Archives for posts with tag: do better

This morning I am grooving to the sound of new beats from an old friend. I’m sipping my coffee, feeling relaxed, loved, and even “merry”. It’s a pleasant, leisurely Sunday morning. My pleasant moment is interrupted by a commercial interruption on Soundcloud; an ad break between tracks. I roll my eyes, look for any chance to skip it (that doesn’t amount to paying for a subscription to a rarely used service), and settle on ignoring it for the required 31 seconds. It’s a distraction, and not a pleasant one; this is “where we are” culturally – our attention held in servitude to commercial endeavors, with or without our consent.

I sip my coffee and think about the media, my shorter attention span, the nature of likes, clicks, and views, and the monetization of human attention, and individual data. I think about our “global culture” – and how it sometimes seems “the fabric of society” is being torn apart…only… that’s just one perspective on a very complex, only somewhat shared experience. While there certainly seem to be “norms” and commonplace expectations of a dominant group in our social hierarchy being challenged, undermined, and perhaps also “misused”… There are also huge swaths of humanity who were never invited to that party, who don’t (and did not) have the advantages that are said to be being “undermined”, and for whom the system as it is has existed is punitive, hostile, prejudiced, and has long prevented them from thriving as groups. Labeled, cut-off from the benefits of “mainstream” society, and worse still often shamed for “doing it to themselves” instead of humble acknowledgement of inequities in our laws and institutions, so many people in so many places see patterns that amount to willful inhumanity. Fixing that mess… now that’s a global challenge for a global society. Will we fix our mess before the clock runs out on humanity’s presence on this planet?

I let the beats carry my thoughts onward… sipping my coffee and a glass of water, sort of in alternation.

I think about the day’s housekeeping tasks ahead of me. I think about getting a walk in on some nearby trail – if the day warms up just a little. I think about maybe baking brownies and trying a different recipe, seeking that exceptional brownie result. None of these thoughts, however delightful, have anything whatsoever to do with the actual outcome; that requires some verbs. Real action. Choices. Follow-through.

…Another fucking advertisement begins to play in the background. I do not give a shit about the advertiser or the product. I tune it out…

Patterns in my life; I do housekeeping on Sundays, generally. When I write, most of the time, I write in the morning. There is a cadence, a rhythm, to the day-to-day, and to each week. When I write, or think, or reflect, or daydream, there is often some kind of thread that connects my thoughts. When I struggle, there is often another sort of “thread” that, once tugged, begins to unravel some bit of baggage or bullshit. Noticing a pattern, pulling on that thread, following a path; all these things lead me onward. Even these beats in my ears right now, and so also in my head, guide me along my human experience, giving me a pace, a flow, a sort of carrier wave upon which the signal that is my own individual experience can be layered. My breathing shifts; slower and more even with the chill ambient beats. Glacial. Slow perspective. Ease.

Another advertisement? Really?? Fucking hell…

The beat shifts again, energizing me, lifting me, bring a smile to my face and an eagerness to my moment. My breathing is a bit faster. I feel an increasing readiness to move on with the day. There is a rhythm to the tasks and habits and routines I set for myself. It works for me, mostly. When it doesn’t, breaking down the missed moment, the lost beat, the unraveling thread into smaller parts gives me a chance to understand myself a bit better, and to creep ever closer to being the person I most want to be.

…It’s not “everything”, it’s only “something” – sometimes something is enough. 🙂 It is, at least, enough on which to begin again. 😀

Today, I’ll do my best. I’ve got a list. I’ve got all day. 🙂 It’s enough.

The frown finally lifted. My jaw finally unclenched. My sheer-force-of-will pleasantness in meetings eventually resolved to simply being pleasant. I let go of being angry, in favor of feeling angry, which eventually let me look beyond my angry feelings to my hurt feelings, and then eventually to just letting shit go. Now? I guess I’m “quietly over it”, and it’s enough. Ideally, small things stay small. It’s not always easy to see that through from intention to outcome. It takes practice.

Neither societies nor relationships are (ever) “perfect”, not really; both are made up of human beings who are themselves entirely “human” in all the error-prone meanings of that word, and compounded by the very (very) subjective nature of our individual experiences. Hell, it’s not even a given that we’re all “doing our best” – or that any one of us is capable of a personal best of sufficient real-world value in any objective way. It’s an inefficient system, at best.

Work keeps me occupied. I pause for a break and reconnect with my Traveling Partner. The gray skies beyond my window seem to reflect back our own individual moodiness, today. Suitable backdrop. I think we’re past it, though, with “clearer skies”, though not exactly “sunny”. Metaphorically, I’m hoping for sunny skies (and sunny days) ahead. Funny thing though; the metaphor of climate and weather with regard to emotions and relationships breaks down a bit if pushed too far – we don’t control the actual weather, but do have substantial control over our emotional “weather”. Oh, for sure, not 100% of the control we might like to have, sometimes, and sometimes what we most want to control of the emotional weather isn’t ours to decide at all. Communication takes effort. Listening is work. Kindness requires practice – even for people in love with each other. “Being angry” is easier than taking the time and care to really process feelings of anger with real consideration, self-compassion, and without adding drama to someone else’s experience. It’s hard. It’s worth practicing, and improving over time. It’s worth failing at it and learning from that, and continuing to practice. Incremental change over time is slow – and it’s hard as hell to make the same room for someone else to fail and grow, as it is to do that for myself.

It’s a pleasant afternoon. My partner brings me a small serving of gelato. I take a break to enjoy that, and review what I’ve gotten done today, and what I’ve got coming up tomorrow. There’s so much to get done before the year ends – and it’s already time to begin again. 🙂

I’ve got a headache. The usual. “Nothing to see here.” I’m also feeling aggravated, frustrated, and annoyed with commonplace (fairly ordinary) communication challenges with my partner. Right now, I don’t really know what to do with that, besides my very best to maintain a cool head, a calm demeanor, and a better than average attempt at “holding my tongue”. Allowing things to escalate, over something so incredibly petty, would not be a good demonstration of adult communication. So… okay. Working on that.

It’s not the communication itself, in these circumstances, that is petty – it’s very much the small shit that so easily gets out of hand, becoming a source of conflict. Manufactured conflict. Unnecessary conflict. Pointless conflict. It’s the sort of thing human primates are super good at. (Creating conflict, I mean.) I snarl quietly inside myself. I’m so completely fed the fuck up with human beings creating drama. I’m fed up with us/them bullshit arguments that are little more than territorial pissing matches, and ridiculous vortices of righteous anger and outrage used to justify terrible behavior. Unclear expectations. Untested assumptions. It’s not even about my partner, or our relationship in any direct specific way. It’s… all of us. People. “Society.”

It reaches me unavoidably through the limited media I consume, and even in the behavior of passing strangers on city streets, in unexpectedly crowded shops (“There’s still a pandemic going on, ya fuckwits.”)(I’m shopping, too.), and in parking lots. Most people think they’re right – about something. Mostly those same people are not actually “right” about the things they are so invested in being right about. They just have a fucking opinion. I’m no different. We’re each having our own experience – but we’re all human beings. We’re not very good at being our best selves. We treat each other – even our loved ones – pretty fucking badly, rather often. It’s incredibly shitty and I’m feeling cross just actually being a fucking human being, at all. We kind of suck, as creatures, rather a lot. We mostly don’t even make a fucking effort to be better today than we were tomorrow. I’m saddened by that.

A thoughtless harsh word, a moment of frustration or anger, of disappointment, or hurt feelings, and my whole experience feels colored by that moment. How is it that moments of intense joy don’t have similar impact, across an entire day or experience, in the same way? That seems unfair to me, sitting here right now. I feel chilly. The room is not cold; it’s me. I’m fighting back frustrated angry bullshit tears I don’t choose to indulge. My headache worsens with the effort of pure will at the end of a long day and week. I’m alone in this room, in this moment, because this is not about him. He’s got his feelings and experience, too; those are his. This? This right here is about me. Me, seeking to be and do my best, struggling with some things that are definitely not me at my best. Me, working to get over my bullshit and baggage, and manage my chaos and damage. Oh, I’m not being an ass to myself, and there is no cruelty here. I’m not being down on myself, but this is hard emotional labor, right here, and I need focus and concentration, and some quiet space to do it.

I practice being better than this petty moment of provocation. It’s just not very easy, as practices go. I love my partner. He’s earned my respect, and has my enduring affection. He’s my best friend. My lover. My Traveling Partner. My spouse. I’m still just fucking maddened by some of our small challenges, now and then. I’m sure he feels similarly. It can’t be easy living with me. I’ve… “got issues”. (Who doesn’t?)

I take a breath. Exhale. Relax. Let it go. Let all of it go. Just… breathe. I listen to the computer fan spin up, slow down, cycling as I type. I listen to the steady ring, chime, shimmer, and ping of my tinnitus, in the background, louder than any sounds from the other room. This too has started to become an impediment to good communication; I watch people closely when they talk to me to avoid missing an important detail. I often mishear things when I don’t see them spoken, like when I am walking away. It’s frustrating. Now and then it gives the impression I’m “not paying attention”.

I’d planned – considered? – writing something quite different, but the idea (which I really liked) was washed away by my irritation. Another bit of aggravation, this evening. I take another breath. I blow it out fiercely, childishly, crossly. I take another breath, and insist on exhaling it gently, without hostility or resentment.

My partner sticks his head in the door. He smiles and there’s so much love there. We’re in this together. “Still cranky?” he asks. Yeah, yeah I am – but it isn’t so bad. I feel very loved, and that matters more. Even when my head aches. Even when I’m cross.

…I guess I’ll just begin again. 😉

What a lovely Saturday it is, here. I mean… yeah. Gorgeous sunny mild morning, no agenda, no “heavy lifting”, emotional or otherwise, just a pretty day. My Traveling Partner has been in good spirits all morning. Me, too. Coffee was decent – neither my best nor my worst – and we enjoyed it together before moving on to our own tasks. I spent considerable time entertaining myself watching the new “bamboo shrimp” in the aquarium, and doing some maintenance (mostly to do with removing some algae, being careful not to disturb the Blue Velvet shrimp who also live in this community tank). I’ve got a grocery list for a quick trip to the store a bit later, and a plan to make some oatmeal cookies.

Looks like a relaxed day ahead, and I honestly can’t thank me enough for it. 🙂 That’s right. It’s on me to make sure I get the downtime I need. It’s up to me to set clear boundaries, and to know my limits. It’s up to me to “budget my energy” (and my time), and to choose my tasks and the things that occupy my attention. Today, I think I’ve chosen wisely. 🙂 I plan to enjoy this with my whole self, too.

From my walk, yesterday.

I’ve been having to be more intentional about getting my walks in, lately. It’s become too dim in the early morning to walk entirely safely in forested places (both due to the risk of tripping over a hazard, and also the potential for predatory wildlife). So… I told myself “no problem, I’ll walk on my lunch break”. That sounded completely reasonable, but I underestimated my lack of enthusiasm for suburban neighborhood sidewalk “hikes”. As it turns out, by midday, many of the places I do enjoy walking regularly are also filled with moms & kids, school outings and groups of kids, trail runners, dog walkers… and loud conversations. Not at all what I’m going for. It’s been challenging me to think differently about where and when I get my walk in. I really don’t want to overlook it, though; walking has started to feel like it has the potential to be a “use it or lose it” scenario, and I really don’t want to find myself permanently off my feet at some future point solely due to lack of effort now, while effort-making is relatively “easy”. So here I am. Thinking about walking, which is just a bit amusing to me.

Forward momentum doesn’t have to be fast. It often isn’t. Progress. Achievement. Things that have steps, require effort, include task-processing, or have verbs involved are often found in a slower pace than I’d ideally like. You too? Incremental change over time can be ridiculously slow to the point of being imperceptible without really really looking for it. So… look for it. You’ve come so far – even if there is further to go, you’re here, now. Celebrate that. Why not? Some work went into this place you stand right now. It’s not where you’re headed? Not where you want to be? Yeah, okay, I get that – me, too. There are things I know I want to understand more. I keep studying. There are places I want to get to. I keep walking. There are goals I want to achieve. I keep working at them. Each step, each task, each moment – hopefully – taking me closer to those experiences and destinations. 🙂 Sometimes “slow” has to be enough.

My coffee is finished. The morning moves on. I’ve got my recipe picked out, and I’ve got my shopping list, and I’ve got this day ahead of me – and it’s mine to enjoy as I choose, in this place I call home, with this human being who is my partner, on this lovely mild sunny Saturday on the edge of autumn. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I enjoyed a lovely handful of days out in the trees. Relaxing? Sure. Good hikes? Definitely. Even challenging. Restful downtime? Yes. Time for deep reflection? Quite a lot. Did I write? No, not really. Read? Barely picked up a book. I mostly sat around watching the clouds drift by between naps and walks. It was time well-spent.

Here’s a question that crossed my mind rather unproductively, though… Who exactly are “the good guys”? Seriously. I don’t think a rational person can call our US government a governing body of “good guys”. The media? Doubtful. They have challenges with fundamental truthfulness, to varying degrees that seem dependent on how much profit is in the lies they may be inclined to tell, or the revenue generated by their clickbait articles. It’s frustrating to try to “read the news” these days. How about “every day Americans”? Are we “the good guys”? Considering how commonly people act a fool, or lash out violently against other “every day Americans”, it’s hard to call us, as a group, “the good guys”. Other governments? How different are they, really? People are people. Human primates are barely domesticated at all, and find endless rationalization for treating each other like crap, individually or in groups. It’s pretty horrific. We’ve done some terrible things as creatures.

…Before you go making excuses (“something, something, in the past things were different…”), keep in mind that every single day someone just straight up kills another person, often someone close to them, even a partner, a child, a lover… just… yeah. Every day. Domestic violence. Gang violence. Racially-motivated hate-driven violence. Institutional violence. “Criminal violence” isn’t even the largest portion of violent crime being reported. Shot at a gas station during a robbery? It happens. Not as often as an angry spouse lashes out at their partner. That domestic violence even exists at all still shocks and horrifies me, not just as a survivor, but also as a human being. I mean, for real? What the fuck?? Seriously? How is that even a thing, at all? How does any one human being reach a place where they can justify an act of violence against another human being – particularly one they say they love. Truly horrifying.

I’m grateful to have escaped with my life, to have survived, and to have found my way to a healthy authentic experience of love with a partner I know cares for me deeply, and truly loves me. I literally can’t imagine him ever raising a hand against me. Love feels comfortable and safe. How could it be any other way and still be “love”? 🙂

Seems strange to find it so needful, so often, to want to suggest people “stop hating”. Are we truly such barbaric vile creatures that it is necessary to point out the value of basic kindness? (That’s rhetorical; we’re obviously not drowning in kindness, consideration, compassion, and tolerance, and there just can’t be too many reminders to be better people, when being a better version of ourselves is so readily within reach for all of us.) Just… do better.

Begin again.

This is me, beginning again. Right here. Now. I take a breath. I change the playlist. I change the view. I change my perspective. I practice the practices that work best for me. I pick myself up when I fall, and get back on my path. Easy? Easy enough to do it as often as I need to (which is, I admit, often).

Sometimes just watching the clouds scoot by is enough.

My computer locks up. No, I don’t know why, I just deal with it and move on. Re-center myself after the briefest moment of frustration, and pull myself back into the pleasant moment I had been enjoying, flipping through pictures from my camping weekend…

Lovely moments spent meditating in lovely quiet places are worth savoring.

I recently read an article about the negative consequences of venting when we’re angry. I mean, sure, it feels sort of gratifying to “get it all out”, but, and this is real, it also tends to cement that negative experience in our implicit recollection and boosts our negative bias. The outcome is different when we look for opportunities to learn from challenging experiences, seek other perspectives, and “focus on the positive” (in an authentic way). That seems worth exploring…

We become what we practice. Are you practicing being angry? Are you practicing prolonged frustration? Reactivity? Shouting? Maybe practice other things… 😉 I’m just saying there are choices. We can each choose to be “the good guy” more often than we likely do.

…And we have the opportunity to choose differently, and begin again.