Archives for category: pain

Stop.

Seriously, just put it all on pause for a minute or two. You’ll be fine. The work will wait. The pings and texts will wait too. That urgent whateverthefuck you just have to get done right now? Yep, even that will wait for a couple minutes. Take care of you for a minute. Breathe. Exhale. Relax.

Turn off the music. Quiet as much of the noise as you can control. Just sit for a minute. Another breath. Need a timer? I’ve got you… here, try this one. You’ve got two minutes for you, right?

…<sigh>… Feels good. Just a quiet minute or two…

There’s a lot to get done. Life sometimes feels so crazy busy that I walk around with a chronic lingering sensation of something being incomplete, unfinished, or forgotten. Sometimes, when I stumble on the thing driving that sensation, it’ll turn out to be something forgettably unimportant like being interrupted while reading a receipt, and having the sensation of “an unfinished conversation” that turns out to be with myself. lol I’ve found, more than once, that the “secret” to feeling less busy, less frantic, less consumed by the details… is to slow down. So. Do that.

Do it again.

Set expectations with yourself and others about how much you really can (or are really willing) to do. Take care of yourself. “Human” comes with some known limitations. Respect your limitations – and your boundaries. Tired? Rest. Hurting? Heal. Cross with the world? Take a step back and enjoy you for a little while. Recognize that everyone around you needs those same things – rest, healing, and time to just be who they are, and enjoy that experience.

Look, I’m not telling you what to do. I’m telling you what I’m doing – and going to do, and planning to continue to practice until I get properly good at it. It just doesn’t make any damned sense to be the person in the world treating me the worst. lol I am practicing treating myself – and my loved ones – as well as I know how to treat anyone at all. Every day. Every interaction. Moment by moment. I expect to fall short of my goals – maybe a lot. Failure is an option – pretty commonplace, actually – and we learn more from failures than from successes, so… there’s that. 🙂 You’re gonna fail at some things. That has to be okay. Start over. Begin again. Understand where things went amiss, and do something different or change the context. Just don’t give up on yourself. You have room to grow – and even that journey can be fun, and even pleasant, and rewarding, and filled with love. 🙂 Worth exploring, I think.

…I’m in so much pain today. Arthritis in my spine. Cervicogenic headache. The consequences of injuries, aging, and cold weather… and it seems so completely ordinary as to defy being worth bitching about…but here I am. I think I’ll just begin again, myself. 🙂 I’m certainly too busy to let pain tell me what to do. 😉

I’ve got a headache. The usual. “Nothing to see here.” I’m also feeling aggravated, frustrated, and annoyed with commonplace (fairly ordinary) communication challenges with my partner. Right now, I don’t really know what to do with that, besides my very best to maintain a cool head, a calm demeanor, and a better than average attempt at “holding my tongue”. Allowing things to escalate, over something so incredibly petty, would not be a good demonstration of adult communication. So… okay. Working on that.

It’s not the communication itself, in these circumstances, that is petty – it’s very much the small shit that so easily gets out of hand, becoming a source of conflict. Manufactured conflict. Unnecessary conflict. Pointless conflict. It’s the sort of thing human primates are super good at. (Creating conflict, I mean.) I snarl quietly inside myself. I’m so completely fed the fuck up with human beings creating drama. I’m fed up with us/them bullshit arguments that are little more than territorial pissing matches, and ridiculous vortices of righteous anger and outrage used to justify terrible behavior. Unclear expectations. Untested assumptions. It’s not even about my partner, or our relationship in any direct specific way. It’s… all of us. People. “Society.”

It reaches me unavoidably through the limited media I consume, and even in the behavior of passing strangers on city streets, in unexpectedly crowded shops (“There’s still a pandemic going on, ya fuckwits.”)(I’m shopping, too.), and in parking lots. Most people think they’re right – about something. Mostly those same people are not actually “right” about the things they are so invested in being right about. They just have a fucking opinion. I’m no different. We’re each having our own experience – but we’re all human beings. We’re not very good at being our best selves. We treat each other – even our loved ones – pretty fucking badly, rather often. It’s incredibly shitty and I’m feeling cross just actually being a fucking human being, at all. We kind of suck, as creatures, rather a lot. We mostly don’t even make a fucking effort to be better today than we were tomorrow. I’m saddened by that.

A thoughtless harsh word, a moment of frustration or anger, of disappointment, or hurt feelings, and my whole experience feels colored by that moment. How is it that moments of intense joy don’t have similar impact, across an entire day or experience, in the same way? That seems unfair to me, sitting here right now. I feel chilly. The room is not cold; it’s me. I’m fighting back frustrated angry bullshit tears I don’t choose to indulge. My headache worsens with the effort of pure will at the end of a long day and week. I’m alone in this room, in this moment, because this is not about him. He’s got his feelings and experience, too; those are his. This? This right here is about me. Me, seeking to be and do my best, struggling with some things that are definitely not me at my best. Me, working to get over my bullshit and baggage, and manage my chaos and damage. Oh, I’m not being an ass to myself, and there is no cruelty here. I’m not being down on myself, but this is hard emotional labor, right here, and I need focus and concentration, and some quiet space to do it.

I practice being better than this petty moment of provocation. It’s just not very easy, as practices go. I love my partner. He’s earned my respect, and has my enduring affection. He’s my best friend. My lover. My Traveling Partner. My spouse. I’m still just fucking maddened by some of our small challenges, now and then. I’m sure he feels similarly. It can’t be easy living with me. I’ve… “got issues”. (Who doesn’t?)

I take a breath. Exhale. Relax. Let it go. Let all of it go. Just… breathe. I listen to the computer fan spin up, slow down, cycling as I type. I listen to the steady ring, chime, shimmer, and ping of my tinnitus, in the background, louder than any sounds from the other room. This too has started to become an impediment to good communication; I watch people closely when they talk to me to avoid missing an important detail. I often mishear things when I don’t see them spoken, like when I am walking away. It’s frustrating. Now and then it gives the impression I’m “not paying attention”.

I’d planned – considered? – writing something quite different, but the idea (which I really liked) was washed away by my irritation. Another bit of aggravation, this evening. I take another breath. I blow it out fiercely, childishly, crossly. I take another breath, and insist on exhaling it gently, without hostility or resentment.

My partner sticks his head in the door. He smiles and there’s so much love there. We’re in this together. “Still cranky?” he asks. Yeah, yeah I am – but it isn’t so bad. I feel very loved, and that matters more. Even when my head aches. Even when I’m cross.

…I guess I’ll just begin again. 😉

This morning I did something for myself; I took the time to sit with my thoughts, just sipping coffee, enjoying the morning as it unfolded, moment by moment. Meditation. Reflection. Time spent with the woman in the mirror, while my Traveling Partner did his own thing in another room. No agenda. No pressure. No urgency. Just a woman, her thoughts, a great cup of coffee, and a couple leisure hours spent just “hearing myself think”. There’s a real chance I don’t do this often enough – it felt that good, just letting the thoughts come and go, random, sometimes loosely connected, other times not connected at all. Ideas, plans, whimsical notions – all coming and going like fluffy clouds on a mild Spring day. Time well-spent. I feel centered and calm. It’s nice.

I went on to do a bit of housekeeping, which is my usual routine on a Sunday. Re-arranged the bedroom that functions as a library and quiet chill-space; the curtains being added not only make the room very quiet, but they also provide an opportunity to really see the space quite differently. Moving things around may create a bit of chaos during nocturnal wanderings, until I’m used to where everything is now. The changes free up considerable space in the room, and the arrangement seems to make more sense in some ways (perhaps less so in other ways). It’s nothing of real consequence, but the day feels productive as a result.

My emotional wellness and mental health don’t do quite as well if my environment becomes very messy or chaotic. However much I attempt to make excuses for some small pile of paperwork, or stack of boxes in a corner, it’s very clear that these are details that really matter, and can become an impediment to being able to really thrive. Emotional self-sufficiency, in this case, demands real-world effort, and tackling the basics weekly fits decently well into my work schedule. I’m not always up to it – and that makes it doubly important that I don’t slack on the weekends that I’m physically able to work through the tasks on my “to do list”.

This weekend? I’m glad I took a long weekend. I’m in a lot of pain with the autumn weather (chilly and rainy) taking over, and being able to spread out a fairly long list of shit to do over 4 days instead of cramming it into 1 has really been something to appreciate this weekend. I’m probably already more or less “done”, for the day. Oh, there’s more shit on my list… I’m just not up to it. I’m done. The work? Not so much. I want to hold out enough in reserve to help my Traveling Partner with a household upgrade he had planned to do tomorrow, but might get to this afternoon; it’ll be helpful to know there’s an extra pair of hands at the ready, even if he doesn’t really need my help at all.

I guess the point, today, is that I’ve made a pretty consistent practice (today) of choosing to do some things specifically for me. Emotional self-sufficiency isn’t something I just “fell into” with any ease; I really have to work at it. In the abstract I don’t think of myself as a “people pleaser” at all (honestly? I’m “kind of a bitch”, I sometimes think, in spite of being steadfast about being considerate of other people, and I’m sort of “prickly” in interactions with strangers)… I definitely struggle to set healthy boundaries or communicate my limitations clearly and gently with loved ones. I’d ideally like to meet all the needs… do all the things… be there any time that would be helpful… and I’m just not able to do all of it, all the time. I hope to reliably do my best.

I hear my partner stir from his game. It’s quite likely time to begin again. 🙂

This morning is weird. I woke early, no idea why. Maybe I just had to pee? I feel generally okay as the morning begins. The usual amount of pain, in the usual amount of places, and I feel decently well-rested in spite of the short night. The weekend was strange. Strained in some moments, infused with a too-fragile joy in others. I struggled to find balance. From my own limited point of view, it seemed my Traveling Partner did, too.

…Very human…

I wanted to spend the weekend painting; I’ve got some good ideas and feel inspired, but that intent went awry, skewered by other moments. It’s a routine Monday, today, and my to-do list is a mix of errands, phone calls, and shit left from the weekend that didn’t get done – and work. I’m not bitching, just saying that is where things stand today, on a chilly damp autumn Monday.

I pull my attention back to me. My focus back on this moment, here. I lift myself more erect, correcting my posture to preserve my comfort. I take a deep breath, listening to the sound of it mix with the sounds of the house. I feel where my pain is. I make a point to also feel where it isn’t. I take a minute to reflect on the things I would like to get done today. I’m hoping that by doing so, I’ll be more likely to remember them all and get them done.

I’ve “lost some progress” emotional-health-wise over the course of the pandemic. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m back in therapy. I’m not saying that with any particular sense of failure (although I sometimes feel a certain pervasive sense of “catastrophic futility” when I’m taken by surprise in some bleak moment); it’s a complicated journey, and realistically, there’s a high probability that I’ll sometimes struggle with some trauma-relevant detail of my experience or another, now and then, all my life. If I set the emotional wellness goal at “just as perfectly whole and well and balanced as if I’d never experienced any moment of trauma ever at all”, I’m guaranteed a lifetime of struggle, failure, and futility. It’s not a realistic goal. That’s why I focus on contentment – which I can build – rather than chasing “happiness”, which is not only fleeting, but also damned difficult to define clearly. I have at least learned to avoid setting myself up for failure. Mostly.

I finished the book my Traveling Partner recently gifted me, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?“, by Alan Alda. First rate work on communication, and I plan to read it again, immediately, and maybe also buy the e-book so I can easily highlight passages I’d like to study further, savor, or share. It’ll go on my Reading List shortly (yep, it’s that good).

I take time with my coffee to properly reflect on my recent business trip. I think over what I learned (about various things, including some travel practices that could improve my experience if I am to do this sort of thing regularly). I think over even details like “what I packed that I did not need” – there’s an art to traveling light, and still having “everything I need”. I’m rusty. The last job I had that required regular travel was… the Army. Trust me when I say that it was a very different style of travel! I’m surprised to find that I genuinely enjoyed being in the office for a couple of days – and I got a lot done. I also enjoy working from home very much, and find that day-to-day my “baseline” productivity is generally much higher working from home. It’s the “living life” part of work-travel I haven’t figured out; I finish those work days wrung out, in physical pain, and cognitively exhausted, just as I often do at home, and lacking any reserves with which to do anything much recreational. I got my walking in. For now, that’ll have to do, and I guess I’m okay with it.

I sip my coffee and consider what value my Traveling Partner may get out of my occasional business travels. We miss each other so much when we’re apart, but it seems to have a healthy positive value to get that “bit of space from each other”. How to do that in a way that does not create moments of insecurity and doubt would be helpful as a skill. I think more about what he may want and need out of life, generally, and ask myself some hard questions about whether I provide those things, and how I could do a better job of that? Then I turn a mirror on that question, which is super hard for me, and I ask myself what I want and need out of life generally – and whether I am providing myself with those things (or communicating them skillfully to my partner), and how can I do a better job of that, too? It’s a profoundly different question – and deeply relevant to my emotional wellness. In a very real way, I can only treat people around me as well as I treat myself. I’ve been letting myself down rather a lot, sacrificing pieces of myself to the job, to the world around me, to the household, to my partner, and to those vacant slack-jawed moments of cognitive ease that end up being my inadequate substitute for legitimate self-care, too often, lately. (I could “blame the pandemic”, but I recognize it is more complicated than that.)

…Damn, I’m glad I got back into therapy…

Here it is, the edge of a new day. The beginnings of a beginning. There are so many other things to reflect on, to consider, to handle differently, to work at… it seems like a lot, taken as one colossal single monolithic unsatisfying uncompleted “project”… I sigh, sip the last swallow of my first coffee of the day. One step at a time. One task at a time. One reminder at a time. Eventually, things get done, and incremental change over time becomes part of the here and now. “Could be” becomes “is”. It still takes so much practice. So many new beginnings. I stare into my empty coffee cup. It’s time to begin again. 🙂