Archives for category: Words

I’m sipping coffee and thinking things over. I’m considering ideas other than my own. I’m exploring perspectives outside my day-to-day. Asking questions, considering answers… It’s a worthwhile way to spend some time. Learning.

It’s President’s Day… If that’s your jam, here’s an excellent source of information about presidents, generally. 😀

Maybe you’re feeling more introspective today? Turning inward a bit more? Thinking about how to be the best version of yourself you’re able to be? This is a good one for that kind of day. 😀

I’m just saying, sometimes it’s a good idea to get someone else’s thoughts on a subject, some useful perspective, instead of just ruminating over your own endlessly spiraling unproductive internal drama. I mean, if that’s a thing you do. 😉

…Or… You could just begin again. Seems like a nice day for it. 😀

I’m in the studio this weekend. It feels good to do creative work. I loaded my “painting playlist” for my ears, and my “inspiration slideshow” for my eyes, sat awhile with my thoughts and feelings, then turned my chair to face the window (and my work surfaces) and got started. Yesterday was a solidly good day of painting, with 3 completed canvases, and one background that needed to dry before I could do the foreground work. Very satisfying.

Today, I sit down once again, early in the afternoon with the filtered light of an overcast day brightening the room. Playlist? Check! Slideshow? Check! Ready to begin again? Yes, I am.

Today there is chocolate in my coffee, and an image in my head pulled straight out of a recent nightmare. I “don’t have the words” for the feeling it conveys, so I have to rely on canvas and color to “find the words” for me. Most of the paintings this weekend are bold colors, contrasting details silhouetted over wildly colorful sunrises, sunsets and … this…

new work, as yet untitled

Who is she? Is that her reflection? Is she alone, or following someone else? Is this image a metaphor for a journey, or change? Is this even “finished” at all? Where is she going – and why? Is she passing through a portal to another plane of existence? My eyes come back to it again and again, wondering.

…Funny what gets our attention…

This other thing I have in mind is thus far just a glimmer of a shape, colors, an idea with it’s roots in a terrible nightmare, but on it’s own it’s just an image… a thought. Can I get it on canvas? Will it tell me something I don’t know? Will it help me communicate something for which I lack words? There’s no way to know until I put brush to canvas and see it take shape.

…It’s time to begin again.

Oh, hey – Valentine’s Day again. lol My thoughts on this day are complicated…

2013 – How about I be my own Valentine? (oddly my most popular post of all time)

2014 – (Love is) Enough Already

2015 – A Little Matter of Sufficiency

2016 – Love’s Magic Mirror

2017 – It’s Okay to Love

2018 – Happy VD!

2019 – Let It Go (not even about Valentine’s Day)

2020 – Press Pause (also not actually about Valentine’s Day)

2021 – I just didn’t even write, at all

2022 – It’s Got a Good Beat (actually written the day after Valentine’s Day)

Some years I’ve spent Valentine’s Day alone. That hasn’t been a problem for me. Other years I’ve enjoyed the companionship of friends, or in the embrace of a lover, or with my Traveling Partner. In the abstract, I enjoy the idea of a holiday celebrating sexual and romantic love very much. I still think it is super weird that card giveaways by multitudes of school children have anything at all to do with that. Just seems wildly inappropriate to mix all those things up together, is what I’m saying.

Last night my Traveling Partner looked over at me, “I didn’t get you anything for Valentine’s Day” he observed with a somewhat regretful tone. “I didn’t get you anything either.” I replied, rather matter-of-factly. I immediately felt that perhaps I should have – although most years we haven’t done anything much about Valentine’s Day besides love each other. Last year was unusual – fairly spectacular, honestly. This year I made plans to make a really nice dinner for the two of us, nothing exotic, just good cooking. I am even counting on myself not to be shy about romance and instigating some adult fun after work. My anxiety can sometimes get in my way, and the awareness of it alone can provoke it, but I’m feeling good about myself and the day, and my partner, and love generally, so… I have hopes for a pleasant evening of companionship, love, and romance. Expensive gifts are not a requirement.

It hits me out of the blue; intimacy needs presence not presents. I could have taken the day off and spent it in the company of love. Fucking hell. How is this only now something I think of? I make a reminder on my calendar in the distant future – a year away, minus a couple weeks, “Get Valentine’s Day Off!!”. Along the way, I notice the long weekend coming up with unexpected relief and delight; I apparently thought ahead to planning Friday off in advance of the 3-day President’s Day weekend. Damn, I hope I don’t blow it with my bullshit… we could really use a lovely long weekend spent enjoying each other’s company.

“Lovers” 1991

Love takes work. Not one day of cards, flowers, gifts, and chocolates – real work, every day. Real commitment. Real consideration. Real respect. Real caring. No faking it with love, either. Love sees through fakery pretty easily, in spite of all the “love is blind” shit we hear. Love can be hurt. Love can be damaged. Love can even be destroyed – how tragic that is! I take a breath, and think about love. I sigh out loud in this quiet space, and remind myself how many delightful wonderful experiences still take some effort, or some practice, to really “get it right”. I think about love for a few minutes, just sitting here smiling and sipping my coffee.

…I’m fortunate to be so well loved…

“Cherry Blossoms” 2011

I yawn and stretch, and watch the dark of night give way to the pale blue gray of a wintry dawn. I think about my Traveling Partner, still asleep at home, unaware of the snow that fell during the night. I hope his dreams are pleasant. I think back on all the things he’s done to make life better for us over the past couple of years since he moved back in with me… it’s been, what, about 4 years? December 2018, I think…? Wow. We’ve come so far together in such a short time. 😀

I sit here just smiling for awhile, thinking about this human being I love so dearly. I think about yesterday’s bit of writing, and better ways to demonstrate my affection day-to-day…

…It’s time to begin again.

Imagine trying to build something you’ve never actually seen and don’t have a detailed description of. It would be predictably quite difficult, wouldn’t it?

What does a great relationship actually look like, for real? Not “what is perfect “, because that’s not a thing. Certainly not whatever the fuck the dizzying fantastical first 6 months of passionate certainty that “this is for real love” is (although the vibes of new love are amazing, that rarely seems to last beyond a year or two at best). I mean that spectacular, deep, reliable, hilarious, fond, and comfortably intimate love that develops (for a lucky few) and deepens over time – what does that really look like? What are the rules? The guiding principles? The obvious necessary practices that sustain the energy of adult love over decades?

There are relationship books aplenty. I sometimes find some useful tidbit or practical suggestion in such books, but rarely more than that. There are therapists who specialize in relationships and family therapies, and no surprise there are plenty of relationships and families that need help. But what does a healthy relationship even look like? For real? (And who said so?)

I am for sure no expert. My early-life relationship models were all absolute train wrecks of relationships, shitty experiences if not explicitly abusive. So… of course, I do find “getting it right” quite difficult, even after years and years of therapy, and a couple “do overs” (I’m on my 4th long-term relationship). My relationship with my Traveling Partner is by far the best and healthiest romantic relationship I’ve ever had, free of violence, free of intentional mistreatment, with it’s foundations clearly based on a deep and lasting affection for each other. It’s still a relationship with me in it, though, and I’ve got issues. I could definitely “do better”.


Hold on a minute… No, I’m not missing the point that there are two of us here and we’re both very much responsible for the quality of our relationship. I write about my life from my own perspective, and it would be both an injustice and also beside the point to make statements about what he could be doing about things; that’s for him to handle. I’m accountable for my own thinking and behavior, and making changes is within my hands. My work. My practices. Reasonable for me to discuss. I can’t do those things for him, or on his behalf, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to be making assumptions about his thinking, or what he “needs to do”, and it is an opinion of mine that attempting to do so would be, at best, ineffective. So, I stay focused on me. What I can do. What I understand. Where I find value. What does or does not work for me.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

What do I want from love, and what does it require of me? Am I truly up for it, once I am confident I understand what it takes? These seem like important questions to ask and answer, preferably before getting all tangled up in a relationship based on love. My Traveling Partner and I have been together 13 years. In May, we’ll have been married for 12 (seriously?? where has the time gone…?!). Here I sit, though, thinking about love over my morning coffee, and wondering whether my expectations and understanding of love are… realistic.

What do I think a “healthy relationship” looks like? I listen to a drenching rain pounding the roof overhead and think about it. I think (for me) a healthy relationship would be characterized by:

  1. Mutual respect
  2. Mutual consideration
  3. Mutual encouragement
  4. Mutual support
  5. Shared values
  6. Compassion
  7. Clear expectation-setting
  8. Clear communication without mockery, contempt, or condescension
  9. Skillful listening
  10. Equitable distribution of labor

I read that list back to myself, thoughtfully. If this is what I want, myself, how well do I deliver on these qualities in my own relationship, right now? I think about the “wins” with some satisfaction… I probably do very well at … 4 of these. Fucking hell. Really? That’s it? 4 out of 10? 40%?? So… yeah. A failing grade. Altogether fairly shitty. Wow. I will admit I did not see that coming, as I wrote… I’m betting my Traveling Partner won’t be particularly surprised.

I’m now understanding a bit better some of his beefing about “us”… and I am a bit saddened by it. I’m also feeling… encouraged and hopeful. Easier to practice something when I’ve got a clear idea what success looks like. Keeping the list limited to practical qualities that would appear to build and support a healthy relationship instead of listing desirable results seems to have had the intended outcome, too; I can see more clearly where I miss, and what I can work on for best long-term results over time.

I find myself wondering what my Traveling Partner would say characterizes a healthy relationship? I wonder how he would score his success? I sip my coffee thoughtfully…

Looks like a lot of fucking verbs in that list. A lot of practices to practice. …And a lot of changes to make. As daunting as that seems, it does put a lot of control over the outcome in my hands. I’ve just got to do the verbs. Practice. Recover from my failures. Savor my successes.

…I guess it’s time to begin again.

I type the word “pieces” into the title field, and immediately get distracted wondering why it appears to be misspelled. That’s the way of things sometimes, isn’t it? We puzzle over things that are not especially puzzling, mislead by a mistake in our thinking, or an erroneous “observation”. It’s pretty human that we do this – we are imperfect creatures with a persistent notion of being “better than” other creatures in some noteworthy way. lol

My coffee is good this morning. It’s a quiet Saturday. I had planned to sleep in. My Traveling Partner woke me. All good; he woke me sufficiently late in the morning to totally count as having slept in, and truly there is a new day ahead and plenty to do. It was nice to start the day with a few minutes of meditation, then coffee together until the point at which he began finding me less comfortable to hang out with (perhaps due to my fidgeting, or perhaps the pattern of my breathing had become irregular making affinity behaviors uncomfortable, or perhaps nothing really to do with me at all, but nonetheless ascribed to something to do with me). I give him some room to breathe, and take my coffee into the studio.

As soon as I sit down at my desk I feel uplifted and lighthearted; my Traveling Partner built this lovely space for me. Well, I mean – it’s a room in our house, and he outfitted it with this desk, built my computer, and installed the acoustic treatments. So, yeah. He had a lot to do with this space that wraps me in comfort and inspiration. The paintings on the walls are mine. I am surrounded by things that encourage and delight me. It’s an important space in my home – and in my experience. A piece of a bigger puzzle.

There are so many “pieces” in being this human primate that I am. My love of writing. My compulsion to do so. My willingness to share it. My fondness for my partner. My delight in this home. The enjoyment I take from the sound of rain. The pleasure I find in a cup of coffee – down to the coffee beans, and the cup itself even. I can spread the pieces out quite far and find value in distant forest trails, paths that wander the edges of a marsh, or suburban sidewalks that meander through neighborhoods filled with other human primates living other lives. I can focus on quite tiny details and find myself in the sensation of bare feet on carpet, deck, or lawn, and the sensation of fabric on skin.

There is so much joy and pleasure to be had in a single human lifetime. It’s easy to overlook all that when things go wrong and when I face challenges. There’s sorrow in this life, too. Pain. Hurt feelings. Lost opportunities. Vast choices such that the mind is overwhelmed and shortcuts just feel… easier. There’s so much to learn, and so many things to fail at before mastering anything at all. In years that I have focused too much on the difficulties, the joy in my life was diminished and life was dismal. In years when I have focused on hedonistic pleasures with a devil-may-care disregard for any moment but “now”, I’ve failed to grow as a human being – and also somehow failed to thrive. I find it a peculiar balancing act to find a comfortable middle ground, somehow settling on seeking calm, contentment, and joy – without “chasing” happiness. It seems to come to me often enough when I take this approach, though, so… I’m good with it. 🙂

I’m rarely deeply unhappy anymore. It’s been a long journey. It’s not over. I still struggle with the hardships I face. I still have challenges and fight the internal battles with my personal demons daily. It’s a worthwhile endeavor – and the conviction that this is the case is one major victory among many. I’ve come so far! Sure, I still have some rough days. Still struggle to get adequate restful sleep. Still have nightmares. Still have this headache, and this arthritis. Still deal with lasting effects of early life trauma, my TBI, my PTSD – but what a difference it has made to select my partnership(s) with more care, and to properly take care of myself! Meditation has proven to be a long-term value. Simple health-improving steps have also “given back” more than it feels like I have had to put in. Totally worth the “effort” to drink more water, to take my medications on time, to eat a calorie-and-portion managed nutritious diet, and get more exercise. Hell, those things are working out so well, I’m motivated to “do more better” and take things further. I keep practicing.

Nothing fancy or particularly unusual about today. It’s just another day. A sunny weekend Saturday with no explicit agenda unfolds ahead of me. Where will my path lead? If it’s not too chilly, it might be a good day to do some garden prep and tidy up spaces for Spring… Certainly looks like a lovely one to get a nice walk in, too. Maybe I’ll paint? I could work on my manuscript. I could bake some cookies, or finish tidying up and reorganizing the library (which is also our guest room, and presently a bit cluttered). What I do with the time is actually less important than that I do something, and that I treat myself and my partner well. The quality of the experience matters to the outcomes. I reflect on that and sip my coffee.

It’s a lovely day to begin again. What will I do with it?