Archives for category: Words

“Lazy” Sunday morning sipping coffee, feeling the lift of recent inspiration, and contemplating a recent discussion with my Traveling Partner on the topic of “second hand stress”. It’s a thing, Google it. (I got 462 million hits on that search term, with the first page of links mostly being pretty useful and informative – at least as of October of 2022). Here’s one article. My partner shared this one with me. I found it decently informative, with some useful suggestions for observing and managing second hand stress. Cures? lol. No. There is no “cure” for stress, if by “cure” you mean “some reliable means to wholly and permanently eliminate the subjective experience of stress”. That’s not a thing. Stress, in general, is something we experience for reasons. It has a purpose. There is no “make it go away” approach that suits every need in every moment, there just isn’t. I definitely recommend letting go of that notion. It’s not helpful.

“Anxiety” 2011

Learning to differentiate between stress (and anxiety) that rises to the level of becoming disordered, from the useful experiences of stress or anxiety that could prompt us to make a change, follow through on circumstances, or move away from danger, is an important bit of growth and personal development. For those of us with already-identified anxiety disorders of one sort or another, it becomes doubly critical to be able to distinguish between needed, useful, “positive” stress, and the chronic disordered sort that creates so much chaos and unpleasantness. Saying so doesn’t make it easier. (Keep practicing.) It’s fucking hard.

Learning to skillfully practice non-attachment and to avoid becoming fused with the emotional states of those around us is another incredibly useful (necessary?) skill for managing stress and anxiety. This is definitely an area that I personally need improvement on (for real). The very same love that draws me to my Traveling Partner and fills me with such delight and warmth and affectionate regard also (sometimes) sucks me into the trap of becoming fused with his emotional state – and when that emotional state happens to be one of frustration, annoyance, anger, sadness, or other “negative” emotional experiences, it can result in my becoming mired in despair and sorrow, or fear, or feelings of inadequacy (when I find myself unable to “fix it” for him). That is the sort of thing that can quickly build a mood-wrecking spiral of emotions in our relationship, as we trigger each other, back and forth, our individual experiences of anxiety and stress feeding on each other and just making things so much worse. Becoming skilled at emotional non-attachment without having to “run away” from an uncomfortable experience has the added result of making us that much more able to support one another.

…I gotta work on that…

Listening deeply is a skill that can be helpful for sorting out whether an experience of stress and anxiety is entirely my own… or a mix of my own and my partner’s emotional experience, or actually just nothing to do with me at all. Sometimes it is hard to listen to someone (particularly my partner) tell me that I’m causing their unpleasant emotional experience – but that doesn’t take away from the truth of it. Sometimes that’s just real, and saying so has nothing to do with intention or blame-laying. On the other hand, it’s their emotional experience, and regardless of cause that’s theirs to manage.

Because love matters more. “Emotion and Reason” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

We’re each having our own experience. We each have our own “emotional climate” and “emotional weather”. We each live our own life, alongside those we love. We are not the being others see us as; we’re who we are. Individual travelers on life’s sometimes-shared journey. The perceptions of others don’t necessarily align with our perceptions of our self. Similarly, those people so dear to us, that we love so much..? They aren’t who we think they are, or even who we see them as; they are their own unique self, independent of our impressions, experiences, assumptions, thoughts, or recollections. Funny how often we think we “know” someone “better than they know themselves” and funnier still how rarely that is actually true. Worth thinking about.

The tl;dr? “Second hand stress” is a real thing. Our partners deal with it. We deal with it. Our colleagues deal with it. We deal with it. Every one of us. All the time. Our results vary. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let it go.

Begin again.

…Oh, but it’s gone now. Sorry. Bit of a teaser. Too click-bait-y? That’s on me. Cold coffee and a bit of wait time; we have a houseguest coming (my Traveling Partner’s son, on vacation). Should be fun, but I am admittedly distracted by the nagging thought that there is (still) another task or bit of housekeeping that could be done before our guest arrives… The feeling is an illusion; the essentials are handled and the house looks tidy and welcoming. The reality of it, though, is there is (nearly) always more that could be done to improve one’s quality of life in some small way.

…My eye lands on an “extra” coffee cup sitting on my desk; it could have made it into the dishwasher. I overlooked it.

…I suddenly remember that I’d said I would weed under the deck (definitely needs it) but until just now, I’d forgotten that.

…This nagging headache could use some mitigation, maybe some acetaminophen or ibuprofen. I can pretend that will help, until maybe I forget I have a headache, and it eases a bit?

…I had made a really well-crafted list of things I wanted to … was it “do”? or… specifically write about? paint? …fuck… Well, at least it is a Saturday. (It is a Saturday, isn’t it?? I pause to check. It is. I could trust myself more, I guess.)

…A couple of weeks to the new job…

…There are quite a few local trails and small parks I have not yet visited. This could be a good time for that. I remember, too, that my partner and his son have been planning to camp for a few days while he visits. When (if?) they do, it will be the first time since we moved here (more than two years ago, now) that I’ve had the house to myself for more than a couple hours (no exaggeration). I’ll enjoy the solo time at home. I generally have to go somewhere for that luxury.

My Traveling Partner sticks his head into the studio (again). He’s “grabbing little moments” as often as he thinks to, before our guest arrives. I love that he cares to do so. Hard to focus or concentrate, though. lol I am struggling to write coherent complete thoughts or find meaning in words.

…Relationships are important, and rejection is painful. Easier to let go of the writing for now. I can begin again later. 🙂

I write the word. You read the word. “Tantrums.” We probably both think of children, first. Adults having tantrums are… embarrassingly human. I’ll bet you’ve done it. “Thrown a fit.” Maybe, “lost your shit”? Did you “blow up” over something small? Tired? Not feeling well? Headache? Suddenly you found yourself in the middle of an emotional firestorm, losing both self-control and resilience? I don’t know anyone who can be entirely honest and say they’ve never, ever, lost their composure inappropriately over some moment or another. It’s unpleasant to experience. It’s unpleasant to witness. It’s unpleasant to be around. Each and every one of us who has found ourselves succumbing to the worst of who we are in some moment, who has blasted some innocent bystander, colleague, – or worst – someone we care about deeply over our bullshit, knew right then and there that we were fucking wrong as hell. We probably didn’t say as much. Maybe we never even apologized. Maybe we think because the “facts were on our side” it excuses our shitty behavior? Is it you, this time? Was it them? Do you think you were “right”? Do you think they were? (Do you actually think that matters more than the unpleasant moment you’ve created?)

“Am I the asshole?” Good question to ask oneself in a moment of tension or conflict. Just saying.

I’ve been there, for sure. It’s definitely not “always me”, though; I am but one human among many. Even narrowing the view to just the company I work for. Just my community. Just my family. Just my partnership. Even with my “issues” – it’s not always me. Just saying. Any one of us can, and likely will, succumb to emotional weather, however pleasant the emotional climate may be. Storms come and go.

I sat down to write, over the weekend, but my thoughts had not yet become a thing I could express in words. It was fatiguing weekend of relaxing effort. lol My body was tired. My mind was seeking a moment of quiet to really process things. Maybe I get that moment when I seek it, maybe I don’t. It sometimes ends up being the sort of thing that keeps me restless and wakeful into the wee hours, quiet, and reflecting, filtering, sifting, sorting, all the thoughts and questions, and moments. In the meantime, I’m struggle to put my thoughts into some coherent share-worthy whole. Interruptions. Distractions. Endless seeming “high priority” distractions, and demands on my time and attention.

My Traveling Partner is having his own experience.

Our A/C seemed to be malfunctioning. I mean… it demonstrably was “malfunctioning”, keeping in mind the intention, and settings, should have it cooling the house, and it is doing quite the opposite. Time spent troubleshooting (and snarling at each other), eventually pays off; blown fuse replaced. I struggle to “keep up” with his shifting emotional weather, some days. That was one of those. I imagine my own notion of resilience as a deep, calm, still pool. I perceive his (substantial) resilience more as a wave pool; big swings that reliably settle into calm fairly quickly. We’re each having our own experience. It’s not “personal” – not even truly “adversarial” in any clear way. Just quite different from each other, and sometimes not complementary. We are so similar…and so different. I don’t think I’d change that… I’d just like to be a bit better at it than I am… preferably without having to gain those skills through experience. lol

I continued to write, but ultimately set it aside over distractions. The pain I was in had increased, even though our stressful moment was quite brief, and it colored my thinking. I finally gave up on it. Today it’s days later, and reaching for words in a different moment of stress and conflict, and I find this, half-finished, waiting for me. A reminder that emotional weather comes and goes. That we are each having our own experience. Each seeking to understand the world through the lens and filter of our own experience – and often completely limited to that context, because it is all we truly know. Empathy is hard sometimes. Compassion requires more verbs. Kindness, too. Finding my way to a fully accepting and loving place is hard right now. I’m angry.

I remind myself that my Traveling Partner and I both have only good intentions. That we both love each other. That we are each doing our best with shared goals in mind. That we are individuals seeking to thrive – and help each other to do so – on a shared journey. It’s hard to be the best version of myself when I am feeling angry, or misunderstood, or unappreciated. I know that’s true for him, too. I look at my calendar – another meeting. I take a breath, and begin again.

It’s a Winter Sunday. Cold. Clear. My coffee is hot. My playlist is bumpin’ as I sip and write. I started the morning with a hot shower. I’ve been writing notes and emails to distant friends. Thank you cards to family who sent holiday cards (I never got my shit together enough to send cards this year, lol).

I sip my coffee and think about places I’ve been, and people I’ve met. I think about moments. Connections. Things still unfinished – or never started. I think about places I’ve yet to travel, that still sound interesting and worth a visit. I think about people I haven’t seen in years, and wonder how they are. It’s that sort of moment. I just go with it. No tears, no sorrow. It’s just a moment to appreciate other moments. Later, it’ll be a different moment, with other qualities. It’s a Sunday. Probably housekeeping. Maybe art. 🙂

I think about my Traveling Partner, and those precious moments. This isn’t a fancy morning. I don’t have any grand plans. I’m in a bit of pain. I’m feeling okay anyway. It’s a pleasant, rather ordinary Winter morning with nothing much going on. I’m okay with that; it’s a moment worth embracing. (Honestly, most of them are.)

I read that Thich Nhat Hanh died. I don’t know that I have much to add. He gave me so much. We never met. I continue to read and appreciate his words.

As with most things – even moments – this too shall pass. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I’m listening to my Traveling Partner gaming with his son (online), in another room. I am also listening to the trash pick-up going on beyond the house, on the street. I hear the sound of my fingers on this “quiet” manual keyboard. As much as any of those, I hear the sound of my tinnitus. Leaving aside the question of whether the sounds of my tinnitus are “real” or something else to be considered another day (because honestly it truly does not matter to the lived experience), it’s loud today. I keep putting my focus on some other known, definite, external sound to distract me from the distraction of my tinnitus. Each time I do, I push it to the background for a little while. It’s not a perfect system, but it keeps me from feeling as if my hearing is actually impaired from moment to moment. My hearing of external sounds is mostly pretty okay, aside from some frequencies that are simply buried by the tinnitus. I shrug it off, but have to admit that I have grown to rely more on being able to see the person speaking to me to be certain I am really hearing them quite correctly.

…I smirk at myself when I momentarily ascribe the experience of my tinnitus on “aging”; my tinnitus is an old “friend” from as far back as the mid 80s. I used to work seated next to a long bank of noisy equipment, and trust me the U.S. Army did not give two shits about hearing protection, at that time. I still hear a repeating snippet of Morse code, as if very distant, buried in the noise of my tinnitus, but only on the left side. LOL Mostly it sounds a bit like … “garden bells”, without any of the clinks or sounds of contact between bells, just the sort of shimmery tones left behind. It might almost be pleasant if it were not so endless and persistent. And distracting.

My pain is pretty bad today. My tinnitus is noisy. Some pain remedies make the tinnitus worse. Choices. I’ll be glad when Winter is over with; my arthritis is usually not as bad in warm dry weather.

The weekend is ahead. I’m tired. Eager to go somewhere… do something… or… sleep. LOL When I sleep… no tinnitus.