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It’s come up a number of times as I transition out of this job, and certainly it has come up any number of times, an uncountable number of times, in life, generally; we don’t know what we don’t know. None of us do. I certainly don’t know what I don’t know. Demonstrably so. My colleagues don’t know what they don’t know. I can prove it.

I considered writing in detail about the painful professional reminders of this fairly predictable conundrum, but quickly tired of the mundanity of an experience I am living right now, and am also already so over. When we dismiss or diminish the hard-won experience and expertise of a friend or loved one (or colleague), we also undermine their interest in remaining emotionally invested in supporting our needs. That’s just real. Respect, consideration, listening to the answers to questions that are asked, taking time to be thoughtful and studious about information our experienced, expert, associates are willing to share with us, are great ways to demonstrate our appreciation, and to ensure their time is not wasted on us. Time is precious and limited.

Yes, it matters. We don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t. We literally can’t grasp the vastness of the information we just don’t have. Ideas we’ve never been exposed to. The potential negative consequences of the things we do not understand, or are not aware of. Showing consideration and respect for those among us who do know something more, and are willing to share that with us, is just an element of what could be called “common decency”.

Put down your opinion along with your ego for a moment, and be open to the idea that not only do you “not know everything” (easy enough to accept, generally), but also that there are others who do know more (a bit harder sometimes, perhaps). Our opinions don’t amount to knowledge. That can be so hard to accept. It’s still true. You want to be the expert? Gain the experience. Study. Gain the knowledge. Use it. Gain more experience. Fail some. Try things. Study more. Seek credentials where credentials are appropriate. Study more. Use that knowledge. Try more things. Ask new questions. Learn more things. See where this is going? You may have an opinion you feel strongly about, but unless your opinion is validated in some way, and proves to be quite correct, it has nothing whatsoever to do with “knowledge” and certainly nothing to do with expertise. Opinions, however firmly held, do not amount to facts – nor are they an assurance of understanding.

It’s okay not knowing. It predicts nothing about the future state of one’s knowledge or expertise; these are things that can be learned. We become what we practice. You want to be the expert? Gain some experience, seek knowledge. There are verbs involved. In the meantime, maybe get comfortable with the expertise of others. Ask them what they know. Listen when they tell you. Don’t assume that the appearance of ease is any indication that something is easy – maybe it is just well-practiced?

We can’t know what we don’t know – but we can pay attention, be open to learning, be willing to study. And we can begin again. 🙂

Someone else’s powerful poetry serves this moment up to me, this morning. (Thanks, David Bowie.)

Still don’t know what I was waitin’ for
And my time was runnin’ wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
How the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

Surfing the waves of joy and anxiety crashing over my consciousness this morning, celebrating change, reveling in agency, and…but… yeah, also having to manage the anxiety that comes with full throttle adulthood in real-time. Scary. Deliciously unpredictable. My sleep is disrupted, and I woke groggy from having too much to dream. I’m already walking that fine line between “enough coffee” and “what the fuck was I thinking having all that coffee?”

Choosing to make a job change (or career change, depending on how those words are defined, but either way, a change of employer) feels a bit strange and disorienting in this moment. It’s “the right move” for me right now, a good choice, based on sound decision-making (from the only perspective I have in this moment, which is… this perspective, now). Still, willfully acting on that perspective, taking full advantage of personal agency, and acting with clarity of purpose in the context of living the life I want to live, that supports my long-term needs and goals, still shakes me up a bit, and causes me considerable anxiety. Maybe it always will. The anxiety isn’t stopping me; this feels right. A good practice; don’t take my emotions as facts upon which decisions must be made.

…It’s still sort of nerve-wracking, now and then. Small stressors loom larger than they need to be. I find myself sort of “holding my own hand” now and then, and seeking out favored colleagues for moments of connection, sharing, and support. Taking time to acknowledge their importance and value to me before I leave really meets some needs, for me, and seems to for them as well. A good practice; connect with people. Authentically. Even, if I dare to use such words in the context of work, tenderly. With care. Consideration. Gratitude. Joy.

It’s a slow sort of celebration. There’ll be a few days between the one and the other, which I definitely need in order to ensure that I leave any baggage and old business behind, before I start on a new adventure. Another good practice; get my head right, let go of baggage.

I’m taking myself seriously – but not taking my bullshit personally. 🙂 Or, at the moment, anyone else’s. It feels pretty nice, overall. Each dawn brings a new beginning… some beginnings are bigger than others. Some are chosen with great care. Some are simply circumstances presenting opportunities. Some are all those things.

Grab your map, and let’s get going! This journey won’t complete itself. This hard mile won’t be walked without feet on the ground!

Ultimately, we each choose our own path…

Wait…what? No map?

A favorite trail was flooded. It was necessary to choose another way.

No map. Not really, no. There is no map besides the map we create ourselves as we take our journey through life. We get by on some advice, hopefully choosing wisely which advice to heed, because… it’s not all worth having. It’s a noisy din of bullshit, woo, and well-intended platitudes, ringing in our ears any time we seek help, and it remains up to us, broken, fragile, confused, angry, held back, frustrated, afraid… yeah, we’ve still got to sort out which advice becomes a next step, and which advice becomes… something other than that. lol

Every day I try to face some piece of who I am, something less than satisfying about the way I live my life, something that still frustrates me, or leaves me feeling diminished to allow it to continue – I make a point of working on that. Growth and change don’t generally spring forth as wholly satisfying solutions without a significant measure of discomfort, and yeah, sometimes loss. It can be quite painful to face the person in the mirror, yet again, over bullshit I thought I’d addressed quite satisfactorily, only to find that it’s still a challenge. So very human. It’s the “why” behind my attention turning to beginning again, to self-acceptance, to self-awareness, reflection, and iterations of incremental change over time, versus the “flip a switch” model of self-improvement, which I’ve found, myself, has limited utility; some stuff just doesn’t work that way, in practice….

…Because that’s what a lot of willful, desired, deliberate, chosen changes require; practice. I choose a direction. I take a step. I fall. I fail. I get up and renew my efforts (and my will). I begin again. The cycle repeats. Each iteration, with practice, new behavior (and it is about behavior, in this case) becomes somewhat easier, and more natural. We become what we practice. There is no need to “fake it until you make it”; I’ve found it quite sufficient to be authentic with my experience, and openly admit it when new behavior is uncomfortable, and I am frank when new behavior is part of a future experience of self that I am embracing (“sorry about any awkwardness!”). We’re all way to hung up on looking like we’ve already mastered this shit. We have not. 😀

It’s a journey with a lot of stairs to climb…

Our own need to feel like “we’ve got this” sometimes prevents us from being open to change, to learning new ways, to feeling safe enough to admit our mistakes and embraces a radical departure from who we once were, to become someone we would much prefer to be. Harsh. Vulnerable is also sort of scary, sometimes.

I sip my coffee and think about a friend who has recently undertaken to address his problematic relationship with anger, and to improve upon the way he treats others, particularly in intimate relationships (actually, I have several friends, all taking this particular profound individual journey, as well as it being one of my own). I fret over his pain, and his despair. I silently consider how far I have come myself, and feel certain kinship, sympathy, and understanding. Different journey. Different lives. Still… a shared emotional experience; we all face anger at some point. Anger is a badass motherfucker of an emotion, easily weaponized, difficult to control skillfully, useful in some limited capacities, a burden in many other circumstances… Anger is a hard one. Anger is the Boss demon among the cohort of personal demons that many of us face.

Life isn’t all logic and reason; we are emotional beings. It only makes sense to invest time and study in such an important part of our experience.

Emotions are not our enemies. Even anger has its place and a purpose in our experience. It’s our behavior when we react with anger leading the way that becomes problematic, inappropriate, hurtful, or even criminal. The good news there? Behavior can be corrected through practicing different behavior. No kidding. Hell of a short cut to change right there. Think about that; the difference between healthy anger, and unhealthy anger is purely a matter of behavior while angry. Change the behavior. Commit to that change. Practice other behavior. Keep at it. Practice more. Over time, not only is the behavior changed – so is the thinking. No kidding. Sure, there are probably fancier approaches to making a change of this sort, but this one is within reach for literally anyone at all.

Still though… I’ll just say this… if your issues with anger result in you being actually violent, actually emotionally abusive, and/or actually explosive of temperament in a scary way for people (trust them when they tell you so, they are not kidding), please also consider getting some professional help. I love that you want to change. I encourage you to do so. I also recognize that this shit is difficult, and you may appreciate having some support (that in all reasonableness can’t be the responsibility of your friends, family, or loves). 🙂

Where you find yourself in life largely depends on the choices you make along the way.

My Traveling Partner sleeps in the other room. I am content, and warmed through and through by Love. It’s quite wonderful, and I am so grateful my journey has brought me here. Every prior long-term relationship of mine resulted, at some point, in actual violence against me – other than this one. This singular love, right here, has worked well on a foundation of mutual respect and consideration, and an understanding that raised voices are already an excessive transgression against self, and a violation of Love; anything further would be simply inexcusable. Having accepted non-violence, together, we’ve enjoyed our years together without inviting violence to our shared experience. I am pleased with my part in that, and grateful to my partner for the part he plays, as well. There are verbs involved. There are choices. We make choices every day to speak gently, to take a step back when we feel provoked, to acknowledge emotion without allowing emotion to call all the shots, to hear ourselves and to hear each other, and to respect each other’s experience without fusing with it… everyday work, everyday consideration, everyday respect. Loving each other, while also respecting (and valuing) each other’s agency. How love works (your results may vary). 🙂

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

I love that paragraph. I feel well-loved, and unafraid in my home. There was definitely work getting here, and a measure of that work was ending relationships with lovers, partners, and friends, who were committed to violence, or unwilling to accept that their behavior, or words, could be received as violence, and unwilling to change their behavior. No point insisting, really; agency matters. I don’t have to insist on change – and I can’t “make” someone choose it. What I can do, and must, and have, is walk on from relationships in which my needs are not valued, or my agency not respected. I can walk on from violence, and choose another path. I can – and I have. 🙂

Not gonna lie… lots of verbs… lots of practice. Sometimes some major logistical losses. Worth the effort. Worth the choice to care for myself.

Are you ready to begin again? You are your own cartographer. It’s time to get started on a new map. 🙂

The map is not the world…but the journey may be the destination.

It’s a cold evening, but I was shaking all over before I even got onto the elevator. “Shitty timing for this kind of bullshit”, I point out to myself not quite silently. The almost inaudible snarl of frustration, anxiety, and impotent rage seemed to set off the shaking, although it is more likely they have a shared cause; degraded emotional resilience, too much work, too little time, too much emotional investment, too little boundary-setting, and (I’m know I’m not alone in this) eventually it’s “all too much”. Hell, even the good stuff. This is the middle of that Venn diagram of crazy that a great many of us with anxiety issues, head trauma, PTSD, and a host of other physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges definitely do deal with on a regular basis (with or without support).

I arrive home still shaking all over. I managed the commute without losing my shit – or losing my nerve – although I quickly exited the worst of the stop & go nastiness and shitty human behavior by taking a longish (and apparently unpopular) detour through rural roads a bit out of my way. I can’t properly tell whether – or if – I am “tired”. I feel disconnected and surreal, and on top of the shaking, I feel very much on the edge of tears. This has to be addressed – and living alone, generally, means I can tackle this challenge without allowing myself to be distracted or derailed by instigating drama, or over-reacting to some unrelated small thing that can conveniently be blamed for what may (or may not) be pure chemistry.

…I’ll take a moment to point out that I don’t harp on good self-care because I stroll around modeling the very best self-care, smug in my cared-for-ness of self. I spend a lot of time talking about it because I spend a lot of time considering (and practicing) it – because I need the practice badly, because I am fairly bad at good self-care. So. Moving on.

I feel emotionally safer once I get home. I know the shaking won’t stop until the needs are met. So… what needs? Does this have to degrade into a full-blown meltdown with a screaming tantrum…? Because… I hate those. Uncomfortable. Harder to bounce back from. I nearly always come down with some terrible ailment a day or two later. Fuck that shit. I can do better… can’t I? I like to think I can. I yearn for the truth of it to feel more obvious in some visceral way right now. Like anyone else, my anxiety whispers terrible things to me in the background, and it is hard to hold onto all of the things I have learned about self-care, and growth, and perspective, and balance, and…

…And I’m so human. Fucking hell.

In the meantime, I do things. Self-care can be broken down into a series of small tasks, and observations which lead to other small tasks, until the moment has passed and I am once again “okay right now” – because, for real, I am actually okay right now. I’m not injured. I’m not suffering any externally inflicted physical or emotional wound in this moment. I’m… just here. Shaking. Feeling emotionally overwhelmed and on the edge of a tantrum. I feel… over extended. I feel… un-cared for… by me. Well that sucks. I move around the house completing small tasks… First things first, I hang up my keys and my work badge, and differentiate the moment from the work day. I adjust the thermostat and lighting. I take off my boots. I medicate. I tidy up what little disorder there is, in the kitchen, and assemble a meal that I can just stuff into the oven and forget until it is ready, then make a small snack, aware that I missed lunch and have been surviving on my morning coffee all day.

…”surviving on my morning coffee all day”… Well, shit. Okay, that’s probably part of it, for sure. I pause for a quick moment to appreciate that I started dinner, and had that needed handful of calories, before I was fully aware that I’d missed a meal, and that my blood sugar could be very low. That’s progress, and worth celebrating. I let myself smile about that; it’s a choice, and it feels a little forced. “Thanks for trying”, I silent congratulate myself on the effort.

I know that through writing I often gain some perspective, and I know meditation helps. I allow myself to recognize some poor self-care decision-making of recent days… weeks? Months. Shit. Okay, so… I’ve hit a wall. I get it. I sigh and sit down at my desk to write a bit. Meditation is very difficult when I’m shaking like this, and because meditation can sometimes also be very emotional or cathartic, I put that aside for now (with a lot of uncomfortable awareness that I’ve been less dedicated that I know I need to for my best emotional wellness), promising I’ll do that after dinner. I open my email, and notice a shipped item for my Traveling Partner and forward it with a message. His appreciative reply is welcome right now. His reminder about other things I have promised to get done is less welcome, but possibly necessary. I try to balance the shaking with my gratitude, and hope to find myself more able than not, shortly.

My brain attacks with me an unexpected volley of bullshit; the realization that although I mentioned that I needed to take some time to take care of myself before moving on to other tasks, my partner didn’t ask me how I am, or if I am okay… It slams me (emotionally) in the chest, and I feel breathless, and further overwhelmed. My intellect (and a commitment to non-attachment, and perspective) hits back with a skillful (and timely) reminder that connectivity on his end is generally pretty shitty and he may also be busy, and quite possibly hasn’t even seen that message yet – we don’t make the mistake of treating messaging as “obviously real-time” communication, because it is not. There are far too many things that can interfere with the immediacy of seemingly real-time remote digital communications that assuming digital communication is truly reliably real-time is a great way to face a shitload of unnecessary anxiety and insecurity, most especially in moments of anxiety and insecurity. I breathe through that one, and move on to the next.

I haven’t had it like this in a long while. I know it will pass. I’ve got good steps to manage it with. For now, it is a very physical experience. I start dealing with all that first, because often that’s enough. (Thus changing up the thermostat, lighting, and getting dinner started, first thing.)

My brain flashes forward to a vision of tempting sweet relief in the form of the thought of just… “walking away from all of it”… throwing my gear into the car, taking whatever cash on hand I’ve got, filling the gas tank, and… driving far far away from all the fucking anxiety, and stress, and bullshit, and insecurity, and learned helplessness, and unexpected aggression, and sadness, and disappointment, and financial challenges, and uncertainty about the future in my elder years… Fuck that sounds so… tempting… Like… very tempting…miles of open highway in some remote place putting distance between me and… yeah… me. (note: it doesn’t work like that)

…except…

…I’d also be walking away from everything else – all the good stuff, and yeah, even right now, I can allow myself to be aware that there is also a lot of good stuff. (There are verbs involved, and it is a difficult choice.) More good than not, actually. I’d be walking away from a great partnership, a lovely little place I live right now, so many friends who cherish me, a relative lifetime of things and objects that I love, the playful squirrels on my desk, the gas fireplace… yeah. Everything. All of it. Thinking of that, the anxiety surges again, determined to best me on a cold autumn night, as the evening light fades.

Tears come to my eyes. The Evening Light will fade, eventually… we are mortal creatures….

I breathe. Another breath. Another. I feel the temperature of the house warming up. I feel the positive effect of the quick snack of a hard-boiled egg start to kick in. I feel less distracted by hunger, too, after the big glass of water I had. Less agitated because I finally actually noticed that I really had to pee…. like… seriously. I have a nasty headache – had I already noticed that before? I’m pretty sure I did not. I start to feel calmer. The shaking begins to subside.

This is a process. This journey is not over. There are steps (so many) and practices (omg, sooo many) and there are verbs involved (and tasks to complete). My results vary.

I’m not writing this out in real-time to cause you stress, or rouse your empathy, sympathy, or impulse to provide nurturing. It’s more about “being here”, myself, when life isn’t going smoothly – because if I’m only here when all is well, what real opportunity is there to grow – or share that growth? If my perspective comes across as eternally sunny, and you only ever read my words when I am well and whole and merry, what value is there for you if you are mired in struggle, frustrated, alone, and terrified that nothing will ever get better? So. Here I am, down in this shit, doing my best. Practicing practices – many of which were completely new for me such a short time ago – doing my best with the tools at hand. Maybe I succeed, maybe I fail? Maybe I’ll spend the night weeping, or fearful? Hyperventilating in the darkness? Screaming nightmares? I know one thing I can count on doing – I will begin again. 🙂

Round 1 ends. It’s time to practice good self-care. It’s time to begin again.

…Again.

 

Nearly every morning, I curse the assholes driving urban streets with their high beams on. Seriously? Especially these modern high intensity headlights – those high beams are literally, not figuratively, blinding. If the oncoming traffic is blinded by headlights, has the additional visibility they offer drivers actually made the road more safe? I suggest they have not. lol Fucking hell.

Turn off your high beams when there is oncoming traffic.

Read that again. It’s an example of basic consideration. Good adult behavior. Considerate. Respectful. Cooperative. Illustrative of a shared journey on a small and fairly crowded planet.

Yes, even on the freeway, when the oncoming traffic is… “over there somewhere”; if you can see them, they can be blinded by your headlights. It’s really that simple.

Does this actually matter?

Doesn’t everything?

Is your response that you can’t see as much without your high beams? (Seriously?) How helpful will that be on a country road, as you both come around an unfamiliar curve in opposite directions, if all you see in that improved view is the other driver crossing into your lane, head on, blinded by your headlights – or careening off the road, unable to see quite where the road actually is? Great view, huh?

Turn off your high beams when there is oncoming traffic.

Seriously. If you’re driving in traffic with your high beams on, you are putting other drivers at risk of a collision, and just being a fucking nuisance. It’s both unpleasant and unnecessary.

Now. Having been explicitly told that your high beams are blinding other drivers, if you go forth in the darkness with your high beams on, without regard for, or consideration of, oncoming traffic? You’ll be choosing to do so willfully, aware that it is both unpleasant and unnecessary, explicitly choosing your convenience over the safety of others. I think, personally, that if you are going to be a jackass in that fashion, it’s best that you do so without any opportunity to pretend you are the fucking good guy here. 😉

Do better.

Turn off your high beams when there is oncoming traffic. It’s not just good manners; it could save a life.

I know, I know; it’s not much of a change. It’s a small thing as new beginnings go. Still, although it may not change the world… it could change someone’s experience of driving. 🙂