Archives for category: The Big 5

I love this holiday season. I love giving gifts. Before I understood the challenges my TBI can sometimes present me, I regularly spent myself into negative numbers every year; I didn’t really care about that as much as I wanted to give, just a little more. Small gifts. Big gifts. Unexpected gifts. Handcrafted gifts. Funny thing… I didn’t at all recognize the importance (to me) of giving, at that time. I didn’t recognize the annual yearning to shop – in order to give. It’s fairly specific to gifts. I don’t consider myself charitable in a noteworthy way. I really really like giving a moment of delight to someone dear to me, most of all.

Tonight, I had a couple such moments, myself. I’m still smiling.

First, I arrived home to a rather large package on the stoop. Like… can’t get the door open large. Push it off the stoop to get the door open, because it’s both large and also too heavy to properly lift with ease, large. Large. It’s not for me. It’s for someone else. I laughed and laughed as I struggled with it in the blustery cold autumn evening. I don’t know why it tickled me so much that the physical size of the packaging was so much larger than I expected it to be. Expectations. Man. Damn. Avoid those if you can. lol They can be so misleading.

Then, I remembered to grab the mail on the way in. So much to do this evening… I almost forgot to check the mail. There was just one large-ish plain white envelope in the mailbox. I opened absent-mindedly as I returned to the house, thinking it to be something from the VA, or something of that sort. It turns out instead to be a sweet and wholly unexpected gift – even a tad exotic. I’m still smiling.

So, laundry, dishes, chores generally – and a smile in every direction. I’ll see my Traveling Partner this weekend, and celebrate holidays, birthdays, and friendships under a starring winter sky. The thought reminds me to add a couple things to the morning to do list. There are gifts for birthdays going with me, and I am too excited to give them (although they are wee and of no great consequence) to let myself forget them. 😀 I smile again, thinking of giving a friend a ride to the party. That verb. Give. 🙂 There’s a feeling to it.

The evening begins to wind down. Evenings seem more about finishing things, don’t they, and less about beginnings. I’m okay with that. Things end. It’s not an idea worth fighting. lol

Well, it’s not yet “officially” winter, but it is clear that my arthritis finds it season enough to deliver the full measure of winter-level arthritis pain. I woke with it during the night, 3 or 4 times, only to return to a restless sleep after discontentedly struggling with pain for some little while. My quality of restful sleep was… meh. I don’t know. Not enough. Fuck pain. I want to “lol” about it and move on from the moment, but it’s got me feeling angry with the world and just generally fairly aggravated just now. It’ll pass. I remind myself, again and again, it will pass.

A quiet evening in late autumn, spent quietly.

Last night I relaxed quietly after work, just sitting, enjoying the fireplace. I left the Giftmas tree dark, and without the merry colored lights it seemed a more somber, still, and serene moment of calm contentment, aside from the pain I’d spent the day in, and which lingered through the night. I took medication for that, even took an Rx pain reliever. It helped some.

I sit here staring at my monitor, still feeling sort of put out and aggravated by being in pain. Shitty start to the day…

…I can’t help notice that I’m not improving things by focusing on the pain, itself, and letting it lead the morning. I had unrolled my yoga mat and taken advantage of a few reliable postures to ease stiff joints before my shower, and I left my mat out because yoga actually helps, and maybe I would want to do more of that healthy stuff to cope with my pain…? Maybe…? I chuckle quietly to myself, aware of all the many verbs, and how much effort life requires to live it skillfully…

I head for my yoga mat, to begin the day again. 🙂

Sleeping in was nice this morning. Sipping my coffee, sitting in the open doorway to the deck on a rainy Friday morning felt luxurious. Today is mine. For me. I’ve got a long weekend.

A perspective on an autumn morning from an open doorway.

I can’t help but think about the many hundreds of thousands (millions?) of retail workers who will not get this long weekend with their families, or to get some downtime for themselves, or the opportunity so many of us get to do our own thing for a few days after a holiday purportedly about gratitude. They are indentured servants to American Greed. Their employers force them back onto the clock (or they risk losing their jobs) in order to staff shops that Americans visit with a frenzy – a fury – that puts Greed on display for all the world to see. It is a purely American phenomenon as far as I am aware. I find it, personally, rather grotesque. I don’t participate. I don’t shop. I stay home, or go hiking. I stay out of retail spaces, and I stay off the city streets. It’s scary dangerous out there; shoppers have finished with all that “being grateful” stuff, and now it is open warfare to secure the goods for their family holiday (or, let’s be honest, themselves). No thank you.

I can’t hold it against people who are among the poor or working poor that they pull hard-earned limited funds together to do their holiday shopping on this one day of the year; retailers exploit that honest vulnerable yearning to give their families a little something more, to have something nice, to improve their quality of life. It sickens me to see people who can afford to quite properly shop on just any day, and comfortably afford sufficient holiday luxuries for their loved ones and safely avoid this horrible festival of exploitation and greed, getting out there rampaging through shops and malls showing off the worst of who they can be in order to save money they could have afforded to spend. Most particularly I object to this spectacle because it is the participation, in the first place, that makes it a thing at all.  I find it uncomfortable that it falls on the day after Thanksgiving. Seriously? For fuck’s sake, the timing could not put our greed on higher contrast if we’d carefully selected the timing for that very purpose. It tends to call our gratitude into question.

So… I just don’t.

I’m not walking your mile, and I can’t point fingers or judge you as an individual for shopping on Black Friday. I just also feel sad that the very existence of Black Friday as a thing means that retail workers, specifically, some of the least adequately paid workers in America, get completely fucked out of enjoying a long holiday weekend with their families that many of us get to take for granted – and also don’t get to shop. It’s like an extra helping of “fuck you” for those workers. (How can I not show solidarity, myself, when this is my awareness, and my perspective?) Since I can’t actually change it, and I do actually object, I therefore do not participate, that’s all. 🙂

I guess I’m just saying – if this is a “holiday”, it’s celebrating something pretty horrible, and just maybe we should take another look at what we’re celebrating.

…a short stack of books…an entire day off…

I make another coffee. I consider the day ahead, here at home. It’s a nice one for a hike, mild and only somewhat drizzly. I could stay in and paint without interruption, or relax and read one of the books in the wee stack that has built up since last year, that I continue to promise myself I’ll get around to. I could commit to mindful service to hearth and home, break out that “to do list” and get to work on it. It is a day suitable for beginning again. 🙂

 

I slept in, grateful for a comfortable bed, a heated home, shelter from the ceaseless autumn rain, and a well-stocked pantry, looking forward to a long weekend. I woke slowly this morning, a bit at a time, returning to sleep a few minutes more without reluctance or judgement, until I felt truly rested, and definitely awake. I feel grateful for the small luxuries I am fortunate to enjoy each day. My espresso is tasty, and I made this latte with almond milk, which doesn’t aggravate my health in the way that bovine milk seems to do. I smile when I think about the butterflied turkey breast waiting in the fridge, and – honestly – about having a fucking refrigerator in the first place. I am grateful for the means to enjoy a comfortable life in a place that feels safe to me, without much stress.

I greeted my Traveling Partner online, first thing. He was already awake. He is sick at home and will not be making the trip up. I’m grateful he has the wisdom to wisely choose self-care when he must. I am grateful that he loves me such that he is also pretty bummed out not to be here, with me, as planned. We chat a bit. We chat about coffee. lol Of course. 😀

An unexpected solo holiday, and I find that I am nonetheless filled with gratitude. A holiday in a household filled with people, crowded with family members visiting from afar, or friends popping ’round with sides and desserts and bottles of wine, can be so utterly warm and joyful – and I’m not “missing” that, because I’ve done it many many times. I am grateful for those experiences, and those memories. I enjoy a mental montage of those today, and find that I remain grateful for this quiet holiday, wrapped in love, and warmth, and contentment, and quite deliciously alone.

I have a friend who is also solo for Thanksgiving, and he made mention of frozen microwave breakfast sandwiches and despairing loneliness. Ouch. I’d have invited him to join me – because that sounds pretty shitty – but firstly, he is very far away and would not be able to make it, and secondly – and this is a bit hard to observe without a poignant moment of real pain – he chooses this experience, with his whole will. I’m grateful to have the positive experience of life, generally, that I do these days. I’m grateful I gave some of those verbs a try (meditating, caring for myself, letting go attachments, eating a good diet, practicing good sleep hygiene, showing self-compassion, showing self-respect… oh, just a ton of verbs, really) and that I have continued to begin again when I fail, and continued to practice what works. We each choose our adventure. I’m grateful for free will, and I am grateful to be in relationships that respect my agency.

My coffee is very good this morning. I’m grateful for the 133 year old technology that put it into my cup as a latte. I’m grateful for the 45-year-old technology that lets me enjoy real-time communication with my Traveling Partner on a holiday we can’t share in real life, in shared space. I’m grateful for the 90-year-old technology that will provide me with ample entertainment today, in the form of video, and the 562 years of the printed word that always ensures I have something to read – and let’s not forget the many thousands of years of literacy that makes having a book in my hands worthwhile in the first place.

I am grateful for paved roads, sidewalks, and convenient, well-stocked, retail spaces. I’m grateful for the remaining acres of unspoiled wilderness.

My point, this morning, is that I am grateful for so many things, it only makes sense that there be a holiday to savor and cherish gratitude itself. It makes sense to cultivate it within my experience, and to enjoy the things I am most grateful for in a mindful and aware state of mind. I know a few people who are enjoying, instead, some Thanksgiving ire or Thanksgiving outrage instead, today, due to pilgrims, heinous violations of the agency of indigenous Americans by entitled European land thieves, and more modern outrages against our modern indigenous brothers and sisters that are so shamefully still ongoing – those things are worth being angry about, no lie. My own thought on this holiday is that the connection between this date on the calendar, this celebration at the autumn dinner table, and this holiday gathering under a banner of gratitude, is tenuous at best, and frankly wholly artificial. That being the case, and this being a “made up holiday” intended to move school children, and sell turkeys, I choose to honor it at face value; a holiday about gratitude, and a day to appreciate, together, or alone, what we do have, what does work, what is valued in our shared or individual experiences. An autumn feast day, a start to the holiday season, a moment of thanks – because we all have things to be thankful for, and we all need a moment of celebration now and then. It’s not about pilgrims, land grabs, or empire, for me. It doesn’t have to be – it’s a made up holiday. Make it your own. 🙂

I finish my coffee just as I finish that paragraph. I continue the conversation with my Traveling Partner, which will no doubt last the day in small exchanges over the hours – shared moments are shared moments, and in the 21st century, a great many of those are online, digital, and remote. It’s the emotional connectivity that matters most – the internet connectivity just holds the door open for that to occur. (Have you phoned your congressional and senatorial representatives to demand that net neutrality be preserved? It matters a great deal.)

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have far more to be grateful for than you have to bitch about. I hope your recipes turn out well, and your guests are entertaining and delightful. I hope you take care of yourself, and enjoy a low-stress holiday. I hope that you love, and are loved in return. ❤

What a difference it makes to get a good night’s sleep. How different from each other can two mornings be? I am making a point of savoring my mood and my experience of morning, this morning, because it is mild, pleasant, quietly joyful, and a total departure from yesterday’s crossness and irritability. I lived a great many years thinking every moment of my life was misery, and finding out that some portion of that was entirely a matter of perspective (and choice) wasn’t just an eye-opener, not merely a good-to-know insight, but wholly useful. I also now know to take time to savor, appreciate, and linger in these lovely quiet moments, and to allow them to become memorable.

(If the only emotional experiences you linger over, invest in, dredge up for later discussion again and again, are the painful and unpleasant ones, the whole of life eventually may feel painful and unpleasant; we become what we practice.)

I find, as with breathing, a hidden gem of a practice within the simplest experiences of pleasure, contentment, and joy – simply that of taking time to experience them fully, to linger over them in my recollection, to “share the story” (however silly it may seem to say aloud “I am having such a nice morning!” to someone else). Allowing our quiet moments of joy and our incidental experiences of pleasant living to become memories, by investing our time and attention in them, ensures that our implicit memory of life in general doesn’t become wholly negative, and instead, supports a steady sense of self, over time, that feels generally quite positive. That’s what I did to become “a positive person” by the way; I took the slow route through practicing “taking in the good” and over time shifted my implicit memory in a more positive direction. Incremental change over time is a thing that happens; we become what we practice.

…Think that over, though, “we become what we practice” – that’s all of it. Everything we practice routinely becomes part of who we “are”. Over time, anything we practice regularly, whether we like it or not about ourselves, becomes who we are. Good and bad.  Choose wisely. 🙂

Thanksgiving is almost here. There was a momentary thought in the background, something like “Oh no – what if I forget the ____?!”, and then I grinned at myself as it slipped away. I’m not especially spontaneous, as people go, but I am adaptable AF. lol I have options. Life’s menu is vast. This matter of living it is not like riding a train; it isn’t on rails, I have choices, plans change with circumstances. Missing ingredients become opportunities to explore new recipes, that’s all. It seems doubtful that anything could really “go wrong” with the holiday weekend ahead. I will cook a holiday meal, it will involve food – tasty and nourishing – and the excellent company of my Traveling Partner. We’ll hang out and enjoy each other for a couple days. Perfect! lol Sufficiency for the win. 🙂

Toward the end of the long weekend, after my partner has departed, I’ll get started on putting up the holiday tree. 😀

Quite a few folks in my network, and community, find Thanksgiving somewhat distasteful, these days, and there is little talk of pilgrims. I find there is definitely room on my calendar for a repurposed harvest season holiday build around a feast, and a feeling of gratitude and community, with which to kick off the winter holiday season. I continue to celebrate Thanksgiving as the holiday it is named to be; a celebration of gratitude, appreciation, and simple joys, a good meal shared in good company, and a long weekend with which to prepare for winter. It is also a season for charity, for giving to others, for reaching out and helping those in need, for doing a little more for people who are not me. It seems a wholesome and well-intended holiday, and I cherish it in that spirit, myself.

I wish you well this Thanksgiving – and I hope you have much to be thankful for. If it is hard times, I hope that you find sufficiency and contentment (and prosperity at some point, too). If you have plenty, I hope you share it. If you have little, I hope you enjoy what you have without guilt or shame. I hope we all find a moment that matters, and take a good opportunity to begin again. 🙂