Archives for posts with tag: emotional resilience

If you’re human, chances are, sooner or later, there’s going to be some yelling. It may seem “appropriate” in the moment. Maybe it’s because something went wrong, or was tremendously frustrating. Maybe there’s a ton of anger behind it. Could be you yelling. Could be someone else yelling. Could be “at you”, or just near enough to be audible to you. There’s gonna be some yelling at some point, because very few people are explicitly taught any other behavior, and we see that loss of emotional control modeled pretty much everywhere, daily, and then amplified in our media and entertainment. Yelling is a thing a lot of people do.

I don’t like yelling. I don’t like it when my own emotional reserves run out and I am reduced to yelling. I don’t like being yelled at (ever, at all, over any-fucking-thing whatsoever). I’m not making any claim to whether my feelings about, or response to, yelling is generally reasonable – I don’t have an opinion on that; I simply don’t like yelling. At all. That’s a me thing.

My feelings about yelling, generally, are of no consequence to the existence of people yelling as a phenomenon. Yelling still occurs, regardless of my feelings. Humans being human. We vocalize, and under specific sorts of stress, we vocalize louder. We’re rather stupid primates in that regard – we apparently think being louder makes us easier to hear, or to listen to. Doesn’t seem to be that way in practice, in any clear or obvious way. Yelling does feel “weaponized” though, and my own perspective is that any good intention in the words being spoken is entirely lost as soon as the words are being yelled. All I hear is the emotion driving the yelling.

Today is high risk of yelling, due to the additional environmental stressor of having our roof being done. It’s hard to relax, converse, work, problem-solve – really anything that requires any focus is wrecked by the “stomping” (they aren’t) and banging (they definitely are) and nailing, and all the various overhead noises that are part of roofing. So, noise being noise, and the both of us having some “noise sensitivity” concerns, there’s considerable risk of lost tempers, frustration, and yeah – yelling. Not gonna lie, I don’t like it. I am eager to have the roof finished, though. It’s work that needed doing when we bought the house, and now here we are, at last. I’m sure not going to do anything to slow this process down. Instead, I’ve got to commit to the practices and verbs that help me manage my own tone and communication – while also committing to the practices and verbs that allow me to make room for my Traveling Partner to have his own experience. We’re both wholly human, and each having our own experience. His frustration often results in yelling (it’s often not personal at all, and often not directed at/toward me – he’s just somewhere else yelling at a thing or process that is frustrating him). It’s part of his communication style and a means of self-expression, I suppose, and it’s not up to me to decide who he is or chooses to be. (I definitely do need to work on not taking it personally – because it isn’t personal.)

I so loathe yelling as an experience, myself, that I work my ass off to just not do that. At all. My results vary, and I admit that I yearn for success that results in a 100% no-yelling environment as a basic condition of day-to-day life, which is a really high bar for success). Again, I don’t make any claims as to whether this is a reasonable approach or desired outcome. I don’t know that. I just know it is what I want for myself (and the world I live in). So I keep working at it. Practicing not yelling. Practicing not becoming a crying mess of bullshit and drama when I hear raised voices.

I mean.. actually… it’s important to practice the positives (it’s hard to practice not doing something, easier to practice doing the more appropriate thing that gets the desired outcome). My Traveling Partner is right about that; expressing such things in the negative (“don’t do” vs “do”) limits success at the most basic cognitive level. I guess that makes “practicing not yelling” more about doing the practices that build emotional resilience and reduce reactivity, and practicing taking a calm and measured tone – even under stress. That’s helpful to prevent becoming a crying mess of bullshit, too, although for that I think also practicing non-attachment, and practicing acceptance, compassion, empathy, and consideration go a long way toward avoiding bullshit and drama.

Now, for anyone thinking to themselves “well, what if it is personal?”. “What if the yelling is abusive, controlling, or manipulative behavior for personal gain?” “What if I really am being emotionally attacked by this person?”. Well, to that I say “I hope you recognize that the most useful solution to such a relationship is to get the fuck out of there while you can?” Meditation doesn’t resolve abuse. Mindfulness, consideration, kindness, openness, and even love will not prevent someone who is harming you from continuing to do so. (Nor will they heal broken bones or broken hearts.) It’s important not to assume someone else’s abusiveness is “you”. Set clear boundaries. Build healthy relationships. Walk away from abuse. You matter. Work on you. Let that other person fix their own bullshit.

Anyway. It’s a second day of listening to banging over head. It’s hard on both my partner and I, and it means a day of practicing patience, of being kind, of being aware and considerate, and of cutting ourselves and each other some slack when tempers flare or voices are raised in a moment of frustration. There will be verbs involved. No doubt my results will vary. I’ll just have to begin again. πŸ™‚

I’m still “work in progress” as a human primate. I’m aware of that. Lots of character – lots of “character flaws”. Sharp as hell… dumb as fuck. Filled with good intentions, infused with vision, sparked by inspiration, and eager to exert my will to create the life I most want to live… mostly. I’m also capable of unreasonable anger, making incorrect assumptions and poor decisions, and sometimes barely have the will to lift my hand to take a drink of water when I’m thirsty.

Sometimes I get wrapped up in a moment, and without realizing I’ve done so, I get lost in someone else’s emotional experience, vacillating between wanting to “solve the problem” and wanting to be emotionally supported – over an experience that isn’t even my own. I forget that I’m a separate person, and put effort into “centering myself” and my experience, and completely lose any comprehension that someone else has actually come to me for support. Not particularly helpful, and definitely unpleasant for that other person, who probably feels not only unsupported, but also regretful that they ever brought whatever it was to me in the first place.

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

Today my Traveling Partner came to me, frustrated, angry with a project going wrong, dealing with the challenge of the day. I managed – I think – to listen. To be available and present. To hear him out without trying to solve the problem (he did not ask me to solve the problem, just to listen). My only assertion, beyond sufficient response to ensure he knew I was listening (in spite of the busy workday just over my shoulder), was to acknowledge his obvious frustration, and to share that I was sorry I did not have some immediate solution I could offer (at all). He thanked me for listening. He went on with his day.

This was, for me, still a very deeply emotional experience – but it wasn’t mine. It was his. The intensity of the emotions I was feeling? A mixture of his emotions being shared, and my PTSD shrieking in my consciousness that intense negative emotion from a male partner is dangerous – “fix it, fix it NOW, or get out! Get away! Danger!” Today, I pushed my fearful consciousness into the background long enough to really listen and be there for my aggravated partner. I stayed present and engaged, in spite of his obvious emotion. It was hard. This is one of the most difficult things I ever have to do, even when my partner’s emotions have nothing to do with me or something I’ve done/not done – in spite of requiring only as much physical effort as it takes to not run away. (It surprises me how much physical effort that does take, though.)

I got back to work when he walked away. My mind still struggles to let it go and really move on. There’s this “sensation in my spine” that tickles my awareness with a lingering sense of urgency and restlessness. I know these things will pass. I keep “wanting to help” – in spite of my absolute lack of potential do so in this particular circumstance. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I sit with the awareness that my desire to help is most definitely built on a foundation of terror; my PTSD reminds me of all the things that could follow, leftovers from another life and a very different relationship. Another breath. This is not that life. Not that relationship. I hear music in the other room, and the sounds of my Traveling Partner working.

Men have emotional lives. Men need to talk about their feelings (just as anyone else might need to do). It’s okay to listen – really listen. Be there. In the abstract, I know this, and it is “so obvious”. In the moment I’m actually called upon to be there, listening, it’s still sometimes quite terrifying. I sip my tea – made for me with such love, earlier this morning, by this human being who puts so much heart into listening when I need to talk. I’ve got a lot to learn about love, and I’m not surprised that there are so many opportunities to practice. This tea is pretty sweet, and I am pleased to “do more/better”, this time, even though it feels a bit as if I’ve done nothing much at all. I see the progress. I let myself sit with that awhile, reflecting on the moment over this nice cup of tea. Soon enough, it’ll be time to begin again.

…I wonder how things are going now? I will fearlessly check on things when I take my next break…

Today is a unique new perspective, a new start, a fresh beginning – and a Monday. Mondays get a raw deal. It’s not the fault of the day that it is the beginning of most work week’s, the hangover after the party that was the weekend, and the perpetual every-seven-day buzzkill. We made most of that up. We could do Monday differently, with some practice. πŸ™‚ True on a Monday, true of a great many other circumstances, too. I sip my coffee, hearing jazz through the walls; my Traveling Partner is enjoying a Monday.

My work day will start soon. For now, it’s me, this cup of coffee, and this pleasant Monday morning. I enjoyed a walk through the neighborhood before dawn, getting some exercise, and appreciating again how much variety there is in the houses. I pass by one or two neighbors preparing to leave for work happening elsewhere. It’s been more than a year since I’ve had to commute to an office. I marvel at that, as I walk along; the walk in the mornings feels a bit like “heading to work” each day, although it’s a loop around the neighborhood of about a mile before returning home. Safe, convenient, but very predictable. I’m grateful for the walk on level pavement, though. It may be “predictable”, but it puts me at little risk of injury, which is a win, and I’m still in cell phone range (so my Traveling Partner needn’t worry).

This particular Monday begins with a lovely sunrise.

The gentle start to the day seems promising. I sip my coffee thinking about the day ahead. An errand to run. A task to complete. The work involved in the work day, itself. I think about “fueling the machine” – maybe a midday break, and a nice scramble for lunch? My thoughts drift back to the weekend. If I had finished my writing yesterday morning, I’d be posting something very different. It was a morning with some challenges, but the day was splendid. The entire weekend was a pleasant one, in my recollection. The sour notes in the music are lost in the beauty of the larger symphony. I’m okay with that. (There has to be some upside to having memory issues! πŸ˜€ )

The pandemic has prevented us from socializing much. We’ve been very strict with ourselves about it. Only two friends (and our son) had been to the new house before this past weekend (other than some socially distant contractors) – and in one case, we ended up catching colds from the visit, which discouraged any further visiting with people, frankly. Being sick sucks enough to practice social distancing if it means not having head colds. That’s my thought, anyway. My Traveling Partner invited friends up for dinner and hanging out. It was lovely – and I do miss entertaining. I was pretty emotionally exhausted from the surplus of human contact by the end of the evening, but it was a lot of fun, and a good night’s rest readied me for a new week.

I guess what I’m making a point of going on about is that sometimes it’s necessary to explicitly make room to succeed – perhaps differently than I planned. A challenging morning can become a splendid day, and lingering pleasant memories. “Monday” doesn’t have to be predictably awful. We have a crazy number of choices to make, every day, and the ones we leave “on autopilot” sometimes don’t leave room for new, better, outcomes. I remind myself to put myself on “pause” long enough, often enough, to consider my choices with care, and to leave room for success. I remind myself to consider what matters most, more often, and to choose my actions more deliberately, with greater care, eyes wide open, and a beginner’s mind.

Paths, moments, beginnings, journeys; choose your metaphor.

…So…here it is…Monday. πŸ™‚ It’s time to begin again.

I’m feeling frustration and despair, this morning (yep, still morning, and not even 4 hours into my day). I’m struggling to pull myself out of the emotional muck, and find perspective. I’m working through the tedious effort involved “letting shit go” and “moving on”. I’m forcing myself through practices that both my intellect and my experience tell me definitely work, but I’m also having to fight a frustrating, pervasive feeling of resistance to the effort, and futility about the likely outcome. This moment right here is hard. Not what I had planned or expected for this first day of the new year. :-\ Fuck 2020. I mean, so far…

PTSD is an absolute motherfucker of a mental health condition. No need to exaggerate, or attempt to persuade; if you’ve been there, you know. If you love someone who has PTSD, you know. Flare ups, episodes, freak outs, flash backs, cognitive distortions, and the frustration, despair, depression, guilt, sorrow, grief, or anger that follow any of those, aren’t as predictable as they might seem they would be, and come at us unexpectedly – in spite of the fairly lasting certainty that we’ll experience them again. Trust me, it’s not a pleasant sort of “surprise”.

I’m having a rough New Year’s Day. Well. Sort of. Right now, I mean. Actually, only about an hour of it was unpleasant. Confusing, surreal, and scary – also good descriptions. Now I’m just… sorting myself out and trying to find my way.

Are you having a rough New Year’s Day, too? Have you handled your self-care skillfully? Are you in a (physically) safe place? Have you taken time to breathe, maybe even meditate? Can you convince yourself to take a step back from the problematic moment? Can you take that a step further and reflect on impermanence (“this too shall pass”), and non-attachment (letting it go)? Can you put your spun up consciousness on pause long enough to reflect on the small things for which you can feel grateful (yes, even right now)? (Anger and gratitude don’t easily exist side-by-side in the same moment.) Do you have a useful distraction at hand (a healthy one), like completing a task that requires some focus, or simply reading a book? (Or writing… see? Here I am, and it does work pretty well, for me, generally; your results may vary.)

…When “things blow over” (assuming you didn’t wreck someone’s property, or injure someone, or do or say something with lasting serious consequences), at a minimum, you’re probably going to have to deliver real apologies to people affected by your PTSD (yeah, I know, it fucking blows, because you already know you most likely won’t receive the same in return, however hurt you feel by the circumstances; it’s not a fully equitable, reciprocal world, and human primates can be dicks – you’ve got to let that go, too, in favor of simply being the person you, yourself, most want to be, because there is real healing in that). An apology is a relatively small thing, isn’t it? Just deal with it, graciously, compassionately, and accept that your “issues” really do affect other people, in some ways every bit as much as your PTSD affects you directly, only… their experience is the only one they can actually feel. Your experience of being disordered, broken, wounded…? They only understand any of that in the abstract, and yes, even if they also have their own PTSD issues to deal with. We have a limited capacity to truly understand each other, however commonplace our experiences may be. We are each having our own experience. For people hurt by a loved one’s PTSD, those sincerely intended, genuine, unreserved and unconditional apologies for the damage done really do matter. Say you’re sorry so you can move the fuck on.

“Stop catastrophizing” may be some of the least useful “advice” ever offered from one human being to another. Just saying – it’s a lot like suggesting that someone should calm down, when they are upset. Well-intended, often potentially correct, inasmuch as it would be helpful (and wise) to do so, but… who can hear the words and then act on them with fond appreciation for the concern? Like… no one, ever. LOL Not how that works. Still… if you can, it’s worth taking the steps needed to shift gears from catastrophe and despair to something, anything at all, less bleak. Small steps are fine. Incremental change over time may be all we can rely on in such moments. While you’re at it… breathe.

One of the nuisances of PTSD is how long it can take to “bounce back”, emotionally (the chemistry of emotion is tricky shit). I’ve been less than consistent with my meditation practice over the past year, and it shows; my resilience is less reliable, less deep, less durable, and I feel it today – it may take me hours (instead of minutes) to recover a positive sense of self, and move on with my day open to any outcome other than this bullshit right here, now. I feel sapped, and vulnerable. I take another drink of this water (self-care 101; if you’ve been crying, you need to drink more water), and remind myself that my “episodes” were once much more severe, lasted a great deal longer, did real damage, and the recovery period was measured in days and weeks, not hours, or minutes.

Progress made is not lost just because one moment goes sideways – it just feels that way. Expect that to be a thing, and be willing to give yourself a fucking break. This shit is hard.

Every word of this today is for me, now. I write, and read it back, paragraph by paragraph, as I go. I am reminding myself, practice by practice, of what it takes to maintain emotional wellness, and attempting to make good on that promise to myself. The feeling of internal resistance has dissipated, which is progress.

In the background, I hear my Traveling Partner slaying monsters of one variety or another; video games are another excellent “escape strategy” when a peaceful morning explodes in emotional chaos. He’s got his own hard mile to walk, and I don’t doubt being my partner makes that all much more complicated. I listen to the measured cadence of his game-play, and find it calming. I pause my writing long enough for a self-inventory of where I’m at right now. I still feel sort of muted and a bit blue, and may be prone to being easily hurt (emotionally) for some hours to come. I put that aside, reminding myself not to take shit personally. My head aches. The ringing in my ears almost deafens me if I turn my attention to it. I feel wrung out. Fatigued. Emotionally bruised. Having a bite of lunch helped. Drinking some water helped, too. The lingering feeling of personal failure and disappointment is a bummer, but, and this is true; it’ll pass.

Hell of a start to a brand new year. I expected better of the day – and of myself. It’s not “too late”, though. I can hit the reset button, any time I choose… right? I consider how best to make use of the moment; there is growth and momentum in mastering the chaos and healing the damage (more than any pleasant easy moment can offer). It’s definitely time to begin again… again.

In many respects the waking moments of this morning were very similar to yesterday. It’s been a lovely morning so far. Yesterday ended well. I bounce back more easily these days.

Today is beautiful.

I take time to smell the roses.

My difficulty bouncing back from emotional storms, bad days, and stressful circumstances used to result in days upon days of being stuck in some awful place, mired, picking at some emotional wound rather pointlessly, until… Until when? That was part of the thing; I wasn’t taking effective action to support myself emotionally, to calm or soothe myself, or to actually address both the circumstances I struggled with – and the struggling itself; I was sort of waiting around until change happened. (It will, and it does, but it’s an uncomfortable and damaging approach, I find.)

I take an active approach to emotionally supporting myself these days because it isn’t possible to be entirely emotionally supported by everyone else – by anyone else – realistically (or fairly); we are each having our own experience. At some point, I decided to go ahead and have it – hurts, and messiness, and frustrating challenges, and Β painful decisions, and fear of failure, and all the rest of the maelstrom of chaotic details that is just one human life – mine. Yielding to it, giving in to it, embracing it – and participating with enthusiasm, turned out to also give over all the love, the laughter, the joy, the wonders and delights, the excitement, the sensuous thrills, and all the sweet details of a life well-lived, time well-spent, and loved ones cherished. I learned that, for me, the connections matter more than the monsters in the darkness.

It’s a journey. It’s not over. πŸ™‚


It’s a lovely morning, and a good time to begin again.

Today feels good. I’m glad I took care of myself yesterday, and didn’t take a couple stressful hours personally. I woke this morning feeling whole and beautiful, and wrapped in contentment. Today is a good day to enjoy that about me while it lasts. That’s enough. πŸ™‚