Archives for category: The Big 5

I write the word. You read the word. “Tantrums.” We probably both think of children, first. Adults having tantrums are… embarrassingly human. I’ll bet you’ve done it. “Thrown a fit.” Maybe, “lost your shit”? Did you “blow up” over something small? Tired? Not feeling well? Headache? Suddenly you found yourself in the middle of an emotional firestorm, losing both self-control and resilience? I don’t know anyone who can be entirely honest and say they’ve never, ever, lost their composure inappropriately over some moment or another. It’s unpleasant to experience. It’s unpleasant to witness. It’s unpleasant to be around. Each and every one of us who has found ourselves succumbing to the worst of who we are in some moment, who has blasted some innocent bystander, colleague, – or worst – someone we care about deeply over our bullshit, knew right then and there that we were fucking wrong as hell. We probably didn’t say as much. Maybe we never even apologized. Maybe we think because the “facts were on our side” it excuses our shitty behavior? Is it you, this time? Was it them? Do you think you were “right”? Do you think they were? (Do you actually think that matters more than the unpleasant moment you’ve created?)

“Am I the asshole?” Good question to ask oneself in a moment of tension or conflict. Just saying.

I’ve been there, for sure. It’s definitely not “always me”, though; I am but one human among many. Even narrowing the view to just the company I work for. Just my community. Just my family. Just my partnership. Even with my “issues” – it’s not always me. Just saying. Any one of us can, and likely will, succumb to emotional weather, however pleasant the emotional climate may be. Storms come and go.

I sat down to write, over the weekend, but my thoughts had not yet become a thing I could express in words. It was fatiguing weekend of relaxing effort. lol My body was tired. My mind was seeking a moment of quiet to really process things. Maybe I get that moment when I seek it, maybe I don’t. It sometimes ends up being the sort of thing that keeps me restless and wakeful into the wee hours, quiet, and reflecting, filtering, sifting, sorting, all the thoughts and questions, and moments. In the meantime, I’m struggle to put my thoughts into some coherent share-worthy whole. Interruptions. Distractions. Endless seeming “high priority” distractions, and demands on my time and attention.

My Traveling Partner is having his own experience.

Our A/C seemed to be malfunctioning. I mean… it demonstrably was “malfunctioning”, keeping in mind the intention, and settings, should have it cooling the house, and it is doing quite the opposite. Time spent troubleshooting (and snarling at each other), eventually pays off; blown fuse replaced. I struggle to “keep up” with his shifting emotional weather, some days. That was one of those. I imagine my own notion of resilience as a deep, calm, still pool. I perceive his (substantial) resilience more as a wave pool; big swings that reliably settle into calm fairly quickly. We’re each having our own experience. It’s not “personal” – not even truly “adversarial” in any clear way. Just quite different from each other, and sometimes not complementary. We are so similar…and so different. I don’t think I’d change that… I’d just like to be a bit better at it than I am… preferably without having to gain those skills through experience. lol

I continued to write, but ultimately set it aside over distractions. The pain I was in had increased, even though our stressful moment was quite brief, and it colored my thinking. I finally gave up on it. Today it’s days later, and reaching for words in a different moment of stress and conflict, and I find this, half-finished, waiting for me. A reminder that emotional weather comes and goes. That we are each having our own experience. Each seeking to understand the world through the lens and filter of our own experience – and often completely limited to that context, because it is all we truly know. Empathy is hard sometimes. Compassion requires more verbs. Kindness, too. Finding my way to a fully accepting and loving place is hard right now. I’m angry.

I remind myself that my Traveling Partner and I both have only good intentions. That we both love each other. That we are each doing our best with shared goals in mind. That we are individuals seeking to thrive – and help each other to do so – on a shared journey. It’s hard to be the best version of myself when I am feeling angry, or misunderstood, or unappreciated. I know that’s true for him, too. I look at my calendar – another meeting. I take a breath, and begin again.

It’s a new year, eh? New cup of coffee here on my desk, too. New morning, new day – a Saturday. The season has turned, and Winter is truly upon us. Here that mostly means cold, wet, and rainy, with occasional flooding, and the sounds of trees cracking when the wind blows on a freezing day. Other places, other weather.

Out on a nearby trail, taking note of the recent winter storm damage; fallen trees open up new views of the sky.

It’s been a few days since I sat down to put words to a blank page. The holidays passed, as holidays do, and this is a time when best intentions set boldly of a New Year’s Eve begin to fall to the mundane, the routine, and the unexceptional – change is quite a bit of work. Did you commit yourself to some specific change or improvement in life for this new year? Are you already frustrated? I try to avoid “resolutions” – it just hasn’t been a successful approach for me, personally. Still, this year I do want to “do more, better” – and be more that person I most want to be. It wants a new beginning, though, because I am deeply flawed, fundamentally very human, and entirely capable of bad decision-making, errors, and falling short of expectations and commitments. I’ve disappointed myself a number of times this year, once in a serious, significant, and painful way. So, as is so common, I set myself to putting things right as the new year approached, and tried to sort out what really crap-tacular shit is holding me back, and what baggage I can maybe put down , and what things I can do better, generally. I’m back in therapy, working on difficult specifics.

What sorts of changes am I looking for, this year, myself? It’s an assortment. Last year I got in 1 mile per day (average) over the second half of the year (started in July, finished on 12/31/21). This year I’m going for 2 miles per day, all year. 730 miles. On foot. I mean… it’s not “all that”. People do through hikes that are far longer, and conquer those in shorter time. 🙂 For me, working from home full time, during a pandemic, 2 miles a day on foot still manages to feel like a (healthy) stretch, particularly if I am making a legitimate attempt to do some portion of that every single day. So. I’m doing it. I’ve at least started. I sip my coffee and wonder if I’ll give up, or feel inclined to “cheat”. (There is no “cheating” on such things; either I succeed or I fail. Miles on foot are miles on foot. Doesn’t mean there won’t be something within me inclined to wonder if I could “find an easier way”. I’m very human.) Various other small things; get more done with less bitching (housekeeping shit, I mostly mean), really embracing the direct personal value to my quality of life that those efforts have, and maybe stop fucking resenting the necessity. That gets super tedious for me, even from within. “Do more, bitch less” seems a good place to begin. So far this year, I’ve been hitting the mark there pretty well, just making a bit more effort, with a bit less resistance to the effort required. It does seem to make things actually easier.

I’ve got bigger changes in mind, too. This partnership means the world to me. My Traveling Partner is special in my heart. Surely I could be a better partner? Better friend? Better human being to make a life with? I mean… there may be some things about me that may not improve much, however I fuss and practice, but that can’t be what stops me from growing and improving in all the ways I can improve, right? PTSD and brain trauma are for sure ass-kickers, as life challenges go, but I’m not without potential, and I’m pretty wonderful in so many other ways – there’s no legitimate reason to allow my issues to define me, or hold me back from making more progress, and walking my path with future successes in mind.

I wrote a bunch more words, deleted those when I noticed that my mind was wandering, and my words had become… unfocused? Purposeless? Too… something. My Traveling Partner stops by to invite me to share an experience with him later – doesn’t matter what sort, really, it’s the invitation to enjoy each other that matters most. Sounds like fun. I enjoy his company, and sharing time and activities. I smile after he walks away; we’re both pretty grumpy first thing in the morning, and don’t always want to “deal with people” – including each other. It’s a wonderful morning when we’re already exchanging smiles by 8:00 am on a Saturday, and making suggestions for shared experiences to enjoy.

Other than one errand I plan to run this morning, I’m hoping to spend most of the day here in the studio (painting, instead of writing). It’s a good day for it, I think, rainy, cold, dreary… the bright lights in the studio are probably good for my emotional wellness in winter months. 🙂 I’ll make cocoa… and begin again.

The frown finally lifted. My jaw finally unclenched. My sheer-force-of-will pleasantness in meetings eventually resolved to simply being pleasant. I let go of being angry, in favor of feeling angry, which eventually let me look beyond my angry feelings to my hurt feelings, and then eventually to just letting shit go. Now? I guess I’m “quietly over it”, and it’s enough. Ideally, small things stay small. It’s not always easy to see that through from intention to outcome. It takes practice.

Neither societies nor relationships are (ever) “perfect”, not really; both are made up of human beings who are themselves entirely “human” in all the error-prone meanings of that word, and compounded by the very (very) subjective nature of our individual experiences. Hell, it’s not even a given that we’re all “doing our best” – or that any one of us is capable of a personal best of sufficient real-world value in any objective way. It’s an inefficient system, at best.

Work keeps me occupied. I pause for a break and reconnect with my Traveling Partner. The gray skies beyond my window seem to reflect back our own individual moodiness, today. Suitable backdrop. I think we’re past it, though, with “clearer skies”, though not exactly “sunny”. Metaphorically, I’m hoping for sunny skies (and sunny days) ahead. Funny thing though; the metaphor of climate and weather with regard to emotions and relationships breaks down a bit if pushed too far – we don’t control the actual weather, but do have substantial control over our emotional “weather”. Oh, for sure, not 100% of the control we might like to have, sometimes, and sometimes what we most want to control of the emotional weather isn’t ours to decide at all. Communication takes effort. Listening is work. Kindness requires practice – even for people in love with each other. “Being angry” is easier than taking the time and care to really process feelings of anger with real consideration, self-compassion, and without adding drama to someone else’s experience. It’s hard. It’s worth practicing, and improving over time. It’s worth failing at it and learning from that, and continuing to practice. Incremental change over time is slow – and it’s hard as hell to make the same room for someone else to fail and grow, as it is to do that for myself.

It’s a pleasant afternoon. My partner brings me a small serving of gelato. I take a break to enjoy that, and review what I’ve gotten done today, and what I’ve got coming up tomorrow. There’s so much to get done before the year ends – and it’s already time to begin again. 🙂

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. 😉

Sipping my coffee and listening to the rain fall.

I’d been watching the rain fall, through the open curtains of the patio door, but in a careless moment of conversation with my Traveling Partner over our morning coffee together, I managed to inhale when I meant to swallow, with the end result of choking on a mouthful of coffee, about half of which ended up in my sinuses. While also hilarious, sort of, this disrupted the flow of conversation, and also made me incredibly uncomfortable and cross. Emotions spread like a brush fire in this household, particularly when we’re both so open, and vulnerable, and still sipping our first coffees early in the morning. Rather than attempt to pretend it away or struggling with it, I took my uncomfortable self and my coffee into my recently thoroughly tidied up studio to write, and reflect, and hopefully get past this (physically) uncomfortable moment. 🙂

He sticks his head in the door of the studio, and asks how I’m doing. I’m already okay by that point, and say something mind numbingly uninteresting about clearing out my spam folder. lol

This week my partner had taken time to hang curtains in the rooms that didn’t have any. All the windows had shades, so it wasn’t really a privacy thing – more to do with comfort, quiet, and temperature control. I am impressed with how much difference it makes! My wee library? Sounds like a library; there is so much quiet in there. The other household noises don’t really get through, if the door is closed, and the addition of curtains over the window have made the space somehow more finished looking, and even quieter than it previously seemed. The window looks out into the space between our house and the one next door, where both have air conditioning units placed, and also where the trash bins are located; it can be noisy on trash days, or when our neighbor comes home in the wee hours, or when the a/c cycles on… I mean… yeah. It’s noisy along that wall. Well, it was. Not so much now and I don’t really understand how a couple panels of soft fabric make so much difference. Hell… I’m even okay with not knowing how this works. I’m frankly delighted, and that’s enough.

I’m fortunate to be in a partnership that results in pretty reliably good quality of life. We each do our part. Our skills and abilities overlap in a few places – which is handy sometimes – and even more of our skills and abilities complement the other’s. Where things get super exciting (for me) is those areas of life where we just don’t have much common ground, skill-wise. I’ll likely go to my grave seriously impressed by some of the things my Traveling Partner has done to ensure we live well and comfortably. Partner. Husband. Lover. Friend. “Battle buddy” on days when it feels like the world is against us. I sit here sipping my coffee and feeling wrapped in his love. It’s nice. I’m fortunate.

Another sip of coffee, considering my good fortunate in life, these days, and generally… I take a moment to also be appreciative of the choices I’ve made, myself, to be in this place. I’ve made changes. I’ve grown. I’ve faced traumas and done much to put my chaos and damage to rest. I’m for sure not perfect, but I’m also not a passive observer of my experiences; I’m living my life, with my eyes open and my arms spread wide to embrace my circumstances on this journey to become the human being I most want to be. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always as I expect it to be – but I’m not a passenger in this journey; I’m in the driver’s seat, in my own life, and that feels so good to me.

Another sip of my coffee, and I find myself wondering and hoping if I do enough to provide an emotionally safe environment that my partner and I can both thrive in. I’m aware that it isn’t “all about me”. Ups and downs are real enough. There is emotional weather – and emotional climate. (I chuckle quietly, grimly pleased that our relationship is not facing a “climate crisis”, in spite of occasional “stormy weather”; the sentiment and experience please me, the metaphor strikes a grim chord.)

I find myself back at the titular recommendation. “Let the rain fall.” Yes, definitely do that. Honest tears falling in a moment of stress can be an enormous relief. No tears this morning. 🙂 I’m just saying – it’s not a reasonable expectation that we would be reliably able to “control the weather” – even emotionally. Especially emotionally? I’m often surprised (and yes, horrified) that we treat our emotions as enemies, so often, pitting them against our ability to reason and be “rational”. As if rational thought alone was some sort of super hero, and emotion the exaggerated all-powerful bad-guy our hero fortunately defeats in the end. Emotions are not the enemy. Maybe fear of them is? Maybe the panicked free fall that sometimes happens when we’re swamped by emotion, or “flooded”, or “triggered”, is the greater threat? We don’t make a point of educating children (in public schools, as part of structured curriculum) to deal with their emotions skillfully, such that those powerful feelings are an advantage, and something to value and appreciate. Isn’t that odd? Considering what a huge part of our experience of living our lives our emotions happen to be? We experience emotions long before we begin to reason skillfully, or think critically. We experience emotions without having to be educated to do so. Emotions require no training to have them. There they are. Being.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

Emotions are part of who we are. Easy to take “personally”. Tempting to dismiss as lacking value (particularly negative emotions). Sometimes overwhelming. Sometimes at odds with what we “think”.

Let the rain fall. Feel the feelings. Acknowledge them. Be there for yourself. Continue to make the best decisions you are able to make. Continue to practice healthy self-care – and also to treat others well – without regard to the content of your emotional experience in the moment. I don’t say that as any sort of “telling you what to do” thing – I’m just saying, this approach seems healthy to me. I work on it. I fail more often than I’d like to. We live in a world where there are a lot of people so thoroughly uncomfortable with emotions – theirs or anyone else’s – that it can feel uncomfortable to be honest and open with our own emotional experience. Still, seems worth doing to make the attempt. I’m far happier as a human being, treating myself with consideration about my emotions, and really giving myself a moment to understand them, feel them honestly, and working to make actions and decisions dependent on a balance. Emotion and reason. Not either/or.

My coffee is cold. I’m rambling now. It’s time to begin again. The morning feels pleasant, and I feel merry. 🙂 This is a lovely place to begin.