Archives for category: Words

So… maybe you’re “stuck at home” practicing “social distancing” during this pandemic, and potentially feeling a bit bored or restless or feeling cut off? That seems entirely within the norms of human experience, doesn’t it? Are you there, yet?

Not me. I mostly don’t expect to be. Succumbing to boredom isn’t a major concern for me. I could say “because I have an internet connection”, and while that’s definitely helpful (games, news, entertainment, and even shopping… all right there), it’s not actually what my contentment rests upon, where avoiding boredom is concerned. For me, that’s about something so “old school” that it rather amusingly escapes many people’s attention as an option. I’m talking about the humble book.

You heard me right, People. I said it. Read a book. Read several. Become immersed in worlds you never previously imagined. Tackle those “hard” books you’ve dodged for years. Slog through something you’ve always felt you “should” read, but just… haven’t. Read out loud to each other, if you are “stuck at home” with a loved one, or a room-mate. Seriously, though? If that’s not enough – write one. You heard me right, People. Reading doesn’t interest you? How about writing your story? Yes, you, Human. Why not? Got a story in your head? Head over to the computer, sit down, and begin typing it out to share with the world. Self-publish on Amazon. How quickly can you call yourself an author while you’re socially distancing yourself during this pandemic?

No, I’m not joking. I’m just pointing out how silly boredom actually is, if  you haven’t read all the books, if you haven’t taken time to write your memoirs, or a story you made up in your head that you just keep coming back to, or even a cookbook of those family recipes you cherish. Seriously.

I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just saying, you have options. Don’t want to read? How about tidying up? Work off some of the tasks on that to-do list that’s laying around. Fix that drawer that sticks. Clean the garage. Get the spring garden started. There is a lot to living life that doesn’t require constant companionship or crowds. 😉

Well, damn, look at the time! Already time to begin again. 😀

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.

I woke early. I felt well-rested, so I got up. It’s still quite early. So far, a lovely quiet morning over coffee. More than enough to start the day well.

I sip my coffee and think about spring; it will be on its way soon enough. I think about flowers, and roses, and squirrels on the deck. I have new pruning shears. Perhaps this afternoon, after work, I’ll get out on the deck and prune the roses. It would be ideal to do it before they open new leaves, and it is obvious that will be very soon. I think about seasons. I breathe, exhale, relax, and savor this pleasant moment.

This moment? It’s one of the easy ones. I make a point to enjoy it. There are so many fewer difficult or unpleasant moments, these days. I’ve put in a lot of work to get here. Hours of meditation. Many hundreds of pages of reading material. Long hours of reflection and contemplation. Hundreds of thousands of written words. So much therapy. All of it to get here; a relaxed, contented morning, enjoying the pre-dawn stillness, lacking any hint of anxiety, or dread. It’s nice.

I’m not bragging. Let’s be clear about that; I’ll have shitty moments, dark days, or troubled times in future moments. We all do, now and then. I’m just saying; there are things we can choose to do that hold profound potential to ease our day-to-day suffering, if we choose to practice those practices, and to make use of those verbs. We don’t have to remain mired in the worst of our experiences of life. 🙂

I sip my coffee and smile. This? It’s enough. Sufficiency. Perspective. Mindfulness. Good self-care. Investing my time and effort in my own qualify of life, and self-care, has been a worthy use of time, and attention. I’ve been more able to appreciate and care for others, and to be a generally decent human being. I’ve enjoyed life so much more, too. There are no secrets to success. Instead, there’s only a reading list, and a handful of reliable self-care practices, and my sincere hope that you find something of value in the words – mine, or those resting nestled in one book or another – and a lot of practice. 🙂

Are you ready? (Am I?) It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I am sipping my morning coffee, considering the walk I am eager to want to take. I’m “not there yet”. lol My muscles ache from pushing myself, already. I’m not bitching about it, and I’m not unhappy over it. Sore muscles are muscles working a bit harder, doing more things that need done, and becoming more capable of more work. Consistency is a requirement for forward progress; if I skip the walk today over sore muscles, I don’t make as much progress toward my goals, nor as quickly, so… at some point? Walking. I’m not looking forward to the walking itself, although I’d like to. I am in pain. The walking helps the pain in my back and my neck (osteoarthritis), but is less helpful with the bad ankle that has to support the weight. Without walking, the weight remains an issue. With the walking, the ankle is an issue. I’m not saying it as though this is an unsolvable conundrum, either, just saying that these complications are part of my experience. 🙂 There’s a metaphor here…

It’s a journey with a lot of steps.

We become what we practice. Emotionally and physically. There’s not a lot of room to argue on this one. Are you hot tempered, easily frustrated, quick to react, and tending to fall back on negative feedback and criticism to communicate your needs? Well, that’s the person you become, over time, in a fixed and rather predictably unpleasant way. Are you tender-hearted, prone to tears in the face of negative feedback, (whether or not it is accurate or well-intended, or useful at all) particularly when it comes from someone whose opinion you value? Same slope; you become more of who you already are, and what you choose to do with the toxicity of the world around you, because it is what you practice. You may get called a bitch when you demand that your agency be respected, or when you insist on not being interrupted in a meeting, but that lack of boundary-setting? It’s a practice, too.

…Also? Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a bitch. Don’t call someone names, either; how about we start there? Speak gently. Be clear, and also honest. “Stay in your lane” in the sense that not every opinion you have actually needs to be shared (particularly with regard to your aesthetic, and someone else’s appearance). Check your assumptions – a lot of them are wrong (the science is in on that) – and practice deep listening, instead of waiting for your turn to talk.

Does it sound like I’m venting aimlessly, about commonplace bullshit we all seem to engage in, if not regularly, then once in a while? Well… then I’ve failed to communicate clearly. I’ll try again…

Your words matter. Use them with care. If you are communicating with someone you say you love, communicate with love – real love, using words and tone that make it very clear that the love is first and foremost in your mind, rather than some momentary frustration. Our bitterness, our hurt, our anger – once shared, it’s out there. Shared with emotional force, and absent the love that may be part of our experience, it causes real harms, real doubts about our affection, and can undermine that love we cherish so much.

Don’t let the sun set on a treasured relationship without saying something encouraging, supportive, authentically affectionate – the smallest moment of authentic appreciation and praise can change the color of an entire day. I am fairly certain most of us share negative feedback with cherished others almost every day… imagine the crushing weight of all that criticism, all that negativity, the constant pressure to raise oneself up from beneath the weight of it… Let’s not do that. Let’s handle our words with greater care, ensuring that we take more time for what is positive and uplifting that we do for things we see as problems needing correction.

I challenge you to practice even a 1 to 1 ratio of (authentic) compliments and (sincere) encouragement to criticism and requests for change. I hope you find that incredibly easy (and succeed) – because people need more love and encouragement than that, and as starting points go, it’s a bare minimum for success. I promise you that if you are only sharing negative feedback, that’s all that is being heard. That sounds like a pretty terrible experience to be on the receiving end of, just saying. Use your words as a force for good in your life, use them to lift others up, to encourage what is positive in everyone you meet.

A lot of people may grow up in environments in which very little positive feedback is shared, or the positive words are hollow superlatives about qualities they can’t control, and no attention given to the whole person. People coming from that place may not know how to give authentic positive feedback, and may genuinely not understand why it is necessary. They need to see it done, to feel it, before it will be something they can easily practice themselves. Is that someone part of your life? Be open to explicitly telling them what you need to hear – without excuses, or a need to justify yourself. It’s okay to need what you need, and it’s also quite okay to ask for it. 🙂 “I need you to say something nice to me right now.” may feel weird to say, but it is one place to start. 🙂

We’re all so human. There’s so much stress and hostility in the world right now. Our culture feels so toxic. Be someone who understands there is work to be done, and recognize you can do some of it. Be someone willing to do it. Be the change we need. Speak gently. Be encouraging and kind. Soften your tone. Be trustworthy. Be honest without being mean. Let small shit go. Don’t drink the poison offered to you. Don’t offer others poison.

Don’t like the world as it is? Be part of what changes it. We become what we practice. Practice being the person you truly most want to be. Every choice, every interaction, every day. Sometimes you will fail (I know I do); your results will vary. Practice more. 🙂 Be that better version of yourself, because you choose it, and it matters. Other people may not make these choices – don’t drink the poison they offer you, and walk your own path. 😉

It’s time to begin again.

Sumos  are in season, again. I am delighted by the fragrance as I pull the peel away, revealing the whole fruit within. Pulling each segment from the fruit feels satisfying. The scent lingers on my fingers. Each sweet delicious bite seems as luscious as a fulfilled dream. I bite into another one, and relish the sweet-tart juice that bursts from it. Now this? This is a pleasant moment.

A juicy moment of joy.

I grin with pure delight, and take another bite. It’s a work day, and a busy one, but the busiest days seem far more productive, and I feel more purposeful and capable, when I practice good self-care. Today, that means a break to enjoy a delicious favorite citrus fruit, savoring each segment, and letting metaphors about fruits, and segments, and juice, fill my thoughts. A couple relaxed, deep, breaths, and I’m on with my day. It’s a good day. I blame it on my juice. 😉