Archives for posts with tag: do you?

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. 🙂

It’s time to begin again.

I read a really cool thought-provoking positive post on Facebook from someone on my friend list. New-ish friend, and from the perspective of 54, quite young. I was delighted and fascinated by her approach to the ancient human question of “what do I want to be when I grow up?”, expressed as a question to her friends (and possibly the world) “what is your occupation?” followed by “was it hard to get there?” – I spent some time thinking about it, just as a straight up question, without understanding it to be, more properly, a search query put to the humans in the room, instead of Google. (By itself, that delights me.)

I answered the question. A friend answered the question. Another friend answered the question. One respondent, rather disappointingly I found, myself, very explicitly directs the questioner to consider some specific line of work, as if it isn’t the questioner’s journey, entirely, and a whole wide world of “occupations” to consider, many of which lack that sort of very clear path to a very obvious objective. As if the question had not been specifically phrased to achieve something grander by way of an answer. lol I hope she chooses her path with far less… certainty. Ease and convenience, and all manner of things that are obvious, definitely have less risk – and also promise far less reward.

I realized in considering the questions, I’m not at all unhappy to be where I am. Fuck, it took a while to get here, though, didn’t it? LOL Every step, every turn, there were people attempting to direct my hand, my decision-making, and very few of had any interest of mine in mind.

Walk your own path, young traveler. Make your choices, even in the moment, with your experience and your future in mind. Try things. Taste exotic foods. Tempt your senses with novelty. Find balance and perspective – your balance, your perspective. Do you. The map – any map – is not the world. The plan – any plan – is not the project. You are your own cartographer on a journey into a future that hasn’t been determined. There are verbs involved. You will try. You will fail. You will try. You will succeed. You may find that your notion of what success would look like is very different from the success you actually achieve. That’s okay too. It matters more to succeed on your own terms. To love well. To treat people with great consideration. Your results will vary. What matters most is to be present in your experience, and to love well and deeply. You may change the world…

…Are you ready? It’s time to begin the future. (Don’t worry, you can begin again tomorrow.)

I woke groggy and in pain, and lacking the welcome feeling of being rested. My head aches, my sinuses are stuffy, and the room feels hotter than the temperature says it is. As a collection of smaller experiences, these could be symptomatic of a head cold coming on, but in this instance, I think perhaps I slept too long in a position that wasn’t ideal for my head and neck, and slept poorly on top of that. I shrug it off, deal with it, and move on with the morning without reading into the experience or catastrophizing it.

I ache today. Pain is pain, I suppose, and in this case much of it is to do with the physical awkwardness of the way I approached painting this past weekend, working mostly on the floor, which required a lot of getting up and down, and sitting cross-legged on my rolled up yoga mat as a cushion, with extra leaning, reaching, and bending. It doesn’t make me regret spending the weekend painting, or even that I chose to work on the floor. I’m simply aware that my discomfort today is a price I am paying for it. It’s barely worth bitching about; as expenses go, it seems quite a bargain, since I am more often than not in some amount of pain much of the time, regardless. 🙂

I could make all of it worse, if I choose. A lot of people seem inclined to do so, enhancing their negative moments with additional emotional luster and investment in nebulous made-up root causes or “back stories” that imbue the tale with more dimension. I could borrow from my assumptions (also fully 100% made up in my own head) and sprinkle on some unfulfilled expectations of the world, or circumstances, or some other human being, and mix that in with those assumptions, and the moments of hurting that life requires I endure, and that pimple of a difficult moment is now grand drama of the highest order. It could make for much more interesting writing, I suppose, than my patient (with myself) humble (because – fuuuuck!!) observations of my experience, day-to-day… only… I’m not really doing this “to be interesting”. I’m sharing what I can of what has often been a challenging enough experience (without enhancements), because it helps me when I am able to “find my voice”… and also because when I struggled most, myself, in life’s darkest moments, it would have helped me then to hear that voice… from anywhere. So. I’m here for me. Here for you, too, perhaps, as a byproduct of rather haplessly reaching across time to a woman that doesn’t actually exist in my own mirror so much these days, just in case she (or someone very like her) is staring back at you.

I smile and sip my coffee. I enjoy a moment of “wow, I’ve come a long way”. I take a moment to also appreciate how much more prepared I am for dark times that may eventually return. “Wellness” can be rather unfortunately relative, and it would be a fool’s game to sip my coffee on a pleasant morning smugly certain I am “well”; PTSD and a brain injury don’t really work quite that way. I can sure improve my quality of life, my resilience, my skill at self-care… I can practice mindfulness, heal my heart over time, and be generally well, most days, most of the time. Complacency about it isn’t on the table for me. I’ve taken that journey a time or two, also. Sometimes reality hits back. Sooner or later, I may find my nights filled with nightmares, without knowing why, or I may find that arthritis pain degrades my sleep quality until my resilience and wellness are reduced, and I am less easily able to bounce back from stress or think clearly, and reach that point of fatigue when the cognitive impact of my TBI becomes quite clear, and my thinking disordered. I don’t reach for those moments… but I also no longer fight them, or the reality of those moments being an occasional part of my experience. I’m ready. Mostly. Generally. It sounds easier when I read the words than it ever feels in real life… but… yeah. Mostly pretty ready to be the woman I am.

I practice not making a difficult moment worse than it is, every time I have one, these days. I do my best. My results vary. There are verbs involved. Choices, too.

This morning I woke aggravated over something small and stupid. I could have used that to build on my physical discomfort and had a really shitty morning with minimal effort. I chose differently. It’s a pretty nice morning, aside from pain, and honestly – I’ve been in worse pain. I’ve got work on my mind, but even that could be “worse”… I’ve worked worse jobs (for companies I have literally nothing good to say about after-the-fact). Life isn’t like that now. It’s so important to be awake and aware for the good stuff, too. 🙂

Today is a good day to enjoy the day as it is. Today is a good day to choose wisely, to begin again, and to walk on. Practicing mindfulness may or may not change the world; it is enough that it has changed my experience. Today is a good day to practice.

I’m excited to be house-hunting. When I am excited, I sometimes also lose perspective. To find perspective, stay on track with my goals and planning, and to ensure I don’t engage in well-intended self-sabotaging decision-making based on fantastical daydreams, I indulge my excitement a bit by really settling in to seriously study whatever I’m currently hung up on, until I am able to make a well-reasoned decision about it in the context of knowledge – and existing plans, and long-term needs.

Take the humble chicken, for example; I’d like to have a couple chickens. I like fresh eggs. I even like chickens. I’ve had chickens, at a different point in life. None of these statements indicates any particular level of expertise on which I might base good decision-making. I spent a goodly amount of time yesterday reading about caring for chickens, looking at plans for coops, reading about diseases and parasites common to chickens, and how to prevent or treat those. I read about the space they need, and the behavior of chickens. I read about how to care for them, and their life expectancy and needs. I read a lot of chicken-keeping related topics. I planned a budget around getting set up for keeping chickens, and maintaining them over time. I compared the cost of having those fresh eggs to the cost of buying farm fresh eggs at the nearest farmer’s market. I looked at likely new homeowner expenses in the first year of homeownership, and the impact of keeping chickens on the funds I would need for non-negotiable home care. I sipped coffee. I meditated. I enjoyed a relaxing day of reading and quiet time.

By the end of the day I was pretty clear on two things: I’d like to keep chickens – enough to justify the cost – and it’s not something that makes sense to do in the first year I have my home. There will be other higher priority needs to attend to. There was no sense of disappointment at all. I ended the day feeling more educated on a topic I am excited about, and well-equipped to comfortably make a good decision about it. I take my daydreaming pretty seriously, and I’ve learned that doing so doesn’t have to be about spontaneous bad decisions that come with major consequences. Far better to harness the power of my dreams to fuel my further education. There is so much to learn! So much to know!

Today is a good day to learn more about what excites me most. Today is a good day to educate myself. Today is a good day for consideration, and well-thought-out decision-making. Today is a good day to take care of the person in the mirror by meeting her needs over time. 🙂

On a whim, yesterday, I put aside my doubts and concerns and hit the trail for a few hours. I definitely needed that. I arrived home tired, feet aching, and feeling renewed, and more “aware of myself” in some hard to describe way. It was a good day for it, and I found the deep feeling of peace and contentment I was yearning for. This too shall pass. 😉

Today has not yet begun, and there’s little to say about it at this point; my coffee is terrible. Yep. I wasn’t really awake, muddling around clumsily. This carelessly made cup of coffee is both bitter and insipid…but it’s hot, it’s got some caffeine in it, I made it for myself, and there’s no one here to impress. I sip it slowly (it’s still quite hot), unconcerned about those other details. I… just don’t actually care this morning that this particular cup of coffee is pretty awful; I made it for myself, and I’m appreciative that I have it now. 🙂

I am struck by a question; do I treat myself better when I hike regularly? I think over yesterday’s journey.

Bees enjoy roses also.

Bees enjoy roses.

I began at the rose garden, picnic lunch in my daypack. I got a later than usual start and the idea of having my lunch among the roses sounded lovely. It wasn’t really… it was crowded with tourists there, even on a weekday. I shared a shaded bench with an elder traveling from afar. We talked of roses, gardens, grandchildren, sunny days, and love.

Roses love sunshine.

Tourists also enjoy roses.

I wasn’t looking for company, and when I’d finished lunch I offered my well-wishes to the human being sharing the bench with me and continued on my way, seeking… something. At that point, I didn’t have something specific in mind.

I set off through the trees.

I set off through the trees.

My frustration followed me up the trail at first, in the form of inescapable children’s laughter from the playground area I’d passed by. As the trail became steeper, and wound away from the sounds of the road nearby and the playground now in the distance, the world grew quieter.

What am I seeking? Does it determine what I am able to find?

What am I seeking? Does it determine what I am able to find?

I kept walking, having fairly quickly reached a seeming ‘the way out is through’ location on the trail. I took fewer pictures than I often do; this one was for me, in that moment, and savoring it was urgently more needed than saving it for later. I listen to myself silently bitch awhile… about the weight I’d gained and haven’t lost, about my feet aching, about the distant sound of traffic (barely audible at that point), about feeling reluctant to return to the work force, about how much harder a steep hike is than I’d like – I was really working at this one!! Then, I really heard me. I stopped at a likely looking log suitable for sitting, and I took some time for that, too.

I’d reached a point in the journey well-suited for stillness. Quite a luxury – no sound of voices, no sound of traffic, and having stopped walking, even the sound of footsteps and self faded from memory. No clock, no timer, no agenda, just one quiet moment to embrace stillness under the trees. I had “arrived”.

Enlightened

Bathed in light, wrapped in stillness. Walking on.

Some time later I resume hiking the trail, considering myself more or less ‘half way’ – since I had “arrived” at a “destination”. It was a lovely day for it, neither too hot nor too cold, and no hint of rain to muddy the trail.

I walked on, contemplating emotions, thoughts, the nature of those things, how they work with or against each other, and in what context. I thought about how much effort so many of us put into forcing ourselves – or others – into tiny well-defined boxes of characteristics, almost insisting that if a being has any one of them, that being must therefore have all those that we have associated with it. We make ourselves crazy forcing our expectations and assumptions on one another. Silly monkeys, we’ve so much room to grow, to live more skillfully, with more heart… “I’ll get right on that” I assure myself, and smiling, I walk on.

That looks painful...

That looks painful…

I walk past a tall tree with a spectacular wound, its lifeblood flowing down to the ground, without visible motion, timeless, enduring. I wonder if that hurts? I can’t imagine having such a wound and not being in pain. I think about how we treat each other, as if our wounds don’t pain us, as if we are not suffering together. I stand in silent gratitude for the lesson, and feel that immense sense of age and wisdom, grand experience, mighty tolerance and perspective that I so often feel present, deep in some forest. Small stuff seems pretty small out here. “What are they thinking?” I wonder – I always wonder.

There's further to go.

There’s further to go.

I walk on. I walked a good while, actually, covering about 3.5 miles of decently steep well-maintained trails. Once I entered the Hoyt Arboretum, I enjoyed winding around from this trail to that one without much attention to my map, enjoying short bits of trail through distinctive groves. I was alone throughout, without even passing others on the trail, until I got quite near to the end point of my hike, at the light rail station.

I stood waiting for the train, content and still quite alone, enjoying the stillness that seemed to so completely ‘belong to me’, a sort of distillation of satisfaction, contentment, and ease that felt rather similar to post-coital bliss in some way that I found mildly unsettling, and therefore also somewhat amusing. More than “okay right now” – I even felt “happy”. 🙂

There were verbs involved... some that needed doing, some that needed to be discontinued.

There were verbs involved… some that needed doing, some that needed to be discontinued.

I wonder if I’ve learned anything? I wonder what today holds? I wonder if my second cup of coffee will be better – and I wonder if I’ll care if it isn’t? Today is a good day for wonder. 😉