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

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…

Warning: this may be disordered ranting, in whole or in part. If you continue, please don’t get sucked into my bullshit and baggage, and know in advance that I’m okay, for most values of okay. Still just 100% made of human.

Well… yesterday was unexpectedly unpleasant. I don’t mean to minimize, and frankly, I don’t do myself any favors to do so; I lost my shit completely, reduced to actually yelling at someone I love in a fit of unrestrained, wholly excessive, temper, frustration, and despair. I let myself down in a remarkable betrayal of a commitment to myself that my living environment be maintained as a “no yelling” space. My neighbors, here, for the first time since I moved in two years ago, have heard me raise my voice in anger. None of that is okay with me. Not any of it. (And no, I don’t think I’m being unreasonable about that; I made myself a promise, for reasons of my own, and now that promise has been broken. It’ll be some time before I’m “over” that.)

It probably matters to have context around it, but I don’t feel emotionally up to a deep dive of the details; I over-reacted to something I could have let go of. I regularly let go of lots of things, and in a wiser moment, I’d have understood to do so then, too. I didn’t, though, because I got caught up in feeling misjudged, feeling misunderstood, and struggling to express my frustration and irritation. I got taken by surprise by my own long-lingering feelings of resentment left over from a relationship I have long since exited, and a few left from early in this one I have, which is so precious to me. It went badly. There were clearly things I was “wrong” about. There were things I wasn’t “wrong” about, but nonetheless handled poorly. It was only a matter of minutes that overwhelming strong emotion got the better of me, and at that point it didn’t matter at all who was right or wrong (how many relationships die on the back of someone’s insistence in being right?), it really only mattered that we treat each other well in that moment. I did not succeed in that requirement. None of this goes to explaining why… I don’t have that for you. I don’t really know.

Failure stings. Disappointment is painful and filled with sorrow and regret. Anger burns in one’s veins, and tells lies to one’s heart. It was a mess. The aftermath wasn’t a huge improvement; my chemistry didn’t reset very quickly. This is telling; my resilience isn’t what it was even a year ago. Why? Why on that is easy; I haven’t been properly caring for myself with the same strict standards that I had been. Again… why? Well, shit… that’s also too easy, and kind of dumb; my Traveling Partner moved in with me, and omg – I love spending time with him. I’m not saying that’s a healthy choice, just very human, and it’s what I’ve done. But… that isn’t all of it.

There’s the pain management piece, too; it’s hard to live in pain. People do, and yeah, a lot people other than me, and a lot of people in more severe pain. The VA, once again, had provided me an Rx solution to use “as needed” (let’s move on from the fact that I suffer from chronic pain), and that drug… um… has “mood altering effects”, and is actually in a category of drug I absolutely should not be taking (for that reason), and this is a known thing, documented in my medical records. My civilian physician even called me at home at some point, expressing concern, reminding me not to take it with specific other medication, and I was already noticing some personal “concerns”. So… I stopped taking it, at all. It’s probably not a coincidence that soon afterward, I became more fragile, less resilient, and then, yesterday, simply “broke”. Fucking hell. I am so vulnerable to poor medical practices, and decisions made without regard to my actual needs, but rather based on some doctor’s comfort with this drug, that drug, or ignorance about the details of my medical history. I am so vulnerable to the demands within relationships to change this, change that, catch up on something, move on from something. I am so vulnerable to my own desire to please, my own need to be comfortable, to have agency, to feel valued. Yesterday’s chaos and damage was brought to me by… me. I overlooked the considerable impact likely from discontinuing that medication, and doing so in the context of not maintaining – very strictly and consistently – my meditation practice in the way I know I must. Tons of this is about my choices, and I’ve got to be accountable for it. I can do better.

I fled the house in hysterics, and despair, and had no business driving a car in the condition I was in at the time. “Driving while crying” is an impairment of note, and I sought somewhere close to stop. It’s not like I had someplace to go in mind. I found an empty parking lot, backing up to trees, and a verdant hillside. I parked. I wept. I sobbed. I wailed. I let go, and had that painful moment of altogether losing my shit on this whole other level. No lie. There was no dignity in those moments. My Traveling Partner tried to heal the wound, texting me, pleading with me to be safe, to care for myself… to come home and just talk. I didn’t, for some time, have that in me. I’m still glad he tried.

Eventually, my tears dried, and I drove home. We went to breakfast. I was still fragile. We gently sidestepped all the emotional landmines we could. We shared the day together. I did my best. He did his best. Eventually… the day ended, gently. I went to bed and enduring nightmares of great dragons attacking civilization, and the persistent frustration of The Party People playing loud music and flashing lights, even knowing that the fucking dragons would thereby know our location. Fucking idiots. Then there were those who kept insisting that the dragons were as scared of us as we are of them, and if we’d just leave them alone… oh, hey, another one of those, torn to bits, and consumed. Well, then. Fuck. Rough night. I survived.

…Rough life. So far, I’ve survived.

I woke this morning, grateful to see the dawn, and that the house around me was not the charred ruin of my dreams. Had coffee with my partner, grateful for his love. I’m still pretty volatile, vulnerable to feeling easily hurt, struggling with my feeling of being disappointed with myself. (No, it doesn’t much matter that it may have been, again, an Rx I was given by a doctor, putting me at risk. I am collateral damage in “the opioid war”, as are a lot of other chronic pain sufferers. Doctors don’t want to prescribe them, even to very low-risk-of-abuse patients, even when we’re talking about very low dose, very mild drugs; liability concerns, more than patient care, in my experience. People get hurt not being able to ease their pain. No one much cares about that, so long as we can put a lovely “we’re winning the drug war!” headline out there.)(Sorry, my personal bitterness is showing there, that’s baggage I need to deal with.)

So… another day, another chance. Another time in my life when I have to just admit that the drugs available for pain management don’t work for me, for a variety of reasons, and learning to live more or less graciously with pain is what’s left over. Didn’t I already know that? Why do I keep trying?

I finish my coffee. Frown at this post, already annoyed with it, for no particular reason beside “failure”. Pretty sick of that right now. I guess I’ll let that go, shower, dress, and begin again. :-\

I am sipping my coffee, and taking a few moments for myself at the start of the day. Another work day. One of just 4 remaining at this job, which admittedly feels strange. At this point, it’s mostly meetings, and writing process documentation for things that simply must continue to get done, in spite of my departure, which has nothing at all to do with me. Right now, moments for me are rare. Purposefully winding things down at my job, while I am in the office, and, at home, committing most of my limited leisure time to listening to the tales of a traveler. 🙂

My Traveling Partner is moving in, and there is newness and adjustment to be had for us both. The first time we moved in together, I’m pretty sure I did most of the talking. I had a lot to say. I hadn’t been really listened to (and certainly did not “feel heard”) for what felt like years. I talked. He listened. I needed that consideration and moment of regard. I earnestly needed to feel heard. I’ll be real about it; the person who wasn’t listening with the most commitment to oppression and disregard was actually me. I didn’t understand that, and I would have no idea what to do about it, once I did. It’s been a journey.

We each have to walk our own hard mile. Along the way, I’ve learned how much listening deeply really matters. I’ve also learned that it is a skill that must be practiced, and takes time to develop. I’ve learned that I’m not “naturally good at it”, myself, and that means practice must be committed, and undertaken from a position of presence and self-awareness (otherwise, I just start talking again). At this point? I’m often pretty good at it. (Still takes practice, presence, and self-awareness, as well as consideration for another.)

This time, as my partner moves in, he talks. I listen. I’m learning a lot about this human being I hold in such high regard. My affection has deepened with the telling of the tales. I wrap my lover in listening. We all want to be heard – to feel heard. I do my best. The listening matters more than any observation or reply I could make. This is not the time for my words. I continue to listen, setting boundaries gently when I need stillness, or a distraction, or a break from an intense moment; listening deeply can be work (it’s a bit topic dependent). We set explicit ground rules together, as partners, about things like checking in and making sure it’s a good time before starting down the path of discussing childhood trauma, or very emotionally intense topics likely to evoke a visceral reaction. We check in with each other when we see a micro-expression suggesting emotional pain, discomfort, or something left urgently unspoken that perhaps could best be shared.

About listening deeply… deep listening, as a specific practice, is simple enough to describe, and I’ll spend a lifetime practicing, because practice is what is required to become skillful. Deep listening only requires that I set aside all else, and just listen. Only that. No “waiting for my turn to talk”. No impatiently fidgeting with a reply I just want to get out there. No interrupting to make “corrections”. No taking what I hear personally. Just listening, present, aware, and also non-judgmentally. Asking clarifying questions can be part of listening deeply, but I definitely have to be very aware, such that I am not interrupting in order to do so. Deep listening is not a passive process, and I have found myself unable to hold onto hostility or to be confrontational, while also listening deeply. There is compassion involved, gratitude, appreciation, awareness, and yes, even love, and certainly consideration.

So, yeah, in general, this change in my lifestyle is still feeling pretty… well, “effortless” is the wrong word here, because unpacking things, moving other things, doing housekeeping, fixing small broken things, moving stuff around, all that stuff that goes with moving, well it all amounts to effort, for sure. It’s just not “hard”, and feels pretty natural. Like having my best friend move in – which makes a lot of sense, since he’s been my bestie for close to a decade. 🙂

There will no doubt still be moments ahead of us when, perhaps, one or the other of us is taken over creatively by a moment of inspiration, with no bandwidth remaining, at least temporarily, to give over to our lover. There may be moments when tempers flare, or we’re cross with each other, purely as a product of being very much made entirely of human. It’s hard to worry about it; things are very excellent, deeply loving, and connected, right now. Right now is enough. 🙂 Still… it’s helpful to practice those practices (such as listening deeply) that nurture and connect us so deeply. It’s helpful to be mindful of my Big 5 (respect, reciprocity, consideration, compassion, and openness), which have stood so many tests, so well. I can always use more practice. 😀

It’s time to begin again.

I woke comfortably after sleeping in, and although the night itself was restless and interrupted, I woke feeling pretty good. The persistent ringing in my ears continues to persist (thus, being persistent); it’s been with me for decades. I think it became quite unavoidably obvious sometime in the mid 80s. It continues without relief, and I generally don’t complain. Over the years, I’ve learned to constantly return my focus to external sounds; my only reminder that indeed I do still hear those is to specifically pause and make a point of refocusing my attention on them. (If I focus on the tones of my tinnitus I hear nothing else.)

Why on earth does any of this matter this morning? Only because I woke listening to my tinnitus, and consumed my first cup of coffee shopping for appropriate hearing protection for future concert going; sleeping between a running generator, and a concert stage was a powerful reminder that I still have more hearing I could lose. I’d rather not lose more of my hearing. 🙂

My sleep was restless and interrupted by nightmares. Strange pointless nightmares parading vague insecurities and nebulous fears across my dreamscape. I dreamt of mocking laughter, and being played, taken advantage of, mis-used, and treated as a disposable commodity in relationships I hold dear. I dreamt of being lied to. I dreamt of being unaware of what my relationships are actually built on, or what goes on in the background, when I am absent. I woke abruptly sometime around 1:30 am, and tossed and turned awhile before returning to sleep at some unknown point. I felt okay when I woke again around 5 am, although my body felt heavy with physical sensations that suggested I’d been crying in my sleep. Another nap, I woke from that feeling that I’d “slept in” and was “well-rested”. I’ve refused to give much further thought to my bad dreams, and just gone on with coffee – and shopping for ear plugs. Sure, sure, a little odd, but… better than getting hung up on the details of nightmares…and if there is any chance I’m going to be doing more music festivals (and there is), I’ll definitely want hearing protection. lol

Coffee two finds me planning the day – and what is left of my weekend. There’s housekeeping to be done. Quite a lot of laundry. So, I make a list for myself (I find that the easiest way to ensure I get “everything” – it’s never really “everything” – done that I intend to do), sip my coffee, and listen to some music while I sort myself out and really wake up. This morning, I find something wise and reassuring about the Beastie Boys. I find admitting that pretty amusing. Pretty much everything on my playlist speaks very specifically to something that matters to me, that I find value in, or repeats some meta message that resonates with me. A reminder of another time, perhaps. A cautionary tale. An admission. A valued perspective. It’s rarely about whatever the artist may have intended in any clear way; music is more personal than that for me.

It’s a lovely Saturday to begin again. 🙂