Archives for posts with tag: contentment is the vaccine for OPD

It can be a bit of work, support loved ones through difficult times. I remind myself that the circumstances change, but the humanity remains; we need each other.

We don’t need a lot of complicated drama and bullshit – but being human, we also, sometimes, don’t recognize where our choices may lead, before we get there. Once we’re there, we may have been slowly inoculated over time to the point where although it is obvious to a great many other people, we don’t see what a mess we’re in – or what a mess we’re making – nor how it affects other valued relationships.

If that’s what you’re waking up to this morning, you have my sympathy. I’m sorry that’s the situation – an expression of pure regret, without any personal involvement. Drama sucks unless it’s on a stage (even then, sometimes it still manages to suck; not all performances are equal). Here’s something majorly cool, though; you have choices. Seriously.

…so many choices…

The path (and practice) of non-attachment is a huge win for fighting drama demons. There are verbs involved, of course. Choices. But the simple (seriously simple) choice not to engage the trolls in our social network is incredibly effective. The choice to let go of whatever we’re attached to that is being used against us can be a radical move in the direction of freedom. Although it feels incredibly costly, often we can more quickly and easily move on from a negative experience, or toxic relationship, if we can make peace with the perceived “losses” that result from doing so. Bonus; few things aggravate a hate-filled troll more than being of no consequence whatever. lol So… there’s that.

It’s easy to recommend. It’s harder to put into practice. We’re so easily baited. We’re so heavily invested. We’re so reluctant to be fully aware that our emotions show up for every appointment before our reasoning thinking mind can even find a parking space nearby. lol I said it. The balance between emotion and reason tends to rest on an understanding that emotion is more immediate, more reactive, and less easily argued with – even internally. We tend to “believe” our emotions, even in the face of contradicting data. It’s both a strength and a weakness.

On the other side of the equation, if you are invested in your righteous rage, and lashing out while justifying your shitty behavior with smug observations of how “right” you are… maybe… just maybe… You’re not actually the good guy in this little scene? Think that one over. If your decision-making is more about the effect the outcome will have on another person – most especially if that outcome is intended to be difficult, painful, awkward, challenging, or “deserved” – you are definitely not living up to any aspirations you may hold about being a good human being. Just saying. You can do better. Don’t be one of the bad guys. Yep, even if the person with whom you have developed this drama “deserves”… whatever you think you’re so right about. That’s your opinion, based firmly in the context of your personal narrative, most of which you made up in your head. Leave room to be human. To be wrong. To do better. To be the good guy.

Or not… It’s your call, I guess. I’m just saying, stooping to bad behavior merely because you feel hurt by someone else’s words or actions, is… fairly stupid and short-sighted, and generally also quite counter-productive.

Here’s a flower. Let that shit go. Begin again. 😉

There should always be time for beauty. 😉

 

…I still got the invitation to join the fun under the big top. That’s sort of how OPD (Other People’s Drama) works; it’s not your own, but nonetheless, it draws you in, consumes your attention, your time, your resources… if you choose to allow that. The alternative, which is to say, choosing to avoid, or depart from, the local circus of human drama means accepting, first, that you can.

Some people cultivate drama, relish it, and insist you sample it with them.

You don’t get those minutes (hours, days, weeks… whatever) of your life spent on drama back. Ever. You likely also don’t recoup any more tangible losses, should you have been so foolhardy as to waste your literal resources on Other People’s Drama. Most often, our compelling, seemingly unavoidable (it isn’t) drama is that of family members, and friends. We may feel “invested”, or obligated to do something about for… reasons. We may think we can “help” (unlikely; drama is chosen by those who love it, and they aren’t going to relinquish all that attention any time soon).

The drama isn’t “real”…

My weekend was weird. I cherish the time I spent with my Traveling Partner. The unexpected drama swirling around an unexpected couch-surfing house guest staying with his other partner was… both unexpected, and dramatic. It was also utterly willful, built on the narrative in said house guest’s head, and entirely untethered from any obvious connection to reality. Chosen. Emotionally invested in. Shared with persistent enthusiasm. I excused myself several times to be away from it altogether. No advice I could offer will alleviate self-selected willful suffering.

…like a mushroom, what is on the surface of most drama is only the outward expression of something far more vast …

Then there was the alternate undercurrent of drama that is simply the ebb and flow of change as my Traveling Partner and his Other get settled into the new location, and adjust to nearer and farther away friendships also adjusting to those changes. Getting to know new neighbors. The welcoming of deepening associations among now-local friends. The boundary-setting and limitations on resources that must sometimes be placed on friends lacking recognition that generosity has limits, that resources are not unlimited, that circumstances change. Learning to live well in an entirely new context. It’s lovely out in the country on their acreage – it is also not city living, at all. Change is a thing. What works when one can just pop down to the big box chain at the large shopping megaplex down the street isn’t necessarily an effective strategy when the nearest neighbor is a drive away, the corner market doesn’t have all the essentials because it is only the size of a storage shed, and “town” is miles down the highway – and more of a village than a town. I’m not being critical of country living – I’m eager to retire and embrace it – it is simply quite a lot different, and requires altogether different strategies to maintain good quality of life. It definitely drove the point home to be part of the experience of shopping for more complete first aid and emergency care gear; there is no chance an ambulance could arrive to deal with a first aid emergency in less than 45 minutes or so out there, at best.

…like raindrops clinging to surfaces after a storm, tears fall, tears linger, tears eventually dry…

The drive home was… surprisingly restful. lol No traffic and no drama. My timing was excellent. I left after enjoying morning coffee with my partner. I got home in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to grocery shop (didn’t need to, didn’t bother), do some tidying up (didn’t feel like it, didn’t bother), and prepare for the week ahead (didn’t need to, already was). I spent the evening meditating, reading, and enjoying the changes in the shadows as afternoon became twilight, and then night.

…there is value in perspective, and looking beyond the storm of the moment…

I still did not wholly escape the whopping helping of OPD that I “enjoyed” over the weekend; more drama when I got home. I (rather humorously, actually) was “unfriended” by a friend – over the other friends we had mutually shared (who, apparently, he also unfriended). I noticed though (while briefly catching up with the world), and, yep, invited drama rather thoughtlessly by asking him what was up with the unfriending? So… he told me. lol Fuuuuuuuuck. Okay, okay. That one’s on me. But – we’re still friends, I think. I even think that matters, since the entire mess was a reaction to an online exchange which I was no part of, and I actually like the guy. I even enjoyed spending some minutes in conversation with him, once we’d moved on from the drama, itself.

…storms pass.

Seriously, though? What is up with all the fucking drama? I mean, I’m not really surprised. We elected drama. We gobble up drama in our feeds every damned day. We make more if we run out. It’s pretty gross, actually; we are not ready to be content, or even to enjoy a moment of quiet. I mean, as a species, or a culture. Me personally? So ready. In fact, I spend much of my time utterly without drama. It’s pleasant. I plan to do more of that. 😀 I’ve even gotten pretty good at it. (If you read my blog regularly, you are probably getting pretty good at it, too. 🙂 )

There’s more to life than drama. Seasons change.

I woke at 2:32 am, this morning, when the power here went out in the strong wind and stormy rainy night. I might have slept through it (most of my neighbors likely did), but the back up power on the aquarium beeps in a friendly but hard to ignore fashion, about every 30 seconds, until shortly before it has done all it can, at which point it beeps rather more aggressively before becoming silent. Once it was silent, I went back to sleep for an hour. The power came back on minutes after the back up power to the aquarium was exhausted (just about perfect, and I remind myself to thank my Traveling Partner, who suggested it), about an hour and a half after the power went out. I dragged myself out of bed earlier than I meant to when my phone, carelessly left on my nightstand, buzzed when morning emails and message notifications began to arrive.

What we contribute to our experience ripples outward into the experience shared with others.

A new day, a new week – hopefully no new drama. lol It’s time to begin again. 😀

I woke with a smile an hour ahead of my alarm. It’s a calm quiet morning. It’s more than enough, in all the best ways. I sip my coffee, smiling still, very much aware of my good fortune in this lovely moment.

I saw my therapist yesterday. It’s been a long while, and the visit had its own flow, its own unique vibe, familiar, intimate, comfortably supportive, safe enough to reach into the darkest pit of anxiety, fear, or damage, and come through the experience still whole and with my sense of self intact. I arrived home to enjoy the evening with my traveling partner. It was a lovely fun evening, and we shared some of that with friends.

Only one thing marred an exquisitely lovely evening of fun among friends; drama. OPD (Other People’s Drama). Close friends, in a quiet moment, began an obviously stressful conversation about personal finances. I did my best to give them some privacy and overlooked it as things started to escalate emotionally. My place is a “drama free zone” by choice and by design; once things began to escalate, I attempted to communicate a boundary, first by gently working to change the conversation. I was not effective. They continued to have their moment. Although we had planned to have dinner together, one partner stormed off all door-slamming-ly to deal with things elsewhere, leaving the other rather morosely working to deal with it from the vantage point of my dining room table, staring into a personal device, exchanging messages at length. Who hasn’t been there?

It's hard to unsay the words.

It’s hard to unsay the words.

In spite of my sympathy, and my compassion, my own self-care is a higher priority than OPD, and the house rules include such things as “don’t slam the door, or the cupboards, or – yeah, actually don’t slam shit”, and “don’t yell”. These are non-negotiable. Says who? Um… me. My house, my rules, my way. The eventual return of the partner who stormed off was accompanied by an air of “who me? nothing happened with me, why?”, and followed by an abrupt departure by the pair, headed for other things – and no apology for the drama. My final attempt to communicate a reminder to the door-slamming friend that my home is a drama free zone was met with a weirdly childish defensiveness, as though it were more important to assign blame than to be accountable for ones actions and show some consideration for my space, and my boundaries. It was uncomfortable. That discomfort lingers. I’m not yet certain how I’ll deal with the whole mess once I have a chance to process it.

I set that aside and return to the morning, here, now, this lovely quiet morning. Last night was unexpected and delightful – what does tonight hold? There’s nothing on my calendar for the weekend, and a quiet weekend at home sounds really good. I laugh about that, reminded that last night’s great joy was built on a foundation of music, laughter, and boisterous good times. It was not quiet here last night. I think about my traveling partner, and smile. I am well-loved indeed. Finding that comfortable balance between planned and spontaneous, boisterous and chill, rules and anarchy, boundaries and the things that lay beyond them is all part of the journey, I suppose.

Love matters most.

Love matters most.

What a lovely morning to begin again.

It’s an odd sort of morning following a somewhat peculiar evening. It was a pleasant evening, and it is a pleasant morning. It would be easy to lose sight of how pleasant it is to focus on the oddity. The pleasantness, for me, is more important.

Evenings are quite short these days, a common experience for people who work and commute some distance. I arrived home about an hour earlier than usual, yesterday, which is enough time to make a difference. I enjoyed a bite of dinner, and meditation, and was headed to the shower when my traveling partner arrived. A whirlwind of greetings, moments, departures, and arrivals later, and the apartment was full of people, laughing, talking – it’s fairly easy to find a party breaking out at my place when both my traveling partner and I are at home; we two enjoy both company and solitude, and if we’re already together (and thus not alone) it’s a handy time to get other friends together, too. Parties happen. 🙂

I sip my coffee and for some moments think about far away friends, and long for their company, too. Magical thinking could intervene here, and leave me feeling lonely, or annoyed, or even inappropriately “abandoned”, or sad over what is not. It’s a choice, and I choose not to head down that spiral. I cherish my far away friends over my coffee, smiling with grateful delight at technology like Facebook, that so easily keeps us all in touch over the years. Any perceived distance melts away like morning fog as the sun rises, when we get together again. In the meantime, there are pictures of life, of new babies, of dance recitals, of fun and adventure, of love – all shared with affection, preserving a long-distance connection.

"Long Distance Connection"  18" x 24" acrylic on canvas w/glow, 2010

“Long Distance Connection” 18″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, 2010

Last night I crashed pretty early, and the party moved next door out of respect for my working hours and early mornings. I actually slept well and deeply. I woke with the alarm, feeling comfortable in my body, content with the woman in the mirror, and ready to start a new day. No noteworthy pain – so I make a point of noticing the lack, and making that, itself, noteworthy by being aware of how good I feel right now, savoring it, lingering over it, enjoying it without any dismissive internal commentary. I take time to be okay with being okay. Being miserable can become a very bad habit; we become what we practice.

I sit quietly, sipping my coffee, living my life gently, feeling contented. It’s a lovely start to a work day. I think about the  years and years I didn’t start my days this way, and then the years that I tried… and tried… and tried… and often found some delicate fragile moment of contentment or delight would skid unexpectedly sideways off life’s highway, leaving me stranded in tears by the side of the road, unaware that I only needed to dust my self off and walk on. There are so many choices, and so much of my experience is in my own hands. It can be daunting. Then, too, there’s all that “positivity” stuff out there, and “faking it until you make it” encouragement; those things didn’t work for me at all. Authenticity is demanding, and some of the moments of a life well-lived are… challenging? Unpleasant. Some of life’s moments are frankly awful. Still… I couldn’t force positivity down my own throat, and no amount of repeating scripted affirmations or pasting fake smiles on my face got me anywhere. I gave up, and in giving up felt even worse about myself and my circumstances.

I tend to be a very positive person these days – but I didn’t start here, and getting here wasn’t the goal. I started with taking better care of myself (physically and emotionally), and took up practices that supported my wellness, and nudged me gently towards my long-term goals by improving my self-care, my awareness, and my willful actions, over time. I suppose someone could respond that they feel like a screaming spoiled toddler, and if they are (mis)behaving it is merely an expression of their authentic self… I guess that’s where having a conscious awareness of my values is helpful for me; I don’t think to justify bad behavior on the basis of “authenticity” – because that isn’t the woman I most want to be. I don’t find myself having to “fake it” – I do find that choices are necessary, and there are verbs involved. I begin again, regularly. When I fuck up and hurt someone, I apologize sincerely and without reservations or excuses.

It’s been a long while since I had some terrible meltdown. I take a moment to appreciate that – because, honestly, realistically, and being so very human? This too shall pass. 🙂 It’s likely that sometime in my future I will be frustrated, or angry, or childishly disappointed, and I will have to deal with it appropriately.  I may hurt someone’s feelings and have to apologize. I’ll be wrong about some things. I’ll fail at some others in spite of trying. I may kick myself while I’m down, or revert to a bad habit unexpectedly. Still… we become what we practice. I’ll begin again. Over time, in small sometimes hardly noticeable increments, change will occur.

We do become what we practice. I stopped practicing having relentless temper tantrums and yielding to primitive frustrated rage – but not by “quitting”; I began practicing something different. That’s my own version of “positivity”. More a doing than an undoing. For me, it started with the most basic mindfulness practices, a few minutes each day for myself that I could really count on, and the will to begin again day after day, as if my life depended on it. (From my perspective, it very much did.) My reading list is built on the resources that got me here, now. I can share titles of books forever, and perhaps you even read them – but without the verbs, the practicing of practices, and the will to begin again, they’re only books filled with mere words. Just saying.

My coffee has gone cold. It’s almost time to head to the office. I’m still smiling. Life feels different than it did three years ago, in a number of very good ways. We become what we practice. My results vary – but I can begin again, often. Today is a good day to practice. Who will you choose to become? 🙂

I find waiting both difficult, and peculiar. Sooner or later, I find I am waiting…for something. Like change, waiting simply is. It wasn’t that long ago that I used to say “I suck at waiting”, and if you understood me to mean “I wait in frustration and make no effort to wait skillfully” then it would also be true that I sucked at waiting. Seriously, though, it generally sucked most when I invested in making it suck more than it had too, which is to say ‘at all’. Waiting is another practice wanting an opportunity to be practiced. Waiting gently, calming, and without investing in some moment beyond now is a good practice for building emotional resilience, strength of will, and perspective.

Do roses wait to bloom?

Do roses wait to bloom?

I am waiting, today. I am waiting gently, skillfully, and with contentment that the outcome is inevitable – at least, the result of there being an outcome is a given. What the outcome will be, in fact, is the thing on which I wait. It’s rather annoying, sure, and I feel impatience to be on with things come and go, increasing in moments of distraction, dissipating when I am focused on other things. There aren’t really a lot of words (of my own) to write about waiting – and it is such a common experience for humanity that I have nothing noteworthy to share. I wait. I breathe. I consider the moment when waiting is ended, and endeavor to take a practical approach that prevents my daydreams from escalating and causing disappointment when the waiting ends – real life is still on the other side of the waiting, and it cares not one whit what I am daydreaming about. 🙂

It’s been something like…2…almost 3 weeks, I think, of contentment. Sure, emotional weather comes and goes, but the climate in my own experience is quite nice. Some part of that contentment is a byproduct of standing on the threshold of an important change, embracing this moment eagerly, and even more eagerly looking ahead to the next experience. I am walking a path that I am paving myself, one choice at a time, and although this is generally true…I rarely feel it so fully. I could get very used to this feeling of being capable, calm, and content. (I hear the demons sniggering in the dark; their turn will come, and they know that’s true – because this too shall pass. Learning the practices to disarm them is part of what this whole journey is ‘about’.) I tend to be a woman of action, as much as I am ‘a planner’, and I’ve done some first-rate planning here – and now I am moved to take action. Waiting comes first. Waiting always goes to the front of the line, and waiting is. So, I meditate. I breathe. I walk. I smile. I consider the moment. I consider others in my experience. I consider my experience. I practice practices. I commit effort to other tasks. I follow through on details. Then there’s more practice… and still I am waiting.

Although waiting often feels endless, I am finding that my own tendency is to exaggerate the wait, and to run it together with other waiting; I’ve only been waiting to hear back on my lease application since Friday…only…realistically I knew I would not hear anything over the weekend (the office is closed), and the paperwork was submitted late in the day. So… waiting since…yesterday. It’s hard to fuss over a one day wait that I knew was coming. I still find that I do. It is the nature of eagerness to provoke a sense of waiting. I am learning to wait with great skill and contentment, certain that an outcome is an inevitability and that I am capable of turning the outcome – whatever it is – to an advantage.

There is tremendous freedom in connected self-reliance, and finding contentment instead of chasing happiness. I am surprised every day how much ‘contentment’ feels like what I thought I was seeking when I sought ‘happily ever after’. There is confidence in good planning, and security in knowing that the plan has a back up, and a back up to the back up, and alternatives to preferred choices that are every bit as comfortable for me as the choice I favor. It’s hard to ‘fail’ when there are so many possible successes in front of me.

So, I wait. Today is a good day for waiting, and waiting is. Today is a good day to enjoy this moment, now, unaffected by waiting – because it is a moment every bit as worth savoring as any moment to come, and it is mine to enjoy. Today is a good day to enjoy the journey – and the waiting.