Archives for category: winter

I was sipping my morning coffee in the dim of dawn, sun not yet peaking over the horizon. I was thinking about a friend who often seems to default to negative self-talk, and assumptions about others that are built on suspicion, fear, and mistrust. I know enough about my friend’s personal history to have some limited understanding why they would hold such a bleak perspective on life, relationships, and yes, even on the person in the mirror. I hold my friend in very high regard, and our mutual affection and appreciation has lasted many years…but even I am not immune to being the recipient of my friend’s mistrust, suspicion, and doubt.

My thoughts this morning, after recently having coffee together, were less about how uncomfortable it can feel to be viewed as an adversary, unexpectedly, and absent any input on my part to justify or support that view, and more about how unpleasant it must be to go through life that way, living in the context of some implicit certainty that everyone, eventually, is an enemy. It saddens me, and I struggle to balance my understanding and compassion with my feelings of helplessness and frustration – and lack of being understood clearly. My own communication challenges don’t make it easier. My own emotional baggage and personal history with relationships with other human primates don’t make it easier, either. I sipped my coffee, breathing, exhaling, relaxing, and consider my perspective, and where I can, also the perspective my friend expressed, with as much depth, and understanding, as I am able to do.

Perspective changes what we understand of the world.

I think back to articles I’ve read about mindfulness, and the handful of those that point out that undertaking a mindfulness practice can throw emotional health and balance into chaos for some people. I even accept that this is one of the potential experiences people may have; when we have adapted to darkness, the brightness of being flooded with light is not necessarily and immediately helpful, comfortable, or pleasant experience. Some of the things we keep to ourselves over a lifetime, dismissing our concerns, diminishing our sense of self, or building our narrative on a ton of self-serving made-up shit to compensate, perhaps, for the bleakness of our sense of doubt and futility, end up being powerful (and possibly successful) coping mechanisms for the hardest shit we don’t want to face – and having coped with, we don’t have to. Then along comes some “healthy” mindfulness practice that sounds awesome, that our friends are into, and we hop right into it, eager and enthusiastic… then, we find ourselves face to face with the darkness being dissipated by a light so bright we can’t see what it hides from us, and… we run, terrified and damaged, fearful of change, resisting what so bright a moment of illumination might really show us. After all, we’d coped with all that bullshit. We’d found a way. Now, here we are, facing our self, unexpectedly. Not always a pretty picture, and we’re not all ready for that.

Changing our own perspective doesn’t always feel comfortable. Whether or not “mindfulness” can be said to “work” is more than a little bit dependent on what we expect it to do, and whether that is what we actually want – or are ready for.

My friend and I talked about my journey, and theirs. We spoke of expectations, and of “reality”. My friend had, at one time, been a huge advocate for me finding my way to a more positive perspective on life. At that time, they seemed so unbelievably positive to me that it was hard to understand the thinking behind those words – wasn’t it a matter of “character” or personality? Wasn’t my personal history “real”, and sufficient to justify my chaos and damage… and negativity? Wasn’t my cynicism perfectly “reasonable”? Here I was sitting over coffee, after far too long out of touch, and I was the positive one, the contented one, the one bouncing back. My friend seemed overly negative, and out of touch with their own emotional experience, lacking in a certain authenticity and “presence”, that felt strangely dishonest and uncomfortable to me. The conversation came around to meditation, and mindfulness practices, generally. “All that’s bullshit,” my friend said firmly. “I tried that stuff back in the day, and it only made me cry a lot, and made me doubt my relationships.” I sat quietly listening (which can be difficult for me), then replied “What did your therapist say about that experience?” My friend answered abruptly, “I quit therapy. It was expensive, and kept making me doubt my place in the world, and my relationship with my partner.” She gestured vaguely, something like waving off that topic with her hand. “I didn’t need all that, I’m unhappy enough without help. Self-reflection bullshit just made me rethink everything. Who needs it?”

I keep turning the conversation over in my head, in the time since. So much of what she had shared seemed unhappy, and infused with a sense of having failed herself in some mysterious way, punctuated by occasionally accusations of some other person setting her up for failure. If she is so deeply unhappy in life, in her relationships, wouldn’t she expect self-reflection to hold up that mirror, and show her precisely that? Doesn’t that open the door to the potential that change could be made – chosen – and offer the chance to walk a different path?

No answers, this morning, really. Just questions, and self-reflection, and the illumination offered by shining a bright light into my own dark corners. There’s always an opportunity to begin again. 🙂 I am my own cartographer; I choose my path.

It’s a groggy slow-ish sort of morning. The commute was easy. The coffee adequate to the purpose. My thoughts are still fuzzy around the edges and glitchy with sampled dreams from a night of continuous sleep. I listen to the sounds of freeway traffic beyond the window of the office, as I get my day started.

It is too early for deep thoughts, or complex emotions. I still have them. Attempting to “stuff them down” or suppress them is ineffective; I neither manage to entirely put them aside, nor do I satisfy them. I redirect my attention to work tasks, but find myself still distracted by the internal demands for my attention. Interesting. Clearly, there’s something on my mind that wants to be given attention. “Another time.” I tell myself, but I also know how fickle this brain can be; later today I won’t even remember this moment. It’s such a small thing. Finite. Momentary. Fleeting. Unimportant. 🙂 I let it go, again.

I sip my coffee. As of tomorrow, a year at this job. Nice. 🙂 I’m still enjoying it. Even nicer, still. 😀

This is also a moment to recognize that my Traveling Partner and I have been close – intimate friends, lovers, partners – for 10 years, now. It’s just a little mind-blowing to recall where we were as people, ten years ago. Who we hung out with. Where we lived. What our relationships were like. What sorts of things we were up to, day-to-day. Life is quite different, then, and now. A reminder that so much more of life is built on impermanence than ever rested on an unchanging “happily ever after”. 🙂 I’m not unhappy about the changes over time – most of it has been an obvious improvement, with the occasional detour through challenging circumstances that provoked a lot of personal (and shared) growth.

…10 years, though…? That’s quite a chunk of lifetime. I sip my coffee and wonder how often my Traveling Partner questions the desires and decisions that brought us together, and keep us together now? Does he ever wonder what life would be like without the encumbrances of attachment? Does he ever yearn for some place or experience that feels out of reach in the context of our relationship? Does he feel loved and supported in our relationship? Does he ever consider walking away from “all of this” – not out of any hurt or animosity, but simply to feel the path beneath his feet take him somewhere entirely new?

I glare into my coffee mug with some annoyance… cold office-quality drip coffee is less than ideally satisfying. Another sip finishes it. I expect I’ll get another cup, anyway, soon enough. I laugh out loud in the stillness of my office, reminded of cups of coffee that were both much worse for drinking, and far more costly (than “free”)… the moment of gratitude becomes a smile of appreciation. This is definitely one of those “this could be much worse” moments. I yield to the gratitude, and invest my attention there. It’s very nice having coffee available. It’s quite lovely to have enjoyed 10 years with my Traveling Partner – and I hope we enjoy many more, together. It’s a comfortably secure feeling to have a job I enjoy, and to be with it for an entire year and still enjoying it. All of it very much “enough” – it’s a good life. I’m grateful for it – I’ve been in far worse circumstances.

…This coffee cup isn’t going to refill itself. I suppose it’s time to begin again. 🙂

 

I see another doctor today, up at the VA. I haven’t reliably had good experiences with medical care. That’s not an uncommon experience for people. I found myself feeling tense in advance, and aggravated ahead of any clear reason to feel aggravated, and on top of all that, I’m in pain. I was fussing over it internally, and it had grown to the size of a wee demon capable of wrecking my mood entirely – or my day. Considering the pleasant morning I had with my Traveling Partner this morning, that seemed pretty “unfair”…

I took a minute for a break in the sunshine – a rare sunny winter afternoon, uncommonly mild (although a bit chilly in the shade) – and asked myself “the hard question”; do I have a practice for this situation? I had to admit to myself, yeah, actually, I do.

I stood there in the sunshine, feeling it warm my back, vaping, blowing clouds in the direction of the clear blue sky visible between slumbering chunks of concrete and steel, pocked with windows. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. I started letting go of my assumptions and expectations of this appointment, allowing all that baggage to fall away. I gave myself room to accept my anxiety and my anger – then I let those go, too, with some self-directed kindness, and compassion. I finished my break, eventually, with a reminder to assume positive intent – yes, even about this – so I can go into this appointment with fresh eyes, open to a new outcome. Ready to listen deeply. Ready to answer questions from the perspective of (likely) sincere interest in my health and well-being. Ready to answer those questions gently, and directly, without a lot of “extra” discourse. One at a time, as they are, without reading into them. (Tall ask, honestly, still… a worthy endeavor.)

I’m okay. I’m ready for this. This moment here? It’s not about that. It’s about beginning again. 🙂

It’s the sort of statement that sums up most things; this won’t last forever. The current presidency? Won’t last forever. That fantastic sale in a flyer that came in the mail? Won’t last forever. This rainy morning? Won’t last forever. The nuts I put out for the squirrels? Won’t last forever. American “Democracy”? Won’t last forever. Western civilization? Won’t last forever. A terrible moment of panic or anxiety? Won’t last forever. The saddest thing about all of that that is the vast number of lovely things that also won’t last (and how many of those we overlook, in favor of yielding our attention to things that suck). The most precious thing about that is that we do get to enjoy those lovely experiences, and all of life’s joys, if we slow down long enough to notice they are happening. That, and the comfort in surrendering to the awareness that however bad things may seem… it won’t last forever.

“This, too, shall pass.”

We have choices, though, and the choices we make determine, often, how fleeting the worst of our experience may be, and even how enduring our joy can be. Something to think about. What are you choosing? What do you practice?

If we are permanently focused on the the things that stress us out the most, full-time, continuously ruminating on the disasters humanity seems mired in, or the shambles our own life is in, or how terrible this or that experience is, in some limited moment, we put ourselves at risk of coloring the entirety of our experience in this way. Tragedy and terror and sorrow can become the whole of our experience, and could do so regardless what percentage of our lived minutes are actually of that character or quality. Think about this with some care; if you spend all your content-consuming minutes watching the news, spun in a way to engage your attention, and evoke an emotion, and don’t make some effort to lift your head to experience your own actual moments, here and now, what will the quality of your experience become?

…I’m not saying don’t be angry about the things in life that warrant anger, and change – for sure, lift your voice in protest. Take action to make a change in the world. Definitely do that! Just don’t sit around allowing your own life to slowly crumble under the weight of the world’s exaggerated decay.

I’m living my life these days far more than I spend time reading or watching the news. I already know our government is corrupt. I already know that war is a terrible thing and that the cost is always too high. I already know that far too many people are willfully cruel to others, with the flimsiest justification. Human primates can be pretty fucking horrible creatures. I do my best to be better than that, myself, with my own choices, in my own life. It is, if nothing else, a starting point.

This morning, a quick glance at the headlines assures me the world is burning, and humanity is doing little to stop that from happening. Perhaps we really are rushing headlong to our own destruction (and doing so for the sake of power or profit, for fuck’s sake – damn we’re stupid creatures, sometimes). This morning, my morning, doesn’t have to be marred by any of that, in this moment. Instead, I’ll walk and consider how best to be the woman I most want to be, myself, in spite of all that. I’ll consider how to treat others well, with great consideration, and also without ethically compromising myself, and without being dishonest. Seems a good goal to have in life. (I’ve heard worse.)

I sit watching the rain fall, thinking about what trail to walk, this morning, waiting for the rain to stop, drinking coffee… and thinking about beginning again. 🙂 The thoughts are nothing, unless I get some verbs involved. True of walks. True of political protest. True of ethical behavior. Nothing lasts forever – but we sure don’t have to wait around for forever to prove that.

I think about the weight I’m losing, slowly, steadily… I think about the pain I am in. Focusing on one results in feeling encouraged and upbeat. Focusing on the other pulls me down, infuses my moment with futility, and frustration. Whichever I choose colors my experience.

What do you want of the world? What do you want of yourself? If you don’t see it in your life right now, what will you choose to do to bring change? It’s always a good time to begin again.

I noticed the peculiar balmy quality to the air this morning, on the way to work. It persisted through the day. Warmer weather than is typical for January. The air is soft and very still, and the scent of it hints at summer storms. Decidedly peculiar weather.

I enjoyed the commute home more than I generally do. It felt easy. Effortless. Unfettered. The sky looked stormy, without looking anything like winter, somehow. The temperature remained quite mild, even into the evening. I went for take-out, for dinner. I went to the store a bit later. I had the energy to do this-n-that – maybe borrowed from the stormy sky. Still no rain falling, just the scent of the hint of a promise of rain… later. I smiled as I drove home. I smiled as I drove through town, first on one errand, then on the next. I pulled into the driveway smiling.

The weekend is here. I’m still smiling.

The amount of pain I am in is every bit as uncomfortable as the worst winter I’ve ever had with my arthritis. Something like 30 years of pain-filled winters; every winter feels like the worst one, ever. I wonder for a moment if, in fact, they’re all quite similar, and I simply lack the capacity to recall it with clarity. Sitting here in pain tonight, I kind of appreciate that possibility. It is what it is, though, and bitching about it as endlessly as I experience it doesn’t help with the pain, and doesn’t improve the experience, so… I let it go. Over and over again, I notice the pain, with a breath, with a movement, with the completion of one task or another, or just a change of position. I notice it. I let it go. When it is too much to bear, at all, I fall back on a pain reliever. I try to get by without them. I don’t find them something worth counting on. I’m frustrated with the song and dance involved with every refill, every new doctor, every change of health coverage; most of the time, I’d rather be in pain that deal with any of that. Sometimes, it’s too much to argue with, and I reach for relief.

Here’s the thing, though; I’m enjoying my life, generally, in spite of the pain. That seems an important detail. I hold on to that for a few moments. I make the effort to focus on that, more than the pain.

My sleep has gone to crap, again. No idea why. I remind myself it’s a thing I’m aware I deal with, and have since… yeah, I don’t have a memory of a time in my life without sleep disturbances of one sort or another. I shrug without thinking, and feel the pain in my spine flare up, in this new place I don’t remember hurting before quite recently. Annoying. I take a deep breath and coax my shoulders into relaxing once more. Tonight? Yep. I took a pain reliever. Are you kidding me? Pain sucks, and also, I’d like to hurt at least enough less to sleep a few hours, if not deeply, at least straight through without waking. Goals. lol

All of this is so… human.

I listen to the last of the rush hour traffic whooshing by, on the street. I think about the trail I plan to walk, tomorrow, and wonder which turns to take, and where I’ll turn around and head back for home. There’s a longer loop trail near by, and extension of another familiar walk. Maybe I’ll take that walk, and push past my recent distance, for a grander goal? I feel twinges of pain mocking my intentions…

I shrug all that off, quite deliberately, and imaging an obscene gesture at my unseen enemy. “You don’t tell me!” I think… I’ll just begin again. 😉