Archives for posts with tag: compassion

So human.

This morning, I wrote, as I do, but to a dear friend, only. It met my own needs, and I considered no others this morning. Huh. Still human.

The other day, I got poked by a rose thorn, but thought nothing of it; roses have thorns, it’s a thing people know about. Today I am fussy and irritated by the discomfort of the thorn still lodged in the pad of my index finger, rather inconveniently precisely where my finger strikes the keys of my keyboard. I don’t actually do anything about the thorn, I just bitch about the discomfort. Still human.

I read the news, get caught up, feel annoyed with myself for wasting precious limited lifetime on media bullshit, again, knowing it messes with my head for hours, sometimes days. I sometimes do it anyway, even to the point of reading and rereading the same news, covered the same way, by nearly identical media outlets, multiple times…until I finally notice I’m learning nothing new, and don’t even actually care. Still human.

I make a cup of chamomile tea to enjoy as the evening winds down, and can’t quite enjoy it, either because it is still too hot to drink, or perhaps because now I don’t understand why I didn’t make coffee, which I’ve already had more than enough of today…but I don’t know which, and don’t move to change anything. Still human.

I distract myself from all of these things with thoughts of love, and loving, and feeling grateful to be so well-loved, and so thoroughly accepted – and then distract myself again with my disappointed recollection that my Traveling Partner still has not made it over to see my new place once… Which… well, he’s hundreds of miles away, and has only been within an hour’s driving time of this address for about 24 hours in the past 5 (6?) weeks, so it’s not really a realistic expectation. Still disappointed. Still human.

It’s a life. My life. It’s not the life I had 7 years ago. Hell, it’s not the life I had 3 years ago. It’s a pretty good life. I’m content – and this is true nearly all of my time, even moment-to-moment, generally. That’s… yeah, so much beyond what I could have hoped for a decade ago. Sure, it’s taken awhile, and I’m still so very human. Still have ups that are too far up. Still have downs that are scary far down. Still have many moments and emotions in between the extremes. It’s a life. My life. I’m very human.

Just one moment of many

Tomorrow, I’ll begin again.

I woke feeling content and smiling, and even after I reached for the alarm to shut it off and felt the unexpected (expected) pain reminding me I am not 23 anymore (or 32, or 45…), I continued to smile. The morning has been easy on me so far. No  dishes in the sink (thanks, me!). A clumsy moment sent my phone tumbling toward the toilet bowl, and in an instant of exquisite good fortune, it landed on the floor. Time feels neither stretched nor compressed, and the details of the day to come begin to assemble as an orderly thought, over my coffee.

My coffee tastes good, unusually so, and I find myself wondering if a “bad mood” can be enough to throw off flavors? Maybe this has occurred to me before, in some other moment of wonder. I am content to have the thought now, and to recognize that the sense of novelty is likely born of an injury determined to mislead me without intent. I often experience things as either quite familiar or quite new seemingly at random, and without any particular connection to whether they are new or familiar. Objects. Ideas. Faces. It can be inconvenient, to put it mildly. lol

Watching the rain fall.

This morning even my quirks of character and of mind do not distress me. I am even eager, strangely enough, to proceed with the work day. The weekend was lovely. I spent yesterday quite gently, tidying up and giving myself a manicure, reading, hanging out with friends, and watching rain showers sweep across the meadow and marsh beyond the patio door.

4 years ago, life didn’t feel like this. I smile contentedly; it is enough, this morning, to be grateful, to acknowledge change, and to move on with the morning. There have been a lot of verbs involved, and a lot of practices, and incremental changes over time (sometimes to subtle to account for in brief moments). This morning, this lovely gentle, simple, morning, it is enough to smile, and to begin again. 🙂

I start writing this morning without a title. That’s not the usual order of things. Another night goes by, I wake and begin again on less than 5 hours of sleep. 4 nights on minimal sleep isn’t going to support great cognition, or emotional balance, and I make a point of setting reminders for later breaks, meals, and coffee. Focus and task management are already impaired. It gets worse on less sleep over time, reliably.

My Traveling Partner blew onto my doorstep yesterday, shortly after I got home from Jury Duty, driven my way by emotional storms and drama elsewhere. We hang out. He talks. I listen. I do my best to avoid criticizing that other person in his life, and to just be here for my partner. It is more important to support my partner, provide a safe place, and time to heal. I had expected to (most likely) spend the evening alone, meditating, relaxing, and making myself emotionally ready for today; I have a medical procedure later. At one or two points I begin to tear up unexpectedly as we talk; although he is here with me, he’s not realistically available to provide the emotional support that I need myself, for tomorrow, and with regards to my health over time. Not right now. I breathe through those moments; I am loved. It isn’t personal. This too will pass. The moments I find myself feeling alone in spite of his presence won’t be what I remember about the day. 🙂

I really need to sleep. I’m still not quite awake. I feel groggy. A little dizzy. I am in more than usual pain, in part due simply to being tired.  I double check that I’ve set my ‘leave now’ alarm. I double check it a few more times. I’m having trouble holding on to the knowledge that the alarm is indeed set. Really. No… really. I check it again anyway, “just to be sure”. I consider taking the car, if my Traveling Partner is still here when the time comes to head to my appointment…faster. Less time spent away from work on a busy work day. It hits me that there was something specific I’d intended to work on… I struggle to remember what. I am eager to be finished with so many things… finished with medical diagnostic procedures, finished with house hunting (and the implied move on the other side of that process!), finished with taxes, finished with hiring a new analyst and completing a software implementation, finished big disrupting tasks and events, generally, and back to living gently, predictably, uneventfully, and comfortably day after day. Sleep. I’d like to get back to sleeping regularly… that I’d like to begin again. Soon.

Speaking of beginning again. I think I’ll go do that. Today is a good day for beginnings. 🙂

The election is coming. Soon we’ll “all” vote. Actually, soon those of us committed to voting will mostly vote, some of us who are less committed will make the time for it, but a sadly large percentage of the eligible population will let the opportunity slip by. Still, Election Day is coming, voting will be done, and a decision will be reached that will affect the course of our lives for many more than four years to come. What are your values?

Pen and paper handy? ;-)

Pen and paper handy? 😉

I’m sitting here this morning contemplating values, value statements, and how difficult it is for people to answer the question “what are your values?”  For a long time I struggle with it, myself.  “What are your values?” isn’t properly answered by a statement of what decisions I would make based on the values I hold. “What are your values?” is also not seeking the same answer as to the question “what do you value?”, which could be seeking a material answer, or a state of being, more than the foundational underpinning of one’s decision-making, or personal… context?

I’m thinking about values this morning because the emotional fuss in my Facebook feed, and in the media generally, regarding the approaching election reveals a lot about people’s underlying values – things they can’t really “un-say” later. I find myself listening, and listening with great care and attentiveness. I’m not listening to which candidate any one person says they favor, it’s not about that; I’m listening to what people are saying their values are – what their deep down didn’t-straight-up-say-it-before-values are. It tells me about who they are, as human beings.

What are your values? Do you value respect? Do you value consideration? What about things like “truthfulness”, “family”, “education”, “power”, “strength”… there are so many things we might hold dear and build upon all our lives without naming quite clearly in our thinking – and without mindfulness awareness of who we have become over time. This morning it hits me differently, and I understand that the question “what are your values?” is another way of asking “who are you?”. The answer is far more telling, because it reveals some of the “why” as well as some of the “who”.

We let conflict creep into our values sometimes, usually a byproduct of bias, or due to having paid lip-service to something we think we should value, even though over time it becomes clear that our actual lived values are something quite different. Sometimes, the things we say we value… aren’t “values”, at all. In my own thinking, a value is sort of a metaphysical molecule in our understanding of the world, on which we build who we are, and guide who we will become. Some of what we value, we learn at home as children, and in school as we grow up. Some of what we learn is explicitly taught. Much of what we learn, for values, we just soak up as we grow, learning from those around us what is acceptable, what is not, and what is comfortable to say aloud socially, and these things become our values, implicitly. Many of us never reach beyond those early implicit values. Some of us must awaken to the bitter-sweet knowledge that our early life implicit value learning is deeply flawed, and we either lose our way in life, or carve our own path, under-taking to demolish old values, and embrace new ones. We’re very fancy primates to be able to reflect, to choose, and to change by the power of our will – and our practices.

We become what we practice. We practice what we value. What are your values? If you must make this journey, and there is no map, and you must rely on your values to guide you down life’s path, wouldn’t it be helpful to know what your values are, in a clear and simple way? (That’s intended as a rhetorical question, because the answer seems an obvious “yes” to me.) So… do you? Do you know what your values actually are, as you sit here reading these words? Can you name them? I found, when I started down this willful, mindful, careful path of practicing practices, taking care of me, and sorting out the chaos and damage, that I could not. I could not easily answer the question “what are your values?”, and honestly I found that fairly frightening. Was I really living my life based on decision-making resulting from potentially unknown values? Were my implicit values overdue to be reconsidered – and how would I do that, if I could not name them? I knew all my personal demons by name… how could I not similarly be intimately familiar with my values? Yikes.

That was some years ago. I sat down with pen and paper (those were things, back in the day 🙂 ) and three questions.

  1. What are your relationship values?
  2. What three values would you choose to build your life upon, if you were to choose your values based on adult experience and understanding of life right now?
  3. Do these values, taken together, allow you to continue to become the person you most want to be, practiced over time?

Finishing this exercise took several days of careful consideration, and reconsideration. The idea behind these particular three questions is a simple one; I interact with others, I exist as my own person, and I seek to grow over time. Answering these three questions provides me insight into doing those things with greater skill, and better outcomes. 🙂

I got tangled up in all the most common ways, considering these questions of values. I wrote paragraphs where a word would do. I lied to myself to align to cultural norms. I wrote answers that didn’t have anything to do with me personally but sounded great on paper. I stretched definitions to cover what I wanted to be real and true, rather than own my shit so I could make other choices. I fumbled in the darkness. I let myself approach these questions with new eyes each morning for days, and again every evening before I fell asleep. I wrestled with childhood baggage, and a lifetime of chaos and damage. I felt wrapped in wreckage, as if emotional concertina wire tightened around me as I struggled. Then I stopped struggling with the questions. I answered them, simply, and honestly, and accepting what matters most to me, personally.

For me, answering these three questions of personal values became my bridge between that woman struggling through so much chaos and damage, and that woman I most wanted to be… out there… that future me… a wiser woman, a kinder woman, a franker, fairer, more compassionate woman. Understanding that knowing my values explicitly would provide me a clearer opportunity to practice them mindfully was a wonderful moment of awakening. I don’t know that it is the sort of thing that is easily shared in words, but it has mattered too much not to try. (Hell, maybe I’m late to the party, and everyone else already got the memo…?)

What are your relationship values? These guide how you treat others, and how you allow others to treat you. They guide which relationships you’ll maintain, and which you’ll choose to walk away from – or whether you are able to choose to walk away, at all. (It turns out they also guide how we treat ourselves.) I talk about my “Big 5”; they are my answer to this question. (Respect, Consideration, Reciprocity, Compassion, and Openness)

What three values would you choose to build your life upon, if you were to choose your values based on adult experience and understanding of life right now? It didn’t have to be three, it could be two, or five, or 17 – although that seems excessive, and possibly difficult to manage. I chose three – because three is what I live, myself, and these are the values that I build my future on, and have chosen with deliberate care. They require practice, and ask much of me. In practicing them, they pull me toward my future. Mindfulness, sufficiency, and perspective are the three values I am choosing to build my life upon. It has made a great deal of difference in how I make decisions, and why I make the choices I do. What will you choose? What will you do about your choice? Having the intention, do you also have the will – and the verbs? There’s a lot of practice involved in this one, particularly if growth is part of the plan. It’s probably emotionally safer… easier, perhaps… to choose to answer this question only in terms of the being you are here, now. Even that is a significant improvement over struggling within the framework of implicit values learned in childhood without ever being considered with care. Make no mistake, this is a challenging question to ask one’s self, and the answer demands a lot of us once we know it. 🙂

Do these values, taken together, allow you to continue to become the person you most want to be, practiced over time? Simply enough, if the answer is clearly “no”… begin again. Ask the questions again. Consider the questions again. Answer the questions again. Consider your answers with great care; is this who you are? Is it who you most want to be? When the final answer is clearly “yes”… then the work begins in earnest, every decision, every choice, each moment, every day. There are verbs involved. Your results may vary. You’ll probably begin again, often. Still… in a life where you are your own cartographer, having your own experience, walking your own path, this seems a very good start to building a useful map. 🙂

So… what are your values? Whether you know the answer to the question or note, they will determine your vote in the next election, and in everything you do, and every relationship you have.  😉 Today is a good day to be who you are; every journey starts somewhere.

…Some journeys we don’t share so much…maybe not at all. Some journeys begin together, and end alone. Some journeys we don’t particularly want or need to share, but find ourselves in the company of others along the way. Even love works in this way; sometimes shared, sometimes less so. Sometimes love is convenient, sometimes it isn’t.

I sip my coffee this morning, thinking about love…and thinking about solitude. It’s an interesting private dialogue with the woman in the mirror. This morning there are no tears, but also no noteworthy joy. I exist in this moment, with coffee, without company. I’m okay solo. I miss the immediate presence of love. These things exist together, and dissecting them does not improve my perspective on my self, or this moment, and instead I choose to simply be, to comfortably exist with myself, without judgment – without questions (at least for now).

One of the challenges life’s curriculum offers me, personally, is the chance to accept on a deeply compassionate and understanding level that I am not always who/what can provide what my partner needs in a particular moment. “Too tired” for one activity (with me) may not be “too tired” for some other activity, with some other human being. “Too busy” to cross town to hang out with me, to make love, to share time, may not be “too busy” for adventure elsewhere, with others. This isn’t a criticism, and when partners choose something (or someone) other than each other, that’s not a criticism, either.  Giving each other room to grow, and to live our lives fully, requires that we also be open to it when our partners make the choice to do so. There are practices involved; it’s easy to become swamped by insecurity and doubt, or for emotional needs left unmet (and undiscussed) to fester. Taking my partner’s fun elsewhere personally would quickly result in feeling deeply hurt to be “left” alone – in spite of enjoying my solitude, and choosing it. It’s a puzzle best solved with open communication, compassion, loving kindness, self-awareness, and being very present and connected when we spend time together… and also being very much present with myself, when I am alone. That one’s harder. 🙂 There are verbs involved. My results vary.

I ended the day yesterday with a migraine. That sucked. Getting there wasn’t bad… I enjoyed a lovely breakfast with my visiting friend and my traveling partner (who are also friends), before we each went on with our own days. I hung out awhile with friends closer to home afterward, for a short while, before spending a considerable time quietly at home tidying up. That doesn’t sound at all adventurous, I know, and it wasn’t… but it was quiet, gentle time, simply being. I hadn’t actually been fully alone in days, almost a week. I didn’t even turn on the stereo, so deeply satisfying the silence seemed to be. Some hours later, the headache arrived, and some visual and auditory weirdness, along with the nausea. Nothing much helped, besides more quiet, and some darkness. Reading made me seasick. Any sort of video screen was entirely out of the question. I laid down with my headache in the darkness and just rested. Morning arrived – no headache. I’m happy about that. I don’t have migraines often, and I’m happy about that, too.

Today? I’ve no idea what today holds, other than one scheduled appointment right at noon time. The forecast suggests a hot day. I find myself wishing my appointment time were earlier… the sort of wishing that can quickly become irritation and discontent, the kind that rests in my thoughts as a sense of dissatisfaction. I breathe, and let it go. When that actually works well, I feel a certain sense of wonder and achievement; it’s been a big deal to learn to choose with greater care which thoughts to give substance, which to let go.

I remind myself the migraine last night may have the potential to affect my mood today, and promise myself very attentive self-care. It’s a commitment to doing my best, and also a commitment made with real affection. I’ve come along way with the woman in the mirror, and with some practice(s), we’ve got this. 🙂

Today is a good day… for… something. I’ll figure that out as I go along. I’m having my own experience… there are verbs involved. 🙂