Archives for category: Words

What if you died today and had to give feedback to yourself on your life, or defend, justify, or excuse it, after-the-fact? How would well would you rate yourself?

What if you could try again? Would you make any changes?

It’s an interesting thought exercise… I’m inclined to follow through on this one very soon, perhaps over some solo weekend during the holiday season. I did it once before, purely by chance, years ago. It mattered a great deal and gave me new perspective on my life. It’s a tough one, though, and can really mire one in sadness – it’s not for the timid, the faint of heart (nor the inauthentic). Taking it lightly is neither useful nor helpful. I do hope you find it either useful, or helpful, or at least a thought-provoking read over your coffee, or tea.

Ready? Let’s begin…

Imagine this; you’ve died. It doesn’t matter at all how, you are dead. No opportunity for one more please, thank you, I’m sorry, or I love you. You are done. Game over. Right now. Okay, so now let the death part of the scenario just go; you know nothing of it, and can’t. You’re dead. Nothing new to remember. Let’s look at your life instead – or more to the point, you look at it. That’s right. You had your chance. It’s done. Game over. You are only a collection of memories – your own, and those that others left behind have of you.

Look at your words, and actions, and the outcomes of your choices, andΒ  your baggage, – your free will brought you to these ends. What were your actual, no bullshit, real values – based on your actions, your decisions, what you chased in life, what mattered most to you in fact (what you said you valued has no meaning now, you’re dead and those were just words) – what were your real true actual values? (Don’t rush this, you’ve got plenty of time; you’re dead.)

“Why those?” is maybe not the correct next question, more to the point; is this what you wanted of your life, and your choices? Is this end result “enough”, or “what you wanted”? Are you okay with this being your legacy?

Are the things that were stressing you, truly, now that you’re dead and can look back unafraid and unashamed, were they truly stress-worthy? The times you snapped at loved ones over petty annoyances – worth it? Justifiable? (I mean, you can’t change it now, and all they have to look back on is who you actually were, and how you really treated them.) The stress about work, all that potentially wasted time grinding away on someone else’s agenda – was it worth it in the end? Was there ever “enough” money? Was being “right” worth the agita of forcing someone else to say that you were right – even if they only did so to shut you up? Was it ever finally the “right time” to do something about what you wanted most to do?

Ask the hard questions. Gnothi seauton. No bullshit. Turn and face yourself, naked and revealed. Look into the mirror. Who were you? Is that who you wanted to be? Who you expected to be? Who you thought you were?

Could you have done “better” or “more”? Who defined those qualities for you in life? Why wasn’t it your call, your definitions, your free will reaching out to enact your own choices? Why did you settle? Why were you “chasing” happiness… money… pretty lovers…a better high…a more perfect romance…? Whatever it was… the curtain has fallen. You’re done. Was it worth it? Are you content with the person you were? Will you be remembered? How will you be remembered? What is your legacy?

There may be other questions, too, that matter to you particularly, that hold you back right now, questions I can’t possible know – but you know them. So ask those too. Who were you? Is this truly what you want to leave behind when death overtakes you?

Take your time – I’ve got work to get to, can’t stay with you while you work through the details on this one, and really… It’s all about you. When you are finished with being finished with being you… what then? When you allow yourself to understand and fully accept that a time will come when indeed “you had your chance” and now it has passed you by… will you think you have wasted that precious limited life time? Will you feel a moment of regret for the shitty choices, poor values, lack of ethics, lack of conscience, cruelty, carelessness, regrettable loss of control, the hurt you have done to loved ones, and yes, even strangers? I sort of hope that you do, or that, if nothing else, you feel something that moves you to make some change or other that takes your journey somewhere new – somewhere you really want to go, but hadn’t yet gotten to. Because death doesn’t seem to hold a ton of potential to change who you were, you know?

…Well… At least in this instance… you get a do-over. You get to begin again. Are you ready for your second chance to be the person you most want to be?

Here it is. Right now. It begins right here, right now, and with each choice that follows this moment.

What will you do with it?

I woke three times, all three times feeling well-rested, the first two also entirely able and willing to return to sleep – so I did. πŸ˜€ It is Saturday, and I have succeeded in doing the one thing I did plan to do today; I got the rest I needed. πŸ™‚

Good self-care is critical to my wellness. (Yours, too, probably.) I used to suck at it completely, always over-compromising what it takes to be well and feel good by grabbing onto other experiences and choices, for…well… reasons. Reasons that seemed to make sense in the moment, but more often than not were excuses and rationalizations for “doing whatever I want” – or, actually, whatever someone else wanted. The cycle of exhaustion, meltdowns, and poor outcomes was so predictable that for many years I simply called the entire mess “hormones” and put that shit on my calendar without any particularly successful effort to mitigate or improve any of it (because… “hormones”… well… that shit can’t be fixed, though, right? Right??) (Actually, no. It turns out that conflating hormones, mental illness, a lack of emotional intelligence, poor self-care, and plain old-fashioned inconsiderate shitty behavior, assumption making, and personal bullshit leaves quite a lot of room for improvement… so… maybe rethinking your inconsiderate bullshit, at a minimum, is a good place to start? πŸ˜‰ Just saying.)

I am watching, from a distance, as two relationships in my social network struggle with a partner’s mental illness. Both have been deeply committed loving relationships of decades of mutual affection, support, and shared family life. Both are struggling with the challenge of making love work, while also supporting a mentally ill person’s personal challenge with finding wellness, and juggling all the other elements of family life: work, kids, bills, grocery shopping, and even the assumptions of strangers and the well-meaning “help” and support of friends, sometimes less than ideally helpful, no doubt. (Been there.) It’s fucking hard to be mentally ill. It’s fucking hard to love someone who is mentally ill. The coping skills and rationalizations that allowed these relationships to succeed and perhaps even appear functional before mental illness finally prevented that from being a thing at all are reliably breaking down now that these mentally ill friends are seeking (and getting) treatment that may actually result in wellness. Their partners may not be much help at this point, and in fact, their hurts, anger, resentment, and emotional wellness concerns are reliably welling up and becoming problems that need to be managed. It’s when a mentally ill loved one begins the journey to wellness that everyone else’s rampant crazy bullshit comes to the forefront – along with the rationalizations, excuse-making, justifications, chronically incorrect and untested assumptions, and refusal to respect new boundaries and changes of behavior. It’s ugly and it’s hard. There are literally no “good guys”, and as soon as “the crazy one” begins to practice things that are more sane, the crazy on the other side of the relationship becomes apparent – often accompanied by utter refusal to acknowledge it, be accountable for it, accept it, or change it.

When people who are mentally ill seek treatment, find it, and begin their journey toward wellness, the first set back is often because within their once supportive network of friends and family (“I’m here for you!”) are people who are suddenly not so willing to “be there” if “there” turns out to include being aware of their own bullshit, and their continued commitment to a status quo that it turns out has favored them, and met certain needs that must now be met differently – in, oh, hey, some new healthy way. It’s hard. It’s hardest, frankly, on the mentally ill partner now responsible not only for staying focused on treatment, but now this mentally unwell person struggling with their situation is suddenly also forced to have to provide support to the adult in the room who turns out to be less than ideally adult (and sometimes fully unwilling to even be aware of that).

It’s a see-saw, people. When we love someone with a mental health challenge, over time, we make room for some weird and possibly damaging bullshit that changes who we are, ourselves, a little at a time. When someone we love who is mentally ill seeks help, and begins to make real changes, on purpose, with the intent of becoming well – our own crazy is going to well up and fight back, and our failure to be observant and aware, and also take the very best care of ourselves, for real, is likely to be the first step on the path to seeing that relationship simply end. It will end in screaming tantrums, outrage, defensiveness, accusations, and generally – a lot of needless yelling. The cause I most commonly see as obvious and avoidable is that instead of partnerships fighting mental illness together, partners become adversaries and basically forget all about the actual issue being someone who is sick, and not able to be at their best, who needs help, support, consideration, and compassion.

Reminder: getting a diagnosis does not suddenly make someone who is mentally ill magically able to not struggle with mental illness. They can’t just point to a page in their handy “So you’re depressed?” handbook or their “The basics of living with PTSD” guide and go down a list of steps to “make it all better” for some other person. Fuck you. That’s sort of one of the limitations of being unwell; there is a fairly commonly implied inability to do all the things.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying it’s fucking hard. I’m saying a great many relationships that end over mental illness don’t end because a partner is mentally ill – they end when that person seeks wellness and messes with the stable status quo that has allowed the “well” person certain… sanity privileges, that they must now give up in favor of dealing with their own unaddressed bullshit. No one in a relationship recovers from mental illness alone; everyone must deal with their bullshit. Everyone has bullshit.

When I hit that wall in my own relationship(s) I was fortunate. I chose to move into my own living space, and make a significant lifestyle change for a variety of reasons that overlapped in a useful way. I live alone. Sure, there’s bullshit, and I definitely trip over it frequently – and it’s all mine. My bullshit. My issues. My limitations. It’s also my home, my rules, my way; the failures are mine, and so are the successes. I was able to let go of my attachment to “being heard” by my partner(s), and able to comfortably take time to be heard by the woman in the mirror – because I could recognize, in the silence of solitary space, that this was in fact where the issue rested, for me. I was able to begin to sort out my bullshit from the bullshit in my relationships that wasn’t mine, and let go of trying to fix other people, or a relationship dynamic that was unavoidably damaged by my issues, and work on practicing healthier practices that support my own mental wellness… and having gained a measure of wellness, emotional resilience, and stability, then I could begin to tackle the complex challenges of “making things right” with emotionally hurt partner(s). Please note: I am not recommending my choices to anyone else. I am this person here, and my needs are what they are; I thrive living alone. You are likely someone else altogether, with different needs, and other choices may be preferable for you, personally. I’m just saying – achieving wellness may very well destroy existing relationships, and not through any failure of the mentally ill person, and in no way directly caused by their illness, but totally because they attempted to get well – and wellness did not meet the needs of that relationship. It’s totally a thing.

Prepare for change. Seeking mental health changes things. It’s a thing people know about.

Are you a “bad person” if you can’t stay in a relationship with someone who is mentally ill? I mean, you wouldn’t leave if they broke their leg, right? It’s a complicated question. Just as complicated as “Am I a bad person if I can’t stay in my relationship because my partner won’t respect new boundaries and changes in behavior as I improve my mental health?”

Helpful friends don’t feel any more comfortable than anyone else in the context of watching lovers struggle with mental health concerns. Everyone has their “good advice” to offer. People take sides without ever seeing the entirety of the dynamic. Also hard.

Every bit of all the hard stuff is 100% hardest on the person who is mentally ill, who is trying their damnedest to find emotional wellness – they are the one who is sick, people. I’m just saying. Seriously? Find some fucking perspective. Be there for a friend. Listen more than you talk, and refrain from making assumptions. Be encouraging. Be considerate. Be compassionate. If a relationship is struggling with mental illness, everyone is hurting, everyone is injured, everyone is struggling – and no one is the good guy; we’ve all got our own bullshit to deal with.

Two different relationships, two different sets of circumstances. I find myself fairly certain one relationship has already failed, and wondering if the other might manage to survive this; it’s in how they treat each other. In both cases, I see the mentally ill person doing what they must do to become well.

I notice that I have finished my second coffee, and my playlist just ended. It is a lush rainy Saturday, and I’ve got some important self-care to take care of; it’s been a long week, and I find that my own emotional wellness is very much tied to skilled self-care. πŸ™‚ It’s time to get started on the practices that keep me well. Doing so, and staying committed to them, has changed my world, and also my relationships. I swallow one last bite of oatmeal, grateful my relationship with my Traveling Partner has endured my changes. Love matters most.

My busy week has been nothing like “routine”. I’m still smiling. I did not see my Traveling Partner last night, as we’d planned, the hour of evening was later than we’d figured when my hair appointment ended, I’d started the day quite tired already, and my partner considerately suggested I get the rest I needed and embrace the late Thursday night ahead without additional fatigue. Good idea. I agreed. I’m still smiling. I’m alert. Rested. In no particular pain in spite of the rainy morning. I am ready for a late night! Bring it!

It’s been a busy week, sure. It has, however, been more ups than downs. More successes than failures. More challenges overcome, than challenges that thwarted me. More wins than losses. More beautiful moments than aggravating ones. I suspect that this is the truth of life, generally, much of the time, for most of us – if we can find the sweet spot in our perspective from which to view our experience.

This morning I sip my coffee and practice a favorite practice – I take the things I need to practice it with me everywhere I go: memory, experiences, presence, and a kindly disposition toward my very human self. I start simply enough, by remembering something, maybe looking through my recent photographs, or contemplating a moment, conversation, or experience – one that felt really good. That’s the important bit; start with something that feels amazing, before working towards transforming the perspective on a less comfortable moment. Because that’s totally possible too, and does not require compromising my values, telling myself pretty lies, ignoring painful truths, or constructing a fake narrative, it just takes some understanding, some compassion – and some practice. (I learned to transform some painful, awkward, or uncomfortable recollections into recollections with positive value more or less by accident, through the practice of “taking in the good“, and I don’t have “steps” to offer to make that a reliable thing; it requires practice, no avoiding that.)

Did the phrase “working towards” cause you to lose interest? Yeah… You’re probably going to have to get over that. Just saying. There are verbs involved. The effort must, in fact, and unavoidably, be your own. πŸ˜‰

A beautiful way to say thank you (to me) (because I like flowers) (in vases) (and being appreciated). Flowers from colleagues. My work space smells like a garden. πŸ˜€

The complicated week has been dimpled with beautiful moments. A promotion. An appreciative gift of flowers. Smiles from colleagues in moments of shared success and celebration. A festive dinner out with my Traveling Partner and a dear friend. A delightful outcome on new hair color. It’s not even over yet – and there’s still more to appreciate, to pause for, to savor, to relish, to sit with in gentle contemplation over a great cup of coffee, too early in the morning. πŸ™‚

So look, my life isn’t “perfect” (and that’s not a thing, so let that go now!) – my arthritis pain has been kicking my ass all this rainy chilly week, and I’ve had an on again/off again headache that has chased me for days. My schedule is a so far off routine at this point it is wreckage, calendar in useless tatters, which is deeply uncomfortable for me. My sleep, until last night, has been of exceedingly poor quality, offering little rest. A wee fish in my aquarium died. The first time my Traveling Partner ever saw my new place, my bed wasn’t made – which bugs me. The powerful “Me, Too.” meme unfolded on Facebook and Twitter, which although powerful and extraordinary, was also painful, uncomfortable, and saddening. Life is not about perfection.Β We are human. So human. Pain is a thing. Sickness is a thing. Emotional anguish is a thing. Running late is a thing. Being ditched is a thing. Disappointment is a thing. Setting ourselves up for failure is a thing. Learned helplessness is a thing. This is a “choose your own adventure” sort of experience – and you have choices. But…

It isn’t “easy”. It does take practice. It is utterly necessary to “do something” about “that” – whatever it is. πŸ™‚ One thing at a time, and it’s okay to take it slow, to fumble, to get it wrong, and to have to begin again…

…like…

…a bunch of times.

This is your experience. The craftsmanship involved in making it a “good one” (defined by you) is yours.

This morning I’m fortunate to be sitting in the sweet spot. It’s been a busy week. I’m still smiling. That’s enough. πŸ™‚

I was a bit lonely yesterday. It happens sometimes, and it an occasional inevitable byproduct of living alone. I’d heard from my Traveling Partner quite early, and very briefly; he was awakened by way of practical joke, after a late night working. (Which, while it must have seemed an amusing notion in the abstract to the prankster(s)… really??Β What the hell, grownups? No. Just, no. Jokes that amuse at the specific expense of someone else’s discomfort aren’t actually funny to the person who endures them. My opinion, but admittedly, I learned that fairly late in life, myself, sometime in my 30s.) He shared his irritation and we both moved on with our mornings. I didn’t hear from him again, yesterday, aside from seeing an occasional like or post or reply on Facebook.

I spent the day contentedly working down my “to do list” of things both needful and helpful, and a few things that were subtle improvements that were in no way actually necessary. Music played in the background throughout the day. Near the end of the day, as I began to tire, I began also to miss my Traveling Partner immensely, and yearning for any little moment of connection or contact. Nothing. He was busy elsewhere, doing other things, and did not have the time or inclination to connect with me. This has to be okay; we are humans, living our lives, and do not live together. Sometimes, one of us will be busy with what is in front of us, right here, right now, and that distant lover is… distant. Far away. Not here. I ended the day feeling lonely, and a little unsettled; I’m used to more contact with him over a weekend, unless he explicitly sets expectations that I won’t hear from him. Lacking that expectation-setting, I allowed myself other implicit expectations and fucked myself over, emotionally; loneliness settled in with my fatigue, late in the day. Which sucked. But… I wasn’t having a shitty day, there wasn’t any drama, or cause for alarm, and really – I was okay, and most likely, so was he. All good.

I put down that baggage several times, and moved on to other things. “Practices” take practice – actual repetition, actual verbs, actually doing the things. Yoga. Strength training. Study. Deep listening – even to the woman in the mirror – have such value. I made a point to allow myself to be heard, to feel understood, by me, myself, and it was enough. I went to bed just a bit disappointed that I hadn’t heard from him, and hoping that he was well, and content, and feeling loved. I reminded myself how loved I am, and when I wrapped myself in my blankets as I crawled into bed, I felt content, and warm, and yes, loved, too. All good. No heartache.

I woke once very early, and saw that my Traveling Partner had messaged me quite late. He even tried to call. He was sorry I was lonely and feeling unsettled. He’d had a busy day with a lot of work going on, and some help at hand – so a limited opportunity to get quite a lot done, and he’d been involved in that. Makes sense to me. I smiled in the darkness. On my way back to bed, I hoped that he wasn’t too disappointed not to reach me by phone, after I’d gone to bed. Even though I saw him last weekend, I miss him greatly, already. I fell asleep reminded that I would be seeing him this week, showing him the new place, going to a concert with him…

My loneliness yesterday wasn’t a matter of being without Love in my experience of living. It was a matter of choices; I had a list of things to do, and was insisting (to myself) on doing them. lol That was a choice. I made that choice because it was, in my opinion, needful. My loneliness increased over the day, not hearing from my partner, because I’d hung on to an implicit expectation of hearing from him “more often” (I’ll point out how poorly defined “more often” is…), not because he’d actually let me down in any way. My emotional life is mine. The emotional “climate”, the emotional “weather”, the long-term experience of self, the immediate turmoil of some moment – these are all mine to manage, to endure, to delight in, to change, to explore, to accept, reject, or to resist as if it were madness. No one actually “made me” feel lonely – feeling lonely was merely my reaction to insisting (for myself) that I stay home and “work the list” rather than be out and about doing things with friends. I had shit to do.Β I chose to do it. <shrugs> It’s not even a thing this morning.

For me, today, it matters far more than my loneliness matters to my Traveling Partner, even at a distance, than the fact that I experienced some loneliness. His reassuring message and attempts to call were sufficient reassurance that he was okay, and adequate reminder that I matter (to him). I sometimes worry when I don’t hear from him. He heard me. I feel heard. All good.

I smile and sip my coffee and think about hearing and listening. I think about feeling heard. I think about emotion and reason, and love and lovers. I think about perspective and balance. I think about being the best human being I am able to be with the resources and qualities of character that I have right now. I think about walking my own path, and becoming the woman I most want to be.

Eventually, I think about my “to do list”, and the autumn leaves on the deck I have yet to sweep up. I smile, sip my coffee, and get ready to begin again. πŸ™‚

I woke to the sense of being unusually aware of having a new day ahead. A complete, entire, wholly unused fresh new to-be-determined, as in not yet completed, used, spoiled, finalized, wrapped up, or altered in any way. New. An entire new day. Unbuilt. Un-crafted. Un-“hacked”. New and suitable for all manner of beginnings, choices, and verbs.

In this particular instance, it is also a Thursday, a workday, and I woke to the alarm clock. lol

Still a new day.

I smile and sip my coffee. I consider the day ahead. I have a hair appointment in the afternoon, so the work day itself is a bit shorter than usual. No guilt involved; next week I have a long (and very late-ending) Monday with a very early (and long) Tuesday following it. It’s not the usual thing. It’s to do with an implementation that is nearing its conclusion. That’s exciting. I’m tired and eager to get to a “steady state” of things, around which functional sustainable scalable processes can be written – then followed – and iterations of improvement in efficiency can be observed, and managed. lol Exciting stuff right there, eh? πŸ˜‰ (For me? Yes.)

Today’s short work day gets me a bit of additional leisure that I can spend on the woman in the mirror, taking care of other needs than those listed with such care on a meeting agenda somewhere, because we both know that the major upheaval ahead in my day-to-day routine (sleeping and waking particularly) may result in more than usual fatigue by the end of next week.

No particular reason to look ahead and become fused with an experience that is not now, though, is there? (Nope.) No telling how all that actually goes “in real life”. I will say, I’m getting to see a number of close colleagues in other roles managing their stress, and their workloads, in a time of great change. I’m impressed by them. I am content to work where I do. It’s a good place to work. (That matters more to me than I understood 7 years ago.)

Another morning. Another day. Another opportunity to practice being in this moment, here, and open to the next, whatever it may bring. I’m ready with some verbs. I’m ready to begin again. πŸ™‚