Archives for category: Parables

So, training on a new tool ended yesterday, in the sense that the trainer has left the building to return to her regular day-to-day experience elsewhere. My work week ends in a handful of hours after one meeting. It would be so easy to give myself a moment of self-congratulatory joy, celebrate an achievement, and be done with that… but… that isn’t how new knowledge (or new practices) actually work. The learning is a beginning, only. Then come the verbs. The practice. The repetition. The iterations of improvement over time. The learning curve. Skill building. Improvements. Refinements. Enhancements. Efficiency building. It’s even a cycle. Each new thing learned, practiced, and “mastered” leads to yet another new thing learned, which must be practiced, and mastered, which leads… yeah. So.

Weekends are also a thing. I’ve got a lovely long one ahead of me. I’d planned to spend the Autumnal Equinox on the coast, but this training week was important (remains important, it is simply now in the past), enough to cut a couple hours out of my planned time, resulting in a change in plan. Truly, though, what canceled my trip to the coast was a splash of inspiration urging me into the studio, which… yeah. That comes first whenever I can make it so. πŸ˜€

Beginnings and endings, and an unfinished self-portrait waiting to be completed.

I sip my coffee content with this moment. Eager to return home to my weekend. Eager to linger at leisure at the edge of the rainy day deck garden with a coffee too late in the day, unconcerned because the day of leisure will be followed by another. I am even eager to throw routine out the window, to stay up late in defiance of healthy sleep practices, to sleep in on a “work day” (helloooo, Friday morning, I’m looking your way!), to play the stereo loud, to be – without looking at the clock. Just anticipating the delicious leisure moments ahead, I feel myself relax. I need this. πŸ™‚

I’m pretty good at routines. I’m less skillful about breaking them. It’s not generally wise, but sometimes I do learn best from my challenges when I explore them, gently. Am I ready for some chaos? I’d better be…

…Anyway… I can always begin again. πŸ˜‰

Yep. Pour me a river of strong black coffee. lol It’s already Monday.

I feel like I spent an eternity in Wonderland. What a fantastical, peculiar, love-drenched, musical magical weekend. πŸ™‚ I’m still smiling. I got to hear DJs I’d been managing to just miss over several previous events – in one case, someone I’ve been truly yearning to hear perform live (my Traveling Partner). I got to hang out fully welcomed by loving family (chosen family, cherished friends, and assorted colorful others). I got to see looks of delight upon being introduced (to a very select few) as “my wife, …” . There were hugs, and tales of adventure, and great music, and pretty lights – it was an experience outside the routine and ordinariness of my day-to-day, and this time I totally understood the draw of such a weekend, and how it might become a lifestyle for some, far more than I ever understood previously. It was lovely. It was fun. I’m still processing it. πŸ˜€

It was a weekend spent fully living each moment as present as I was able to do so. I now also Β understand how it is that my traveling partner rarely has any pictures of the events he attends; I never once thought to pull out my camera. LOL

The drives down and back were fine. Long-ish, but because the specific location was a bit further north, not at long as previous drives down. It had some fun weird surreal moments, too. I went to high school down that way, and upon seeing the gps coordinates of the location plotted on a map, I realized I would be in a (sort of) familiar area. Having the brain injury I do has some strange moments; I got close-ish to my destination, and somehow, found myself insisting (through spontaneous action) upon getting off the highway at an earlier than planned (by gps) exit. “Fuck this, I know where I am now” was how that felt, and I drove efficiently down half-familiar country roads at “local speeds”; the place names and landmarks I passed all seemed very familiar, but if asked I could not have told you were I was, nor described the route I was taking. The part of my brain driving the rest of that trip wasn’t, apparently, the part that does all the talking. LOL The trip back was similarly strange. I used my gps to set up the trip, but it wanted me to drive two hours out of my way becauseit was left set on “no highways”! I ignored it, got in the car, and drove. I figured it would recalculate the route properly once I was on the freeway heading north, at which point I’d be shutting it off anyway, and I knew the route I was taking, already. Fun and weird, and strangely empowering. πŸ˜€

Also mostly irrelevant. It was just a drive. Well, two. Two drives, and very little “traffic” except one bit on the way back, nearer to home but not quite to the exit I thought I was planning to take. I shrugged off any stress about either the pouring rain that was falling, making the roads slick (first rain in quite some time) and reducing visibility, or the traffic. I took the next exit once I hit congestion and hopped on a road that “felt” suspiciously like a good alternate route. I was right. Maybe I should be letting that part of my brain drive all the time? lol Hell, it was the ideal detour; it shortened my drive time by about 7 minutes. The weekend driving also ensured that I had ample exposure to driving and being in traffic after being tail-ended on Friday.

I think back on relating The Tale of Being Rear-Ended to my Traveling Partner, and his gentle and firm insistence that I have the bumper repaired. I have no earnest desire to follow through on that, but he’s right; keeping the car in good repair will keep me mindful of continuing to care for it. It’s a good car. Caring for my things allows them to serve me well, much longer, and reduces waste. But… I’d rather shrug it all off and just… not. This is no doubt why he made the clear – explicitly clear – gently firm reminder to definitely call the insurance and get the repair work done. Safety, too. While the airbag did not deploy, it may be necessary to check that it was not affected, and it may be necessary reset or replace something else that I’m not really thinking about that may have been damaged. It was a solid hit that did leave the impression of a license plate frame in my bumper, after all. I made the uncomfortable child lurking within my adult exterior stand quietly and listen to his reminders to follow through on this. He knows me well; he repeats the request a number of times over the weekend (any time the crash came up in conversation), knowing I will be less likely to overlook it as a result. I know me well, too; I don’t take the reminders at all personally, nor put up any defenses. I repeat the request back to him, further reinforcing it. I get home, and add it to my to do list. πŸ™‚

Wonderland seems so far away now. Like a beautiful dream. It was lovely to come home to a tidy house, and I’m glad to be home, but I miss residents of Wonderland, and the music, and the energy, and the fanciful details that continuously reminded me of all that is strange and lovely and worthy of a break in the routines. I miss my Traveling Partner and his Mad Hatter friends. I miss the rave pixies, and stranger strangers with their own tales to tell. For one brief moment my heart feels torn in two by lives worth living that seem so very separate and hard to reconcile.

Then a smile creeps over my face; the weekend solved a “problem” (more a sort of math-y word problem than a real hardship); what to do about retirement. I feel like now it is just timing and tasks and becoming ready for a moment that now feels selected, and a journey on a path that now seems subtly illuminated. Pretty wonderful, itself, and absolutely an outcome of visiting Wonderland this weekend. It’s true. I have a plan for retirement. πŸ˜€ Nah, I’m not intending to share more detail at present; it is too new for any of that. There’s work to be done, though, and some of that has already begin. πŸ˜€

I look at the time, and realize what is so obvious each morning I care to notice it; it’s time to begin again. πŸ˜€

 

I guess it does not “go without saying” that we can care for ourselves well, and also treat others well. There are certainly some moments in humanity’s “blooper reel” that highlight how easily we lose sight of that in practice; we can be well and also do good. Apparently Marriott’s slip and fall moment involved a passenger ship, and an opportunity to rescue human beings from an island after a hurricane devastated it, with another on the way. Instead of rescuing everyone they could, they rescued only their own hotel guests, and left with capacity for hundreds of other human beings, also in dire need of rescue. Go ahead. Google it. I’ll wait.

The justification for leaving human beings behind, stranded, without support, services, and in some cases without even shelter was… “policy”. Yep. Their hands were tied by “policy”. Β Their own policy. Let’s just admit right now that we all recognize what bullshit that is, most particular in times of humanitarian crisis. “Policies” are entirely arbitrary rules made up by people to account for most circumstances, and enforced through a filter of ordinary biases and willful exception-making (when it seems expedient). Using a “policy” to justify mistreating people isn’t okay. It is, in fact, cruel bullshit. Don’t be a dick. Don’t be one of the Marriott’s of the world. It isn’t necessary, it isn’t helpful, it isn’t kind, and it has no value to anyone outside the shareholder class, who (surprise!) may profit from it financially. Fuck that bullshit. Do better. Do good.

Take care of yourself. Definitely do this. Treat yourself well – and do it because you matter, too. I found it more challenging to learn to treat myself well than I expected to; I fought myself every step of the way. I didn’t understand that mistreating myself undermined my ability to treat others well, and also limited my compassion for others. It’s been an interesting journey with the woman in the mirror. We weren’t exactly friends 5 years ago. I put up with her bullshit. She put up with mine. We treated each other badly. Β It was a daily battle to get through all of my self-imposed obligations, responsibilities, tasks and chores, and… I had nothing left for me, and wasn’t doing much of value for anyone else, as it turned out. Awkward. I was just working hard at going through the motions. Life felt pretty empty, and chasing happiness wasn’t getting me any closer to it.

Let go of a few self-imposed “rules” and “policies”! Treat yourself and others truly well (shit, that sounds like a rule, or a policy, right there… lol). No guarantees that “happiness” will follow, although I find helping people fairly gratifying personally, maybe that isn’t you (yet). We become what we practice; if you practice treating people badly, you become a bad person. Just saying.

Too many of us Marriott our way through our lives. Managing clear boundaries becomes living by a set of restrictive rules used to exclude others from our experience pretty easily. Refusing to help because it is inconvenient, or may have some potential for personal risk, says a lot about how we feel about our fellow human being – and how we feel about ourselves. How tightly swaddled in your privilege are you? Do you know the names of the cleaning crew at your office? If you’re part of the cleaning crew at an office, is it comfortable to smile and make eye contact with “the suits”? When was the last time you reached across a social or economic chasm to say hello to another human being, without regard to what they can do for you? Are you making a practice of averting your eyes from the homeless? Do you turn your back on uncomfortable strangers riding public transit so you don’t feel the pain of not giving up your seat to someone who needs it more?

No one can do “everything” for everyone. Most of us have resources enough for our own needs, our families, perhaps if we are fortunate, for our extended families as well. I get it; it feels like there isn’t enough to go around. There is though – because small gestures matter, too. Ask people in distress if they are okay. That’s a good beginning. Then listen. That’s some great follow through. Maybe you can help. Maybe you can’t help. Sometimes people need a connection more than a solution. πŸ™‚ Sometimes though, you will have the solution, and the resources, and the time, and it’s all right there… don’t be Marriott.

Our choices can change the world. Isn’t it time to begin again?

This is a story about coffee – sort of. πŸ˜‰

It’s a metaphor.

Small things sometimes stall me. I know I can, I have the experience, but lacking a clear recollection, I hesitate, stymied by nothing more than my lack of clear recollection. Hesitation becomes fear becomes inaction. It’s a thing. Today, it’s a thing about coffee. lol

At some point, living at #59 (my previous apartment), my Traveling Partner left some of his things with me, and one of those items was his espresso machine. Nice one. Too big for my space, so it was being stored in a closet. I have considerably more counter space in the kitchen, here in The House Where I Live (so much more delightful, it gets named instead of a number). I put the espresso machine on the counter, when I moved in, and have since sort of just… kept it clean, and “worked around it”. I hadn’t turned it on, or made use of it at all. Nothing stopping me but fear.

The fear started off simply enough; it isn’t actually my espresso machine and I didn’t want to “break it” (which, realistically, should not be such an easy thing to do, considering what it is built for). I put off re-reading the manual, or looking at a YouTube video for days. Well… for 60 days, actually. I smile realizing I’ve been here just two months (a whole two months!). Over the past 60 days, that hesitation to act became insecurity about acting, reluctance to follow through, and finally just a straight up failure to act that was at risk of persisting indefinitely, with the final result that I would have a rather large fancy paperweight on my kitchen counter serving no purpose. Silly.

I put “reboot espresso machine” on my to-do list days ago. I ignored that for a while, fearfully. This weekend, however, has been all about being present, being at home, and working down the list of tasks I had in front of me, many of which fell into this same “tread carefully” category of odds and ends I felt uncomfortable with. Like the sub-woofer. Like the espresso machine. So, yesterday I read the manual. I watched a manufacturer-sponsored video on using the machine. I bought almond milk made specifically for making espresso beverages (different texture than the usual sort). I had already emailed customer support and specifically inquired whether there would be gaskets needing to be replaced after 2 years in storage (there are not, they said). Finally – verb time. I filled the machine with water. Turned it on. Ran some out as hot water. Ran some out as steam. Checked the settings on each feature… and by the time I’d done all those things, it was much too late in the day for strong coffee, and I’d run out of courage. lol I talked myself out of making a coffee, and put that off for the morning.

I woke peculiarly early today. Like… seriously. 2:51 am. Somehow, I managed to be so entirely awake that getting up to pee did not naturally result in going back to bed, and I got up. Fuck it. It’s almost 3:00 am, and 3:00 am is “almost 4”, which is only half an hour from when the alarm would go off, so… Right. I’m up. Coffee time!

I hesitated, again, as I stood in front of the espresso machine, watching it heat up. My eye slid to the right; I could make a pour over… Then I glanced left; a cup of coffee made in the Keurig is drinkable, quiet, and efficient… I recalled the video, which had reminded me how easy it is to use this espresso machine (a semi-automatic), even first thing in the morning. I recalled how many times I have actually made coffee using this very same espresso machine, when it sat upon the counter in my ex’s house, where we all lived together. As the machine continued to heat, I recalled, too, that my Traveling Partner and I intend each other nothing but love, and share everything we have with great joy; there isn’t really any chance that I would willfully damage his espresso machine, nor is there any realistic chance that he would take it badly if something were to go wrong and it got damaged without ill intent. So… what’s the hold up? Well, at that point, just waiting for water to heat up. πŸ™‚

The beans were fresh. The grind may need some adjustment, but that’s fun for another day, preferably a day with plenty of time in it for drinking coffee. lol The puck was quite perfect, the smell of freshly ground coffee was enticing. The shot I pulled wasn’t my best – perhaps in another lifetime, I’d have poured it out and used the opportunity to begin again. At 3:15 am on a Monday morning, I found I was just as content to let it be, and embrace imperfection – and coffee. πŸ™‚ I steamed the milk, enjoying the ease of it far too much for the simple process it is, as enthusiastic as a toddler turned loose in the toy aisle. Β I took that first sip, of that first latte made by my hand in my own home in a bit more than 2 years (has it only been such a short time?). It was warm, and tasty, and seemed to me in that moment to be quite perfect – even as I recognized opportunities to improve my craft. There was no room for criticism in that moment; it was enough to be drinking a latte I made for myself. πŸ™‚

Contentment is something I have found I can build. I can craft it from fairly simple ingredients; moments that are enough, small successes, and letting go of attachment to outcomes and expectations. Finding that I can build contentment, and sustain it, has resulted in so many lovely moments – even actual genuinely happy ones that linger in memory and sustain me through tougher times. It’s nice. It’s a process. There are verbs involved. My results vary. Sometimes… yeah, I’m so human, sometimes I have to overcome my fears. Incremental change over time requires practice. πŸ™‚ We become what we practice.

I smile at the clock and sip my latte. I have plenty of time to begin again. πŸ™‚

Got that splinter removed. πŸ™‚