Archives for posts with tag: be who you are

The sun is up. I slept in a bit. Sipping coffee, barefooted, on a weekend morning, late in the spring. It’s a lovely moment. I’ve got nothing to bitch about. Nothing nagging at my consciousness. No drama. No baggage (in this moment). No chaos. The morning is quiet. My mood is calm. My outlook on life is merry. I’m okay, right, in every sense of the word that matters. πŸ™‚ My coffee tastes good. My roses have begun to bloom. My aquariums are thriving. The computer my Traveling Partner built for me while we share Life in the Time of Pandemic, together, is working beautifully – and by that, I mean it is both a wonderful upgrade in performance, and also a beautiful technological piece, aesthetically. I smile every time I sit down at my desk, feeling very loved. I feel content.

“Baby Love” blooming in a pot on the deck. πŸ™‚

Let’s be super real on this notion of contentment and ease; I’ve worked years to get here, and there have been many verbs involved, and many tears shed, over time. My outlook matters more than material details. I could live this life, identical in all practical details, and be mired in misery. PTSD has that power. Healthy emotional wellness practices really matter that much.

No click bait here, no “secret practice your therapist doesn’t want you to know about” in an eye-catching thumbnail. I’m not about that. I’m just saying, perspective matters. How I treat myself matters. How I treat others, and how reciprocal those interactions are, matters. It’s been a long journey, and I’ve often felt I was stumbling haphazardly through the darkness, quite alone. I’ve known despair, and futility and frustration and sorrow and, yes, madness. I’m not alone in that – and that’s why I write. Reminders for me, and maybe, just maybe, a light in the seemingly endless darkness for someone else. Someone that I’ll likely never meet. There have been so many such souls on my journey… human beings on their own journey, helpful co-travelers, sometimes unrecognized until much later, because I simply wasn’t ready to hear what they were saying to me, then. We all walk our own hard mile. (You too.)

Life is pretty good these days, even in spite of the pandemic. It’s not about material success (I’m not wealthy), or finding one true love (I’m fortunate to enjoy a great relationship with someone I love very much, but in dark times love does not “cure” our sorrows, or ease the weight of our baggage). Life is pretty good these days because more of my choices take me in that direction, than choices which don’t. Verbs. Choices. Beginnings. Perspective. Sufficiency. These are only words, but the words represent concepts I’ve found key to making my way, a bit at a time, to a life that feels, generally, characterized by contentment, and joy.

I’ve put in many hours of therapy and study. Reading books isn’t enough; the ideas have to become changes in behavior and thinking. The epiphanies and “ah-ha moments” have to become new practices. Practices that work have to be sustained over time. There is a commitment to treating oneself well involved – this may be the biggest challenge (it has been for me).

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.

I think I’m just saying… “you’ve got this!”. Unhappy with life? Choose change. Rethink your most basic assumptions. Re-examine your expectations of life, of people, of yourself. Try a new combination of real kindness and firm boundary-setting. Ask the hard questions. Consider all the options. Take care of yourself – because you matter to you. No reason to expect it to be easy, or that you’ll never cry again, or that “the world” will ever be “fair”. Be your own best friend – and your own best self, because you can make that choice from moment to moment, and when you fail (and you will, I promise you that), begin again. Just begin again. Don’t beat yourself up over your fundamental humanity – examine your errors with some emotional distance, gain understanding of yourself (and others) from your mistakes, learn, grow, and move on with increased perspective. Accept that you are human – then also accept that everyone else is, too. Make room in your thinking for what you can’t know, or don’t understand; there’s nearly always something new to learn. Check your assumptions.

There’s a lot of baggage to put down. There’s a lot of bullshit to let go of. It’s easier to give yourself closure than to seek it elsewhere. Don’t drink the poison. Tame your own barking dog. Consider your outlook on life, generally. Yes, it’s a lot of work, I know. It probably seems so much easier to get a prescription for some boldly advertised new drug. I’ve tried that, myself. It didn’t work reliably well for me, which is how I found myself at 50, filled with despair, trying one more therapist, one more time, unconvinced that life was worth living. A huge stack of books and a few years later, life looks (and feels) very different to me. I’ve made a lot of changes – to practices, jobs, relationships; I rebuilt basically my entire life (and lifestyle) to better support becoming the woman I most wanted to be, living a life of contentment and joy. Worth it. So worth it. (Not infallibly perfect – that’s not on life’s menu, right?)

So… what do you say? Are you ready to begin again?

I was sipping my morning coffee in the dim of dawn, sun not yet peaking over the horizon. I was thinking about a friend who often seems to default to negative self-talk, and assumptions about others that are built on suspicion, fear, and mistrust. I know enough about my friend’s personal history to have some limited understanding why they would hold such a bleak perspective on life, relationships, and yes, even on the person in the mirror. I hold my friend in very high regard, and our mutual affection and appreciation has lasted many years…but even I am not immune to being the recipient of my friend’s mistrust, suspicion, and doubt.

My thoughts this morning, after recently having coffee together, were less about how uncomfortable it can feel to be viewed as an adversary, unexpectedly, and absent any input on my part to justify or support that view, and more about how unpleasant it must be to go through life that way, living in the context of some implicit certainty that everyone, eventually, is an enemy. It saddens me, and I struggle to balance my understanding and compassion with my feelings of helplessness and frustration – and lack of being understood clearly. My own communication challenges don’t make it easier. My own emotional baggage and personal history with relationships with other human primates don’t make it easier, either. I sipped my coffee, breathing, exhaling, relaxing, and consider my perspective, and where I can, also the perspective my friend expressed, with as much depth, and understanding, as I am able to do.

Perspective changes what we understand of the world.

I think back to articles I’ve read about mindfulness, and the handful of those that point out that undertaking a mindfulness practice can throw emotional health and balance into chaos for some people. I even accept that this is one of the potential experiences people may have; when we have adapted to darkness, the brightness of being flooded with light is not necessarily and immediately helpful, comfortable, or pleasant experience. Some of the things we keep to ourselves over a lifetime, dismissing our concerns, diminishing our sense of self, or building our narrative on a ton of self-serving made-up shit to compensate, perhaps, for the bleakness of our sense of doubt and futility, end up being powerful (and possibly successful) coping mechanisms for the hardest shit we don’t want to face – and having coped with, we don’t have to. Then along comes some “healthy” mindfulness practice that sounds awesome, that our friends are into, and we hop right into it, eager and enthusiastic… then, we find ourselves face to face with the darkness being dissipated by a light so bright we can’t see what it hides from us, and… we run, terrified and damaged, fearful of change, resisting what so bright a moment of illumination might really show us. After all, we’d coped with all that bullshit. We’d found a way. Now, here we are, facing our self, unexpectedly. Not always a pretty picture, and we’re not all ready for that.

Changing our own perspective doesn’t always feel comfortable. Whether or not “mindfulness” can be said to “work” is more than a little bit dependent on what we expect it to do, and whether that is what we actually want – or are ready for.

My friend and I talked about my journey, and theirs. We spoke of expectations, and of “reality”. My friend had, at one time, been a huge advocate for me finding my way to a more positive perspective on life. At that time, they seemed so unbelievably positive to me that it was hard to understand the thinking behind those words – wasn’t it a matter of “character” or personality? Wasn’t my personal history “real”, and sufficient to justify my chaos and damage… and negativity? Wasn’t my cynicism perfectly “reasonable”? Here I was sitting over coffee, after far too long out of touch, and I was the positive one, the contented one, the one bouncing back. My friend seemed overly negative, and out of touch with their own emotional experience, lacking in a certain authenticity and “presence”, that felt strangely dishonest and uncomfortable to me. The conversation came around to meditation, and mindfulness practices, generally. “All that’s bullshit,” my friend said firmly. “I tried that stuff back in the day, and it only made me cry a lot, and made me doubt my relationships.” I sat quietly listening (which can be difficult for me), then replied “What did your therapist say about that experience?” My friend answered abruptly, “I quit therapy. It was expensive, and kept making me doubt my place in the world, and my relationship with my partner.” She gestured vaguely, something like waving off that topic with her hand. “I didn’t need all that, I’m unhappy enough without help. Self-reflection bullshit just made me rethink everything. Who needs it?”

I keep turning the conversation over in my head, in the time since. So much of what she had shared seemed unhappy, and infused with a sense of having failed herself in some mysterious way, punctuated by occasionally accusations of some other person setting her up for failure. If she is so deeply unhappy in life, in her relationships, wouldn’t she expect self-reflection to hold up that mirror, and show her precisely that? Doesn’t that open the door to the potential that change could be made – chosen – and offer the chance to walk a different path?

No answers, this morning, really. Just questions, and self-reflection, and the illumination offered by shining a bright light into my own dark corners. There’s always an opportunity to begin again. πŸ™‚ I am my own cartographer; I choose my path.

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about life as art. Authenticity, creativity, beauty… transcendence of pain, finding voice for those things in life for which we lack language or words… isn’t a life well-lived, itself, an artistic endeavor? Life, lived, as an art form, itself… means… what? Another day in the studio. Today, a lot of questions, consideration of the day behind me, work already started, unfinished – like life.

Who is the artist?Β A question for answering, individually, subjectively, personally. There is only one answer, for any one artist, really;Β gnothi seauton. The journey to the answer, is the life as art.

A woman told me, once, some long time ago in another life altogether, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body – I’m not an artist. I don’t do anything creative.” I took that at face value, at the time, and it fit my understanding of the world, then. I later saw her in her home. Her home struck me as a piece of fairly wonderful artistry, and the lack of paint staining her jeans, or dust under her nails, or bits and pieces of creative moments needing to be cleaned up didn’t detract from that impression at all. Her home was lovely, orderly, cared-for – each piece of memorabilia, each ornament, carefully selected, an impression exquisitely crafted – how is this not also art? Wherever she moved, she appeared to be quite carefully placed to communicate a mood, a moment, or an idea of beauty. The point I’m trying to make is that, as an artist, it isn’t really for me to define “what is art?” – only to define who I am, as an artist, myself. Those choices are not made of words – they are conveyed by my actions. By my art.

Words over coffee. It was a good day in the studio yesterday. Playing with paint – and chaos. I choose my materials with care.

A pair, 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/glow and UV. “Chaos Theory”

I did several pieces as pairs yesterday, specifically indulging my fascination with chaos theory. I started with two canvases, the same palette of colors for each, the same measured amounts of those pigments, placed similarly on each canvas, the canvases placed side by side, and worked as a single larger piece, to the same playlist. Mood, movement, brush strokes, technique – all as much the same as I can easily make them.Β  In every instance, of course, two different canvases still result. Not just different-as-in-separate-and-individual, but also just… different, as in – not the same. It was a fun day in the studio, playing with science, chemistry, and philosophy.

I spent the day in a meditation made of movement, color, and music, contemplating differences and similarities, considering the way I’ve carved up my life into “separate canvases”; the life of the artist, alongside the life of the analyst. The lover, alongside the angry woman. The professional, alongside the free spirit. The citizen, alongside the protester. I spent the day thinking about life as art, and contemplating this vast broad canvas of experiences as a single unified whole. I spent the day free of any constraints aside from those I have assigned myself. I answered a few questions – I asked a lot more.

I spent time in the garden, too. Another living metaphor.

I gardened later. I grilled a lovely summer evening repast. I meditated as evening came, and watched the dwindling twilight become night. It was the sort of day I could single out from among many and say “this is some of my best work”, as an artist.

Happily enough, it’s already time to begin again. The day stretches ahead of me, a blank canvas. You, too. What will you do with it?

I read a really cool thought-provoking positive post on Facebook from someone on my friend list. New-ish friend, and from the perspective of 54, quite young. I was delighted and fascinated by her approach to the ancient human question of “what do I want to be when I grow up?”, expressed as a question to her friends (and possibly the world) “what is your occupation?” followed by “was it hard to get there?” – I spent some time thinking about it, just as a straight up question, without understanding it to be, more properly, a search query put to the humans in the room, instead of Google. (By itself, that delights me.)

I answered the question. A friend answered the question. Another friend answered the question. One respondent, rather disappointingly I found, myself, very explicitly directs the questioner to consider some specific line of work, as if it isn’t the questioner’s journey, entirely, and a whole wide world of “occupations” to consider, many of which lack that sort of very clear path to a very obvious objective. As if the question had not been specifically phrased to achieve something grander by way of an answer. lol I hope she chooses her path with far less… certainty. Ease and convenience, and all manner of things that are obvious, definitely have less risk – and also promise far less reward.

I realized in considering the questions, I’m not at all unhappy to be where I am. Fuck, it took a while to get here, though, didn’t it? LOL Every step, every turn, there were people attempting to direct my hand, my decision-making, and very few of had any interest of mine in mind.

Walk your own path, young traveler. Make your choices, even in the moment, with your experience and your future in mind. Try things. Taste exotic foods. Tempt your senses with novelty. Find balance and perspective – your balance, your perspective. Do you. The map – any map – is not the world. The plan – any plan – is not the project. You are your own cartographer on a journey into a future that hasn’t been determined. There are verbs involved. You will try. You will fail. You will try. You will succeed. You may find that your notion of what success would look like is very different from the success you actually achieve. That’s okay too. It matters more to succeed on your own terms. To love well. To treat people with great consideration. Your results will vary. What matters most is to be present in your experience, and to love well and deeply. You may change the world…

…Are you ready? It’s time to begin the future. (Don’t worry, you can begin again tomorrow.)

I woke this morning wrapped in the stifling stillness of a too-hot-for-real-comfort apartment, and committed to asking one of my friends next door to give me a hand putting the a/c in the studio window this week – if it fits. I started opening windows, and didn’t notice until I’d finished, that I was also singing “Cooling Down the House” (to the tune of “Burning Down the House“, by the Talking Heads lol). lol Freedom to be feels pretty good… and it’s super hard for anyone to take that from us; much more common is that we give it away. Usually we give ourselves away quite early in life, before we are aware of our choices, and often quite permanently, as though we have no choices to make. It is one of the most singularly sad things to see occurring in the human experience, I think.

Come out, come out, whoever you are! (Oh, hey, shit – I could have written about this for Pride! Damn it. lol)

Seriously – who can do “you”, as well as you can? πŸ™‚ I’m smiling, and listening to a cover of Cypress Hill that makes me smile, because it’s somehow both totally this very familiar track, and also quite uniquely the band covering it. Art is transformative, and each artist rather unavoidably borrows from their own experiences of life, and other art – not copies, not reproductions, no; totally new art, created with new vision, is still built on bits and pieces of other art, other lives. There’s no worry that something will be lost for lack of duplication (except, maybe, knowledge itself?). I’m babbling. Here. You can listen, too. πŸ™‚

One track and I’m down a rabbit hole listening to a band I’d never listened to before… fun. πŸ™‚

The point, though, is simply this – and I’ve no doubt repeated myself to say so – investing time, effort, energy, and intent in being/doing what everyone else is also being/doing in the same way they are being/doing it, whether for acceptance, or out of fear, or by way of some explicit directive in our early years, is a waste of precious individual resources. Life is not generally improved by squashing myself down into a little box marked “acceptable” or limiting myself wholly to those activities and ideas noted as well-received by others – and I have so much more to offer! (You do, too.)

Besides… how very freeing to simply be? πŸ™‚ …And how exciting; if you don’t like who you are, there is a universe of choices you can make to truly change all of that. πŸ˜€

You can choose you, anytime. You can be the person you most want to be – it’s a choice away, nothing more. Your results will vary (I know mine do). There will be verbs involved, and plenty of opportunity to practice. There’s only one thing you must do, unavoidably, to get started on your way – your way… You’ve got to begin again. There are verbs involved. πŸ™‚

Ready? The sun rises on the choices you make each day. πŸ™‚