Archives for posts with tag: emotion and reason

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 of 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. 🙂

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. 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: 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. 🙂

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.  🙂 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 –  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

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

It’s time to begin again.

I 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.