Archives for category: The Big 5

Weird weekend. (I could stop right there, honestly…)

“Baggage” is a tough challenge for people who have been traumatized. It can be super hard to put that shit down, and properly “begin again”. Our baggage tends to linger in our hidden corners, tucked away carefully where it’s difficult to see how problematic our thinking has become. We struggle with decision-making and outcomes that create an unpleasant experience or prevent us from thriving in our lives. It’s hard sometimes.

I’m hopeful that a particularly painful and difficult conversation with my Traveling Partner really does have the promising positive outcome it appears that it may… I’ve just got to set down some baggage and back away from it, then do some things differently going forward. Him too, I suppose, although in this instance the focus was for sure on me and the chaos and damage I sometimes struggle with.

Love and words. So many words. So much love.

Once we were “on the other side” of that difficult conversation, we enjoyed our evening together. I woke this morning feeling loved (and hopefully he did too). I’ve got a massive headache, still managed to enjoy a cup of coffee with my partner before I left for the local co-work space I sometimes work from. So far a promising start to the day and week. Nice.

Moving back into my studio was a sort of mix of manual labor and thoughtful work and careful selection. Now that it’s finished, I can’t fathom why I stalled for so long. I find myself returning to my studio again and again, thinking about creative projects. I’ve rekindled my eagerness to finish a particular manuscript that has been languishing in a file on my hard-drive for awhile – almost a decade. Long overdue, and I did not understand that two things were holding me back: 1 poem I had included that I had serious second thoughts about, and those journals tucked away in a bin. Funny; I took care of the journals, and now project after project that had been stalled seem to percolate to the surface for their moment.

What’s holding you back? When will you tackle that?

How much baggage are you dragging along every day? How much can you “just set down” and walk away from? Are there things you could let go of, that you… just don’t? What is that doing for you? (Seriously, you probably wouldn’t cling to some of that sticky bullshit if you weren’t getting something out of doing so, if only the strange comfort of familiarity – which is totally over-rated.)

I’m no therapist, just saying – lightening the load makes for an easier journey. 😉

I sip my coffee and think my thoughts. There’s a garden to plan. A life to live. Love to embrace and nurture. Already time to begin again.

Maybe skip this one today? This entire article is mostly me just beefing about shit that irritated my consciousness after reading through the business news this morning. Mostly irrelevant to the usual themes, and if that’s what you are seeking out, this may be a disappointment. I do get there eventually, but… tl;dr? Do your best today. Do better than that tomorrow.

Cities are not built by gold. They are built by labor, and by working hands.

I am sipping my coffee and reflecting on items in the business news this morning. Layoffs. A relatively tasteless (in context of layoffs) comment from a CEO that “ChatGPT is a free employee” that businesses need to learn how to use. Massive greed. Fraud. Companies paying for luxury entertainment at fancy conferences – while doing layoffs. Shareholders looking for another nickel. More frauds. Crypto scams. People being treated as machinery. Businesses looking for new ways to pay people less for more work. The media working hard to peddle controversy and keep my attention.

…I think we’re getting a lot of this quite wrong, somehow…

How do you define success? Take a while on that one, please. No rush. It’ll be important to you later on.

What about “greed”? How do you define greed? Do you apply the same definition to your own behavior and standards as you do to those around you?

What are your thoughts on how businesses treat employees? Is that a reflection of your own perspective as a working human being?

What do you think about pay equity? Should people doing the same job be making the same money? Do you think it matters where they live or what demographic they are part of? Why?

Perspective really matters on a lot of this. The perspective of someone in the position to be an oppressor is unlikely to be the same as the perspective of someone among the oppressed.

…The perspective of someone looking to cash in on simply having an opinion for sale is quite its own thing…

[I wrote some relatively radical pro-labor ranting, which I subsequently deleted. I’m not here for that. Not really. (I really should not read the news in the morning. Not even the business news.)]

This really isn’t even about that.

I’m thinking about how much I’ve personally grown over time. How my thinking has changed. The woman I am today, and how I seek to treat the people around me, is not the woman I was at 19. At 25. At 37. It’s been a hell of a journey of evolving thinking and changing values. (That’s a good thing.)

One of the things I’m finding … interesting… is that the woman I was at 19 would have been defined today as a “conservative” but made shit wages in a low-skilled job with far fewer protections as a worker than exist today – and often voted to prevent that from changing for the better! I work very differently now. Think differently. Vote differently. I’m definitely not “conservative”. I seek different outcomes – equitable, beneficial, positive outcomes that provide for the betterment of folks who need that support most (instead of for “the shareholders” or “the company” or people who are already affluent) I’d ideally like to get that result without destroying the one planet we have to live on right now.

Why would anyone want to get rich at the expense of the survival of the entire planet?

…Why we’re at it, why is “getting rich” such a common measure of success for so many people, at all? Seriously. Is counting money all that damned interesting once you have everything you need in life to thrive?

…Wouldn’t it be interesting if businesses took their measure of success not from their gross margin or profits, but from their contribution to society in the form of taxes paid and outcomes achieved?

Why aren’t we (as a global society) making sure that (all) people have the basics that they need in life to thrive? Globally we appear to have the resources to do it. Solving the “how” is what matters… so… why does so much of the discussion seem to be about whether we should?

My coffee has gone cold already and I haven’t even solved global poverty, the plight of the working class, or figured out the easiest way to communicate how problematic greed is. lol Oh, I wasn’t really trying to. I’m just trying to say “we could do better than we do right now” and that we could put some fucking attention on that… even if only over our morning coffee.

…Isn’t it important enough to talk about? Rhetorical question. Of course it is. It’s just necessary to also do more than talk.

I sip my coffee. It doesn’t much matter that it’s cold. I’m privileged to enjoy this cup of coffee. There may come a time in my own lifetime when coffee isn’t so widely available in such good quality. I make a point to appreciate it, in the early morning quiet.

My Traveling Partner finished building a new sit/stand desk for my office space at home. It’s the same space that is my art studio. I feel “wrapped in luxury and good fortune” to have an office at home – or a studio. It’s beautiful, and functional, and I feel loved. Amazing. Took a lot of work and time to get to this place. It required some lucky breaks. Some thought. Choices. It absolutely required a good partnership – one that supports my growth, and my fondest desires. I did not get “here” alone.

Alone? Alone I’ve only ever gotten… nowhere.

…My emotional wellness has been a similarly long-time, challenging journey – the success of which has been built on luck, effort, happenstance, choices, time, practice, failure, and a good partnership (or many). Just saying; we don’t get where we’re going alone, even though we’re walking our own hard mile.

…And we can almost always do just a bit better than we did… before we knew we could…

So.

It’s time to begin again. Do better though. Do better than yesterday. Every day.

One at a time. Keep practicing. Stay on the path.

It’s the 10th of January. Not fancy as days on a calendar go, nothing splendid like the first of a new year, still… a good a day as any to make a change for the better, isn’t it? There’s an entire day ahead, suitable for making changes. Pick something, do the thing, see the result, refine the practice, and repeat. Easy. 😉

I woke this morning from an interrupted night’s sleep. The artificial “sunrise” of my alarm seemed to come too soon, and too brightly (although I opened my eyes just as it came on, and it comes on quite dim, so… perception vs reality can be quite subjective). I had the sense that I’d been awake, or awakened, often during the night. I felt groggy as I rose, showered, and dressed. I made it out the door without waking my Traveling Partner, or so it seemed. I know he also had a restless night. He woke me twice to tell me he was sleeping poorly, and managed to keep me “on alert” (without intending to, I’m sure) by fussing and swearing in the other room because he was having a rough night. At some point he must have returned to bed, because that’s where he was when I woke, and seemed to be sound asleep. I found myself more pleased that he was sleeping than I had been annoyed to be awakened, myself, and grateful to get out the door quickly and quietly to head to the co-work space.

I love working from home. The practical reality of it is, though, that sometimes in the early morning hours when my partner would like to be sleeping it can be a poor fit. The local co-work space works as a pleasant compromise without the tedious, time-consuming, and risky commute into the city. That’d be a miserable way to spend 15 hours every week if I had to do it daily. I sip my coffee feeling fortunate to have so many options, and the freedom to choose from them. So, here I sit in an office, sipping coffee. I’d rather be home…but only if that reliably meant enjoying my morning over my coffee at home comfortably without stress or fussing over whatever, and dealing with stress because one or the other of us had a bad night. I like “easy”. Like… a lot.

I remove a couple paragraphs. I lost the thread of my thoughts. I sip my coffee thoughtfully.

Winter mornings are not well-suited to early morning camera walks. The sun rises so much later in the morning that it encroaches on the start of my typical work day. Instead of waking to the earliest hint of daybreak sometime around 04:30 or 05:00, I wake to my artificial sunrise well before dawn. With this in mind I’m thinking about making my everyday practice to head directly to the co-work space every morning that I don’t go into the city (not just Tuesdays and Thursdays), and just let that be what it is until the dawn comes earlier, allowing me to grab my camera and hit the trails around and about first thing, before work. Once the sun is rising around 06:30 or earlier once again, I can go back to my happy practice of hitting the trail first thing with my camera, then returning home to get my work day started there after I know my partner is awake. This works really well most of the year.

I reflect on how nice it is that we support each other with such care, generally. Seems nice. Oh, we do struggle and fuss at each other over some fairly petty bullshit. We’ve got communication challenges because cPTSD is messy and my TBI is… challenging. We’re human. I get irked with him. He gets irked with me. That’s just real. Frustration and bullshit and baggage are parts of the human experience. We’re pretty fucking human. Sometimes it is easier to love each other from a bit of a distance. LOL

This morning I miss him. I reflect more on what works than on what doesn’t. I’m grateful for the love we share. Could I do better? Yes. Could he? Yes. Do we both need more practice? Yup. I smile thinking of him fondly without overlooking the practical realities of loving him. Love doesn’t need me to tell myself pretty lies or to whitewash my lived experience. Love is no happily ever after fairytale. It’s also not a tragedy. Love is love. Part of living life. It’s complicated and messy and sometimes needs more from me than I feel I have to give. My results vary.

I just keep practicing.

It’s time to begin again.

Is it worthwhile to “be nice”? Is it useful to “be approachable”? Is it possible to be kind and agreeable and still authentically the person I am “at heart”? Short answer; yes. I mean, that’s my opinion, and I’ve had good results making the effort to pivot from chronic sarcasm, day-to-day cynicism, and bitterness-as-humor, to something… “nicer”. That’s really it. The entire point. You can go have coffee or move on with your day. The rest is just more words. 😉

The tl;dr is that I see value in being pleasant in interactions with others. You may feel differently, or even be inclined to argue the point (but I won’t be taking the bait – I said what I said).

It can be damned difficult to maintain a façade of pleasantness or to force a smile, and a “customer service approach” doesn’t feel “authentic”, generally. The thing is, though, when I was a bit less kind, less pleasant, less approachable… I was also less fun to be around, less likely to be supportive, and more inclined toward being argumentative. Making a change in favor of being more “agreeable”, generally, and more pleasant has not stopped anyone else from continuing to be whoever they choose to be (and thus has not prevent some argumentative interactions with folks inclined to that behavior, though I do endeavor to avoid such interactions – and relationships). Sometimes it is difficult to be nice, kind, compassionate, understanding, and present. Sometimes it is effortless. If I am in pain it can be especially challenging to be my “best self”. Still worth the effort most of the time.

…And it is possible to learn to be nicer, kinder, more agreeable, more pleasant… it just takes a fuck-ton of practice…

My Traveling Partner pops in for a moment and reads the first sentence over my shoulder. “It’s better to be kind than to be right,” he says, “but you can be both.” He looks thoughtful and adds “…be kind first” as he moves on to other things.

Some people are unpleasant, disagreeable, or unkind. That’s not about me, and I don’t have to “drink the poison“, or “take the bait” – although I may need to exert an effort to walk away from bullshit now and then. Look, let’s just take “helping them change” or “fixing their issue” off the table right now – I know it’s tempting, but it’s not actually a thing (even within our relationships). They have to do their own verbs to become the person they most want to be, and maybe they think they’re just fine as they are? If who they are is giving you grief, that’s a mismatch in social values, not a troubleshooting scenario for you (or me) to fix – even if we find ourselves in a relationship with someone who “isn’t easy to be around”.

Similarly… maybe it’s you? Maybe you’re the asshole? (I know it has been me, more than once…) Are you really the person you most want to be? Do you actually want a reputation for being short-tempered, unkind, disagreeable, contrary, cranky, unapproachable, arrogant, terse, argumentative, or unpleasant? Does any of that actually sound good? (I bet it doesn’t.) We usually get around such things in our definitions of self by pointing our finger at someone else (or circumstances) and saying “they made me…”. (Provocation doesn’t excuse bad behavior. Just an fyi on that.) Making excuses for our short-comings doesn’t make our short-comings more acceptable – they just slow our progress toward being a better human being, as an individual, based on those things we can choose to do (or change) to be the best version of ourselves we can imagine from the perspective we’ve got. Another common “out” we reach for too often is that we were not “understood”. Were we not? Truly? Or are we just hoping to be off the hook for a moment of nastiness we really ought to sincerely regret, and move on from committed to doing better? The worst of the excuses is using straight up justification of our worst behavior, as in “I am taking this approach because it is necessary [to get a desired outcome].” (Is it, though? Really? Or are you just being an asshole because that’s less work for you, personally? Couldn’t you do better?)

Anyway. I am sipping my coffee and thinking about how to feel cranky without “being” cranky, and how to express frustration or anger without becoming the embodiment of my worst self, or taking a frustrated or angry tone with someone I love. Seems likely it can be done… I probably won’t solve that over a single cup of coffee but it sure seems worth considering. 🙂 It’s along the same line of thinking as “how do I survive trauma without becoming a monster?”, but that’s a very large puzzle and pretty much 100% of all of the words in this blog touch that one in some way, you know? Breaking down the big challenges into smaller challenges, and finding the small practical details that can become the loose threads that unravel this tangled mess is kind of the point of sitting here at this keyboard. 😀

It’s a whole new year opening up ahead of me. How will I use this mortal time to live my best life, and to be my best self? Where will this journey take me?

I am sipping my morning coffee (it’s good). It is the morning after Giftmas (it was lovely). Our holiday dinner was delicious (and ample). I am feeling fortunate (and grateful).

I slept better last night than I really expected to. My guts were churned up, rebelling against a “brunch” entirely of chocolate and coffee yesterday, followed by a heavy fairly rich meal at dinner time. I woke a couple times feeling a bit uncomfortable, not quite unwell. It passed. I even slept in a bit, and woke feeling pretty good generally, although aware of my arthritis in the background, and still bruised here and there from my fall on the deck on Giftmas Eve.

I haven’t made a firm plan for today. I probably ought to go to the grocery store… I’m not sure I feel like going out at all. I’m also not sure I don’t. Coffee first. Maybe some time reading by the fire? I am thinking about The Four Agreements. It was first suggested to me by my Traveling Partner. It’s clear that the recollection of them still exist in his thinking. Occasionally, he “calls me out” when I fail to practice one of them in our interactions together. I try to process such things as useful feedback, rather than kick up a fuss about it.

I’ve gotten a lot of really useful practical wholesome insight from The Four Agreements over the years, since I first read it in… 2010?

We have learned to live our lives trying to satisfy other people’s demands. We have learned to live by other people’s points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else.

Don Miquel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

Here’s the simple truth of everything we learn, and everything we do; we become what we practice.

Practice being calm? We become calm individuals over time. Practice being kind? Kindness becomes a hallmark of our decisions and thinking. Practice lifelong learning? We become educated as we gain knowledge. It is seriously that “simple” to change who we are, if we choose to do so – it’s a matter of practice, and time.

…Here’s the thing, though…

If we practice being angry? We become less able to manage anger appropriately (we become angrier more easily, more often). If we practice aggression? We become more aggressive. If we practice lashing out at others in moments of stress? Yep. You’re catching on; we do more of that, more often, more quickly – we get really “good at it”.

We each have the tools of change in our possession. We have more control over who we are (and therefore also more responsibility) than we may like to acknowledge. Doesn’t mean the journey is always easy. Doesn’t mean we’re in this alone. We live within the context of our circumstances, our relationships, our triggers, our biases – we are human. Personally, my own thinking on that is that this gives me choices – who do I most want to be? How do I practice that? My emotions may be a reaction to my experience, to the world around me, or to a person with whom I am interacting, but that doesn’t get me off the hook for managing those; they are mine. If I practice having tantrums? I will have tantrums. If I practice calm reflection and deep listening? My reaction to the world around me becomes characterized by calm, and consideration. Because I am so human, avoiding provocation can be quite difficult – but I know that even this is about practice. Like it or not, human primates are not entirely domesticated and can be dangerous under some circumstances… we really only ever “have control” of one of them – the one in the mirror. Limited control at best, too. Our practices matter.

It can be hard, sometimes, to practice The Four Agreements. They seem so easy, and I suppose they are easier than a lot of things – they just take practice. Rather a lot of it. (Worth it.)

It can be hard to practice The Four Agreements (or frankly, any personal growth practice) if someone I interact with routinely doesn’t share the basic values or at a minimum respect what I am hoping to do by practicing them. It’s harder still if there is someone in my day-to-day social group or community actively seeking to undermine my progress or growth. Over time, I’ve cut quite a few people loose who seemed invested in the most broken possible version of me. I think that’s the healthiest approach to toxic relationships; end them. That comes up in The Four Agreements, too:

If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.

Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

The new year approaches. I’m thinking about who I am, who I most want to be, and what practices keep me on my path. We become what we practice. I smile when I think of how many times I have said that, written it down, read it back to myself – it’s a core idea (for me) in becoming the woman I most want to be. Beginning again is just a beginning (obviously) – it’s that stepping stone to the next bit of practice. We become what we practice. It’s not avoidable or negotiable. It is inevitable. Practice something – anything – long enough and it becomes characteristic of who we are. Good or bad.

Everything you have ever learned, you learned through repetition. You learned to write, to drive, and even to walk by repetition. You are a master of speaking your language because you practiced.

Don Miquel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

So… here’s a question that matters… What are you practicing? What effect does who you are have on the world around you? On your relationships? On people you say you love? Are you the person you most want to be? Maybe it’s time to reflect and make some changes to your practices?

Maybe it’s time to begin again?