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Fog is weird stuff. We pass through it easily, still, it blinds us and alters what we see of the world around us. Try to shine a bright light directly into fog, and it becomes more difficult to see, rather than easier. So weird. So… metaphorical.

Sure is foggy… am I really so certain I know what’s hidden out there?

How many times have I driven a familiar road, blinded by fog? Or walked some foggy trail listening to muffled steps through the mist, with only my thoughts for company? Or just sat quietly, in the dense damp of morning fog, imagining whimsically that the fog held more meaning than mere droplets of water densely dispersed in the air?

Fog is a pretty good metaphor for the various thinking errors I find myself prone to, and even the “obscuring mist” of misleading assumptions that can so easily crowd out any perception of my reality in the moment. I think about that, on and off, from that first moment standing outside, early this morning, wondering if the mist were properly fog, or more likely the smoke of distant wildfires. Both, maybe. The stench of it suggested at least a considerable portion was – is – smoke. Blech.

…Maybe rain tomorrow? The weather hints at the potential. So does my arthritic back. Fingers crossed! We could use some rain. We could use a way out of the fog.

Yes, of course, it’s a metaphor. 😉

Begin again.

My coffee is a memory. By the time I got to actually drinking it, it was already rather tepid. It lingers, cold, and bitter, in my recollection. My day is off to a rather poor start for no good reason. At some point, the quality of my experience becomes up to me…

I reflect on things quietly, thinking perhaps I’ll gain perspective through writing, then find myself stalled, unwilling to tackle the “harder questions” this morning, in spite of knowing they would do well to be asked, and where possible, answered. Instead, I make an ambitious list of household chores and resolve to complete those. It’s easier.  Today is, in most respects, an ordinary enough Sunday.

…Order from chaos… sometimes I find it helps with other challenges troubling me in the background…It helps to have a list.

Same view, different day. Perspective matters, but we each have to walk our own hard mile.

I remind myself to make room for other perspectives, to listen deeply, to be open to change…

A slight change in point of view can make a difference in understanding our circumstances.

…I wander off to get started on my list. Another new beginning… the day may improve, if I can stay open to that potential. I can always begin again…

…Sometimes this shit is hard. Seems so, I mean. Subjectively. I remind myself “one practice at a time, one step at a time, one task at a time; it all adds up”… I feel unconvinced and blue. Some days suck. I make a mental note that change is – even the most miserable moment is just a moment, and it’ll pass. I have choices. I have practices that I know I can count on to be uplifting. Yeah, not super convincing that time, either. I’ll “get over it” and “move past this”. For now, this is the experience I seem to be having. I try not to take it personally, and stay with both this actual moment, and these feelings; the moment, which is frankly fine, is my anchor, my point of “safety” that gives me a firm foundation to consider the feelings without becoming mired in them (that’s the intention, anyway). I’m okay right now. That’s real. The emotions are emotions. I make a point to refrain from conflating the feelings with actual experiences.

…I make a point to consider the experience separately from the emotions I feel during or about the experience, itself…

…Uncomfortable or unpleasant experiences are something I can learn and grow from. Fighting that isn’t particularly helpful. Getting mired in unresolved emotions isn’t particularly helpful (or comfortable) either. I take a breath and turn towards my discomfort, seeking growth… and begin again, again. I eye my “baggage” and personal demons with some distaste and impatience, and snarl to myself “bitches, I can do this “begin again” shit all fucking day, just go ahead and fucking bring it“. That at least gets a laugh out of me.

I check my list, and yeah, I even check it twice. There’s more to do… and it all begins with a beginning.

I slept like crap last night. I woke shortly after 1:00 am, and never really went back to sleep in any restful way. I wasn’t “tossing and turning” or frustrated with my sleeplessness. It was just there, and the night was what it was. I was noise sensitive once I woke, so the industrial gear in my studio drying out the water damage from the leak we found some days ago seemed more than usually noisy. Not helpful. Mysterious creaks and miscellaneous “new house” sounds I still haven’t figured out added to the “din” (in the quiet of night). I was light sensitive, too; every time I turned over, my awareness of some small indicator light or power button would re-wake me, seeming infernally bright in the darkness. Add to that my dumb “wearable” fitness device; every movement caused the silly thing to light up to “detect” whether I was awake, catching my eye, and pushing me further from sleep, again.

It just wasn’t a great night for sleeping, for me, I guess. I shrugged it off first thing, after trying to grab another hour of sleep before starting the work day. It didn’t work out very well. You already know how those thing go, right? Best sleep of the night in that last hour, and then… the alarm. LOL It is what it is. I hope I sleep well tonight.

My Traveling Partner spotted my fatigue early on. He’s been supremely considerate and gentle with me, nudging me in the direction of this or that thing I find myself on the edge of losing track of, as the day proceeds. Still managing to stay on track with his own projects, too. I take a moment to drink some water, and feel the love and gratitude that fills my heart when I see him step past the door to the deck, while he works outside in the sunshine. He’s been putting in the hours and the effort to help make our home together here really special. I often find myself wondering what other small thing I can do to show him how much I appreciate all of it, or to lift him up when he’s having a down moment or a frustrating challenge. I catch myself thinking of him, and I smile so hard my face hurts. It’s a nice problem to have.

My partner calls me out onto the deck to see how the new skirting on the hot tub looks. Wow. Project well-finished, and very little left to do. I feel loved and cared for. Appreciated. Understood. He… “gets me”. I take some pictures. Say some pleasant words. I’m still so tired… my thoughts are disorganized. Time to call it a day… wait…

…My work day ended moments ago, and I still feel groggy and stupid. lol

I’m starting this one now, late in the work day, afternoon sunshine spilling through the window onto my laptop, while I’m still irritated. I’ve been in a great mood all day… then… not. A few critical cross-sounding words, delivered in a stern parental sounding tone, in the middle of my work day – where, I promise you, I am not a child – and my mood feels wrecked. (I say “feels wrecked” instead of “is wrecked”, because it is not my intention to allow things to remain in this annoying state.) It’s time for managing the mood wrecker, and getting on with work, and the day.

To be very clear, I don’t mean to convey “mood wrecker” as an entity or person. It’s a moment, a phrase, an experience – it’s not about the who, it’s about the feeling. Shall we continue?

So, I’m setting this up for tomorrow’s writing, freeing myself up to tackle this challenge right now, while it is currently an irritant. I can write about it tomorrow, that’s plenty soon enough. 🙂 Hell, by the time morning comes, I may no longer remember the moment of nagging negative assumption-making delivered as “feedback” in any specific way, and unfortunately, whether I explicitly recall the specifics verbatim or not, the emotional change of “weather” has not ever shown itself to be dependent on detailed recollection at all. It just “is”. I’d really rather not just sit around in a shitty mood for the rest of the day, into the evening, and wake up in a crappy mood, no longer even aware of why. So. I’ll be taking steps – and practicing practices. 😉

…Wish me luck…

Still, and again. The very best practices work that way.

Here it is morning. My coffee is hot, and I feel rested and content. It’s a pleasant morning so far. The day, yesterday, finished well, and honestly, it was only minutes later that I was over my moment of aggravation. Here’s the thing; the content of the feedback/reminder I was given wasn’t an issue or any sort of problem. It was legitimate, reasonable, and valued. The person giving me the feedback wasn’t the “problem” – I value them and appreciate their insights. When I got past taking the tone personally, I could “just hear the words”. Once I was able to simply let go of my annoyance with the (implicit) assumption that the negative experience being discussed is “always” something I am personally and exclusively responsible for, I was able to hear the feedback itself as feedback and value it for what it was – an expression of importance and value, and a request to do some small thing differently to meet a need. Funny thing is, it was a request to do something I already see myself as doing, generally, make a point of doing (usually) and had been specifically doing for a couple days un-reminded, for the person who later reminded me to do it on an occasion when it hadn’t been getting done! I totally took their feedback personally, which is silly since I’d happily been picking up some slack for them for a few days, after being asked to do so.

I definitely took it way personally, and resented the reminder in the moment I heard it, as a result. Was it the tone? Doesn’t matter. Was it the phrasing? Doesn’t matter. Was it “true”? Even that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the task itself getting done is important to both the person reminding me and to me, and we do both want to see it done, reliably. That’s really the point of delivering the reminder in the first place.

The steps and practices for getting past it were pretty basic:

  1. Breathe
  2. Don’t take things personally
  3. Practice non-attachment
  4. Find the value in the message
  5. Show compassion
  6. Pause for gratitude

That probably seems like “a lot”, but the time involved was minutes, and begin with meditation (most of those steps fit into the time I spent meditating). The gratitude? I literally took a moment to reflect on how grateful I am to be surrounded by people who do care enough to remind each of what matters to them, and to give honest feedback when things go wrong. Doesn’t work at all if it’s not sincere, and that’s why that step is last. Takes me a minute and a bit of work to get there. lol Step 2 is the “hard one”. It requires me to work on me.

Finding peace and balance is a very personal journey.

These things happen at work, they happen at home, and they are not experiences unique to my life and my relationships. 🙂 Letting it go took some effort, because emotions are not about what is reasonable, what is true, or what is comfortable. They are what they are. Same for the person griping at me about the concern in the first place; it had become an emotional issue. Their emotions were audible, and that colored my experience, too. I’m glad non-attachment is a tool in my toolkit of everyday practices. I’m glad I know to practice not taking things personally. Those two practices let me move past the moment of aggravation and resentment, to a place where I could understand and embrace where the speaker was coming from. Will any two individuals ever see things “the same way”? Probably only by coincidence, honestly. We’re more likely to think we have the same point of view, than we are to truly share an identical perspective with any one other person. Differences in experience (we are each having our own experience). Differences in values (which change how we evaluate what goes on in the world around us). Differences in “personal dictionary” (the words we use have nuanced meanings, and it’s rare that we take time to verify a shared understanding of meaning). Differences in practices (what we do or don’t do, generally, change how we view the world, too).

It’s a lot to take in. Practices require practice. Sometimes growth isn’t easy. I’m “over it” – I’m not mad or annoyed. I get the point. Hell, I even agree that the task we were discussing is needful, and that everyone needs to “pull their weight”. (And, being real, I often do need reminders to get new tasks down reliably, at least at first.) The hardest part for me was letting go the persistent desire to come back with “Yeah, for sure, but how about you, too, though?” Unnecessary, I think, and likely less satisfying that I’d want it to be. The person delivering the reminder already sees the task as needful, so much so that they were willing to explicitly request my help getting it done on days when they were frankly very busy with something else, and kept forgetting to do it, themselves. So… yeah. That just leaves “did I?” competing with “didn’t I?”, and taking something personally that wasn’t personal at all… Letting it go just ends up being the easier thing, entirely. 🙂

I woke this morning having forgotten the reminder, the moment, the irritation, and my temporarily wrecked mood (which bounced back pretty quickly, given a chance). It was just another morning, another cup of coffee, another day to begin again. The draft I started yesterday reminded me. Reminders are emotionally neutral, and serve a clear purpose. 🙂 It’s not necessary to take them personally, at all. It’s only necessary to begin again. 😉

Once we choose our path, we’ve still got to walk it. The journey is the destination. 🙂

Funny thing happened yesterday, while I was sorting out what paintings will hang where, here in the new house… an ex crossed my mind. Oh, very briefly, and not in a weird or upsetting or chilling way. I was simply hunting for a particular painting I thought would be exceptional in a specific location, and I could not find it. I could not find it in the stacks of paintings in my studio closet, or in the flat storage cabinets along the wall, or stacked among the unsorted stacks-by-size, or… anywhere. Weird, right? I mean… not so weird; paintings sell. I don’t put much energy into selling art (not the sort of energy I put into painting paintings, for sure), but some of them do still somehow wander off in exchange for money. lol

I solved the mystery with an email search. I almost always email my partner when a painting sells. The subject line is pretty nearly always the same:

“[name of painting] sold! $xxx.xx”.

No idea why, exactly, I do this, but I do, and I can count on two things: firstly, batches of new work get emailed to a friend and attached (giving me a date they were created, and some notes about the new work, often including size, media notes, technical details, and title, if not also providing some insights into my inspiration at that time), and secondly, I email my partner when work sells (giving me details about where it went, and for how much it sold, and when). It only took a few minutes to find the original email with the new work attached… then a few more to find the sale acknowledged. (I could do much better with my business record keeping. lol I even think I should.)

That’s it, really. End of the tale. I sold the painting I had in mind to an ex, almost a decade ago, for a not-insignificant sum. In that moment of acknowledgement (and relief that I hadn’t just lost the damned thing), my ex crossed my mind. Briefly. Impersonally. Healing really does happen. Sometimes it takes more time than feels reasonable or convenient, but it can happen.

“K5: Gently Now” 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, May, 2010

This morning I sip my coffee and enjoy the quiet morning, undisturbed by thoughts of exes. They aren’t part of my life, by choice, and generally with good reasons.

It’s a new day. The sky is still dark. The house is quiet. The coffee is hot and the mug warms my hands pleasantly. I sit with my thoughts awhile. New beginnings will be soon enough. There’s definitely room in my day for “now“.