Archives for posts with tag: A student of life

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about my recent meltdown, and the later realization that it may have been connected in some way to the recent clutter-reducing destruction of many years of paper journals. After so many years of working to improve my emotional wellness and heal whatever I can of my PTSD, it took me by surprise to have such a bad episode so recently. I was completely taken by surprise – and frankly, that’s almost comical; intellectually, I know not to just “tick a box” and call myself “well”. Mental illness doesn’t work like that – it’s more a journey taken over time. A lifetime.

When I began talking it over with my therapist, it became pretty clear that the chaos and damage that surfaced in those painful moments sourced with some of my earliest adult trauma in my first marriage, and I know that that had its foundation in the childhood traumas that are older still. I was (and am still) dealing with the lasting effects of family violence. In the here-and-now, where such traumas are not part of my current experience, I was nonetheless “primed” for panic because the daily news is filled with stories of family violence, family killings, and domestic violence related femicides (I do my best to avoid reading those articles, but the headlines are everywhere).

Firstly, let’s just get this out of the way; don’t kill people you say you love. (This seems obvious…?) Don’t raise your hand in violence outside the explicit requirements of actual fucking warfare. Just… don’t. Violence is ugly, unnecessary, and the outcomes are unpleasant and often quite permanent. If you are an American in the United States, our social contract with each other states – in writing – that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are “inalienable rights”, and this means you are explicitly agreeing that these things are sacrosanct and not to be taken lightly. So… yeah. Don’t fucking kill people. Especially do not kill your fucking family. Jeez… who are we that this has to be said??

So, yeah. Here I am almost 60, and I am still dealing with the traumas inflicted on me as a child, and those inflicted on me as a young adult. We’re talking about horrors of many years ago… more than 30 years ago. Fucking hell. You’d think spending something like 30-40 years in therapy (on and off, and most recently a pretty consistent 10 years or so) would mean… no more chaos and damage. No more panic attacks. No more freak outs. No more tears.

It doesn’t work that way. It’s more like the crumpled paper analogy suggests (used as a lesson for anti-bullying, but quite relevant). The damage is done. The lasting outcomes are… lasting. The lost trust. The peculiar defensiveness. The hyper-vigilance. The thinking errors. Some of it can be corrected and eased over time… with practice. Some of it… maybe it’s always part of who we are as survivors. Scars that tell the tale.

Note: having been hurt doesn’t get us out from under our own obligation to be the best human being we know how to be. Being hurt is not an excuse for inflicting hurts on others. Just saying… adulting is hard.

I’m not sitting here feeling gloomy or tragic. I mean, fuck yes it’s a major bummer, and frustrating as shit… but… there’s hope for further improvement over time. I come back again and again to the tools that work, and to the lessons learned over time. I take a moment to reflect on how much progress has been made, and how much easier things actually are. So many new beginnings. The chaos and damage doesn’t tell the whole story, and living mired in my nightmares is no longer my way. That’s something. My results still vary. I still need practice practicing the practices that shore up my wellness and promote healing. That’s just real. It’s a commitment to healing – and to living well.

The harder part here may be balancing what I know through experience and study with what I achieve through my words and my actions – making the understanding a living experience isn’t an instant win. There are so many verbs involved. Try, fail, try again… repeat. Very human. (Don’t give up, just keep practicing and improve over time.) While I’m not personally to blame for the horrors or violence inflicted on me, I am personally responsible for those that I inflict on others subsequently – whatever the hurts that shaped me.

I sip my coffee enjoying the quiet time to reflect on the powerful impression trauma makes on our entire being, and the way it can shape who we become and color how we see the world around us. Worth a moment or two of self-reflection and I find myself wondering if it is too soon for another trip to the coast to watch the waves pound the beach on a stormy afternoon while thinking about the lasting effect of trauma, and how best to begin again? If not that, well then, it’s another work day, and other beginnings have my attention.

Another day, another new beginning. 🙂 Time to choose my adventure…

I am contemplating change this morning, over my coffee. My coffee is quite good, and my sleep was restful, although I woke feeling the night was somehow too short. Pleasant easy mornings often find me sifting through the mental miscellany before the day gets going, and lately I am often considering tasks and projects associated with moving from one residence to another.

It's a process.

It’s a process.

Change, this morning, is ‘about’ the move more than it is about most other things, but the move is also a metaphor for change in general, and the necessity to bring my will to life in order to take advantage of the power of change. I find these loops of thought very pleasing, and taking time to appreciate the living metaphor helps me learn life’s lessons more comfortably, keeping me on the path of becoming the woman I most want to be.

There are verbs involved - and it is not possible to see what is around the next bend.

There are verbs involved – and it is not possible to see what is around the next bend.

So, this morning I am sipping my coffee and considering things that have yet to be done, and using the process of moving to bring order to chaos, to shore up the foundation of my contentment, and to improve on the way I life my values, and invest in a positive experience day-to-day.

Sometimes it seems a lot of work, and I'm not sure I'm on the right path...

Sometimes it seems a lot of work, and I’m not sure I’m on the right path…

A pause for writer trivia…I touch type. It’s a handy skill, and relying on muscle memory instead of looking at the keys allows me to type pretty fast. Interestingly [to me], I have the most damnable time hitting the ‘ – ‘ key. I often find myself having to light the keyboard to go find the damned thing. It’s most peculiar, particularly after actively and accurately touch-typing for so many years…except for the dash. Yep. That generally comes up as a ‘0’, ‘9’, or ‘=’ two or three times before I finally pause to look down, at least once a day. 🙂

There are obstacles. Distractions. Sideshows.

There are obstacles. Distractions. Sideshows.

I’m eager to get on with moving and get it out of the way. I don’t actually like the upheaval associated with moving, and I’m concerned how it will affect me until I am settled in. The concern itself causes me concern on top of that – does the concern hold the potential to make the stress of the move harder to take? Is being more aware of the effect change has on me more likely to make it easier to manage? I am aware, fussing within the quiet of my thoughts, that the answer to all those questions and concerns is held within the practices I practice – most particularly practices of mindfulness, self-compassion, and good basic self-care. There are verbs involved. The eagerness dances an interesting emotional tango with my chaos and damage, affording me numerous opportunities to practice practices and to plan. I like planning, it feels like a secure foundation on which to build change.

Sometimes the journey seems endless...and I have to remind myself that the journey is the destination.

Sometimes the journey seems endless…and I have to remind myself that the journey is the destination.

This morning, my thoughts pause like butterflies in a vast meadow before moving on to the next flower. Books. Paintings. Porcelain. Clothes. I think about apartment living, and how precious ‘space’ really is, and how I enjoy the luxury of space between things and room to move, and  how I dislike the clutter that seems to creep in over time. I consider how to best make use of what I have, to minimize the likelihood that I will react to the stress of moving by behaving like I need to ‘have more’. Meditation helps with that one, by quenching the shopping jones. Success requires the will to practice, and to practice more – I find it doesn’t work nearly as well unless the practice itself is committed, genuine, and authentically heartfelt and real. Your results may vary. There are verbs involved. There is definitely a prerequisite that I bring with me the will to change.

It is worth investing in me, and learning to thrive in difficult circumstances.

It is worth investing in me, and learning to thrive in difficult circumstances.

This morning the real theme is that making good choices, and building the beautiful life I want and enjoy, requires that I know what I want in a fairly clear and reasonably specific way. I don’t run from practicing practices – practice is what it takes – but I wholly dislike re-doing things that were done poorly the first time, or handled poorly due to lack of forethought or planning. So…I think, and I plan. 🙂 It’s a nice way to enjoy my coffee in the morning, and wake up to a day in which I am active in the process of fulfilling my fondest desires.

However endless the challenges seem, I choose my perspective, I choose my behavior, and I direct my will; my choices matter.

However endless the challenges seem, I choose my perspective, I choose my behavior, and I direct my will; my choices matter.

It’s a lovely morning to good basic self-care. It’s a pleasant day to enjoy the woman I am, right now, and all the good qualities I offer the world. It’s a worthwhile day to make eye-contact and share smiles – my fellow-man is also on a journey of discovery, headed somewhere of their own choosing, each and every one. It’s a nice day to see the world.

Each destination reached is the first step on another journey, and the horizon is limitless.

Each destination reached is the first step on another journey, and the horizon is limitless.

I find it interesting to notice how much longer a weekend feels when I really take the time to invest in exceptional self-care, and really make a point of relaxing, and savoring the simple sweet moments that are often so common – and so easily overlooked. Is life ‘perfect’…well…no – and yes, mostly, sort of… It’s a matter of perspective and sufficiency, and making a point of treating me well, myself.

Enough.

Enough.

It’s been a lovely weekend. Simple enough, and I am content with it. Perhaps it’s simply that I slept well and deeply, two nights in a row, or maybe it is that I feel comfortable and certain of my current trajectory in life, at least for the moment, and enjoy the feeling without complications because it is truly my own? Does it matter why contentment is, when it is? Is it enough to enjoy the moment, to be, in fact, content? At least for now, it seems that it is.

I have been attentive to my self-care. I have been attentive to myself. I have been awake, aware, and able to observe the world, and my own interactions from a place of compassionate non-judgment most of the weekend. Most of my choices have been sound. Most of my interactions with others have been harmonious, and enjoyable – pleasant, moment to moment, most of the time. The handful of challenging moments didn’t seem particularly noteworthy, or confrontational, and generally they were not at all about me – and that was something I understood at the time. As I said, it’s been quite a lovely weekend. Even my pain didn’t seem worth slowing down for; it was merely a nuisance.

Incremental change over time? Well, perhaps – or maybe just a good weekend. Is sorting out that distinction worth taking the time away from savoring what a lovely weekend it has been? I think not; this is a moment for being. For loving. For lingering in this joyful contented place… That’s enough.

Do I see what I see through honest eyes, or is it filtered through my experience, and my own limited awareness and understanding?

Do I see what I see through honest eyes, or is it filtered through my experience, and my own limited awareness and understanding?

I woke this morning to the sound of an audible ‘click’. I often do, but don’t know what the sound is caused by. Perhaps a door elsewhere, or the timer on my aquarium, or some other commonplace occurrence that I simply haven’t placed or clearly identified – because I am asleep when I hear it. This particular morning, when I woke, my emotional world careened around within myself in an almost dizzying way; residual emotions from dreams colliding with in-the-moment reactions to sensations and awaking, leftover random moments of emotion from earlier hours – or days – left piled up in the unswept corners of my consciousness, stirred together, mixed and shaken, as I wake up. It is far too easy to take this bit of ’emotional seasickness’ personally, first thing in the morning, and more than one otherwise lovely morning has been wrecked by emotions that got the best of me – even though I had no idea why I actually felt the way I did.

This morning I am playing a quiet game of ‘being my own best friend’ and sipping my coffee and hanging out with me, unconcerned that my emotions feel unsettled, uninterested in exploring them further, and choosing instead to relax with me for a while, and enjoy some of the very cool things about this woman who I am.

I find myself thinking about a very fancy camera I had once had – long before the age of the digital camera, and back when analog film drove the decisions about how many pictures I could reasonably afford to take, and to get interesting effects, or special shots, I lugged around a camera bag full of filters and lenses. It’s an interesting metaphor. Even in our thinking, we use ‘filters’ and ‘lenses’ to sort through what we see, and to determine how we understand it. More than once I’ve messed with my own head, and caused myself a lot of needless suffering, because my perspective (a filter, right?) or awareness (a lens?) were not well-suited to the experience of the moment.

I don’t really know where it takes this metaphor, but when I take pictures these days, they are most often available light shots, free of effects or ‘fun’ filters; I want most to capture the quality of light – of life – in a moment, just as it is. This, I find, is also a very nice way to treat my own heart – although less simple, once I have stepped from metaphor to action, sometimes. This morning the time taken to get my balance, and my bearings, and secure emotional footing before rushing off to face the day seems like a nice way to start a new day.

Today is a good day to view things through a different filter, and through a cleaner lens. Today is a good day to enjoy who I already am, in this moment right now, and see where the day takes me. Today is a good day for love and lovers – and a bigger picture.

I slept decently well last night. I woke once or twice, and was up far too early, but I’m sufficiently well-rested to get through the work day. My coffee tastes good. It’s hot. The morning has been fairly routine, although the after-taste of less pleasant qualities of the weekend linger in my recollection; they are not important, and will fade over time, as I contemplate the wonderful moments I spent with my partner, with friends, and in my own company.

The winter holiday season is near. It begins with Thanksgiving, and ends on the other side of the new year. It brings with it weeks of celebrating, cooking, laughing, gift giving, anecdote sharing, taste-testing, coffees with visiting travelers, shopping, crafting, and the beauty of the festive and lavish, the warm and sentimental, and the precious and loved. It is, without question, my favorite ‘time of year’ every bit as much as autumn is my favorite season.

Thinking ahead. Daydreaming becomes planning.

Thinking ahead. Daydreaming becomes planning.

There can be so much artifice in the holidays. It’s easy to make the leap from the flash and fun of artificial greenery with twinkly lights, to putting on ‘a holiday face’ behind which we hide our real selves, and real intentions; I see people do it a lot. It’s a shame, really; we are each so spectacularly who we are. Worthy of consideration, worthy of love, worthy of being appreciated – as we each are. That’s not to say, of course, that we don’t also each have the potential to bring more than a reasonable quantity of nastiness or emotional weaponry to any event we attend, and certainly I am not suggesting I find positive value in rudeness, pettiness, meanness, callousness or a lack of consideration when it turns up on someone’s behavior (not even my own!). What I’m saying is that at our best, when we are making good choices, and being the best of who we have to offer ourselves and the world, we have so much cause to face the world wearing our own face, our own smile, with our own joys and sorrows, honest and naked. Even though I don’t hang freshly cut boughs of pine along my bannister rail each holiday season, preferring some lovely manufacturer frippery, I recognize the value of what is genuine and authentic in the season, and in my fellow travelers.

Today is a good day to contemplate a heartfelt simple holiday. Today is a good day to cherish what is real, and meaningful, in my experience. Today is a good day to be authentically, genuinely, this being who I am right now; no one else can do this one, as well as I can, myself. Today is a good day to find new recipes for old favorites. Today is a good day to reconnect with an old friend – or reread a favorite book. Today is a good day to value who I am right now. Today is a good day to choose associates with great care, selecting for those qualities of life and love that enrich my experience, and selecting travelers on the journey who understand the value of a good holiday. Today is a good day to change the world.