Archives for posts with tag: chaos and damage

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…

Yesterday was hard. Very. The day before that was easy. A exceptional day. I didn’t write on either day. I don’t recall the reasons, now, but by the end of yesterday I was feeling very much like it was a massive self-care fail that I hadn’t been writing. The whole day was drenched in similar fail-sauce. Communication breakdowns. Loss of emotional balance. Taking shit personally. Mild frustration in one moment or another becoming, over the day, a sort of chronic feeling of being “over-extended”, with too much to do, too little time, and everyone wanting “a piece of me”, leaving nothing at all left of me for me. It was entirely subjective. It was shitty, as experiences go, and the result was an abyss of internal chaos that spilled out into real interactions with others – most especially my Traveling Partner.

Sometimes apologies don’t cut it. (A very unhelpful observation.)

Since the move, we’ve done a lot to improve how we’re set up in the house, how well things work, and continue to make repairs and small quality of life improvements. Since the AC leak and associated water damage have kicked me out of my studio temporarily, I feel even more displaced than I did from moving – while I’m trying to get settled in, and build new healthy routines that support my mental health and emotional wellness in a new place. Yesterday was clear evidence that I’m struggling with the “getting settled in” process. I’m finding very little traction as I work toward building new healthy routines for living my life; every fucking thing is constantly changing, even moment to moment. Mostly good changes. Still changes. I can’t seem to “get used to” anything. I’m overwhelmed and feeling the instability in my environment in a very visceral way.

“This too shall pass.” Still true. Doesn’t make this shit “easy”. (No one said it would be.)

The days are mostly good days. This life is a good life. I focus on the observation that I feel generally okay, and things are generally good… This experience is not about how things are, though, it is a very personal experience of how I feel, which may not even be tied to reality in any direct way. (Doesn’t serve to make the experience of those feelings any easier.)

The solitude I woke to this morning lasts very few minutes. My Traveling Partner wakes early. I make him coffee and return to my writing. A minute or two later he asks “What are you doing?” I reply “I’m writing.” His surly, mildly sarcastic reply, “wonderful”, is followed by “I’ll be somewhere else”. As he leaves the room, I feel my anxiety level rise in the background. Is my typing extra loud? Am I hitting the keys super hard, or very fast? Does my typing convey my emotions (or suggest an emotional experience I may or may not be having but is uncomfortable to listen to)? Yesterday was hard on both of us. I don’t resent his irritation, or take it personally. He’s having his own experience, too.

Damn I want my studio back. I can’t paint. My gaming computer is in there, too. I generally write in there; it’s also my “office”. My studio is a haven where I can experience and explore strong emotion without interfering with other people (and similarly they would not be interacting with me). I feel, subjectively, like I “can’t get a minute to myself” or “can’t hear myself think” or “can’t get any cognitive down time”. I’m not sure those things are objectively true at all. I suspect they are not. I do know the chaos is incredibly uncomfortable, and I’m not dealing with it well (or wasn’t, yesterday). In spite of decently restful sleep, I don’t feel “rested”.

…The pandemic isn’t helping. My Traveling Partner and I, aside from a small number of errands that get run by necessity, are together 24/7 and take “the lockdown” very seriously. I do enjoy his company. I also very much enjoy solitude. I feel a need for both. Without my studio to retreat to, I struggle to set healthy boundaries, and yesterday’s meltdown makes it clear this is not a sustainable set of conditions. Looking back on yesterday, I can see how the day started as a poor mix of me working from home, and his enjoyment of my presence prompting him to seek out more interaction with me, in spite of my (clearly inadequate) boundary setting and expectation setting about my work day. It could have been a lovely day, in spite of any of that, but at some point I lost my grip, and my perspective. “Everything” felt like “too much” at some point, and things spiraled out of control for me from there.

I can tell from my partner’s tone this morning that he is still feeling hurt by yesterday’s chaos and I feel that sad lingering concern that “I’ll never get any better than this”. Probably a common feeling for trauma survivors still struggling with their chaos and damage over time. I remind myself that context, perspective, and self-talk matter. I remind myself that my partner and I are indeed “separate people”, and to avoid fusing with his emotional experience, and seek instead to tend to my own, and care for myself more skillfully. Sitting down to write is part of that. Even in the dining room. Even when I don’t feel encouraged. Even when time is short.

…I remind myself how loved I am, and how much love I feel for this other human being who is now more or less forced to deal with me without a break…

I breathe, exhale, and relax. I let go of the persisting anxiety about how my partner is/may be feeling, what he is thinking, and remind myself that we are each having our own experience – that’s not only unavoidable, it’s okay. Nothing to fix. I focus on the day ahead. How do I get back on my path, make wise choices, care for myself well, and be the person I most want to be? What practices will matter most, today? I look at the time… and my half empty cup of coffee. I have time to take a walk before work. I check my work calendar. I’ll have a good opportunity to soak in the hot tub a bit later. Another errand to run. I look for a good time and put that on my calendar, too. What about meditation? Where will that fit in…? And household chores…? The work day? I start feeling the anxiety rise up, again. I breathe, exhale, relax… definitely need that walk.

…It’s time to begin again.

Last evening was relaxed, and contented. I shared that time with my Traveling Partner. All is well. We checked in with each other regularly, gently, careful to be our most considerate and our most kind. The evening followed a difficult morning, for sure, and we were not planning to worsen that experience, or prolong it. We let that shit go. We each embraced a new beginning, individually, and together. There were verbs involved. Now and then, our results varied (at least initially).

I crashed early, likely one of the consequences of my emotional bad weather from earlier in the day. I slept deeply, waking once or twice – noisy neighbors, partying on a Saturday night – and returned to sleep quickly each time. I woke early, late for me, managing to sleep in a couple hours. I made coffee. It’s good. I refilled my vape with this “peach gummy” flavored juice I made, then found my morning halted momentarily when I could not change the battery in my vape device. Shit. Small thing. I shrug it off and grab a different vape to use, frowning with distaste at the “vanilla latte” juice I no longer favor. I try a few more times to unscrew the cap from the battery box on the other vape, without success. I use a tool or two, no luck there either. Fuck. I set it aside, refusing to allow the morning to become characterized by frustration.

I make a point of letting my frustration go. This particular challenge need not command the whole of my attention this morning; I’ll deal with it later. πŸ™‚

I sip my coffee and reflect on yesterday, ever so briefly. This, too, need not command the whole of my attention this morning. πŸ™‚ I’ve already dealt with it. πŸ™‚

I hit my vape. Less than satisfying. I sip my coffee. Very satisfying indeed. I contemplate balance, and choices. I contemplate emotion and reason. I think about our new life in a new home in a new community, and find myself wondering if at long last Emotion and Reason will take her place on the wall somewhere, in our home?

Because love matters more.
“Emotion and Reason” 24β€³ x 36β€³ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

It’s a leisurely Sunday morning. I think about some household chores I’d like to get done today. Nothing major: vacuum, dust, clean the bathroom, do some laundry, empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, routine quality of life stuff that simply has to get done, regularly. I’m okay with it. Doing those things is a meditation of sorts. My Traveling Partner is very helpful with the housekeeping. He counts on me for some of it, I count on him for some of it. Together we get it all done. Partnership. I feel calm, and okay with myself, my life, my relationship, my recent choices, the move ahead of us…. Hell, I feel okay with the rather gray morning, that hints coyly at sunshine later, but promises nothing. It’s a pleasant day, and I’m in a good place. It’s enough.

I may never be “fully over” or entirely free of PTSD. I’ve learned to spend more time on joy than on sorrow, and on creating order than on creating chaos. I’ve learned some practices that help me bounce back in hours instead of days (or weeks). I’ve learned not to take my own moments of despair personally. The actual damage was done so long ago, how does it actually even matter now? I don’t take that personally, either. I’m human. I feel a pang of deep, abiding regret for the pain my PTSD causes my Traveling Partner… then I give myself a moment of kindness and compassion, and some for him, too; his PTSD similarly causes me pain. I let it go. We’re in this together, although we are each having our own experience. πŸ™‚ Forgiveness is about letting go of the hurts, and growing, and moving on from that chaos, and beginning again, isn’t it? I regularly choose to begin again, right here, with my Traveling Partner, because it really is the sort of partnership worth forgiving the small hurts, and sharing this complicated journey toward being the human beings we each most want to be. Nothing about that suggests we’re traveling with a clear plan, a detailed map, or smooth illuminated pavement. Our results vary. There are a lot of new beginnings, together, and individually.

The clear simple perspective of a quiet Sunday brings me a satisfying peace.

I sip my coffee and think about the move ahead of us. That’s not until July, and I have time to plan, to anticipate, to consider, to daydream, to tackle real questions, to discuss, to share, to work out this-or-that detail. We’ll enjoy many hours of conversation about rooms, placement of objects, things we may need (or want) in the new place that we do not have now. A budget is already beginning to take shape. A countdown of sorts has already begun.

Life is very good. I’m okay. I happen to have PTSD, and maybe I’ll always have symptoms flare up unexpectedly? Maybe I won’t. I’ll become what I practice.

It’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚

I sit awhile, coffee untasted, headphones on without music, listening to the sound of the computer fan, staring into the blank white abyss of an empty page. My fingers are frozen, poised ever-so-lightly on the keyboard. Mind temporarily paralyzed by the remnants of a powerful fight-or-flight reaction to unexpected harsh words first thing upon waking. Humans being human. Things, generally, are so improved over years past (distant past, at this point, really), that I forget about the PTSD, until I stumble over it. In a flash of circumstance or temper, I’m mired in it, again. Reeling from a flood of powerful emotions, followed by a flood of tears, I’m still shaken, more than an hour later. Vulnerable, and a bit fragile, I retreat to the solitude of my studio, until I can get myself past this moment, and sort out the chaos and damage from what is steadfast and true, reliably real, and less about some damaged moment that is not now.

…This is hard. I’m “out of practice”, I guess, and for that, I am grateful.

The tears erupt again, and spill over, making the text on the page distorted and surreal. Am I okay? Sure. For most values of “okay”, I’m okay. Certainly, I am okay right now, and I am safe, and there is nothing to fear here in this place – or in this relationship. I remind myself, and look around, here, now. Leftover baggage that I may carry for a lifetime weighs me down a bit, that’s all. I deal with it privately, as often as I can. Very few people are actually qualified to “help with this”. I already have the tools, and the practices, and the experience (of an entire lifetime of chaos and damage), to handle the self-care and emotional recovery on my own. With those things in mind, it’s beyond unreasonable to attempt to get help from my Traveling Partner right now.

Reaction? Over-reaction. I recognize that, and begin the tender work of caring for this fragile vessel. Taking care of the physical details will build the strongest foundation for the emotional needs yet to be met. I make myself sip my coffee. It tastes quite fucking awful this morning. It’s a matter of perspective. There is no comfort in it; I’m just making sure I don’t set myself up for failure, later, with a caffeine headache. That’d just be dumb. I take an Rx pain reliever for my physical pain. It’s a rainy spring day and my arthritis is what woke me early this morning, before I was really ready, or fully rested. No point letting that become a thing of greater significance later on. I blow my nose and dry my eyes. I take an antihistamine to combat seasonal allergy symptoms. I correct my posture. I do some yoga. I meditate. All of these individual self-care details help re-stabilize me. Give me distance from that one difficult moment. Build reserves for the moments to come; no way to know what those hold. My subconscious is still shrieking alarms bells at me, as if there is a legitimate concern, where none actually exists.

Fuck PTSD.

I breathe, exhale, relax. I let all of that go. Again.Β More slow tears. Another breath.

More practice.

I know I’ll take that next step of seeking a positive distraction to occupy my waking consciousness, and move on from this, fairly soon. I’m far more well-equipped for these experiences than I was 7 years ago. Yeah. 7 Years. More. It’s a long journey, not gonna lie. There are verbs involved. I’ve had to begin again ever so many times. In the past, I’ve been hard on myself sometimes to the point of inflicting additional damage. I think I’m past that, now. There are still hard moments. Being human doesn’t come with any sort of manual, life doesn’t have a clear map to follow. Sometimes shit is hard. Ridiculously difficult, and over what seem the most trifling of details. It is what it is. We are what we are. It’s a journey, and in most practical regards, it’s a solo journey; we’re each having our own experience.

I breathe, exhale, relax. I let all of that go. Again. No tears this time. Another breath. I feel calm. Practical. Resolved. Understanding. Compassionate. Still a little fragile, but I’m ready to begin again.

Again.

I’m sipping my coffee and smiling. I slept through the entire night. I feel rested. It’s a nice feeling with which to start a Friday.

Tomorrow, although it was not my original plan, I’ll make my way south, see my Traveling Partner, see friends, see a piece of property for sale that could become, perhaps, my own. A busy weekend ahead. A new plan.

There are things about the weekend ahead that don’t feel entirely comfortable for me. I turn it over in my head. Look at all the details from new perspective. Consider them in the context of my values, and my sense of self, and come face to face with the awkward truths of personal growth; I am not who I once was. (To be fair, that’s most likely nearly always at least a little bit true… of most people. It is a consequence of growth and change.) Considering the matter keeps my mind rather busy for some minutes.

Eventually my thoughts move on. They were, after all, only thoughts.

One more work day. A busy weekend. A couple rather long drives. A few hours of rest. Then back at it, with another week of work, then a busy long weekend, with a couple rather long drives… a few hours of rest… an illusion of a break in the routine sufficient to restore lost reserves, but more likely to drain them… then, on the far side of all that… oh fuck, am I kidding me?? The very next weekend after the long Memorial Day weekend is a long festival weekend… A festival, in fact, I have already lost interest in (the line up seems less exciting than I expected it to be)… and don’t know what to do about. Then… my birthday. I feel fatigued just thinking about the next 4 weeks.

…And in case I get cocky about progress in life, and managing my symptoms skillfully… my brain sees an opportunity for a sneak attack, the minute my birthday crosses my mind. “No one really cares about your birthday. Not even as an excuse to party. If you had a party, at your place, no one would come.” I sit in stunned, hurt, silence for a moment, wondering if that “is true”? The fact that it is a thought, and that I am capable of thinking it, doesn’t do anything to validate the truth of it, one way or the other. I can almost feel my chaos and damage, and a horde of tiny inner demons gathering around the edges, waiting for me to begin troubleshooting the painful thought, to begin obsessing over it, and letting it dominate my thinking…

Not today. πŸ™‚ Thoughts, as with emotions, have no substance I don’t give them. No ability to create change until I take action. An uncomfortable thought is what it is – it doesn’t ever have to be more than that. Today, I look one boldly in the face… and shrug it off with an unconvinced and, better still, unconcerned “maybe”. People are people, and they can’t all go everywhere and do all the things, however much they yearn to. This very weekend, I’m having to choose between 3 equally enticing fun-seeming events to party with friends – different groups of friends, in entirely different locations. I can only do one. Do I hold the other friends in less regard? Do I think of them less fondly? Not at all. It was even a really hard choice. I smile and sip my coffee. Choices are a thing. Making them requires considering them. Hard choices sometimes result in some uncomfortable thinking, reconsideration, and doubt. Uncomfortable thoughts don’t have any special powers – they do tell me that some particular thing matters greatly – and that’s worth knowing. πŸ™‚

I give myself over to my thoughts for a moment, and consider that my 55th birthday apparently really matters to me, myself. I wonder quietly what I might want to actually do about that? lol

I finish my coffee and pull myself back into this present moment, facing this imminent upcoming weekend; there are things to get done to make the house ready, and to be ready, myself. It’s time to get started on all that. It’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚