Archives for category: Oregon Trails

My coffee tastes different this morning. It’s not because I am sitting cross-legged on the surprisingly comfy Queen bed in this seaside hotel, not even because it’s fairly typically-terrible hotel coffee made in a fairly generically terrible-coffee-making drip machine sitting atop the small room-sized hotel refrigerator, but more because I am sipping it solo, with no chance at all of sharing the moment with my Traveling Partner. Right at the moment, in all practical terms, we’re traveling separately (he’s sleeping still, at home, I hope, and I am sitting cross-legged in sloppy-loose blue jeans, laptop perched precariously on my lap, waiting for my terrible coffee to cool enough to drink properly).

I’d say my goal of relaxing and getting some “down time” before shifting gears to start the new job has been successful; I woke having entirely forgotten about Daylight Savings Time, and looking at the clock and finding “6:30 am” to be both believable, and an acceptable time to wake on a leisure morning… I woke up. I laughed when I finally noticed the discrepancy between the clock that I had checked upon waking (which automatically updated) and the one that did not (provided by the hotel, plugged into the wall in the usual way). I shrugged it off and got started making terrible coffee and looking over the notes I took at several points yesterday, as I walked and wandered, waited and reflected, breathed and meditated.

The ocean does not care when or whether I check into my hotel room, nor when I leave. My presence makes no difference to the timing of the waves, or the fierceness of the winds.

I arrived to the shore much too early to check into the hotel, and my room was not yet ready. Didn’t matter much; the endless ocean tickled the shore without regard to check-in times. The hotel graciously allowed me to use the private beach access in the meantime, and I went down what seemed like 1001 concrete steps to the beach. The wind was brisk and cold. There were bundled up families flying kites and enjoying the day. There were even barefooted kids playing in the shallow water of the waves as they spread across the beach, then receded; they seemed as shore birds, running forward as the water pulled back, running back as the waves spread forward. I found myself reflecting on that. There’s something to learn, there, I suppose.

…This coffee is simply dreadful. I add sugar and the available non-dairy creamer. Still awful. I’m still drinking it…

I gave up beach walking when my legs became tired, and trudged patiently up those many steps once more. Room not yet ready, I headed into town and, masked and distant, and wandered through enticing antique shops.

In a shop filled with carefully crafted miniatures, I find room after room of furnishings that seem to be idealized versions of various stages of my own aesthetic, and wonder if, after all, so many of them could really have come from… doll houses?

The tourist “traps” that line the street are the sort common to any seaside town I’ve visited… saltwater taffy shops, “old time” candy stores, antique shops, t-shirts, sea shells, and nautically themed whatsits of all kinds (lighthouse sculptures, pirate “treasure”, glass fishing floats and paperweights, and “the world’s best” of some local dish). I wandered until I was more distracted by my own thoughts than engaged by what I saw in front of me, and returned again to the hotel, and to the beach, to walk and reflect awhile longer.

I sat for a long while, occasionally attempting to light a joint in the fierce coastal “breeze” without success.

I spent a couple of contented hours walking, and thinking. Reflecting on lessons learned, both generally (and recently), and also specifically (with regard to my most recent job, and how to make good use of what I learned in future roles). It was time well-spent. Aside from the wind and my tinnitus, the only thing I was hearing was… me. I walked the beach listening deeply to what the woman in the mirror has to say… about life… about love… about work… about a future that is unknown (and largely unknowable). I contemplated the confounds of expectations and assumptions.

…At check in time, I made my way to my room, let myself into this small space that is more or less my own (until check out time), and unpacked my baggage – literally, and metaphorically.

…Damn this is dreadful coffee. Wtf? Why am I putting myself through this? LOL I stare into the cup, warm in my hand, astonished by its prodigious awfulness with a certain amount of respect; it’s a hell of an achievement for a cup of coffee to be this bad.

I took time to reflect on all I’d seen, and on my notes, and the many “living metaphors” the day had presented to me.

I ask myself “the hard questions” on my mind as the day becomes evening… What matters most? What has me chained to some past moment? What have I accepted as the basis of my sense of self? Is that truly “who I am”? How do I free myself to soar to greater heights? Where does my path lead? The moments, questions, and the thoughts they carry with them crash onto the shore of my consciousness, and recede one by one. I find “embracing change” to be a process, and an ongoing practice. Taking some time alone to be with my thoughts – and, unavoidably, with my self, is a useful break for “sorting things out”. For finding the signal in the noise. Life may not have a map, but I can sure jot down some notes as I might if I were writing down directions to go from here to … somewhere else. It’s important to be clear on the desired destination. It’s important to be aware of where I stand right now. 🙂 With those things in mind, how much more easily can I begin again?

…It’s that time, isn’t it? Beginning again, I mean. The new job starts tomorrow. The new laptop was delivered Friday, and is waiting for me to set it up.

…Fucking hell I am missing my Traveling Partner this morning. I missed him ferociously last night, too. The value in missing him has nuances that are worthwhile experiences of their own. Missing him reduces the likelihood that I will take his precious presence in my life for granted. Missing him reinforces how much I enjoy him being part of my experience. Being absent the many things he does for me (and for us), large and small, reminds me that I legit don’t do as well for myself on my own as I seem able to in this specific partnership. (Not dissing myself or minimizing how much I appreciate myself for (and as) myself, just saying there’s a ton of stuff that just doesn’t seem to stay on my radar, and my sometimes general lack of fucks to give, or pain, results in more chaos than I easily manage… and that seems far less likely in his company, and with his help.)

…And both of us make an excellent cup of coffee that is so much better than this warm brown liquid that I’ve decided can’t at all be called “coffee” – it’s just that bad, and I am seriously missing something better… and my partner… this morning. 🙂

The sun is not yet up. Check out time is not for another 3 hours. There is time to walk on the beach, time for a bite of breakfast, and time to find a better cup of coffee. LOL There’s time to begin again.

A group of rocks along the shore, exposed at low tide, inaccessible at high tide. Even in that, there is something to reflect on, a metaphor in action, something to learn about who I am, and where I am headed.

I look at the clock, and see daylight beginning to show through the curtains. Definitely time to begin again. 🙂

I woke with a headache and a stuffy head. A cold? Allergies? I’m not certain. Already there is uncertainty creeping into the day. I’m dealing with arthritis pain today, too, but… I’m not sure whether it is because the weather is chilly, or for some other reason. More uncertainty. I’m working through the final week at this job, ready to step into a role in a new place – there’s certainly (lol) no certainty about what that future experience will hold. Perspective matters; my sense of “certainty” is quite often simply a choice to favor one way of viewing circumstances over another, not really anything to do with what I do or don’t actually know. What do I even actually “know” with legitimate certainty? What do you “know”? How did you test and verify that knowledge? Or… did you simply sip it up with a cognitive straw based on what someone else said they “know”, and you’ve chosen to be fine with that? I mean… I can’t judge harshly on that. We all do it. Might be good to do that less, though…

I sit in a rainy forest, along a wet dirt road, near a puddle, listening to the rain fall, thinking things over… Well, not really… it’s a video, and a moment of reflection over coffee, is all. It’s “not real”… I mean, in the sense that I am not actually there. It’s quite real, inasmuch as it is a video of a real place and time. So… Moving on with the uncertainties…

I’d planned to walk the trail, but the park is still closed after the recent storms.

There’s a work day ahead. I also need to run to the store. These things feel “certain”. I mean, they’ll definitely happen, right? There are still a ton of assumptions that go into that carefully crafted feeling of certainty. I turn it over in my head, admiring my handiwork; that’s some careful craftwork, there. I feel comfortable with it, as “reality” goes. I’ll likely make choices and take actions that lead to those things coming to pass, more or less as expected.

…Expectations… Assumptions…

I breathe with the timer on my desktop, listening to the rain fall. In spite of my stuffy head, and in spite of my pain, and in spite of “life’s uncertainties” – which is, like, everything to do with living life – I feel pretty okay right now. That is a reality I can definitely embrace.

…Of course, I’ve still got to begin again. My results will continue to vary. All of that is okay, too. I’m just practicing. 😉

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…

Choosing change can bring such tremendous calm. Choices made become contemplation of next steps, a plan develops, new choices, other actions, and with care and consideration, momentum toward a chosen change begins to build. Plans begin to become outcomes. Through all of it, chaos is managed through practices chosen for their proven success at managing chaos. Meditation. Good self-care. Self-compassion. Non-attachment.

I’m walking my own path. I am my own cartographer.

Sure, I already know my results will vary. I understand that the map is not the world. I embrace the new beginnings life offers. I continue to practice, and work toward becoming the woman I most want to be. So far, it’s enough; incremental change over time seems to be something I can count on.

For now, I’m sipping my coffee contentedly. I’ve chosen change, and made a plan, and each step forward takes me a step further down my path. Where does it lead? I don’t really know that; the future, at least how I am able to experience it, is not yet written. There are changes that occur around me, some chosen by others, some simply turns of circumstance, and perhaps those will become the sorts of things that change something in my own experience, too. Change is.

I stare out at a gray wintry sky. It hints at rain. There is snow in the forecast. It’s a gray rather uneventful day. I think about baking coffee cake to snack on later. I smile recalling my Traveling Partner’s request for specific flavors, winter spices. Vanilla glaze on that, I think, sipping my coffee. It’s a lovely partnership to share, and I take a moment for gratitude as he walks away after standing close, rubbing my shoulders as I write. Hot coffee, cold day, and the warmth of being loved… nice moment.

“This too shall pass”, my brain rather grimly reminds me. I laugh back, because, sure, yeah, that’s true… but I have memories of love and partnership for a lifetime, and an enduring relationship to enjoy now, whatever the future may hold. That’s enough. More than enough. It’s honestly pretty splendid compared to a lot of the options in the vastness of human experience, right? 🙂

I look at the time. My break is over, and it’s time to begin again. 🙂

I slept poorly last night. I managed one good nap, and spent the remainder of the night restlessly drifting in and out of a half-waking, half-dreaming state. Most of the dreams were unpleasant. I woke and started the day. My Traveling Partner woke me, unaware I hadn’t slept well, or deeply, or enough. I couldn’t fall asleep again, and even later, when I could have napped, I felt “sleep-averse” and unwilling to do so. I did try…

…Later, I walked the forested trails at Airport Park. The pictures I took seem more real than my recollection of the hike, which is a tiny bit sad; I had the park entirely to myself today, and it was even a quiet day at the nearby airfield. I heard nothing but birdsong and breezes. I saw woodpeckers, and robins. I spotted chipmunks darting away in the underbrush, and bunnies bounding across the path ahead. I listened to the creek chuckle at my fatigue as I crossed the bridge with great care. It’s slippery from the rain and the generally slickness of the various molds and mosses and whatnot that make the bridge so treacherous in winter, nothing unusual in that. The humor would only be in seeing the silly human lose her careful balance.

Watch your step… or at least pay attention.

…Losing my balance came later in the day, while attempting to bake biscuits. LOL Thankfully, with good human, and the patience of a loving partner, it was only a moment. The moment passes. It was brief.

…I’m so tired. I’m not good for much this evening. It’s too early to go to bed, and as tired as I am I don’t feel “sleepy”, yet. I’ll find something else to do. A video game, maybe? Read? Plan the garden? I can at least begin again. 🙂

Perspective can make so much difference in how I experience the moment.