Archives for posts with tag: ACT

It’s a Saturday morning. I am awake early. I make a delicious cup of coffee, and later a couple of eggs, prepared simply, with a bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper. I feel content and satisfied. I scroll through my feeds; too many memes and shares, not enough original content. I move on. I do some self-study on topics currently most interesting to me. I take time to meditate.

I feel good.

I think about these things before I sit down to write. I consider how routinely I “begin again” and how often I suggest it as a great practice, recognizing what I’m really saying is something as elementary as “don’t beat yourself up over that, just start over”, which is less succinct, and less likely to become clear programming. I find myself wondering if that’s really enough to be at all helpful for friends or readers who haven’t yet tried a new beginning in that sense that I mean, and don’t quite know what to do with that moment of transition between the end/consequence of the one moment, and the fresh-start newness of the next.

I drink my coffee and mull that over. Is it a complicated question? “How to Begin Again” doesn’t seem the sort of thing that would, generally, require explicit instruction… but… I already know I’m wrong about that, a lot. So…

  1. Step one, well, I guess something’s gotta end, or be completed, or fail horribly leaving us feeling wretched and lost, or at loose ends, or puzzled, or discontent, or… Yeah. I guess step one has to be the end of something or other. Let’s start there. πŸ™‚
  2. Now begin again.

Okay, okay. I’m being a smart ass, and a bit flippant, and maybe that’s not appropriate for you, in your circumstances, right at the moment? Got it. I’ll… begin again.

  1. Let’s go ahead and still start with something that ends. πŸ™‚ A circumstance, a moment, an experience – and hey, maybe that’s your “now”, right now, and it hasn’t ended yet, and you’re really quite unhappy and miserable and feeling beat down by life, or overcome by ennui or sorrow, or frustration… damn. That sucks. Let’s step 2 the hell out of that, shall we?
  2. Breathe. No kidding. Take a moment and just get some wholesome cleansing deep breaths. Let that other shit go, just for a moment or two at least? Surely that’s fine? It’s a choice. Take a moment for you, and just breathe.
  3. Even while allowing yourself to consider what has passed, whether success or failure, however miserable, worried, or anxious, please also work on letting go of your attachment to the specific outcome, and let go of any expectations you were holding on to. Let yourself have a clean slate on this – it’ll be okay to do that, I assure you. πŸ™‚ The map is not the world, and clinging to an understanding of an experience or circumstance can definitely color your future experience and decision-making.
  4. Go ahead and feel your feelings. Yep. Feel ’em. Emotions are not the bad guys here, and we can develop a less reactive, more awareness-based approach to our emotional life. Finding balance between emotion and reason is a very nice bonus to all this practicing. πŸ™‚
  5. Still breathing? You’ll want to keep that going, generally. πŸ™‚
  6. If you are wanting to literally re-start whatever you just failed at, now’s the time, perhaps, to consider what success really looks like – and maybe also ask yourself some questions about why you view it that way? Is that your own legitimate authentic honest assessment, or have you borrowed someone else’s opinion’s or values there? Please consider usingΒ  your own. πŸ™‚ (Much easier to succeed in life when you are pursuing your own goals.)
  7. Make a plan. Oh, I know – an ever-loving fuck-ton of you, out there, are not planners at all. I’m not saying a word about whether or not you execute a specific plan. I am most definitely suggesting that you still sketch out some sort of loose notion of what you want to get done, even if it’s only in your head, and even if you follow through completely differently. When we feel prepared, our stress level in life is generally lower. Just saying. Think it through. Consider your next steps, and your goal. Consider alternate outcomes – a lot of them. Be okay with as many of those as you are able to allow yourself to be. Consider how those alternate outcomes may also be quite okay, maybe in totally different ways. (Some people might call this “daydreaming”, but it can be done very productively.)
  8. Allow yourself to acknowledge what is and has gone well. Contemplate for some moments all manner of similar experiences or circumstances or events or relationships that have turned out quite well, based on your choices in the past. Consider them. Savor these memories of success and sort of “fill up your consciousness” with the things in life that you appreciate, and have turned out quite nicely.
  9. Still breathing? Don’t forget to breathe.
  10. Now’s the time. Whatever it is, take another lovely deep relaxed breath, recognize and enjoy your humanity, and be aware that through our challenges is our path to growth; we don’t learn much from our successes, or the easy wins in life. We don’t become stronger by way of experiences that don’t test our strength. We can’t fathom the depths of our capacity for joy or love without also experiencing the weight of our pain and sorrow.
  11. Ready? Do the thing. ❀ (All sorts of different steps and verbs go with this one, obviously. You get to choose those; that’s on you.)

I still think it’s fine to just… start with step 1 and finish with a step 2… but… I’ve been practicing for a while, and at this point, it does feel pretty natural to sort of cram all the rest of that between them. LOL

I smile and think about this journey of mine, and how far I’ve come from that hurt creature uncertain life is worth living… that was only… 5 years ago. The world isn’t really a “better place” than it was then, in most regards, and actually, it seems a bit worse, in a number of ways. Still… I feel better, about the world, about myself, about my life, about my ability to love and to heal and to nurture, and to make wise choices. I treat myself, generally, reliably well. I treat others better than I was ever able to before – or knew how to do. Strange to consider how all this progress has been built on so many small beginnings.

I’m always on and on about beginning again. (New beginnings are awesome, just as they are, so it makes a certain amount of sense to embrace the opportunity.) It’s not a matter of the clock hands moving a notch and calling it done, though, and I guess maybe it’s been awhile since I looked more closely at what I mean, myself, by “begin again”.

I mean, it’s mostly obvious, right? Isn’t it? …Isn’t it?

Is it?

Look, I fuck stuff up. I make mistakes. I succumb to my own bullshit. I overlook details that could give me clarity in a moment of confusion. I forget stuff. I get attached to an assumption or expectation, or cling to some pet idea, and find myself stressed out, feeling “attacked by life”, or just weird and broken. All of that and more. Each and every time I fall for my own nonsense, or overreact to some moment (or person), and every passing mood or moment – I have the chance to start over with that much more experience in life, that much more perspective built on that experience, and that much more real wisdom, built on perspective. Wow, right? I mean, fuck – every bad bit potentially builds a future of greater wisdom, balance, and resilience, if I view it from the perspective that I will have learned so much more, and be that much more able to make wise choices in life for having learned from my experience. That’s powerful. It implies, though, a missing step. I should clear that up…

Thing happens. I learn from it. Life improves. Okay, sounds easy enough. Here’s the thing. The “begin again” piece falls between “I learn from it” and “life improves”, not immediately after “thing happens”. The critical piece is definitely the learning. Without that step, I just keep repeating “thing happens” over and over again, without change or progress – because I’ve clearly set myself up for it, with that passive voice, right there, in my own thinking, lurking in the background, waiting for me to experience a failure or setback – “thing happens” is expressed such that I can so easily overlook who, or what, happened it; I’ve left out my agency. “Learn from it” reliably brings my agency back to me, even in the most bleak and broken moments. It’s an important detail, most particularly because of how often my own choices are a distinct part of any moment of suffering. (And yes, this includes my fairly difficult day, and experience, yesterday.) The bit about beginning again is my reminder that taking what I’ve learned from each experience allows me to move forward in life choosing my words and actions quite differently, perhaps, and most definitely based on that refined understanding. Forward momentum. Growth and change. Choosing wisely.

So many verbs involved. I’m not saying this shit is easy. I am saying, maybe, that looking back on it, it feels somewhat less difficult than it may have felt in the moment. Not gonna lie, though, it’s been a difficult journey in spots. That’s what makes each new beginning its own tiny triumph, too. Each time I fall, each time I fail, each time I cry, each time things just don’t work out for some reason, I can take another look at things, learn a bit more from what I’ve been through (or put myself through), and make (new)(different)(other) choices that get a better result over time. It’s just fucking slow progress, so I’ll call that out right now. Change is. We become what we practice. There are verbs involved. We each walk our own hard mile. Everyone’s results vary. There are no shortcuts. Incremental progress built on experience and reflection is sort of slow. Hard to see in the moment, easy to spot looking back, after a while.

Be patient with yourself. (How many times have I looked myself in the mirror with that advice?) Things didn’t work out? Begin again. Each and every time you begin again, do your level best to be the human being you most want to be, yourself, for you, based on your own values. Your results will vary. That’s just real. So start over. Yes, again. I know. Omg – so many beginnings. It’s almost like… it’s a journey. Up a staircase. πŸ™‚ If you just stand there at the bottom, staring upward at all those god damned steps, it’s pretty massively overwhelming. So, just take one step. Give that some thought. Take another. Don’t be fixated on what’s at the top of the stairs, so much, and focus more on taking that next step. Consider your missteps, and maybe don’t do what didn’t work last time, when you take that next one. It’s honestly that simple, and it’s worth some repetition, and I found, for myself, that those two simple words communicated enough; begin again.

Oh, hey, look at the time! It’s a worthy moment for a beginning, on a Friday morning, and… as it happens… I’ve just now finished my coffee. πŸ˜‰

 

*Note and reminder and words of thanks; we’re not in this life alone, we’ve got help, if we choose to accept it. Yesterday evening, my Traveling Partner pointed out choices (of my own) and recent circumstances that were very likely to result in a difficult day (for me), which I had entirely forgotten could be significant. That bit of additional insight and perspective were helpful and grounding. Definitely don’t forget that you are not alone. πŸ™‚ Not really – there are millions of us on this mud ball. πŸ˜‰

Sipping coffee, thinking about self-care, reflecting on visits with friends and weekends when my Traveling Partner is here at home. I smile, a deep, lasting, crease-this-face-permanently sort of smile when I think about his time here in terms of his being “here at home”. Damn, that feels nice. πŸ™‚

Words matter. Our narrative matters (to us). How we phrase things, the context in which we put things, the assumptions we allow to live in our thinking – all of that matters, because all of it colors our day-to-day experience over time. We’ve got so much control over that it can literally change our experience of living our lives to change the way we understand and think about pieces of that experience – even without changing the underlying facts of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Interesting. Promising.

I enjoy a few minutes of conversation, mixed in with my morning writing. I lose the flow of my thoughts, while gaining a feeling of being connected, supported, understood, recognized, and well-regarded. It’s hard to call that a poor trade-off. πŸ™‚

It’s the winter holiday season. There’s a lot going on right now. I meditate more, and more often, but easily lose track of basic self-care practices (including meditation) in the excitement of time spent with loved ones, the busy-ness of the season, the flurry of social events, and yeah – colored lights reflected off of ornaments and objects that I only see for this handful of weeks, each year. lol It’s an important time to also keep self-care well-managed; mistakes in this area can result in all manner of weird holiday drama (that is actually so very common). It’s easy to overlook ourselves in the rush to do things for others; taking care of ourselves, though, fuels our ability to care for others.

Hey, reminder, in case anyone’s forgotten, the self-care I’m referring to when I say “caring for ourselves” is not about buying ourselves things, keeping things for ourselves, getting loaded on exotic intoxicants, or selfishly hoarding time, goods, money, or our presence. I’m talking about getting the rest we need, taking care of our basic hygiene skillfully, eating nutritionally dense calorie appropriate meals, taking medication on time, and creating an emotionally nurturing internal world view that is so inclusive we are even able to love and appreciate that human being in the mirror, while also extending our compassion, empathy, and kindness to others. Fuck. That’s a lot to take in.

Are you taking care of yourself? Drinking enough water? Getting enough rest? Spending some time walking in the sunshine and fresh air? Eating healthy meals prepared from safe, nutritious ingredients? Laughing? Enjoying the company of those dear to you? Limiting your work hours so that you also enjoy some leisure? Seriously – someone cares about you (and, one of those someone’s is ideally you, I’m just saying…) so take care. Please. πŸ™‚

Oh, hey, will you look at the time? Already time to begin again. I’ll start with self-care. Will you? (Please?)

Damn. Fuck this week. Already. Shit.

I say “this week”, but in all reasonable ways, and well-considered perspectives, this has been building slowly, event by event, detail by detail, day by day, and stitched together by threads of good intentions, affection, kindness, and commitments. I’m still having some moments of major anxiety as delicately balanced circumstances teeter on the edge of not going very well at all, which is stressful on a level I don’t recall feeling in a long time. It’s hard.

…Every new responsibility adds to the burden.

…Every new need piles on still more to a growing list of shit to do.

…Every new moment of stress dials up the intensity of the anxiety in the background.

…Every day… each moment… add another… then another… now one more… still standing? Here, have a little more extra… and more… and again… and still… and even… and then… and now… wait…what?? No time for questions – go go go!!

I caught myself “screaming into the void” on the commute home – a solo rant, with some ferocity, something on the order of a spoken word performance, or poetry, only much less pleasant. lol Not tearful, not exactly frustrated – just mad… about feeling anxious. Mad about feeling ill-equipped to be fully adult, even now. Mad at circumstances that could be just the tiniest bit better and end up quite splendid. Angry just to feel these ancient-seeming feelings of “shouldering the load” again. It’s not any one thing. It’s not any one individual. It’s not specifically work orΒ specifically personal. It’s not lacking in context. I’m not “in it alone”. I’m just one human, having this human moment of mine, myself, and really feeling it. Which is… uncomfortable.

Mid-rant I remembered something I have been finding important; I don’t grow much through experiences that are comfortable, or reliably pleasant, or completely planned and predictable… or easy. That’s just real. Ease does not correlate with personal growth. That thought shut me down completely for a moment. I even stopped being so aggravated by that ludicrously slow driver ahead of me (15 in a 25 – one lane, no passing room) maintaining easily 3 car lengths of distance from the car ahead… during the evening rush hour commute… down a road with intersections more frequently than every quarter mile… with bumper-to-bumper traffic behind him for many blocks (I could see when I got a good view from the top of the hill in my review mirror). Yep. Even that stopped bugging me in the moment that I realized I’d been handed something precious – discomfort, anxiety, and a chance to work through those things and grow.

I’m pretty committed to my personal growth as a human being – I don’t know how much time I’ve got to complete this project, really, and I’d like to get as far along as I can toward being the human being I most want to be. It’s a real and true thing, that “doing better than I did yesterday” is a bit more complicated if the days roll by so gently that what I feel most of the time is delicious simple contentment, wrapped in the affection and high regard of those who hold me dear. I can choose change, but I won’t kid you; I’m not likely to choose to be uncomfortable, stressed out, anxious, fearful, worried, nervous, or in dread of what comes next out of this craze-tacular fun house of chaos and human drama. I like it easy.

Well it doesn’t feel fucking easy right about now. I’m having to bring a lot of attention to maintaining good self-care practices in the face of a lot more stress than has been commonplace for a couple years now. I’m having to skillfully practice “letting shit go” when holding on to it only creates more stress, and has no productive outcome. I’m having to really search for perspective, really work to find balance, and really practice the practices that have brought me so far in such a short time – as if failing to do so could send me crashing into a pit of despair (which it easily could). So many verbs. So little time. πŸ˜‰

Tonight I’m not doing beginnings – just practicing. πŸ˜‰

…A soft autumn rain begins to fall beyond the open window. I chat a bit with my Traveling Partner. The scent of petrichor wafts into the room, filling the space with fragrant reminders that this too will pass. Summer is ending. The tightness in my chest and shoulders begins to diminish. My breathing becomes deeper as a smile starts to transform my face. I’m okay right now. I let my thoughts glide over my day gently, finding a kinder truth in tense moments that are now behind me. I listen deeply to my internal dialogue, pointing myself to a compassionate path, reconsidering human beings in the context of their humanity. Reminding myself to assume positive intent, each time I note that perhaps I had not done so. I take time, too, for gratitude; a lot of people came through for me today, in so many small ways. My smile feels pretty steady, and I feel pretty much at ease; the anxiety in the background is subtle now, less a plague and more a pimple. (…Maybe if I don’t fuck with it, it will clear up on its own?)

I listen to the traffic go by outside. The house is very near to the street, and the walls don’t keep out much noise. Right now it isn’t bothering me; I am aware of the open window. That makes a difference to me for some reason. The noise doesn’t matter. The smile matters more. This gentle moment matters more. Taking a little time to enjoy the moment matters more. Following through on moments and smiles may not save the world, but right now, in this moment, it’s enough. πŸ™‚

The last day or two have been strangely filled with the sound of breaking habits and routines. Again this morning, coffee holds no appeal. I have chai tea instead. With almond milk. My shower is cool, almost cold, and I take it before I do much of anything else, instead of after yoga or dumbbells. I put my shoes on as soon as I got dressed, instead of just before I leave. My TBI seems to be “whispering at me” through the fatigue and distractions; habits breaking everywhere, because that’s what does seem to happen with me under these circumstances.

I whisper back to the woman in the mirror, “keep it together, you’ve got this – now wear is your work badge, and why is it not hanging on the hook where it belongs? damn.” So human.

I remind myself to “stay on the path”. I go through the motions of the other usual morning things, check the clock, notice it is almost time to leave for work (already??) and I hadn’t written a word, or even scrolled through my feed (who are you??). It’s okay. It’s just my version of spontaneity. LOL I’m fine, just… a bit stressed, managing my anxiety, and living life pulled in more directions than I typically prefer. I take a healthy calming breath, and let it go.

It’s a Friday. Here’s a weekend ahead of me. It’s time to begin again.