Archives for posts with tag: choice and change

The menu of options in life is… vast. There is so much to choose from, so many directions one could take life, generally. A nearly unlimited array of choices in a complex choose-your-own-adventure experience that layers the consequences of our actions and decision making over a strange randomized mesh of other people’s free will and a sprinkling of circumstances builds our perceivable context, sometimes bamboozling us into thinking we lack control… or at least influence, and choice. Choice. I keep using that word. It’s a good word. It is a word with a lot of power.

Last night I saw The Hip Hop Nutcracker and enjoyed a rather comfortably adult night on the town that included a relaxed walk through a foggy, rainy, urban nightscape, a pleasant dinner, and a little pre-holiday window shopping. It was a lovely evening. Those were my choices.

This morning, I am contentedly grooving to a DJ’s mix that I adore (the DJ? the mix? both? 🙂 I’m just saying this is a good way to start my morning…or end my evening… or fill my time. lol). Another choice.

We don’t hesitate when we make choices about the music we listen to. That’s a pretty easy one, isn’t it? I like this. You like that. We share some experiences. We don’t “get it” sometimes. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal to like music other people don’t care for, or to acknowledge it when I don’t like some particular band, sound, genre, or track.

Music. Clothes. Style of furniture and decor. Colors. TV shows. Foods. Times of day. Our internal “preferences” settings are by far more complicated than any software. We spend a lifetime “building our profile” as human beings. We spend more time becoming who we are than we do being who we are… It seems useful to be aware of that, and to choose. I don’t mean fall into, and then accept, what we are and what we do – I mean think it over, seriously, and choose, willfully.

Who are you? What do you like? What have you chosen? What experiences and choices are a core part of your “profile” in life? Which ones are “just a test drive”? We grow and learn and change (if only the tiniest bit) every day – how much of that are you considering, selecting, guiding, and living with your eyes wide open?

You know this life is yours, right? What are you doing about that? I mean, like, today? 🙂

I listen to the music, grooving and enjoying my coffee, thinking over life and love and choices, and feeling content on a Thursday morning. It’s enough. Hell – more than enough – I may even be… happy. Wow.

This too will pass. lol No kidding, that’s a given. There will be blue days ahead, some headaches, challenges… maybe I will fail myself – or you – or maybe I will fall short of expectations in a less meaningful way, but still feel dissatisfied? Ups and downs and incremental change over time; however far we come, there is farther to go. Choose wisely. Choose willfully. Be the verbs. (It’s sounds easy, but there are verbs involved. lol)

I look at the clock, and into my empty coffee cup. The music plays on… “…keep it moving…keep it moving… keep it moving…

It’s already time to begin again.

The recollection of my nightmare lingered much of the day, unprocessed, and in the background. It wasn’t distressing me. I had already accepted its existence in my experience, and ‘dealt with it’ – I thought. In a spontaneous moment of unintended sharing with my traveling partner, it clearly still had the power to unsettled me, and I felt the emotions rush through me. It was a powerful moment to share, and he was there with comfort and support and his steady calm demeanor on which I so rely when I am in distress. A hug, a kiss, and our moment ended; I went back to work. The day finished well, and I thought no more of my nightmare…

…It was on the walk home tonight that the threads of that distant dream began to unravel, to tangle, to take new shape as I walked and considered love, considered the book I am reading now and a book I have long yearned to read and simply never started. I considered the nature of time and opportunity, in the context of this one finite mortal life stretching back 52+ years, and ahead of me some indeterminate additional number of (I hope) years. That was no mere nightmare last night – I walked home today grinning in the sunshine over the feeling of sunlight on my face, on my back, and a feeling of being illuminated from within. Perspective is still a very big deal.

Darkness must exist for illumination to reveal what is hidden.

Darkness must exist for illumination to reveal what is hidden.

Proust is on my Kindle now. There is a blank canvas on my easel. There is time in my day, and a feeling of lightness in my heart, as if all that is not mine has fallen away – some strange sort of ‘letting go’ has occurred in my sense of self. I’m okay with that; it’s a beginning.

The future, I mean. It sometimes seems ahead of me, but isn’t it really ‘just over there’, just the tiniest bit ‘out of reach’ seeming? How out of reach is ‘the future’ really? Is that apparent distance only a matter of perception, with each moment now building on the future-to-be? This seems relevant, too.  🙂

Meditation over coffee... like a sunrise in my thoughts.

Sometimes thoughts develop as a sunrise might.

I’m thinking about the future of the world and of humanity these days very nearly as much as I think about my own. When I think about my own future, I have a plan – or am generally working to build one if there is a lack. I have an understanding how my choices alter my future circumstances, and that there are consequences to my actions – and my thinking. I don’t always choose well, or choose wisely. I am not always correct about how events later will unfold based on choices now. I don’t always have a fully complete, mindful, aware understanding of the consequences of my actions – sometimes I am entirely incorrect about what those consequences will be, or spontaneously choose an action without forethought, for which I am ignorant of the possible outcomes. What I’m saying is that I am human. We each are, aren’t we?

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Each seeking illumination along the way.

I do think about the future, though, both my own future as one human female, and the future of my species. Do you think about the future of ‘humankind’? I hear people say things with a sense of futility or dismissiveness about the capability of humankind to live well, to live wisely, to choose survival…it often sounds to me that what they are saying, rather than ‘humankind will inevitably destroy itself and the world’, is ‘I am personally unwilling to take even one step in the direction of helping humankind exist, if I have to make a change, or take any sort of action or responsibility myself’. I hear it that way because I used to ‘be there’ myself. I’m not there now.

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I am not the woman I was at 14… or 40; I have changed with my choices.

Think about this for a moment; if we simply remove war, the industries of war, the expenses of war – and all the monetary give and take of waging wholesale slaughter of humans by humans and put that precise dollar amount into medicine, food, shelter, education, and global quality of life, we would solve famine, poverty, ignorance, and disease pretty quickly. So… why don’t we? I have turned this over in my head again and again, from the perspective of a lifetime of change that began with a conversation with my father at the kitchen counter about ‘utopia’ – I was 14 – and has continued through this one mortal, limited human lifetime to this present morning, sitting here, thinking again about ‘why?’ and ‘why not?’ (as philosopher types are prone to doing) and it hit me. I totally know why we don’t do that, and do it right now – it’s not a pleasing answer like ‘can’t’, but it is real and true, and it is a starting point. We don’t want to. There is profit to be made on fear, on poverty, on killing, on scrapping over meaningless utterly arbitrary territorial borders, on marketing to the insecurities we carry within ourselves that stop us doing something meaningful about what matters most, on building a bigger pile of money on which to stand and look down on our fellow humans who are exactly every bit as awesomely human as we are ourselves. It frankly sucks that we are not wiser creatures – or at a minimum, more compassionate ones. We kill and kill again, we turn our backs on each other, we treat each other badly based on stories we make up in our own heads about what frightens us… then, instead of noticing how horrible this is and choosing differently; we notice the horror, and create justification for how unavoidable it is, and how righteously we endure our choices.

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We can choose to be better human beings, or choose to excuse being what we are.

I am often seen by associates as politically ‘liberal’. I find it frustrating, because although there is some shared ground between what I think myself and the common American ‘liberal agenda’, astute friends who have known me years are aware that my own position on political matters is probably more correctly labeled (if we must) as ‘radical’. I do actually believe that we can choose differently, and that it is in our will and our choices that we are stranded as a primate species, fussing in the most primitive way over territory and assets, unaware that these totems of achievement are likely our undoing – with an entirely different future possible, and completely within reach if we choose it. Can one person change the world? Not really, no, not as one person; but for the world to change, it is those individual choices that will change it (incrementally, over time – the questions now, is there enough time left, and who will choose it?). That’s where the puzzle gets complicated. Is there ‘sin’ in profit? I don’t think so myself…but when ‘the game is rigged’ to ensure that profit reliably flows to some few hands at the expense of all, and exploiting the effort of many at great individual cost, we engineer the destruction of our species, globally. We’re watching it happen. We talk about it a lot. For every person hoping to change the tide, there are others wanting to profit from the status quo and reminding us all that the profits may diminish if we choose change. Yep. There’s the clue. Are we not ready to accept fewer dollars piled up in exchange for seeing humanity thrive? That seems strange to me.

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How much is money really worth?

For some days, I keep turning over the bizarre notion in my head, (fueled by too much political propaganda in my Facebook feed and social experience in an election year probably) that a ‘human mission statement’ might give each one of us an idea of the direction we are headed in the simplest possible terms. I mean, when I am at work I often give thought to the company values or mission statement when I am starting a project; I want to ensure the outcome of the work I am starting meets the company’s stated goals. I realized yesterday walking to work, that I do something similar when I evaluate the new year for myself, each January 1st; I look at my life in comparison to my values, and ask myself hard questions about what I am choosing in life and does it get me where I am going. (This may be something everyone does in some fashion – I’m no expert on ‘everyone’.) I think about UN “conventions” on a variety of topics and understand these to be an attempt ‘in the right direction’ as I understand that, myself…but I keep wondering…

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What are we doing?

Are we all actually in favor of humanity surviving, really? There are nihilists among us. There are profit-mongers, usurious money-lenders, and politicians acting for personal gain among us. There is hate and fear among us. There is ennui and futility. We seem to flail directionlessly, fighting over minutiae, and missing the point; we are destroying the one home we currently have, and treating each other badly. We don’t have to do either of those things – we could choose differently, this very minute, and go another direction. There are no arguments to refute. There are no rationalizations worthy of our attention. There are only verbs and choices, and each of us is making a difference of some kind; the question then becomes “Are my choices and actions such that I am promoting the emotional and physical well-being of my fellow-man in this moment, and securing the sustainable survival of humankind, and the habitat on which we rely, without damaging exploitation of resources or people, or other sentient life?” Well… that’s sure the question I hope we each ask, with every choice, every day. I see a lot of evidence that we don’t even give it a thought. Scary.

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Mindful living covers a lot of details.

This isn’t about ‘politics’ for me. This isn’t a race to a finish line, and there is no profit that justifies the destruction of other human beings, or other life, so that numbers in a bank balance grow. Gross margins and shareholders don’t matter even a little bit; people matter. I frustrate myself endlessly trying to communicate to associates who object to increasing the minimum wage that perhaps we would do better for humankind to look at the value of human lives when we talk about wages, rather than the supposed value of the work to be done; employment requires we give up some portion of our very limited life force to support someone else’s endeavors at the expense of our own (that’s why we get paid, right?). Our fragile human lives are worth far more than a ‘minimum wage’ – employers are fortunate that anyone at all wants to bother making widgets, or keeping spreadsheets up-to-date. No, I’m not ‘liberal’ – a lot of my ‘liberal’ friends are still very committed studious working stiffs who get irritated by people who don’t seem to be ‘doing their fair share’ holding down some 9-5, and this requirement to be ‘gainfully employed’ matters to them so much that they make relationship decisions based on employment status! I keep waiting for the promises of technology – touted in advertising in the 50s and 60s – to be fulfilled for humankind in the form of lives of comfortable leisure for one and all, with technology handling the daily grind, and human beings freed to pursue intellectual and artistic endeavors, to invent, create, to live and to breathe, and even to sleep… I keep waiting for humanity to actually care about the outcome for humanity over all, everywhere – because we are one species, on one mudball, and we’re all in this together. I may be waiting awhile – so in the meantime, I will do the best I can to make my own choices well and wisely, with an eye on a sustainable future for myself, for my family, for my species – and I’ll try not to be a dick, and try to avoid choices that are injurious of others, or that may rob them of their own opportunities to do and be their very best most human emotionally well selves. I’m still human, and still so imperfect…there is so often more ‘try’ than ‘do’, and a lot of practice to cover very little ground; it still matters to do the best I can.

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I come back to ‘now’, one sweet peaceful moment of stillness and contentment.

I’ve gone on awhile on this one. It’s been on my mind while I moved, and contemplated how very different effort supporting my own agenda feels, in comparison to effort in support of an employer’s agenda, and how very easily I could contentedly fill my own time, every day, doing the things I love…writing, painting, reading, hiking… How do we successfully monetize our passions? That’s not the question I most want to answer, myself. I’d like to know why we have to, at all? 😉

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Taking time to take care of me matters, too; it doesn’t have to be at the expense of the future of humankind – or of the world.

Today is a good day to be. Today is a good day to enjoy each precious moment, each simple joy, and each smile. Today is a good day to understand that indeed, I can change the world… even the small changes count for something. 🙂

 

This morning I woke to a powerful feeling of insecurity and fearfulness that points directly at the move I am making this very week. The timing is inconvenient – and quite probably not at all coincidental. Buried in the chaos and damage are ancient reminders that I “am not good enough” and “don’t deserve this” or “can’t make this work” or ‘know’ this will “all go very wrong soon enough”. The vague uneasiness and doubt escalate then recede again and again as I work through my morning routine. My eye falls on some detail that got missed in the housekeeping, like a used tissue that missed the small bathroom waste basket, but also got missed when I emptied the trash yesterday, and instead of simply resolving the matter and moving on without concern, there is a hint of inward beratement and impatience lurking there, waiting for me. It is unusual these days for me to be so hard on myself.

"Anxiety" 10" x 14" - and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ – and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

I almost skip my shower, as though taking the time for it somehow robs me of time I could otherwise use for… what… being anxious? I attempt to make a light moment of it, and although that fails, I find myself compliant with the self-care rituals so carefully maintained, standing in the shower, doing the showering thing. It’s a step. I make eye contact with myself in the small shaving mirror mounted in the shower, and take some deep calming breaths. Change comes with the challenges and disruption of change itself – and the change that is moving is pretty much going to touch every routine of my day, all the perspectives of each angle of view I am used to seeing, the placement of every object in my personal space, the ambient noises, and shadows – yep. Basically everything but the actual contents of my home, and me – the woman living within it. The magnitude and weight of it hits me fully for the first time… everything is changing.

…The nausea hit me unexpectedly, and without argument. It was likely that I didn’t drink enough water with my morning medication, but this makes twice in the past couple weeks and so rare these days that it is almost certainly telling me something… about something. In the moment, though, I take it as a living metaphor, and hold onto the perspective of puking up all the baggage, the anxiety, the fear, and letting it go. I don’t know that it was as effective as I’d like, but I feel some better. Could be that the anxiety was impending nausea all along, and that as human primates do, I gave it a root cause from deep within that was not actually causal at all, merely correlated. I return to my coffee, undeterred by the uncomfortable moment; there is much to do.

We've all got some baggage.

We’ve all got some baggage.

The anxiety and insecurity are common [for me] during experiences that involve a lot of change. The more change, the more fear, generally. I can feel how tight my chest is, and the coiled spring of anxiety that has taken hold of the place where my diaphragm once rested, relaxed and ready for all the breathing and such. I feel a certain moment of relief that my traveling partner isn’t sleeping in the other room this morning; my anxiety permeates the room in a palpable way, or so it seems to me. It isn’t a comfortable experience to live alongside, and is the big reason I didn’t reach out for his help with the move. “I’ve got this!” is the war cry of protecting my love from the bullshit I must still wade through, cope with – and perhaps someday master. There are so many things in life I rely on help with – but this one, the ‘managing change’ thing, I tend to rely most heavily on the woman in the mirror to get the job done, to circle back and find new comfort in new routines, to practice good practices, and to recognize stability and balance when the task is completed. I am eager to welcome him to a new home, with the same lovely calm energy, that feels similarly my own…but I try to protect him from how hard change hits me getting there.

So what if I am scared this morning? This is all happening quite fast – it was already January when I mentioned the observed vacancy to the apartment manager and found out about the remodeling. My original mention was as a passing fancy, only, and it was with my traveling partner’s encouragement that I considered it more seriously, eventually embracing the idea fully as a ‘next step’ on this journey, and a worthy improvement in quality of life at the expected price. I’m ready – I check again at how the budget works – but I feel this leaden dread resting in my belly.  “Bitch, what’s up with this fucking fear?” I think crossly to myself, almost immediately hearing my therapist’s voice gently pointing out the harsh tone I am taking with myself. Yes, yes, I know… I can (and these days generally do) treat myself better, and with greater kindness and compassion than this. I am irked with me; the insecurity would have been so much more easily managed a week ago, before the move was certain, would it not? I laugh out loud at myself; insecurity and doubt don’t work that way. I set aside my writing for meditation and self-care. Words can wait.

A helpful reminder; I apply it equally to how I speak to myself these days.

A helpful reminder; I apply it equally to how I speak to myself these days.

Enough is enough. I am enjoying a life of general contentment and sufficiency. One limitation all this time has been the challenges presented romantically by my partner’s allergies, and how those are affected by much-lived-upon apartment carpeting. We discussed often how much more easily and regularly we could and would hang out together were it not for his allergies. In no small part the entire motivation for the move is to reduce the allergens in my home. It’s that simple. I’m paying a high price to do so, were that the only benefit (a very fancy air filter might do as well at a lower cost over the course of a year…maybe…), but there are other quality of life gains being made that are specific to my own day-to-day joy: the view of the park from the patio, no windows looking into neighbors windows, no shared wall on the bedroom side of the apartment, all new appliances in the kitchen, a shower insert in the bathroom that is entirely undamaged and never-repaired without a hint of entrenched mold or mildew beneath sealant, more convenient to the little community garden, and with enough additional space to move my artistic endeavors out of the living room… which also ensures that when I am painting or writing, I am not distracted by the world, so common from the vantage point of the couch in the living room.

The fearfulness hit me this morning, perhaps because I suddenly worried I am not being ‘true to myself’ by making this move? If what I have here is enough – why do I ‘need’ more? The deep breath that followed put me right at long last. This move is not about what I ‘need‘ at any minimum level; I have enough right now. Hell, after spending most of a week with my traveling partner right here, I’m quite certain this, here, is enough for me. Sharing my experience with him feels wonderful – and I want to position myself comfortably to enjoy more of that. This move is about finding my way – and learning to navigate the distance in my life between ‘enough’ and ‘more’, and learning what I want versus what I need, and making good decisions about which sorts of ‘more’ keep me on the path of becoming the woman I most want to be, living well and mindfully, taking care of me, and taking care to love well. There is a peculiar balance to strike here; if I refuse to move because of the expense, explicitly in order to hold on to those dollars in the bank account, in order to maintain a specific quantity of cash flow, unspent each month, what am I buying with my labor? Numbers? In an account? To what end does this serve me when those same dollars can also add 300 sq ft of useful living space, of a more healthy quality?

At long last my brain gets to the point; is the money I will spend on the new place being spent on something that matters to me such that the price is worth it? Isn’t that the question at the ‘bottom-line’? Is there something more or different on which I would truly prefer to spend that money, right now, every month? Do I have more urgent needs to meet that are going unmet? No, not really – and saving it as numbers in an account would serve just one purpose for me right now; to make these same sorts of changes through purchasing a home sometime down the road. Since that can be done regardless whether I make this move now, but would ideally wait (I think) until the car is paid off, this unexpected intermediate quality of life improvement is a nice option. I embraced it eagerly for all these reasons, and more, and I’ve given it considerable thought…what more is there to do with the insecurity and anxiety now, except to breathe?

Why yes, thank you, I shall.

Why yes, thank you, I shall.

I’m ready. Fear is not calling my shots today. 🙂

“We are each having our own experience.”

...Stormy weather.

…Stormy weather.

I don’t actually remember, now, where it was I first heard that specific sentence, carrying the significance it now does. A book I read? My therapist? My traveling partner? I hang on to it on mornings like this one. Maybe you have them, too? Those mornings that begin well… I mean, really really well…then unexpectedly slide sideways on some icy emotional sidewalk? Yeah. Those suck. At least…they suck in the moment that I feel the good morning slip out from under me, stranding me in some very real, very challenging emotional moment of some entirely other variety.

Afterwards, sometimes days, sometimes hours, I often find that I’ve learned something important about someone who matters to me a great deal. It’s worth noting that I only seem to have these experiences with the people in my life who do matter most to me. That’s meaningful…but for now it generates only questions, and most of those are not of the useful sort.

Growth can be a lonely process.

Growth can be a lonely process.

I am continuing to re-read The Four Agreements. More studying, really. I find immense value in some of the simple concepts within this small, humble book. It’s on my kindle, but I am reading it from a bound book, to feel the weight of it in my hands, and connect with the experience in some more physical way, somehow. This morning, “Be impeccable with your word” rang out in my consciousness in conversation, and supported me; I was able to be more simply honest about my experience than I am often able to do without seriously escalating emotionally. Learning to let go of the sensation of ‘not being heard’ in order to speak freely, regardless, has challenging moments. There is balance and perspective to learn here, too. There are opportunities to learn to soften my tone, and choose words with care – still respecting my experience, and sharing it frankly, and simply. That isn’t always well-received – and it isn’t ever going to be ‘always well-received’, because we are each having our own experience; there may be things about what I have to say about mine, that are not a comfortable fit for someone else’s understanding of their own.

Those complicated mismatches between individual experiences, perspective, emic realities, maps – hell, even vocabularies and context – push another of The Four Agreements to the forefront this morning, “Don’t take anything personally.” It’s hard to be simpler than that. I am having my own experience, understood solely with my own understanding, filtered entirely through my own filters, limits, beliefs, and assumptions. I find myself wondering if all conflict, everywhere, comes down to one attempting to convince another to adopt an experience that is not shared… ‘just because’. Does the reason matter? Life and love are not a race to be won, or a competition in which someone ‘comes out on top’, or a battle… I guess, unless you’re in battle. At this point in life, my lack of interest in ‘being right’ sometimes sets me up to cave to pressure, rather than simply being.  That’s complicated. If I defy who I am to yield to someone else’s idea of who I am, or what I have said, I will neither be heard, nor will I be who I am. Strange puzzle.

This moment. Just this one, right here.

What about this moment? Just this one, right here.

You are not the person I think you are. You are who you are. I am not the person you think I am. I am who I am. Suddenly, this morning’s sturm und drang pulls the nature of attachment, and the gift of acceptance into focus. My irritation passes, and I feel more able to treat myself kindly; being poorly understood sucks. Being dismissed or rejected sucks, too. Feeling hurt over those things is still more suckage… but here’s something that doesn’t suck; being poorly understood isn’t about me, and there may be occasions when however clearly I express myself, the message is not wanted, and will not be heard. So not about me. Being dismissed or rejected? I guess I could take that personally – I’m pretty cool to hang out with – but why put myself through that? Choice is what it is, and there is no obligation for someone to choose me, in any moment, of any day, in any relationship. Free will being what it is, it makes sense to feel quite wonderful to be chosen – but probably healthiest to utterly disregard rejections, beyond moving on to other things with my time; there is no requirement that I be chosen, ever. Suddenly, feeling hurt dissipates, and I am free, myself, to choose.

Still, it’s not the morning I faced with such eagerness. That’s more than a little disappointing. I can choose, too, to invest in that disappointment, nourish it, grow it, and let it take over my day, filling my heart with resentment, and hurt feelings… or not. I think this morning I choose ‘not’. There’s a whole day ahead of me, with unknown delights that could so easily be missed if I am weeping in my coffee over someone else’s experience.

Each moment has its own beauty, its own significance, and its own worth.

Each moment has its own beauty, its own significance, and its own worth.

Today is a good day to enjoy my experience, and create compassionate space for others to similarly enjoy theirs, without taking personally the choices they make. Today is a good day to breathe deeply, to smile, and to notice that I am okay right now.