Archives for category: Sleepless Nights

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™‚

Waking up was hard this morning, but with some commitment, I managed it. I did not sleep well last night, and it was very late before I was able to fall asleep. Today, I’ll park at the nearby-ish park-n-ride location, and ride the bus to work. I am not sufficiently rested to be driving in commuter traffic.

Emotionally, I am in a far better place this morning than I was the evening before last, or, again, last night. My visit to see my therapist was well-timed, and the offered insights were helpful.

I arrived home to roses in bloom.

A pleasantly long conversation with my Traveling Partner ended my evening, and although I have been feeling lonelier than usual lately, it definitely went a long way toward putting that right, just hearing the love in his voice.

Moments matter. I make time to really appreciate seeing all the roses recovered from the summer heat and the move.

Waking up is still a struggle this morning. I’m making today work on about 3 hours of nightmare-filled sleep. I sip my coffee, relieved to find it is not too hot to safely drink and drain the cup. I make a second. I’m eager for the weekend after a couple fairly stressful weeks. I even have plans (and if I didn’t, my plan would be to make the drive down to see my partner) – this weekend is Musicfest NW. I’m pretty excited about the lineup. I’m almost as excited about my appointment with my new eye doctor Saturday morning, though, as I am about the music. LOL (I really really need new glasses.)

A few minutes go by, fuzzy and vague, music in the background. I lose track of time thinking about moments that are not now. I smile, finish off the last of coffee number two and pull myself back to “now”. Being present, even for the painful moments, the tired moments, the frustrating moments, matters so much. Life is an experience, disconnecting from it sort of defeats the purpose of living.

I allow myself a moment to “reset”. I’m okay. There’s climate and weather, right? The “climate” of this life is fairly choice, quite good actually, much of the time. I’ve still got emotional weather to deal with now and again. I’m very human.

The morning sky reminds me that change is a thing, and life itself has cycles and seasons; the still-pre-dawn-at-this-hour sky becomes a metaphor and a reminder. I make coffee number three, and begin again. My results do vary, and there are verbs involved… I’m definitely having my own experience. πŸ™‚

There’s a metaphor in the resilience of a rose bush. πŸ™‚

I woke with a headache and a snarl, and I also woke rather slowly and with great effort. I slept poorly, both restless and wakeful, I didn’t get the rest I need. It is a new day.

My pounding head reminds me that although there are no loose bits rattling around inside, this fragile eggshell is cracked. I smirk at myself, aware that some of my tendencies – things like linguistic complexity where none is required, “being deep” in casual conversations, the peculiar awareness of and communication via living metaphors, the likelihood that I will take something sarcastic at face value, the difficulty ending a conversation, oh, just a whole bunch of things, really… “quirks”, eccentricities, moments of weird – are complex outcomes of a brain injury, of PTSD, of surviving some nasty shit by learning to cope with it. I can say I’m “broken” with something like a comfortable feeling of familiarity. I used to let it define me… differently.

For awhile I fought it. I refused to define myself in terms of the chaos and damage. I refused to “be” broken. Other times, I wallowed in it. Yielded to the damage. Gave in to the chaos. Gave up on changing anything.

Time passes. Change is.

This morning I woke up snarling at myself. Frustrated by the headache. Annoyed by feeling so groggy. Eager to get to the coffee…

I am unsure whether it is the caffeine, the comfort of the hot mug, or the slow familiar waking ritual of making it, then drinking it, that serves so well to put the day on track. It does though. It does put the day on track, generally. This moment of warmth – literal and metaphorical warmth – enjoyed alone each morning, a moment to “get my head right”, and get past the headache, or the arthritis stiffness, or the stuffy nose, or the lingering recollection of a bad dream, or… well, whatever the waking moments of consciousness throw at me. I’ve got that cup of coffee to help me turn things around. Does it actually matter to me what the mechanism of action actually is? Not in the slightest.

Be broken, if it helps. Grieve if you are hurting. It’s not especially helpful to squash down all the feelings with a lot of “shouldn’t” and “don’t” and extra helpings of criticism taken from the words of others, and reformed in your own words and returned to your narrative as your own thoughts. No one needs guilt or shame on top of the things that already suck so much – and those things don’t only weigh us down and hold us back from going on with things, they also tend to stop us embracing what is authentically good about who we are – chaos and damage and all. Some of this broken shit frustrates me, daily. Some of this broken shit is part of who I am.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow.

Some of my most cherished individual qualities are very likely specific to my brain injury – or my PTSD. Some are things I like most about myself, others are things that other people have indicated they really appreciate about me. I’ve no intention of “fixing” those things. Don’t want to. Don’t need to. What if fixing the rest would also, by necessity, fix those things as well…? This thought is one underlying my focus on “being the woman I most want to be” rather than focusing on “fixing all the things wrong with me”; some of the things I may think are “wrong with me” in one moment, or from one perspective, may actually be very “right with me”, after all. πŸ™‚

I’m rambling. Sipping my coffee. Grateful to have taken the time to really wake up before going on to other things. I take time to appreciate the value in waking up early enough to let myself really become my best self before I go on with my day. I pause to wonder how I got through so many years of launching myself from bed first thing, and immediately dressing and getting out the door quickly; it seemed efficient at the time. It was a grueling and fairly punishing routine, in practice, and I often treated people who are unfortunate enough to interact with me very early in the morning fairly badly, especially in that first hour after waking. I’m not suggesting that getting up at 4:30 am to depart for work at 7 am would be “the right choice” for everyone, there are other needs, and other ways. This just works for me. By 6 am, I am feeling mostly human. Awake. Aware. More able to respond, and less likely to react. The headache has dissipated. It feels like a lovely morning.

It feels like I can begin again. πŸ™‚

We’ve all got something, right? Something broken, something that doesn’t work the way “everyone else” manages the thing? Some quirk or bit of eccentricity? What the hell is “normal”, anyway?

I sat with the results of yesterday’s handiwork more than a little frustrated to be so thoroughly stalled by “a hole in my thinking”. It happens. I just couldn’t actually make knowledge and action cooperate in the necessary way. The stereo and TV are hooking up now, the connection to the digital world is established. The sub-woofer – trust me, necessary with the music I favor – is not yet hooked up. I couldn’t quite get it done. Another day perhaps, or with help from my Traveling Partner – if he ever does make it over to see the new place before I eventually, some day, move out. (The lingering mild bleakness is simply that shred of personal frustration that I need help with something I know how to do, because knowing how is not itself enough to get past my injury every time.)

There have been moves which resulted in quite a lot more disruption over hooking up the stereo. This time? No tears. No panic. No anxiety – just that last moment, there at the end of the day, when my brain just completely failed me, sitting there staring at the back of the amp, the back of the sub-woofer, cables carefully laid out… and I couldn’t make sense of any of it. I had marked all the other cables so it was more a color matching game than anything else, just to keep things fairly efficient. For some reason, perhaps feeling rushed, I didn’t mark the sub-woofer or tag the cables when I readied them for the move – and I didΒ do something I make a specific practice of not doing these days… I had unplugged both ends of all the cables associated with the sub-woofer. Oops. Shit.

I’ll tackle the sub-woofer again next weekend, early in the day. I often find my injury is a bigger deal cognitively when I am fatigued, so my next step is try again, in the morning, a couple hours into the day. No point being stressed out about it; I live with this. πŸ™‚

I bitched about the moment on Facebook, and a friend commiserated in a healthy way. I felt less alone with my issues and grateful to be a social creature. I sip my coffee and smile. Learning to be kind and to be compassionate, myself, has definitely paid off in more good relationships that are mutually nurturing and supportive.

My sleep is wreckage this weekend. No idea why. I’ve managed to sleep in both yesterday and today – but it’s merely been the consequence of prolonged wakefulness during the night, and needing to get more sleep after being wakeful. My nights are currently like two longish naps. lol I feel pretty well-rested though.

I’ve ended up with this nagging sensation that there is “a great deal to sort out”, but when I attempt to turn my attention to it, there’s nothing there, really. It’s strange. I end up feeling highly distracted, this morning. It’s reason enough to begin again. Breakfast? Coffee on the deck? I think so. πŸ™‚ It’s a good day to take care of the woman in the mirror.

The news? Pretty nearly all bad. The song in my heart? Pretty much, most of the time, all good. The way I get that done? I choose. You can too.

But wait – am I so cruel and clueless as to suggest that people struggling with mental illness can just “choose” to be okay? “Choose” a happier song? “Choose” to get over it? Omg – no. Not really. When we’re sick, we need care. We may need appropriate medicine to treat our illness or injury. We may need a visit with a doctor, or a stay in a hospital. We may be offered a treatment plan to follow… and a different one when that doesn’t quite work out… and another after that… and then… more verbs. Fuck. And results will vary. We each walk our own hard mile. It’s so not as easy as “pick a different song to sing“… except… It’d probably help though, and why would we not, if we can make the effort, choose to do the things that help?

So… I choose. I am, myself, among the “mentally ill”. PTSD is a real thing. My TBI on top of that (or underneath it, as it were) complicates things. I struggle with anxiety. I struggle with emotion, generally. I’m very human. This is a journey in progress. I have hard days. I also choose better practices than I once did. Meditation really works well for me, helping me find that chill space in my own head that prevents me descending into despair on some spiral of tears and rumination. Taking better physical care of this fragile vessel has been of value; I am less likely to quickly exhaust myself due to lack of sleep, or poor nutrition. I have fewer nightmares, and I have learned better “sleep hygiene”. Developing better emotional intelligence has incredibly worthwhile; my relationships are more fulfilling, and less fraught with confrontation, because I am more able to take time to listen deeply, to avoid becoming fused with someone else’s emotional experience, or to be manipulated by their expectations and assumptions. I am more able to avoid coloring my experience with an internal narrative built on my own untested assumptions or implicit expectations. These things have value. All of these improvements required making choices, and changing some behavior and thinking. Turns out that isn’t so hard, in most cases – although it also isn’t as easy as just saying words, either. There’s been quite a lot of practice involved – there always will be. Β I’m even okay with that. Incremental change over time is a real thing; we become what we practice.

It makes sense that choosing our practices in a willful way, understanding of our needs, and who we most want to be, would result in eventually getting to that place.Β It ends up also being very helpful, along the way, not getting overly attached to that vision. Outcomes don’t always look quite the way we planned them out in our heads. πŸ™‚

I have an appointment with my therapist next week. Yep. It’s a journey. I still make choices. I still practice practices. I am still walking my own hard mile. Sometimes I still need help. πŸ™‚ I’m okay with that too.

My “stay-cation” destination.

I sip my coffee and consider the short work shift ahead. Change is a thing. I’m back to Monday through Friday, but I have firm plans for today (at the start of the week, it was my day off), so the weekend begins at 11 am, and is a bit longer than usual. πŸ™‚ I hear sleeping in is nice – I’ll try that sometime. Maybe tomorrow. πŸ˜‰ The weekend unfolds ahead of me rather gently. It feels good to contemplate staying home, doing some more moving in stuff… maybe a walk to the Farmer’s Market (it’s time to start trying to put reals miles on these feet, again)… morning coffee in the garden on the deck… just generally saying “yes” to life.

I’m ready to begin again.