Archives for posts with tag: be present

It’s a mild Saturday morning. Not yet sunny. Also not raining. Just a morning. My coffee is hot, sitting mostly untouched in front of me. My Traveling Partner and I are “enjoying” our individual, somewhat overlapping, personal experiences of seasonal allergies. His, a lifetime struggle. Mine? Returning with a vengeance here in this new place, after decades mostly without allergies at all. I’ve minimized my allergies for years; they simply aren’t “anything” in comparison to what my Mom endured, or what my Traveling Partner goes through for so much of the calendar year that even suggesting those are “seasonal” could seem like a mockery. “I don’t have allergies” still seems mostly true for me… but this morning, my stuffy head and sneezes tell a story of Spring, and pollen (it’s the tree pollen that seems to be the issue; I can smell flowers all damned day without concern).

…And of course, my preferred walks each day? Forests. Trees. Shaded paths. Hilarious. 0_o (That’s a rare use of sarcasm; I’m not finding it all amusing really.)

It is a mild Saturday morning, suitable for gardening (I have a list of things to do), and relaxing. I’m eager to do a bit of gardening in this new place – gardening that won’t suddenly face the upheaval of moving away, gardening that can be planned for a future that exists. Maybe. I mean… the future is an uncertain thing, but at least here I can plan for some sort of permanence, as much as one ever can. No, I’m not feeling down or fatalistic, just disinclined to deceive myself with fanciful tales of “happily ever after” or “always”. Those are not helpful concepts, generally speaking. 🙂

“Baby Love”, an early bloomer, will go into the ground this weekend. 🙂

This cup of coffee is good. Not good enough to ease me past the morning frustration of dealing with allergies, perhaps, or to fix any of society’s ills, but it’s a nice moment on a pleasant morning, and that’s enough right now. I think of far away friends I’d like to take time to connect with, emails I’d like to write. Maybe pick up the damned phone now and then? (Does anyone actually answer the phone when it rings, any more? I rarely do… is that a “me thing”, or an “everyone thing”? Has the etiquette of a phone call changed since… before?)

At some point, after our anniversary was past, my Traveling Partner ever-so-gently brought up how much benefit I seem to get out of a weekend away, solo, and wondered aloud if I were, perhaps, due for one…? He admitted to having the thought on our anniversary, and shared that it seemed less than ideal to bring it up on that occasion. I appreciate his consideration… I’d had that thought, too, and felt like a complete jerk for it, considering the occasion. LOL He’s quite right, though; I’m definitely “feeling it”.

…And he definitely feels me feeling it…

I’m not sure why I’m feeling it so hard right now… the new job is intense (in good ways) and quite busy. I do spend nearly 100% of my waking time in the presence of at least one other human being, or on a call, or in a meeting (and yes, Zoom meetings are still every bit as “people-y” as in person, for me)… it gets fatiguing after a while. I enjoy solitude. I want to simply exist, free of social constraints or pressures to perform, conform, achieve, or relieve. I want to breathe my own breath. Think my own thoughts. Exist entirely in the context of my own experience. Make choices with little regard for other tastes, other needs, other timing. It’s complicated when people partner up who have very different needs in this area. I’m fairly certain that while I feel like I “never have a minute for my own thoughts”, my partner may feel that we “never get to spend any time together” – and both those experiences are legitimate perspectives on our individual experience as human primates. I’m fortunate to be in a partnership in which we recognize our differences and value them – and help each other find our best path forward.

Anyway. I’ve been vaccinated. I feel relatively comfortable making the short journey to the coast and taking a day for myself. Masked & distancing, yeah, that’s still a thing for sure. I’m okay with that, too. I got lucky on getting a pleasant ocean view room a few steps from the beach (131 actual stair steps, if reviews are to be believed) – next weekend. The weather is nice for painting. I’ll take my water colors and my camera along with me. My laptop. I’ll walk miles along the beach. Take some pictures. Meditate. Think. Write. Paint.

…I will miss my Traveling Partner so so much…

We benefit from a bit of time to miss each other. I sip my coffee and wonder what he’ll get up to while I’m away… besides missing me, I mean. 🙂 I already look forward to sharing pictures and conversing about time we did not spend together.

…I’m already looking forward to beginning again. 🙂

Most of the time, these days, I’m writing from a contented, emotionally fairly comfortable place. Life is pretty good day-to-day, in spite of the pandemic. I don’t have the terrifying, chronic, so-frequent-as-to-be-routine, issues with emotional volatility that I had 8 years ago. I’m fortunate. I also “work hard” at this. There’s a lot of practice. A lot of very necessary restarts, do-overs, and new beginnings. My results vary. I am entirely 100% made of human, from the soaring heights of the most delightful moments of great joy and celebration, to the lowest depths of the most grim, bleakest darkness, the most despairing moments of sorrow, ennui, and futility. Anger gets a turn in there, somewhere. Frustration, too.

…So does love. So does hope. So does happiness – yep, even happiness gets her day in the sunshine. Doesn’t happen to be today, but today this moment is apparently not about feeling good. At least not right at this very moment, right here, right now, which mostly sucks.

…This too shall pass. It sure will. Eventually. I wonder sometimes if that’s actually a good thing at all. Storms pass. The weather clears up. It’s so tempting to just move on from the things crying out for attention during stormy weather, once the sun is shining again. Something to think about.

I’m not sure what to say “about” this moment, right here. I feel…angry. I… feel hurt. I’m annoyed and frustrated. Not just with myself and my own limitations. Not simply with “not being heard”. It’s complicated. I don’t have a healthy relationship with anger. I am aware of that. Mine or anyone else’s; it’s not specific to whose anger it is. I’m uncomfortable with anger. I’m especially uncomfortable with mine. That’s true. Today, I’m angry with my Traveling Partner. (This may be the first time I’ve written that sentence in this blog, I’m not certain.) I haven’t lost any affection for this human being I am so fond of… I’m just angry right now. I don’t know what to do with/about that… it just is, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable with it. So. Here I am. In a separate space, door closed, headphones on, working on “being alone right now” – which is very tough in a small house during a pandemic. As I said; uncomfortable. I’m not lashing out or escalating. I’m maintaining a self-inflicted disciplined calm, because I just don’t know what else to do with or about my anger. I clearly can’t act on it. I’m also having trouble conversing through it to resolve things with my partner; I start weeping. It makes conversation difficult and needlessly, unproductively, emotional. Not okay – and I’m frankly not at all interested in taking the risk of damaging anything I own by having some tantrum, or finding myself in the middle of further emotional escalation and angry words with my partner. Anger feels like emotional poison to me. I know there are ways to process anger more skillfully than I do. I haven’t finished that work, yet. I am unskilled. It takes a lifetime to process a lifetime of trauma, apparently…Or, at least, I have not, personally found a shortcut to the work that must be done to heal the damage that already was done.

Yelling at one’s partner is mistreatment. I work to avoid raising my voice. I don’t even like “yelling across the house” in a conversational way (seriously seriously dislike that shit – if I’m not in the same room, let’s just not converse, or hey, it’s a small house, join me in a shared space). I’m human, though, and I am more easily provoked than I want to be. If I raise my voice, I’ll also apologize for that, and having accepted responsibility for that behavior, immediately seek to bring the volume back down. It’s hard. I don’t always succeed. I struggle with anger – particularly when I am not feeling heard, or when I am being interrupted, or when I feel mistreated myself, in the face of mockery, insults, or other such (also very human, unpleasant, not okay things, but I particularly detest mockery). I work on not yelling. I ask people in relationships with me to not yell. It’s a choice. Take a kind tone. Speak gently. Choices. Encourage each other. Worthwhile – but, yeah, there are verbs involved, and it takes a lot of fucking practice, and it’s got to actually really matter. No one can do the work for you. Hell, you may even find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to choose to make these changes or do this work without much encouragement or reciprocity. Hard, right? Sometimes, yeah. For anyone.

What makes any of that shit worth it? Why is the ongoing effort – and ongoing frustration with having to make that effort – worth it at all, if it won’t placate an angry partner, or restore the peace, or diminish the chaos, or create calm? …I think about that question a lot, and I’m pretty clear on my answer; it’s about being the woman I most want to be, myself, for myself. I’m okay with feeling anger. I’m not okay with losing my shit and yelling at someone I love. Doesn’t matter how provoked I feel. Doesn’t matter who is “right” or who is “wrong”. Doesn’t matter whether I am in pain, or exhausted, or absolutely 100% justified in my opinion, or my understanding of the situation. What matters is … who do I most want to be, and is my behavior consistent with that standard? How does that woman respond to such a situation? How does that woman maintain her calm, stay balanced, and process strong emotion? I think that over, looking for answers, and a next step to being that woman… more so today, than yesterday. More so tomorrow than I am right now. We become what we practice.

…That’s true for everyone, and everything we choose to practice (or fall into habitually). Just saying. Choices. Practices. Beginnings.

Again.

…I hear the tv in the other room. My partner bravely checked-on me, and expressed his desire to hang out – in spite of the chaos, what matters most is our affection for each other. It’s hard to be vulnerable. Hard to set down the baggage. Sometimes it’s even hard to begin again. I take a breath, and steady myself to take that step…

My coffee tastes different this morning. It’s not because I am sitting cross-legged on the surprisingly comfy Queen bed in this seaside hotel, not even because it’s fairly typically-terrible hotel coffee made in a fairly generically terrible-coffee-making drip machine sitting atop the small room-sized hotel refrigerator, but more because I am sipping it solo, with no chance at all of sharing the moment with my Traveling Partner. Right at the moment, in all practical terms, we’re traveling separately (he’s sleeping still, at home, I hope, and I am sitting cross-legged in sloppy-loose blue jeans, laptop perched precariously on my lap, waiting for my terrible coffee to cool enough to drink properly).

I’d say my goal of relaxing and getting some “down time” before shifting gears to start the new job has been successful; I woke having entirely forgotten about Daylight Savings Time, and looking at the clock and finding “6:30 am” to be both believable, and an acceptable time to wake on a leisure morning… I woke up. I laughed when I finally noticed the discrepancy between the clock that I had checked upon waking (which automatically updated) and the one that did not (provided by the hotel, plugged into the wall in the usual way). I shrugged it off and got started making terrible coffee and looking over the notes I took at several points yesterday, as I walked and wandered, waited and reflected, breathed and meditated.

The ocean does not care when or whether I check into my hotel room, nor when I leave. My presence makes no difference to the timing of the waves, or the fierceness of the winds.

I arrived to the shore much too early to check into the hotel, and my room was not yet ready. Didn’t matter much; the endless ocean tickled the shore without regard to check-in times. The hotel graciously allowed me to use the private beach access in the meantime, and I went down what seemed like 1001 concrete steps to the beach. The wind was brisk and cold. There were bundled up families flying kites and enjoying the day. There were even barefooted kids playing in the shallow water of the waves as they spread across the beach, then receded; they seemed as shore birds, running forward as the water pulled back, running back as the waves spread forward. I found myself reflecting on that. There’s something to learn, there, I suppose.

…This coffee is simply dreadful. I add sugar and the available non-dairy creamer. Still awful. I’m still drinking it…

I gave up beach walking when my legs became tired, and trudged patiently up those many steps once more. Room not yet ready, I headed into town and, masked and distant, and wandered through enticing antique shops.

In a shop filled with carefully crafted miniatures, I find room after room of furnishings that seem to be idealized versions of various stages of my own aesthetic, and wonder if, after all, so many of them could really have come from… doll houses?

The tourist “traps” that line the street are the sort common to any seaside town I’ve visited… saltwater taffy shops, “old time” candy stores, antique shops, t-shirts, sea shells, and nautically themed whatsits of all kinds (lighthouse sculptures, pirate “treasure”, glass fishing floats and paperweights, and “the world’s best” of some local dish). I wandered until I was more distracted by my own thoughts than engaged by what I saw in front of me, and returned again to the hotel, and to the beach, to walk and reflect awhile longer.

I sat for a long while, occasionally attempting to light a joint in the fierce coastal “breeze” without success.

I spent a couple of contented hours walking, and thinking. Reflecting on lessons learned, both generally (and recently), and also specifically (with regard to my most recent job, and how to make good use of what I learned in future roles). It was time well-spent. Aside from the wind and my tinnitus, the only thing I was hearing was… me. I walked the beach listening deeply to what the woman in the mirror has to say… about life… about love… about work… about a future that is unknown (and largely unknowable). I contemplated the confounds of expectations and assumptions.

…At check in time, I made my way to my room, let myself into this small space that is more or less my own (until check out time), and unpacked my baggage – literally, and metaphorically.

…Damn this is dreadful coffee. Wtf? Why am I putting myself through this? LOL I stare into the cup, warm in my hand, astonished by its prodigious awfulness with a certain amount of respect; it’s a hell of an achievement for a cup of coffee to be this bad.

I took time to reflect on all I’d seen, and on my notes, and the many “living metaphors” the day had presented to me.

I ask myself “the hard questions” on my mind as the day becomes evening… What matters most? What has me chained to some past moment? What have I accepted as the basis of my sense of self? Is that truly “who I am”? How do I free myself to soar to greater heights? Where does my path lead? The moments, questions, and the thoughts they carry with them crash onto the shore of my consciousness, and recede one by one. I find “embracing change” to be a process, and an ongoing practice. Taking some time alone to be with my thoughts – and, unavoidably, with my self, is a useful break for “sorting things out”. For finding the signal in the noise. Life may not have a map, but I can sure jot down some notes as I might if I were writing down directions to go from here to … somewhere else. It’s important to be clear on the desired destination. It’s important to be aware of where I stand right now. 🙂 With those things in mind, how much more easily can I begin again?

…It’s that time, isn’t it? Beginning again, I mean. The new job starts tomorrow. The new laptop was delivered Friday, and is waiting for me to set it up.

…Fucking hell I am missing my Traveling Partner this morning. I missed him ferociously last night, too. The value in missing him has nuances that are worthwhile experiences of their own. Missing him reduces the likelihood that I will take his precious presence in my life for granted. Missing him reinforces how much I enjoy him being part of my experience. Being absent the many things he does for me (and for us), large and small, reminds me that I legit don’t do as well for myself on my own as I seem able to in this specific partnership. (Not dissing myself or minimizing how much I appreciate myself for (and as) myself, just saying there’s a ton of stuff that just doesn’t seem to stay on my radar, and my sometimes general lack of fucks to give, or pain, results in more chaos than I easily manage… and that seems far less likely in his company, and with his help.)

…And both of us make an excellent cup of coffee that is so much better than this warm brown liquid that I’ve decided can’t at all be called “coffee” – it’s just that bad, and I am seriously missing something better… and my partner… this morning. 🙂

The sun is not yet up. Check out time is not for another 3 hours. There is time to walk on the beach, time for a bite of breakfast, and time to find a better cup of coffee. LOL There’s time to begin again.

A group of rocks along the shore, exposed at low tide, inaccessible at high tide. Even in that, there is something to reflect on, a metaphor in action, something to learn about who I am, and where I am headed.

I look at the clock, and see daylight beginning to show through the curtains. Definitely time to begin again. 🙂

I remind myself that “we don’t grow from comfortable situations”, but it feels hollow. Tears well up, and I grit my teeth and stifle them, frustrated, angry. With myself, mostly. With the circumstances, definitely. There’s too much good fortune in my experience right now for this bullshit, I tell myself, echoing something my partner said to me moments ago, from his own pissed off, frustrated perspective. The feeling of futility I am presently mired in is a painful challenge to overcome. It’s all too human. It’s also baggage, and bullshit, and probably almost entirely self-imposed, if I could get to a clear-headed place to examine it with less visceral emotional involvement.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

My writing stalls. My coffee just sits. There’s no eagerness to embrace the moment. No acceptance from with which to step forward, walk on, and begin again. I exist, presently, as a moment of pain. A living, breathing, emotional wound… but I’m not quite sure what this hurt is truly about, and so don’t know how to comfort myself or heal me. I think about my partner, doing his own best in another room. Cross words exchanged before we could even enjoy our coffee. I’m disappointed with myself for losing control; I know how much damage emotional volatility can do in a single moment. That delicate balance that is feeling the feelings while also holding oneself to a standard of appropriate behavior suitable for all circumstances, that lives my values moment to moment, in spite of whatever emotional storm is blowing in… is hard. It’s a feat that requires steady practice, and it has to matter… and, and this is the hardest bit, the win nearly always comes in spite of someone else’s volatility, turmoil, or provocation. It’s not enough to be steady, calm, and to listen deeply alone in a silent room. It’s about a practice that makes that possible in the face of someone else’s storm of emotion. My results definitely vary. This morning I failed utterly. I’d barely woken up. I honestly don’t even understand how or why everything went sideways so suddenly… nor do I think there is much value in troubleshooting that. It would be a distraction.

…From…? I don’t even know, right now. This headache is complicating my ability to think clearly and reason well.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

I’m annoyed with myself. That’s not helping. I said some ridiculous (and vile) things, and it’s not okay, and at some point, how much does an apology really help? I take a deep breath. The breath “timer” pulses on my desktop out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know how much it really helps. I’m so frustrated with some of the challenges I face each day… I keep expecting at some point any part of this will feel properly routine and effortless, but any amount of study makes it immediately clear that my results may “always” vary – for any practical definition of “always” – and some damage is lasting. Frustrating. (Incremental change over time is a real thing…but some increments are too small to see individually.)

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

I’m struggling to be positive. I look back on my own words – recent, and less so – and there is so much positivity reflected there. So much will. This morning, right now, I just feel… bleak and defeated. I struggle to find meaning. I find myself reliably “missing the point”. The promising morning ahead that I was facing so eagerly has morphed into something less enticing. I’m eager to see darkness return, to go back to bed, to start over tomorrow… on a work day. That saddens me, further, and I feel my hopefulness sort of just trickling away.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

It’s all very dramatic, is it not? Fucking hell. My head aches (partly from crying). “You’re creating this experience,” I remind myself. “Let it go,” I suggest, more helpfully than not (I hope). I feel a bit like a mechanic facing an easily repairable problem… without tools or parts to work with, and too stupid to look behind me to see that the tools are neatly laid out on my bench, with the parts ready to go. I suspect my partner feels a bit more like a parent in a grocery store trying to discreetly deal with a toddler having a screaming tantrum over something they can’t have; their love for their child is undiminished, but fucking hell – right now? Seriously? What a shitty experience all around. I could choose differently… couldn’t I?

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

Damn, I fucking failed hard this morning. My brain reaches for The Four Agreements, because… yeah… this could have gone a lot better, even if the only thing I’d done differently was these four things. For real. Not fancy.

Where this really started, back in 2010, and a moment of gratitude for the love of the man who shared it with me, then, and remains with me, still.

11 years is a long time to work on something without seeing lasting permanent verifiable results that have positive impact. If that were legitimately where I were standing this morning, feeling this despair become futility would make a lot of sense. That’s some real shit. BUT, and this is important (for me to observe and acknowledge, for myself), that’s not where I am standing this morning, at all. I take another deep breath and let it out as a loud sigh. Life is very different now than it was 11 years ago, this morning’s drama doesn’t even show on the same scale. Yes, I’ve still got challenges. Yes, the brain damage creates some headaches (literal and metaphorical) that continue to trouble me (and complicate my relationships). Yes, the PTSD complicates things rather a lot, and I utterly rely on every good health and emotional wellness practice I can master to maintain my balance day-to-day – and my results do still vary. I’m just saying, if you are mired in despair right now, feeling a profound sense of futility and hopelessness… I hope you take away from this reading the following things:

1. You are creating a large part of that experience, yourself, and you can choose to change it.

2. It won’t feel easy or comfortable to make changes, possibly ever.

3. What you practice you do become.

4. When you fail, however horribly, you can begin again.

Yeah, okay, I’ll be honest on that last one – there are no guarantees regarding the outcomes of new beginnings. I can begin again a million times, and likely will – it does not provide me any assurance that my relationships will be unaffected by my chaos and damage, or that every traveler on my path will choose to continue to travel with me. I’ve lost friends. Some I chose to let go, others turned away from me. Relationships come and go. People are human and it’s not fair or reasonable to expect they will endure our bullshit indefinitely, ever. So… the value in practicing the practices that allow me to become the woman I most want to be is in becoming the woman I most want to be. Period. End of goal-setting. Be a better human being, generally. Would I like to live that experience in the company of my current partner? Definitely. Do I have any guarantees? Nope. Not ever. Gotta just let that one go, too. There is a ton of work involved in lasting sustained love, and no guarantee of success. Definitely makes sense to treat each other well along the journey.

I take another breath. I sip my cold coffee. I think about The Four Agreements. When I am “impeccable with my word” I refrain from saying vile upsetting shit when I’m angry, because I’m committed to truth and working to keep my raw emotions separate from the words I say about my experience. That would have been an improvement this morning. When I avoid taking things personally, I am less likely to escalate emotionally when my partner is frustrated with me, or when I am frustrated with him. That would have been super useful this morning. I could certainly use more practice there. When I avoid making assumptions, it opens to door to listening more deeply, and requires me to ask clarifying questions, and leaves room in my awareness to appreciate my partner’s affection for me, in spite of his emotional experience in the moment. It would have been very helpful this morning to have refrained from making assumptions about my partner’s thinking, and to have given him a chance to share it in words. I suppose all these things are true for both of us, really. Good practices often work that way. I’d love to insist I was doing my best, this morning…that is, after all, the fourth agreement referenced in The Four Agreements… but… was I really? Pre-coffee? Less than an hour after waking? I give that a “maybe”, and a very frank admission that it’s quite likely I could have done better by being more willful, more present, and by taking my own bullshit less fucking personally, myself. So… Yeah. I could have done nothing more/better/differently than to have practiced the 4 simple practices outlined in The Four Agreements, and the morning would likely have gone very very differently. Maybe it wouldn’t have… but… did I really give it a chance? I see room for improvement.

…Breathe… Exhale… Relax…

I’m not in this relationship alone. That’s true. We’re in this together – and we’re each also having our own experience. We’ve each got our own personal demons. Our own chaos and damage. Our own trauma to heal. Our own baggage to lug around. Our own intolerable bullshit that we’re both each working individually to resolve or to master. It’s very human. It’s not about fault or blame, though, and it’s not about who is guilty or wrong, or who said what to whom… there’s little value in that. I can’t really work on anyone’s issues but my own, though, so I sit down and reflect on what I can do, what I can change, and how I can be the best version of this particular human being that I happen to be. Love asks us to unpack our own baggage.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

…Begin again.

I woke with a headache and a stuffy head. A cold? Allergies? I’m not certain. Already there is uncertainty creeping into the day. I’m dealing with arthritis pain today, too, but… I’m not sure whether it is because the weather is chilly, or for some other reason. More uncertainty. I’m working through the final week at this job, ready to step into a role in a new place – there’s certainly (lol) no certainty about what that future experience will hold. Perspective matters; my sense of “certainty” is quite often simply a choice to favor one way of viewing circumstances over another, not really anything to do with what I do or don’t actually know. What do I even actually “know” with legitimate certainty? What do you “know”? How did you test and verify that knowledge? Or… did you simply sip it up with a cognitive straw based on what someone else said they “know”, and you’ve chosen to be fine with that? I mean… I can’t judge harshly on that. We all do it. Might be good to do that less, though…

I sit in a rainy forest, along a wet dirt road, near a puddle, listening to the rain fall, thinking things over… Well, not really… it’s a video, and a moment of reflection over coffee, is all. It’s “not real”… I mean, in the sense that I am not actually there. It’s quite real, inasmuch as it is a video of a real place and time. So… Moving on with the uncertainties…

I’d planned to walk the trail, but the park is still closed after the recent storms.

There’s a work day ahead. I also need to run to the store. These things feel “certain”. I mean, they’ll definitely happen, right? There are still a ton of assumptions that go into that carefully crafted feeling of certainty. I turn it over in my head, admiring my handiwork; that’s some careful craftwork, there. I feel comfortable with it, as “reality” goes. I’ll likely make choices and take actions that lead to those things coming to pass, more or less as expected.

…Expectations… Assumptions…

I breathe with the timer on my desktop, listening to the rain fall. In spite of my stuffy head, and in spite of my pain, and in spite of “life’s uncertainties” – which is, like, everything to do with living life – I feel pretty okay right now. That is a reality I can definitely embrace.

…Of course, I’ve still got to begin again. My results will continue to vary. All of that is okay, too. I’m just practicing. 😉