Archives for posts with tag: be your best self

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 has grown cold. Second cup, busy day. I’m thinking over some things I’ve read recently (or watched) that “spoke to me”, and letting these things “seep in” and become more integrated with my own thinking. I think of it a bit like being on a journey without a map… and getting to peak at the map in the hands of a passing traveler, for just a glimpse.

This video really gets some important ideas about “following passion” as a way of doing life. I think it’s more than commonly clear on the subject.

Then there’s this article about de-escalating heated conversations. It’s given me quite a lot to think about, specifically about how complicated it can be to attempt to “enforce” calm on turbulent emotional states for me, and the real value in mastering the skills needed to do so.

I watched this video, which turned up randomly courtesy of the YouTube algorithm… it’s a good practical cautionary tale about seeking fame (or, at least, not doing things in one’s present that might prove problematic if one were to become famous at some future point).

Then, the article that keeps me returning for further reflection and consideration, and a fairly wholesome sense of renewed purpose, which is one about interrupting (a known challenge for me). I can’t even say, with any specificity, why this article got my attention with so much commitment. It did.

I sigh out loud and push my hair back from my face. It’s a long day of work ahead, today. I’m okay with that, it’s work I enjoy. I found a lovely bit of background noise to keep me focused, and it’s time to begin again. 🙂

Yesterday I found myself mired in an unexpectedly contentious moment with my Traveling Partner. Life in the Time of Pandemic takes its toll on us all, I suppose. Clear communication and skillful expectation and boundary setting are sometimes more challenging for me than I’d like. Living and loving well can be fraught with challenging circumstances. My results vary. I’m fortunate I can retreat to my studio and take a bit of time and distance to care for myself, and restore my sense of perspective, often through writing, sometimes through study or creative endeavors, sometimes meditation is enough. Yesterday evening was a bit strange in an unexpectedly helpful way; I used my words.

Wait though, I mean… I still retreated to my studio to take care of myself, emotionally, and sort myself out. It wasn’t about skillfully using my words live, real-time; I used them long ago, at some other point, and happened upon them on my way to opening a manuscript I am working on, expecting to spend some time writing. No kidding. I had written myself a note, at some point in the past. I happened upon it by chance (which sort of suggests I did a shitty job of putting it where I could easily find it, but this is not about that).

The note I wrote to myself has the title “What about when it feels like nothing really matters?“, which suggests I wrote it in a moment of despair, frustration, and futility, and great emotional pain. Out of curiosity, and feeling cross with myself, I opened it, and began reading;

So, okay. Right now is hard. Breathe. Sit upright. Breathe again. Let this painful, personal, very subjective moment, right here, this one, let it go. 

…Just… let it go. 

You’ve got this. Moments are brief. Temporary. Colored by emotion. Rationalized by a thin veneer of what feels like reason – and often isn’t that at all. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. 

Sometimes, and this may be unavoidable, you won’t feel heard. I’m telling you – from me to you (also me), that this is a thing and maybe always will be. Don’t join the queue of people who aren’t hearing you; listen. Give yourself that moment. Forgive yourself that instance of reactivity. Let that go, too. I’m not saying this is an easy thing, just that, with practice, and consideration, and presence, it is a thing that can be done. You can be heard by one human being who is literally “always there” as much as any one human being can be; yourself. So… do that. 

Start with a body scan. How does your body feel right now? Are you tired? Hungry? Cold? Hot? Thirsty? In pain? Be present and aware of your own physical experience. 

Assess your emotional experience. What are you feeling right now? Emotions and sensations are associated with words. They are not the words. They are experiences. Subjective. Tied to our personal dictionary. Informed by our personal understanding of the world – however flawed. Our perspective on our experience belongs to us – it’s yours. Fix it if it is broken. Accept it if it is an accurate reflection of your understanding of reality. Cut yourself some slack about being so human. 

Now, cut that other person some slack, too. They are every bit as human. Their emotional experience is every bit as valid – and also every bit as wholly subjective, and flawed. Doesn’t matter; it belongs to them. It is their context. Their narrative. Likes yours is for you. You won’t always find a match. Reach past that. Be compassionate. Be kind. Be understanding. Be those things for yourself, from your own perspective, and then also be that for them – aware that their perspective differs, and still able to embrace their humanity as fundamentally more important than this perceived difference. 

Rejection hurts. Conflict is uncomfortable. We want what we want, and often react to not getting that by lashing out in a hurtful way – which we are prone to justifying and rendering somehow righteous, by running that shit through our personal narrative, tidying it up, and making excuses for who we are. We’re not so right. We’re not all wrong. We can’t be “fixed” because we’re not, in fact, broken – we’re human. You are human. We each are. Seeking peace and nurturing, but finding demands, or rejection, or diminishment, or lost agency, or disappointment, or hurt feelings… all that sucks so very much – but it doesn’t have to define you, yourself. It’s just a moment. Let that shit go. 

Re-frame the experience. Assume positive intent (particularly if this “moment” develops within the context of a loving relationship). If you look again, with the certainty that all involved are authentically invested in the well-being of the individuals, and the relationships, does it still look the same? 

Shit sucks though. It’s unpleasant. It can feel overwhelming to feel so insignificant. To be unable to voice your experience in the face of the Other. Breathe anyway. Exhale in spite of it. Allow yourself to exert your agency by relaxing, and letting go of small shit. Specifically avoid lashing out. God damn, that can matter so much! Breathe. Listen. Exhale. Relax.

At the end of it, I was in a different place than when I began. It wasn’t so hard to reconnect, to begin again, to go past that moment and on to some other. The evening ended well. My perspective on the entire day changed. It was helpful. 🙂

Finding that right balance between joyful connected intimacy, and the frank realer-than-real truths of living life together 24/7, has its challenging moments. That’s okay, too. It’s an opportunity to do the work of growth and to explore more depth in this relationship. Nothing about that suggests a comfortable process. There doesn’t seem to be any ill-intention to it – just humans being human. We’re each having our own experience.

…Look at that… Already time to begin again.

Another working day spent in the time of pandemic, another opportunity to connect with my Traveling Partner more deeply, with more openness, and greater… something, something, and etc. I mean, love still takes some work, and being my best self still takes real commitment to self-awareness, and practice (which feels pretty hit/miss sometimes, for results). We are each individuals. We’re in this together. Shared experience. Individual experience. All the overlap between. If we share nothing, we lose our connection, over time. If we share everything, we lose our sense of individual self and agency. There is a balance. In these days of isolation and confinement, it sometimes feels like dancing – the awkward, often self-conscious dancing of youthful uncertainty, which is a bit uncomfortable at times; we’re not kids anymore.

I worked a fairly routine day yesterday. Each time I took a break, I left my studio (which is also my “office”) and discovered some new thing had been done around the house. My Traveling Partner keeps busy with various quality-of-life-focused projects. It passes the time in a healthy way.

…He moved the furniture around…

You know, it could have been drama and bullshit, but honestly, it’s just furniture. If we don’t like where it is – and I mean either of us, over time, could decide it is a poor fit – we can move it around differently. We have that freedom. We have that power. Each of us. Both of us. I managed to find peace and balance with all of it super quickly, which was nice. No one needs my drama and bullshit right now, right? I’m unsettled by the quantity of small changes as the aesthetic of our home inches further and further from what I most ideally enjoy, myself, but there really are two people living here, and it is our home, not exclusively mine. It matters to be open to new arrangements of things. There’s so much joy in it when we both feel a comfortable sense of place. When we both feel at home.

The street is nearly silent outside this morning. These days there is very little commuter traffic through this neighborhood. People who can, really are working from home. People who don’t need to work are generally really staying home. A quick trip out for supplies revealed a world in which suburban men commonly work in the garage, or in their yards, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, building and making things to improve their quality of life, and that of their families. I saw a dad-aged man teaching a little girl to ride a bicycle… on a Wednesday. It was beautiful. It got me wondering, decades from now, how will we view this time of pandemic, looking back? Our perspectives are not universal.

Some people will remember store shelves stripped bare, and being unable to buy stable food items, and basic household items.

Some people will remember the profiteering, the incompetence and mismanagement, the heinous disregard for employee health and safety shown by some companies.

Some people will remember having to work from home, after years of begging for the privilege of being able to do so.

Some people will remember being sick, or supporting sick family members.

Some people will remember the anxiety, the chaos, the fear-mongering, and the uncertainty.

Some people will remember losing their jobs – others will remember being forced to work.

…And some people, who were children in the time of pandemic, will remember long happy weeks at home, with their parents and siblings, connecting over fun projects, entertained, loving, and they will, perhaps, look back on this time with real fondness, as a time when they enjoyed all the love and attention from their parents that they could ever possibly need. I like to think about that as a tiny pin-prick of an upside to all this COVID-19 stuff; some children will get loved more, by attentive parents who perhaps don’t realize that their efforts to stave off boredom, and keep their youngsters developmentally on track, is making some amazing memories.

Then, I frown over a news article pointing out how terrifying this time must be for people in abusive relationships, or households that experience domestic violence. 😦 Let’s don’t be that. We can each do so much better than that.

Be considerate and gentle with your words. It can really wear even your nearest and dearest down quite a lot, over time, to be in such close contact for so long. Social distancing can complicate that – you’re probably not hanging out with anyone else. The lack of variety may serve to highlight small things, which can make them appear to be The Next Big Deal Breaker. Doesn’t have to be that way. 🙂 Choose kindness. Choose authenticity – and positive intent. Be your best self, even though that definitely takes practice.

I’m saying it to you, because I’m saying it to me. There are verbs involved. Work. Effort. Commitment. Self-reflection. A lot of do-overs and new beginnings. A lot of practice.

I’m ready for another work day in the time of pandemic. I’m ready to begin again. 🙂

Sipping my coffee and thinking about all the many things I’ve tried out over the years, qualities I have explored, places I have seen, styles enjoyed, projects undertaken, seems like a lot of variety – whole lifetimes of change. A lot of what I have been, I am not now. A lot of what I have done, I no longer do today. I’ve picked up skills, and built practice, that have since fallen into disuse… I give a moment of thought to the things that have mattered most (not all of which I pursued beyond the past moment in which they existed). I think of how all of this contributes to who I am, now.

…Hell of an interesting and varied journey… certainly worth giving a moment of thought to. I put on some music. I get a second coffee. I look around the studio, half-finished canvases… just everywhere. lol This back and forth stuff between here and there every weekend takes a creative toll. For the moment I satisfy myself thinking about the not-too-distant future that is (hopefully) retirement. My life is, I am hopeful, barely half over. 🙂

Try things. It’s okay if you don’t “stick with it” endlessly forever. Learn new things, try new stuff, make things, do things, learn things – there isn’t anything “wrong” with taking something up, learning a bit about it, moving on to the next interesting thing. Oh, I know, there’s a ferocious culture of “don’t quit” and “you never finish anything” lingering about to discourage shallow interest, and changes of heart – and that literally does not have to matter at all. Interested in the sound of Mandarin Chinese as a language? Start learning it. Lose interest in things that are hard? It’s okay; languages can be quite difficult, and maybe you give up on that – you are still changed by what you have learned. Expose yourself to the world of options and opportunities that exists. Become more than you are.

Become more than you are. Be the person you most want to be – whoever that is. 🙂

It’s not too late.

Begin again. 🙂