people who are actually straight up “up to no good” – you know the ones; folks that get angry, take shit personally, and then act out their anger in real life putting everyone else at great risk. Drivers who “brake check” someone following them uncomfortably closely, or who is simply driving faster than they are. Drivers who deliberately cut other drivers off – and then “brake check” them, to “make a point” or otherwise demonstrate dominance. Drivers who “match speeds” with a car in an adjacent lane specifically to prevent another driver from passing them. It’s dumb – and it’s dangerous. Fuck, people, just drive your god damned car, and do it safely. Focus on what you’re doing in the world, yourself. Shit.

See? I’m already caught up in a moment that hasn’t even happened yet. I don’t enjoy that, and I would prefer not to just hand over the keys to my emotional experience to some rando fuckknob in a car. lol So. I am replanning my route with greater understanding of what I want from my experience in life, instead of letting my gps direct me down the same road everyone else is taking.

I have the time to enjoy the drive. I shoot for making it enjoyable, instead of “efficient”. Can I literally not even travel that stretch of highway at all, perhaps? Looks like I can – on a smaller rural road. My gps would not ever even consider this route; it’s a bit too close to the interstate highway, and the gps doesn’t really understand why I would choose anything else. In miles, it’s a bit more distance to drive, but in estimated time it’s very nearly the same. Speed matters, and the section of interstate I won’t be driving rarely moves faster than a residential street as it is. Do I mind not driving freeway speeds? Not at all. Not a thing with me, it’s more about a comfortable experience ofย  being neither rushed nor crowded. I plan my route down this rural “state highway”, and find that it avoids basically the entire stretch of the freeway that aggravates me. Nice. What will the experience be like? I don’t know – I haven’t had it yet. I do know it won’t be “the same” – because I have chosen differently. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s a metaphor. You have choices. Begin again. โค

By the time I got home from work last night, the anxiety that had been in background much of the afternoon had deepened and begun to take over. It was a visceral experience of anxiety, and mostly only that; I felt anxious. There seemed to be nothing much supporting it, and I probably prolonged it more than necessary by continuing to insist to myself that “it’s nothing”. Well, so what if it is “nothing”? I was still feeling it – and that’s something.

I disconnected from the digital world and began to practice very self-care focused practices with the specific point in mind of reducing my anxiety. Nothing much seemed to be helping. My Traveling Partner phones. A few minutes of gentle conversation seems to ease my anxiety almost entirely. Okay, well… that’s awesome. ๐Ÿ™‚ We end the call.ย  Later, I end the evening…

…I laid awake feeling anxious for some time. Weirdly, I’d get sleepy, and as soon as I even started to doze off, the anxiety surged back and woke me. Fuck. Damn it. …Did I have too much coffee? …Am I stressed over work?? …Am I not “anxious” at all, but actually excited and not discerning the difference? …The weather? Troubleshooting anxiety doesn’t really help matters at all, that’s not how anxiety tends to work (for me). Trying to find answers to “why am I anxious” just puts all my attention on the anxiety, which makes it the focus of my experience. Yuck.

Strong steps seemed necessary if I wanted to sleep. I got up for a little while, went out onto the deck in the cool-not-quite-cold night air with my meditation cushion, and sat quietly in the cold, just… being. I went back to bed, and to sleep, shortly afterward.

This morning I woke without the anxiety lurking in the background. I don’t reach back to mess with the “why” question any further. I’m content to be without the anxiety. This morning, my thoughts are on the weekend ahead. The sound of bird song outside my window. How satisfying my coffee seems. Finding out the “why” of an anxious afternoon holds more potential to create another anxious day than it does to answer any profound questions about the nature of anxiety. lol I let it go and move on. It’s not as if there hasn’t been ample stimulus in recent goings on for anxious moments. I totally don’t need “reasons” beyond that. ๐Ÿ™‚

I look at the clock, and notice that it is time to begin again… the weekend ahead of me… love, adventure… choices. All of that and more, just beyond this moment. ๐Ÿ™‚

…This morning I woke with an idea worth writing down, worth contemplating, worth saying more about… and… I let my brain touch Facebook first. The thought? Gone. It lives no more. It has been erased, or sent wherever forgotten ideas go. That’s a thing. It totally happens. Sometimes it’s the commute… great tidbit to fuel creative thinking, a fragment of really neat poetry, a thing I’d really like to do, or consider, or… I get in the house, I reach for a device, Facebook touches my brain… brain buffer is immediately emptied of all valued content and replaced with… nothing much. Just a sense that I was thinking about something “important”, but it’s gone. lol Worse? I’m often left with the sensation of “having been interrupted” in the middle of “something important” when I am distracted by all things internet… and I wander around searching for that interrupted moment of conversation or… and it turns out to just be… Facebook.

Fuck you, Facebook. lol You’re a damned nightmare. A drama generator. A perpetual lie machine. An outrage escalator. You are best suited for staying in touch with distant friends I’d have otherwise completely lost touch with – and famous for dumbing down an entire global population (or, you know, whatever you can reach).ย  Omg, you are such a wreck. You’ve gone from keeping us all connected to manipulating our emotions and our understanding of reality, and spilling all our secrets – like a sociopathic ex. It’s time to set better boundaries with you – and your buddy “television”, too. Yeah, I haven’t forgotten that jerk.

Just a heads up I’ll be taking a digital break over this coming long weekend. ๐Ÿ™‚ You heard it here; I’ll be logging out of social media accounts, and even turning off my phone, a lot. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m so excited. lol So, Thursday morning will be my last post of the week (I don’t want you to worry).

It’s a worthwhile choice to make. I’m not objecting to the technology (yet) or connectivity, generally (it’s a utility in the 21st world), I’m just saying I don’t intend to let it control me; it is my will and intention that it be a tool in my service. It’s a choice. There are verbs involved. It’s going to take some practice. ๐Ÿ˜€

I’ll be back, though, probably late Sunday evening, with pictures, and thoughts, and scraps of poetry I have not forgotten. We’ll begin again. ๐Ÿ˜€

 

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –ย  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s time to begin again.