Archives for category: War and News of War

Eat less or exercise? Personally, I have to do both. It’s non-negotiable. If I get less exercise, still keep my caloric intake well-managed (and low) and eat healthy food, I gain weight anyway. If I get plenty of exercise, but make poor nutritional choices, I also gain weight. If I eat a poor quality diet, don’t manage my calories closely, and also don’t get sufficient exercise, I not only gain weight, I gain a lot of weight, and I pack on the pounds fast. Some medications cause me to gain weight, too; that’s something I reliably find out the hard way. So… eat less or exercise? I don’t get to choose, I’ve got to do both. πŸ™‚

There are quite a few things in life that we sometimes get snared viewing as a choice between options, when, actually, it’s a choice to change, or not to change; all the options involving change may be required to make change occur in the direction we’d specifically like to see. Real-life doesn’t tend to negotiate with our whims.

Emotion, and the skillful management and expression of strong emotion, specifically, has some things in common here, with a twist; incremental change over time is super slow, but our emotions jump to the head of any queue, lead every moment, and arrive to every party too early. So sure, it’s reasonable, and true, for someone mid-freak out to have the recognition and understanding that their experience is based on “irresistible” internal forces beyond their immediate control; strong emotion, particularly powerful emotions like rage, frustration, and sorrow, can erupt from within us, sweeping over us, taking away our sense of control, and eventually leading to regrettable words and actions. The “I’m sorry”s begin to pile up (if you are that decent sort who regrets treating others badly). So do the rationalizations (about hormones, childhoods, provocation, circumstances…).

It’s also quite true that our behavior is a choice. Yes, all of it. Yes, pretty much all the time, every time. The first time someone lashes out with an act of violence, they might get by with “I didn’t know” or an expression of astonishment that they could be provoked to that point, but second times? Third times? Times that occur after someone – anyone – has pointed out that’s not okay? Yeah, those are choices. Yielding to strong emotion and relinquishing control over behavior is a choice (unless maybe you are profoundly mentally ill and urgently in need of inpatient treatment). Well, if that’s also true, is everyone who ever treated a loved one poorly, or punched a wall, or lashed out with horrible words deeply mentally ill and urgently in need of treatment? Some of them probably are! Most of them likely are not. That they are choosing such behaviors is still a choice, and they could choose differently, and no you can’t “make them” change, and omg – if they decide to change themselves, that is a process that can be infernally slow, fraught will failures, and varying results.

…And before we can change ourselves through our willful choices in the direction of being our best selves, we actually need to 1. be aware that we would like to be other than we are, and 2. understand that change is possible, chosen, and must be practiced. It’s a lot to hold onto. It’s a lot of work. The practice has to come ahead of the need to be changed. It’s necessary both to feel, and to practice our best behavior under the stress of an “emotional load”. We’ve got to do both. It’s work that will have to be done in the face of real-time failures, disappointed frustrated loved ones, relationships that don’t make it through the process, friendships that end because it turns out some of them were invested in what is being changed. It’s work that is continuous and ongoing. Change is a verb – and you have choices.

Another school shooting. I read about it and can’t help but wonder where so many people have gotten the idea that their anger, disappointment, frustration, or any other emotional experience, entitles them to take a life – any life. Where did that come from? How long has this toxic seed been part of our culture? Did the shooter understand this is unacceptable behavior? If he did understand that, and chose to do it anyway, where did he get the idea that this is a course of action appropriate to his emotional experience? Why do so few people understand what poison their “righteous anger” actually is? Even otherwise good-hearted people can be drawn into making the most outrageously hateful statements about the value of another life (don’t read the comments on the internet, People, I’m just saying there’s an astonishing amount of rationalized hate out there), given the opportunity to frame that other human being as a bad guy of some kind. We most commonly succumb to hate due to a lack of empathy… I don’t know how to fix that for the world, or my nation. I’m still working on it for me – one practice at a time. Changing myself is within my control; I have choices.

Time to begin again.

The evening ends gently. I’m tired. I’m in pain. Every doctor’s appointment feels like a re-run of some previous appointment. My frustration continues.

I take a deep breath and relax as I exhale, taking a moment to recall the squirrel visitor I watched for some while. I didn’t pick up my camera, just watched. I was sitting quite close. The squirrel didn’t seem to mind my presence on the other side of the glass, even though it was clear that I was quite visible. The memory of it makes me smile.

It’s not late. It is, actually, rather early. The last couple evenings it has been no effort to go to bed early enough to get a complete night’s sleep, and I have done so. So. Of course, this means that I also woke quite a bit earlier than necessary, each of the mornings following an evening on which I went to bed earlier. LOL I feel most decently well-rested, more or less. I’ve only just started having nightmares a couple nights ago, and so far they aren’t terrifying me into sleep aversion. I silently mock myself quite tenderly, without ill intent. I’ve come a long way. I can recall a time in the not too distant past when just contemplating the possibility of sleeplessness becoming a cycle of nightmares would disrupt my sleep, and result in precisely that dreaded scenario. I can look that one in the face these days. Even when I start with the nightmares again, most recently it has been the case that I manage to hold onto a sense of order and manageability for many days and nights, only beginning to fall apart just at the end, when normal sleep returns, and some sort of life I call “normal” resumes.

I shake off the thought of nightmares; it doesn’t do me any good to start up days and nights of nightmares by investing precious limited lifetime in playing reruns of my nightmares in my waking thoughts. No good at all.

I observe that I still managed to nudge myself into a mild feeling of uneasiness, and decide to finish the evening on my meditation cushion. Tomorrow will be soon enough to begin again.

I am taking a few minutes to relax and consider things. Consider the week that has just ended. Consider the weekend just about to begin. Consider this moment right here, and moments past that were entirely different. I am taking time to consider writing in the morning, versus writing in the evening, and which really works best for me – and I am considering whether there is any need for so much structure around what is (for me) such a natural thing? I am considering the contents of my pantry, which are depleted, and my fridge, which is almost empty; I’ve been sick, and there’s been no shopping done in more than a week. More than two.

I am distracted from my considerations by the smile on my face; I adult well enough to manage life without having to grocery shop for nearly two weeks. Nice. πŸ™‚ (To be fair, though, that’s mostly true because I’ve spent the last week sick, and disinclined toward much besides broth or soup or coffee or tea, and certainly I’m almost always well-stocked on all of those. lol)

Today at work I had two relatively special personal moments of… some kind. I’m not sure what to call either. I reached a point of feeling the crushing workload as, indeed, crushing – overwhelming, distracting, complex, unsatisfying, and even frightening; this was driving a lot of anxiety and I started to have a panic attack – in the office. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckityfuck. Shit. Damn it. Okay okay – I managed a deep breath. I managed another. I managed to admit to myself that I hadn’t been practicing good self-care, and if nothing else, I really needed a break. No. Not a walking meeting. A break. No, no, not a moment to help someone else with another task. Stop that. A break. No. Damn it. Not an opportunity to vent about these frustrations (that are so transitory). A proper break, away from the work, just – a break.

So I took one.

I got up from my desk, moved to a more comfortable seat in a spot without any connectivity or active devices within reach. No one to talk to, with, or at. No issues. No questions. I took the 10 minutes I really needed. With me. No judgment. No criticism. Just a few moments of meditation, smack in the middle of the work day. It felt sooooooo good. When those few delicious quiet moments concluded, I wasn’t feeling panicked or anxious or unprepared or inadequate or even over-taxed. I was ready to work.

So I worked.

One of the things I went back to work with was a calm settled appreciation for the great team I work with. We support each other. There’s a lot of authenticity and caring. It was a crazy busy week – and it was good. I stopped working a couple times later, throughout the day, simply to briefly thank the colleagues who have helped so much. We count on each other. We can. It’s that kind of place, and I couldn’t help contrasting that with, of all things, the current federal administration. I felt a moment of poignant sorrow and understanding; can you imagine what working in that fog of hate, confusion, and chaos must be like for rational beings who mean well and want to serve America in a positive way? That would definitely be a job to leave. I find myself stalled for just a moment considering all those folks feeling trapped in jobs they very much want to leave.

I went home feeling profoundly grateful for the life I am living right now. That felt pretty good, even if I did arrive home in pain. Just arthritis, right? We age. We deal with pain – as it turns out feeling our bodies age isn’t especially comfortable. lol

Tonight it’s a gentle night of self-care. I need that. It’s also a night of packing, tidying up, and readying myself for another trip down to see my Traveling Partner (who’s the traveler now!? lol) – I miss him greatly and find myself eager, in spite of also feeling soooo fucking tired. I look forward to getting over that. In the mean time, I’ll make a list tonight, and tomorrow I’ll begin again. πŸ™‚

 

Home. It’s quiet here. I’ve got my hot cup of surprisingly delicious off brand decaf right here. Did I mention the quiet? I definitely need the quiet. lol

I get home many evenings incredibly aggravated, somewhat stressed, sometimes even to the point of being angry; it’s fairly reliably shitty commute. I use it to practice Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Sometimes that helps. Each time that it does help, I’m taken just a bit less by surprise, and it’s just a tiny tiny bit more effective. I guess I keep practicing.

Tonight prescription strength pain relief is needed. I take it, like a proper grown up, aware of the risks, the rewards, the need to be cautious, and the need, even, to be aware. It’s the sort of thing I even keep track of, understanding that leaving it to memory is foolhardy, with my issues in the memory department. But, after a time, I begin to feel less pain. The relief is welcome; it’s been a difficult painful (pain filled) day.

…but the view was lovely…

I make a meal, healthy calories, and sit down with it undistracted for a few minutes. Self-care. Weight and fitness goals in mind. I enjoy the meal.

It is a simple evening, composed of simple pleasures, and as much mindful awareness moment to moment as I can comfortably manage. It’s easier now that I’m not pre-occupied with discomfort. I’ve no need or inclination to make it any more complicated, or fancy, or elaborate – or evening “meaningful”. Just this simple “now” is quite enough.

Packages come. Giftmas is approaching pretty quickly, and the thought of it restarts my smile, which was knocked off my face some time ago after foolishly dipping into the news of the day. Don’t. Just… yeah. Don’t read the feed. Damn. Sometimes, it’s more important to take a step back and care for ourselves, and nurture our spirits, than to be “informed”. Well… that’s an opinion, obviously. Mine. Works for me. Your results may vary.

The rest of the evening looks wonderful for some long while meditating. Later, some strength training. A shower. A book. It’s a quiet evening. I definitely need this quiet evening, tonight. πŸ™‚ Then, tomorrow? Yes, of course – tomorrow I’ll save the world. Well…or… I can at least be the tiniest bit better, generally, as a human being, than I have been today. It’s at least a start.

I like a good beginning. πŸ™‚

I’m awake. It’s 1:37 am.

I’m not awake for some wonderfully cool reason, like a late night out with friends, or not yet home from a concert, or anything like that. I’d intended to be sleeping, and until some moments ago, I was.

I woke abruptly from a deep sleep, heart pounding hard and beating very fast. I felt short of breath, and fearful. Panicked. The world was quiet, so I could pretty safely assume whatever woke me was internal, rather than external. I didn’t struggle to find a solution to my racing heart and gasping breath; I immediately, gently, eased myself into a very comfortable relaxed position, and began slowing and deepening my breathing, and soothing my consciousness; there was nothing obvious to be so frightened about. I started letting that go, first, with firm reminders to remain in the moment, there in the darkness of a space that, after 4 months, finally feels more or less familiar, most of the time. I turned on a light. I sat up. I continued to support myself with soothing practices. I got up and took an antacid for my very acid stomach and quietly cursed my acid reflux. I got a glass of water and added some Calm to that.

Over the next few minutes, sitting down to write a few words, using even that to help me “sort myself out” in the quiet hours of night, I sip on my glass of water, and feel the chill of the room start to play a part, too, cooling me down.

It’s been a long long time since I let myself make any effort to “figure out” a waking moment like that one. I just don’t do it any more. It’s like digging at a scab, just barely gratifying at all, and definitely not actually helpful, just very compelling. So, I don’t. Because doing so wasn’t useful in a positive way, and it tended only to mire me in a whole assortment of shitty crap loitering in the dark corners of my consciousness waiting for a chance to be weaponized and turned inward. So… I don’t know what woke me. I don’t know why I woke so frightened and overwhelmed. I don’t know what the anxiety was about. I have made knowing such things not a priority of any sort. And… since I’m not “picking at that sore”, the fear and anxiety are already dissipating. With practice, not hours – minutes. It is 1:51 am. I may actually get back to sleep at some point, soon. πŸ™‚

I’m still feeling restless and weird. So, some yoga next. Just postures that promote relaxation and calm. I keep the lights dim. Each small practice picked up along the way has value right now. One by one, I step through the most relevant practices I have learned over time, and I feel myself begin to calm, to become relaxed, to settle down through and through. I’m okay, right now. It’s enough.

I think I’ve mostly come to terms with the likelihood that some portion of my symptoms of PTSD may linger for the remainder of my life time… I sure feel more able to deal with them, generally. Even two years ago, a night like this might have evolved into something more serious, lasting days, destroying my sleep, eroding my judgment, damaging my relationships… this seems better, not perfect. There is no “perfect”. I’m not “cured” – but I am far better at caring for myself in such moments.Β That’s something pretty wonderful.

I finish my water. Run this post through spellcheck. Then, head back to bed. πŸ™‚