Archives for posts with tag: ACT

The commute yesterday was ugly. I was calm. People drove badly. I drove calmly. The trip home was slow, traffic density was high, and it was a hot, muggy day. I arrived home… still calm. New. Nice. It was almost a pleasant drive in spite of the shitty traffic and terrible driving behavior of some of the other drivers. This was not a coincidence, or serendipity; I built those moments myself, with mindful awareness, non-judgmental compassion, and frequent reminders that we each see ourselves at the hero of our internal narrative, generally, and are each having our own experience. That jackass ahead of me, weaving back and forth over the yellow line? Human. Like me. Probably trying to see ahead – past the large truck ahead of him. Perspective. (I was still super glad that he finally turned off that road, and it was most definitely a bit annoying to see him stray over that yellow line again and again, but my annoyance was my own to deal with, and literally nothing to do with him.) The entire drive passed in this fashion.

I got home. I spent the evening relaxing, doing a couple things around the house – but mostly relaxing. I may have needed that more than I understood; I also went to bed a tad early, and without reading, or meditating, or any sort of dilly-dallying, was fast asleep so quickly I didn’t have time to consider the day. I woke to the alarm, rested, and feeling mildly distracted, as if torn from a pleasant dream. It’s been a lovely morning. I’ve taken good care of this fragile vessel, and the day starts well. I think I’ve finally come to a comfortable decision about the change in my transportation resources (having a car) and what kind of commuting options I have (both the driving sort, and the transit sort), and I’m finally ready to update my budget and my planning with the necessary details.

This morning, adulting feels rather comfortable and natural. It’s a nice change. I smile and sip my coffee and enjoy the moment of acknowledgement, and the feeling of ease. My smile deepens as I allow the awareness that, yes, “this too will pass” – even the pleasant bits are really fairly temporary. Always were. It’s totally okay. They come and go, and holding on ferociously can’t prolong them, it only makes the pain of their impermanence linger. So. This morning I feel light. I enjoy this carefully hand-crafted moment, as I did the moments in commuter traffic, or standing at the sink washing the dinner dishes, or standing in the shower feeling the water flow over my skin, or looking through my closet for something to wear and feeling content that anything I choose – I am still this person that I am, and I am loved. It’s nice. I highly recommend enjoying moments – and making the choices that result in more pleasant ones than unpleasant ones. There may be some verbs involved. Your results will likely vary (I know mine do). No doubt, you will have your own experience.

I look at the time. I’m eager to begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

I woke with a headache and a snarl, and I also woke rather slowly and with great effort. I slept poorly, both restless and wakeful, I didn’t get the rest I need. It is a new day.

My pounding head reminds me that although there are no loose bits rattling around inside, this fragile eggshell is cracked. I smirk at myself, aware that some of my tendencies – things like linguistic complexity where none is required, “being deep” in casual conversations, the peculiar awareness of and communication via living metaphors, the likelihood that I will take something sarcastic at face value, the difficulty ending a conversation, oh, just a whole bunch of things, really… “quirks”, eccentricities, moments of weird – are complex outcomes of a brain injury, of PTSD, of surviving some nasty shit by learning to cope with it. I can say I’m “broken” with something like a comfortable feeling of familiarity. I used to let it define me… differently.

For awhile I fought it. I refused to define myself in terms of the chaos and damage. I refused to “be” broken. Other times, I wallowed in it. Yielded to the damage. Gave in to the chaos. Gave up on changing anything.

Time passes. Change is.

This morning I woke up snarling at myself. Frustrated by the headache. Annoyed by feeling so groggy. Eager to get to the coffee…

I am unsure whether it is the caffeine, the comfort of the hot mug, or the slow familiar waking ritual of making it, then drinking it, that serves so well to put the day on track. It does though. It does put the day on track, generally. This moment of warmth – literal and metaphorical warmth – enjoyed alone each morning, a moment to “get my head right”, and get past the headache, or the arthritis stiffness, or the stuffy nose, or the lingering recollection of a bad dream, or… well, whatever the waking moments of consciousness throw at me. I’ve got that cup of coffee to help me turn things around. Does it actually matter to me what the mechanism of action actually is? Not in the slightest.

Be broken, if it helps. Grieve if you are hurting. It’s not especially helpful to squash down all the feelings with a lot of “shouldn’t” and “don’t” and extra helpings of criticism taken from the words of others, and reformed in your own words and returned to your narrative as your own thoughts. No one needs guilt or shame on top of the things that already suck so much – and those things don’t only weigh us down and hold us back from going on with things, they also tend to stop us embracing what is authentically good about who we are – chaos and damage and all. Some of this broken shit frustrates me, daily. Some of this broken shit is part of who I am.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow.

Some of my most cherished individual qualities are very likely specific to my brain injury – or my PTSD. Some are things I like most about myself, others are things that other people have indicated they really appreciate about me. I’ve no intention of “fixing” those things. Don’t want to. Don’t need to. What if fixing the rest would also, by necessity, fix those things as well…? This thought is one underlying my focus on “being the woman I most want to be” rather than focusing on “fixing all the things wrong with me”; some of the things I may think are “wrong with me” in one moment, or from one perspective, may actually be very “right with me”, after all. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m rambling. Sipping my coffee. Grateful to have taken the time to really wake up before going on to other things. I take time to appreciate the value in waking up early enough to let myself really become my best self before I go on with my day. I pause to wonder how I got through so many years of launching myself from bed first thing, and immediately dressing and getting out the door quickly; it seemed efficient at the time. It was a grueling and fairly punishing routine, in practice, and I often treated people who are unfortunate enough to interact with me very early in the morning fairly badly, especially in that first hour after waking. I’m not suggesting that getting up at 4:30 am to depart for work at 7 am would be “the right choice” for everyone, there are other needs, and other ways. This just works for me. By 6 am, I am feeling mostly human. Awake. Aware. More able to respond, and less likely to react. The headache has dissipated. It feels like a lovely morning.

It feels like I can begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

The news? Pretty nearly all bad. The song in my heart? Pretty much, most of the time, all good. The way I get that done? I choose. You can too.

But wait – am I so cruel and clueless as to suggest that people struggling with mental illness can just “choose” to be okay? “Choose” a happier song? “Choose” to get over it? Omg – no. Not really. When we’re sick, we need care. We may need appropriate medicine to treat our illness or injury. We may need a visit with a doctor, or a stay in a hospital. We may be offered a treatment plan to follow… and a different one when that doesn’t quite work out… and another after that… and then… more verbs. Fuck. And results will vary. We each walk our own hard mile. It’s so not as easy as “pick a different song to sing“… except… It’d probably help though, and why would we not, if we can make the effort, choose to do the things that help?

So… I choose. I am, myself, among the “mentally ill”. PTSD is a real thing. My TBI on top of that (or underneath it, as it were) complicates things. I struggle with anxiety. I struggle with emotion, generally. I’m very human. This is a journey in progress. I have hard days. I also choose better practices than I once did. Meditation really works well for me, helping me find that chill space in my own head that prevents me descending into despair on some spiral of tears and rumination. Taking better physical care of this fragile vessel has been of value; I am less likely to quickly exhaust myself due to lack of sleep, or poor nutrition. I have fewer nightmares, and I have learned better “sleep hygiene”. Developing better emotional intelligence has incredibly worthwhile; my relationships are more fulfilling, and less fraught with confrontation, because I am more able to take time to listen deeply, to avoid becoming fused with someone else’s emotional experience, or to be manipulated by their expectations and assumptions. I am more able to avoid coloring my experience with an internal narrative built on my own untested assumptions or implicit expectations. These things have value. All of these improvements required making choices, and changing some behavior and thinking. Turns out that isn’t so hard, in most cases – although it also isn’t as easy as just saying words, either. There’s been quite a lot of practice involved – there always will be. ย I’m even okay with that. Incremental change over time is a real thing; we become what we practice.

It makes sense that choosing our practices in a willful way, understanding of our needs, and who we most want to be, would result in eventually getting to that place.ย It ends up also being very helpful, along the way, not getting overly attached to that vision. Outcomes don’t always look quite the way we planned them out in our heads. ๐Ÿ™‚

I have an appointment with my therapist next week. Yep. It’s a journey. I still make choices. I still practice practices. I am still walking my own hard mile. Sometimes I still need help. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m okay with that too.

My “stay-cation” destination.

I sip my coffee and consider the short work shift ahead. Change is a thing. I’m back to Monday through Friday, but I have firm plans for today (at the start of the week, it was my day off), so the weekend begins at 11 am, and is a bit longer than usual. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hear sleeping in is nice – I’ll try that sometime. Maybe tomorrow. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The weekend unfolds ahead of me rather gently. It feels good to contemplate staying home, doing some more moving in stuff… maybe a walk to the Farmer’s Market (it’s time to start trying to put reals miles on these feet, again)… morning coffee in the garden on the deck… just generally saying “yes” to life.

I’m ready to begin again.

So human.

This morning, I wrote, as I do, but to a dear friend, only. It met my own needs, and I considered no others this morning. Huh. Still human.

The other day, I got poked by a rose thorn, but thought nothing of it; roses have thorns, it’s a thing people know about. Today I am fussy and irritated by the discomfort of the thorn still lodged in the pad of my index finger, rather inconveniently precisely where my finger strikes the keys of my keyboard. I don’t actually do anything about the thorn, I just bitch about the discomfort. Still human.

I read the news, get caught up, feel annoyed with myself for wasting precious limited lifetime on media bullshit, again, knowing it messes with my head for hours, sometimes days. I sometimes do it anyway, even to the point of reading and rereading the same news, covered the same way, by nearly identical media outlets, multiple times…until I finally notice I’m learning nothing new, and don’t even actually care. Still human.

I make a cup of chamomile tea to enjoy as the evening winds down, and can’t quite enjoy it, either because it is still too hot to drink, or perhaps because now I don’t understand why I didn’t make coffee, which I’ve already had more than enough of today…but I don’t know which, and don’t move to change anything. Still human.

I distract myself from all of these things with thoughts of love, and loving, and feeling grateful to be so well-loved, and so thoroughly accepted – and then distract myselfย againย with my disappointed recollection that my Traveling Partner still has not made it over to see my new place once… Which… well, he’s hundreds of miles away, and has only been within an hour’s driving time of this address for about 24 hours in the past 5 (6?) weeks, so it’s not really a realistic expectation. Still disappointed. Still human.

It’s a life. My life. It’s not the life I had 7 years ago. Hell, it’s not the life I had 3 years ago. It’s a pretty good life. I’m content – and this is true nearly all of my time, even moment-to-moment, generally. That’s… yeah, so much beyond what I could have hoped for a decade ago. Sure, it’s taken awhile, and I’m still so very human. Still have ups that are too far up. Still have downs that are scary far down. Still have many moments and emotions in between the extremes. It’s a life. My life. I’m very human.

Just one moment of many

Tomorrow, I’ll begin again.

A very long time ago, my Traveling Partner said something to me which I found very peculiar. He suggested I “be less negative”. It struck me as peculiar because I didn’t define myself in those terms, and perceived myself as “being” quite positive. (I wasn’t. At all.) He pointed to the frequent use of negative phrasing in my speech, and sarcasm in my humor (which, by the way, I used heavily – but am fairly tone-deaf to, myself). I could not argue his point, and I really tried. I found myself having to agree that I was indeed fairly negative. Negative phrasing, negative outlook on life, awash in unsupported certainty, argumentative, and admittedly, on occasion (too many occasions) deeply in despair… yep. Negative. Negativity. Just all the nope to life’s questions.

It’s been a long weird path to here. This place in life where I find myself now is very different. “Being a positive person” isn’t something easily faked, or forced, and repeating wholesome affirmations in the mirror isn’t going to do it, either. It’s more subtle than that. Making that change from negative to positive requires some adjustments in implicit memory, implicit biases, and habitual behaviors, and takes practice. I found that it began most easily with accepting that I wasn’t positive in the first place, which was exceedingly difficult, initially.

By the beginning of this year, I was already in a very different place, and would have said that I am a fairly positive person. Kind. Compassionate. Polite. Helpful. …And still there was a tiny core of rot at the heart of all that, with the potential to color my thinking heavily, and not in any particularly helpful ways. A coworker, in the office, in conversation about work-related matters, calmly noted one way by way of feedback “you’re not assuming positive intent”.

I had come a long way toward becoming a positive person, but she was correct; I had not yet come far enough to allow myself to understand others as being similarly positive, similarly well-intended, similarly worthy and sufficient, each of us having our own experience. I still tended to assume the other human beings populating my experience may be acting on ill-intent. Her observation clung to me, and polluted my consciousness for days. Over weeks it actually began on change my thinking, as I considered it in the context of real life interactions, in the moment. ย This, too, has been an interesting journey.

Assume positive intent.

Seriously. I’m not saying that there are no hazards in life, or that there are no “bad people” out there, but how many folks are actually scary dangerous killers with murder in their hearts? How many of those do you actually know, or may run into, ever? So… all those other people, the not scary dangerous killers with murder in their hearts people? Yeah, those other people who are neither you, nor a danger to you – what value is there in assuming they wish you harm, or may do you harm through ineptitude? And your loved ones? Surely they mean you literally and entirely no harm? (If any other thing is true about their state of mind, maybe choose your loves differently?) When we approach other human beings holding onto a state of consciousness that suggests they “may be up to no good” or that they constitute some as-yet-unidentified threat to us, our defenses go up, and we are not our own authentic selves. Sometimes we even behave or use language that can seem to provoke the very circumstances we seek to avoid. We send mixed messages, and our non-verbal communication doesn’t agree with our verbal communication. It’s all very confusing, and I noticed something wonderful when I began to live life differently by assuming positive intent; my social anxiety diminished.

Assume positive intent.

Seems simple enough (is). Just stop feeding the internal narrative that details how some other person means me harm, right? That and more. It’s a subtle thing. A colleague took a really really long break? Instead of being annoyed by that, assuming positive intent opens the door for concern – are they okay? Is there a reason they needed a long break? Is it an opportunity to be supportive, or to connect? That was the sort of thing I started with. I moved on to things like … that driver ahead of me slammed on their breaks suddenly – are they just a giant jerk who drives badly? Assuming positive intent reminds me to consider their circumstances from their perspective. Perhaps something startled them, or they had a foot cramp, or maybe I was following very closely behind them and their discomfort with that situation resulted in choosing to break suddenly to send a message (however dangerous and in poor judgment that seems, it is also simply a bit of communication, right)?

Assume positive intent.

I just kept at it. Looking for the situation in which my assumptions of anything besides positive intent were more useful and appropriate than if I would assume positive intent. More and more often, I found myself fully embracing that assumption of positive intent. Funny thing; my relationships improved. All of them. Work relationships. Romantic relationships. Friendships. I’m still thoroughly human. I still make mistakes. I still hurt people’s feelings without realizing it, and make assumptions that are in error. It’s a journey, and there is no map. ๐Ÿ™‚ Assuming positive intent does seem to make most experiences, particularly shared experiences, so much more pleasant, generally. I have come to no harm through an assumption of positive intent. So… I think I’ll keep doing that. Assuming positive intent, I mean. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hey… haven’t I written about this before? Yep. It’s still working. ๐Ÿ˜€ This one? This is a practice that could change the world…

Shall we begin again? ๐Ÿ™‚