Archives for posts with tag: choose your adventure

Here we are. Another opportunity to live life with intention. Sounds pretty cool, a little trendy. Modern buzzwords amuse me. I sip my (iced) coffee, and make room for a moment of gratitude; I didn’t sleep well, and my Traveling Partner also missed out on good sleep last night – we still shared a few pleasant minutes over morning coffee together. That’s precious time – it’s not a given that we’ll always be here together. Change is. Misfortunes and tragedies do occur. Life does throw some curveballs. We face our circumstances, and make our choices – our results are going to vary. Maybe a lot. Maybe not in good ways.

…How well we deal with misfortune, adversity, and change, are a large part of our success (or failure) at living well (and just maybe finding happiness). It’s not about the successes and joys so much as it is “how do I deal with this terrible shit??”

So this morning, I’m taking my time really waking up and starting the day. Sipping my coffee happy that I have coffee to sip, and pausing to wonder if I’m making the best choice of coffee beans – can I make choices that are less likely to support a corrupt or exploitative system in which profiteering prevents farmers and workers from living their best lives? Small choices can make big differences. Our choices matter. Even the small ones.

I breathe, exhale, and find myself – instead of relaxing – fighting the pain of my arthritis on a sunny morning. I repeat the exercise: breathe, exhale, relax. I do it again. I keep at it until my first thought/sensation following that exhalation is anything at all other than pain. Small successes matter. I’m still in pain, but now I’m actually breathing comfortably instead of taking shallow breaths stiffened against the pain I’m in. That’s something.

…60 is approaching quickly. I keep finding myself thinking about family, friends and comrades-at-arms with whom I won’t be celebrating – because they’re gone. Just, like, for real gone. Dead. The permanent kind of gone. More than a few missing faces. Gloomy. I don’t know why my mind keeps wandering this path. Feeling my years, maybe? It’s been an interesting life thus far… I’ve seen some things. Done some things. Experienced some things. Some of it good. A lot of it. More good than not.

…I hold on to that thought, “more good than not”…

It’s time to begin again.

I’m sipping my coffee thinking about work. Thinking about life and love. Just sitting here thinking. Yesterday wasn’t a great day… but it also wasn’t actually a bad day. Neither my Traveling Partner nor I had slept well the night before. We were both more than a little cranky as a result. We managed not to snarl at each other to the point of being insufferably unpleasant, though we were also not super cheerful or inclined to be close, and it showed in our interactions. Prickly. Terse. Irritable. We could have done better. So much better. Even after a decade of living and loving, we have room to improve on how we treat each other, how we behave under the influence of stress or fatigue, and how skillfully we heal and soothe each other. Still, we spent much of the evening hanging out together more or less contentedly. That was nice. Looked at through a different lens, it was actually a pretty good day, generally.

Another sip of coffee, my thoughts turn to work. Sometimes I love this job. Sometimes I see myself as just another “corporate whore” making a go of it, earning a paycheck, and keeping that going to keep bills paid and food on the table, doing my best but also understanding that it’s a paid gig because I would not stick around doing this shit for free. Practical. Pragmatic. Still doing my best, because that’s what I’m paid to do.

“Baby Love” in bloom, May 15, 2023

I think about how far I’ve come, for some minutes. 15 years ago, life did not look like this. I lived in a seriously run down apartment in an area characterized by economic struggle (and mostly inhabited by students, and people who could not afford a nicer place or something closer to work). I had a job with a title that sort of impressed me when I took the job, but turned out to be camouflage for dirt wages and a toxic work culture. I was surviving, but definitely not thriving. My mental health was in bad shape, and I was pretty heavily medicated without great results. My relationship(s) were suffering my lack of good mental health care. My self-loathing and despair had become a quagmire of sticky trauma preventing me from making changes. Change was coming… but I didn’t know it, couldn’t see it, and for sure was in no condition to make wise rational choices about how to best move forward from where I stood. My life had reached some sort of steady-ish equilibrium of misery that had enough to sustain itself for whatever remained of a lifetime, and I had mostly sunk into a deep apathy about it – the resulting persistent anhedonia and general misery oscillated with occasional (frequent) explosive tantrums.

15 years later, I barely recognize myself as the same woman. I have a nice little house in a pleasant suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of a cute town in a country county. I’m surrounded by good neighbors, working-class skilled laborers, machinists, makers, professionals… you know, people. Good-hearted people, mostly kind nice people. Good neighbors. It’s a nice town. My job title? These days it rarely reflects the complexity of the work, and it doesn’t much matter; I’m paid fairly for the work I do. I work for companies, generally, that treat folks well. My mental health is in a great place, relatively speaking. I could be healthier. I could be “saner”… incremental change over time is still something I count on. Slow progress, steady progress. I feel hopeful, generally, and positive. I make changes fairly often, rarely really large changes – doesn’t seem necessary, generally. Small things make big differences. There’s no “equilibrium of misery” – misery feels incredibly shitty these days, because it is rare. I’m fortunate that I’m rarely miserable. Anhedonia? No thank you. Explosive tantrums? Rare enough these days that they are not a feature of my experience, just an occasional and unfortunate circumstance that trips me up when shit goes sideways. CPTSD. It’s not going to “go away”, it just gets better, slowly. 🙂 I’ve got better tools. So many tools.

…Then there’s love. This partnership. One of the best “tools” in my toolkit is my partnership with my Traveling Partner. Healthy relationships may not “fix” everything… but unhealthy relationships? Surely capable of destroying progress and emotional wellness! I’m glad every day that I’m so fortunate to have this partnership. I feel cared-for and supported day-to-day. We’ve got our issues and challenges; we’re still human primates, we still lead with our emotions, we still fuss over vexing bullshit and blow small stuff completely out of proportion now and then.

It’s been a hell of a journey. In May, we celebrated love together, 12 years of it. In June we’ll celebrate that I’ve stuck around to see 60 years of sunrises. Wow. That feels like a bigger deal than 21, 30, or 40, by far.

…I guess the entire point here is, taking things a step at a time becomes, at some point, an entire journey. Choices, verbs, steps, decisions, circumstances, events… time passes. This too will pass – whatever “this” is. The journey is the destination. There’s value in trying to make it a good one, one change at a time, one choice at a time. Begin again.

I am sipping flavored water this morning. I had my coffee on the commute into the office. It’s a Monday, and these days I rarely go into the office on a Monday, but I woke to a reminder from the VA about an appointment today that I had managed to memorize correctly for the date, but somehow thought that would be on Wednesday. It is not. It is today. LOL So I quickly adjusted my intentions, and hit the road for the morning commute. I expected it would be tedious… but… apparently I’m not alone in not going into an office on Mondays; there was almost no traffic at all.

I am thinking about the weekend, and the time spent planning future getaways with my Traveling Partner. The truck has us both fired up and eager to explore corners of favorite places and new destinations previously unreachable in his sedan, or in my Mazda. We have hours long conversations about camp kitchens, roof-top tents, jet-boil stoves vs all the other sorts, the necessity or luxury of taking a portable toilet, and does it make sense to have a solar generator and a fridge, or is that just ridiculous? There are so many options to choose from, so many approaches to overlanding, camping, hiking, from the gear to the routes to take, to the destinations near and far that we might want to see. It’s a pleasant way to pass time together, talking about the options and our choices, and whether we can tackle them now, or whether they go on a list for future purchases – or is there some other way we can do that thing in a less costly more personalized way, using our skills, time, and materials on hand? I’m getting to know a whole new side of my Traveling Partner – it’s very exciting.

I spent much of my weekend in the garden. Planting alyssum for future mounds of fragrant ground-covering flowers. Putting up a trellis for the peas. “Encouraging” the blueberries and the roses with oohs and aahs of delight that they are doing so well, already. Checking to see if the neighbor’s cat is staying out of the vegetables now that I’ve put that cat-deterring spikey-matt down here and there. Weeding out dandelions from the flower beds and the small bit of lawn we’ve got. (So many dandelions!) It was a lovely weekend. Time well-spent.

The real point here isn’t that I had a great weekend spent in excellent company. The point is that I had choices. A lot of choices. I chose to enjoy the weekend in spite of the pain I was in on Friday evening, and much of Saturday. I chose to go hither and thither with my Traveling Partner for occasional errands (I could have stayed home). I chose to garden. Together we chose to put time into figuring out what we really want of our leisure time – and how we can make that happen most easily. Oh, for sure, sometimes I let myself bob around like a cork on the ocean, and circumstances or the whims of my partner made the decisions for me… nonetheless, even taking that approach is making a choice. There is so much that is truly within our control through our power to choose. 🙂

I think I’m saying “don’t choose to be miserable then wonder why you are miserable; choose differently if you want a different experience”. Misery is sometimes kind of an “easy way out”, isn’t it? There are verbs involved in escaping misery. Results will vary. We become what we practice, though… so… keeping practicing? Choose something different? Begin again?

Choices are not always “simple” or “easy”. Outcomes are not guaranteed. We do have an astonishing number of choices, though…

I guess I’ll begin again. 😀

I am thinking about journeys, and maps, and preparedness, and how different life feels at each different “stop along the way”. Just a few more days – mid-June – and I’ll be on the other side of 60. Wild. At 25 I wasn’t even certain I’d see 30, with any confidence. I can’t honestly say that I’ve been a skillful or well-prepared traveler in life, either. I sort of stumbled on down the path wherever it led, and I’m fortunate to be where I now stand. (Well… actually, where I sit, as in this moment right now, I’m sitting at my computer with a lovely hot cup of tea, after a day in the garden.)

I’m enjoying this cup of tea, feeling my muscles a bit stiff and achy after the gardening. Lots of stooping, kneeling, leaning, and of course, occasionally standing back up. lol It was a good day of gardening, and I’m pleased with the results; peas and beans planted, the neighbor’s cat (hopefully) quite discouraged from my vegetable bed, a wire trellis added for the peas to climb, and some new herb plants tucked in here and there in the flower beds among the roses (some French tarragon, lemon thyme, and a curry plant). It has been quite a lovely day.

One sunny corner in my garden.

I love the garden as a metaphor for life. Is it perfect? Nope. I sure don’t have either that kind of money or that kind of time. I work on things over the seasons, adding something new, making some little change or improvement, enjoying what I’ve done, and starting all over again each Spring. Eventually, I know the primroses will fill in that corner they occupy, though they haven’t yet. I know the lupines will bloom sturdy and bold, in their own good time – they’re still quite young and are still developing strong roots. I know that eventually, the neighbor’s cat and I will achieve some sort of acceptable understanding of our mutual boundaries. Next year, the blueberries may have fruit, but I know they won’t this year. Still, season after season, year after year, I make improvements, and I enjoy the results. I make a point of spending more time appreciating what worked out nicely, and the veggies that ripened to maturity and yielded good harvests. I don’t spend much time thinking about the entire row of gorgeous seedlings that damned cat dug up, or the unexpected freeze that killed an entire crop I planted too early. I take note of the things that went wrong. I’m observant of the things I failed at. I just don’t get mired in those details or spend much time dwelling on those. It suits me to spend more time on the delights of the garden, and my great joy to be there.

…Life also seems to benefit from that approach; I let myself soak in the joys and celebrate the small wins. I face my failures with measured calm, and an observer’s gaze, without getting stuck there. I mean, that’s the goal. 😀 I’m still ever so human. lol

I saw a small brown bunny today, nibbling my neighbor’s lawn while I worked. I enjoyed a chocolate donut in the passenger’s seat of my Traveling Partner’s new truck, as we headed home from running errands together. I breathed fresh morning air, and enjoyed afternoon sunshine. It’s been a thoroughly lovely day – it doesn’t need anything more to complete it. It is… enough.

I sigh, and sip my tea. It’s warming and quite nice, smelling of pine and forests. I feel chilly; it’s just fatigue. I contemplate a hot shower – that would feel pleasantly warming, too. Sometimes the simplest things are quite enough.

My Traveling Partner and I have been enjoying happy hours discussing camping trips and discussing the gear we have, the gear we need. The truck is a lovely addition to future adventuring, no doubt, and we found ourselves short a few things to camp together or go overlanding. Almost all my gear is specifically selected for solo camping, and intended to allow me to travel light while also ensuring I can get a good night’s rest, enjoy a cup of coffee, and apply first aid to a blistered foot if needed. Together? Hmm… we’re more about the glamping and the really getting away, you know? LOL There are new trailheads waiting! Another useful metaphor for living; traveling. Solo or in the company of a friend, traveling benefits from a bit of planning, and from being prepared. There’s value in bringing a map…but… sometimes, we really do have to blaze our own trail, and become our own cartographer. (I know, I know… helpful to have an emergency beacon, GPS, a trail app… it’s the 21st century, and we have so many more options in life – and in metaphors. 😉 )

…I find myself thinking back on a wonderful camping trip I once took with a dear friend. I don’t recall quite where we went, only how lovely it was. I took a wonderful walk, though I wasn’t really certain what to “do with myself” – I was too recently returned from deployment, too recently discharged back into civilian life… I did not know how to camp recreationally. LOL I kept trying to find something to do… kept an eye on the horizon, listening for certain sorts of noises… hilarious looking back on it. I also made some sketches, wrote some poetry, read awhile… It was a good time, and I’m glad I have it to look back on. I sure wish I could remember where that was…

A nice way to coast into the evening. I smile, finish my tea, and think about love. It’s time to begin again. There are adventures yet to have, and my birthday is so close! 😀

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about how often it seems that the solution – or greatest likelihood for that potential – is found within some relatively simple practice or task, and that all that is required is to do that thing. In this instance, I am thinking about my anxiety, which has recently flared up pretty severely – enough to amount to a reduction in quality of life and even a cognitive impairment. Unpleasant, for sure. Wrecks my sleep. Causes stressful rumination and massive thinking errors. Renders me defensive and likely to take dumb shit personally. Kicks over a domino effect of other challenges associated with both emotional and physical health. What is the simple practice that relieves my anxiety, reduces my “second dart” suffering, and restores the joy in my experience? Meditation. Mostly. Self-care, generally.

In my case, this time around, the drivers of my anxiety and my background stress are generally to do with work. More specifically, employment (and the implied day-to-day details of working for a living) and being employed, and spending X portion of my days dedicated to someone else’s agenda in return for cash. So… I took a closer look at two details: my self-care practices as they are, and the conditions at work that drive my stress. I checked for mismatched self-care-to-stress and no surprise, I found it. So, I have room to improve on how I manage my stress. Okay. Good starting point. I began there, with the weekend. Then, I examined the work conditions that are causing the stress and asked myself some basic questions…

  1. Are the current stressful conditions likely temporary, or more likely to be chronic, long-term, or characteristic of the role I’m in?
  2. Do I have realistic expectations?
  3. Are there obvious steps I can take to improve conditions thus reducing my stress?
  4. Is this job my only option?
  5. Is this job truly what I want to be doing – just as it is – or am I committed to the paycheck more than the role?

You can see where this leads. So, I took the time to reflect, and found that it made things “feel less personal” – which is useful, because things of this sort are rarely personal, and getting mired in that feeling can make it so much tougher to practice good self-care, or make skillful decisions about what I do with my time.

Over the weekend, I updated my resume. Looked over some other opportunities. Every new adventure leads to new questions, and new knowledge, and we don’t know what we don’t know. It’s a path. The journey is the destination.

There’s always room for a new beginning. 🙂

I finish my coffee, and sit with my thoughts for a moment. Soon enough I’ll set up the work day. First, I think I’ll take time for meditation, and maybe enjoy a short walk. Then? I’ll begin again. 😀