Archives for category: more than a little bit of bitching

A few years ago, a much younger version of me was heading home from work, it was late, a hot evening, and… the train seemed to be late. The later it got, the more anxious and agitated I was becoming. There was already so little time. The more stressed out I became, the more bothered I was by even the slightest restless movement of other aggravated commuters – and the longer we waited, the more of us there were. Frustrated clueless conversation reached me from various pairings of “been waiting” and “just got here” commuters; that was making me angry, too. “Just stand still and wait!” I snarled quietly under my breath. In fact… I had, at one point, gotten to the “teeth-grinding and sub-vocalization” level of stress and pure, distilled frustration. I wanted to rip my damned heart out of my chest to stop the pounding.

…I just wanted to go home. That’s all.

Yesterday morning, on the way in to the office, I observed that there was a rail interruption for construction, and a shuttle-bus detour provided, on my usual route to work. I didn’t think much about it. It did add some minutes to my commute, but at 5:30 am, that’s not exactly noteworthy – and there are no crowds, just stoic sleepy-eyed commuters quietly heading to work on auto-pilot.

After a very busy, very weird, day in the office, I headed for home quite a bit later than usual – or planned – and made my way to the train platform. I didn’t see anything much to be concerned with, and I wasn’t troubled by the awareness of that bit of construction… I mean… they were probably done? Or… maybe I forgot? It wasn’t on my mind, is what I’m saying, even after I saw the sign.

Oh. Huh. Well… I guess that’s a pretty big project.

Pre-occupied with my own thoughts, I got on the train, and promptly forgot about the construction. Some few minutes later, the train stops. I look around puzzled and realize I’m at the last stop; the detour. Time to grab a shuttle bus… wait… where are the buses? I see a lot of passengers milling around waiting. Hell, the transit company is giving away free shave ice to the passengers waiting in the heat (almost 90 degrees F, a bit more than 32 C). No shade anywhere. It’s hot, and people are cross about waiting. An absolute raging douchebag pushes past a substantial queue of passengers growling “where do we get on the shuttle? where do we get on the shuttle?” squeezing past people with strollers, elders on walkers, and women in burqa’s to get to the front of the line. So rude. I’m irked, but… I breathe, and let that go.

We wait, and wait longer. I see transit employees on walkie-talkies beefing about the delay with the buses. I can see that traffic patterns have been interrupted to accommodate shuttle buses, there are cones, barriers, and signs everywhere, and frustrated workers in oranges vests – and more walkie-talkies. A bus arrives, after a time, and we all crowd on it. Finally. It won’t be long now. I’m almost merry – I’m at least content. I’m heading home.

So… about that.

Quite a crowd, waiting for a train, on a very hot day.

I ease myself past groups of strangers. I notice that even considering the construction, it seems odd that the platform is so crowded. It looks like more than one train’s worth of passengers. I overhear someone complain that they have already been waiting 20 minutes. I keep walking, to the far end; it looks less crowded.

10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes later… no train. More shuttle buses have continued to arrive. There are easily 200+ people waiting on the platform, crowded together, fussy, irritable, frustrated with waiting, growing more and more impatient, and potential for conflict increases. Giving the matter some thought, I realize I will not even want to try to crowd onto the first train that eventually arrives… maybe take an Uber, or… a bus? I make my way to a shady spot at the edge of the park alongside the platform. I exchange expectation-setting messages with my Traveling Partner. I hit my vape a couple times. I drink some water.

Well…so… the traffic around the construction is such a snarl, and being peak rush hour on top of that, and Uber was going to cost me dearly (on this whole other unreasonable level), so that was out. The estimated time for the closest bus I could walk to that would take me more or less directly to where my car was parked was a bit of a walk, followed by a bit of a wait, and then quite a long ride… the train would be faster, when it got here… So. I waited.

The crowd was sufficiently large that getting them in one shot from eye level was difficult.

More people accumulated on the platform, until it was clearly no longer safe for more, and they spilled onto the track that was not in service, and on into the edge of the park, where I was seated in the shade, at the edge of the piled up human stress-puppets, all waiting for the train. Still no train.

By the time the next train arrived, there were easily 300 commuters waiting for it. Trust me, they don’t hold that many. No way I was going to take that train. Maybe not the one after it, either. I watch people push on, crowding each other. I sat back, away from all that, having a vape, and watching the afternoon sunshine slowly turning golden as the sun began to sink lower in the sky. That train left so crammed with human beings, they were literally pressed against the doors and standing two abreast in the aisles as it pulled away. No thank you. The next train looked much the same, but as it left, there was actually room on the platform to stand and wait for the next, which came in just 5 minutes.

(As it turned out later, in addition to the construction snarl, a transit employee confirmed that there was the additional hassle of someone having thrown a shopping cart in front of a moving train, further east on the westbound line, resulting in the transit company having to remove that train from service, and clear the track – and backing up trains rather a lot, creating the fairly horrible delay I’d found myself caught up in.)

I got on the train, no pushing, no snarling, no frustration, and took a seat. All the seats ended up full, and a handful of folks standing – that’s what the train generally looks like in the evening, as I head home. People were a bit more tense and aggravated than usual, and there was a crying baby (the shrieking “I’m fucking pissed and you just don’t get it” crying of a confused, discontented, uncomfortable, too hot in the summertime, baby who has no will to be consoled). At one point, the entire train had to be stopped over … drama and bullshit. Tempers flared over priority seating for disabled passengers; a seated disabled woman with a child in a stroller refused to yield her seat to a woman insisting she was “more disabled”, rail-thin, appearing intoxicated, pushing a wheeled shopping basket. All hell broke loose when rail-thin woman touched the seated woman’s baby, as if to move the child out of her way. People were yelling. I was more than a little surprised it didn’t break out into a proper brawl. Other passengers got involved. Eventually the driver call-button was pushed. That’s when the train was stopped, and held, at the platform, while the driver intervened. The rail-thin woman was ejected from the train by the driver, firmly, although he did point out (and truthfully) that another train followed closely behind his. We continued our journey. The baby commenced to crying again.

At each stop, a few more passengers disembarked. It got quieter. The train reached my station, and I got in my car, and went home (by way of the grocery store, for salad ingredients for a dinner that we didn’t have, because it was late, and we were neither of us very hungry). I enjoyed a pleasant evening with my partner.

So… simple. So… easy. No freak out? Nope. No tantrum? Nope. No snarling at other people impatiently because… “omg, what the fuck??” Nope. I was pretty chill the whole time – in spite of the heat. (lol) It’s summertime, and that means construction, and construction delays, and… well… I don’t know. I’m fine. It wasn’t a big deal.

Who is this woman I have become over time? She’s pretty patient about construction delays, cranky passengers on crowded trains, shrieking babies, and douchebags who line-jump crowds on hot days. I like that about me… I sip my coffee and wonder when I became this woman, and what did I practice that got me here? Did the meditation get me here? The reflection and perspective-seeking? The savoring small pleasant moments and building emotional resilience over time? The creation of, and existence within, a calm and generally contented environment at home? I’m not perfect; I’m surprised. I fully expect that some time in the future I’ll lose my shit over something dumb (I have priors)… but… last night? Last night wasn’t that time. 😀

This morning? Pretty nice morning. My coffee is just okay, but it’s still coffee, and I’m grateful. I load up the dishwasher, and set it for a delayed start to avoid waking my partner (who I think I already woke with my bumbling around half-awake after the alarm jerked me from dreams of love and contentment). I consider the commute ahead of me. Maybe I’ll drive in. LOL I smile to myself; a good start to the day. I look at the clock… definitely time to begin again. 😀

Even more exciting, and much more worthwhile, than The Bottle Cap Challenge! Yep – and we can’t even opt out, not really. It’s The Communication Challenge – the one where any given pair or group of human beings attempts to communicate ideas, across the vast chasm of differences in perspective, filtered through individual experience and assumption-making, using poorly defined terms. lol Oh my.

…It’s not always easy, is it?

Yesterday, my day was literally filled with variations on the theme of challenging communications. It was an interesting assortment.

…Team communications…

…Individual entirely non-work-related social communications…

…Communications overheard in passing by uninvolved-but-now-interested individuals…

…Communication with people who lack emotional intelligence…

…Communication with people far more emotionally intelligent than I am…

…Communication with people who have a clear – but also hidden – personal agenda at stake…

…Direct communication…

…Misleading communication…

…Necessary and also delicate communication…

…Frank communication that was “long overdue”…

…Heartfelt warm communication…

…Tense, purposeful, communication in which I, myself, had a clear (and also frustrated) agenda…

…Dispassionate routine communication of factual details…

…Passionate communication of concerns…

…Communication advocating a position…

In some cases, some of those were a single conversation, others were common occurrences in several conversations; there are so many opportunities to communicate, in a single day. Some conversations were easy, comfortable, helpful, or merry. Other conversations felt like work – real effort was involved in “getting an idea across” or in truly listening with my whole attention to ideas I felt disinclined towards, to the point of being reluctant to hear the speaker out. It was a very interesting assortment of moments.

I arrived home, tired, at the end of what felt like a long day (because it was), and definitely ready to stop communicating. LOL

…I’m sure I learned something. I know that during my struggle to relax at the end of the day, fighting off a surge in anxiety that was making sleep difficult to come by, I was pretty certain that mastering my greatest communication challenges would have a lot to offer in the way of reduced stress, because damn, I was definitely stressed out. I sip my coffee and think about that.

I think over the communication challenges in which one or more parties to the conversation showed signs of stress, or frustration; how can I do better? Create a less stressful experience? Listen with greater care? Be more patient? Define my terms more clearly? Slow down enough to avoid being provoked? All of these seem like excellent steps. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I contemplate the very nature of “being provoked” in conversation, and wonder… to what end? I definitely have some room to grow here. You, too, probably. 🙂 Everyone.

…I promise myself another reread of The Four Agreements. I consider, with some amusement, that none of the books on my reading list are specifically on the topic of effective communication, most especially considering how much of it I need to do, day-to-day. lol I think about how little real coaching, encouragement, mentoring, or development, we provide each other as human beings… Where did we get this notion that so many things in life will just sort of “happen” over time? It’s rather strange, is it not? 0_o

I tell myself “the weekend is almost here”, then tease myself for the lie; it’s only Wednesday, and frankly, weekends do not have curative powers. We’ve all still got the lives (and baggage) that we do. The way out is through. 🙂 Another breath. Another exhalation of breath. Another moment. The wheel continues to turn.

I’m not perfect. Still practicing. There is so much to learn – and so much I can do to be more the woman I most want to be. I see daybreak turn the sky from dark – to slightly less dark. I am reminded that seasons do change, and that moments do pass. It’s time to embrace a new one, and begin again. 🙂

So human. Of course. It’s bound to happen now and then. I think I’ve got a head cold. :-\

I’m doing my best to take care of myself. I crashed ludicrously early yesterday – couldn’t actually stay awake. My head was already stuffy. My body had started to ache all over. I gave up and went to bed. I woke once during the night – shortly after 1 am? I remember drinking cold water, thirsty, feeling sort of “dried out”, standing in the puddle of light from the open door to the refrigerator. I went back to bed. It was hard to wake when the alarm went off, and even half an hour later, I feel sort of clumsy and uncomfortable in my skin.

I’d hoped it was “allergies” (which I don’t actually have) but… no. Head cold. I can’t tell if I feel better, at all, this morning, or not. I sip iced coffee and iced water, in alternation. I don’t notice any particular difference, this morning. Cold is cold. One tastes a bit like… bitter garden soil. LOL I don’t really care about that, and just keep sipping one, then the other.

I’m not really complaining… head colds happen. Human beings can be fairly gross, and a lot of them don’t wash their damned hands, or cover their sneezes and coughs. I work in a call center-ish environment, one with an “open office” floor plan. Contagion spreads quickly, and there’s nearly always someone walking around sick. So, I work on self-care, and getting well, soon. There’s not much else to do about it, other than avoid spreading it around.

I finish my coffee, and my morning routines. I try to “get my head right” for the day ahead, and let go of wishing I were “just okay, for fuck’s sake” – since that does nothing to actually help. Another day ahead, full of potential. Time to get started on enjoying that as much as I am able to do so, today. 🙂

Tooth extraction. I guess I’m more than a little grateful how far dentistry has come. It was, as suggested, not all that painful. Even getting the shots to numb the area was insignificant, pain-wise. The extraction, itself, was peculiarly… forceful. I mean, seriously? My dentist basically pulled a living tooth with no interest in being removed right on out of my jaw, where it was pretty permanently lodged, right? The amount of force required was… impressive. I couldn’t really feel anything but the pulling, and even now, I am ever-so-grateful for the advances modern dentistry has made. It got a tad grim when I could literally hear bone snapping, breaking free, and the taste of blood isn’t particularly pleasant. Still… no pain.

“…Oh, just one thing to cover before you leave… after we get an x-ray…” Yeah, well… okay. A “complication”. A small perforation of my lower sinus, which is, I guess, not an especially uncommon complication of an extraction of one of those back molars. I walked away, face beginning to ache, equipped with care instructions, and feeling very grown-up; I got through it, and it’s done, and I’m fine.

I arrived home. Relaxed for a few minutes with my Traveling Partner. Reviewed those care instructions… carefully. Wondered about what I’d be able to eat for the next few days. Frowned at the likelihood that it may be 2-3 weeks before I could vape again, or drink through a straw, or do literally anything that results in any notable amount of suction (trust me, this affects my quality of life! lol). I was pretty quickly overcome with a serious case of “I don’t actually care about any of this, actually”, and crashed out for a “nap”, that turned into about 18 hours of solid sleep, interrupted only long enough for interludes to sip water, sit up for a handful of minutes, go to the bathroom, and have a few very finely minced calories with great care. lol I still feel like I’ve been hit hard in the face, several times. I still taste blood, faintly. I’m still incredibly careful about every swallow of liquid, every bite of food.

…2-3 weeks??

Fourth of July. Well… no BBQ for me. I’m still “injured” enough that I don’t actually much care about that. I’m grateful for Ibuprofen; it’s getting me by nicely for pain management. My mouth “feels weird”. Talking, too, seems affected by the change in the shape of my mouth, the swollenness of my gum, and the pain in my jaw. I know it will pass.

…I think I’ll have another nap. LOL

I’m sipping room temperature canned coffee, this morning. It’s adequate, not fantastic. Satisfactory, without being delightful. “Enough” – sufficient to meet the need, without frills. I’m grateful for the almost-overlooked luxury of coffee, ready made, in cans, neither hot, nor cold.

…Seriously? This? Now?

 

I had a crown fall out, evening before last, during dinner. Scrambled eggs. Seriously? It was too much for me, after the day I’d had, and I wept… although… the day, itself, was frankly fine. More “win and good” than not. I couldn’t feel any win, and very little good. That lasted even through yesterday; the bright spots of the day were dim, the highs didn’t seem particularly different than the lows, and every small hurdle felt nearly insurmountable, however skillfully every detail of the day was managed. It’s been the whole week, honestly. I feel cursed by bad fortune, and a plague of small things going wrong – but when I pause to examine, as dispassionately as I am able to do, the facts of my experience…? Things are, actually, just fine. My experience is colored by grief. I’m okay, though, and life is okay. Grief is a powerful emotional experience of yielding to what I can’t change, letting go of what is no more, and going on. It’s fucking hard though, and a lot of it happens “in the background” in this peculiar fog of misfortune that seems to wrap me, this week.

The roses are still blooming in my garden.

…Realistically, I know my life is as it was, but for this singular loss. Each loss has it’s own shade of gray, it’s own particular flavor, it’s own… shadow. The shadows diminish with the return of light. I know this, intellectually. My heart has a bit more difficulty letting go – and in the negotiation between heart and mind, I find myself experiencing this peculiar sense of accursedness, that I’m also aware is not actually legitimately my experience. Weird and difficult. I spend time in my garden. I take time away from work. I get out in the sunshine and walk trails I’d not yet walked before. I take time to tidy up my studio and get it into working order once again. I am “chasing the light” without making a point of saying so, generally. “This too shall pass.” Of course it will; everything does. 🙂

I look for the sunny moments, everywhere, seeking “enlightenment”, of a sort.

This hole in my mouth, where that back molar was, feels weird. It’s not uncomfortable, particularly, in spite of the living tooth stump sitting in there; an urgent-care visit to the dentist got that covered with some sort of glue or something of that kind, to keep it protected for a couple of days until… extraction. That bonded porcelain crown was expected to last nearly a lifetime. I got 4 years out of it. My new dentist was fairly irked that the work had been done such that there just isn’t actually enough tooth left to secure the crown properly, at all. I’ve got just the one “bad tooth” – and I’m grateful, at 56, to have all my original teeth, and other than this one problematic tooth, no dental concerns. Now I’ve got to have it removed, altogether, and… I’m frankly terrified. I’m also surprised by this. Where did this fear come from? I was never “scared of the dentist” before facing this extraction. I poke at the fear in much the same way I ever-so-carefully touch the stump of this tooth with my tongue, curious, a bit nervous, and wondering “what to do about it”.

Practical solutions aren’t always obvious.

Complex PTSD is strange where the potential for new trauma is concerned. I breathe, exhale, relax. Pull myself back into “now” again. Long-past surgeries were, in some cases, very traumatic (look, there’s really no describing what it is like to be awakened during spinal surgery so that the doctor can check for reflexes and sensations, and ask questions… because there are indeed “sensations”, and some of them are not experiences I’d recommend having; the trauma of being aware of surgical goings-on, in the moment, is pretty horrific stuff). I allow myself the awareness. I let the feelings go, and come back to “now”. It’s not happening now, is the thing, it’s just a memory. I catch myself projecting forward, to the upcoming tooth extraction. It’s a novel experience. I’ve never had one done. I have literally no emotional experience of my own to draw upon, and can choose to visualize it in a variety of ways. Anything I imagine is utterly lacking in substance; it’s not real. I could imagine it being going smoothly, being nearly effortless, and done in a moment by a skilled professional, with no lasting consequences of note. Why would I choose to visualize it in any other way? I breathe, exhale, relax. I left the fear go. That moment ahead is not now.

…I recall my Traveling Partner reminding me yesterday, that my world and perspective are still colored by grief. I don’t remember what made the observation necessary. I’m still glad he has the presence to be aware of it, and the consideration to share that reminder, so gently. He’s been “here for me” all week, present, loving, warm.  Talking about the extraction, and my anxiety about it, he shared his own experience of such things, and observed that it “wasn’t that bad”. Even recalling our calming conversation renews my anxiety. Feeling my whole body suddenly get warm, I breathe through that surge of stress, I exhale, and let the anxiety go it’s own way. I relax again, and sip my room-temperature coffee. The tooth doesn’t tolerate hot or cold well, and I’m avoiding sticky foods, sweet foods, sharp foods… treating the wounded tooth with great care, until it can be pulled, next week.  How do I treat my grieving heart similarly well? It’s not like I can pull it out and move on…

However uncomfortable, grief is not a weed to pluck out of the garden of my heart; it has a purpose to fulfill. My emotions are not my enemy.

…I continue to sip my coffee, watching the sun rise beyond my studio window, as daylight arrives, and begins to overcome the shadows. There’s something to learn here – a way to understand things differently. This moment, right here? I’m not in pain. “Now” is just fine. Sure, there’s pain ahead of me in life (isn’t there always?) – and there’s certainly been pain in my past – right now, though? Right now, I’m okay. Right now, the morning is lovely. Right now, I’ve got an adequate glass of coffee to sip that isn’t aggravating this tooth. Right now, I’ve got a lifetime of memories of my Mother, on which I can rely whenever I want to feel her presence. “Now” seems a good time… for most things.

“Now” seems a good time to walk in the sunshine, away from the darkness, and into the light.

Incremental change is. Practicing the practices works. I’ll just stay on this path right here…one step at a time is enough.