Archives for posts with tag: can you see the real me?

The work day is behind me. The afternoon sunshine illuminates the room through the shade, casting a diffuse blue-gray hue to the entire room. I am relaxed. Calm. Mostly fairly comfortable, physically. I feel my Traveling Partner’s stress and aggravation radiate through the house; I am aware of him, without being part of the experience right now. We had, earlier, enjoyed a celebratory moment of shared joy; he had completed a ton of work on fine-tuning our sound system and home theater, a project that we are both excited about (having a shared love of music and movies). It sounded amazing!

Later, shortly before I finished my work day, my obviously frustrated partner leaned into my studio to tell me he’d had to turn off a component to do something – and all those painstakingly determined settings that resulted in such great sound? Gone. Apparently they don’t save. I can only imagine his frustration – so much went into that! He got it done in the context of being considerate of my noise sensitivity, and is now faced with doing it all again, after assuring me he was done with all that. After I got off work I figured I’d hang out and enjoy his company while he finished off the resetting of settings and all that… It’s not that simple, is it? We’re humans, being human together, enjoying our shared experience of being individual beings. I’m not helping by hanging out – however supportive I want to be, however relaxed I feel myself, however much joy I take in his company, right now, the simplest of truths is that he’d like to handle this without the added anxiety of worried about my noise sensitivity or other “high maintenance bullshit” (my language, not his). I even get it. So… A good time to write? I guess so.

I sip on a bottle of water, thinking about how easily we become fused with each other’s emotional states. Not just him, not just me, it’s more of a human thing – most of us experience it, at some point. We become invested in that other person’s emotional experience for whatever reason, and it becomes “part of who we are”, ourselves. I suppose in some circumstances that could be useful. As individual, independent, autonomous, equal free-will adult human beings it’s often far from being “helpful”, at all. I avoid emotional entanglements of this sort, when I notice it in time to do something different. Another room. Another task. A different place. A book to read. Something that is more about me, and less about that other person, for a little while. No hard feelings. No regrets. No embarrassment… Just good self-care.

I hear music in the other room. A moment later he puts his head into the room, “I’m finished” he says calmly. I feel calm, too, and fairly fortunate that we have this partnership of equals. Sure, ups and downs, and sometimes quite a bit of work, and occasional resettings of expectations, together, nonetheless… so fortunate. So grateful. So happy to have this beautiful music, and this beautiful love.

“Finished”? Some things never really “finish”. It’s time to begin again. ­čÖé

A rainy Monday. A work day. Coffee long gone and finished in the morning. I notice it is afternoon. I sit a bit more upright, when I catch myself slumping over my key board. I breathe a bit more deeply and evenly, each time I catch myself not doing so. I glance at my email, at my calendar, and back at the spreadsheet in front of me. Task by task, process by process, one deadline met, then another, all very routine.

I glanced up and through the window, seeing the naked branches of the pear trees on the other side of the fence between my yard, and the neighbor’s. There are quite a lot of small birds hopping about. Landing, taking off, pecking at this or that, or sipping drops of water clinging to branches since the last downpour. I enjoy watching them. They are as busy as I am, myself, although I suspect the work of their day is somehow more important to their experience than this spreadsheet is to mine. lol

Where does this path lead?

I smile and think about the future. Imminent change is filled with promise, but a lot like a forest path with a curve in it, I can’t really see beyond that change to what really lies ahead. I’m curious. Eager. Filled with wonder. I’m seeking to face the new day able to make use of the full measure of my experience gained so far… my results vary. I’m having my own experience. It’s still a journey without a map…

…and it’s already time to begin again.

I am afflicted with nearsightedness. I’ve worn glasses since that was first identified. I’ve chosen not to explore wearing contact lens, in part because the process of putting them in and taking them out is deeply creepy (to me, personally), and I am overly sensitive about things in/on/near my eyes. So, glasses are part of my life. I put them on first thing when I wake, and they are the last thing I take off when I go to bed at night. My vision is sufficiently poor that I can’t see more than blurs, smudges, and vague shapes without them, although I have, sometimes, chosen to read without my glasses, in recent years, because it seems “just as good” or “better than” reading with my glasses on.

I got tri-focals to account for the variations in my vision at various distances (reading, “near-ish”, and far off). My tri-focals seem “good enough”, generally. I have “reading glasses” for reading and using the computer, too; the sliver of close-up reading lens in the wee round glasses I favor is so slim and narrow that it’s actually rather hard to get the angle of my head and the position of my glasses “just right” to take advantage of it. I don’t mostly notice. My neck notices. My back notices. My more frequent headaches tell me about it.

…My Traveling Partner tells me about it, too. Watching me hunched over my phone squinting to read the small print is uncomfortable. Seeing me perched on the edge of my office chair, leaned in close to my computer monitor, still squinting to read the screen is frustrating after years of pointing out that my posture is affected, which affects my pain, which affects my mood, which affects our interactions, which affects our relationship… He’s reminded me a number of times recently to see my eye doctor, get my eyes re-examined, and get new glasses. It’s clear to both of us that I need them. I reliably mumble something about getting that taken care of “soon”. It’s not intended as a brush-off; he’s right. I need new glasses.

…There’s so much shit to get done “in life, generally”… I don’t intend as an excuse, it’s more intended as discontented, frustrated grumbling. I’m “so tired”… That, however, is not an accurate statement of being, even in a subjective way. It’s my short-cut for communicating that there seems too much to do to get it all done “now”. Isn’t that always the case? “Now” is such a brief (and endless) moment… how I allow myself to see “now” as a duration of time definitely influences how much I feel I can do with it. My body and my mind want and need me to “really rest” – it’s been a busy few days. Conflating that with “life” can derail a lot of things I’d like to get done.

…I definitely need to see my eye doctor and get new glasses…

I found my reading glasses, and now, like an absent-minded little old lady (Am I she? So soon?), I hang them from the front of my shirt, switching when needful. Trying to, anyway. I forget. I also wander around still wearing reading glasses while I attempt to do other things than reading… with my regular glasses now hanging from the front of my shirt. lol

There really is something to learn here. It’s about more than the glasses. It’s about the self-care, and also the loving interactions affected when our self-care is poor. It’s about managing time, and about self-awareness. There are lessons to be learned from reading glasses… whether I use them, or lose them while they hang from the front of my shirt, because I’ve forgotten that they are there. Without them, I don’t see the world clearly. Choose the wrong pair, and there’s no real improvement. Time, timing, distance, purpose… there are things to consider, even beyond the obvious self-care elements; the glasses I wear become part of the face I turn to the world, and even facilitate the quality of my interactions with others (however indirectly).

…Sometimes “small” concerns are bigger than we can easily hold in our awareness moment to moment…

This morning I sip my coffee, reading glasses on, tri-focals hanging from the front of my shirt, writing, and giving thought to the day ahead. “What will I want to see?”, “Which glasses suit that need best?”, and lastly “Who in town does glasses that is covered by my insurance?” (New address means, in many cases, new care providers.) One more sip of this now-cold coffee, before I make a second cup, sit down to enjoy my partner’s good company, and begin the day (again).

 

My name doesn’t say much about me – you can call me Lisa if you’d like. Or not. Shakespeare had it right with ‘what’s in a name?’. You could ask me questions, a lot of them, and find out many details of my experience in life, my thoughts on those experiences, the values that drove the choices on which those experiences were built…but what do you know about the being within the fragile vessel by doing so? Some details. Cobbled together with some assumptions based on your own experience, your own values, and the choices you make about your understanding of the world, you will build a picture of ‘who I am’ that you are┬ácontent to accept as ‘me’. Maybe you like that person, maybe you don’t – is it ‘who I am’ for anyone but you?

Do I define the journey, or does the journey define me?

Do I define the journey, or does the journey define me?

Am I any less constrained by those same limitations – even when I consider the question ‘who am I’, myself? Who is this woman in the mirror? Do I define myself by my experiences? Which ones? Are the traumas inflicted on me more important than the events I chose for myself? Is it my response or reaction to events that matters more? Is it my thoughts, or my creativity that define who I am? Does my injury define me? Is it my choices, my values, or how I treat others? How I wear my hair is not who I am, nor is what I choose to wear. The books I read are not who I am, neither is how I vote. My anger is not who I am, and my careless frankness isn’t either. Somehow all of it is – but even all of it seems some very small piece of who I am – like ‘dark matter’, it seems the ‘who I am’ puzzle is by far the vast, most important bit ‘about me’, making up most of ‘everything’…and also not easily described or defined. So…yeah. Who I am? Who are you? These are very good questions.

I woke this morning feeling content, comfortable in my skin, and subtly in conflict with myself, as if I had wandered off from an important discussion in progress by waking. I lingered in front of the mirror naked, looking over this fragile vessel and considering the being within. Mirrors made me uncomfortable for a long time; I could not bear to see the hurt, sadness, and astonished betrayal in my eyes, and I was uncomfortable with my aging flesh. This morning I stood calmly, enjoying the curves and lines of a body that has served me well over the years. I smiled at a scar I’d forgotten about, and recalled the event that put it there. I paused to appreciate that so much of the damage done by the violence of my youth seems to be sorting itself out; I can stand in front of a mirror and enjoy who I am.

There is a small shaving mirror mounted in my shower. I don’t use it for shaving, and it is not placed there for the convenience of lovers or guests. I put that small mirror there because I noticed that living alone cut me off from eye contact with my traveling partner and I really missed it, and felt the lack. My reading on the subject of emotional intimacy and connection suggested the lack could be more fundamental, and perhaps be addressed as a need that I could fill for myself and somehow┬á‘get by’ on that. I put the mirror in the shower so every day, every time I am in the shower, I have an opportunity to make eye contact with someone whose affection for me is singularly reliable, someone I want to know much better, be much closer to, and shower (lol) with Love. I felt a little silly even trying it out – it seemed like a ‘trick’ I was playing on myself. Turns out not to be a trick at all. I have lovely eyes. I enjoy my smile – even the small quiet smile that often gets missed or misunderstood. Eye contact with myself seems to have the good emotional benefits of eye contact in general. As practices go, pretty simple, and I feel more in touch with myself. It helps that I am unafraid of the woman in the mirror, and on good terms with the woman within.

The morning is pleasant, my coffee is tasty, and the music playing the background has me grooving in my chair while I write. This is an excellent moment. I pause the writing to enjoy it, and dance to a favorite track.┬áThe practicing of practices, and incremental progress over time have taught me that it is not necessary to be so fit that I can dance for 30 continuous minutes or more to benefit from movement. At my heaviest, I had stopped dancing. Heartache stalled my joy machine, my weight and arthritis were significant limitations, and I couldn’t move easily. Over time I just stopped dancing. When I started trying to turn things around in earnest, I rather awkwardly and uncomfortably also tried to begin dancing again. First it was just seconds. I was stiff. Self-conscious. Fearful. Reluctant. Awkward. Uncomfortable. Uncertain. But seconds eventually became a song. Song, singular, became songs plural. Songs became a playlist, and a playlist became my morning and I awakened to the powerful joy in movement – not just yoga. Not just walking. I love to dance. I probably ‘suck at it’ by all external standards – and that┬ádoesn’t matter a bit. It’s about the feeling of it, the sensuality, the freedom, the sensation of the beat and the pure primitive delight of movement to music. That’s all mine, and I am not living this life for anyone else. I’m not 20 any more, true. I’m not Ciara, never was. Damn, though, it feels good to hear the music I love and be moved by it in a literal way, and be able to dance. Meeting that need doesn’t require impressing anyone. ­čÖé

This morning I am contemplating ‘self’ and ‘other’ and considering what it means to be individual, and to connect with others. Asking myself what I expect of me, what I tolerate, what I enjoy – and asking myself if I am applying my values fairly to both myself, and my expectations of myself, and others dear to me, too. Am I too hard on myself? I know that I can be. Am I too hard on others? Do I attempt to hold them to a standard I can’t achieve, myself? Am I too willing to excuse behavior that isn’t okay with me, because I am hesitant to apply a standard I hold for myself? I know that I have that potential, for sure. What matters most? We are each mortal, each prone to mistakes and poor choices, each entirely predictably likely to behave consistent with our own values – not the ones we share willingly in words, or the values the society we live within recommends; we live our true values in our continued behavior over time. I suspect it is one thing we are powerless to do differently; we live the values we actually hold, changing our behavior may require us to change our values – or result in our values changing because┬áwe have changed our behavior. Being attentive to someone’s behavior is the only way to know their values with any certainty. Then what?

Like a mushroom, there is often more to a question than the obvious words.

Like a mushroom, there is often more to a question than the obvious words.

Questions on a Thursday morning. More questions than answers. Plenty of time to love the woman in the mirror, and dance. ­čÖé

Sometimes when I write I begin with the idea – a sort of trajectory of thought exists before I get started. Other days, like this morning, I dash off a title first, and realize it has meaning for me; in this case it stalls me for a moment, because it’s a title I ‘don’t want to waste’. Title-first writing works just fine for me, and having a meaningful title to begin with is fine; I build the trajectory of thought on the title. ­čÖé

There are a lot of articles here and there these days about ‘being present’, ‘being engaged’, ‘good communication’, really all manner of relationship building articles exist on a worthy spectrum of relationship types, styles, and purposes. Most of them include at least an honorable mention for ‘being engaged’ and ‘communication’. There’s no coincidence there, and it’s pretty obvious day-to-day that human beings are social primates with fairly clear hierarchies, most of the time. This stuff must be challenging, though, for so much to be written about it… or… is it?

Taking a few moments to consider an idea.

Taking a few moments to consider an idea.

Sometimes the most valued practices are not difficult to do, only challenging to practice reliably. I find the idea of ‘being engaged’ with another person, during a shared interaction to be that sort of thing; engaging another person on a topic of shared interest isn’t hard to do; practicing the skills that result in doing it well is another matter. It gets more complicated for me in small groups. Engaging one person lets simple things like eye contact create that intimate shared space with one other person… but what if there are two, three, four or more people (but not quite a crowd, or audience)? What then? Suddenly, eye contact focused on just that one person seems to exclude the others in the group. Powerfully positive interactions with others, of the sort that reliably support, nurture, and encourage require practice (what doesn’t?). Balancing attention and a sense of being engaged, and approachable, across a small group is its own thing.

I’ve noticed some things about being ‘engaged’:

  • People enjoy and appreciate being heard; this requires attentive, active listening – which means stop talking, and stop considering what to say next, and just listen.
  • People enjoy connection, intimacy, kindness, and encouragement, bringing things┬áback to ‘being heard’, then requiring a┬áresponse that is relevant, and shows consideration.
  • Eye contact reliably creates a connection – staring intently into someone’s eyes in a fixed unyielding way is not that. lol
  • When I am focused on what I want to say, I am not listening to someone else’s words, and they are not being heard.
  • Intimacy in conversation is personal, connected, and engaged – and not exclusive to words being exchanged continuously; being there is sometimes sufficient.
  • People are emotional beings far more than they are rational beings, but generally see themselves (and each other) as rational over emotional; this has the potential to create conflict, simply due to mismatched expectations of outcome.
  • We are each having our own experience; invalidating someone’s experience because it differs from our own is a short cut to terminating intimacy and engagement, and generally ending the interaction with hurt feelings, anger, frustration, or distance.
  • Interrupting people when they are talking is another short cut to terminating intimacy and engagement, and results in that person potentially feeling they lack value in the relationship.
    • And what a complicated and painful sideshow this one becomes with a disinhibiting brain injury – trust me on this. ­čśŽ
  • Mindfulness practices and actively being engaged – practicing putting myself ‘on pause’ to really hear someone else – take continuous practice, application of will and intention, and readiness to learn and improve and listen and practice… and repeat; and are totally worth the payout in better relationships.
  • The world does not revolve around me, and pursuing ‘being right’ over ‘being there’ results in being right more often… alone. LOL
  • Almost anything can be practiced, with the result of changed behavior, thinking, and implicit memory over time; it is important to choose wisely what we practice each day.

So, there it is. A few things I’ve observed about ‘the rules of engagement’ among human primates. I’m not expert… but it looks pretty simple from this vantage point. Today I will improve my experience by listening attentively without interrupting (practicing, practicing…), and by making eye contact with each person I am sharing conversation with. Today I will be mindful that we are each having our own experience, and that ‘the opposite of what I know is also true’, and avoid invalidating someone’s experience with dismissive or disagreeable remarks – or inattention. (Mockery is straight out; I don’t do that, it’s simply rude and unkind.) Today, as with so many days, practicing the practices is the investment I count on paying off over time.

What love looks like this morning.

What love looks like this morning.

If practice makes perfect…what are you perfecting today?