Archives for posts with tag: Gnothi seauton

What if you died today and had to give feedback to yourself on your life, or defend, justify, or excuse it, after-the-fact? How would well would you rate yourself?

What if you could try again? Would you make any changes?

It’s an interesting thought exercise… I’m inclined to follow through on this one very soon, perhaps over some solo weekend during the holiday season. I did it once before, purely by chance, years ago. It mattered a great deal and gave me new perspective on my life. It’s a tough one, though, and can really mire one in sadness – it’s not for the timid, the faint of heart (nor the inauthentic). Taking it lightly is neither useful nor helpful. I do hope you find it either useful, or helpful, or at least a thought-provoking read over your coffee, or tea.

Ready? Let’s begin…

Imagine this; you’ve died. It doesn’t matter at all how, you are dead. No opportunity for one more please, thank you, I’m sorry, or I love you. You are done. Game over. Right now. Okay, so now let the death part of the scenario just go; you know nothing of it, and can’t. You’re dead. Nothing new to remember. Let’s look at your life instead – or more to the point, you look at it. That’s right. You had your chance. It’s done. Game over. You are only a collection of memories – your own, and those that others left behind have of you.

Look at your words, and actions, and the outcomes of your choices, andย  your baggage, – your free will brought you to these ends. What were your actual, no bullshit, real values – based on your actions, your decisions, what you chased in life, what mattered most to you in fact (what you said you valued has no meaning now, you’re dead and those were just words) – what were your real true actual values? (Don’t rush this, you’ve got plenty of time; you’re dead.)

“Why those?” is maybe not the correct next question, more to the point; is this what you wanted of your life, and your choices? Is this end result “enough”, or “what you wanted”? Are you okay with this being your legacy?

Are the things that were stressing you, truly, now that you’re dead and can look back unafraid and unashamed, were they truly stress-worthy? The times you snapped at loved ones over petty annoyances – worth it? Justifiable? (I mean, you can’t change it now, and all they have to look back on is who you actually were, and how you really treated them.) The stress about work, all that potentially wasted time grinding away on someone else’s agenda – was it worth it in the end? Was there ever “enough” money? Was being “right” worth the agita of forcing someone else to say that you were right – even if they only did so to shut you up? Was it ever finally the “right time” to do something about what you wanted most to do?

Ask the hard questions. Gnothi seauton. No bullshit. Turn and face yourself, naked and revealed. Look into the mirror. Who were you? Is that who you wanted to be? Who you expected to be? Who you thought you were?

Could you have done “better” or “more”? Who defined those qualities for you in life? Why wasn’t it your call, your definitions, your free will reaching out to enact your own choices? Why did you settle? Why were you “chasing” happiness… money… pretty lovers…a better high…a more perfect romance…? Whatever it was… the curtain has fallen. You’re done. Was it worth it? Are you content with the person you were? Will you be remembered? How will you be remembered? What is your legacy?

There may be other questions, too, that matter to you particularly, that hold you back right now, questions I can’t possible know – but you know them. So ask those too. Who were you? Is this truly what you want to leave behind when death overtakes you?

Take your time – I’ve got work to get to, can’t stay with you while you work through the details on this one, and really… It’s all about you. When you are finished with being finished with being you… what then? When you allow yourself to understand and fully accept that a time will come when indeed “you had your chance” and now it has passed you by… will you think you have wasted that precious limited life time? Will you feel a moment of regret for the shitty choices, poor values, lack of ethics, lack of conscience, cruelty, carelessness, regrettable loss of control, the hurt you have done to loved ones, and yes, even strangers? I sort of hope that you do, or that, if nothing else, you feel something that moves you to make some change or other that takes your journey somewhere new – somewhere you really want to go, but hadn’t yet gotten to. Because death doesn’t seem to hold a ton of potential to change who you were, you know?

…Well… At least in this instance… you get a do-over. You get to begin again. Are you ready for your second chance to be the person you most want to be?

Here it is. Right now. It begins right here, right now, and with each choice that follows this moment.

What will you do with it?

So, training on a new tool ended yesterday, in the sense that the trainer has left the building to return to her regular day-to-day experience elsewhere. My work week ends in a handful of hours after one meeting. It would be so easy to give myself a moment of self-congratulatory joy, celebrate an achievement, and be done with that… but… that isn’t how new knowledge (or new practices) actually work. The learning is a beginning, only. Then come the verbs. The practice. The repetition. The iterations of improvement over time. The learning curve. Skill building. Improvements. Refinements. Enhancements. Efficiency building. It’s even a cycle. Each new thing learned, practiced, and “mastered” leads to yet another new thing learned, which must be practiced, and mastered, which leads… yeah. So.

Weekends are also a thing. I’ve got a lovely long one ahead of me. I’d planned to spend the Autumnal Equinox on the coast, but this training week was important (remains important, it is simply now in the past), enough to cut a couple hours out of my planned time, resulting in a change in plan. Truly, though, what canceled my trip to the coast was a splash of inspiration urging me into the studio, which… yeah. That comes first whenever I can make it so. ๐Ÿ˜€

Beginnings and endings, and an unfinished self-portrait waiting to be completed.

I sip my coffee content with this moment. Eager to return home to my weekend. Eager to linger at leisure at the edge of the rainy day deck garden with a coffee too late in the day, unconcerned because the day of leisure will be followed by another. I am even eager to throw routine out the window, to stay up late in defiance of healthy sleep practices, to sleep in on a “work day” (helloooo, Friday morning, I’m looking your way!), to play the stereo loud, to be – without looking at the clock. Just anticipating the delicious leisure moments ahead, I feel myself relax. I need this. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m pretty good at routines. I’m less skillful about breaking them. It’s not generally wise, but sometimes I do learn best from my challenges when I explore them, gently. Am I ready for some chaos? I’d better be…

…Anyway… I can always begin again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I had a weirdly difficult day yesterday. My mood quickly soured during the morning commute, though I couldn’t pin down quite why; it wasn’t that bad. I made good time. Drivers were the usual assortment of human beings being entirely human. I shrugged it off and restarted my experience with a cup of coffee, and the completion of some relatively easy-but-tedious tasks that had been pushed off earlier in the week. Satisfying.

My day continued as a rollercoaster ride of along a spectrum of emotions, hitting lows of vague frustration and irritability, riding brief highs of satisfaction, contentment, or eagerness. Up and down. Again and again. Hours of it. Day’s end found me eager to begin the weekend, but the commute home was an unpleasant continuation – more of the same. It was a bit like playing the game of living with all the settings on “difficult”. lol

Something was definitely nagging at me, keeping me irritated, and as much as I wanted (very much) to blame something external, I have come to terms with how often whatever is “up with me” is generally something both within me, and within my own control. So… I went looking for it in the one place I know to check, my meditation cushion. ๐Ÿ™‚

Search within; it’s closest.

Yeah…so… I didn’t get anywhere definite with that, but I did feel better. Calm. Content. Balanced. I let go of the irritation. I regained my smile. Throughout the evening, I still caught myself punctuating unexpected moments with a discontented sigh, or a deep cleansing breath. I didn’t take it personally, and the evening was quiet and pleasant.

I woke this morning with a smile, a calm heart, and a clear awareness of what had been aggravating me so deeply in the background; I was thinking about buying a new car. I was considering it with a great deal of excitement. I was taking steps in that direction without really considering all the consequences of the decision. I’ve embraced having a car, and the convenience of getting around with greater ease than public transit allows, but it is a bigger car than I’d ideally like, if I had chosen it for my own needs. I’d love a sub-compact SUV, something with some guts, maybe a little sporty… I pre-shopped over days, and made plans to do some test drives this weekend, with some eagerness (I can just go do this!)… Although… I’d already also planned a quiet productive weekend at home, taking care of home and hearth and meeting other needs, that do indeed need to be met… The conflict implied in that bit of planning nagged at me all day yesterday without really being sufficiently obvious to resolve with any ease. This morning? I get it. I don’t need a new car. I don’t need a different car. I have a car. It’s in good condition. It’s comfortable. It is fuel-efficient. It is safe. It is enough. (More than enough.)

The garden calls to me; there are roses to deadhead, weeding and watering to do… and moments to enjoy.

Feeling like lost balance has been restored. I canceled test-drive plans. It isn’t “time” to buy another car, or a different car, or a newer car. I have what I need. There are other things I would use limited resources for, financially, and it would be an exceedingly frivolous move to buy a new car right now. I decide to put my attention on my actual needs, and take care of the woman in the mirror with greater skill – by telling her “no” on this one. ๐Ÿ™‚

I haven’t even finished moving in yet! The studio remains unfinished, and not yet work-ready.

I finish my coffee while I finish reviewing my budget and looking for opportunities to be comfortably frugal, more focused on legitimate needs, and things I can take care of that would be significant quality of life improvements (a car would not qualify; I have a nice one already). I’ve got quite a list of such things, as it happens, and a weekend to do some of those things. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a good place to begin, again.

 

I woke feeling merry – then moved to get out of bed. Holy crap, why the evolutionary-hell did it seem utterly necessary to develop arthritis pain?? I sigh, and ease myself slowly from the bed to something more or less like a standing position and make my way to my yoga mat.

(There’s a chance I watch too much Rick and Morty…)

Yoga helps. I’m not so stiff afterward. My coffee is tasty and hot. I’m still smiling and aside from being in pain, I “feel good”. I am learning to define ย how I feel by qualities other than physical pain… it definitely makes a better experience, day-to-day. I suspect this will be a valuable trait as I age. lol Besides… fuck pain!ย  I put my headphones on, crank up some favorite dance tracks, and keep moving. I may be a plump, curvy, middle-aged fat chick with some wear and tear, but I’m fucking smiling, bitches – and I feel wrapped in love and smiles this morning in spite of pain. ๐Ÿ˜€ Wubba-lubba-dub-dub!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Finding my joy has been a journey all its own, and part of “all of the everything” along the way. I can recall being a deeply bitter, disappointed cynical shell of a human being, a dry rotting husk where my heart could have been. Unpleasant. (That describes both me, I think, and my experience, itself.) It wasn’t surprising, knowing what I know (which is most of everything) about my experiences. What surprises me even now, though, is how much I yearned to be someone completely different. Not “different from the woman I am” as much as “a woman having a different experience than I am” – and looking back it took a long damned time to figure out (with help, frankly) that my own choices were a large part of where I landed in life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming poor people for poverty, or rape survivors for having PTSD and trust issues, or domestic violence victims for struggling with repressed rage and learned helplessness; no victim blaming here at all, implied or explicit. What I am saying, is that I didn’t recognize how much personal control I have over my own state of being. I could always make choices that change the quality of my experience for better or for worse – that’s a lot of power, and carelessly wielded it results in a lot of emotional chaos. We do have choices. A lot of them. So many choices it can be a little overwhelming… does it matter if I wear a dark blue wonder woman tank top under my sweater this morning? Not so much… but it’s a choice. The choice whether or not to budget my finances is a much bigger deal, as choices go. Or, the choice whether or not to labor away in a job that defies my values, and working for a person I don’t respect, and who treats me poorly – that’s a big deal for sure, and yep, also a choice (and a choice I am very glad I made differently, at long last).

The music keeps playing. I keep dancing in my chair while I write. Now and then the music moves me such that I’ve got to get up between paragraphs and enjoy a particular track in a more physical way. I love to dance. I make no claims of skill – I just enjoy movement, and music, and the way they go together so well. ย At 53, and more than a bit self-conscious about … something… I don’t comfortably dance with ease and freedom in public spaces (anymore/yet). It can bring me near to tears to brush too closely to plentiful recollections of being young, fit, sexy, flexible, and so easily able to be the music in a physical form. Stiff from arthritis pain, back broken in two places, fused and wired back together, and too heavy to feel light on my feet for very long has talked me into a level of self-consciousness about being seen exactly as I am that I’ve not yet sorted out, and which creates conflict in my sense of rhythm, which adds to my self-consciousness. At any rate, it’s a source of emotional discomfort that I rarely discuss. It’s part of my journey these days; there is so much music I want to see live, and I want to be comfortable in that world, too.

The unexpected frankness with myself this morning, on this tender sore place in my heart labeled “too fat” opens my eyes to how much I’m hurting over this, and the tears spill over my cheeks like tiny waterfalls. The worst of it is the sting of knowing that the mocking skinny girl lurking in my thoughts isn’t about experiences I’ve had of other women; she’s the woman in the mirror, at a much younger age, that woman so easily able to dance, lacking any awareness of where life would take her, and brutally insensitive about others. Straight up, it’s not about treating otherย women badly over matters of weight, appearance, or beauty. I know my own heart. I know that woman. I know what she was about. I know her. I find myself acutely aware of who I was and the content of my thoughts, then. Life itself got tired of my shit, and now I am faced with all manner of many things I was uncomfortable with as a younger woman. lol Well-played life. You’ll make me wise, yet. Perspective matters, and it can be painful to develop.

Kindness matters too. And compassion. My tears dry as I savor the wry humor of being so carefully placed in life to experience a broad range of experiences. Gnothi seauton. I could have been a better person than I was in my 20s, but I wasn’t – and I wasn’t even aware of what a basic and shitty human being I actually was. Self-awareness demands a lot of me, and this morning it demands that I acknowledge how much I yearn to feel as comfortable on the dance floor as I do in my living room. As comfortable with my partners as I do when I am alone. Funny… until I became aware I felt otherwise, I didn’t realize this is a journey I also very much need to take… so… I guess it begins here? In a blog post I didn’t realize I was going to write, about an issue I find more personal than my sexuality… my emotional comfort with my physical self. Again. Still.

I’m still smiling. Still sipping my coffee. Still dancing through the pain. All good things – and there is further to go on this journey, and I suppose that is also a good thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s time to begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

A good day of house-hunting, yesterday, reminded me that the world is not what I expect, nor does it adhere to my plans, or limit itself to my beliefs or whimsical notions. It is what it is. I can change. I can, perhaps, change the world. The world itself can (will) change – may even choose change – but at all points, in all moments, it (the world) and I (myself) remain entirely precisely what we each actually are (in that moment) without regard to belief.

I am ย a practicing non-believer, generally. I prefer my understanding of myself and knowledge of the world be closely tied to what is, and not at all dependent on what I assume, expect, want, pretend, or make up in my head – or what I’m told. It just simplifies things. My only requirements at that point become awareness of the world around me, and acceptance of reality. No “believing” required. (Reality, like science, does not care what I believe.) I see, lately, a rather sad surplus of human primates mis-using the words “think” and “know” as synonymous with “believe”, but I’m on to those verbal shenanigans, and I’m watching for it. Believe what you like. I’ll seek knowledge, and accept that I do not know what I do not know. (Your beliefs can’t really substitute effectively for my knowledge, nor mine for yours. I’ll do my homework.)

The wisest among us know to refrain from supporting decision-making with untested assumptions, magical thinking, and “believing” things without checking them out thoroughly. Strangely, in spite of the modern surplus of data, there is a clear shortage of wisdom in the world. lol

I sip my coffee, watching signs of spring coming, just beyond my studio window. Small brown birds gathering up soft bits of this and that for nests. A large flock of Canada geese strutting and posing on the lawn between the patio and the meadow beyond. Blue sky streaked with indecisive clouds of several sorts, as though the weather for the day is simply not yet decided. Rain spatters the window, but only for a moment. I notice that my coffee has, at some point, gone cold. I’m smiling, nonetheless. Why not?

I think about the houses that I saw yesterday. The one that I “liked” the best was also in pretty bad shape. No… I mean… like, seriously, not good. As in, not fully habitable. At all. The cost to make it a home would be prohibitively high (obvious structural repairs were needed to interior floors, and the roof, every scrap of carpet was so badly damaged and soaked in cat urine that the entire building reeked of it… and so much more!), but I did like the floor plan, very much. I made notes when I got home. I’d almost talked myself out of being mindful of the quantity of obvious deal-breakers, by the time I sat down to consider the day. lol I marked the address in my favorites on a listing website I use, to keep an eye on it… maybe a radical drop in price…? I was stunned to see it updated to a pending offer before I finished dinner. That change didn’t realistically do anything to change that it wasn’t a good choice for me, personally, so it was interesting to observe my emotional landscape shift and change with the new knowledge. I had already formed the belief that “no one would want to undertake all that, even at that price” and already developed an expectation in my thinking that it “might still be available months from now, at a reduced price”. LOL Silly primate. No means no.

I looked at a house that was well-kept, clean, cosmetically very pleasant, in a nice seeming neighborhood, a reasonable commute to work, and move-in ready… It was also at the top of my price range, and on the small side of what I am looking for – and didn’t actually meet most of my significant needs, carefully listed and carried with me. It was just the only house I looked at that I could envision living in, myself, fairly contentedly… and that was the case primarily because it was clean, well-cared for, and vacant. Those characteristics aren’t really the ones that meet long-term needs for quality of life, and being at the top of my price range just as it was, it would have been unaffordable to improve it. Another set of pitfalls avoided. I remember thinking “this is hard!”

I looked at a house that had many of the characteristics that would meet my needs over time – and even those of my Traveling Partner at any point he might choose to be staying with me. It was occupied, which for me complicates looking at it; I struggle to filter out the experience of the resident, and their use of the space. I do my best, and it is a learning process, and there is a lot going for this one, I think to myself… and begin to observe the process of my brain working to talk me into or out of it. The house is on the corner of a very busy major street, across from a brightly lit car dealership, next door to a very large multi-family complex that is noisy, and littered. Could I “make it work”? Probably, but the location is both less-than-ideal and also manages to be inconvenient to shopping and services I would, myself, need. How long would it take before my PTSD and noise-sensitivity resulted in feeling unsafe, or uncomfortable? It’s not the one, either.

There was a very cute older place, well-cared for, and fairly fancy for its time – lots of well-crafted built-ins. It was an “open house” and there was a lot of interest in the wee charming move-in ready house. The rooms were small to the point of feeling claustrophobic, and the basement stairs were the deal breaker for me, with tread so narrow it was necessary to turn sort of sideways to safely go down into the finished basement. The ceiling in the basement was so low I had to stoop in places – and I’m only 5’5″-ish. Uncomfortable, and the safety hazards revealed themselves quite quickly; my realtor hit his head going back upstairs, and I stumbled on the narrow tread, causing me to also notice the utter lack of bannister or rail. A bannister or safety rail is an easy addition… but the concrete stairs with narrow tread? No way. Shivers ran up and down my spine when I considered the risk of falling down those stairs and hitting my head.

I could have tried to talk myself into any one of them, I suppose. I choose, instead, patience and learning. Instead of investing in the belief that I must choose one as soon as possible and settle for all of the compromises on all of the characteristics I would want to build a home upon, I continue to study what matters most to me, building by building. Belief is pretty easy; someone says something with conviction, and I then accept the words as true, and build on that. No homework required. Learning requires more effort, more cognitive strain, more moments confronting the human being in the mirror and demanding a reality check; it’s uncomfortable. I’m okay with that. Non-belief is also a practice. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I didn’t find a house I would want to call my own yesterday. I’m okay with that. I’ll begin again. This too is part of the journey. ย ๐Ÿ™‚