Archives for posts with tag: each having our own experience

I mean, seriously though? I could use a real break. A break from the pandemic, and all the inconveniences, hassles, and stress of it. A break from being on lockdown with the too-often-strained-by-circumstances companionship of my partner. A break from work. A break from housekeeping. A break from well-intended reminders and critical feedback of all kinds. A break from the noise and bother of “the world”. A break from strong emotion – mine, and everyone else’s, too. I’d like a real, proper, restful, wholly recharging, legitimate break, please.

…I am silently “screaming into the void” on this one. It’s not that the need for a restful break from whatever-the-fuck is unreasonable, it’s just that getting that break is entirely on me, myself. To make or find the time? That’s on me. To create the conditions? Again, all on me. To set and manage boundaries considerately and explicitly? Again, that’s mine to do for myself. I am certainly feeling the strain of prolonged fatigue and day-to-day frustrations with pandemic life, and occasionally very poor self-care.

I write a bunch more very specific, petty, cross, bad-tempered, resentful words about small, petty, trivial humans-being-human crap. I delete it. I write a bunch more and delete that too – not because the words hold no truths, but because the truths they appear to hold are filtered through so much baggage and bullshit that the actual worthwhile truths are hidden, and I need a break from that, too. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I take a minute to look at things differently. I work on taking shit less personally, while also accepting that I have no control over how personally anyone else may take things, and being mindful that our individual experiences as individuals are quite separate, even as we’re “all in this together”. No two human beings ever really see the world quite the same way, and even in the moment, in a shared experience… and in a sense we each walk a very different path. Alone. That’s not a sorrowful thing, it’s just a thing. Maybe I can find my much-needed break somewhere within that understanding of separateness…

…I mean to say, maybe it’s not the circumstances weighing me down so much as my attachment to some element of them? A moment…and outcome… an expectation? Maybe a misplaced assumption? I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I let go of everything that is not this moment, now, me, here. This room. This text editor. This open window and the fence beyond, lit by the morning sunshine. Now.

I breathe, and focus on my breath. I let the slamming and banging of my partner doing housekeeping tasks on the other side of the house recede into the background, and listen to the sounds of rain falling through my headphones. I breathe and make room for gratitude – it’s no small thing to have a partner willing to do housekeeping, and eager to maintain a nice home, and good quality of life together. It’s helpful to have reminders on things I commonly forget or overlook, even though it can be uncomfortable, awkward, or embarrassing to need them. (It’s got to be uncomfortable to provide them, too.) I breathe and let go of baggage I’m lugging around that is to do with work; my last day is tomorrow. I let that go, too. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. I sit comfortably upright in my chair, and let my shoulders relax. The cold fresh air coming in through the open window already smells of spring. I breathe, inhaling deeply. I smile, exhaling my entire breath.

…These spreadsheets won’t update themselves. It’s already time to begin again.

*Moments later, my partner asks me to come take a look at what he’s gotten done. Spotless, beautifully organized kitchen, broad ready-to-go counter space for food prep. I feel appreciated and loved. He appears to have taken note of how I work in the kitchen, when I’m cooking, moving some things from one place to another, better-suited to my needs. I feel heard. I listen while he explains what the changes are, and why, and asks me to help out maintaining it and keeping things tidy. All reasonable. He asks that I explicitly ask for help if I am falling behind on housekeeping I expect to handle myself, and let him actually help me instead of trying to do it all. I suck at that – I want to do “all the things”, and demonstrate that I can… but who I am trying to prove that to? Is that even, ever, realistic? Doesn’t that approach also undermine our partnership by robbing him of the opportunity to work with me, alongside me, cooperatively? Together. It’s different than alone. lol I look around the kitchen again, and thank him for the work he’s done. I head back to the practical matter of work (as in “the job”) feeling very fortunate indeed…

It’s a sunny Sunday morning in Autumn. It wasn’t frosty this morning, but quite cold (not quite freezing). The morning has been lovely. Intimate. Romantic. Connected. I enjoyed the shared experience of coffee with my Traveling Partner, and this lovely Sunday morning, savoring each minute.

Eventually, his morning and mine diverged ever so slightly; he heads into his woodshop, I sit down with my listing of things to do. I favor Sundays for thorough housekeeping and mindful service to hearth and home. 🙂 It’s become a practice, over time, and I find it a satisfying approach to ending one week and moving on to the next. It’s definitely more satisfying still, with this lingering smile on my face. I feel very loved. It’s a beautiful morning.

I take a minute for small things of value. Little things I enjoy and appreciate. I make room in my thinking for some moments of gratitude. What an interesting journey this “life” thing is, yeah? I think of faraway friends, and remind myself to send this one an email, that one a letter, maybe, just maybe, pick up the damned phone once in a while. 🙂 These lasting friendships are an important part of my journey, my history, my story – and my success along the way. Totally worth taking the time to check in once in while, with people who are dear to me.

A small bird lands on a branch of the pear tree beyond the window, and sits there briefly as the branch bobs in the breeze, before flying away for some other branch, in some other tree. An ordinary bird. An ordinary moment. I make a point of savoring the simple delight I take in the sight, nonetheless. (Have you ever stopped to consider how very few things in life – good or bad – are truly “extraordinary” in any way? If we reserve our joy for only the outstandingly joyful moment, aren’t we short-changing ourselves on many many hours of heart felt smaller joys? How sad.)

My coffee is almost gone. What’s left is cold. The sunshine reflected off the side of my neighbor’s house reminds me that the day will not wait for me, and I’ve got quite a list of things I’d like to do today. 🙂 It’s already time to begin again. 😀

I’ll start here. 🙂 It’s not a bad starting point for restoring perspective, a reminder that we’re all human, all having our own experience – and that we’ve all got “problems”. The path we walk really isn’t paved. Life’s journey doesn’t have a map. We’re each having our own experience – literally so individual that it is pretty easy to wander around thinking “no one gets me” and feeling we are not being heard, or feeling attacked, while the person on the other side of that interaction feels exactly, precisely, very much the same way.

…That gets awkward when we’re sharing labels (but maybe not definitions, or experiences, in any practical way).

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to living with PTSD, lately. Not just mine. Yours, too. Ours. Theirs. Someone else’s. It’s not an easy thing to love someone who has PTSD. It’s not easy to live around it. It’s hard on our loved ones. Hard on our communities. Hard on familial relationships, friendships, and colleagues. None of that should derail any one of us from a committed effort to being our best selves in every moment in which we are able. Live around PTSD long enough, we may even begin to accumulate some damage of our own, related only to that experience.

I’ve been looking at this complicated puzzle for a few days, after a contentious moment with someone dear to me, whose PTSD may be as bad as mine (although as yet undiagnosed, it’s nonetheless very real, and a difficult complication in a relationship very precious to me). They were having an off day, and I missed the signs of symptoms flaring up. I overlooked a known trigger for this dear one. They “came at me” (verbally) reactive and confrontational, irritable over what looked like “nothing” to me, from my perspective on the outside looking in. I have PTSD, myself, and even after some years of managing my symptoms fairly well, I have my challenges, some almost daily. My dear friend’s flare up became confrontation, hostility, and words thrown at me that seemed absent the context of what was “really” going on. I could not recognize myself in their reflected perception of me. (I didn’t say that. I didn’t do that. That’s now “how it went down”!) I reacted. I became, myself, triggered by their anger and frustration. My own symptoms flared up. I had forgotten about the PTSD on both sides of our human equation. Fucking hell.

Aside from feeling like an insensitive asshole, I also managed to make things worse, simply by being myself in a difficult moment. It was hard. We got past it, but even now, I see that moment in my friend’s eyes, when we interact, and it’s been days. My feeling of emotional safety in the relationship feels shaken. (I’m not sure there’s any reason to feel that way, realistically, but PTSD isn’t about what’s real right now, and any tendency to treat it that way is likely to make matters worse, unfortunately.) I don’t know how to help my friend heal; we’re each having our own experience, and I too need healing. 😦

I know I have more to say about this, but I also know I have more thoughts to think, more to turn over in my head, more questions to ask and to answer. This? It’s advanced coursework in life’s curriculum. I do my best.

I’ll just say this one thing and move on for now; PTSD isn’t the same from one person to the next. It’s more like a fingerprint carved into who we are by the trauma we have survived. We can label a group of symptoms as “PTSD”, but it’s a long damned list, and each person suffering with lasting PTSD has lived their own experience. What triggers one, doesn’t trigger another. How we react, as individuals, to our very individual triggers, is a further complication; there are a lot of differences.

It did get me thinking about one thing that helps, generally; be the best version of ourselves we each can be. Be kind. Be willing to listen without jumping in with a correction. Be compassionate about just how fucking hard this is. Don’t try to make it a competition; our own pain nearly always hurts worse than anything we can really understand anyone else to be going through. Maybe avoid diminishing or diluting someone else’s message if they trust enough to share that they are in pain, or triggered, or overwhelmed; let it be about them, about their experience, and empathize through deep listening (instead of, for example, commiserating through “common experience”, which often misses the point of someone sharing in the first place).

Trust that these are things I consider myself; it’s a lot of work to look through, and beyond, my own symptoms, to “be there” for someone else who seems seriously unconvinced that anyone else could possibly have it as bad as they do. Let them have that moment. What they’re saying is more about the fact that they are in pain or struggling than about whether, or how much, you are. It’s not a fucking contest. I “get it wrong” every bit as often as I “get it right”, I think. I definitely need more practice.

…Having said that… Maybe also don’t overlook what is being communicated if someone is trying to connect and empathize by suggesting they understand through their own experiences. Maybe they really do. How much does that suck??

I’m just saying… be there for each other. Understand that the enormous variety in human experiences and perspectives really does mean that there’s a lot of shit going on in the world, that people endure every day, survive and move on from, that just really really sucks.

Did I mention being kind? It’s a good starting point… And it’s time to begin again.

We are each having our own experience. As true in this calm moment as in any moment of chaos. 🙂 I sip my morning coffee, already cold because I got caught up in listening to music, and chatting with a friend online. I don’t mind. The music – and the friendship – are very much worth my time.

I sit here contentedly musing over the conversations of the week behind me, and the evening, last night. It was an excellent first week at the new job. It resonates pleasantly in my memory. My Traveling Partner and I worked out plans to do with benefit selections, and changes to the budget for the year to come. No stress, anxiety, even though the topic was definitely to do with money. I smile and let myself recognize the growth that experience implies – and the healing. I’ve come along way with myself, and savoring that awareness is, itself, a form of growth and healing. 🙂

At one point, we decided to watch a couple of videos that intend to contrast “get ahead habits” with “fall behind habits”. Both had excellent content, in some regards. Both were also deeply flawed, depending on context, perspective, and framing. This presented a challenge for me; I was viewing them from an awareness of other experiences that made some of the points in these videos… problematic. For one thing, I’ve told you that these were videos about getting ahead versus falling behind, but the content creators don’t actually frame them up that way at all; they say the videos are about “poor people” versus “rich people”. I found that, frankly, highly objectionable, and it kept getting in my way of my ability to listen deeply to the actual points being made, which in several cases had real value. More than anything, the implicit definition of “rich” as de facto equivalent with “successful”, “deserving”, or “good”, and of “poor” in a litany of negative ways presented with a shaming tone was super aggravating. The videos were purposefully made with a very particular demographic in mind; people who want to get ahead in life, from where they are right now. Rich versus poor is a common enough false dichotomy in our culture, and it’s also not uncommon to blame poor people for poverty, or to treat rich people as though they are also ethical, and deserving. I just also think it’s fucking mean to take that approach.

Here’s the thing, though; the content has value. The points being made were not in error, generally. The points were merely drastically over-simplified, lacking in nuance, and stripped of context – in order to make those points more obvious to an audience that may not understand. The terms “rich” and “poor” weren’t being defined with any clarity to provide context – rich is rich, and in the videos no distinction is made between wealth gained through ill means (fraud, theft, exploitation), inheritance, or good fortune, and wealth gained through skillful endeavors. Actually, and I think it is what was annoying me most, the videos very carefully imply that all wealth gained is a goodness, and eschew any discussion of ethics. Same with poverty. The content providers allow an implication that enduring poverty rests on the decision-making of the poor, without even a hat tip to misfortune, institutional racism, or the very real limitations our culture has placed on people’s access to the tools and knowledge that might ease their scramble from poverty to… not being held back by poverty. The content only has two options: rich or poor. No discussion of middle-class success… or any discussion of success versus wealth – conflating cash hoarding with success in life tends to lock out viewers who might see success quite differently than a mountain of cash.

I watched them again this morning, and considered the points from many angles, allowing myself to “talk back” to the faceless narrator. I got more from them the second time through. I still think the content could have been more nuanced, deeper, more authentic, and more informed by explicit discussion of ethics, success, and happiness “metrics” that are more legitimate than a bank balance. I ask too much; the content provider knows their trade. I am not their audience – I am an eavesdropper gleaning something useful from a discussion that doesn’t have much to do with me, really. The target audience may not have the will or interest in also learning to live well, behave ethically, be their best selves, and treat others (and the world) well. They aren’t there yet. They just don’t want to be poor. An understandable position to take, and I hope they succeed at escaping poverty.

I hear my Traveling Partner stir in the other room. The weekend is here. I smile and finish my cold coffee. It’s time to begin again. 😀

There are other voices than mine. There are other lived truths than the truth I live myself. There are other perspectives, other viewpoints, other angles from which to consider each very human moment. There are other tales to tell, told by other travelers. Each existing alongside all the others, their existence, itself, does nothing to diminish the truth of the others; these are narratives. Subjective experiences of being human, in all its wonder, glory, pain, and joy. I tell mine here, my way. 🙂

A friend posted on Facebook recently that she is undertaking her own healing journey, walking that hard mile, processing trauma, seeking healing, and that she had started a blog. She started a group, to post to, understanding that perhaps not everyone wants to share that journey with her. I appreciate the consideration. I respect the journey; I’ve been on my own such journey for a while now. I reflected back on that moment when I decided to start a journey, and a blog, and considered how that “went down”, and the reactions I’d gotten at that time, from friends and loved ones (a fairly discouraging mix of disinterest, distance, and patronizing comments, generally, and a couple folks sincerely interested in being supportive). I asked myself, explicitly, “how do I want to ‘be there’ for my friend, and her experience, right now?”

I provided a reply I hoped would be welcoming and supportive, and accepted the request to join her group. Why would I not? Reluctance to be triggered? I grant you; it’s a risk. (People in my life spend a lot of time opening up to me about trauma, as it is. I’ve survived it so far.) People need to feel heard. They need emotionally secure relationships in which to open up about what hurts them. Me, too. Can I “be there” to support that? Of course I can. It’s on me to set and manage my boundaries, if it gets to be too much, and even that is a way of being there for a friend or loved one, setting that powerful example that it is also okay to set boundaries, and showing what that looks like, in practice. Practice. Yeah – and also, because I, too, am entirely made of human, I need practice, myself. Practice at listening deeply. Practice at maintaining perspective on past trauma. Practice understanding that we each walk our own hard mile. Practice at “being there” for others. Practice, frankly, at being the woman I most want to be – in every interaction, every moment, on every day. Words are just words. It’s the verbs that make changes come to life. It’s what we practice that matters; we become what we practice.

This morning I read the first of her posts (that I’ve read). I savored her voice. The difference in her style of communication. I read from a place of non-judgmental acceptance, and non-attachment. Her tale is not my tale, however similar some details may seem; she is having her own experience. I listen with empathy, consideration, compassion. I listen deeply. I recognize her humanity, her unique experience. I acknowledge the human experience beyond the words. I nod quietly, more than once. “I know you,” I think to myself. Still, I also allow her her moment; we are individuals, with our own experiences, our own pain. We’re in very different places on our individual journeys. That doesn’t matter as much as “being there” – being present, aware, and compassionate – because although we are each having our own experiences, we’re also “all in this together”. I sip my coffee and contemplate the journey stretching ahead of her.

Ask the questions. Do the verbs. Begin again.