Archives for category: The Big 5

I’ll head out this morning, and in a relatively short time (hours) I’ll catch up with my Traveling Partner for the weekend. Friends. Music. Goings on. The weekend. Lovely – and I am so looking forward to it! I’ve missed him greatly.

I plan my route with care this morning. See, there’s this particular experience I have pretty much every time I make this trip, and it’s not pleasant. There’s rather a long stretch of “highway” that is almost always gridlocked, aggravating, and populated with frustrated aggressive drivers, a handful of unskilled ones, and lurking in the mix, one or two people who are actually straight up “up to no good” – you know the ones; folks that get angry, take shit personally, and then act out their anger in real life putting everyone else at great risk. Drivers who “brake check” someone following them uncomfortably closely, or who is simply driving faster than they are. Drivers who deliberately cut other drivers off – and then “brake check” them, to “make a point” or otherwise demonstrate dominance. Drivers who “match speeds” with a car in an adjacent lane specifically to prevent another driver from passing them. It’s dumb – and it’s dangerous. Fuck, people, just drive your god damned car, and do it safely. Focus on what you’re doing in the world, yourself. Shit.

See? I’m already caught up in a moment that hasn’t even happened yet. I don’t enjoy that, and I would prefer not to just hand over the keys to my emotional experience to some rando fuckknob in a car. lol So. I am replanning my route with greater understanding of what I want from my experience in life, instead of letting my gps direct me down the same road everyone else is taking.

I have the time to enjoy the drive. I shoot for making it enjoyable, instead of “efficient”. Can I literally not even travel that stretch of highway at all, perhaps? Looks like I can – on a smaller rural road. My gps would not ever even consider this route; it’s a bit too close to the interstate highway, and the gps doesn’t really understand why I would choose anything else. In miles, it’s a bit more distance to drive, but in estimated time it’s very nearly the same. Speed matters, and the section of interstate I won’t be driving rarely moves faster than a residential street as it is. Do I mind not driving freeway speeds? Not at all. Not a thing with me, it’s more about a comfortable experience ofย  being neither rushed nor crowded. I plan my route down this rural “state highway”, and find that it avoids basically the entire stretch of the freeway that aggravates me. Nice. What will the experience be like? I don’t know – I haven’t had it yet. I do know it won’t be “the same” – because I have chosen differently. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s a metaphor. You have choices. Begin again. โค

I’m sipping my coffee and staring at this blank page (well, it was, it isn’t now…). The future is a perpetual blank page. I hold the pen in the present. Whatever narrative I jot down, whatever map of the world I attempt to draw, it is done from this moment, from this perspective. It has so little to do with the actual future that will actually happen. It’s easy to overlook that detail, but it is significant and worth keeping in mind.

I spent the weekend in the studio. I didn’t finish anything. I started a bunch of stuff. It was a delightful and productive weekend, creatively. I am content and nourished by the time spent painting. I’m finding it rather challenging to “get my head right” for the compressed work week ahead; I am yearning for some vacation time, and the good company of my Traveling Partner and friends. I am distracted and energized, like a toddler after an espresso shot. lol

People are peculiarly resilient and adaptable. Have you noticed that? It’s an amazing quality. We can endure quite a lot, and still be hopeful. We can suffer immense trauma, and still find ourselves positive about life, and able to enjoy it. We can break trust, and rebuild it. We can choose poorly, act badly, or go to pieces – and often put things right nonetheless. Pretty amazing stuff. Yes, of course, there are verbs involved, and our results vary. Our intention, our will, and our actions all matter. Our words matter. The content of our character and the values we choose to live matter. Still… we’re pretty fancy primates with a lot of potential.

Today you can begin again. Today you can choose to be your best self. Today you can live your life on a path to the person you most want to be… You only have to choose to do so. ๐Ÿ™‚

Choose. Begin again.

I woke during the night with an unsteady tummy. I took steps to be prepared for being sick if things were to turn for the worse; I left the light on in the hall bathroom and a hair tie on the counter. It’s not the closest bathroom of the two in this place, but it is bigger, and more suited somehow to being ill. It’s near enough. Easy to get to, too. So. I was prepared, and I went to back sleep.

I woke sometime shortly past day break. 6:30-ish. I slept in. ๐Ÿ˜€ Well… that’s my idea of sleeping in. I’m usually up by 4:30 am. I woke to a tidy home, a clean kitchen, and a smile on my face. Nice. There are a few things to do today, to face the short work week ready to travel: some tidying up, laundry, vacuuming, empty the dishwasher of clean dishes… basic household care. It’s a good day for it. I feel rested. The gray featureless sky doesn’t tempt me to the trail – or to the studio. I have brunch plans, and a partially read book. Brunch and housework sounds like a fine when to spend the day, and winding things down with a quiet evening reading sounds lovely, too.

As I sip my coffee, first one brunch friend, then another, lets me know they can’t make it today. I hear from my Traveling Partner as we cross paths in the digital world, as I wake up, and he winds down from a long night. By the time I finish my coffee, brunch “with…” has become “brunch solo?”. I barely register any disappointment – and perhaps this sets me apart from some sorts of people; I genuinely value and enjoy time spent with myself (particularly now that I’ve learned to treat myself well, generally).

I pause for a moment to consider, seemingly rather randomly, that “genuinely” and “generally” positioned so close to each other in a sentence seem a tad repetitive, even though they are totally different words. Then I find cause to be irked with the frequency of -ly endings. I notice my coffee is finished. I feel irked by that and slightly irritable. I take a deep breath, relax, and allow myself to recognize that I am, actually, a bit disappointed about brunch falling through. Acknowledging the feeling, however fleeting, prevents it from becoming festering discontent. The moment needed nothing more than awareness, respect, and acknowledgement, and the feeling dissipates. Emotions are funny that way. Fight them, they fight back. Embrace them, feed them, they deepen, and sometimes take over. Resist them completely, they flare up in the background, influencing our experience of other circumstances in sometimes subtle ways, and altering our understanding of other moments. Acknowledge them with awareness, respecting the experience without fueling the fire, and they become a sign post on a journey, a reminder, and a moment observed; that tends to be what I’m going for these days.

I find myself still a bit irritable, and not finding anything in my immediate environment or experience to explain that, I pause my writing and do a quick “self inventory”. I take a moment to simply breathe and feel my feelings, both those of my physical experience (sensations) and those of my cognitive experience (emotions). Emotionally, I feel pretty at ease, and content. Physically, I find myself having to take note of a substantial amount of fairly ordinary arthritis pain in my thoracic spine. Well shit. Okay. That’d be enough to feel sort of grumpy and out of sorts “for no reason” – only, there’s clearly quite an obvious reason to it, once I am aware of it. Awareness is such an amazing tool! I continue checking in with myself, and notice that in spite of the arthritis pain, no headache. Hey, that’s pretty nice. Uncommon these days. I enjoy that experience, and allow myself to sit with the awareness of “no headache” awhile, while I decide on the morning, and what to do about the pain.

I think over the day ahead. I’ve got what I need, generally speaking. Maybe a bite of brunch and a stop for art supplies somewhere? I head to a search tab to look up my options…

It’s a great day to begin again. ๐Ÿ˜€

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

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

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –ย  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s time to begin again.

I’m sipping my coffee and listening to the rain fall. The dawn is gray, and it’s hard to accept that day break is past, and this… is it. Morning. No “sunrise” in any obvious way. The sky is a drizzly homogeneous featureless gray. I woke planning to paint. I still feel peculiarly energized to paint, and likely will. I’ll probably “go off script” from there, though, and “just paint” instead of working with purpose, plan, and structure on pieces that I have already sketched out in my head. I know what works for me, artistically.

I contemplate conversations with friends from yesterday. The afternoon was spent wrapped in warmth and intimate affection, connected close friendships, easy hang out time. We shared a bite of late lunch-not-quite-dinner, sufficient to fuel the afternoon hours without the distraction of hunger to throw off the genial vibe. Both very good friends of mine, neither had met the other previously, and we all had a great time – it was a well-connected, deep, experience. The conversation was lively, fun in spots, serious in others, and quickly exceeded any sort of “getting to know each other” limitations to become fully invested, authentic, and yeah – deep. Really talking over life. Love. The world. It was soul-nourishing time.

Hanging out and talking, watching cartoons, listening to music – these are very much favorite activities of mine to share with friends. Yesterday was a day well-spent.

I miss my Traveling Partner. I smile, feeling the warmth of his love as a sort of carrier wave on which the details of my experience travel across my consciousness. He would have been so welcome, yesterday. He remains so welcome today. He’s just hundreds of miles away, is all. lol I wish him well, and wrap the thought of him in my love. I would enjoy sharing coffee with him, this morning, and talking over yesterday – and tomorrow. lol Soon enough.

Openness is one of my “Big 5” relationship values. It’s a tricky one – what does that even mean, “openness”? For me, it means both acceptance and non-attachment. It means listening deeply, not just waiting to talk. It means being willing to change my thinking with new information. It means being observant in the moment, and prepared to “go with it” when circumstances or people reveal something more about themselves. It means embracing authenticity, myself, and sharing who I actually am, with others who are sharing who they actually are, too. It means creating an emotionally safe environment for that authenticity to exist. It means learning to communicate without tools like criticism, discouragement, or ad hominem attacks. It means “yes, and…”, instead of “no, but…”. There you go. Go forth and be open! LOL – I know, I know, it isn’t that easy, it does take practice, and your results will definitely vary. ๐Ÿ™‚

This morning I got schooled on being open in the most delightful way; I woke to a message asking me where my boundaries may be, on the subject of “getting closer”. Gently handled, clear, frank, and worded such that there just wasn’t any chance of being hurt by the inquiry, or any possible mistake about the intention – quite the contrary. I live pretty openly with this being I have grown to become over time, and I’m not surprised someone besides me would like to be closer. Going beyond the platonic relationship we share now is an exciting thought. No need to rush things along; that’s sort of new, mixed in with all this extra adulting I’ve learned to do. I offer reassurance that I’ve got no preset rules against growing closer, and no objection to it. I find myself wondering if I were sufficiently gracious about it – did I communicate my appreciation? For the desire? For the question? I smile. Everything’s fine. There’s no room for pointless anxiety here. There is always time enough for love. ๐Ÿ™‚

The rain intensifies, and perversely I now want to be in the garden. lol Instead, I set a course for the kitchen, a second coffee, and my meditation cushion. It’s time to begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚