Damn. Rollercoaster ride of a few days. Crazy. Some lovely on-again-off-again rainy days, which I find generally quite pleasant. Less pleasant is the ebb and flow my anxiety. I had a lovely relaxed weekend with my Traveling Partner – it seems ridiculously far away, now. I’m not certain either of us actually recall it.

My last surviving grandparent died over the weekend. It hit me harder than I expected. I keep making that observation, in various conversations. I’m not sure why I feel I need to explain or excuse my feelings. Grief and grieving are very personal processes. My partner is loving and considerate of my grief. He’s good like that.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ – and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

My partner is less loving and considerate of my anxiety; it tends to provoke his, which then causes mine to worsen (seeing him anxious), which, of course, aggravates his (seeing my anxiety increasing) and around we go. He does his best – and his best is pretty good. I’ve been – often right here – “working on” my anxiety for years now. Study. Practice. Consult. More practice. Repeat. It’s hardest on us when we’re both having an experience that is characterized by feelings of anxiety. “Background anxiety” is particularly insidious. I too often feel that I’m managing things skillfully, feeling good…but miss some detail that could predictably be a thing that might trigger his anxiety… and we’re off. My fairly chronic picking at my cuticles, for example, although it is a sort of a “tic”, and hard to shut down or “break the habit”, it functions as a trigger for his anxiety (likely by sending subtle “anxiety signals” to him that suggest I am anxious, myself) – I’ve fought this “habit” for years. It’s nowhere near as terrible as it once was (I can not now imagine what observing that horror show must have been like for onlookers), but I still bite my nails sometimes and pick at jagged cuticles something awful, and often without being aware of it. Yeesh. I could do better. It’s hard, and there are verbs involved, and it is a major bummer to see so little obvious progress over time. I keep at it.

Anxiety and grief. My week, this week. That’s already a lot to take, but on top of that – I woke yesterday from a late afternoon post-crying-over-death nap with a serious case of vertigo. Did I sleep on my neck wrong? Do a poor selection of dumb bell exercises? Was it because I was working with the 3D printer on my hands and knees, instead of sitting comfortably and being aware of my posture? Is it viral? Was it doing all the show-and-tell stuff my physician asked for during yesterday’s video appointment? I rose from bed with care, severely dizzy, and fighting the anxiety that comes with the vertigo (hard not to panic, it’s very scary). It soon made me physically ill, and I gotta say, I did not enjoy the experience of cleaning up puke while also still fighting the spinning of the room. I did impress myself, though (less by the quantity and distance I achieved, more the unexpected success with the clean up.) I went back to bed – not much else I could do (literally). I just didn’t have the balance to be doing things. I woke a couple times during the night, still spinning. Managed to make it to the bathroom without an incident. This morning? Not quite as bad, and I worked, more or less as is typical.

Well.. I worked, and I juggled the anxiety. Mine and his. I don’t really know what caused his – maybe mine. For sure a portion of mine is caused by his. It’s a pretty problematic feedback loop that seems solved only by literal distance from each other, at least lately. His tense request is that I do a better job of managing my anxiety. I can’t even argue with that; it’s a reasonable request. “Already on it!” is what I’d like to reply, but don’t want to sound flippant, or dismissive, or in any way take away from his message – which is that he is struggling to feel comfortable and manage his own anxiety, when he is with me. Especially hard when he wants to be with me so very much. I want that too.

My arthritis pain competes with my anxiety for my attention, and with the vertigo continuing to flirt with my awareness from the periphery. Adulting is hard. I sigh and email my therapist to request an appointment time. There are steps to take. There are things I can practice – or practice more. There are things within my power, right now, to do better/differently to care for myself with greater skill. It’s not about “easy” – there are no promises that it will be, and I don’t expect it to be. More failure than success? Comes with the issues being tackled here. Incremental change over time is slow. Anxiety fights back. S’ok. It’s a process. Failure doesn’t truly characterize the journey unless I stop moving forward entirely. 🙂 One step at a time, walking this hard mile. I’m having my own experience – and I feel fortunate that I am also sharing the journey with someone who truly cares about my wellness, and to see me thrive as an individual. More practice? Sign me up. It’s really that simple. I don’t have time for blame-laying, I just want to heal and be well. I’m willing to work pretty hard for that, and willing to do so in the face of literal years of failure and frustration, just to manage some small improvements. I’ve had to be. Is it “worth it”? That’s not really a question I can answer for anyone else.

It’s time to begin again. Again.

Well, no, not actually. There’s a breeze. It’s a sunny Autumn afternoon. The only “drafts” I’m actually noticing are those piled up in my blog, left behind, forgotten – until a stray mouse click puts them in front of me.

The titles don’t reveal much.

I suspect some of these are just a smattering of notes, taken in a hurry and left for later, and it is likely that any ideas that really “got me” have already made their way into a post somewhere. The others? Like once-favorite toys, now broken, they have outlived their usefulness, but somehow I fail to do the housekeeping necessary to tidy that shit up. I think about that and sip my soft-drink; an afternoon treat (little more than bottled liquid candy, so definitely a treat). I promise myself to look over these drafts, later… another day, perhaps, and clean them up. As with my physical spaces, I do well when my cognitive “spaces” are kept quite tidy. 🙂 It’s an important detail to know about myself.

Weird day. My arthritis is giving me grief. My consciousness feels… “fractured and wild” somehow, as if distractions are piling on distractions, competing with other distractions, with the whole mess blocking my view of what I thought I had on my mind… or my to do list. Frustrating. I rarely have this much difficulty with “focus”, or, if I do – I’m rarely so acutely aware of the issue in the moment. I feel, emotionally, as if I’d like to just chill and read a book, but I also have real, practical, doubts that I could sustain my focus sufficiently to get through a paragraph without having to start over several times. I would say “how unlike me!” but I am also having a subjective experience of being… I dunno… “a bit of a stranger to myself” just at the moment. It’s a subtle aggravation.

…I could just sit quietly for awhile… that might be quite pleasant…

A visceral awareness of just how much small stuff – decision making, task processing, go-getting, grinding persistent care of self and of household and of family and of just… life fits into a single day hits me hard, like an abrupt smack. I become aware of my headache. My fatigue. A hint of ennui. A desire to “get off my feet” (I’m not standing on them) and “just take it easy” (I’m working a desk job) starts to swamp me – how am I this tired, right now? It makes no sense and I try to “shake it off”, rather comically, rather literally, not at all successfully. S’ok. It’s very human. I breathe, and exhale, and relax, and try to make room for my fundamental humanity to coexist with my rather silly expectations of what I can (or should) do.

Time to recalibrate, give myself a break, and begin again. 🙂

Early morning. Still dark. Nothing surprising about that; autumn is approaching. There are hints of all among the leaves and along forested paths. The mornings are chilly now. The nights have cooled off. The rains are returning. November isn’t far off, and the end of daylight savings time will switch things up a bit, but for now, that’s not relevant. What is relevant is that early morning is dark now. I sip my coffee looking past the window into the pre-dawn darkness.

“Hints of Autumn” 10″ x14″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, 2021

My own heart, in this moment, is filled with light. 🙂 Nice place to start the day.

Impermanence is a real thing. Darkness comes and goes. For some folks, there often seems more “darkness” than light. I think on that as I watch the first faint hints of dawn revealing the gray cloudy morning sky. The light does return. I think about that homily “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, and while I wonder whether it is literally true, I sip my coffee and observe the sky as it continues to lighten, on the way to daybreak.

The wheel continues to turn. The pendulum swings, the clock ticks. Change is. We may be mired in darkness in one moment; the sun will rise on another.

The pale gray sky beyond the window hints at rain. The clock reminds me that the work day is ahead. My coffee is mostly gone. I think about garden chores. I think about a walk later. I think about my Traveling Partner in the other room, and fill my thoughts will love and well-wishes for his day.

Another moment slips by. It’s already time to begin again. 🙂

It’s raining this morning. I slept deeply through the night. It’s been a painful couple of days, but the pain has been just that physical experience of arthritis and of aging. I could feel the rain coming.

This morning, I sip my coffee and welcome the rain. The window of my studio is open to the sound of it, the smell of it, and the coolness of the fresh damp air that has begun to the fill the room. Refreshing. The cadence of it varies; sometimes falling quite heavily, a momentary drenching downpour, other times a soft quiet spattering of smaller drops, sometimes stopping briefly. I could listen to the rain for hours, doing nothing else but enjoying the sound of rain falling.

I sip my coffee and think about how the garden flowers will appreciate this rain. I think about taking my walk in the rain after so much dry summer weather. A bird begins to carry on rather loudly, somewhere in the pear tree beyond the fence, outside the window, disturbed by something I don’t see. Today I’ll run an errand or two, which will take me down the road, on this rainy day. I smile at the thought. It’s not raining hard enough to cause me any stress over the driving, and I realize as I consider that… well, it’s been a long-ish time since I experienced any stress about driving in the rain. 🙂 Progress. Trauma does heal over time – given a chance. That’s nice to experience, and to recognize, firsthand.

…Let’s be real, though, y’all… The event that caused the trauma that drove the driving stress specific to driving in the rain? That happened back in… 1997? It’s now 2021. We’re talking about 24 years here. 24 years to heal from a single traumatic incident. Of that 24 years, I didn’t drive at all for about 14 years. I even let my license lapse and just replaced it with an ID card. Circumstances rather unforgivingly nudged me in the direction of needing to get over my anxiety about driving and just fucking deal with it, about 7 years ago. The first 6 months were sometimes challenging, and for a handful of years after I got my license renewed, I drove when I had to, and it wasn’t something I enjoyed at all. That changed when my Traveling Partner more or less insisted that I go ahead and buy a car for myself, that I would really enjoy driving, when he needed his car back (he’d loaned it to me while I was moving, and it suited us both for me to keep and maintain it for awhile). I enjoyed shopping for a car for myself, on my own, with very little input from anyone else. It was fun. I found something affordable that I really liked, for me, and went for it. I still love my car. I’ll probably replace it, one day, with another just like it – only newer.

Am I rambling? I’ll blame the rain, and this good cup of coffee, and this very relaxed morning. 🙂

I guess what I’m saying is that healing takes the time it takes. Yeah, we can (and do) make choices that may slow that progress (or seek to rush it through), but none of that truly matters – it still takes the time it takes to heal. Physical hurts, emotional injuries, mental health trauma: all of it takes the time it takes, to heal. Seriously. Give yourself enough compassion and kindness and general decency to understand that it’ll take time to “get over” something that has wounded you. The time it takes you, versus the time it takes me, or someone else? Those things don’t compare directly; we’re each having our own experience. If I resist being open to healing, I’ll for sure slow the progress I can make toward wellness – I’ll say that again – If I am not open to healing, or unwilling to let go of my pain, and my chaos, and my damage, healing will definitely take longer. Let’s not quibble, and just accept this for a minute; sometimes we are “not ready” to get well from emotional injuries. Anger or resentment that still needs acceptance and soothing, and authentic understanding and love can really get in the way of emotional wellness, however sincerely we weep that we wish to be well and whole again. It’s complicated, isn’t it?

I sip my coffee thinking about the many days and years of this journey, behind me. I listen to the rain fall and consider the path ahead. I still have flare ups of my PTSD. The chaos and damage may be, to an extent, a permanent part of the emotional landscape (although things have improved so much over the years!). I give myself a moment of kindness as I consider that. My cognitive quirks, and eccentricities resulting from head injuries, are part of who I am – some of them I would not trade for an opportunity to be “normal”, ever. This? This life now, these moments, here? Pretty splendid, generally. I can recall a very different life, mired in misery, anxiety, chaos, anger, and pure effort spent hiding as much of who I am from everyone as I comfortably could – even from myself. I was deeply unhappy, and doing not much at all about that. I was consumed with resignation and a sense of utter futility.

I stare out the window, watching the rain fall, thinking about that life, and that woman and her deep deep suffering. I sip my coffee, silently acknowledging how much of my pain was actually self-inflicted, and how many verbs were involved in getting from there, to here. So many new beginnings. So many “failures” along the way. So many opportunities to inch a little bit closer to the woman I most wanted to be, living that beautiful life I could envision, and somehow could not achieve. I wish I could reach back and assure her we got here, and how good it is. Enough. More than enough.

There’s still a journey ahead. That’s living life, is it not? One moment after another, and always time to begin again. 🙂

What a lovely Saturday it is, here. I mean… yeah. Gorgeous sunny mild morning, no agenda, no “heavy lifting”, emotional or otherwise, just a pretty day. My Traveling Partner has been in good spirits all morning. Me, too. Coffee was decent – neither my best nor my worst – and we enjoyed it together before moving on to our own tasks. I spent considerable time entertaining myself watching the new “bamboo shrimp” in the aquarium, and doing some maintenance (mostly to do with removing some algae, being careful not to disturb the Blue Velvet shrimp who also live in this community tank). I’ve got a grocery list for a quick trip to the store a bit later, and a plan to make some oatmeal cookies.

Looks like a relaxed day ahead, and I honestly can’t thank me enough for it. 🙂 That’s right. It’s on me to make sure I get the downtime I need. It’s up to me to set clear boundaries, and to know my limits. It’s up to me to “budget my energy” (and my time), and to choose my tasks and the things that occupy my attention. Today, I think I’ve chosen wisely. 🙂 I plan to enjoy this with my whole self, too.

From my walk, yesterday.

I’ve been having to be more intentional about getting my walks in, lately. It’s become too dim in the early morning to walk entirely safely in forested places (both due to the risk of tripping over a hazard, and also the potential for predatory wildlife). So… I told myself “no problem, I’ll walk on my lunch break”. That sounded completely reasonable, but I underestimated my lack of enthusiasm for suburban neighborhood sidewalk “hikes”. As it turns out, by midday, many of the places I do enjoy walking regularly are also filled with moms & kids, school outings and groups of kids, trail runners, dog walkers… and loud conversations. Not at all what I’m going for. It’s been challenging me to think differently about where and when I get my walk in. I really don’t want to overlook it, though; walking has started to feel like it has the potential to be a “use it or lose it” scenario, and I really don’t want to find myself permanently off my feet at some future point solely due to lack of effort now, while effort-making is relatively “easy”. So here I am. Thinking about walking, which is just a bit amusing to me.

Forward momentum doesn’t have to be fast. It often isn’t. Progress. Achievement. Things that have steps, require effort, include task-processing, or have verbs involved are often found in a slower pace than I’d ideally like. You too? Incremental change over time can be ridiculously slow to the point of being imperceptible without really really looking for it. So… look for it. You’ve come so far – even if there is further to go, you’re here, now. Celebrate that. Why not? Some work went into this place you stand right now. It’s not where you’re headed? Not where you want to be? Yeah, okay, I get that – me, too. There are things I know I want to understand more. I keep studying. There are places I want to get to. I keep walking. There are goals I want to achieve. I keep working at them. Each step, each task, each moment – hopefully – taking me closer to those experiences and destinations. 🙂 Sometimes “slow” has to be enough.

My coffee is finished. The morning moves on. I’ve got my recipe picked out, and I’ve got my shopping list, and I’ve got this day ahead of me – and it’s mine to enjoy as I choose, in this place I call home, with this human being who is my partner, on this lovely mild sunny Saturday on the edge of autumn. It’s time to begin again. 🙂