Archives for category: Parables

I’m sipping coffee on a gray Saturday. I enjoyed the first rain shower since moving, and delighted in the tickling spatter of summer rain drops in the morning chill. I sat down to write… but didn’t. I got distracted by the flowers of spring-to-come that aren’t yet planted in a landscape that isn’t yet supported by a clear vision. It is what it is; I enjoy flowers. 🙂

Other gardens, other flowers.

I’m not yet sure what I want of our wee front yard and garden space. Something like a cottage garden, I think, maybe…

Sometimes the simplest things bring great joy.

…or perhaps grand flowers in bold colors and formal borders…?

Plans are best supported with some sort of coherent vision… a direction to go…

Regardless of the eventual outcome of however many weeks and weekends of daydreaming and thought go into the eventual plan that puts me on the (garden) path to that future reality, there are choices involved. There is effort to be made. There is work, and care, and craft, and problem-solving. There will be, too, lovely moments to enjoy flowers, along the way. That’s sort of the point. 🙂

Those lovely moments… aren’t they nearly always “sort of the point”… of all of this thing we call living life? I mean… sure, we’ve all got problems, challenges, conflict, confusion… things to sort out, and things to resolve. That’s just real. I’m not at all convinced any of that amounts to “the point” of all of this fuss and bother that is “life”. Personally? I think it is “about” the moments, the joys, the collection of experiences that become our treasured memories, the relationships we build and share with other traveler’s along the way…

…And the flowers.

So, I’ve got some thoughts, and a wish list or two… and a day dream. With patience, it’ll become a vision, then a plan, then a course of action – a path. It seems so simple in the abstract. Life is about that, too; the complex and the simple, and how often they are the same thing, viewed differently, and how often a clear path changes the journey.

…My Traveling Partner comes in and more or less “takes over” this moment, and my writing, to make some useful changes to my workstation. 🙂 I think it’s time to begin again.

I am afflicted with nearsightedness. I’ve worn glasses since that was first identified. I’ve chosen not to explore wearing contact lens, in part because the process of putting them in and taking them out is deeply creepy (to me, personally), and I am overly sensitive about things in/on/near my eyes. So, glasses are part of my life. I put them on first thing when I wake, and they are the last thing I take off when I go to bed at night. My vision is sufficiently poor that I can’t see more than blurs, smudges, and vague shapes without them, although I have, sometimes, chosen to read without my glasses, in recent years, because it seems “just as good” or “better than” reading with my glasses on.

I got tri-focals to account for the variations in my vision at various distances (reading, “near-ish”, and far off). My tri-focals seem “good enough”, generally. I have “reading glasses” for reading and using the computer, too; the sliver of close-up reading lens in the wee round glasses I favor is so slim and narrow that it’s actually rather hard to get the angle of my head and the position of my glasses “just right” to take advantage of it. I don’t mostly notice. My neck notices. My back notices. My more frequent headaches tell me about it.

…My Traveling Partner tells me about it, too. Watching me hunched over my phone squinting to read the small print is uncomfortable. Seeing me perched on the edge of my office chair, leaned in close to my computer monitor, still squinting to read the screen is frustrating after years of pointing out that my posture is affected, which affects my pain, which affects my mood, which affects our interactions, which affects our relationship… He’s reminded me a number of times recently to see my eye doctor, get my eyes re-examined, and get new glasses. It’s clear to both of us that I need them. I reliably mumble something about getting that taken care of “soon”. It’s not intended as a brush-off; he’s right. I need new glasses.

…There’s so much shit to get done “in life, generally”… I don’t intend as an excuse, it’s more intended as discontented, frustrated grumbling. I’m “so tired”… That, however, is not an accurate statement of being, even in a subjective way. It’s my short-cut for communicating that there seems too much to do to get it all done “now”. Isn’t that always the case? “Now” is such a brief (and endless) moment… how I allow myself to see “now” as a duration of time definitely influences how much I feel I can do with it. My body and my mind want and need me to “really rest” – it’s been a busy few days. Conflating that with “life” can derail a lot of things I’d like to get done.

…I definitely need to see my eye doctor and get new glasses…

I found my reading glasses, and now, like an absent-minded little old lady (Am I she? So soon?), I hang them from the front of my shirt, switching when needful. Trying to, anyway. I forget. I also wander around still wearing reading glasses while I attempt to do other things than reading… with my regular glasses now hanging from the front of my shirt. lol

There really is something to learn here. It’s about more than the glasses. It’s about the self-care, and also the loving interactions affected when our self-care is poor. It’s about managing time, and about self-awareness. There are lessons to be learned from reading glasses… whether I use them, or lose them while they hang from the front of my shirt, because I’ve forgotten that they are there. Without them, I don’t see the world clearly. Choose the wrong pair, and there’s no real improvement. Time, timing, distance, purpose… there are things to consider, even beyond the obvious self-care elements; the glasses I wear become part of the face I turn to the world, and even facilitate the quality of my interactions with others (however indirectly).

…Sometimes “small” concerns are bigger than we can easily hold in our awareness moment to moment…

This morning I sip my coffee, reading glasses on, tri-focals hanging from the front of my shirt, writing, and giving thought to the day ahead. “What will I want to see?”, “Which glasses suit that need best?”, and lastly “Who in town does glasses that is covered by my insurance?” (New address means, in many cases, new care providers.) One more sip of this now-cold coffee, before I make a second cup, sit down to enjoy my partner’s good company, and begin the day (again).

 

The sun is up. I slept in a bit. Sipping coffee, barefooted, on a weekend morning, late in the spring. It’s a lovely moment. I’ve got nothing to bitch about. Nothing nagging at my consciousness. No drama. No baggage (in this moment). No chaos. The morning is quiet. My mood is calm. My outlook on life is merry. I’m okay, right, in every sense of the word that matters. 🙂 My coffee tastes good. My roses have begun to bloom. My aquariums are thriving. The computer my Traveling Partner built for me while we share Life in the Time of Pandemic, together, is working beautifully – and by that, I mean it is both a wonderful upgrade in performance, and also a beautiful technological piece, aesthetically. I smile every time I sit down at my desk, feeling very loved. I feel content.

“Baby Love” blooming in a pot on the deck. 🙂

Let’s be super real on this notion of contentment and ease; I’ve worked years to get here, and there have been many verbs involved, and many tears shed, over time. My outlook matters more than material details. I could live this life, identical in all practical details, and be mired in misery. PTSD has that power. Healthy emotional wellness practices really matter that much.

No click bait here, no “secret practice your therapist doesn’t want you to know about” in an eye-catching thumbnail. I’m not about that. I’m just saying, perspective matters. How I treat myself matters. How I treat others, and how reciprocal those interactions are, matters. It’s been a long journey, and I’ve often felt I was stumbling haphazardly through the darkness, quite alone. I’ve known despair, and futility and frustration and sorrow and, yes, madness. I’m not alone in that – and that’s why I write. Reminders for me, and maybe, just maybe, a light in the seemingly endless darkness for someone else. Someone that I’ll likely never meet. There have been so many such souls on my journey… human beings on their own journey, helpful co-travelers, sometimes unrecognized until much later, because I simply wasn’t ready to hear what they were saying to me, then. We all walk our own hard mile. (You too.)

Life is pretty good these days, even in spite of the pandemic. It’s not about material success (I’m not wealthy), or finding one true love (I’m fortunate to enjoy a great relationship with someone I love very much, but in dark times love does not “cure” our sorrows, or ease the weight of our baggage). Life is pretty good these days because more of my choices take me in that direction, than choices which don’t. Verbs. Choices. Beginnings. Perspective. Sufficiency. These are only words, but the words represent concepts I’ve found key to making my way, a bit at a time, to a life that feels, generally, characterized by contentment, and joy.

I’ve put in many hours of therapy and study. Reading books isn’t enough; the ideas have to become changes in behavior and thinking. The epiphanies and “ah-ha moments” have to become new practices. Practices that work have to be sustained over time. There is a commitment to treating oneself well involved – this may be the biggest challenge (it has been for me).

Where this really started, back in 2010, and a moment of gratitude for the love of the man who shared it with me, then, and remains with me, still.

I think I’m just saying… “you’ve got this!”. Unhappy with life? Choose change. Rethink your most basic assumptions. Re-examine your expectations of life, of people, of yourself. Try a new combination of real kindness and firm boundary-setting. Ask the hard questions. Consider all the options. Take care of yourself – because you matter to you. No reason to expect it to be easy, or that you’ll never cry again, or that “the world” will ever be “fair”. Be your own best friend – and your own best self, because you can make that choice from moment to moment, and when you fail (and you will, I promise you that), begin again. Just begin again. Don’t beat yourself up over your fundamental humanity – examine your errors with some emotional distance, gain understanding of yourself (and others) from your mistakes, learn, grow, and move on with increased perspective. Accept that you are human – then also accept that everyone else is, too. Make room in your thinking for what you can’t know, or don’t understand; there’s nearly always something new to learn. Check your assumptions.

There’s a lot of baggage to put down. There’s a lot of bullshit to let go of. It’s easier to give yourself closure than to seek it elsewhere. Don’t drink the poison. Tame your own barking dog. Consider your outlook on life, generally. Yes, it’s a lot of work, I know. It probably seems so much easier to get a prescription for some boldly advertised new drug. I’ve tried that, myself. It didn’t work reliably well for me, which is how I found myself at 50, filled with despair, trying one more therapist, one more time, unconvinced that life was worth living. A huge stack of books and a few years later, life looks (and feels) very different to me. I’ve made a lot of changes – to practices, jobs, relationships; I rebuilt basically my entire life (and lifestyle) to better support becoming the woman I most wanted to be, living a life of contentment and joy. Worth it. So worth it. (Not infallibly perfect – that’s not on life’s menu, right?)

So… what do you say? Are you ready to begin again?

So… okay, we’re all human beings. This “social distancing” in a climate of anxiety about wellness, disease, economic downfall, shortages, and human mortality is draining, and tests my patience. (Yours, too, I bet!) Yesterday was punctuated with a bit of snarling, a handful of cross tears, some frustrated moments… Yes, it’s hard sometimes. I sip my coffee feeling fortunate, in spite of that; it could be much worse.

I take some time to watch fish swim.

Gratitude, perspective, sufficiency, and basic mindfulness are all great tools for getting me through stressful times. They do each require that I take that step… sometimes it’s “a step back” to gain perspective, or a pause for gratitude. Sometimes it is a step forward, and a considered reflective reminder that “sufficiency” is enough. (Omg, I can’t help giggling, it’s one of my favorite little aphorisms that is also a tautology.) Sometimes, it’s just a matter of moving from one moment to another, to sit down and seek yet another moment, of stillness, of breath, and then beginning again.

You know what it isn’t, though? It isn’t “easy”. These are not easy times, and I often feel “tested”. I have some coping practices that seem effective day-to-day, but I persist in being quite human, nonetheless, and sometimes that is complicated by sharing space with another human being. We are in this very much together, and somehow still also very much having our own experience, even in these close quarters.

He games… I watch fish swim. We help each other out with projects. We tackle projects on our own. We take turns choosing video content. We both interface with the world using our phones. We connect. We interact. We take a moment for ourselves alone. No surprises here; we’re enduring the challenges with the rest of the world. Similar frustrations. Shared difficulties. Common experiences among friends and neighbors and communities and nations afar… we’re all in this together. It’s gotten very “real”, though, hasn’t it?

I have another sip of my coffee, I pause for a moment of conversation with my partner. I look at the fish, swimming in the new tank next to my desk. I check the time; the moment feels timeless, unlimited, and not anchored to any calendar events. How will I know when to begin again? lol

…I guess when I finish this coffee. 🙂

Well, I must say, I’m already a bit “over” the continuous 24/7, all-channels, all-topics, doorbell-to-deck, coverage of COVID-19, pandemic or not. Seriously. There still remains so much else to also observe, discuss, and yes, enjoy. Having said that, I am staying home, working from home on work days, and doing only those things that can be done in that context. I’m fortunate to enjoy a comfortably merry, loving, and emotionally connected relationship (this partnership certainly reduces the potential loneliness of “social distancing”). I am reaching out to friends over text message (I gave up most social media some while ago, and kept only Instagram). Friends I haven’t heard from in a while are regularly surprising me with text messages, too. It’s fine. Limiting, but generally not a big deal.

I went to the grocery store, yesterday. The aisle that usually has paper products such as facial tissue, toilet paper, and paper towels looks like an old photo of soviet era shortages in iron curtain countries. The parking lot of the grocery store was nearly full, but the store was weirdly empty; people who do go out seem to be doing so alone. The streets are quiet. No “traffic”, even during “rush hour”, which no longer seems to exist (here). The trip to the store felt almost exciting – an “outing”! I got the staples I needed, stayed well back from the cashier as I paid, used hand sanitizer frequently, and did not converse with passers-by. Mostly fairly typical for me, except the additional distance, and the hand sanitizer.

I filled the gas tank of the car, while I was out, and chuckled to myself about “how long will this tank last?” knowing I am not going out much. Then I felt a bit of anxiety and a re-thinking on that; how long will gas stations be able to stay open, and resupplied? I took a breath, and exhaled with care. It’s not helpful to borrow panic from future such concerns, presently. I think about the panic-buying of toilet paper, and the impact on people who did not succumb to panic in that moment, who now struggle just to buy what they actually do need, while others sit on vast hoards of toilet paper that will likely last them into next year. I frown, to myself, aware that there is already identifiable profiteering going on, for products such as toilet paper, on eBay. We could do better, as a society, and as human beings.

…So… Do better.

It’s a complicated time. I am grateful for, and appreciative of, those that are still on the job, still interacting with the public, still providing critical services. I am also, admittedly, harshly critical of those businesses not willing to maximize the safety net for their employees, preferring to maximize profit instead. It’s also an election year; the posturing, the spin, and the insider trading are galling in times like this. I’m grateful for honest news, where it exists, and so glad that comedy continues. Art. Science. Music. These things are still real, still going on. Creators still create. The world continues to turn.

…I think about spending time in the studio, myself…

I read, this morning, that ISPs and streaming service providers are beginning to make decisions to limit bandwidth. I cynically wonder how they will turn that to their profit when the pandemic wanes? I hit my vape. I sip my coffee. I type some words and plan the day ahead. Saturday on a (for me) long weekend. The vernal equinox, something I generally celebrate “out loud”, passed by sort of without notice this year. Fairly certain I never mentioned it, myself. I commit to enjoying the time I am sharing with my Traveling Partner, and doing what I can to make that time merry, and even productive. Bills get paid, and great care given to the budget; there are still a lot of unknowns, for all of us. It is what it is.

Today, my project is both a bit of work, and a bit of entertainment – a lot of bother; I’ll be setting the aquascaping of my aquarium right, after living with the chaotic, rather haphazard and sloppy outcome of moving the tank here, almost 3 years ago.

The day the tank arrived at the new place. This shot was taken before the water even had time to completely clear up.

The tl;dr is that the moving team that moved the tank was at the end of their work day when they finally arrived at my place with my tank. They had one more job yet to go to, and were feeling rushed… so… they rushed the work. The large river rocks that decorate my tank were not placed with care, nor were the paperweights that function as the ornaments. The plants were sort of just dropped in, without being correctly anchored at all, and where they were anchored, they were not where I wanted them. (I’d have to re-do all of it, myself, and I knew it at the time.) I settled for “good enough, now just go, please” and went on with things, expecting to have plenty of time for restoring order to that bit of chaos… once I finished getting moved in and settled.

Life happens, and change happens, and within a couple weeks of moving in, my Traveling Partner relocated for work. Then I began an almost weekly “commute” back and forth to see him each weekend (almost), which meant my only leisure time for big projects was on weekends that I did not travel (and often those were selected based on exhaustion, or illness), and in the evenings (when I could generally count on being “too tired”). The chaos got worse, and after a prolonged power outage, most of the fish died. The tank sat quietly, being little more than an aquatic garden of sorts. Over time, after the last fish finally died, I began to ignore it, and after awhile, even became rather embarrassed by it.

Yeah, it got this bad. Inadequate filtration. Lack of routine maintenance. Heater failed.

After my Traveling Partner moved back in with me last year, I started considering taking it down to reclaim the space for something else… Then, I spotted something unexpected. One solitary surviving resident.

Shy clown pleco spotted hiding behind a glass paperweight. One of my original fish, purchased in 2013.

Well, that certainly changed things for me. I got excited about my “universe in a box” all over again (and a bit peeved at myself for being such a poor care-provider). I cleaned the tank. I upgraded the filter, the heater, and the lighting. I began restocking. Today it is a vibrant little planted freshwater community, populated by shrimp, tetras, snails, a betta, and of course, my wee clown pleco, now almost 7 years old.

This morning, after so much work (over the past couple weeks), with much still left to do. 🙂

It still needs some pruning, some tidying up, and I’ve certainly got the time at home this weekend to tackle the aquascaping more seriously. So. With some trepidation, I think I shall. Part of the plan, and the timing, and the “order of operations” is also to do with moving the tank to the other side of the fireplace to make better use of the space. (And, finally, there won’t be two light switches in every photo of the tank!) The needs are different for two people living here, than for one. 🙂 So much work. So much fun. So much love. Plenty to challenge me, and stave off any potential for boredom.

My perspective on my circumstances changes when I understand how other lives may be affected by my choices. (Pictured: a much happier, still shy, clown pleco.)

This is my life in the time of pandemic. It’s not perfect. There are challenges. There are opportunities. There is “room to grow”. There is this strange moment in my lifetime that holds so much potential to become “that time when we all reconnected”, and I hope to take advantage of it. What about you? What will you do with your time at home? How will you deepen your relationships? Where are your opportunities to grow as a person? Will you make use of the time well and wisely… or… not?

It is another time to begin again. 🙂 (However bad things may become, I know I can begin again.)