Archives for category: The Big 5

Expectations and assumptions are a fast track to some shitty experiences in life. Most people move through their experience seemingly unaware, much of the time, that the outcome they are railing against is built, in part, on their implicit expectations, unexpressed emotions, and unverified assumptions. It’s so easy to make up the larger part of what we think we know, entirely in our own heads, of bits and pieces we’ve cobbled together from fragments of awareness, something we heard, and things we think we recall reading. It’s not an ideal approach to living well, I think.

Maintaining a comfortable awareness of the vastness of all that I just don’t actually know is something I practice. Seems worthwhile; I tend to be less annoyed with people as a result, generally. I tend to cry a lot less. I don’t feel so hurt, so often. I enjoy the day-to-day of life as a human primate a great deal more without attempting to do so leaning into the disappointments that are so inevitable when I’m holding on to carefully crafted expectations and assumptions.

…I still have nightmares that seem to be about nothing besides uncertainty, itself. (Fucking hell, even many of my nightmares are weirdly meta) I dislike being uncertain – and I’m grateful to have learned at some point that the opposite of “uncertainty” is not “feeling very certain of the made up narrative in my head”. lol (Because it isn’t that, at all, emotionally; the opposite of uncertainty is being comfortable with not knowing.)

I chuckle to myself and sip my coffee. I don’t actually know that stuff, either. I’m guessing, maybe, or coasting on new assumptions and a different understanding of things, until those also fall to a failed attempt to check them against reality. Cycles of growth and learning. Incremental change over time. The understanding of life and love that met my needs at a teenager, are unlikely to be at all similar to my understanding of life and love as a growth woman past 50, and will also be, most probably, quite different from those I’ll have as a woman of 90.

I’m okay not knowing. I avoid tempting myself with guessing to fill in the blanks – definitely where people are concerned. We are each having our own experience. We filter our understanding of the world through our limited lens of that experience, framed in the context of our fears, and whatever lingering childhood brainwashing we’ve hung on to over the years. We are each so similar. So human. We have much to share with one another. Stories to tell. Trails to walk. Lessons to teach and to learn.

It’s Friday. A busy work day. Another doctor’s appointment. A long weekend ahead. A trip down to see my Traveling Partner for a couple days, and hang out where love lives, watching the shadows on the mountain shift, and the many tiny chickadees picking between the gravel of the drive. It’s been a couple weeks, and although I definitely needed the break from the frequent trips down, and time to really rest and also care for my current residence, I have missed being there. 

Each trip down to the The Place Where Love Lives feels a little more like “real life” and less like being a welcomed guest, which is lovely. I make a point each trip to find some new way to feel more at home, to be more appropriately prepared for life there, and inevitably I leave a bit more of my heart behind when I return to The Place Where I Live, myself. This time I am taking art down with me. 🙂

I notice my coffee is finished. The clock advances the day minute by minute and it’s time to participate. 🙂 Enjoy the weekend! (Hell, I think this weekend, I’ll even write…)

Eat less or exercise? Personally, I have to do both. It’s non-negotiable. If I get less exercise, still keep my caloric intake well-managed (and low) and eat healthy food, I gain weight anyway. If I get plenty of exercise, but make poor nutritional choices, I also gain weight. If I eat a poor quality diet, don’t manage my calories closely, and also don’t get sufficient exercise, I not only gain weight, I gain a lot of weight, and I pack on the pounds fast. Some medications cause me to gain weight, too; that’s something I reliably find out the hard way. So… eat less or exercise? I don’t get to choose, I’ve got to do both. 🙂

There are quite a few things in life that we sometimes get snared viewing as a choice between options, when, actually, it’s a choice to change, or not to change; all the options involving change may be required to make change occur in the direction we’d specifically like to see. Real-life doesn’t tend to negotiate with our whims.

Emotion, and the skillful management and expression of strong emotion, specifically, has some things in common here, with a twist; incremental change over time is super slow, but our emotions jump to the head of any queue, lead every moment, and arrive to every party too early. So sure, it’s reasonable, and true, for someone mid-freak out to have the recognition and understanding that their experience is based on “irresistible” internal forces beyond their immediate control; strong emotion, particularly powerful emotions like rage, frustration, and sorrow, can erupt from within us, sweeping over us, taking away our sense of control, and eventually leading to regrettable words and actions. The “I’m sorry”s begin to pile up (if you are that decent sort who regrets treating others badly). So do the rationalizations (about hormones, childhoods, provocation, circumstances…).

It’s also quite true that our behavior is a choice. Yes, all of it. Yes, pretty much all the time, every time. The first time someone lashes out with an act of violence, they might get by with “I didn’t know” or an expression of astonishment that they could be provoked to that point, but second times? Third times? Times that occur after someone – anyone – has pointed out that’s not okay? Yeah, those are choices. Yielding to strong emotion and relinquishing control over behavior is a choice (unless maybe you are profoundly mentally ill and urgently in need of inpatient treatment). Well, if that’s also true, is everyone who ever treated a loved one poorly, or punched a wall, or lashed out with horrible words deeply mentally ill and urgently in need of treatment? Some of them probably are! Most of them likely are not. That they are choosing such behaviors is still a choice, and they could choose differently, and no you can’t “make them” change, and omg – if they decide to change themselves, that is a process that can be infernally slow, fraught will failures, and varying results.

…And before we can change ourselves through our willful choices in the direction of being our best selves, we actually need to 1. be aware that we would like to be other than we are, and 2. understand that change is possible, chosen, and must be practiced. It’s a lot to hold onto. It’s a lot of work. The practice has to come ahead of the need to be changed. It’s necessary both to feel, and to practice our best behavior under the stress of an “emotional load”. We’ve got to do both. It’s work that will have to be done in the face of real-time failures, disappointed frustrated loved ones, relationships that don’t make it through the process, friendships that end because it turns out some of them were invested in what is being changed. It’s work that is continuous and ongoing. Change is a verb – and you have choices.

Another school shooting. I read about it and can’t help but wonder where so many people have gotten the idea that their anger, disappointment, frustration, or any other emotional experience, entitles them to take a life – any life. Where did that come from? How long has this toxic seed been part of our culture? Did the shooter understand this is unacceptable behavior? If he did understand that, and chose to do it anyway, where did he get the idea that this is a course of action appropriate to his emotional experience? Why do so few people understand what poison their “righteous anger” actually is? Even otherwise good-hearted people can be drawn into making the most outrageously hateful statements about the value of another life (don’t read the comments on the internet, People, I’m just saying there’s an astonishing amount of rationalized hate out there), given the opportunity to frame that other human being as a bad guy of some kind. We most commonly succumb to hate due to a lack of empathy… I don’t know how to fix that for the world, or my nation. I’m still working on it for me – one practice at a time. Changing myself is within my control; I have choices.

Time to begin again.

Well… Happy Valentine’s Day, at any rate. Try to avoid getting VD (venereal disease) – it would be sure to detract from any potential holiday joy. 😀

“Lovers” 8″ x 10″ watercolor on paper 1992

I have a lot of thoughts about Valentine’s Day, few of them are G-rated. My personal take on Valentine’s Day, as a holiday, is that it is the one holiday on the calendar specifically devoted to sexual love. Romance. Not “family life”, not little kids giving paper cards, not “hearts and flowers” in any casual sense (“I sent my Mom flowers for Valentine’s Day” is definitely not in the spirit of the holiday as I understand it, myself). Valentine’s Day is a holiday to celebrate sensual pleasure, sexual pleasure, physical connections and bonds, the delights of romance of all sorts, and not some watered-down Hallmark holiday at all.

Is love a journey or a destination? Or… is love a verb?

Having said all that… I’m alone this Valentine’s Day, and lacking co-celebrants of any sort in any near-at-hand physical sense. LOL 😀 Somehow, I manage not to be bitter about Valentine’s Day. Some years I’ve been partnered. Some years I’ve been solo. Some years being partnered hasn’t resulted in sex on Valentine’s Day… which is like the worst way to celebrate this holiday. LOL At least have some smooches and snuggles, y’all. 😀

Be love. It’s a choice. Love is a verb.

Somewhere a long the way, people seem to have gotten the idea that “inclusion” and “inclusivity” means everyone can, and must always have access to be able to, celebrate and/or enjoy everything available to be celebrated and/or enjoyed by anyone at all. I don’t think life really works quite that way. This is a really good example. I see Valentine’s Day as a specifically quite carnal sexual celebration of love… I also don’t have a partner at hand with whom to celebrate this holiday, on this day, in this year. Those are all true things. Does this, then, mean I am entitled to celebrate nonetheless and all such celebrations must now be tailored to enable and accommodate my participation? And what if the pre-requisite for such requires that I be fundamentally other than I am? What must change? Just something I turn over in my head now and then. I’m a huge fan of inclusion – sorting out what precisely that actually means is tougher. I mean, I will nonetheless “celebrate” the holiday – by noting that it exists, and quite probably enjoying a lovely meal later, and maybe a very tasty glass of sherry or port – but it is a pale comparison to my preferred ways of celebrating sexual love. LOL 😀

Love matters most.

Valentine’s Day-wise, Love gets to lead a lot of the conversation. Love has a lot to say. I don’t know what it says about love – or folks who read my blog – but this post on Valentine’s Day, from 2013, is my most popular post ever of always to date. So, this year, remember – even if you can’t “get lucky” this Valentine’s Day, how lucky you are simply to be, and to be you; you matter. Celebrate with the person in the mirror (<groan> lol, sorry, I could not resist, but sure, if you’ve got the time and inclination, do you. LMAO). Enjoy you. Lavish yourself with your own affection this year – why not? You may begin the best relationship of your life, by beginning a better one with the person in the mirror.

Life is a pretty dynamic thing. We live this one moment – “now” – again and again. I’m not just playing word games with you, this is our experience. Now. These now moments add up to “the future” as each subtly affects the as yet unexperienced outcome to come. Once lived, they are our immediate experience of “the past”, although we quickly edit our recollections to more comfortably fit our chosen internal narrative.

I wrote awhile. The toxic seed around which that pearl was wrapped colored the result in a subtly unpleasant way, far more suited to self-reflection and growth than to publication. The draft sits unnamed in a list of similar never-published-probably-better-that-way drafts, balled up digital paper tossed toward a digital waste basket, and left carelessly where they fell. The music in the background changed. I began again.

It’s still “now”.

I smile, listening to the music. Feeling relieved that my headache has finally eased somewhat. Feeling content with what I’ve gotten done over the weekend, although it wasn’t everything I noticed needs to be done. I’m okay with that. There’s still time left in the day to be a good friend, to be a better person than I was yesterday, to treat someone well, to help someone out, and to be the woman I most want to be. 🙂

There’s still time to begin yet again.

My mind rarely really rests. When I sleep I often dream vividly, rich in detail, color, emotion, and confusingly real-seeming. When I am awake, driving, shopping, handling some task or another, I am often also “writing” poetry or blog posts – that rarely see publication, having inconveniently become more than my limited memory buffer can store. It’s a continuous internal lecture or conversation with myself. Pause a human being in front of me, chances are I will, at some point, begin to do something rather like attempting to make conversation, but with such high risk of becoming a monologue that eventually, I am likely just chattering away without purpose or focus, or worthy content, even if I actually wanted to sit and read quietly, or work. Not talking when I don’t want to talk requires practice.

I like living alone for something besides the “solitude” (which can, I admit, occasionally become lonely); I like it for the “cognitive stillness” and emotional ease. I like it for the cognitive rest I am now able to get, at least now and then, with so much less work to reach that quiet place.

I have a pretty firm, well-established meditation practice. Meditation has helped me build emotional resilience, a calm “center” I can return to with relative ease, and a certain chill something or other which has made life considerably more pleasant, less volatile, less chaotic, and enduringly characterized by contentment. I don’t know that I would call myself “happy”; it’s not a word I’m so prone to using, at all, these days. It’s a mental magic trick that makes more people unhappy than happy to be focused on the pursuit of that elusive beast as a goal, so I stopped doing that. I don’t “pursue” contentment either; I build it. I build it sustainably on healthier choices, and healthier practices. I have been regularly surprised by how much of the forward progress has been entirely dependent on my own decision making, and my own actions.

Meditation did not “cure” my PTSD, or “fix” my injured brain. Meditation is, however, a reliably good practice for improving my day-to-day experience of my life, and that’s enough heavy lifting for one practice, surely. 🙂

It’s a busy brain, broken or not. I wrote 3, maybe 4, really fantastic blog posts in the past 24 hours – in my head. Catchy titles, engaging and amusing openers, fanciful plays on words with layered meaning… gone at the next annoying intersection, or distracting other moment. lol I woke with a completed utterly beautiful bit of poetry in my head at 3 am, got up to pee, forgot what I was thinking on my way back to bed. This morning, upon waking for the day, I have only the recollection that it ever existed at all still remaining. I play “Tribute” in tribute, and giggle over my coffee; these moments of creativity, lost, forgotten, omitted, or overwritten, litter my life experience. I can’t take them personally after so long. lol

A new day begins. So do I. Another day to write, to love, to feel, to practice – to live.