Archives for posts with tag: emotion and reason

I’m sipping my Sunday morning coffee in solitude. Best that I do so. I’m in a lot of pain after a long walk on a windy winter beach, yesterday, which, while it provided wonderful time to reflect and listen to my own thoughts, was also physically taxing. I’m definitely glad I wore base layers, too; it was chilly!!

Windy, rainy, cold, and the tide coming in. There’s no stopping the tide.

Things went seriously sideways Friday night, and Saturday’s walk on the beach was moody and bleak. It felt wholly necessary, but there was little joy in the moment. This saddens me, even now. It is, at this point, just something I’m adding to the recollection. I breathe, exhale, and let that go.

…I got some great pictures…

Friday might not have turned into the emotional shitstorm it did if I had been paying more attention… or… if I were altogether someone else, I suppose. My Traveling Partner woke in pain Friday morning, and was in an absolutely foul mood as a result (not unlike where I find myself this morning). He made a point of saying so, and was very kind and careful in our interactions all day, although he was cross and irritable. I finally ended my work day and … the whole delicate considerate assembled-with-care framework crumbled. I’m still sipping my first coffee, right now, this morning, and my brain is not yet entirely “on line”; I struggle to recall specifically what went wrong. Something I said, or my reaction to something he said, and suddenly we were lobbing raw emotions at each other in the form of angry words. I wept. We took turns shouting. We both ended up triggered – and triggering each other – and just fucking mired in our individual pain and heartache. To call it “unpleasant” seems insufficient. To make more of it than that seems simultaneously disrespectful of any underlying legitimate concerns that ought be addressed with love and consideration – but also seems likely to elevate those painful hours to something more important than what they were. Chaos fueled by emotions. Emotions that had less to do with the moments we found ourselves in than other moments, in other relationships, that left us scarred. Both unpleasant and unfair. How is it “unfair”? Isn’t it always unfair to ask love to sweep up the mess left behind by circumstances that had little, if any, actual love in them?

Friday morning became a painting, instead of an argument. 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas, untitled.

Yesterday was strained and awkward. This morning I woke up in pain, and found myself saying so, much in the same manner that he had on Friday morning. A cold chill rolls up my spine, and my mouth goes dry, and my anxiety spikes over fear that today will be another Friday, and end poorly. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I do it again. Then another breath. Followed by another. I keep at the breathing until the hinted-at-future-but-not-now feelings of anxiety recede. I definitely don’t need to invite or cultivate that shit.

I sit with my coffee this morning, thinking about my walk, my work, my relationships… I consider how my TBI affects the way I communicate, not just the part where I talk (a lot), or interrupt (too much), but also the part that is the step beyond listening; my ability to make sense of what I am hearing, and to correctly reply to what has actually been said. I do pretty well, generally, but… when I am tired, or in pain, or distracted, I’m not just “less good at that”, I’m pretty horrible – and when I look at that, and also consider the “performance pressure” I tend to feel that pushes me to answer any question very quickly, I see how easily this can go very wrong, leaving someone trying to have a conversation with me feeling perhaps I am not listening at all. It’s rough. It can go a bit like this:

“Did you hear from your friend about that painting?” someone asks.

“No.” I say, “Well, they texted me. I didn’t feel up to talking right then, so I said I would call back today after work,” I add, followed by “They did say they really like the painting, in their message to me.”

(no shit, a real conversation I had)

So… yeah. What the hell?? When I see it written down, I totally get why that would be not just incredibly frustrating to wade through to get a simple “Yes, they liked it.” It also tends to seem potentially … dishonest? Misleading? Manipulative? Crafty? Vague? Withholding? Dissembling? A whole bunch of adjectives could apply. It’s not actually about any of that, though. I started answering the question I was asked before I actually understood the question at all. Along the way, my brain mixed up “hear from” with “speak to” – similar but quite different – and entirely missed the point of the fucking question until I’d provided a bunch of utterly unsolicited other information. So… slow down? Fuck yes. Easy, right? Well… maybe? It’ll take practice. I’ll say very bluntly that I’ve had “reply immediately” literally beaten into me (first marriage was a domestic violence nightmare I’m lucky to have survived). It’s hard to change behaviors that were heavily reinforced with violence or trauma. It takes more work and practice and commitment and awareness and encouragement and kindness and support than I can describe. It can be done. My results vary, though, and every failure is heart-breaking for at least a moment of pure distilled disappointment with myself.

…This isn’t “all about me” though. This particular challenge is very specifically the sort that commonly affects the people interacting with me, most. I’m kind, honest, open, and well-intentioned, but I’ve also got PTSD… and I’ve got brain damage. That’s going to present a combinations of characteristics some people just aren’t going to be willing to deal with long-term. So far my Traveling Partner still chooses to share this complicated journey with me. I’m very fortunate, and very grateful. I know it isn’t easy.

Caution.

So, yesterday, I walked on the beach alone, reflecting on my challenges, my abilities, love, and life, and work, and gave some thought to life’s curriculum on the topics of boundaries, and of communication. I was missing my partner long before I noticed my knees were aching, and headed home when the rain began to fall heavily.

I find myself, now, bringing my thinking “back to basics”: breathing, listening deeply, my “Big 5” relationship values (Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Compassion, Openness), and the book my own beloved recommended to me, early in our relationship…

It’s hard to go wrong with good basics…

Yep. I am re-reading The Four Agreements, again. Sometimes beginning again is simply a step forward, with new thinking. Sometimes beginning again means a new commitment to something that is proven to work well, when applied consistently. Now there is a day ahead of me… I see sunshine through the window shade. The aquarium needs maintenance. There is housework to be done. In spite of aching knees, I’d enjoy a walk in the forest, now that the storm damage from the recent ice storm is cleared away. All of that, and Love to nurture besides… looks like a busy day ahead.

…I guess it’s time to begin again…

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’m starting this one now, late in the work day, afternoon sunshine spilling through the window onto my laptop, while I’m still irritated. I’ve been in a great mood all day… then… not. A few critical cross-sounding words, delivered in a stern parental sounding tone, in the middle of my work day – where, I promise you, I am not a child – and my mood feels wrecked. (I say “feels wrecked” instead of “is wrecked”, because it is not my intention to allow things to remain in this annoying state.) It’s time for managing the mood wrecker, and getting on with work, and the day.

To be very clear, I don’t mean to convey “mood wrecker” as an entity or person. It’s a moment, a phrase, an experience – it’s not about the who, it’s about the feeling. Shall we continue?

So, I’m setting this up for tomorrow’s writing, freeing myself up to tackle this challenge right now, while it is currently an irritant. I can write about it tomorrow, that’s plenty soon enough. 🙂 Hell, by the time morning comes, I may no longer remember the moment of nagging negative assumption-making delivered as “feedback” in any specific way, and unfortunately, whether I explicitly recall the specifics verbatim or not, the emotional change of “weather” has not ever shown itself to be dependent on detailed recollection at all. It just “is”. I’d really rather not just sit around in a shitty mood for the rest of the day, into the evening, and wake up in a crappy mood, no longer even aware of why. So. I’ll be taking steps – and practicing practices. 😉

…Wish me luck…

Still, and again. The very best practices work that way.

Here it is morning. My coffee is hot, and I feel rested and content. It’s a pleasant morning so far. The day, yesterday, finished well, and honestly, it was only minutes later that I was over my moment of aggravation. Here’s the thing; the content of the feedback/reminder I was given wasn’t an issue or any sort of problem. It was legitimate, reasonable, and valued. The person giving me the feedback wasn’t the “problem” – I value them and appreciate their insights. When I got past taking the tone personally, I could “just hear the words”. Once I was able to simply let go of my annoyance with the (implicit) assumption that the negative experience being discussed is “always” something I am personally and exclusively responsible for, I was able to hear the feedback itself as feedback and value it for what it was – an expression of importance and value, and a request to do some small thing differently to meet a need. Funny thing is, it was a request to do something I already see myself as doing, generally, make a point of doing (usually) and had been specifically doing for a couple days un-reminded, for the person who later reminded me to do it on an occasion when it hadn’t been getting done! I totally took their feedback personally, which is silly since I’d happily been picking up some slack for them for a few days, after being asked to do so.

I definitely took it way personally, and resented the reminder in the moment I heard it, as a result. Was it the tone? Doesn’t matter. Was it the phrasing? Doesn’t matter. Was it “true”? Even that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the task itself getting done is important to both the person reminding me and to me, and we do both want to see it done, reliably. That’s really the point of delivering the reminder in the first place.

The steps and practices for getting past it were pretty basic:

  1. Breathe
  2. Don’t take things personally
  3. Practice non-attachment
  4. Find the value in the message
  5. Show compassion
  6. Pause for gratitude

That probably seems like “a lot”, but the time involved was minutes, and begin with meditation (most of those steps fit into the time I spent meditating). The gratitude? I literally took a moment to reflect on how grateful I am to be surrounded by people who do care enough to remind each of what matters to them, and to give honest feedback when things go wrong. Doesn’t work at all if it’s not sincere, and that’s why that step is last. Takes me a minute and a bit of work to get there. lol Step 2 is the “hard one”. It requires me to work on me.

Finding peace and balance is a very personal journey.

These things happen at work, they happen at home, and they are not experiences unique to my life and my relationships. 🙂 Letting it go took some effort, because emotions are not about what is reasonable, what is true, or what is comfortable. They are what they are. Same for the person griping at me about the concern in the first place; it had become an emotional issue. Their emotions were audible, and that colored my experience, too. I’m glad non-attachment is a tool in my toolkit of everyday practices. I’m glad I know to practice not taking things personally. Those two practices let me move past the moment of aggravation and resentment, to a place where I could understand and embrace where the speaker was coming from. Will any two individuals ever see things “the same way”? Probably only by coincidence, honestly. We’re more likely to think we have the same point of view, than we are to truly share an identical perspective with any one other person. Differences in experience (we are each having our own experience). Differences in values (which change how we evaluate what goes on in the world around us). Differences in “personal dictionary” (the words we use have nuanced meanings, and it’s rare that we take time to verify a shared understanding of meaning). Differences in practices (what we do or don’t do, generally, change how we view the world, too).

It’s a lot to take in. Practices require practice. Sometimes growth isn’t easy. I’m “over it” – I’m not mad or annoyed. I get the point. Hell, I even agree that the task we were discussing is needful, and that everyone needs to “pull their weight”. (And, being real, I often do need reminders to get new tasks down reliably, at least at first.) The hardest part for me was letting go the persistent desire to come back with “Yeah, for sure, but how about you, too, though?” Unnecessary, I think, and likely less satisfying that I’d want it to be. The person delivering the reminder already sees the task as needful, so much so that they were willing to explicitly request my help getting it done on days when they were frankly very busy with something else, and kept forgetting to do it, themselves. So… yeah. That just leaves “did I?” competing with “didn’t I?”, and taking something personally that wasn’t personal at all… Letting it go just ends up being the easier thing, entirely. 🙂

I woke this morning having forgotten the reminder, the moment, the irritation, and my temporarily wrecked mood (which bounced back pretty quickly, given a chance). It was just another morning, another cup of coffee, another day to begin again. The draft I started yesterday reminded me. Reminders are emotionally neutral, and serve a clear purpose. 🙂 It’s not necessary to take them personally, at all. It’s only necessary to begin again. 😉

Once we choose our path, we’ve still got to walk it. The journey is the destination. 🙂

This morning starts gently. The promise of every new day is a new beginning. Even in the time of pandemic, every dawn begins a new day (so far…). I start the morning with meditation, yoga, coffee… and this peculiar beautiful strange celebration of what is human. I love this video version of The Real Folk Blues. I’m not certain I can be clear about quite why. It isn’t the “original version”. It’s one created by artists (during the pandemic) inspired by that original for reasons of their own. It reminds me that even our struggles – maybe especially our struggles – create moments of profound beauty, wonder, and power in our experience. Anchors created in our memory that tie us to events, places, people, experiences… good or bad, lost or found; our hearts beat to these rhythms. Pieces of “who we are”.

Poetic musings and a bit of music, a cup of coffee, a sunrise… there are worse ways to start a day. 🙂

My mind wanders through recollections of recent special moments. Like light and shadows, reflections on water, or catching sight of a finished painting with completely new eyes, the memories are meaningful to me, in a fleeting moment, the significance easily lost if I “overthink” them. There have been some lovely moments during the move, and yes, during this time of pandemic. I sit with those, sipping my coffee, insisting that my restless mind pause and focus on what is sweet, and merry, and good, and uplifting. Love and loving, and what matters most. The things I want to characterize my day-to-day experience. I pause not to celebrate those experiences so much as to savor them, and “lock them into” my implicit memory and experience of life “generally”. The wellspring of my positivity and fairly reliably good outlook on life, these days, is, I suspect, rooted in this one simple practice. It’s not “mine” – I learned it elsewhere. Here’s a great explanation of how to “take in the good”. Your results may vary. (We become what we practice.)

It’s a good morning for coffee and sentiment. Such a human thing. What’s so special about being human? I’m not even certain that it is special… there’s not much I can know about “the life of the mind” for a turtle, an ant, a hummingbird, or a house cat. I only know what I know – and that’s such a pitifully small amount of knowledge, even among human primates, that it can be a bit of a downer now and then. I queue up another favorite song, sentimental, encouraging, and very human. I smile while silly sentimental tears spill over for no obvious reason. Also very human. Also totally okay.

Perspective matters.
“Emotion and Reason” acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow 2012

Another day. Time to get on with another beginning. 🙂 What sweetness and wonder might today hold? Time to find out… If things go wrong, I know I can begin again.

Sometimes it is a thing; we are creatures of emotion and reason. Just like that sentence, emotion generally arrives to the party first. Reason shows up later. I’m super grumpy today. I don’t have any sort of reason for that, it’s simply how I am feeling, at this moment (and for several hours worth of moments since shortly after my work day began). There is nothing specifically “wrong”. I’m just… grumpy. Correction. I feel grumpy. I feel cross. I feel irritable. I feel prone to taking things personally. I feel “out of sorts” and generally aggravated. I feel impatient. These are how I am feeling.

…Still, they’re just feelings

Emotions are funny things. We can argue the factual basis of a subject. We can disagree with each other regarding our understanding of circumstances, and our recollections of details; we are each having our own experience. We’re not seeing the world from identical perspectives. We can’t actually argue against an emotion, though. Those are our own. Not subject to disagreement. Period. I feel grumpy. No one actually gets to tell me that’s “incorrect” as an emotional experience. (People may try, but as arguments go, an argument against someone’s emotional experience is rife with thought-errors, fallacies, and a peculiar assumption of entitlement, inasmuch as it presupposes that other person’s emotional experience is somehow superior or has more substance or value.) I’m mostly not even letting my grumpiness “be a thing”, generally, but it is still there in the background.

…I would have been camping next week. All week. Out under the trees. No other people. Only my own agenda. Quietly sitting. Hiking. Cooking out under the sky. Sipping coffee in the morning chill. Watching the leaves unfold, and the spring flowers bobbing and swaying in the spring breezes. Content, relaxed, and face-to-face with the woman in the mirror for a few days of solitude. Pandemic life being what it is, the location where I would have been camping closed, and canceled all pending reservations, some weeks ago. So, not going is not a surprise. Hell, I’m not unhappy to have the opportunity to still enjoy a couple of those days off, in the good company of my Traveling Partner…but…

Today, right now, for no obvious reason, I feel exceedingly put out by every tiny inconvenience. I feel prone toward anger, over shit I’m not generally angry about. I really “want to rest” – but I’m not talking about physically resting this meat puppet. I need cognitive rest. I need time with myself.

It may be awhile, for all of us, before we get some needs easily met. For some folks, solitude is hard to come by right now. For others, what’s hard to come by is community. Whether we call time spent alone “solitude” or “loneliness” is largely a matter of perspective. The emotions involved belong to each of us as individuals. I sigh and alternate between sips of cold coffee left from this morning, and fizzy water that has gone flat. I don’t care for – or about – either one. It’s almost reflexive, as if I am seeking to satisfy a craving, but doing so quite incorrectly for the craving that it is. So… now what?

Eventually the emotional weather will shift, and “this too shall pass”. I could take the mood, and the moment, very personally, blowing it way out of proportion, catastrophizing it, creating monsters out of miniatures. Or… I could let this shit go. Again.

…And then again, if necessary. And again after that. Yep, again once more if I have to. Maybe another time after that. Just keeping putting it down, letting it go, and beginning again. No reason to vilify the emotions themselves; they are not the bad guy here. Far more valuable to look them over tenderly, honestly, and with as much self-compassion as I know how to practice. Then try again if I miss that mark. There is no limit on the new beginnings I can offer myself.

So… I do.

My Traveling Partner comes in for a moment, and glances at the page in front of me. “I’m sorry you’re grumpy.” He says it tenderly. Kindly. Honestly. This, too, is a moment. A pretty nice one, actually. He gets back to what he was doing. I get back to what I am doing, while taking some time for me – to savor this moment. Far too easy to become mired in my less pleasant ones, even though the lovely ones are so much more worthy of my attention. Human primates and their negativity bias. I shake my head, smiling at myself. So human.

…It helps to take a moment, for myself. Some quiet. Some solitude. A moment to begin again.