Archives for posts with tag: emotion and reason

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ˜‰

…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,Β 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ It’s not necessary to take them personally, at all. It’s only necessary to begin again. πŸ˜‰

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

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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.

 

Yesterday was weird. I was angry all day; I’m a women, living in a nation that does not respect or value women, facing the possible Supreme Court appointment of an accused rapist. Well, shit. We’ve already got that very same sort ofΒ grotesquerie seated in the Whitehouse, and unknown, uncounted, unacknowledged numbers of that very same bullshit in our Congress, the Senate, our government agencies, our workplaces, and yes, even in some of our homes. Don’t be afraid to feel angry; this shit is worth our anger.

Be angry.

Vote.

Anger is weird toxic shit, though. As with a proper fairytale curse, it inevitably spills back in some way on the deliverer. We carry our anger in secret – problematic – then explode – inappropriate, ineffective, and generally the consequences are unpleasant. We end up doing a lot of “damage control” and repairing our angry words with excessive apologies, even pleading, and submissive posturing. We could do better with our anger. We can learn to be more skillfully, relentlessly, effectively angry. I’m not there yet – but I believe in the possibility, and the helpful folks of the rich white guy frat boy club currently holding office are totally here to help; they are keeping me seriously angry. I’m getting lots of practice.

One challenge is holding focus and keeping my anger relevant, limited, and correctly directed where it belongs. Preventing my anger from spilling over everywhere, into every relationship, is sometimes hard. The lines between actual harms, and perceived slights, become blurry. Anger is powerful shit. Wielding it skillfully tends not to come very naturally to me after a lifetime of being told I can’t have mine, that it’s not appropriate to express my anger, that my anger is unreasonable… being told for a lifetime to stop talking, to sit down and shut up, to restrain myself… being shouted down and talked over, for a lifetime, in most relationships (whether work or professional)… the underlying chronic persistent repression, being robbed of personal agency, being provided a restricted set of human and civil rights (just for lacking a penis, for fucks’ sake)… Yep. Harnessing that massive seething roiling pent-up body of lifetime rage and very carefully directing just so, at a particular moment or movement or person… is fucking hard.

One challenge is not being convinced, by those well-meaning loved ones inconvenienced by – or frightened of – my anger, to dim my light, to mute my voice, to stifle my rage. Rage is scary shit. I’m keeping mine, thanks. I’m fucking angry. I’m not going to shut up about it. You can walk on if that’s a problem for you. I’m okay with that.

No yelling though. No yelling in the house. No yelling in the morning. No yelling in frustration. Just… no yelling. Yelling is triggering, and generally, once a person is reduced to yelling, no communicating is happening at all. Knock that shit off. It’s not useful.

Seriously. Man or women. No fucking yelling. Take a deep breath. Give yourself a moment to calm the fuck down, and try again – without yelling.

I want to live my life well and beautifully. I want to enjoy moments. I want to indulge in life’s pleasures. I want great conversation, with close friends, and people who care passionately about things in life that also matter to me. I want to enjoy lovely emotionally relevant art. I want to feel joyous and empowered. I want to approach my life as a journey that belongs wholly to me. I don’t want to be swamped by my anger. I don’t want to be incapacitated or overwhelmed by it. I don’t want it to become a festering wound that deepens over time. There is much to consider.

I sip my coffee and consider it.

I sip my coffee and consider the friendship of women, too. So many of us struggle with that; women have been divided, often. Women are powerful together. It’s time we reach out more easily to each other. Forge lifetime friendships that support, encourage, nurture – and take back our world. πŸ™‚

Last night I enjoyed the company of two women. One I’d met before, briefly, and one I had not met previously. Women of great heart and emotional depth. Women with something to say about themselves, and about life. Women with a trajectory – a vision of their desired future. Women who care. Women who laugh. Women who “get it”. We had a great evening of conversation. We were authentic and vulnerable. We were real and frank, and funny. We forgot to go to dinner. We overlooked the time. We talked – continuously, delightedly, eagerly – in that very specific way that generally leads to, in other homes, on other evenings, some man breaking in to announce he “can’t get a word in edgewise”, or to make a “playful” accusation that we talk to much, or to request some service or task that he could easily handle himself, or to point out that we are “chattering away” in some dismissive tone – as if our words with each other matter less than our willingness to put our attention on him. I am so fucking done with that. (Keep up, bruh, or listen politely and maybe learn something.)

This Kavanaugh bullshit has gotten me – a lot of women – pretty angry. We don’t feel heard. We don’t feel supported. It’s become too hard to avoid recognizing that women are specifically not valued, and are specifically perceived as property, even now, and even by the men in the fucking government (why the fuck have we elected this??). It’s hard. So… I converse. I converse with women. I’m not making any particular effort in those moments of conversation to make room for the care and consideration of men; I need to be heard. I also need to be educated… or… un-indoctrinated, at least.Β So I’m also reading. The titles are very telling, I suppose: “Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny“, “Rage Becomes Her“, “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower“… I am clearly not alone in my anger. I have spent far too long on the words of men. For balance, though, I’m also keeping “Resilient:Β How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness” close at hand. I do seek balance. Utility. Function. Effectiveness. I am not looking to loose the wild anger of my ancient pain on the world – just see through some changes that would improve the world for women, and thereby for all of us.

If you’re a man hoping to be some part of some sort of solution, listening is a good starting point. Really listening. Making room to understand that we (women) are having a very different experience of life than you are. (Please don’t push back on this with some sort of statement about your experience and your needs; we fucking know already, we live that reality for you every fucking day, it is part of our daily indoctrination, and even our formal educations. Knock it off for a bit, okay? That’s specifically the ask here; give us a moment of your time, really. Authentically. Listen deeply. Hear us.)

Enough with that. I’ve probably said enough. πŸ™‚

This morning is lovely and quiet, following a merry evening of lively conversation with beautiful well-spoken women. Powerful. I enjoy my coffee smiling quietly. It’s a good morning. I feel content, and whole. I am aware of my anger in the background – it does not rob me of this lovely quiet moment. It’s an extraordinary place to be with myself. I’ve come a long way as a woman, and as a human being, over the past couple years, and this feels like a reward for a lot of committed focused effort to be the woman, the person, I most want to be. I eagerly look ahead to seeing my Traveling Partner sometime soon, and sharing his energy, here, in this lovely space. We’re good together, and it feels good to be supported, valued, nurtured… Fuck. I miss him.Β  πŸ™‚ I’m betting that this visit won’t find my anger crowding out my love; there is room for all my emotions to exist in my experience. I am a human being – a creature of both emotion and reason.

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

It’s time to begin again. It’s time to change the world. ❀

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 –Β  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. πŸ™‚

It’s time to begin again.