Archives for posts with tag: get real

I woke a bit early this morning, still smiling from the lovely evening spent with my Traveling Partner last night. I’ll probably be smiling for days, unless something entirely different knocks the smile off my face at some point. Hot coffee, headphones on, great playlist, smiling… this is a beautiful moment, as I start my day, still warm from a leisurely hot shower, still comfortable after my morning yoga… did I mention I’m still smiling?

What we see is often determined by what we’re looking at – and how we feel.

This moment is delightful. It’s still just a moment. Mindfulness is only part of this peculiar puzzle that is my journey from surviving to thriving; perspective matters every bit as much, I think. Take that lovely blue sky moment shot yesterday, pictured above, for example. It’s not an entirely frank image… I zoomed in on a small bit of blue sky, and some tree tops at the edge of a parking lot, downtown, near the waterfront, surrounded by concrete overpasses, framed in traffic, asphalt, and homeless people. I grabbed that sliver of beauty and blew it way out of proportion. I think I do that often, even without a camera. It’s also possible to do that in quite the reverse (and exceedingly common), zooming in on the suffering, the unpleasantness, the litter, the damage, the pain, the violence… life has a lot to offer, and it isn’t all pleasant happy fun stuff.

Still

How we view the world, how we experience our own lives, does have to do with our perspective on it. We filter our experience through our perspective. We give the details context, even going as far as making up, or filling in, missing narrative.

Still

Don’t miss out on the fun of life, or it’s whimsy!

We have choices, even about what to look at, and how to see it. Those choices matter, too. Balance matters. Perspective matters. Being “real” matters – and it matters how we define “being real”.

I don’t have anything super useful here, I’m just saying… perspective is a thing, and it’s useful to have some. Moments are moments, pleasant and unpleasant, and there will be some. 🙂 Taken together those ideas don’t stop life (and moments) from being rather like a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle which has pieces that are all shades of gray, and each piece uniquely shaped. Assembling such a thing into something that is ordered seems complicated. I don’t actually know if it is complicated…

…I’m just going to dump the pieces out of the box, and get started on this puzzle. 😉

It takes time to recover from an injury. I over-eagerly pushed myself to complete a longer than usual last Monday, and arrived home with a sore knee. Tuesday I stayed mostly off of it and it felt much better by day’s end. Wednesday, it felt better still, though not fully recovered, and I undertook some nearby errands on foot – and worsened the injury. I knew better. I chose poorly. Yesterday, with some discipline, I stayed mostly off of it again, and this morning find myself ‘better’ although I still feel it aching, and occasional twinges if there’s any hint of lateral movement…and my brain happily chimes in first thing with hiking suggestions! No. I’m staying off it today, too. 😦 It’s a more difficult choice than I’d like it to be.

A good day to relax in the garden.

A good day to relax in the garden.

Doing what I know is the correct thing, the most effective or appropriate choice to take care of my long-term needs well, is not always the easiest choice. It is, in fact, most often not at all the easiest choice.

After a night of rain showers, and a morning of sunshine, the garden needs little help from me besides enjoying it.

After a night of rain showers, and a morning of sunshine, the garden needs little help from me besides enjoying it.

I think about choices. I think about growth, and progress. I think about the world. I wonder about all the people who seem never to have taken time to reflect on that person in their mirror, to reflect on their choices, their actions, the outcomes. I can’t actually imagine that the vast numbers of ignorant hateful people shoring up our badly broken culture actually ever pause to reflect on what they do, on what they’ve done, or on why it matters so much that they learn another way – that we all learn other, better, ways. (We are each having our own experience. Most people, even really vile hateful people, imagine themselves to be the good guys in their own narrative.) I think about how far I’ve come myself, growing up in ignorance, and learning so much to come so far – to discover how very ignorant I remain. Different things. The more I’ve learned of life, of love, of things universal or specific, of science, of violence, of art, of madmen and monsters in the darkness, of the fictions I craft for myself, of journeys to be taken, and of all the many practices within reach to become a better person than I was yesterday… the more there seems to be to learn. About all of it.

"Where did I get that idea?" "Why do I think so?" These are important questions to ask myself.

“Where did I get that idea?” “Why do I think so?” These are important questions to ask myself.

I’m no longer so frustrated by my own ignorance; this is a journey, and I continue to grow. I may have observed that I am unsure what other purpose life has, than growth, development, learning. We become. We become, in fact, what we practice. (But what we think we know weighs heavily on what we may choose to practice.) I began life knowing nothing. I know so much more now – and so little compared to the vastness of all there is to know. “I am only an egg” says Valentine Michael Smith. I can’t argue with that.

It's a good day to begin again. A good day to learn, and to love. A good day to change the world.

It’s a good day to begin again. A good day to learn, and to love. A good day to change the world.

Today I will spend my time being – and becoming. Painting. Practicing. Breathing. Loving. Treating myself and others as I well as I know how to, and learning to do it just a bit better while I’m at it. Today that’s enough.

Another morning. I’m irked about small things, but woke early and spent an hour meditating and finding my way to a sense of calm acceptance and general contentment. It’s nice to be able to reach for it like a cold cola on a summer day and find relief. Practice. Practice. Practice.

We are each having our own experience. Surely the decisions made by asshats in black robes are not the product of viciousness, hate, and disregard for the fundamental humanity of others. It’s always far more likely a product of short-sightedness, inexperience, lack of perspective, and sure, actual cognitive shortfalls that are inevitable in the population; we are not all equally gifted, or equally willing to serve mankind well. Even judges and lawyers are having their own experiences, likely quite human ones.  I wonder what it must be like to go to work every day knowing the decisions you make will affect millions, and that a poor choice might cost many lives and change the face of the entire culture for the worse? Do Supreme Court justices wake up in the morning and think “today I will make the very best, wisest, decision I can make to better the lives of the people of this nation”? Or…do they just sort of…go to work?

Sometimes a little bit is quite enough.

Sometimes a little bit is quite enough.

Second espresso. Drinking them straight this morning, in a lovely stainless steel espresso demi-tasse cup I purchased decades ago, in Germany. It is a moment of exquisite satisfaction to enjoy the espresso in this cup, that was selected with such care as an addition to a growing collection of demi-tasse cups and saucers I had begun in my early twenties as a distraction from the horrors and stress of my life. This particular cup and saucer are as close to ‘indestructible’ as anything I own. This morning, that is meaningful, and I savor that quality quietly, as day breaks.

I am thinking about ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ and the way we use words to define our experiences, both physical and emotional, and our rather unfortunate willingness as human primates to deny each other the opportunity to be accepted for the experience we are indeed having, independent of each other.  It’s a pretty unpleasant thing we do to each other, actually. I see it a lot.  I’ll share what I mean by relating a conversation I recently overheard, that appeared to be between lovers.

Man (sharing plans for the near term future) “This will be fine. I’ve updated the budget. Now that you’re back to work, we’re in a good place for this. We’re wealthy!”

Woman (in an irritated contradictory tone) “I don’t agree.”

Man “You don’t agree?” (looks hurt and confused, concerned that plans are now derailed)

Woman “We’re not ‘wealthy’. I don’t agree with that.”

The discussion continued for a few more minutes before they went separate ways, clearly hurt, angry, frustrated – neither of them seemed to ‘feel heard’. Small wonder, really. Most people don’t seem to grasp the idea that it isn’t appropriate to disagree with a subjective emotionally based value statement that an individual makes about his or her own experience.  It’s just mean and rude, and pretty dismissive.  It’s easy to lose our way on that one, too, because disagreeing regarding a factual matter is appropriate, and often needful. “Wealthy” isn’t a factually defined term. It’s an emotionally defined term based on the speaking individual’s personal identity, how they feel about money, their perspective and experience with having, versus not having, and how much room they feel they have in their budget. It’s very personal. I’m sure there are incredibly rich people in terms of cash flow, real estate holdings, offshore investments, and capital in savings, who do not define themselves as ‘wealthy’ at all. Why would I think that? I know one.  I also know people who barely get by on a part-time job who feel incredibly ‘wealthy’ because their financial needs are comfortably met much of the time and their emotional lives are comfortable and nurturing. They view ‘wealth’ differently. There is, however, not a damned thing to disagree with.

This is not a discussion about wealth. It’s a matter of words, and words matter.  A ‘feeling of wealth’ is very subjective and doesn’t really have much to do with money. Any time a person flatly contradicts the emotional value statement of another person’s subjective experience, the person being contradicted feels rejected, dismissed, denied, misunderstood, and ‘not heard’. What they are being told is that their experience doesn’t count, or isn’t valid. That’s a pretty shitty way to treat another person. I work hard these days not to do that particular thing, and instead choosing to really hear what that emotional value statement is actually communicating.  It takes practice.

We each have our own subjective experience with ourselves, and with the world.  I myself feel incredibly injured by the recent SCOTUS decision regarding corporate personhood and the rights of corporate persons to deny me my rights as an actual person. It’s a big deal. It’s also highly subjective; most of my male friends and associates don’t have the same emotional experience with regard to the particular decision I am referencing. It is difficult to describe the additional hurt I feel when I try to talk about my experience in terms of emotional value statements; the lack of shared understanding quickly gets in the way, and I often find myself, once again, feeling dismissed, isolated, invalidated, overlooked, misunderstood, or straight up rejected and denied understanding at all, because of attempts to disagree with my emotional experience. That sucks.

Are you doing it, too? I catch myself now and again; I’m working very hard to root out this particular petty evil from the way I treat others. Is there a chance I’m not being clear on this? How about another example? Let’s use ‘beauty’ instead of ‘wealth’.  Imagine that you have a dear friend, or lover, or family member – someone you really care about in a positive way – and imagine they are horrifically disfigured from an acid attack that left their face badly scarred. You’re hanging out and your family member says, in a moment of great delight – maybe trying on clothes, or preparing for a fantastic night out – “I’m so beautiful!” Do you disagree with them? I mean, even in the privacy of your own thoughts – do you hear yourself saying “Um, but… no, not really.”? Are you that person? The utterly subjective nature of beauty being what it is, and then on top of that the utterly subjective nature of our individual experiences, and how we identify ourselves, and define our experiences… how could you? Rationally, logically, you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on – because ‘beauty’ is not a rational logical construct. It’s an emotional value statement. The person saying they feel beautiful gets to make the call on that – not you.  You’re your own person, of course, and you can have a different experience.  Disagreeing, though? Entirely inappropriate, and actually quite cruel, mean, and the sort of petty nastiness that makes the world less emotionally safe that most of us would like it to be.

I’m definitely on to something here, and a new bit of path opens before me. It’s part of The Big 5, too, isn’t it? I think this one falls under the heading of ‘Respect’. When we respect each other’s subjective emotional experience there is an opportunity to feel more profoundly nurtured, accepted, heard… that all sounds wonderful.

It's a good day to reflect.

It’s a good day to reflect.

Today is a good day to listen well, and with my whole attention. Today is a good day to respect the experiences of others, and to value their teaching. Today is a good day to respect each other’s fundamental humanity, however different we are. Today is a good day to respect my own experience, and understand that no one really can ‘disagree’ with my emotional value statements, or my feelings; they are mine and can’t be argued with unless I choose to allow it. Today is a good day to recognize that we all want to be heard.

It’s a lovely morning and I am still aglow from the fun of making ‘fairy gardens’ with one of my partners yesterday. We visited the home of a lovely artist for this shared activity, along with a couple other women and a younger girl, who arrived separately. The girl had a beautiful name, and was very shy.  The woman teaching the activity has her education and vocation in ‘horticulture therapy’. I’d never considered it as a possible line of work to be in, and it delights me that not only is my own garden a haven for my serenity, and a source of peace and contentment, but that somewhere ‘out there’ people are ‘led down the garden path’ figuratively speaking, to their wellness, too. Pretty awesome.

A garden in miniature.

A garden in miniature.

We had a lot of fun talking and creating tiny gardens, sipping tea, and no kidding – coloring. Like children, we chose pages to color, selected colored pencils with great care – because in those moments, the very colors themselves were up to our choosing, and seemed to matter. It was quite calming and wonderful. I wonder when I stopped coloring? 🙂

This morning I find myself struggling between a rather practical-minded grown-up within trying to resist constantly wanting to clarify ‘of course fairies aren’t real‘ – and can’t quite do it. It has little to do with any legitimate reality or lack thereof of potentially unseen wee beings lurking in the shrubbery, honestly. Could there be? Why couldn’t there be? There was a time when as a child I was quite firm in my conviction that there was a ‘coffee brownie’ hiding in my Mother’s coffee cup. I could see her pert nose and bright eyes looking back at me when I looked down into the caramel brown of my Mother’s coffee, any time. Real? Not real? My own reflection. Well, okay, sure, but…

We live our myths with as much ease and certainty as we live our realities. We have as little comfort with having either toppled through ‘proof’. Look at the creationist movement in the United States – people  of such firm conviction that the earth is quite young and was created from a void, in a motion, by the will of an entity, that they fight fiercely to have that perspective taught, even to the sons and daughters of Science. How odd. On the other hand, Science fights back with all the forces of reason and data at its command, captured succinctly in a t-shirt slogan, “Science doesn’t care what you believe”.

We are each having our own experience. We define our world  – define it? Hell, we create it! We create what we can and can’t see with the words that we use to tell ourselves what is, and what is not. We change our opportunities in life by defining who we are, ourselves, with our state of being statements and self-talk. We limit our relationships with our un-tested assumptions about others, about their will, their intentions, their abilities, their knowledge.

I used to get quite furious with people about Reality. It was not, I would insist quite emotionally, whatever we choose to make of it. It has unquestionable substance and character independent of what we understand or recognize! That’s probably true. Maybe that’s true. I’m 50 now, and I understand the world differently these days. The closest I care to come to ‘unquestionable’ at this point would be to acknowledge that there is little chance I can recognize, understand, know, or be aware of enough of the stuff of pure absolute reality on an ‘unquestionable’ level to ever be certain that indeed that is what I’d gotten hold of. I would have been so angry with this being I am now – and ready to do intellectual combat at the suggestion that we could change reality with a change in thinking. I made progress philosophically and emotionally to gain an understanding that Reality was really more likely ‘reality’ – lower case ‘r’. That ’emic’ and ‘etic’ realities were a pretty easy distinction to make, and possibly needful.  People do have their own experience, and their experience does color their perceptions and understanding of their world. So… easy enough. Their personal individual emic reality would stand somewhat separately from the theoretically immutable etic reality. That meant a lot to me. A foothold on something real the understanding of which I could at least strive for.

What a mess. How could I ever be sure? Somewhere along the way, the pursuit of Reality cost me a lot of humor and whimsy – and fun. Somewhere along life’s path I stopped being wowed by Greek mythology, by allegories that teach and delight me, by wonder itself. On a rainy Saturday I found myself ‘finding my way home’ in some hard to describe way.  Stories are important, too. Fictional characters have their own ‘reality’. Brownies in coffee cups play their role in who we are. Perhaps it is irrelevant whether a faerie ever visits my fairy garden, and important only that it is a small and beautiful garden, and representative of possibilities and whimsy and great love for a delightful moment in the company of women on a rainy Saturday? And were a faerie to visit, and be taken by surprise by my keen eye open to the possibilities and wonders of the world, wouldn’t that be okay, too?

Today I face the world ‘open like a child’s mind‘.