Archives for posts with tag: do better

Most of the time, these days, I’m writing from a contented, emotionally fairly comfortable place. Life is pretty good day-to-day, in spite of the pandemic. I don’t have the terrifying, chronic, so-frequent-as-to-be-routine, issues with emotional volatility that I had 8 years ago. I’m fortunate. I also “work hard” at this. There’s a lot of practice. A lot of very necessary restarts, do-overs, and new beginnings. My results vary. I am entirely 100% made of human, from the soaring heights of the most delightful moments of great joy and celebration, to the lowest depths of the most grim, bleakest darkness, the most despairing moments of sorrow, ennui, and futility. Anger gets a turn in there, somewhere. Frustration, too.

…So does love. So does hope. So does happiness – yep, even happiness gets her day in the sunshine. Doesn’t happen to be today, but today this moment is apparently not about feeling good. At least not right at this very moment, right here, right now, which mostly sucks.

…This too shall pass. It sure will. Eventually. I wonder sometimes if that’s actually a good thing at all. Storms pass. The weather clears up. It’s so tempting to just move on from the things crying out for attention during stormy weather, once the sun is shining again. Something to think about.

I’m not sure what to say “about” this moment, right here. I feel…angry. I… feel hurt. I’m annoyed and frustrated. Not just with myself and my own limitations. Not simply with “not being heard”. It’s complicated. I don’t have a healthy relationship with anger. I am aware of that. Mine or anyone else’s; it’s not specific to whose anger it is. I’m uncomfortable with anger. I’m especially uncomfortable with mine. That’s true. Today, I’m angry with my Traveling Partner. (This may be the first time I’ve written that sentence in this blog, I’m not certain.) I haven’t lost any affection for this human being I am so fond of… I’m just angry right now. I don’t know what to do with/about that… it just is, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable with it. So. Here I am. In a separate space, door closed, headphones on, working on “being alone right now” – which is very tough in a small house during a pandemic. As I said; uncomfortable. I’m not lashing out or escalating. I’m maintaining a self-inflicted disciplined calm, because I just don’t know what else to do with or about my anger. I clearly can’t act on it. I’m also having trouble conversing through it to resolve things with my partner; I start weeping. It makes conversation difficult and needlessly, unproductively, emotional. Not okay – and I’m frankly not at all interested in taking the risk of damaging anything I own by having some tantrum, or finding myself in the middle of further emotional escalation and angry words with my partner. Anger feels like emotional poison to me. I know there are ways to process anger more skillfully than I do. I haven’t finished that work, yet. I am unskilled. It takes a lifetime to process a lifetime of trauma, apparently…Or, at least, I have not, personally found a shortcut to the work that must be done to heal the damage that already was done.

Yelling at one’s partner is mistreatment. I work to avoid raising my voice. I don’t even like “yelling across the house” in a conversational way (seriously seriously dislike that shit – if I’m not in the same room, let’s just not converse, or hey, it’s a small house, join me in a shared space). I’m human, though, and I am more easily provoked than I want to be. If I raise my voice, I’ll also apologize for that, and having accepted responsibility for that behavior, immediately seek to bring the volume back down. It’s hard. I don’t always succeed. I struggle with anger – particularly when I am not feeling heard, or when I am being interrupted, or when I feel mistreated myself, in the face of mockery, insults, or other such (also very human, unpleasant, not okay things, but I particularly detest mockery). I work on not yelling. I ask people in relationships with me to not yell. It’s a choice. Take a kind tone. Speak gently. Choices. Encourage each other. Worthwhile – but, yeah, there are verbs involved, and it takes a lot of fucking practice, and it’s got to actually really matter. No one can do the work for you. Hell, you may even find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to choose to make these changes or do this work without much encouragement or reciprocity. Hard, right? Sometimes, yeah. For anyone.

What makes any of that shit worth it? Why is the ongoing effort – and ongoing frustration with having to make that effort – worth it at all, if it won’t placate an angry partner, or restore the peace, or diminish the chaos, or create calm? …I think about that question a lot, and I’m pretty clear on my answer; it’s about being the woman I most want to be, myself, for myself. I’m okay with feeling anger. I’m not okay with losing my shit and yelling at someone I love. Doesn’t matter how provoked I feel. Doesn’t matter who is “right” or who is “wrong”. Doesn’t matter whether I am in pain, or exhausted, or absolutely 100% justified in my opinion, or my understanding of the situation. What matters is … who do I most want to be, and is my behavior consistent with that standard? How does that woman respond to such a situation? How does that woman maintain her calm, stay balanced, and process strong emotion? I think that over, looking for answers, and a next step to being that woman… more so today, than yesterday. More so tomorrow than I am right now. We become what we practice.

…That’s true for everyone, and everything we choose to practice (or fall into habitually). Just saying. Choices. Practices. Beginnings.

Again.

…I hear the tv in the other room. My partner bravely checked-on me, and expressed his desire to hang out – in spite of the chaos, what matters most is our affection for each other. It’s hard to be vulnerable. Hard to set down the baggage. Sometimes it’s even hard to begin again. I take a breath, and steady myself to take that step…

The morning is off to a difficult start. I woke in pain after a restless night. My Traveling Partner also woke in pain, and considering every time I was awake, he was also awake, I’m reasonably certain both of us have had less than ideal sleep. I make coffee. We don’t manage to enjoy it together – we aren’t enjoying each other very much this morning. While this does suck, it’s a temporary thing, and it will pass. I focus on other things.

I seek to be kind with my words, and to speak gently.

I already suspect today is one of those days on which whatever my best effort happens to be, it may fall short of ideal. I’m tired. I’m dealing with unmanaged pain. I’m aggravated. Is it me? Is it “us”? Is it just one of those very impermanent situations that will pass when it passes and simply be forgotten? Is it more important than that? I fuss quietly to myself, sip my coffee, and work on breathing through it, and letting it go. I work on not taking it personally. These are “practices” for me because they do indeed require practice. Steady. Regular. Repeated.

Kinda feels like I’m almost always standing in hot water. It’s frustrating, and this morning it is holding me back from enjoying this moment.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I focus on “now”, bringing my mind back to my breath, again and again. It’s something. Is it enough? I find myself wondering what conversations my Traveling Partner has with himself on mornings such as this. I wonder what he does to get past the difficult moments of life with a brain injured partner with PTSD. Doubtless it is not always an easy experience… How does he avoid fusing with my experience? How does he nurture and soothe himself?

Tomorrow, I am taking a break for myself, and driving out to the coast to walk on the beach, and listen to the wind and the waves, and be still and solitary for a little while before returning home. Another breath. Another moment to relax. I contemplate the drive without much eagerness in this particular moment right here. The morning is a difficult one, and I’m struggling to distract myself.

Human primates seem always to be trippin’ over something or another. Emotions are part of the human condition.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I turn to respond to my partner when he opens the door to ask me to empty the little trash can in my studio; it’s trash day. He’s preparing to take the bins to the curb for pick-up. Life is… so ordinary. Difficult moments are only that, moments. They pass. They are finite. Sure, they recur. My results definitely vary. I often find myself wanting or needing to begin again. I keep practicing, and instead of “looking for signs” that things are somehow worse than a moment gone wrong on a difficult morning, I let it go (again).

We put caution signs everywhere… but we create the hazards, too.

I am reminded that we make most of our own drama, and routinely blow small shit way out of proportion. Human primates are messy, complicated, and emotional. We aren’t as smart as we think we are. We’re prone to reasoning poorly, and reacting emotionally to circumstances in which our emotional reaction lacks value or utility – and expecting our emotions to have all that going for them is asking a lot of feelings. “Do not touch the edges of this sign.” No kidding.

Also? Stay on the path. Breathe. Keep practicing.

Begin again.

I remember my father often saying to me “do something, even if it’s wrong”. The admonition was with regard to decision-making paralysis – those moments when one becomes so overwhelmed by some detail, moment, or selection of options as to become utterly immobilized, and unable to act. The Army also emphasizes the value of fast decision-making in a crisis, and “taking the initiative”. I’m not saying these are not useful life skills to have, I’m just wondering how often my own fear of failing to act promptly (or answer a question immediately) may have a less than desirable outcome, that could potentially have been avoided if I had allowed myself a moment to think? I mean… I get it, it sometimes matters a great deal to act quickly and appropriately to circumstances (step out from under a falling rock? Good decision), but… I can think of some circumstances when acting quickly, without thinking things through a minute, may be a poor choice (step out from under that falling rock into oncoming traffic may be less likely to end well, as an example).

I found myself, over the weekend, struggling to find the right “pace” in some conversations – jumping in too soon, and missing some relevant point or talking over my partner, or thinking over a question for so long that it begins to appear I am not listening – and the result is a distinct loss of conversational “flow” and merriment. It’s a small detail – but one that matters. Timing. I started making a point of noticing what, specifically, was driving my anxiety in those moments (since these were all friendly conversations with my Traveling Partner, there was nothing that would reasonably provoke anxiety in them), and I started to notice how often I reacted anxiously to the fear of “not being fast enough” – with an answer, a decision, an action – not even the actual timing or timeliness, just the fear of not being fast enough. I have since started really paying attention to how “the need for speed” may be driving my anxiety in circumstances where being quick has little or no practical value, and even in some where being quick with a reply is actually problematic.

My partner even mentioned, one day last week, that the pace at which I was doing some routine household task seemed “frenetic”. How odd. Really?

…Human primates are weird…

…Breathe… Exhale… Relax…

I consider that I may “miss the point” by being too quick to reply…

I consider that I may take a foolhardy action or jump to an erroneous conclusion by being too quick too act…

I consider how much less sweet one moment – any moment – may be if I “rush it along”…

…There seem to be a great many reasons to take my time, to really listen, to really consider my options before taking action, to think about the details, and yes, to take a moment to step back from the details to consider things in context, too…

I think about that chill, calm, experience of self (and life) that I enjoy most… there’s not a lot of rushing things through involved in that; it’s a more measured way, more considered – and considerate. One thing sure seems obvious…

I need to begin again.

Well… the news on January 6th was… newsworthy. I guess that’s something. (Just Google it, Future Reader, cuz I just can’t even begin to go down that path.) Honestly, I guess I was mired in whatever work challenge the day presented… I barely looked up when my astonished and appalled Traveling Partner stuck his head into my studio to tell me of the news, in an appropriately alarmed tone, and I’m sure he was purposeful and complete with his summary. I recall hearing something like, “…storming the capitol…”, I looked up, nodded vaguely, “…you already know about it?” I may have answered in the affirmative – I definitely was not aware of the specifics he was attempting to share, and what I thought he was talking about would certainly have been less… significant.

…Damn there’s been a lot of history in these 57+ years…

Funny (not funny, not really) how we “know a historical moment” when we see it… if it’s something going terribly wrong. I have the impression we tend, as creatures, to be less correct about the good stuff… like… a lot. It’s pretty inconvenient.

Here we all are, now. More than typically aware of how fragile a foundation our assumptions rest on, perhaps, and perhaps more aware of the alarming potential for violence each human being actually has. Strange that we ever lose sight of that… there’s so much violence in the world, and so much of it feels “unexpected”, however commonplace it may have been, or be, or seems to be becoming. We’re fairly dangerous primates, only partially domesticated, and our big brains allow us to build and make some amazing tools… with which to kill each other. Fucking hell. Will we ever discontinue this terrible terrible practice? Will we ever choose differently? 😦

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let that go. The sunshine breaks through the gray of a rainy winter afternoon, and I think about trails I’d like to hike…

Choose wisely. Stay on the path.

It’s already time to begin again.

Too many holiday reports of violence against family members, loved ones, children, partners… fucking hell, where did people ever get the notion that it is acceptable to act with violence upon those that are dear to them?? It sickens me.

…I’ve been angry, even enraged, even felt “righteously” so, such that my own actions seemed to me to be both inevitable & necessary, and also wholly justified (which did not and does not make it true, ever). I also managed not to kill anyone. Just saying. Don’t kill people. Don’t even raise your hand against them in anger.

Notice I haven’t said anything about men killing women, women killing men, etc; violence is not a gendered issue. You can say what you’d like about who kills more of whom, but the simplest of truths is that the life of another human being is not yours to take. Doesn’t matter what your gender is. I don’t seem room to argue with that axiom, myself, and I embrace it. (Don’t talk to me about war, or military force, or the justification for violence under some conditions – unless you, yourself, have been both soldier delivering that military force, and also a civilian experiencing having that force delivered upon you, please; without both perspectives what do you even “know”?)

I’m fairly over violence, generally. I respond poorly even to milder forms of emotional violence (raised voices, a nasty tone, guilt trips, manipulation), particularly after living without it for a while. I don’t mean to say I “never” raise my voice – I sincerely attempt to avoid doing so, and feel incredibly disappointed in myself when I fail to control my volume and my tone adequately well. There’s work involved. It’s work I find worth doing, so I keep at it.

…Then I read another news story that fills me with real horror; an angry parent kills their kids, takes their own life, in the midst of a messy angry divorce, or a partner slays their mate, or someone kills a parent… horrifying. What gave any of them the sense that this was an acceptable choice? How was this okay to do? Why haven’t we “made it stop”?

I sigh. Sip my coffee with a feeling of sadness for a moment. A pause to honor lives lost to the shittiest of excuses; anger. So not okay. There have already been dozens of lives lost in 2021, to familial violence, partner violence, and hate crimes. It’s the fucking 3rd of January. Maybe 2021 can be a year we finally get a grip on our anger and do better – as a species? As a planet? As a global community? Yes, I’d love to see humanity put the brakes on warfare, but more than that? I’d very much love to see humanity stop killing those most dear. I mean, seriously? It seems like a pretty obvious improvement, generally.

We’ll need to begin again, particularly if we hope to change the world…