Archives for posts with tag: fiction

Well… the news on January 6th was… newsworthy. I guess that’s something. (Just Google it, Future Reader, cuz I just can’t even begin to go down that path.) Honestly, I guess I was mired in whatever work challenge the day presented… I barely looked up when my astonished and appalled Traveling Partner stuck his head into my studio to tell me of the news, in an appropriately alarmed tone, and I’m sure he was purposeful and complete with his summary. I recall hearing something like, “…storming the capitol…”, I looked up, nodded vaguely, “…you already know about it?” I may have answered in the affirmative – I definitely was not aware of the specifics he was attempting to share, and what I thought he was talking about would certainly have been less… significant.

…Damn there’s been a lot of history in these 57+ years…

Funny (not funny, not really) how we “know a historical moment” when we see it… if it’s something going terribly wrong. I have the impression we tend, as creatures, to be less correct about the good stuff… like… a lot. It’s pretty inconvenient.

Here we all are, now. More than typically aware of how fragile a foundation our assumptions rest on, perhaps, and perhaps more aware of the alarming potential for violence each human being actually has. Strange that we ever lose sight of that… there’s so much violence in the world, and so much of it feels “unexpected”, however commonplace it may have been, or be, or seems to be becoming. We’re fairly dangerous primates, only partially domesticated, and our big brains allow us to build and make some amazing tools… with which to kill each other. Fucking hell. Will we ever discontinue this terrible terrible practice? Will we ever choose differently? ūüė¶

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let that go. The sunshine breaks through the gray of a rainy winter afternoon, and I think about trails I’d like to hike…

Choose wisely. Stay on the path.

It’s already time to begin again.

I have moments of insecurity and doubt. They creep up on me unexpectedly, sometimes, and take me by surprise with the intensity of the anxiety riding shot-gun with those feelings. It seems a very human thing to doubt, now and then, to be a bit fearful in the moment, caught momentarily between what I¬†think is, and what I¬†think was or may soon be, and what I expect; I¬†don’t even have to touch reality in my¬†‘now’ for even a moment…in fact, if I¬†want to feel insecure, filled with self-doubt and anxious, being aware and present in the moment is not the way to go. ¬†I would be surprised to hear that anyone wants to feel filled with self-doubt and insecurity. It’s really not very pleasant, and it seeps into ones experience insidiously.

I had a strange dream, and herein lies the fiction mentioned in the title, because my dream didn’t happen, isn’t likely to happen, and isn’t happening now. In the dream, I woke late, very late, and on the day of An Important Meeting. I grabbed my presentation notes – which was a sheaf of delicate and colorful papers, disorganized in my hurry. I rushed to the office, and abruptly entered the main conference room thinking I was on time – it was filled with people I didn’t recognize, who were obviously interrupted by my entry. I quick sat in the only open chair. Listening to the discussion, I suddenly broke into a cold sweat; this didn’t sound at all familiar, and I didn’t recognize anyone, and the agenda wasn’t what I had prepared for.¬†Worse, it was all being done on technology I’d never seen before – and there I was with paper! I felt obsolete and incredibly insecure. Embarrassed. Out of place. I stood to excuse myself – I was obviously in the wrong meeting. As I politely made my excuses to back out quietly, the meeting moderator said, with a strange look at me, then around the room, “Is someone else presenting your material, then? You’re up.”

Thankfully I woke with nothing more than a pounding heart and a definite feeling of relief that it was only a dream.

Most of my own moments of insecurity and self-doubt are caused by my own thinking. I don’t know what else to say about that. I can choose other thoughts – and I can choose other actions. If I take an action that causes me insecurity solely because it is novel, the underlying need is different, I think, than if the cause of my insecurity is something less tangible…something someone said, or my own feelings about something I said – or may have said – or thought I said. We can and do choose our thoughts. (I’m certainly skilled at saying things that could have benefited from being left alone, but that sort of social faux pas is not terminal, and rarely injurious beyond being discomfiting.)

This morning, waking feeling insecure, anxious, and filled with self-doubt, I chose to think differently. I took time to meditate. I took time to acknowledge that I’m generally doing my best and do practice good practices with an intention of non-harm. I am loved, and capable of loving. This moment right here is a lovely one, and there is no reason to fear it. Within minutes, my heart stopped pounding, and I feel calm and content. I never could ‘pretend away’ anxiety when I suffered with it most. I couldn’t wish it away; it was right there in my consciousness, unavoidable, and looming over every moment. I kept trying to ‘make it go away’ by focusing on it. Doesn’t work – or didn’t for me. It’s a subtle thing, to be open to my own feelings these days, even of anxiety, self-doubt, or insecurity, and make room for them in my very human experience, with compassion for me – from me. Not ‘boo hoo I’m so anxious’, more like… “I feel anxious and it’s unpleasant right now” with a couple deep cleansing breaths, and a few moments of stillness to let it pass, and welcome something else. Meditation has resulted in my anxiety being more like weather than climate. I’m grateful.

I feel moved to write more, but I genuinely don’t have more to say about this, right now. Hot coffee beckons, the morning begins to unfold, and I face the day. I’m eager to get to the office, and that’s more about the people than the work…which gets my attention because I’m very aware I am not taking enough time to cultivate those relationships right now – hell, I’m not even taking enough time for me. I consider that with a certain grim resolve; my traveling partner had already called that out as ‘you’re working too hard’. I awaken to the understanding that he didn’t mean that I am processing to many tasks in too little time during a work shift. He had recognized that I am not taking time for me, not treating myself well, and potentially risking progress and health. Got it. I see it now.

Another sunrise, another new day, another opportunity to savor the moment in front of me.

Another sunrise, another new day, another opportunity to savor the moment in front of me.

Today is a good day to slow down and take things a bit at a time. Today is a good day to savor the moment. Today is a good day for eye contact, jokes, and smiles between strangers. Today is a good day to cherish people who matter, and enjoy work that I love on my own terms. Today is a good day to be professional, without lacking humanity. Today is an excellent day to be human. Today is a good day to change the world.

Spring is definitely here. Flowers are unfolding.

Sunlight and flowers.

Sunlight and flowers.

 

Sunny days seem somehow more luminous.

Blue skies

Blue skies

 

Afternoons are reliably warmer. I’ve been enjoying it, and regretting that two of my favorite things about Spring can’t be photographed and shared: the scents, and birdsong. I delight in the fragrances of Spring. I’m fortunate that I don’t have those allergies; I can enjoy the scents of Spring without reservation, and generally without any unpleasant consequences. Each recent day has been enhanced, punctuated, and highlighted by new fragrances as different sorts of flowers begin to bloom. It’s wonderful.

Life isn’t all blue skies and flowers, of course, but I feel better equipped to deal with the occasional stress or weirdness. Practicing mindfulness makes a huge difference to both handling the stress, and enjoying the scent of flowers and sounds of birdsong. It continues to be ‘practicing’, too; there is no ‘mastery’ here. I am always beginning, always learning.

Yesterday was well-spent and interesting. I went into it resolved to be in the moment through my challenges, to refrain from taking things personally based on assumptions or baggage, and letting Spring – and life – unfold from the vantage point of student, and of observer. Yesterday, I met with a former partner. The break-up was a messy one, and although it was years ago, I certainly have my own baggage around those events, and experience suggested that I could count on my ex to have a recollection of those events as unique and personal as my own. I wasn’t looking for a confrontation; my ex had reached out to me – quite unexpectedly – to let me know some watercolors and photographs of mine, old ones, had been found – did I want them? The contact was simple. Honest. Cautious. Brief. We arranged to meet. I arrived, my ex met me. We exchanged greetings, a few polite words, a hug. I accepted the offered bag of photos and small paintings and went on my way. No drama. No unpleasantness. Not quite strangers, not adversaries – just people. I contemplated that on the train home. I considered, too, all the ways it could have gone. My fears about it. The stories in my head beforehand, built from other experiences, were varied and bore no resemblance to the event as it happened. We create our experience as we go along. I’m glad I stayed open to possibilities I could not – or simply did not – imagine. I’ve been carrying a lot of baggage, hurt feelings, pain, anger… yesterday I set a lot of it down.

We've all got baggage.

We’ve all got baggage.

The photographs that were returned to me are precious. Photos of me at 22, 23. Some of my own early photography. Some holiday photos in the apartment I lived in as a young soldier in Germany so many years ago. I looked at them closely, considering the moment each represented. I was so young. So lovely. I didn’t feel beautiful at that age. I felt fat. I felt huge. My husband-at-the-time regularly pointed out that I was ‘obese’ and really needed to ‘take off a bunch of weight’. I was 5’6″, a size 4 or 6, and weighed about 115 lbs. The big round curvy ass that he derisively commented on so frequently wasn’t going to disappear from dieting; it’s how I’m shaped, and that was enough to ‘prove’ to me I was fat to the point of grossness at that vulnerable and insecure point in my life. I looked at the pictures with some sadness, wanting very much to reach back in time and tell that younger me how incredibly beautiful she was, and teach her to understand that she could live her own story, and did not need her husband’s fictions to be the woman she most wanted to be. I wondered if anyone had tried to tell me… some of the pictures are of a holiday shared with friends. I contemplated how empty that holiday was, how disconnected, each person living some fiction intended to project something better than the moment, something more wonderful, more powerful, more appropriate, or safer… ‘appearances’. Sitting here this morning in my now, a hot coffee at hand, content and calm, I am finding it hard to imagine anything sadder than depriving ourselves of who we are by ‘keeping up appearances’. Living a fiction was not satisfying for me. It was lonely. Frightening. Isolating.

One of the photographs is a lovely shot of that young me, immersed in a bubble-bath, looking serene, eyes-closed, mouth relaxed. Appearances are insidious. I remember the day. The young woman in that photograph is black and blue beneath the bubbles, just beyond view. Serene? No, hurting, but calm Рhaving survived again.  Those were good moments for the me that I was then, those moments when I could pause and be grateful that I lived. My few friends had no idea; I was very skilled at appearances. 

Some of the paintings I got back are small works, whimsically decorated envelopes, actually, that had contained letters to my lover, away at college. I considered the experience of cherishing a distant love, the experience of writing the letters, painting the envelopes; I was as much in love at that time as I was capable of being. I did not know much about love. I did not understand that being unable to love me, I would be mostly pretty unskilled at loving anyone else. From the future I look back and wonder – was that love? Wasn’t it? Is it fair to say now that it wasn’t, then, when it was the limit of what I was capable of, as far as ‘love’ goes?

We don’t just create the fictions that ‘keep up appearances’, we edit our history to meet our needs in the now, too. We make things a bit more to our liking in the telling, or represent ourselves as being a bit more this than that, because we value those qualities, or feel compelled to tidy up loose ends with a few good words. ¬†Fictions. ¬†Often not even willful deliberate fictions, just erosion of memory over time, or perhaps unnoticed adjustments to cope with trauma. Am I even able to be truly here, now, and hold on to whatever that is into my future recollections of this moment, once it has passed? Each having our own experience, and so much ¬†of it created out of our assumptions, our interpretation, our world view, our expectations, our biases, the limitations of our knowledge, or our senses… Can I ever really know a truth that is unquestionably true?

This morning I glimpsed an understanding of something important for me; mindfulness, and an observing presence in the moment, is as close as I have ever been to ‘the true truth’. The scents of Spring. The sounds of birdsong. The unfolding of flowers. The moments when I am, and nothing more, are the ‘real me’. Quiet meditation. Being. Becoming. Without words.

I look again at that photograph, seeing the strength, the calm, the still moment. She is beautiful, no fiction required.