Archives for posts with tag: expectations

I am sipping my coffee – an eggnog latte, my fond seasonal weakness coffee-wise each autumn as the Yule season begins. Thanksgiving… holiday parties… Hannukah… the Solstice… Giftmas (more commonly called “Christmas”)… Festivus… Boxing Day… Kwanzaa… it’s a season rich in celebrations and merry-making. Oddly, it wasn’t what I was thinking about over the weekend, in spite of Thanksgiving being just days away…

I sit in the stillness of a local co-work space, alone with my coffee. It’s quiet. The usual background music is not playing, and the stillness feels complete, interrupted by occasional trucks passing on the street outside. I came into “the office” early this morning to avoid waking my Traveling Partner. He’s put in some heroic hours laboring in the shop, making it ready for the new (larger) CNC machine that will arrive soon. He was obviously exhausted by the end of his day, yesterday, and I sometimes rattle about rather noisily in the mornings. It’s not any particular inconvenience to go into the office and give him a better chance at deep sleep, and when he actually asked me if I would, I readily agreed. So… here I am. ūüėÄ Getting some quiet time to write, and sipping on a delightful holiday beverage. It’s a promising start to a Monday.

There have been a lot of items in the news (I’d say “lately”, but truly it’s a relatively common thing) about various celebrities, sports figures, cultural icons of one sort or another, and some problematic tidbit – something they’ve said, or not said, or some bad act (some such are fairly petty or trivial, others quite horrible). We lament the fall of our heroes, when we’re honest enough to accept their human failings at all. Other times, we can’t accept what we’ve seen/heard… and we make excuses for their shitty behavior, or seek to explain it away. We do it for star athletes. We do it for actors. We do it for politicians. We do it for friends and loved ones. We do it for the gods we created in our own image.

I didn’t link any examples, and that’s intentional; we all experience this toppling of our heroes at some point, even if only in the discovery that our own parents do not know everything and don’t get everything right, or perhaps that first time we correct a teacher on some small detail of a subject we study passionately, that they were simply incorrect about.

…It’s hard to separate the art from the artist, isn’t it?.. To separate the author from their story? To separate the musician from their music? The soldier from their service? We are each so human…

Why the hell do we so often set ourselves up – and each other – for failure by creating a heroic caricature that no one could possibly measure up to? Why is it so difficult to “hate the sin” and still deal with one another entirely humanely? Why are our expectations of one another so complicated and often so unreasonable? What are we even doing here??

I only have questions on this one. Catchy bon mots and conveniently pithy slogans of one sort or another came and went with my thoughts over the weekend. I never really got anywhere besides “human beings are not heroes and neither are the gods they create”. We begin life with no perspective, experience, or wisdom, but commence judgment and decision-making immediately… we age and our thinking changes over time as we do, but entirely too late to change our previous decisions or actions based on flawed thinking. If we’re fortunate, we get somewhere good with all that mess. More often, it’s … complicated.

I remember how I felt upon learning that John Lennon mistreated women. “Heartbroken astonishment and disbelief” describe the initial feeling, but it quickly morphed into just disbelief, and from there? Apologist nonsense. Took me awhile to get to a place in life where I could both enjoy his music and also accept that he was a flawed human being, possibly even one I could not personally respect and might not wish to hang out with. Some of his music remains personally meaningful to me, in spite of who he was or may have been. This is just one example. There are so many others! (You, too?) In some cases, I couldn’t get past the human being behind the art, and I avoid it altogether. It sort of depends on how great the art, and how terrible the failure, sometimes. Over the years, I’ve become much less inclined to make excuses for human failings, and also much more inclined to be compassionate. It’s… complicated. I do think that when we insist on super-gluing our heroes to their pedestals in spite of their failings, we set ourselves up to treat people around us more callously – because we’re insisting on preserving the lie of heroism. There are no heroes. Only people. Some people are pretty fucking horrible. Other people are damned nice. No people are living embodiments of perfection in life (don’t argue, just look closer), and we’re each having our own experience. We’re walking our own paths, doing our own best, and generally hoping the outcome will be good more often than not. Can we each do better? Yeah, probably. Having a “role model” feels helpful sometimes. Making our role models over in the image of a god or a hero is probably not. (It’s also probably a lot of weight to have to carry, being someone’s hero…)

What do you value? How do you live that value in your life every day? What do you need a hero for? You have the path ahead, you have the choices in your hands, you have this day. Topple your heroes, then… become the person you most want to be.

Begin again.

The possible (likely) impeachment of the US President? I don’t care right now, at all. Local weather? I’m indifferent; it’s meaningless. Work? Connectivity? Housekeeping? The appointment I have scheduled later? Nothing matters beyond one small (huge) thing; I’m sitting alone, heart aching, while my partner is elsewhere, also alone (an assumption), and probably having a less than ideal experience, too.

…I’m not even sure what went wrong, exactly. We started down the path of a conversation… we converse daily, often, and manage both deep conversations, and light-hearted banter (and lots of things in between) quite effortlessly, most of the time. Was I pre-disposed towards frustration, after spending a morning frustrated by technical difficulties, on a rare day working from home? Was he having his experience from within a context that had him potentially predisposed toward difficulties, himself? Is this even “about” either of us, at all? We are each having our own experience – this much is reliably true. I feel, at the moment, sort of bitter, rather heartsick, fighting off tears I don’t want to deal with, and feeling that I am a failure as a partner because – how can I not manage something so fucking basic as a conversation??

In all respects it was a lovely morning to start with. I sit staring disinterestedly into this 3rd cup of coffee, trying to hold onto the morning’s delights. Elusive. Those moments feel as if they were only a dream, now. I am acutely aware I have a “routine” check up with my therapist coming in a couple weeks, and I find myself struggling with a feeling of shame over maybe really needing that time, even after so long, and so much progress. It flares up as resentment and anger, then recedes as a sort of sad gray shadow over my experience, and a hint of despair and futility. “Doesn’t it ever stop…?” My demons attack where I am weakest, that’s a given, and I’m unsurprised by the bleak feeling of doubt, the sense of loss, of abandonment, the feeling of hurt and unworthiness. Damn, this is shitty.

…I hope he’s okay (he’s probably feeling shitty, too).

I look into my coffee mug again, as if I were even going to drink it. I put the cup back down. I also don’t care about this cup of coffee – not compared to how much I care that I am enduring this moment, or that he is enduring his… or that we ended up in this place, in the first place. This coffee doesn’t even smell good. I made it the same as always. No interest in drinking it now. It just sits. Same as me. Just sitting here, mired in this mess. I tried the “walk away and calm down” approach to handling miscommunication and frustration… it does not seem to have provided any useful benefit. I mean… I suppose it’s better than waiting around poking a hornets’ nest until one or the other of us seriously lose our temper. I can’t stand raised voices. Instead… oh sure, it’s fucking quiet, but… I am isolated with my despair… my most dangerous personal foe. “Misery loves company”? Nah. I don’t buy that. Misery doesn’t love a fucking thing, it’s grim, stoic – a loiterer who takes everything pleasant and destroys it without hesitation.

…I even know the steps to take to not be here… and can’t raise the motivation to do a thing about it… like giving up. The futility becomes a quiet waterfall of hot tears. A lifetime of frustration and learned helplessness clench my jaws. My back aches with the weight of it. This? This right here is another very human experience. (“It’s just a moment”, I hear my internal reminder on autopilot, “this will pass. It’s just weather, not climate.” I can’t hear it; it feels very distant and irrelevant.)

Too fucking human. So… what’s to be done about it, then? Yeah, um… I don’t know right now. I’m too busy feeling hurt and filled with chaos and damage. Let me get done with all that, then I’ll move on to doing something else… probably sort myself out at some point… maybe even begin again.

I slept well. I woke rested. My coffee is adequate, and I’m content with that. It’s a generally pleasant morning. Sunday’s bit of afternoon aggravation in traffic seems far behind me, and it would be easy to just let that go so completely that I leave myself at risk of repeating that experience for lack of fully considering the circumstances, and how best to care for myself and build lasting emotional resilience such that it doesn’t ever happen again (a lofty, potentially unreasonable goal, also worth keeping a watchful eye on).

The flowers in my garden may bloom on their own, but they do so more beautifully, more generously, more reliably, if I care for them with skill.

This morning I take time to consider what opportunities for self-care got overlooked, or set aside, and which among the later consequences turned out to be unacceptable compromises after-the-fact; it’s a helpful way to re-calibrate what matters most. It’s helpful for ensuring I continue to practice those practices that support my long-term wellness, even where that may occasionally also mean a long-term lifestyle change. (Trust me, making the changes in my lifestyle needed to skillfully support my emotional wellness, over the past three years, has been a journey all its own!)

Are there things I wasn’t doing, that reliably work for me?

Are there things I was doing, that reliably don’t work for me?

Are there things I hadn’t considered previously that, as practices, would support a healthy life, both physically and emotionally, and support activities like late night art shows, all night parties, social weekends, limited sleep, and being generally exceedingly busy? (“Is this an unreasonable expectation?” seems a good follow up on this one.)

Am I doing¬†enough to care for this fragile vessel? (If I answer “no” to this question, are my expectations too high? If I answer “yes”, am I kidding myself?)

This morning I water my garden, turning these thoughts over in my head. Where is the path to success, to balance, to perspective, to wellness…? What path will I take, myself, on this journey through life? What matters most… to me?

What matters to the wellness of the world? Where do I fit in, there?

Every flower has its place in life’s garden.

I reflect on my choices. Am I the woman I most want to be? Am I living up to my promise, as a human being? What does it take to get there? Can I have/do/be that, too?

I reflect on my experience. I’m not hard on myself, although I am as honest as I am able to be from this wholly subjective perspective on my own experience. I could do better.

It’s time to begin again.

 

 

I dislike argument. There. I’ve said it.

One perspective of many.

One perspective of many.

I enjoy lively discourse. I embrace passionate discussion of individual view points. I cherish intellectual exchange, and sharing knowledge or perspective. I learn; I grow. Argument isn’t those things. Argument is a failed meeting of minds, in which individuals continue to insist on their own view, their own perspective, and fail to hear each other, seeking instead to persuade that their point is the correct understanding, and only that outcome¬†will satisfy. Argument is often emotionally bullying, and more about intimidation and insistence, sometimes degenerating to insult, deceit, or emotional manipulation, to “win” the argument. No one wins, of course, and generally someone – often everyone – walks away feeling hurt, or misunderstood. Argument sucks, from my point of view, and I avoid it. I also have a brain injury that leaves me very vulnerable to being baited into an argument – being made entirely of human, this has made learning to disengage very valuable, and I continue to practice, with varying results. The verbs involved are those that make use of emotional intelligence, intent, free will, a sense of perspective, and a commitment to good emotional self-care; it’s a lot to juggle during an argument. ¬†Once I realize I’ve been baited into an argument, I do my best to disengage graciously, and without malice or ill-intent. We’re all so very human… and some people actually like to argue; I’m just looking for the exit.

I'd rather love and be loved.

I’d rather love and be loved.

Last night I got baited into a political argument that at first glance looked more “discussion-worthy”, having been initiated by friends that I feel comfortable with and trust. Once I recognized I’d been drawn into an argument (with a commenting family member), I worked to extricate myself politely. This did not go as planned, and I became frustrated and emotional, and hung-up on some of the peculiar tactical linguistics in use.

I prefer authenticity over game-playing, and made a frank (and fairly vulnerable) statement that I was struggling with the conversation, possibly because my communication-style, and TBI, were making it hard to communicate easily, and that I was tired and not at my best. I expected, based on years of civil discourse with other human beings, that this would bring the conversation to a friendly, compassionate close, between equals – we’re family, so of course, we all have each others well-being and best interests mutually in mind… right? Nope. Not an ideal assumption, sadly; instead of support, I got a personal attack. It was weird, and frankly unacceptable. Rather like telling someone on crutches struggling to handle a door and some stairs simultaneously to “grow up” and “get over it”… instead of holding the damned door. ¬†I was told by way of¬†reply that I was “playing the victim”, and assorted such things. It was, from my perspective, hurtful, awkward, and… not something I personally care to foster in my own experience, certainly not from someone who says they care.

We’re still all human. All people. Each having our own experience. Each making our own way in the world without a map. My “Big 5” relationship values aren’t something I just say;¬†they are how I build my relationships: Respect, Consideration, Compassion, Reciprocity, and Openness. An authentic statement of vulnerability given openly, met with something¬†other than respect, consideration, or¬†compassion, tells me something about the relationship in which the interaction occurs. If it occurs with a stranger, I just walk on. I don’t find it necessary to tolerate callousness or hurtfulness generally. When it occurs with a friend very dear to me on whom I can rely to be a good friend, clarifying questions seem appropriate¬†(miscommunication is a thing that happens), but if it turns out I am incorrect about the quality of the friendship in the first place, and clarifying questions reveal that, I am inclined to walk on.

There is no requirement whatsoever that we maintain relationships with people who don’t treat us¬†well. We¬†choose¬†our¬†relationships. I experience no sense of obligation to invest in or maintain a relationship that doesn’t bring out my best qualities. Here’s something about me, though; I extend that to family, too. I pretty much always have – I grew up in a world where family was no more to be trusted than any other human beings, and possibly less so. Much less. I don’t have “family loyalty” hard-wired into my thinking, because for most of¬†my life people who said they love me have been the first in line to do me harm. A lot of people behave in a way that suggests they find it more acceptable to treat family members poorly than they do strangers (for example, treating coworkers or the boss with more affection and respect than their partner, children, or siblings). I’m not those people.

I wasn’t always the person I am now, that’s pretty basic and obvious. From the vantage point of this woman, here, now, I make a point to treat people consistently well – whether they are strangers, lovers, family, coworkers, or friends. It’s a practice. I’m quite human, and my results vary. I learned a long time ago, though, that relationships among equals require all participants to use their words – and their verbs – and to be equally committed to similar shared values, otherwise the quality of the relationship suffers. Where these conditions are not met, and upon discussion it is clear that they won’t be… I walk on. I no longer allow my desire for connection and intimacy to be turned on me. It feels better to walk on, and build healthy relationships elsewhere.

Generally, we each feel we are the good guy in our own narrative, building an understanding of ourselves and the world around us that smooths life’s harder to grasp gray areas into sharply contrasting either/or propositions. Human primates like certainty. Once we feel certain, we hold on like our lives depend on it. I think, quite likely, the only thing that actually depends on us holding on to that feeling of certainty, is our sense of righteousness and place in the world. While I don’t personally feel a need to be right (I’d rather be love and be loved), I recognize that many people do – to the point of needing an argument; I walk¬†on.

Assumptions about other people are a major relationship killer. Doesn’t much matter who is making the assumption; most of our assumptions about other people are incorrect. Seriously. Even mine. Even yours. It’s a very human thing. When we insist on our assumptions, holding on to them and building our reactions, our responses, our words, on the backs of those untested assumptions, we are no longer having interactions with each other in any authentic way; we’re having conversations with fictional characters who only exist in our own narrative, and disregarding the living being before us. Well… that sucks. I ask questions, practice testing assumptions, and practice being my most authentic vulnerable open and real self – and practice doing so without hurting other people. Being human, I practice rather a lot, my results vary nonetheless, and I’m entirely capable of succumbing to the worst of my very human self and being insensitive, hurtful, or callous. I value relationships in which a friend can say to me “I’m very hurt by that” without games or baggage, and follow through with an honest conversation about our interaction, their values, their needs, our shared experience – such openness leads to understanding, and growth. As with argument, or my Big 5, we don’t all seek the same things from our interactions with others, and we are not all seeking change, improvement, or growth; sometimes the wiser choice is still to walk on.

One rainy autumn morning, suitable for reflection - and taking care of me.

One rainy autumn morning, suitable for reflection – and taking care of me.

It’s a quiet weekend. I have time for thinking, time for writing, time for a third cup of coffee. The calendar reminds me I’ve set the day aside for taking care of hearth and home, a day of housework and tidying up planned. It doesn’t feel like a burden or obligation; the rainy day beyond my window suggests it will be a pleasant day of music, dancing through chores, and a crackling fire in the fireplace, spent taking care of me. How delightful! We choose our adventure. We choose our narrative. We choose how we face our day, and our circumstances. Today I choose great self-care, and a day spent creating the order that feels so good to me. I wonder for a moment if my vulnerability to being baited so easily last night is in any part a byproduct of perceived disorder in my environment…? I walk on from that, too. It is a day for verbs, for actions, for choices.

Today is a good day to create order from chaos. Today is a good day for deciding what to keep, what to let go. Today is a good day to tidy up loose ends, and reconsider what matters most. Each new day I can begin again. Each new day is a new opportunity to walk on from suffering, and to practice being the woman I most want to be. There are verbs involved. My results still vary. That’s okay; it’s enough.

I sip my coffee quietly, considering the day ahead. I think for a brief moment that I have no plans, but realize it isn’t so. I dither, wondering if accepting¬†an invitation to hike this morning would have been a better choice, instead of being here. Right now, here doesn’t feel very good…and I’ve no idea why. Humans being human. It happens.

Words are powerful tools for love. They are not always used that way. I try to use mine¬†gently, wisely, well – with consideration. I try to use them a little more skillfully, and with greater care every day. I hold on to the hope that in doing so, I improve my own experience of myself, of the world I live in, and my relationships. It isn’t always a notably successful effort – still human – and I’m not certain sometimes that anyone else notices or cares much – they are still human, too. Each having our own experience.

Something has gone wrong with the morning. I don’t know what, and I examine my expectations, first; have I somehow crafted this experience with assumptions and expectations? I do a ‘self inventory’ with considerable tenderness, looking for where I may be struggling with something else in the background, or a missed self-care detail more important than I recognized. I feel myself earnestly wanting to connect with my traveling partner pleasantly, merrily, intimately; there is so much potential for joy in who we are together. Somehow, now is not the time. My gentlest approach this morning is met with a frown. I escape to my studio, hoping his morning gets better over his coffee. I contemplate going back to bed, which feels like a childish over-reaction to something that isn’t about me. I work on letting it go, and staying in the headspace I woke in; calm, rested, curious what the day holds, eager to enjoy the companionship of my partner, when he finds himself ready, too.

Expectations and assumptions are the Boss bad guys of relationships, aren’t they? I can’t know what someone is assuming (about me, about us, about the circumstances) but it quickly becomes clear that assumptions are being made when conversation lacks understanding. I sometimes find myself holding onto expectations, unstated, that later detonate and turn my pleasant moment into an emotional blast zone, when my unnoticed expectations are not met by real life.

Last night I expected to arrive home to my partner’s smile and a hug and some time hanging out; he’d already called it a night. I felt disappointed, but understanding – it’s not personal, or tragic, when someone takes care of themselves. I woke this morning looking forward to enjoying his company, talking about my evening, hanging out over morning coffee. He wasn’t yet up, and that didn’t bother me at all. Hell, it’s not personal that the morning is difficult now – we’re neither of us actually ‘morning people’. I find myself feeling rather lonely in this particular moment – also not personal, and definitely more ‘weather’ than ‘climate’. Difficult in the moment. Moments pass. This one, in fact, passes as soon as my traveling partner steps into the studio, shares a few words about his evening, and asks about mine.

Take the time to enjoy the moment.

Take the time to enjoy the moment. Be kind. Be gentle.

Today will likely be quite a nice day, most especially if I am willing to set aside expectations, refrain from making assumptions, and refuse to take things personally. Today is a good day to use some verbs.