Archives for category: War and News of War

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about my recent meltdown, and the later realization that it may have been connected in some way to the recent clutter-reducing destruction of many years of paper journals. After so many years of working to improve my emotional wellness and heal whatever I can of my PTSD, it took me by surprise to have such a bad episode so recently. I was completely taken by surprise – and frankly, that’s almost comical; intellectually, I know not to just “tick a box” and call myself “well”. Mental illness doesn’t work like that – it’s more a journey taken over time. A lifetime.

When I began talking it over with my therapist, it became pretty clear that the chaos and damage that surfaced in those painful moments sourced with some of my earliest adult trauma in my first marriage, and I know that that had its foundation in the childhood traumas that are older still. I was (and am still) dealing with the lasting effects of family violence. In the here-and-now, where such traumas are not part of my current experience, I was nonetheless “primed” for panic because the daily news is filled with stories of family violence, family killings, and domestic violence related femicides (I do my best to avoid reading those articles, but the headlines are everywhere).

Firstly, let’s just get this out of the way; don’t kill people you say you love. (This seems obvious…?) Don’t raise your hand in violence outside the explicit requirements of actual fucking warfare. Just… don’t. Violence is ugly, unnecessary, and the outcomes are unpleasant and often quite permanent. If you are an American in the United States, our social contract with each other states – in writing – that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are “inalienable rights”, and this means you are explicitly agreeing that these things are sacrosanct and not to be taken lightly. So… yeah. Don’t fucking kill people. Especially do not kill your fucking family. Jeez… who are we that this has to be said??

So, yeah. Here I am almost 60, and I am still dealing with the traumas inflicted on me as a child, and those inflicted on me as a young adult. We’re talking about horrors of many years ago… more than 30 years ago. Fucking hell. You’d think spending something like 30-40 years in therapy (on and off, and most recently a pretty consistent 10 years or so) would mean… no more chaos and damage. No more panic attacks. No more freak outs. No more tears.

It doesn’t work that way. It’s more like the crumpled paper analogy suggests (used as a lesson for anti-bullying, but quite relevant). The damage is done. The lasting outcomes are… lasting. The lost trust. The peculiar defensiveness. The hyper-vigilance. The thinking errors. Some of it can be corrected and eased over time… with practice. Some of it… maybe it’s always part of who we are as survivors. Scars that tell the tale.

Note: having been hurt doesn’t get us out from under our own obligation to be the best human being we know how to be. Being hurt is not an excuse for inflicting hurts on others. Just saying… adulting is hard.

I’m not sitting here feeling gloomy or tragic. I mean, fuck yes it’s a major bummer, and frustrating as shit… but… there’s hope for further improvement over time. I come back again and again to the tools that work, and to the lessons learned over time. I take a moment to reflect on how much progress has been made, and how much easier things actually are. So many new beginnings. The chaos and damage doesn’t tell the whole story, and living mired in my nightmares is no longer my way. That’s something. My results still vary. I still need practice practicing the practices that shore up my wellness and promote healing. That’s just real. It’s a commitment to healing – and to living well.

The harder part here may be balancing what I know through experience and study with what I achieve through my words and my actions – making the understanding a living experience isn’t an instant win. There are so many verbs involved. Try, fail, try again… repeat. Very human. (Don’t give up, just keep practicing and improve over time.) While I’m not personally to blame for the horrors or violence inflicted on me, I am personally responsible for those that I inflict on others subsequently – whatever the hurts that shaped me.

I sip my coffee enjoying the quiet time to reflect on the powerful impression trauma makes on our entire being, and the way it can shape who we become and color how we see the world around us. Worth a moment or two of self-reflection and I find myself wondering if it is too soon for another trip to the coast to watch the waves pound the beach on a stormy afternoon while thinking about the lasting effect of trauma, and how best to begin again? If not that, well then, it’s another work day, and other beginnings have my attention.

Another day, another new beginning. 🙂 Time to choose my adventure…

Here it is. New Year’s Day. Another year wrapped up and a new year beginning.

…the new year is a blank page…

I’m still working through disposing of my old journals. It’s an interesting project, although it has tended to be a bit more emotionally engaging that I’d ideally like it to be. There are a lot of opportunities to make a willful point of letting some small bullshit detail go. Choices to be made to put down some baggage. I shred page after page, poignant moments, moments of rage and disappointment, moments of frustration and doubt, moments of discontent and disillusionment, moments of profound insight and great delight…memories of love and anger, and bearing witness to the passage of time.

Sometimes it’s necessary to let something go before I can truly begin again.

I’m glad I found so many little sketches. Saving those matters to me more than the words I’d written about whatever events they captured (or were inspired by). Some of these, though, were done on the reverse side of a page I don’t care to preserve… those I photograph, before shredding the page. They’ll live on as a digital image, now, and nothing more.

“Glow Opera Ballerina”, 5″ x 7″ ink on paper, 1999 – shredded.

I’d inserted various bookmarks and objects as placeholders between the pages of some volumes. Photographs. Notes. Love letters. A CD-R. Wait…what? A CD-R? (I wasn’t even certain we had a media reader that could read that, after all this time.) The name on the disk was not particularly revealing… almost as if intended to obfuscate the contents from casual view. I asked my Traveling Partner if we had a means of reading a CD-R? We did. Taking a look at the contents without opening any individual item, it was pretty clear this was a disk that would do best to join the various journals on the path to destruction. I thought to shred it, but… the shredder wasn’t happy about that choice. My partner suggested microwaving it for a couple seconds.

Unreadable by intention.

There were quite a few other interesting items in the bin with the journals. Old manuscripts, never finished. Individual pages of poetry that had been scribbled on napkins, note paper, or legal pads. Correspondence I have saved over the years – letters from my Dad, from my Granny, from old friends, and a largish manila envelope of the letters exchanged with my first husband while I was away at war, both his to me and mine to him. Some of this I’ll no doubt keep, but I’m starting to view some of this old stuff – explicitly anything to do with my first husband – as a sort of malicious “horcrux” (if I may borrow that notion) that has the potential to continue to be toxic for my day-to-day experience of myself, just through existing. Maybe it is time to destroy all of that, too. (I kept it for years because I was fearful I might someday need to prove what I’d been through.)

Old manuscripts and correspondence will need attention, too, another day.

It’s a lot to process. I think the commitment to getting it done as part of my individual new year’s celebration keeps me from getting overly involved in the raw emotions poured out onto these pages, at least a little. So many pages. So much rage and hurt and sorrow. Yeah, I definitely don’t need to drown myself in the hurts of the past – quite the contrary. It’s time to let it go. Page by page, volume by volume – this project has been overdue for a very long time, and it feels like quite a relief to finish it.

What about you? Are you ready for a new year? A new beginning? New practices, or resuming useful practices you’d let fall by the wayside as time went by? Will you be making a big change?

…Are you ready to begin again? I know I am. 🙂 Happy New Year!

I am alone with my anger right now. It’s not my favorite state of being, but if I am angry, I generally very much want to be alone with that shit. “I’m sorry” doesn’t sound at all the same if I snarl it at someone. Barely matters if I mean it, at that point, you know?

“Please leave me alone.” That’s some first rate boundary setting, I guess. Simple. Practical. Actionable. To-the-point. “I don’t want to be yelled at any more today.” Also pretty clear.

I don’t know what the fuck just went wrong with my day, my mood, or my interaction with this human being I generally enjoy so well. I was barely in the door with lunch in my hands and a smile on my face when shit went sideways most spectacularly. I’m medicated very differently now, and I was for sure caught off guard when my temper flared up. I don’t have an appetite, now. What a waste. I could have stayed warm and dry and merry in the co-work space, working. Instead, I am sitting here dealing with my bullshit and wondering very much what I could have done differently and better that would still have been… me.

I’m in (physical) pain (my arthritis, this headache). It’s not an excuse, just context. Don’t know what was up with him that “this” was the outcome – I only know my end of things, really. I for sure overreacted to what felt like – subjectively, in the moment – an encroachment on my freedom of thought, or use of language, or… something. I don’t know that it even was, though. I knew I had gotten too angry too quickly for something so small as… what was it, exactly? It felt like I was being “yelled at”, and that’s a trigger for me. No “emotional runway”… what the hell?? I don’t like that I blew up over something so small, and it’s scary that it happened so quickly (doesn’t matter at all that no violence came of it, it’s still just not okay). Subjectively, my impression is that he took what I had said by way of a reply to something he said quite personally, inappropriately so. That’s a judgment on my part. An opinion. Was I right? Wrong? Neither? Is that what matters most? I don’t think that it is.

Who blew up first? Doesn’t matter as much as that we both lost our tempers. Who is right, who is wrong? Also less important than treating each other well regardless. I dislike how easily provoked I can be. That’s a thing I’d very much like to change. The keys to that kingdom are, rather annoyingly, within The Four Agreements:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

Well, shit. More practice. More verbs. More failures. More beginnings. I am, if nothing else, so very human. Right at the moment, I’m feeling pretty “broken” and “flawed”. The woman in the mirror lets me down on the regular, and I’m annoyed with myself over it. It is what it is. I have these raw materials to work with, and a finite mortal lifetime to make some fucking sense out of things.

My Traveling Partner leaves the house angry, without telling me. He texts me with his own anger. I respond with an apology and ask that he be safe out there in the world. (It’s windy and rainy, and the driving conditions are pretty bad.) He returns home; it’s just not safe to be out there driving while stressed out. I know he’s home; the slamming doors are a giveaway. He leaves me alone. That’s what I’d asked for. I feel chilled to the bone; it’s a stress response. I know it’s not actually cold in here.

I breathe, exhale, and try to let shit go somehow. I’m not succeeding immediately. I keep at it. I remind myself that this will pass. My “lunch” sits next to me on the desk, silently mocking my lack of appetite.

Funny (not) thing, though; I’ve often had some difficulties with fully understanding “be impeccable with your word”… it’s clear, reading the book, that this is not solely an admonishment to tell the truth, or an emphasis on “honesty”. It’s bigger than that. It’s about using language, generally, in a way that is not hurtful, based on a couple of quotes from that chapter…

The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life.

Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds.

Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

I sit reflecting on those words. I hear power tools running out in the shop and feel worried about safety and my partner’s state of mind. I’d like to know what to say to “make him feel better”. I want him to feel similarly inclined toward making things right with each other. First steps are sometimes complicated by the assumptions that exist in my implicit thinking. Why, for example, would I doubt that he does want to make things right with each other? Why would he assume that I would want anything else, myself?

“Don’t make assumptions” is very good advice. “Don’t take anything personally” is also very good advice. There are verbs involved. My results vary.

I would do well to take a different approach toward flat assertions of causality than equally bland assertions to the contrary or equivocating language, I think. Would the conversation have proceeded in a commonplace pleasant and agreeable way if instead of sounding contrary, or feeling forced to agree with something I wasn’t certain I agreed with 100%, I had asked a clarifying question about the cause/effect connection observed? I’m not certain. This headache does not support my best thinking. 😦

I can’t honestly say I did my best on this one. My results vary. A “do over” would be awesome, but in realistic terms there’s no getting around my partner’s hurt feelings; the answer and resolution require me to consider those and address the hurt directly, with kindness and compassion, and quite likely making room to listen. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Being the likely “bad guy” in this scenario sucks severely.

I’m just going to have to begin again anyway.

Sometimes the things we need to do aren’t easy. Humans do some amazing things, from truly enormous undertakings like building a civilization – or raising children who grow to be competent, wise, adults – to small things like going to work on a Tuesday and coming safely home. Sometimes the truly complicated things we take on practically coast toward an amazing seemingly effortless wildly successful finish. Sometimes the simplest practical endeavor seems beyond our abilities. Real. True. Human.

Yesterday, I got that flat tire from over the weekend repaired. I felt fortunate that it was repairable – I didn’t need to replace all 4 tires on my AWD vehicle. I happily got into my car this morning and went on in to work on a very typical Tuesday (which I’ve been doing in a co-work space these days). Totally the routine, ordinary thing. Only…

I did just make pretty significant changes to the medications I take. Not just adding a new one – I added two. Not only that, my doctor changed the dosage on one I’ve taken for a decade without a change. Not enough change? I also needed to change the timing on that one so that it did not conflict with one of the new ones in a weird way. So, okay. My meds are all switched up, and I need to give myself some patience while I get used to all that. Sounds reasonable. Hell, the effect on my physical and emotional experiences are very much improved in most regards – which is great news! Here’s the thing, though, one of the changes seems to be having – at least for now – an “unintended consequence”; I feel more relaxed and chill moment-to-moment and have the subjective perception that I am, indeed, more “relaxed” and comfortable, and my partner seems to (generally) find me easier to be around… but… I have much less emotional “runway” from the moment I become impatient or annoyed with something and when that impatience or annoyance overcomes my (very) limited ability to provide “top down” control of my reaction. I feel fussy, and I’ve got a short-fuse, and I honestly have a very limited capacity to “deal with shit”. So… there’s that. On top of the changes. I mean – it’s part of those changes, but it’s a part I hope fades as I sort myself out on the new meds. (If you can, try to hold on to what I’ve said about where I’m at, for just a little longer.)

My work day was a good one. I feel valued and appreciated. I walked away from my work at the end of the day, headed to the bank to run an errand for my Traveling Partner (well, in support of his new business, so, yeah). No problem; he was crazy busy receiving a shipment in several packages (also business). Cool, cool. No big. I’ve got the room in my day to do it. About half-way there, I felt very much that the car was not handling the way I expected it to, though I had some trouble putting my finger on quite what was going on with that. As I passed the tire place I’d spent part of my morning at yesterday, I thought to myself “maybe I should ask them to check that tire they replaced…?” I pulled in to the bank parking lot less than a mile further on, eager to be done with the day’s work and headed home to hang out with my partner. As I parked, the “check tire pressure” light came on – again.

Wait… a different tire is flat??

I got out of the car hearing a hissing sound that was pretty loud and turned to look. Flat tire. Fucking hell – seriously?? I felt my entire body tense up. My jaw clenched. I felt my body begin the first changes that signal an incoming panic attack or hysterics. I took a breath, then another. I called my partner and told him I had a flat – another flat. I told him, feeling almost desperate and very much “on the edge”, that I wasn’t even a mile from the tire place! I wondered if I should “just drive it over” but that tire was already even flatter than when I first looked at it. Shit. I can’t drive on that. He confirmed and reminded me “they have a truck” and suggested I call them. So, sure, okay. That makes sense. My stress level immediately dropped. Wow. Real progress and change. This works! I phoned the tire place and they assured me they’d get someone over right away. I went into the bank, and rescheduled the appointment I had (it wasn’t urgent, just needful, and I had had that time available). I settled myself down for the wait…

Is that a fucking knife??

As I waited, I looked closer at the pictures – then at the actual tire. My Traveling Partner had noticed first, and I admit, I was skeptical, but yeah… that looks like a knife broken off in my tire. What the hell?? How did that happen? This is not that kind of community. I don’t live that kind of life or keep company with folks inclined toward this sort of violence… wild. What the hell? “Weird spot on the tire for that sort of thing… wouldn’t that take a lot of force?” I thought to myself.

I made it safely to the tire place after their truck showed up and reinflated the tire. It was only a half mile drive, but I could feel the tire “softening” as I drove, and I cursed the rush hour traffic under my breath, fearful that I wouldn’t make it before the car was rolling on the rim. I did get there before that happened, but minutes after I parked the car, that tire was entirely flat once more. I’m glad I wasn’t doing any freeway driving!

The tire folks were pleasant, efficient, and brought me the bit of metal that punctured my tire. Sure enough – it is the snapped off end of someone’s no-longer-very-useful Gerber knife. The tip was quite gone, though, and the tire technician pointed that out and also the thickness and sturdiness of the metal generally; it seemed unlikely it was a hostile act. More likely, he suggested, it was a bit of debris fallen from a trash truck or work truck that I ran over. He suggested the front tire might have popped it up, making it more likely to pierce the rear tire, and becoming embedded, then driven-in as I drove on, unaware. Seemed reasonable. They put an appropriate “loaner” tire on the car and ordered a replacement. I am grateful that the minimal wear on the tires made that feasible at all. I’ll go back tomorrow or Thursday, when the proper replacement is in, and they’ll put that on and rebalance my tires and I’ll be on my way. Fine.

It just doesn’t seem like “all that” now…

…but…

I got home. I brought burgers. We relaxed until a neighbor came around with some work my partner had offered to finish tonight, and he took off to do that, and returned a bit later. Somewhere along the way, I don’t know, I just … finally didn’t have anything left resilience-wise, and a handful of interactions later, and I just could not maintain the facade of doing my best. I mean… I guess that was all I had left “doing my best-wise”, in spite of fancy new medication, and improvements in self-care. I just wasn’t able to accommodate even one more critical observation of any sort, however well-intended or legitimately helpful. I managed not to lose my temper, but my frustration was growing more evident by the minute, and I found myself no longer willing to wrestle my emotions into compliance. I just wanted to be left alone with my problematic experience for a little while. I found myself needing a lot of nurturing and emotional support – way beyond what would be a reasonable ask – and just gave in to being alone with my bullshit for a little while.

So many times we fail to be kind to each other when we’re “going through changes” – it isn’t easy. Even something like changing the timing on just one prescription, depending on what it is and what it does, can have profound effects on our emotional resilience, ability to manage our mood, our executive functions (or disfunctions), or our experience of the world around us. (Don’t be a dick to people – you may not know what they are going through.) (While you’re at it – don’t be a dick to yourself, you definitely do know what you’re going through, and you could use a break from your own bullshit.)

I’ve got a mug of very excellent drinking chocolate. There’s soft holiday-ish jazz playing in the background. My pain is decently well-managed, and the mild vertigo I woke with this morning has dissipated. It was actually quite an excellent work day, and I’m making room in my awareness to really savor that. My Traveling Partner has a lot going on this week, and I admire his ability to balance all of that with… all of me. It can’t be easy. (I’m annoyed by the feeling that if I try to say that to him right now, instead of “thanks for understanding”, I’ll get a short lecture from him on why it isn’t easy, instead, and I’m irked with myself for letting that hold me back.)

…I’m still holding back tears, but I think they’re just an artifact of the ups and downs of the day I’ve had, and an expression of frustration and fatigue, and the complexity of changing my medications. It’ll pass… or I’ll cry myself to sleep later. Either way, tomorrow is a new day, and I can begin again.

Thanksgiving kicks off my winter holiday season, and always has. Here it is the Sunday after Thanksgiving and my leggings are dusted with bits of glitter after being on the floor wrapping the tree stand with its skirt after I somehow failed to successfully vacuum up all the fallen glitter left behind from making this year’s holiday cards. I experienced so much joy and satisfaction making the cards, I imagine I’ll do it again next year. Maybe start earlier and rush less…?

Handmade holiday cards were a fun weekend project.

Thanksgiving itself was… fine. It was fine. It was a lovely warm holiday spent in the company of my Traveling Partner. At some point we quarreled. We sorted it out and enjoyed the day. Commonplace enough and it didn’t ruin the day. Later, I did an astonishingly poor job of dinner. Well, I omitted a dish my partner really likes, for one thing, (and I generally make it, but had been doing so without understanding the relative importance to him, and so… I made a menu change that seemed a small detail, and it was a big disappointment for him). The other miss, dinner-wise, was the turkey. Straight up raw. It wasn’t done when I thought it was done. I checked the internal temperature of the bird, and must have managed to stick into the one spot on that fucking carcass that was at “done” temperature – the rest of it? Uncooked. Literally everything else I prepared was ready for the table, and the table was set, and I’d pulled the bird out thinking it was done, and it just was not. Yeesh. The disappointing discovery was made as my partner carved the turkey. It definitely put us both off actually eating turkey. What a waste.

…What’s not wasted? Any affection between my partner and I. He saw how crushed I obviously was over the dinner failures, and quickly offered me these words “I’m not disappointed with you, or upset about dinner. I couldn’t care less about what’s on our table. I care that you’re here with me. That’s what matters; we’re here together.” I felt very loved. Also rather disappointed with my dinner preparation, but yeah – very loved. That does matter more. We enjoyed the meal together anyway – there just wasn’t any turkey or corn. lol The mashed potatoes were creamy and delicious. The stuffing… had too much garlic. (What the hell?!) This may very well have been the worst Thanksgiving meal I have ever prepared. No kidding.

Yesterday evening I made a second “Thanksgiving-ish” meal, using delicious leftovers, and instead of turkey I made chicken strips. It was a satisfying, excessive, and quite a delicious meal. It was… Thanksgiving. We were both even appropriately thankful, and with good reason. Delicious meal in each other’s good company. What about Friday? I don’t even remember. I was in so much pain on Friday that the day ended up lost in it. I don’t think I made (or ate) dinner at all… and I’m not sure I got anything done. I was in that much pain. It’s rare for it to be that bad, but it does happen, and I am most likely to have that experience during the cold autumn days and nights on the way to winter. Yesterday was better. Today has been better still.

Today I finished up the holiday cards and got them in the mail. Did some housekeeping. Stood the tree and checked the lights. Wrapped the skirt around the base. Next up is the garland and then the ornaments. I don’t have much hope that I’ll finish tonight – and I don’t have to. There’s no need to dress the tree trimming in an additional layer of anxiety and stress over that kind of foolishness. LOL There’s no pressure. This whole mess is meant to be joyous, so… yeah… I’m cool taking my time with it. 🙂

Tomorrow a new work week begins, and the year begins the speedy race to the end – with twinkling lights, charity bell-ringers, and holiday carols playing everywhere. I am grateful to be where I am, here at home, wrapped in love, ready to begin again. This is enough. More than enough.