Archives for posts with tag: emotional self-suffiency

It’s a lovely autumn day. I’ve spent it on mindful service to hearth and home, and some pleasant opportunities to enjoy the company of my Traveling Partner. We both seem to be having a very good day. I’m enjoying that, unreservedly. I’m also in pain.

The forest beyond the deck, on an autumn morning.

If I allowed my physical pain to stop me from getting things done or enjoying my experience in every moment I am experiencing physical pain, I’d have to just give in. Do nothing. Enjoy nothing. Go nowhere. That doesn’t sound like the best possible way to experience life, so… mostly I choose differently. It sometimes feels like an endurance race. A test of will. A hex. Today? Today it feels like a lovely autumn day on which I happen to be in pain. Verbs. Choices. Practices. Self-care.

We each walk our own hard mile. Sometimes it’s not “well-paved” or “smooth and level”. Sometimes that hard mile is miserable, tedious, or painful. Sometimes it feels endless. Persist. Endure. Choose. Don’t like the outcome? Try choosing something else. Begin again. If every mile of this journey called life was easy, effortless, and on an obvious path, it would likely also be incredibly dull, and certainly there’d be damned little reason to grow, to learn, or to change. So… there’s that.

There’s also this pain, but… it’s wrapped in a sunny day, and I feel wrapped in love. 🙂 It’s enough.

I am sipping my coffee and considering, for a moment, how strange that there are so many yesterdays, and only just this one ‘today’, only this one ‘present’ moment. I’m not sure how to count futures; are they infinite, because there are so very many potential choices and happenstances, or are they not-even-one because no one such potential moment has any substance whatever until it occurs… in the present? No great calamity or stress pushes my thinking down this pathway this morning. I think I got here because I am contemplating retirement rather earnestly, and giving thought to ‘when’, and ‘how’. I have literally no interest in continuing a tedious corporate grind for someone else’s gross margin until I am 75 or 80 years old. Some days, I barely muster the commitment to do so now. Choices, however, come at a cost, and the bills must be paid.

I’m not having any sort of crisis of self or identity here, I’m just tired. lol I’ve been working my entire adult life with the exception of some weeks between jobs now and then, and I’m ready to invest my time in my own agenda. I’ve said as much before, and I don’t make a secret of it. Hell, the one time I tried to take a serious hiatus, a breather, six months for me… someone else in the household lost her job, income we’d all counted on, and I was asked to go back to work, and did (probably a good thing for all of us, since she was not able to find work for the better part of a year). Economically, I’m fortunate to be employed. Emotionally, I could sure use a break – and realistically, I’m not going to be getting one any time soon. Still, I find value in considering my future retirement. If nothing else, I am hopeful that considering it in a practical way regularly will ensure I have one. I know, I know – there are verbs involved. 🙂

I find myself feeling cross at the recollection of a recent conversation about retiring, and wanting do so before I am 60. There seemed to be real resistance to the idea, particularly if there were going to be any chance I might be dependent on my partner’s resources in any measure to make that happen. It was a peculiar moment. I managed not to bring up the months and years of an adult lifetime during which I have reliably and encouragingly supported partners who were not employed at the time – whether between jobs, careers, or starting their own thing; the only such months and years that are relevant are the ones with this partner. The apparent lack of reciprocity caught me by surprise with such force that I couldn’t ask the needed clarifying questions, and instead I let the topic die quietly. It is fairly academic at this point, anyway. It suffices as a red flag, though, calling attention to something that is worth understanding more clearly. Where will I really be in life at 70? At 80? At 110? Is it a given that my elder years will ‘look like’ my recollections of my great-grandmother’s life from my perspective as a child, secure at home with generations of close family? I know that it is not. I don’t know what it will be, but it’s fairly certainly not going to be that.

The travels of a stray ant wandering past remind me how little substance thoughts of the future really have. There is this ‘now’, really, and that’s all I have to work with. I can do my best now. Treat my loves well now. Treat myself well now. Live this moment right here, and make of it what I can, understanding that today’s resources may also have to pay for a tomorrow I can’t see a price tag for. I feel a little cross over the vagueness of the future. I feel fortunate, content, and warmed by love in this current finite present moment. I get to choose where to spend my time.

Planning for my future, surely, but not living there. 🙂

I sit back from my words and wonder what I can do to meet the underlying need begging to be addressed. “I need a break.” Okay, that’s a practical matter isn’t it? So… from what, exactly? Is it really about hours of work each week, or the nature of the job, or any of those details? Is it about an emotional experience that could be addressed quite without disrupting the work week? Is it simply a byproduct of a busy week on the calendar, on top of uncertainty about the future just weighing me down a bit? Questions. Maybe it is time to head to the trees for answers? Taking some time off for a long weekend would probably do me some good.

It’s raining this morning. It’s been raining most of the night. I love the sound of it on the eaves, windows, and chimney cover. I woke fairly early and meditated for some while as the dawn turned to morning, and the rain fell.

A rainy morning from another perspective.

A rainy morning from another perspective.

I find myself thinking a lot about perspective this morning, and my metaphors have gotten all jumbled up. I think of the unique individual nature of each raindrop, each wet blade of grass in the meadow, each insect chased by each swallow…and as each metaphor begins to take shape in some more meaningful seeming way, it crumbles under the weight of how similar each of these things really is, from my own perspective. Can I tell at a glance once rain drop from another? Or one blade of grass, one insect, or one swallow? Hardly. Not as a general rule. Few could, except perhaps those who make a committed study of some particular – raindrops, or maybe a certain very particular butterfly, or the blades of grasses. I spend some moments considering that. If I were to spend a great deal of my time studying just one very narrowly defined object, creature, event, or notion, wouldn’t I become highly aware of the most granular subtleties of every characteristic, over time? Would this alter how I view all manner of other things as well – changing the focal point of my perspective in some fashion?

The rain continues to fall. The ducks and Canada geese appear to be enjoying it greatly, and feasting on something they dig out of the mud between dripping wet blades of grass. I think about perspective as I watch them; if I asked them ‘how are you doing’ and asked also that they place their experience on a scale of 1 – 10, what would they say? I think about my own answer to that question. I find it a difficult way to rate my experience, because it requires thoughtful consideration and then probably some math to find an average; I am in a lot of pain today, but feeling content, serene, and pleasantly disposed toward the world…not quite ‘merry’. So… 1 – 10? 6? 7? ‘Better than average’? What’s ‘average’? My average? Or would the questioner’s perspective be their own understanding of ‘average’? I want to rate it twice – climate and weather. Because my day-to-day background sense of things (climate) is more a… 9. Which is nice to make note of. My right-now-pain-and-all (weather) is something more like a 6 with suggestions that a playful 7 is within reach, if I continue to manage my pain as best I can, and also hold on to some perspective – weather changes. I look out across the rainy meadow. Numbers don’t matter to raindrops. The blades of grass are not concerned about my perspective.

A runner crosses my view of the meadow, running through the muddy grass to bypass the flooded trail. He runs in a t-shirt and shorts, and the rain continues to fall rather heavily. The weather is not yet warm. I wonder what his perspective is on the rain as he passes by beyond the window, across the grass? Does he find his experience bracing, refreshing, and delightful? Did he seek out the sensations he is experiencing? Or his is morning run a matter of rigid habit, of discipline, and a personal will to refuse to be overcome by some raindrops? He chose – but what was it he was choosing?

Today is a good day to listen to the rain fall, and a good day to consider something from a different perspective.

There are no shortcuts available in life, not really; everything that feels like a successful shortcut is probably a lack of understanding of the options available in the first place. Just go with me on this one, and also accept that we’re each making the rules – and drawing the map, and writing the narrative – as we go along on this journey. I’m pretty sure of myself on this point, which does nothing to validate whether I am correct, it just speaks to whether I am likely to be acting on these assumptions (and I am).

No shortcuts – there are verbs involved, and I don’t use all of them equally easily. When I allow others to dictate to me which verbs are available in the first place, and set limits on how and when I can use them, it can definitely feel liberating – and like a shortcut – to use a verb not on the ‘official list’. 🙂

Another reminder – to me, myself, but here if you need it – we’re all making this up as we go along; mistakes, successes, highlights, bloopers, heartfelt emotions, embarrassing moments, every bit of every detail resting on the foundation we give it. If I choose to build my experience on negative self-talk, boosting the volume on negative bias, and allowing my fears and doubts to lead the way on this journey it will be a very different one than it tends to be when I choose differently. It can be so incredibly difficult to remember this in a difficult moment. Like last night.

Perspective over coffee.

Perspective over coffee.

A simple errand taking advantage of a special offered to military veterans turned into an exercise in frustration that began with the heat of the day, and the inconvenience of the destination. Problematic circumstances complicated things; I left the office later than I needed to, traffic was much worse than anticipated and the public transit system was facing serious delays. When I reached my destination, still feeling positive, although rather tired and in a lot of pain, I found myself faced with business practices that put me at a disadvantage, and I came face to face with my arch-nemesis Frustration. (I’ve mentioned it before, but if you’re new here… I’m seriously not wired for frustration, and it’s a problem. My disinhibiting TBI and the common human experience of frustration do not play nicely together.)

I managed my emotions pretty comfortably for the circumstances. Although I walked away feeling on the edge of tears, I managed to hold things together and do the adult thing courteously. Trembling and in a lot of pain, I headed back into the heat and made my way home feeling more frustrated than I needed to (the errand wasn’t essential – part of the frustration, actually, was the wasted time), and more pissed off than felt comfortable. I could see how the scenario would likely play out. I’d hold back tears, gritting my teeth all the way home, rationalizing the experience and dismissing my emotions until I felt like I wasn’t being heard, and I would begin feeling disconnected from my experience, and once sufficiently overwhelmed by my utter disregard for my own feelings, I would likely crumble – perhaps in the shower – and cry for a long time until I was exhausted from that, collapsing into an unsatisfying sleep plagued by nightmares of futility and helplessness… Only… I do have choices…

In my darkest moments, I find value in asking myself 'dark relative to what?'

In my darkest moments, I find value in asking myself ‘dark relative to what?’ It helps to let small stuff stay small.

I figured I’d try some of the new things I put so much practice into, instead of re-hashing the same old emotional shit storm, and blowing the entire evening. On the way home I emailed my traveling partner (who is out-of-town for the weekend) and shared the experience in simple terms. I was honest about my feelings without projecting the experience into his. I owned up to feeling angry in simple terms, and didn’t make it personal (it’s just an emotion). I kept it simple, and didn’t ask for help, or encroach on his time – there wasn’t anything to do about it, and already the experience was in the past. I made a decision not to continue to do business there, myself – I didn’t feel valued as a consumer, and the business is not conveniently located, so that’s an easy win for me, and I felt ‘heard’ (by me), cared for (by me), respected (by me) and supported (by me). I got home and made choices that looked like shortcuts (like nutritious calories fast, rather than a long cooking process for a hot meal), but were really only different choices, ones that maximized my ability to continue to treat myself well, in the shorter amount of time available. Later in the evening, my traveling partner followed up with a phone call, hearing me, caring for me, and showing his support, too. No tears. No tantrums. No drama. No exhausted restless night. No nightmares. Practice, and good self-care for the win. 🙂

Perspective is a really big deal - we see what we are looking at. Limiting our vision, limits our options.

Perspective is a really big deal – we see what we are looking at. Limiting our vision, limits our options.

Last night could have gone so differently. I’m taking time over my coffee this morning to consider how differently, and why it went so well. Choices matter. I have so much power to change my experience, right in the moment. Emotions are powerful, so much so that they don’t always lead well. Reason has her place in life. I didn’t understand how much less tug of war there is between emotion and reason in a life built on mindful practices, and good self-care. It’s not the sort of thing that’s easy to explain in words. The unfortunate commercialization of mindfulness tends to promote these ideas in a way that suggests a fad…there are so many voices being raised that shout into the wind about the value of being mindful, the din sort of fades into the background. That’s unfortunate because nothing has worked for me as well as practicing mindfulness, practicing meditation, practicing good basic self-care…all completely free, available for the taking literally anywhere, and effective on an order of magnitude that makes monetization irresistible for the business savvy primate looking to stand on a taller pile of bananas. It happens to me too…I get excited about how well this is going for me, and I share eagerly, and then wonder…can I profit from the sharing as well as from the practicing? The answer is, I think, actually ‘no’ [for me] – and not because it isn’t possible to make money selling mindfulness to people (who perhaps don’t realize they can get there for free) – it’s totally possible to do that (just Google mindfulness, you’ll see).

The mindfulness being sold commercially isn’t that thing that is working so well for me; it’s a product that looks very similar, packaged and marketed for appeal, that has some potential to put real people on a more mindful path, potentially, with practice. There are verbs involved, though, and paying the money doesn’t change the need to actually practice.  There’s the disconnect; when we buy a product we’re rarely expecting to also do the work. We bought it, shouldn’t we have it? Mindfulness very definitely doesn’t work that way; no amount of money spent reduces the amount of practice required. While I could profit from selling a mindfulness product of some kind… it wouldn’t truly be this thing that has done so much to improve my own experience; that’s not for sale, and I also can’t withhold it from you. Mindfulness is free for the taking – it just requires practice. 🙂

Finding the lasting value in perspective and good practices.

Finding the lasting value in perspective and good practices.

I will admit that once it was clear that practicing mindfulness was easing my day-to-day symptoms, and potentially even improving my wellness, I bought a few books (more than a few) and read a lot about this experience, this path, these practices; educating myself was  worthy, and I was admittedly still looking for ‘shortcuts’. Where some new ‘shortcut’ seemed to be working out well, it was a matter of honest practice, an effort of will and intent with a lot of verbs involved, and had I known where to look, the information was available for free all along. I’m just saying – it’s the practicing, and you can do this – your choices, your intent, your will, your vision… your life. This isn’t about ‘being right’ about mindfulness, for me. I’m not making any rules for you, or ‘showing you the way’ – I’m just practicing, taking care of me, and sharing my experience is one practice I use, for me, to maintain perspective, build resilience, and tidy up some of this chaos and damage.

Perspective is a big deal; the spiders in life are not actually as big as they sometimes look.

The spiders in life are not actually as big as they sometimes look.

I remember being ‘lost in the wilderness’ with my PTSD, desperate for any voice of hope, no idea where to turn, what questions to ask, or what books to read, and feeling so lost. I write hoping my words can be a lighthouse in the stormy darkness of some heart, now that I know it is possible to reach a safe harbor, within. (With the challenges I have with my TBI, that heart is often my own – I come back often to these words.) Still…I guess what I’m saying is that the practice is still your own, whatever you choose to practice. I’m not really interested in selling you on these ideas, I’m just living my life, and sharing some small piece of my experience along the way. It’s still my perspective. Your results may vary. 🙂

Today is a good day to begin again. Head where you are headed. Be who you most want to be. Walk your path eyes wide to wonder and delight, and if you fall, fail, miss, slip, or pause… just begin again. Lead with love; it’s a good place to start.