Archives for posts with tag: always a beginner

This too shall pass. I sip my coffee and sigh, this morning. I’m groggy. I could go back to sleep, so easily. It’s a work day, though, and I will log on to my work laptop in a few minutes, and get started. The work day felt pretty short, yesterday (it wasn’t). Will today?

Yesterday’s moment of tension, between my Traveling Partner and I, is still on my mind. It wasn’t a big deal, and it wasn’t about him, or us. I had a moment of feeling “overwhelmed”…by circumstances, by demands on my time, by lack of cognitive bandwidth, by a sense that I somehow wasn’t doing enough to actually take care of myself, and I started weeping over the need to do one more thing in what had already felt like a very busy day. It didn’t last long, and once the moment passed I was more easily able to reflect on it (and take time to meditate, properly, for a few minutes). What was up with all that? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure it matters. If I were a younger woman, I likely would have called it “hormones”, just based on the way it swept in and swamped me, and then simply dissipated. I have a sip of coffee, and let it go. That moment has passed.

This coffee is good. My shoulders ache, an extension of the pain in my neck, and back. I breathe, exhale, relax… I go through all the physical therapy stuff, looking for relief. I go through my history, on YouTube, and remove all the COVID-19 stuff, all the Democratic campaign stuff, all the stuff clicked on absent-mindedly that I don’t need clogging my feed… maybe the content will improve? Small steps to improve the quality of my experience, generally. I glance at the time, reluctant to yield my consciousness or my soul to the work world, again, so soon. There is more to do, and to enjoy, with life’s precious few mortal years, and this morning I find myself more than usually resentful of having to maintain “gainful employment”. I’m yearning for “a proper rest”…

…Then it hits me; once source of background stress is simply the right-now reality of having to let, now, two little vacations go, over COVID-19. Restrictions on gatherings, closures of state parks, closures of many retailers not determined to be “essential”… I was really looking forward to a spring camping outing (and entire week out in the trees), but the reservation has already been canceled by the state park system, as a recent measure to limit the spread of the pandemic. I am “dealing with” the prolonged stay-at-home social distancing mandate pretty well, generally, but this morning? I also find myself seriously peeved about a vacation planned for May becoming… not a thing, after all. I could certainly still take the time off… but… how will it be any different than any day at home, right now? I sigh, and stare moodily into my now-cold coffee.

I breathe, exhale, relax… and let all that go (again). Another breath, another opportunity to let it go. Again.

And another breath. Another opportunity to let go. I make the effort to feel it effortlessly.

And another breath. Another letting go. Another effort. It amounts to practice.

We become what we practice; so I practice calm, and contentment. I practice non-attachment. I practice breathing. I practice letting go.

…I practice beginning again. 🙂

It’s an expression that’s come up a couple of times in a variety of conversations – one of them was even about flight safety on an air craft, but that’s by far the exception. Generally I hear something about ‘putting your own oxygen mask on first’ as a metaphor, delivered in the context of a conversation relevant to taking care of one’s self, and whether doing so is ‘selfish’ or necessary. Logically, of course, it isn’t ever ‘necessary’ to take care of myself, not even at all; the necessity of it is related to the desired outcome.

Large numbers of human beings manage to get through what amounts to a lifetime without ever really taking care of themselves, their own needs, the needs of their heart, mind, body, or soul.  Some number of those people are in exploitative relationships that may have some symbiotic qualities; they get some return on investment in met needs, that sustains them over time and makes life endurable, or profitable. Others are simply used up, eventually, and cast aside. Some invest heavily of themselves without regret, in the lives and needs of others, and find their sustenance therein; lives of service, contemplation, or consecration to a cause are not without value. Aside from the logic, and obviousness, that taking care of me isn’t an absolute necessity… I’ve got to admit that the quality of my everyday experience of life, of love, of me, myself, is much improved by taking care of me. Learning to be emotionally self-sufficient seems a valuable next step.

The puzzles get more complicated as life’s lessons become more advanced. When faced with complicated moments, challenging decisions, and uncertainty – what’s the key point? What can I balance all the rest on and be assured that my choices and decision-making have a firm foundation in both reality and my values? That’s generally when it comes up…’put your own oxygen mask on first’. In a crisis on an aircraft, they always say it specifically regarding taking care of young, ill, or injured passengers; the most vulnerable among us. “Put your own oxygen mask on first.” Well sure – because if I fail to do so ‘in time’, I could lose consciousness and be unable to help others. That matters. Among those others I would then be unable to help? Yep. Me.

Knowing that I need to ‘put my own oxygen mask on first’ doesn’t always make putting verbs in action a whole lot easier…but it gives me something to count on, a starting point that is a reliable best practice. It complicates matters that this particular aircraft (to continue the metaphor) is just packed to the rooftop with people and things I love. Some choices can wait, and forcing decision-making isn’t necessary; events unfold whether I make choices or not, and that is also something I can rely on. Taking care of me is still my highest priority, generally; my unique issues and challenges require I not lose focus on it, no one else has the same understanding of my needs. Today life’s curriculum seems to be about learning to balance taking care of me, and holding the needs of dear ones close to me, preserving good intentions, acting on the best of my will, following practices of non-harm – of myself as well as others – and being mindful that although we are all connected and interdependent, all ‘in this together’, we are also very much having our own experience.

Honest is never enough, there’s also Kind to consider.  Love so often feels like it ‘gives me everything’; Love is the most demanding of emotions, and requires the best of me to thrive. Life sometimes feels like an endurance race – when I feel as if there is a ‘finish line’, a time commitment, or urgency, I’ve generally been blown off course, somewhere; mindfulness practices are still the most powerful Rx I’ve had, and practiced from a place of compassion and love, easily ‘bring me home’ to the only moment in which change is possible. Some days doing my best, directed outwardly toward the world, just isn’t going to meet the needs I have myself.

Each time for the first time, each moment, the only moment...

Each time for the first time, each moment, the only moment…

Today is a good day to put my own oxygen mask on first. Today is a good day to change the world.