Archives for posts with tag: check your assumptions

I woke with a headache and a stuffy head. A cold? Allergies? I’m not certain. Already there is uncertainty creeping into the day. I’m dealing with arthritis pain today, too, but… I’m not sure whether it is because the weather is chilly, or for some other reason. More uncertainty. I’m working through the final week at this job, ready to step into a role in a new place – there’s certainly (lol) no certainty about what that future experience will hold. Perspective matters; my sense of “certainty” is quite often simply a choice to favor one way of viewing circumstances over another, not really anything to do with what I do or don’t actually know. What do I even actually “know” with legitimate certainty? What do you “know”? How did you test and verify that knowledge? Or… did you simply sip it up with a cognitive straw based on what someone else said they “know”, and you’ve chosen to be fine with that? I mean… I can’t judge harshly on that. We all do it. Might be good to do that less, though…

I sit in a rainy forest, along a wet dirt road, near a puddle, listening to the rain fall, thinking things over… Well, not really… it’s a video, and a moment of reflection over coffee, is all. It’s “not real”… I mean, in the sense that I am not actually there. It’s quite real, inasmuch as it is a video of a real place and time. So… Moving on with the uncertainties…

I’d planned to walk the trail, but the park is still closed after the recent storms.

There’s a work day ahead. I also need to run to the store. These things feel “certain”. I mean, they’ll definitely happen, right? There are still a ton of assumptions that go into that carefully crafted feeling of certainty. I turn it over in my head, admiring my handiwork; that’s some careful craftwork, there. I feel comfortable with it, as “reality” goes. I’ll likely make choices and take actions that lead to those things coming to pass, more or less as expected.

…Expectations… Assumptions…

I breathe with the timer on my desktop, listening to the rain fall. In spite of my stuffy head, and in spite of my pain, and in spite of “life’s uncertainties” – which is, like, everything to do with living life – I feel pretty okay right now. That is a reality I can definitely embrace.

…Of course, I’ve still got to begin again. My results will continue to vary. All of that is okay, too. I’m just practicing. 😉

Not for consumption. Do not take internally.

Seriously; human beings can be mean, callous, insensitive, rude, inconsiderate, and yes, even deliberately hurtful. Don’t drink the poison just because it’s offered to you. 🙂 It can be quite difficult in the moment, when we’re feeling the emotional sting of something mean, cruel, hurtful, or just factually incorrect (based on our own also very human recollection), to remember that it isn’t actually personal at all; those hurtful words are a reflection of the thinking (and values, and intent, and practices) of the person saying them. Nothing to do with you, actually, unless you accept it, and internalize it, and make it your own. Why do that? Let it go.

We’re each human. Each having our own experience. Each writing our own narrative in our heads, cobbled together from our recollections, assumptions, expectations, values – and things we think we understand, about which we generally know far less than we assume we do. Even when we’re certain? Even when we’re “quite expert” in the field? Yep. Maybe especially then. We’re human. Thinking errors are built right in. I’m just saying, it’s very likely for any one of us that we are far less correct than we tend to assume, far more of the time than we’d ideally want to be, and waaaaaaay too willing to attempt to force our assumptions and thinking on others without even asking the simplest clarifying questions.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

…We could do better. I mean… I know I could.

recommended summer reading

I sip my coffee and let the day begin. Nothing fancy about it, although it feels very different. My workstation is in the dining room, and my fingers on the keys “feel loud”. I’m temporarily “kicked out” of my studio due to a leak my Traveling Partner spotted Friday (I’m damned glad he did!), and although we’ve gotten that fixed, there is some damage that needs repair, and some mold remediation required, too. Rather not sicken myself working in a potentially unhealthy environment, so with my partner’s help, a temporary workstation is set up. Homeowner stuff. :-\ It’s hard to grouse about it too much; it’s one of the things I signed up for, right? Taking care of everything that ever goes wrong? Yep. That’s on us now. LOL Fuuuuuuuuuuck.

Friday, when we spotted the damage being caused by the leak we later identified, was much harder. Paintings were damaged. I wept. There’s still a weight to the grief of that piece of this situation. It’s possible those paintings will have to be destroyed. 😦 The pain of it comes and goes, but seems mostly behind me, now. (I’m at the “paintings are just things” stage, this morning…) To get through it, to process the enormity of the emotional ache, I’ve spent rather a lot of time this weekend meditating on non-attachment (and how many of the things and experiences we become attached to in life serve only to cause us pain – because of the attachment, itself). I found it helpful, and rather more obvious, after all, that seems reasonable, when I do feel so much hurt. Letting go of some things is far easier than letting go others. Just being real.

I sip my coffee and contemplate all the many things I’ve let go of over a lifetime – often with considerable emotional resistance, sometimes because I’ve been literally forced to let them go by circumstances. I think about the pain of loss, and the relief involved in letting go of attachment. I consider how very many of life’s most painful disappointments feel that way because of the sudden severing of some unnoticed attachment to a thing, person, experience, or outcome. I wonder at the slow progression of healthy attachment toward unhealthy attachment that sometimes occurs in a relationship. I replay things my therapist has said about non-attachment, and practices useful for avoiding becoming “fused” with someone else’s emotional experience. The pre-dawn darkness slowly becomes morning light, and a new day. I finish my coffee. There’s a day ahead, and it’s time to begin again. 🙂

Where does this path lead?

*addendum and a wee follow-up note: I’m fully made of human. I really struggle with this one, like, nearly every day. Avoiding the pitfall of taking other people’s words, or experience, or emotions, personally – becoming attached to the feelings that causes me, and fused with someone else’s emotional experience is a shitty way to treat myself. So, I really work on this… a lot. Tons of new beginnings. Tons of self-compassionate reminders. A lot of moments to reflect on handling life more skillfully, and more comfortably. My results vary. That’s why I write about it. 😉

I’m starting this one now, late in the work day, afternoon sunshine spilling through the window onto my laptop, while I’m still irritated. I’ve been in a great mood all day… then… not. A few critical cross-sounding words, delivered in a stern parental sounding tone, in the middle of my work day – where, I promise you, I am not a child – and my mood feels wrecked. (I say “feels wrecked” instead of “is wrecked”, because it is not my intention to allow things to remain in this annoying state.) It’s time for managing the mood wrecker, and getting on with work, and the day.

To be very clear, I don’t mean to convey “mood wrecker” as an entity or person. It’s a moment, a phrase, an experience – it’s not about the who, it’s about the feeling. Shall we continue?

So, I’m setting this up for tomorrow’s writing, freeing myself up to tackle this challenge right now, while it is currently an irritant. I can write about it tomorrow, that’s plenty soon enough. 🙂 Hell, by the time morning comes, I may no longer remember the moment of nagging negative assumption-making delivered as “feedback” in any specific way, and unfortunately, whether I explicitly recall the specifics verbatim or not, the emotional change of “weather” has not ever shown itself to be dependent on detailed recollection at all. It just “is”. I’d really rather not just sit around in a shitty mood for the rest of the day, into the evening, and wake up in a crappy mood, no longer even aware of why. So. I’ll be taking steps – and practicing practices. 😉

…Wish me luck…

Still, and again. The very best practices work that way.

Here it is morning. My coffee is hot, and I feel rested and content. It’s a pleasant morning so far. The day, yesterday, finished well, and honestly, it was only minutes later that I was over my moment of aggravation. Here’s the thing; the content of the feedback/reminder I was given wasn’t an issue or any sort of problem. It was legitimate, reasonable, and valued. The person giving me the feedback wasn’t the “problem” – I value them and appreciate their insights. When I got past taking the tone personally, I could “just hear the words”. Once I was able to simply let go of my annoyance with the (implicit) assumption that the negative experience being discussed is “always” something I am personally and exclusively responsible for, I was able to hear the feedback itself as feedback and value it for what it was – an expression of importance and value, and a request to do some small thing differently to meet a need. Funny thing is, it was a request to do something I already see myself as doing, generally, make a point of doing (usually) and had been specifically doing for a couple days un-reminded, for the person who later reminded me to do it on an occasion when it hadn’t been getting done! I totally took their feedback personally, which is silly since I’d happily been picking up some slack for them for a few days, after being asked to do so.

I definitely took it way personally, and resented the reminder in the moment I heard it, as a result. Was it the tone? Doesn’t matter. Was it the phrasing? Doesn’t matter. Was it “true”? Even that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the task itself getting done is important to both the person reminding me and to me, and we do both want to see it done, reliably. That’s really the point of delivering the reminder in the first place.

The steps and practices for getting past it were pretty basic:

  1. Breathe
  2. Don’t take things personally
  3. Practice non-attachment
  4. Find the value in the message
  5. Show compassion
  6. Pause for gratitude

That probably seems like “a lot”, but the time involved was minutes, and begin with meditation (most of those steps fit into the time I spent meditating). The gratitude? I literally took a moment to reflect on how grateful I am to be surrounded by people who do care enough to remind each of what matters to them, and to give honest feedback when things go wrong. Doesn’t work at all if it’s not sincere, and that’s why that step is last. Takes me a minute and a bit of work to get there. lol Step 2 is the “hard one”. It requires me to work on me.

Finding peace and balance is a very personal journey.

These things happen at work, they happen at home, and they are not experiences unique to my life and my relationships. 🙂 Letting it go took some effort, because emotions are not about what is reasonable, what is true, or what is comfortable. They are what they are. Same for the person griping at me about the concern in the first place; it had become an emotional issue. Their emotions were audible, and that colored my experience, too. I’m glad non-attachment is a tool in my toolkit of everyday practices. I’m glad I know to practice not taking things personally. Those two practices let me move past the moment of aggravation and resentment, to a place where I could understand and embrace where the speaker was coming from. Will any two individuals ever see things “the same way”? Probably only by coincidence, honestly. We’re more likely to think we have the same point of view, than we are to truly share an identical perspective with any one other person. Differences in experience (we are each having our own experience). Differences in values (which change how we evaluate what goes on in the world around us). Differences in “personal dictionary” (the words we use have nuanced meanings, and it’s rare that we take time to verify a shared understanding of meaning). Differences in practices (what we do or don’t do, generally, change how we view the world, too).

It’s a lot to take in. Practices require practice. Sometimes growth isn’t easy. I’m “over it” – I’m not mad or annoyed. I get the point. Hell, I even agree that the task we were discussing is needful, and that everyone needs to “pull their weight”. (And, being real, I often do need reminders to get new tasks down reliably, at least at first.) The hardest part for me was letting go the persistent desire to come back with “Yeah, for sure, but how about you, too, though?” Unnecessary, I think, and likely less satisfying that I’d want it to be. The person delivering the reminder already sees the task as needful, so much so that they were willing to explicitly request my help getting it done on days when they were frankly very busy with something else, and kept forgetting to do it, themselves. So… yeah. That just leaves “did I?” competing with “didn’t I?”, and taking something personally that wasn’t personal at all… Letting it go just ends up being the easier thing, entirely. 🙂

I woke this morning having forgotten the reminder, the moment, the irritation, and my temporarily wrecked mood (which bounced back pretty quickly, given a chance). It was just another morning, another cup of coffee, another day to begin again. The draft I started yesterday reminded me. Reminders are emotionally neutral, and serve a clear purpose. 🙂 It’s not necessary to take them personally, at all. It’s only necessary to begin again. 😉

Once we choose our path, we’ve still got to walk it. The journey is the destination. 🙂

It’s hard to call it “waking up early”, when on a different day of week, under other circumstances, I’d just be… still awake. lol I woke around 1:30 am. I’m not sure what woke me, and initially I had every intention of simply going back to sleep. That just didn’t work out. I’m awake. Wholly and completely awake, and quite alert, and ready to begin the day… only… it’s not time for that.

I finally gave up on trying to sleep; it’s not an endeavor that lends itself well to vigorous attempts, and it had become clear that I wasn’t going to be sleeping again any time soon. I’m too familiar with the enduring grogginess that comes of finally falling back to sleep, less than an hour from the alarm going off, and then having to more or less drag myself through my day. Wasted effort. Never able to fully wake and enjoy my day with any sense of purpose. Trapped in a dream-like state. I just have too many other things to do with my time, heading into the weekend, and getting things ready for my Traveling Partner to return home. So – awake it is. I showered, meditated, did some yoga, and made coffee.

…So far it is a lovely morning. 😀

There is some sort of cosmic, comic, betrayal in my experience of sipping on this excellent cup of coffee; I am immediately sleepier than I’ve been since I woke up! I laugh it off; the clock keeps ticking, and I’ve committed myself, at this point, to starting the day a bit ahead of schedule.

As if mocking me, this also ends up being a morning on which I have little to say, as I sit here. I’m sort of just… here. That’s okay, too. There’s no requirement (or real potential) that every moment of living life be somehow spectacular and richly fulfilling. Some moments are just moments – quite enough as they are, and nothing noteworthy or fancy. It’s that sort of morning, only with extra minutes. 😀

I put on my headphones, and hit play on my favorite playlist. It’s tempting to read the news…but… I don’t need to fill my head with outrage machinery and Other People’s Drama, certainly not this early on a quiet morning. Music seems a better fit to this moment. 🙂 I smile into the day ahead, and let the moments tick by, contentedly. This morning, it’s very much enough. 🙂

Perspective is sometimes about the view from a singular moment. If I stand somewhere else, doesn’t my perspective change? 🙂

It took time, and still requires regular practice, and I can’t stress enough how valuable it has been to learn to shift my perspective. Getting hung up on one element of one moment of one experience can really wreck a day (or days, or weeks, or a lifetime…), and there is so much more to consider, to appreciate, and to incorporate into totality of this human life. I’m definitely a fan of a change in perspective in stressful times. Sounds easy – isn’t always. It’s easier with practice, though; we become what we practice. 😀

How though? I mean, in practical terms, how do I “change my perspective” on some hard moment, or other? Well… sometimes I play “The Multi-Verse Game”. 🙂

Every window potentially a different human life in progress, a different point of view…

To play The Multi-Verse Game, I consider my challenge from the basic assumption that there is variety in human experience. Given a large number of human beings, each potentially sharing some slightly different version of a similar, potentially very common, experience, how could the subtle variations play out? What different results would play out, based on differing choices, and subtle differences in experience? I imagine many different sorts of human beings, having this experience that is challenging me so very much, and I allow the scenes to play out, one by one. This person, that choice, these details – how does the story end? That person, other choices, different details – and now how does it go? I extend this into various versions of my own experience; if some one choice or detail were different, in my own life, how would my experience change, then? If nothing else, it becomes entertaining narrative craft, a little internal theater – and often, it allows me to more easily let go of bullshit assumptions I’ve made, and failed to notice are needlessly driving my stress. Sometimes the game serves to alert me of alternatives, and choices, that could work out well for me, that I had not previously understood with clarity, but are revealed in the story-telling.

Another great practice in dark times is making a point to test my assumptions; so much of my anxiety turns out to be caused by my assumptions, rather than by any solid truths or realities of my circumstances. 🙂

…I think of a friend. One of those old friends that is somehow “always there”, even if we’re out of touch for years. Still… sort of a dick move to not make at least some effort; people matter more than that. I pause to send him an email. Just a greeting, really, and a reminder that we exist on a shared journey, separated only by distance. 🙂 Dropping off of the social media landscape has been a little odd in this regard; I’d grown very dependent on it to maintain friendships and associations across vast chasms of geographical distance, and even across time. Now? I’ve got to actually work at those – and occasionally find myself “trapped in the now”, far away, and less than inclined to do so in any practical way. I contemplate my great-grandmother’s letter writing, which I can recall from the edge of adolescence. She was still living, and it was the focal point of her life. She wrote letters to friends. They wrote letters to her. It’s a habit worth cultivating. The world changes – will social media (and the internet, or even electricity) always be available? I sometimes wonder…

The music plays on.

Yeah… that’s the stuff I listen to “in real life”. lol  What about you? Aren’t there details about who you are, the you that you, yourself, know so well, that all those “non you” people seem regularly surprised by? 😉 I grin to myself, content to be who I am, in the wee hours, half-aware of the time as it passes, song by song, minute by minute. I notice that my coffee, cold now, is almost gone. It’s well past 3:00 am, already. Feels like a new day, and not the “middle of the night”, now. I guess it’s time to begin again… 😀