Archives for category: Turning 50

I finally gave in to sleep a little earlier than usual last night. I set my alarm for a couple of hours later than usual, ensuring that I would be up early enough for plans, and also able to fully relax and just sleep until I woke, knowing there was an alarm set. I didn’t expect to wake to the alarm – it would amount to 10 hours of sleep! lol

Then...night.

Then…night.

…The beeping of the alarm continued for sometime until I realized it was a real, actual, ongoing sound reaching me. I woke slowly, and without stress – or any particularly grogginess – and feeling very restored. (Go sleep!!) My first moments today have been quite delightful. I greeted myself in the mirror this morning with¬†a rather astonishing spontaneous moment of contentment and calm joy. I found myself gazing upon this relaxed, beautiful, curvaceous woman – clearly adult, wearing it well, smiling softly, plump with sensuous curves – an odalisque, a goddess, a warrior, a sage, a woman. Damn. ūüôā A lovely moment of recognition, acknowledgement, and enjoyment – all from within – is¬†an¬†excellent way to begin a day and I strongly recommend it (your experience, and your results, may vary). I stretched, smiled at my reflection, and ran my hands over curves that defied a lifetime of dieting before I finally yielded to the inevitability of being beautifully curvy, and discovered the wonders of beauty’s variety and splendor – beautiful curves don’t stop strong lean athletic angles from being beautiful, too. ¬†As with art – there are many sorts of beauty, all quite beautiful to someone.

I am sipping my coffee and enjoying being comfortable for the moment – whether I am actually having a rare pain-free day (or moment) or merely in a position in which my pain is eased is irrelevant right now; I am relaxed and feeling comfortable, and letting it be what it is. Seems worth enjoying for as long as it lasts. Enjoying what feels good is an excellent practice – simple, and of course, there are verbs involved. ūüôā

A¬†really first-rate practice I picked up a couple of years ago, and continue with even now, because it just matters that much day-to-day,¬†is taking the time to genuinely enjoy the best moments life offers, however, humble, complicated, or fleeting. The ‘negative bias’ human primates are equipped with tends to color our implicit memory far beyond what we’re aware of – and that colors our entire experience. I don’t need to practice dwelling on some awkward or uncomfortable moment, I don’t have to practice going over a troubling bit of conversation in my mind a hundred times, or practice obsessing over¬†some detail of mistreatment in the course of a lifetime; my primate brain will make sure I do these things without any prompting or practice¬†by¬†me. On the other side of things, so often the best bits are glossed over – they have much less ‘survival improvement potential’ to be gleaned from further review… but… when we rush past the wonders of life, the excitement of a romantic moment, or even a fleeting moment of self-approval reflected in the mirror, we continue to build and enhance only the negative bias in our implicit memory. The practice I learned to practice is to specifically and willfully take the time to savor and reflect on beautiful moments, great emotional experiences, wonders, joys, things of beauty, gratitude – all manner of pleasant, joyful, delightful things honestly. All of them. I take real time out of my day to focus on the good stuff, to relish it, to enjoy the thought and memory of it, to share it out loud as a storyteller – building on the positive in my implicit memory has been a large component of slowly shifting my background ‘ambient experience’ away from one heavily weighted toward stressful vigilance, fear, and frustration, and the avoidance and prevention of those experiences. (As it turns out, they are far easier to prevent when I’m not so focused on them as commonplace, too.) Try it – take a moment for you, and think over something wonderful that happened recently – big or small, doesn’t matter – and really recall it in detail, feel the good feelings, and imagine they are soaking through you as you consider this lovely moment. You probably won’t notice anything much except that it’s nice to think about something pleasant, and emotionally nurturing to appreciate our experience.¬†It’s a practice; incremental change over time is a real outcome. ūüėČ I will observe that this is one of my most favorite practices, feels great to do, and… well… I am not very like the woman I was 3 years ago, and this practice is one of the more profound (if simple) changes I have made in that time.

Let me be clear for a moment, really frank with you; I’m not promoting any practice I practice, or treatment method, or means¬†of [emotionally] getting ahead in life for my own financial gain. (Not yet, anyway… lol) Most of these practices are not of my own creation. My reading list (see up there at the top, or in the ‘menu’ drop down?) has¬†the source¬†for¬†most of them. In this particular case, several sources recommend savoring pleasant moments in some form or another – I practice it as a practice. You can find it, and many other great practices, more clearly explained and with references cited (yep, there’s science on this stuff), in The Happiness Trap, Tiny Buddha, Hardwiring Happiness, or Get Some Headspace. All fantastic starting points for improving one’s outlook on life or self. ¬†I’m not pushing you – I’m just saying, I think you’re [probably] awesome [definitely human!] and I am eager for you to enjoy everything about living your life. (Almost exactly what I said to the woman in the mirror, more than 3 years ago – a lot more than three years, really – it took awhile to get to this morning, and a wonderful moment with the woman in the mirror.)

ūüôā

My coffee this morning is tasty, well-made by a woman who really cares about me, and whose company and turn-of-mind (and phrase) I genuinely enjoy. The day seems to unfold ahead of me pleasantly, without anxiety, or pressure, well-planned and comfortable; learning not to over-commit myself has been another good way of taking care of me.

Distractions and obstacles take a lot of forms... I'm fortunate when the path is obvious. :-)

Distractions and obstacles take a lot of forms… I’m fortunate when the path is obvious. ūüôā

Today is a good day to practice practices that have taken me so far – so far. Today is a good day to smile at strangers – aren’t they people, too? Today is a good day to be patient with myself, and with my companions on this strange projectile hurtling through time and space. Today is a good day to enjoy the journey, and stay on the path. ūüôā

I spent the weekend relaxing quietly, and taking care of me. I considered writing more, once or twice, and even had the occasional worthy notion to reflect upon. I chose differently. Instead, I took care of myself gently, and spent the weekend relaxing, recovering from the long week, and building emotional resilience for the week to come.

In the middle of autumn, a rose blooms.

In the middle of autumn, a rose blooms.

This morning I scroll through my feed noting the pendulum swing of opinion in action; French flag overlays disappearing quietly in favor of newly outraged articles about terrorism elsewhere in the world, other deaths, other wounds, other pain, accompanied by reminders that all these lives matter as well and… where was everyone then? I see articles wisely counseling the use of language that refrains from honoring terror groups with dignified titles, and asking that we not culturally dignify terrorists with honorifics or titles crafted to convey legitimacy. That makes sense to me, language has power. The reactive articles from pundits on the opposite end of the political spectrum reflexively spit back resentment that any change is asked of ‘the righteous and justified’, seemingly unaware that being one of ‘the good guys’ requires acts of goodness, not just a naming convention. What a mess we’ve made. Certainly, it is at times like these that it is most apparent we are very fancy monkeys; we do not easily agree on what is ‘good’ or most suited to our kind.

It’s strange how little part politics has to play in the life of any one individual human being. It’s a choice. One choice among so many, and we make tons of small choices every day. Treating each other well, truly, and without regard to our origins, our politics, our lifestyle, our beliefs, or our circumstances, is something to aspire to. People who successfully treat everyone quite well are a joy to be near,¬†to stay connected to – to love. Behavior is chosen. What choices must I make differently to be that person – someone who treats everyone quite well, and is a joy to be near? How do I change the world when I make choices based on whether or not the outcome fits into ‘treating others well’? I reflect on these things most days. ¬†It isn’t enough to consider, to think, or to wonder; there are verbs involved. There is a need for balance; among all the people I wish to treat well is one person I am often most likely to overlook – myself.

A busy work week begins soon. How will I choose my actions to ensure I treat myself, and those around me, truly well? What choices will I make to secure a comfortable experience, pleasant, fulfilling, and content? What choices will I make to provide that experience to others? How can I do better by the woman in the mirror today, than I did yesterday?

Blue sky between rain showers.

Blue sky between rain showers.

I turn the thoughts over in my head somewhat fretfully. I notice I am picking at the edges of my cuticle, left hand, index finger. I smile, and recognize that as small as it is, I could start with not tearing my hands to shreds with fussing and worrying. It’s a start. However small, as starting points go, each moment I choose to stop something damaging, and continue with something helpful, I begin again. Each new beginning holds the power to change the world. ¬†Perhaps it isn’t ‘everything’ – but it is more than nothing, and it is enough to choose, and to choose again. It is through our choices that we change the world.

Where’s mine? That’s an important question…and this is me ranting about the underlying frustration with finding real ‘work:life balance’. You can skip this one if you prefer the lovely pictures and focus on day-to-day mindfulness and search for balance and stillness. This… is not that. ūüėČ

Perspective matters.

Perspective matters.

If I am over-extended, over-committed, over-worked, and rushed to a point that I more easily overlook needed medication, appropriate breaks for self-care, measured healthy calories to sustain good health and cognition, I can’t sustain emotional balance, physical wellness, and maintain all those logistical quality of life details that matter so much… rent…bills…vacuuming…showering… Just saying – how about we all take a nice deep breath and take a step back from being dicks to each other all the fucking time? That other person over there, that didn’t meet your expectations this time, or that time, or some other time – still human. Still having their own experience. Still entirely worthy of common courtesy, consideration, and patience. How about showing some? If we make a collaborative effort on that, culturally, the whole fucking world improves just a little bit. (This is a reminder for me, myself, as much as anything. I could do better on this.)

Raise the minimum wage? You bet – paying people appropriately is simply the right thing to do, and it is pretty ugly that we can say ‘he works full time’ and ‘he doesn’t make enough money for rent and groceries’ about the same person. Any person. And guess what? We’re all people. The same thing is true of time – we’re all human. People. Beings of emotion and reason, creative, romantic, philosophical beings who live and laugh and love – and need time for those things. No one needs time to be employed by some other person on some other agenda; we do¬†need an exchangeable form of our life force to pay for the goods and services required to support our desired quality of life. That so many¬†are not being paid what our human¬†life force is worth as human beings is tragic. That anyone at all would argue that the life force of some human beings is worth more than others is… yeah. To be approached with caution at best. Go ahead,¬†tell me how the average CEO is truly worth more money hour-for-hour than the guys who built your roads, your house, who pick your produce, who sweat over ensuring you have power after a storm, who work in factories manufacturing the goods you want so badly. I’m ranting. Sorry. This matters to me. ¬†You matter to me. People matter to me. Even in my most solitary least social moments, I still value human life, and struggle to understand why it so often seems that many people just don’t, not even their own.

It makes me ache to see people tear each other down to somehow excuse modern-day indentured servitude:¬†pay so minimal there is limited potential to survive, and no real hope of actually thriving or ‘bettering oneself’. I’m spitting into the wind. Job crisis? No problem; reduce the standard work week, refuse to allow salaried employees to work more hours than that, and insist businesses go ahead and hire the staff it actually takes to do the jobs they want done. Pay people to retire earlier in life if they choose to (so they can afford to). Ensure wages are adequate to live on, and stay so. Job crisis over. Yes, I am saying that businesses take the hit on the bottom line – less profit, more labor cost.¬†Human labor is worth far more than we make it out to be.¬†I’m not afraid to say that; businesses are building their success on the backs of those employees, capitalizing on the limited mortal lifetime of individual actual real human beings who might very much enjoy living their actual fucking lives doing something they truly enjoy and thrive on. So… not fast food, probably. Not a call center, probably. The reason jobs are work is because businesses¬†do actually have to pay people to do them. We don’t all wake up and just go to call centers, food service jobs, or gas stations just because we totally love the fun of it; we do it as part of an agreed to exchange of our precious life force for cash money to use as we may. We have so much more to offer ourselves and the world than 40 hours of grinding unrelenting tedium for employers who are (in some cases) actually destroying the world (or just up to no good).

If you do work you love, I applaud you. If you have found a way to love the work you do, regardless what sort of work that is, or whether it benefits you beyond a paycheck, I applaud you, too. I haven’t figured that one out yet. I earn an adequate living doing something I am very skilled at, and most of the time it’s enough that it be so. Tonight… I am tired. I hurt. I’m struggling to understand why I choose to spend so much of my limited mortal lifespan on something that has no potential to nurture my spirit, or build memories of wonderful experiences, or deliver real value to my life… beyond that infernal bottom line. There are bills to pay. This is such a limited and precious mortal life… what is appropriate¬†compensation for the irreplaceable minutes with loved ones, or hours spent walking in the forest, or… yeah, the entirety of a lifetime we can’t replace once spent?

My perspective on work:life balance is very different at 52 than it was at 25. Maybe that’s as it should be? There’s more to understand here, and some hard questions to answer for myself about what matters most. Maybe for you, too? Perhaps the answers are as individual as we each are as people? Does the man or woman of 70 who is angry about ‘forced retirement’ have any less right to their experience and will than does the man or woman of 45 who would prefer to retire from the world of day-to-day hourly wage employment to write the novel they have within them?¬†Does it matter what drives that preference?¬†I don’t have answers – but¬†I’m pretty sure cookie cutter solutions aren’t the solution, and falling back on what my grandfather found right and proper will likely not work for me. We are not ‘one size fits all’ in life.

Autumn becomes winter; there's only so much time, and all of it is 'now'.

Autumn becomes winter; there’s only so much time, and all of it is ‘now’.

I am more questions than answers. Tonight I am also tired, in pain, and feeling rather terse with myself ‘for even bringing it up’, as¬†if¬†ignoring¬†a wound has any potential to heal it. So, I take time to take care of me, meditation is a good practice in this head space, a healthy meal, a good night’s rest. There is time to consider, to wonder, to contemplate – there is time later to ask questions, to make choices, to figure out what works and do that thing. Tonight it is enough to slow down, and take care of me.

This is an easy restful weekend so far. I slept in again this morning, and although I woke stiff and in a lot of pain, aside from that – which is annoyingly commonplace at this point in life – it’s a lovely weekend, relaxed, and still somewhat productive. I’m not ‘trying’ to get here. I didn’t head into the weekend with a firm plan to relax, or to rest, or to tackle a big list of stuff to do. The weekend began. I’ve continued to practice the practices that work best for me – I’ve meditated more than I often to (which already tends to be often), and probably done less yoga than I could have (and might be in less pain if I had chosen differently).

Yes, of course, coffee. :-)

Yes, of course, coffee. ūüôā

I tend to associate the verb ‘trying’ with focused effort and a very specific outcome in mind. I also associate ‘trying’ with frustration; trying puts me on a more direct path to failing, by setting specific expectations of which actions must lead to what outcome. I’ve got challenges with frustration – it is my worst emotion, inasmuch as I just don’t deal with the experience of feeling frustrated well; it quickly becomes unreasoning anger, with risk of tantrums, tears, and actual quite dreadful headaches. As emotions go, I am least skilled with frustration. I find that when I let go of ‘trying’ to do something, or get somewhere, and simply get started on the task, or headed for the destination, building on good basic practices without becoming attached to a specific outcome, I not only enjoy my experience more, I definitely achieve my goals more easily – and more often – with less frustration. ¬†It’s an experience to explore further.

Fancy

Sometimes the luxury self-care package includes a moment of self-indulgence – my salted caramel cafe au lait, Friday evening.

Friday night’s prolonged periods of reflection and meditation are still ‘seeping into my consciousness’. Yesterday was filled with “Oh!” moments of awakening, generally followed by abruptly stopping what I was doing at the time to pause, sit for a moment with the realization or new thinking, before moving on with the day. I ‘didn’t get anything done’ in the sense of practical matters being checked off a list of tasks, but I spent the day treating myself well, relaxing without guilt, and practicing practices that build emotional resilience for the work week to come, and ones that build the emotional self-sufficiency I will rely on for a lifetime ahead of me. With modern medicine in mind, there is every possibility that I will live beyond 100 years… making me more or less at the literal half way point in life, with a great deal more awareness than a newborn child has. These can be fantastic years ahead of me – handled appropriately. Certainly, there are more paintings to paint, more words to write, and more moments ahead of me.

...and more books to read. It's a good day for that, too.

…and more books to read, more poetry to write. It’s a good day for¬†it.

I find myself asking a strange new question as I move through the hours of my days this weekend. “Is this the life you are choosing for yourself, for the next 50 years?” It’s not actually a yes/no limited question. The question is more intended to provoke reflection on who I am, how I live, and what my choices are – not only how I treat the world, and what I do with my time, generally – but also how I feel in the context of my own experience. Each time I ask myself the question, I take the opportunity to make some small change to improve on how I care for myself, how I treat others, and even how I think about my experience, and the world I live in. I am learning to value and appreciate my emotions without letting them take the driver’s seat; they communicate things about the nature of my experience that reason doesn’t notice right away [or at all, let’s face it; reason has a different mission].

…Now, if I can just figure out how to wring every last drop of delight, education, and value out of experiences that frustrate me, that would be quite spectacularly lovely!¬†ūüôā

It’s a good day¬†for being, and for becoming. It’s a good day to try new things. It’s a good day to become more skilled at the things that work well. It’s a good day to honor progress, and appreciate all the small moments and interactions that delight me, educate me, and nourish my heart. Changing the world is a long process, relying on the incremental changes over time of a great many individuals – there are verbs involved. Changing the world within can happen over night; it’s a¬†choice. [There are still verbs involved, and your results may vary. Practice. Begin again.]

Sometimes growth and progress feel a bit like a fancy pattern of dominoes lined up carefully in a row, standing, waiting…for one small push, and having received it, they topple one into the next, as necessary as breathing, to a conclusion that sometimes¬†both surprises, and also seems rather obvious.

Yesterday was a good day. It was not without emotion, but emotions were not overwhelming or disabling me. Work was work. Home was home. I was feeling a tad on the practical and ‘no ¬†nonsense’ side by the time I got home. Still, it was a pleasant evening of hanging out. Uneventful. Calm.

I felt inspired off and on, and excited to explore new thinking on old pain…and took notes all day. Looking those notes over this morning, there is an evident thread of hurt and frustration woven through the narrative of the day that only shows up in the brief, sometimes terse, observations that although significant seeming, were a distraction from the workload facing me. I look back on them and wonder how much of it is truly relevant; damn little of it is at all inspiring now. I am at a place in life where it would certainly be a goodness to give up day-to-day employment to focus on my own needs and agenda…but our society isn’t really set up that way, and the financial obligations of adulthood find me continuing to maintain employment.

I’m committed to slowing things down a bit, and taking care of me. The timing is right for planning the upcoming hiking/camping for the year, and I enjoy the planning and anticipation, itself. I’m eager to be out among the trees, in the stillness, just being. Quiet and content, and able to hear my own thoughts for more than 5 minutes at a time…trees rustling in breezes…small creatures approaching with cautious curiosity…home. This week I think I made a small breakthrough with regard to emotional self-sufficiency, love, lust, and sexual needs. Explaining it well would require words I have not yet mastered, but I feel more connected within myself, which has apparently been holding me back of late. There’s some other stuff, important on the inside… perspective… identity… self… other… (and much, much more!)

I didn’t sleep well last night. Meditation sort of… consumed a bunch of time unexpectedly. Then there were some lovely minutes of cuddling. Then… I was awake. Awhile. A long while. No fussing or anxiety to it, I just wasn’t sleeping. I went back to meditating at a number of points, which I have been finding definitely keeps the anxiety at bay. I feel okay this morning. I know I’ll be tired tonight. Managing good self-care throughout the day will be critical, and I make a point of taking note of that need for attentive self-care, and set a small number of extra reminders for today; later on I may not be my sharpest.

Here it is another day. Will I learn something new? Will I make good choices and treat others well? Will love find me in some unexpected moment? Will sorrow? I hear the espresso machine in the background and I think of love… and coffee. Today is a good day to make good choices. Today is a good day to take the time to take care of me. Today is a good day to slow down for a moment, and really just savor it. Today is a good day to change my experience.

Taking the journey with my eyes open, and walking a mindful path... what will I see?

Taking the journey with my eyes open, and walking a mindful path… what will I see?