Archives for posts with tag: can you hear me now?

Yesterday turned out to be a tad… complicated. Emotional. Busy? All of those things and stressful, too. I’m honestly a bit surprised it went so… well. “Just homeowner stuff”, I guess. (What?! Already??) I ended my work day early to deal with it. My Traveling Partner met with the hot tub repair person who was scheduled to be out, and showed up 2 hours early (I don’t think I’m going to complain about that – it was a relief just being able to get that work done, at all), and I focused on the other thing. A leak. In a wall. That caused mold. On paintings. Omfg. I actually don’t have adequate words for the stress in that first moment of catastrophic realization. :-\

…It also is not a catastrophe in any literal sense. Not at all. Small thing, caught very quickly, being handled.

The rest of the day was spent between managing my mental and emotional wellness, and actually handling the circumstances in a way that would successfully (and completely) resolve them. It went fairly well, once the initial heart-breaking emotional blast to my consciousness had passed. It seems a little silly and “overdone” after-the-fact, but in the moment the hurt was very real, the panic very profound. From the vantage point of now, it’s serious, but rather ordinary, and nothing to trouble myself over emotionally. Humans are weird.

The morning starts peculiarly. I’d just gotten up moments ahead of my partner, and was sipping my coffee and beginning my writing after a few minutes of meditation (okay, I was up long enough to meditate, make coffee, and settle in to write…so more than a handful of minutes had gone by since I woke). He got up. I made coffee. Seemed ordinary enough, and the day began pleasantly with talk of a soak…

Obviously, I’m writing, not soaking. (Well, obvious to me, I’m the one sitting here, now, in a moment that is long over by the time you read these words.) He’s behind one closed door, I’m behind another. Communication breakdown. Hurt feelings. Routine human shit. I can’t even take it personally, although I am disappointed to have to deal with it on a pretty Saturday morning, when I could be contentedly soaking in the hot tub with my Traveling Partner. We’ve both got baggage. We’re both quite human. We love each other dearly and still manage, now and then, to hurt each other’s feelings, frustrate each other, or treat each other less well than we’d ideally like to. There it is. Humans being human. There’s a lot of work that goes into doing that well. Results vary.

I breathe. Exhale. Let it go. Well…sort of. So I begin again, with a deep deep breathe, correcting my posture and sitting fully upright. I exhale slowly, patiently. I inhale, making a point to feel the compassion I feel for my very human self – and his. I exhale, feeling acceptance and love, and really releasing that frustrating tendency to take shit personally. I let it go. No attachment to the outcome. No requirement to “be” “right”. Open to enjoying the day. I inhale again, feeling my shoulders relax, aware of the minor headache at the back of my skull. I exhale, content and aware, hearing the sound of the A/C coming on, and taking in the sunshine through the window as it lights the neighbors house. I hold myself here, in this present moment, exactly as it is. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. Repeat. This is my favorite meditation – breathing. Still. Awake. Aware. Quiet. Just sitting. Just breathing. Letting go of everything that is not this moment, here, now.

Search within; it’s closest.

Some moments pass. I don’t know how many. I feel some better. I feel vulnerable to being easily hurt (maybe just a problematic byproduct of yesterday’s stress). I think about my best options for good self-care. I think about how to make things right with my partner. I’d like us both to enjoy the day, whether he chooses to spend it in my company or not. I remind myself of an errand I had planned to run, and one he may still want me to handle (asking would be the thing to do in this instance).

…Anyway. It’s time to begin again. I don’t know what the day ahead holds. No expectations. No assumptions. Open to succeeding.

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.

I am sipping coffee in this moment of leisure, on a day off. I am thinking about “being present”, and what that means, to me, beyond raising my hand when called upon, or occupying a shared physical space. It’s more than that, right? When I consider “being present in the moment”, I mean something very different than standing in a particular physical space in a particular moment. “Being present” is about awareness, connection, and “presence” beyond the characteristic of occupying space. I need more words… or other words. Different words. There’s a nuance I want to understand, and communicate, that seems harder to pin down, with regard to “being present”.

I am here, now. Am I fully “present”? I am sipping coffee. I am writing. My headphones are on, and there is a video playing in the background that I am not really listening to. Am I present? Or… am I more engaged in this process of writing out my musings than I am in experiencing this specific moment of my life? It’s something to think about.

“Presence” is a quality that can bring improvement to our cherished relationships. When our “presence” is lacking (while we continue to occupy some particular physical space), our friends, partners, lovers, family members, and even strangers near us, can feel as if we’re not really there. No authentic give and take. A lack of “paying attention” may be noted. A lack of “presence” can undermine our relationships. It’s sometimes called out as “distance” (or emotional distance) – an experience that someone is withholding not just their attention, but even their “self”, from interactions. “We grew apart”, we sometimes say, when relationships have withered and ended, due to lack of presence.

…Our digital devices are not helping with this; use of our handheld devices is a common source of broken connections, and loss of presence. A notification gets our attention, and we grab that phone, interrupting ourselves mid-sentence, leaving someone sitting right there with us, in the middle of a conversation, wondering what value they really bring to the relationship, at all, that they matter so little. I don’t think most of us afflicted thusly mean anything ill by our rudeness, we don’t even notice; we’re not “present”.

I sip my coffee, thinking my thoughts about presence. Giving consideration to being more considerate. Contemplating the enormous self-discipline that may be required to finish sentences, conversations, shared experiences, personal moments, while disregarding notifications and ringing phones; isn’t living “real life” in the moment, present with the person you are with more important that some remote digital “conversation”? Expectation-setting and basic manners are probably useful in those situations. “Excuse me a moment, I’d like to reply to this message.” Simple enough. Or, hey, better still? Let that message sit there while I enjoy the moment with the real human being who values me enough to be right there with me in that moment? Probably a good choice, where healthy relationships are concerned, generally. lol

I continue to sip my coffee. I pull myself back to this quiet moment I am enjoying with myself – don’t I also deserve a moment of my time, fully present with myself? Isn’t that what meditation is “about”?

I make a second coffee, and restart that video; I didn’t actually watch it, my attention was divided. 🙂 It’s time to be present. It’s time to begin again. 😀

I’ll start here. 🙂 It’s not a bad starting point for restoring perspective, a reminder that we’re all human, all having our own experience – and that we’ve all got “problems”. The path we walk really isn’t paved. Life’s journey doesn’t have a map. We’re each having our own experience – literally so individual that it is pretty easy to wander around thinking “no one gets me” and feeling we are not being heard, or feeling attacked, while the person on the other side of that interaction feels exactly, precisely, very much the same way.

…That gets awkward when we’re sharing labels (but maybe not definitions, or experiences, in any practical way).

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to living with PTSD, lately. Not just mine. Yours, too. Ours. Theirs. Someone else’s. It’s not an easy thing to love someone who has PTSD. It’s not easy to live around it. It’s hard on our loved ones. Hard on our communities. Hard on familial relationships, friendships, and colleagues. None of that should derail any one of us from a committed effort to being our best selves in every moment in which we are able. Live around PTSD long enough, we may even begin to accumulate some damage of our own, related only to that experience.

I’ve been looking at this complicated puzzle for a few days, after a contentious moment with someone dear to me, whose PTSD may be as bad as mine (although as yet undiagnosed, it’s nonetheless very real, and a difficult complication in a relationship very precious to me). They were having an off day, and I missed the signs of symptoms flaring up. I overlooked a known trigger for this dear one. They “came at me” (verbally) reactive and confrontational, irritable over what looked like “nothing” to me, from my perspective on the outside looking in. I have PTSD, myself, and even after some years of managing my symptoms fairly well, I have my challenges, some almost daily. My dear friend’s flare up became confrontation, hostility, and words thrown at me that seemed absent the context of what was “really” going on. I could not recognize myself in their reflected perception of me. (I didn’t say that. I didn’t do that. That’s now “how it went down”!) I reacted. I became, myself, triggered by their anger and frustration. My own symptoms flared up. I had forgotten about the PTSD on both sides of our human equation. Fucking hell.

Aside from feeling like an insensitive asshole, I also managed to make things worse, simply by being myself in a difficult moment. It was hard. We got past it, but even now, I see that moment in my friend’s eyes, when we interact, and it’s been days. My feeling of emotional safety in the relationship feels shaken. (I’m not sure there’s any reason to feel that way, realistically, but PTSD isn’t about what’s real right now, and any tendency to treat it that way is likely to make matters worse, unfortunately.) I don’t know how to help my friend heal; we’re each having our own experience, and I too need healing. 😦

I know I have more to say about this, but I also know I have more thoughts to think, more to turn over in my head, more questions to ask and to answer. This? It’s advanced coursework in life’s curriculum. I do my best.

I’ll just say this one thing and move on for now; PTSD isn’t the same from one person to the next. It’s more like a fingerprint carved into who we are by the trauma we have survived. We can label a group of symptoms as “PTSD”, but it’s a long damned list, and each person suffering with lasting PTSD has lived their own experience. What triggers one, doesn’t trigger another. How we react, as individuals, to our very individual triggers, is a further complication; there are a lot of differences.

It did get me thinking about one thing that helps, generally; be the best version of ourselves we each can be. Be kind. Be willing to listen without jumping in with a correction. Be compassionate about just how fucking hard this is. Don’t try to make it a competition; our own pain nearly always hurts worse than anything we can really understand anyone else to be going through. Maybe avoid diminishing or diluting someone else’s message if they trust enough to share that they are in pain, or triggered, or overwhelmed; let it be about them, about their experience, and empathize through deep listening (instead of, for example, commiserating through “common experience”, which often misses the point of someone sharing in the first place).

Trust that these are things I consider myself; it’s a lot of work to look through, and beyond, my own symptoms, to “be there” for someone else who seems seriously unconvinced that anyone else could possibly have it as bad as they do. Let them have that moment. What they’re saying is more about the fact that they are in pain or struggling than about whether, or how much, you are. It’s not a fucking contest. I “get it wrong” every bit as often as I “get it right”, I think. I definitely need more practice.

…Having said that… Maybe also don’t overlook what is being communicated if someone is trying to connect and empathize by suggesting they understand through their own experiences. Maybe they really do. How much does that suck??

I’m just saying… be there for each other. Understand that the enormous variety in human experiences and perspectives really does mean that there’s a lot of shit going on in the world, that people endure every day, survive and move on from, that just really really sucks.

Did I mention being kind? It’s a good starting point… And it’s time to begin again.

No kidding. Damn little gets more “real” than actual reality colliding with the fictional version of reality we generally live with in our heads. :-\ It’s a bit like petting a beautifully fluffy strange cat on the basis of how cute and soft it appears; sometimes those’ll bite back unexpectedly – and it’s not even personal… “cute and soft” are simply not reliably the most important things to know about a strange cat.

I’m still getting over being sick, and my defenses are down. My ability to “get” humor is rendered somewhat unreliable. My will to accept as humor those “zingers with stingers” falls short of the need, sometimes. I end up taking something small quite personally, and end up with hurt feelings. My temper flares more easily, while I also need more tenderness and patience. It sucks more than a little when the result is conflict, particularly when what I wanted is affection. Sometimes reality can be more than a little vexing.

Yesterday at work was efficient. Purposeful. Challenging. Satisfying. Also – short. I went home a couple hour early, still committing to self-care. Still getting over being sick. Unfortunately, I’m not over being wholly made of human, and much of the evening in no way met my short-term, or long-term, self-care needs. My Traveling Partner and I did not make as much of the opportunity to spend that time together as we could have, and the result was some unpleasant back-and-forth that, looking back, doesn’t seem very productive. No epiphanies, no light bulb moments, no feeling of greater connection or shared relief on the other side… We sort of just picked ourselves up from each difficult moment and began again. It wasn’t satisfying. It wasn’t pleasant. It didn’t feel connected (just frustrating, and, well… hard). I should be more clear here; I’m only talking about my own experience, subjectively, and while I seriously doubt his was better than that, it may very well be that it was worse. It’s hard to know.

You know what I do know? I know that love requires effort, and care, and reinvestment… and I know that we (both) give it those things. Last night sort of seemed like neither of us saw how much the other does put into it. Like I said, it was less than pleasant, and rather unsatisfying. I’m not sure the specifics of the underlying circumstances really matter (or what they may or may not really have had to do with our difficult moments last night). It felt a little existential at points. I’m making a specific point not to cast blame, or attempt to triage in a more detailed way, primarily because doing so doesn’t hold value in this moment, right here; I’d rather focus on growth and healing, and where still needed, self-soothing. I can easily see points at which I could do a better job communicating my needs, my boundaries, my thoughts (likely, nearly always, so, yeah, definitely with regards to yesterday). I give those things the thought they deserve, and sip my coffee… thoughtfully. This human being I love so well, this partner who gives so much, certainly deserves that consideration. 🙂 I have a responsibility (and opportunity) to make time for it – and it is a worthy endeavor for a partnership so dear to me. Love takes some work. Love is worth the effort.

…So… sipping coffee, thinking thoughts. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The winter holiday season begins with gratitude. That’s a lovely beginning. I borrow that theme for my morning, and give myself over to considering all that I am grateful for in this relationship, in this life, in this moment. I feel it ease my very human (and in at least one case, fairly silly) hurts; it’s hard to be petty and grateful in the same breath. 😉

Damn I love that man. Doing our best isn’t always enough for any one circumstance, moment, or conversation, but I am most definitely confident that he is doing his best for me, and for us, pretty much 100% of his time. That’s a lot to ask of a person who also has to deal with their own bullshit and baggage in life. I don’t think I can claim to do more/better, at all. I make a mental note to be kinder… to keep practicing taking that breath before I react to some small thing in some larger-than-necessary way… to treat love well. To listen. Really listen. Like… a lot more.

…so human… and adulting is so… complicated…

I take another sip of my coffee, and prepare to begin again…