Archives for posts with tag: emotion and reason

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.

I left work later than I’d planned, after getting both more and less done than I intended – and needed – to do. I slumped against the hand rail in the elevator as the doors closed around me, alone at long last. Tears didn’t wait. I stoically stepped off the elevator doing a first-rate impression of being dry-eyed and calm.

I messaged my Traveling Partner that I would be heading home. It’s of no direct consequence for him, though, is it? Hardly. I’m here. He’s there. Fuck, why do I do this? I wonder as I buckle in for the commute home. Rain. I start the car – my washer fluid warning tells me I’ve run out. Shit. Really? Today? God damn it. As I pull out, the “time for an oil change” reminder comes on, too. My lips tremble. I’m not up to this. I’m not adult enough. It’s too much…

My phone bing-bongs at me. I haven’t pulled out of the parking lot, and stop, set the break, and check the message. Love and well-wishes for a safe drive from my Traveling Partner. More than that, really, a proper love note, heart-felt, yearning, and reminding me how much I would be missed if I didn’t make it home. Wow…

…I cried most of the way home, the slow enduring weeping of strong emotion that won’t be defeated. Not quite “happy tears”, just… relieved? Reassured? Profoundly moved. I took care with the drive, hearing the reminder still fresh in my thoughts and in my heart. I made it safely home in the usual amount of time, maybe less, and with far less stress – I’m sure there’s something to learn from that.

The box on the stoop reminded me again how loved I am. I sat down on the stoop, in the rain, and just fucking wept. “Too much.” Too much stress in the week, too much emotion in the moment, and it all came pouring out at once, on my front step, on a rainy night. When I became to cold for sentimental moments, too rained on to pretend I wasn’t cold, and my tears had dried, I gathered up my package and went into the house. I messaged my partner, so he’d know I was indeed home safely. His evening had already moved on to other things, and I don’t expect any immediately reply, so I move on to a hot shower, a few more tears, and then make a healthy bite of dinner.

I hurt, but it’s just pain. I’m not on the edge of tearing someone’s head off over nothing, or disintegrating into a sodden tearful wreck. It’s a quiet evening. I have made a lovely home here. I start a fire in the fireplace and take a seat on my meditation cushion, and feel “too much” begin to fall away, leaving behind only enough.

All of the pain this morning, and a hearty helping of “aggravated with America” besides. Fuck this bullshit. I snarl as I open the windows to the breezes. I hobble around making coffee on my aching ankle, the broken foot experience is largely behind me now, this is just routine, everyday, ceaseless “holy-fuck-is-there-anything-at-all-left-down-there-that-properly-functions-as-an-ankle??” pain. The rain yesterday was a relief. Today my arthritis is acting up. This headache seems worse than usual. I am on the edge of tears and my anger just simmers, waiting for a moment to call its own.

It’s just pain.

The splinter in my finger adds to the experience in an extra frustrating way; every time I hit a key with that index finger, I either feel the stabby irritated inflamed pain of the splinter in my finger, or somehow manage a sloppy assortment of unnecessary letters (mostly “g”) that must then be removed. It’s extremely aggravating. My quirky sense of humor is such that at this point, I wish I’d left all the “g’s” in place for amusement. (You’re welcome.)

It’s just pain.

It’s just physical pain. There are literally more important things going on right now than my individual physical pain.

Again I let it go. Start over. Begin again. I do what I can to support my physical needs along the way. There is work to be done “out there”. The difficult work of seeing past my privilege. The work of using my privilege as an umbrella, rather than as a shield. The work of being considerate. The work of being helpful. The work of being kind. The work of setting a good example by being the change I wish to see in the world. The work of listening past my own biases. The work of recognizing we are each having our own experience. The work of compassion. The work of being the village it takes to raise our children to become the future caretakers of the only world we currently call home. The work of seeking a true truth stripped of provocative buzzwords and catchy slogans, laid bare of ideological bias. The work of being a better human being today than I was yesterday – every day.

Fuck… that’s a lot to do. I could say “I hurt too much, today, I’ll get on it tomorrow…”, only… they seem the sort of tasks that would quickly pile up, get out of hand and… oh. That’s right where we are. Now. Shit.

Well. I guess I’ll begin again. Will you?

The time is now.

 

Peculiar morning. I woke from a sound sleep to the message from my Traveling Partner letting me know he is safely home. I felt okay when I woke… not “merry” or overly enthused, but calm and content, certainly. My emotions have shifted and boiled up since then, mixing, shifting, seeming detached from any specific circumstances. Moments of deep love, poignant moments of almost-grief, a lingering vague sadness, a certain tinge of disappointed bitterness with edges gilded in cynicism – variety, this morning, a sampler of feelings lacking in context. No point to be made. No knowledge to be gained. Random emotions in the hours after waking, only.

Last year a morning like this would drive me to my meditation cushion, seeking solace and self-soothing. Two years ago, maybe three, I’d have been feeling low over it, pensive and moody, wondering “what it all means”, but diligently avoiding becoming fused with the emotions, and putting a lot of effort into being present in the moment. 5 years ago, a morning like this one would have found me weeping quietly behind a closed door, frightened of shadows, certain there was no emotionally safe place to turn, filled with despair, and enraged that “it’s all happening again and I can’t make it stop!!” – and not sure what exactly I meant by any of that.

This morning I am a calm observer of my emotions as they ebb and flow, passing through me, sweeping over me, arriving, and then also departing. “This too shall pass” is pretty much approximately always a true statement, whatever the circumstances, if only I can allow it to be so. I open windows to let in the breezes. I enjoy my coffee as day begins to break. I watch dawn arrive from the deck, bare feet on wood, the hair on my arms raised in the pre-dawn chill. I meditate. I have my oatmeal for breakfast. I do my physical therapy stuff. I water the patio garden as the sky begins to lighten from pale to more obviously blue. This is my life, emotions and all. I am okay with that, and with them.

It’s a strangely emotional morning, though. No obvious cause and effect – that’s hard for me, because as human primates are often inclined to do, I really want my emotions to “make sense”, even though “making sense” and being “reasonable” are not their role. I am human, very, and both emotion and reason are part of that experience. I find that some of the power of emotional experiences is lost if I force some kind of rationalized context on them, instead of simply feeling my feelings. So this morning I am feeling things. I wasn’t expecting such a morning, or planning on it, and I don’t know where it may lead or what the day looks like if filled with such experiences.

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

I hear vehicles passing by. Some slow down near the cross-street nearest my driveway. My heart jumps each time – is it him? Each time, I feel that it could be my Traveling Partner. My emotions reach my consciousness first. Reason politely points out that although it is physically within the realm of possibilities that he could indeed have immediately gone from his RV to the SUV and headed this way, arriving here sometime around now-ish, it’s really not likely – he just finished driving hundreds of miles through the night, arrived home safely – and tired – and more probably is now soundly asleep. That’s “reasonable”. Reason gets to the party a little later than emotion does. How much fucking drama does that timing cause humanity day-to-day? I smile and sip my coffee. It’s nice to have the practical example in the moment.

Here. Now.

Pink clouds against a blue sky as the sun begins to edge over the unseen horizon. I know the sun is there, though I can’t see it. Peering at my life through my emotions is a little like that, this morning; I have reason, waiting in the background like that unseen sunrise, but for now what I see are those pink clouds of emotion, reflecting facets of what is, all colored up and altered, changing with the light as the sun does rise. Eventually, day light. Eventually, emotion and reason in balance, awake, and aware.

Strange morning. I have time for another cup of coffee. I have time to begin again.

I slept like crap last night. I mean… according to my fitness tracker I was at least recognizably making the attempt at sleep for more than 7 hours. That’s something. My sleep was fitful, restless, broken into small pieces interrupted by moments of wakefulness, and dreaming that I was awake. I woke wanting very much to continue sleeping, sometime around 7 am. I call that “sleeping in” today, and drag myself from my bed to face the day, which seems already very much in progress, being quite a bit past dawn.

I put on music first thing. I’m really hung up on a track I first heard yesterday. The words fit my playlist, Β “Sit down. Be Humble.” A reminder. A great groove. I start there. Sunday. A good day for contemplation and reminders to be the best human being I can. I dance into the kitchen and make coffee. Music carries me into the studio with my coffee. More reminders. Β It’s a morning for fun and love and… dancing? Who knew. πŸ™‚ The smile on my face feels like part of how my face is made, this morning. I move things around on my playlist to put the best beats and bass and yes, even reminders, at the top. Later will be soon enough for anything more structured or serious. Right now? Music, movement, and smiles. This is about feeling good. πŸ™‚

In case it hasn’t come up before… I am not a dancer. I’m also carry a few more pounds than I find comfortable (or aesthetically pleasing). I have physical limitations due to old injuries, and hell let’s acknowledge that aging has its say as well. Doesn’t matter. I’m not dancing for contest judges. I’m not dancing to show off. I’m not dancing to be good at anything or to demonstrate a skillful execution of some particular choreography. I simply like the way it feels to hear music and be moved. So this is all for me. It feels good to dance. It eases some of my arthritis pain. It slows the creeping inevitability of the passage of time. It is an experience. These are verbs I enjoy. πŸ™‚

I move on in the playlist as I head for coffee number two… favorites new and oldsongs that fill me with hope… and I dance on with the day, thinking about love.

Today is a good day to enjoy the moments that feel the best whenever they turn up. Savor the hell out of that delightful moment, right now, however brief. Save the recollection for later. Enjoy the experience as though it is the only moment. Wallow in it. Appreciate it fully. Be here, now. Then…

Begin again.