Archives for posts with tag: Gnothi seauton

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  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!  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. 😀 Wubba-lubba-dub-dub!!! 😉

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.  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 other 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. 🙂

It’s time to begin again. 🙂

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  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. 😉

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.  🙂

No, seriously, do it. Take time to sort yourself out, to figure out who you are – based on your values, your understanding of your experience, your wants, your needs, your chaos and your damage – the highs, the lows, all of the whole of your experience are part of the answer to the question “Who are you?”. The answer itself is that first step on any journey, whether the answer is held in our awareness or not; whether we take the step is part of who we are. Who we are fills that moment, often imperceptibly brief, between when we form the thought or feel the impulse to step forward, and the moment we lift our foot to take the step. It is in the thought itself, and the impulse.

Today is “team building” with my professional peers. I’m okay with that. I find reflection powerful. I find communication useful. I enjoy growth, and relish connection. Should be a fun day.

Along the way, of course, there is structure to which I must succumb, and I find myself doing so with some amusement; I have been here before. Personality tests are often a part of these experiences, intended to foster improved understanding of one another. A younger me would go into it with less comfort and more resentment, understanding that these tests and quizzes have literally zero actual evidence backing them up as having any particular accuracy or validity whatsoever. (I’m not bashing on whatever your favorite eye-opener is, I’m just saying that generally speaking, things like the Myers Briggs test and DiSC assessments have no scientific basis, even after many years of use and data gathered. They are corporate America’s astrology, best done for ‘entertainment purposes only’ and taken with a grain of salt.) I find value in the sharing and communication. I enjoy working with people who feel connected and informed. If a quiz can open those doors, then let there be many such activities! 🙂

I don’t need to be “right”.

I know myself. Well, better than most other people know me, at least. I’m still working on the rest. Am I the “ENFJ-A” of this morning’s Myers Briggs? Hardly. I am a more loosely defined, more variable set of characteristics. I live. Any one quiz, however many questions, makes observations based on a snapshot, a moment, a few answers of ever-so-many more that may be available. An astute observation that results in improved self-awareness, easier authenticity, and a more enjoyable life-experience overall is surely welcome – but I won’t be changing my mind about what I know of myself on the basis of an internet quiz. 😉

I do put effort into this whole “knowing myself” thing, though; there’s more to learn. Like the vastness of space, or the unfathomed depths of the oceans, there is much I do not know about life, love, and the woman in the mirror. On every journey there is an unexplored horizon in the distance.

Today is a good day to walk on, more questions than answers, eyes-wide open, awake, aware, and engaged in this moment.

I remember my very first smart phone. I was a little overwhelmed, and unsure I had any need for some of what it could do. Over time, I added apps that were useful to me, removed the ones that weren’t. I built bad habits that took my attention away from living people, right along with just about everyone I knew, and then many of us eased up off of that, returning to a more civil, emotionally connected life, engaging with my friends more deeply when we are together, and setting aside the distractions of devices – as much as I can figure out how. Some of us, of course, remain more fully attached to the devices that are so convenient… I did not see myself as one of those people. Then, last night my phone died. Battery ran down unattended in a busy moment during the work day, and peculiarly, efforts to revive it were… ineffective. At least initially. I got it charged, and powered it back on after work and… oh hell. My data is gone.

My data is gone. Well… shit.

Now, frankly, a calm adult “well, shit…” is not how that went down last night. There was a moment of pure panic, some agitated troubleshooting, and then… well, I fought off hysteria and tears, sort of, and vented over email to my traveling partner. That sounds grown-up-ish… right? He phoned immediately; he knows me. The sound of his reassuring voice undid my resolve to hold back the wave of strong emotion, and I fell completely apart – my data is gone!! It felt… personal. It felt terrifying. I felt… unrecognized by my phone. Only… that sounds kind of silly, and it didn’t feel at all silly. It felt entirely terrifying… two weeks of fitness progress… that was what stung most in the moment. He talked me down. Reminded me, rationally, calmly, that the progress itself isn’t in the phone, or the tracker, or a spreadsheet. He talked me through calming breaths. I was okay, and it wasn’t a disaster – however disastrous it felt – and it would be okay. I would just have to start over.

Oh. Right. Begin again. Just begin again. Okay… I can do that. I know to do that. It’s a thing I do. And breathe. I’ll breathe, too, that helps. It helps a lot, the panicked infrequent gulps of air I was surviving on weren’t really helping.

I set up my phone, again, frustrated that wouldn’t restore from the backup, either. My phone is not enjoying the Marshmallow upgrade. It is what it is. Each time I open another app I rely on, and find that my password isn’t saved, my data isn’t there, and the app is functionally fairly useless without being set up all over again I experience another wave of frustration… and grief… and then anger that I’m grieving over data. Then, finally, I let all that go, and let myself sleep.

This morning my phone is just a phone. There are no tears. The anger, the hysteria, the sense that all is lost, have dissipated in the night. It’s convenient to have a phone that has GPS and email. This one is no longer my ‘back up brain’ and I am once more painfully aware why there is still value in hardbound books, handwritten letters, and moments of conversation with friends face to face; data lacks substance. Data is easily lost. Data can be destroyed. Data is not memory. Data is not living. Data, most importantly, is not identity. Hell… much of what I consider to identify me, doesn’t really. So much of it is changeable or arbitrary. I find myself back to the question lingering in my thoughts recently, “who am I?”… I know one thing with fair certainty, I am not a phone. 🙂

I’m still irritated every time I look at the fucking thing. (This too will pass.)

I sip my coffee thinking, for a time, of all the ways in which I may suffer if suddenly – for example – there were a global power failure, and just… nothing that operates on electricity. Well, that’s the most catastrophic loss of data I can imagine, honestly, so that’s where my thoughts go. I’d be okay, for most values of okay, and the data itself would be far from my first concern. When did our data become so important? When did my phone become such a powerful presence in my experience – hell, for that matter, when did it become a fucking “presence”?? There are things to consider here, and one of them is untethering my self from my phone more completely. Maybe starting with my camera… It’s something to consider.

Some of life’s curriculum is disruptive and painful. (Some of it only feels that way.)  Only a very small portion is catastrophic, and few of us ever know real catastrophe, and then only rarely – my phone’s untimely demise definitely does not count among life’s catastrophic events. I woke feeling grateful for a supportive partner, willing and able to help me keep things in perspective. I woke feeling grateful to be working again, and for the resources to repair or replace things of value when they fail. I woke feeling grateful that my own fleeting memory, however it may fail me, is “built-in” and doing a pretty splendid job, generally. I woke feeling grateful that my experience is still my experience, and feeling grateful to be without pain. I am okay right now… and a phone is just a phone.

Well, sure. This.

Well, sure. This.

Today is a good day for perspective, and a good day for gratitude. Today is a good day to put down the phone. 🙂

Well…actually, we share a lot of experiences in common, don’t we? I mean, as human primates, generally, we do. We are each having our own experience. We are each pretty well consumed by the experience we are having, and see the entirety of the world through that lens – or is it a filter? I meantion it, because even looking back on myself, I sometimes find myself surprised by what has changed – and what has not.

In 2012, toward the end of the year (December) the news filled up with shock and horror, and set off my PTSD on this whole other level than I could have been prepared for. I found myself teetering on the edge of suicide, and because I struggled to communicate through the fog of all the other things going on in life, I was also largely emotionally unsupported during this time. I planned to end my life, I got my affairs in order, and I committed to making one last attempt at seeking help through therapy (mostly as a courtesy to my traveling partner, who had expressed concern that having gone off all the psych meds over time, I might need some assistance sorting myself out, which seemed reasonable). If you’ve shared this journey with me, here, you may recall that those early months of 2013 were dark times, indeed.

I practiced new practices, though, and I was still waking up every morning, by July 3rd, 2013. It wasn’t easy, and I struggled a lot. My demons fought me every step of the way. Still… I held on to hope, and kept practicing, studying mindfulness, and waking up each day to a new beginning. It was at least something.

I kept at it… practicing good basic self-care, working through my issues, building emotional resilience, beating back the darkness…. I learned to reach out for help when I needed it, with more ease, and more honesty, less fearfully. Trusting can be so hard sometimes. Life wasn’t perfect, and I understood that it wouldn’t be. I began to learn to tear down the heartbreaking foundation of my chaos and damage: the assumptions, expectations, and attachments that allowed the demons in the darkness to so easily call the shots. I began learning to love – to really love, not merely express affection associated with demands for the same to be returned to me. I learned some handy verbs, and began practices that seemed to improve my experience in amazing new ways. I began learning to listen. I began learning to listen to my own heart. I began to understand and I began to open up to new understanding. I began to set very firm boundaries regarding how I can be treated by others. It was an exciting and complicated time, and I had begun the frustrating process of embracing life, of diving in enthusiastically… and was forced to recognize that we’re not all working on that together, and to decide whether I would give up becoming the woman I most want to be… coming to terms with the reality that not everyone wanted me to be me, at all, was another piece of that puzzle.

I ultimately chose to end one relationship that was causing me great pain; we simply were not able to support each other, or grow together, and we didn’t really share any common values. It was painful, and ugly, and hard – moving on from it was harder than I wanted it to be. Sometimes I still feel that poignant moment of heartbreak, the awareness that love is not reciprocated is painful. Taking that step freed me from so much stress! I started thinking perhaps I was ‘well’ at long last, and all would be… effortless. lol Not so. There are still verbs involved. My first really trying emotional challenge after I moved into my own place caught me by surprise…but I had come a long way from 2012… I took care of myself with great care, and tenderness.

It’s a journey, isn’t it? This whole ‘life’ thing is pretty astonishing. When I ended my employment at the end of April, I wasn’t sure at all that I was making the right choice…but it felt a lot like that moment when I looked my first husband in the eyes as I hung from a balcony on a cold spring night – the only ‘safe’ way out of my apartment in that moment of pure terror. “Don’t do this!” he demanded angrily, looking down at me, still holding the knife he’d been threatening me with. “I have to.” I said quietly, just as I let go. Life changed. I’ve got this busted up back now. My scrambled brain is a complicated mess resulting from multiple head injuries – including the concussion that night. My perspective changed. It would change again, many times. Now, here I am, taking care of this fragile vessel on my terms, making things right with the woman in the mirror, nurturing this being of light on this strange journey without map. No idea where this goes, you know… I still have challenges. I keep practicing.

No good segue, sorry, this is… abrupt, but the the ideas that follow are connected, and the sequence I am offering them seems… adequate. I regret how awkwardly I’ve handled it, however. So. Moving along…

At one point, many years ago (decades), in what feels like another lifetime, I’d bought a battered bass guitar in a pawnshop and begun learning to play. I didn’t quite notice when the heartbreak of losing my guitar in the messy divorce also resulted, some-strange-how, in me simply never even picking up another guitar to play, ever. I just… let it go. I didn’t cry. I didn’t grieve. There were worse things to lose – worse things were lost. I told myself any number of things minimizing the importance, value, significance… and with some measure of success. I didn’t play guitar. Didn’t even try. That entire chapter of my experience was shut down. Shut off. Put away. Left largely undiscussed except as ‘once I…’, ‘there was this time when…’, ‘I used to have an awesome bass guitar…’

Some handful of weeks ago, I don’t recall precisely when, I started thinking about music differently. My fingers itched to play guitar. My heart would jump when a favorite bass groove got my attention during the day. I started ‘feeling it’ – the way I did when I first bought my bass, in 1987. I didn’t actually have it that long, when I look at the year – it was lost to me by 1995? 1996? (Do I have even one existing friend who ever saw it? My life broke like a dry twig in 1995 – a clean break with everything that had been, even what few friends I had (all but one) were cut off by drama, and change.) I started shopping around for anything at all bass-guitar-wise that I might be able to afford on my limited resources…  A dear friend had said, recently, when I discussed these feelings with him, “It’s never too late.”

She came home with me yesterday.

She came home with me yesterday.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality lately… I’ve long been aware that time is precious, finite, and really – there’s none to waste. It’s defining ‘wasted time’ that’s the challenge, isn’t it? What is worthy… what is not? I’m 53. I’ve started working out again. I’m not likely to get my 21-year-old body back, but it feels good, and being healthier is a win. Is the time wasted? Fairly clearly not. I’m 53. I’m learning to play bass guitar again. I’m not likely to become some esteemed ‘bassist’s bassist’ or renowned musician in the time between today, and whenever Death decides to make an appearance on my timeline. Is the time wasted? Perhaps it might seem so if my goal was fame and fortune… what if my goal is to learn another way to give voice to those things I don’t know how to say with words? Is my time wasted then? If I am doing it solely because it gives me pleasure to do so? Is my time wasted? If it helps me continue to rehabilitate my TBI, or soothe the chaos and damage? What is the value in the things for which we have passion? What is our time worth to us, ourselves?

My perspective is that everything I undertake to do, to learn, to experience, and to explore, has the potential to take me closer to being the woman I most want to be. I’m not sure that I have any other purpose as a being, other than to grow, and to become. Certainly it isn’t about reaching a particular bank balance, or owning a particular style of house, or living in a particular neighborhood… We all die human. Death doesn’t play favorites.

I didn’t understand how hurt my feelings were that I’d allowed a madman to take my guitar from me. I didn’t understand that I delivered that hurt, myself, and held on to it for decades, unaware that I was continuing to hold on to that pain, to build it and to nurture it and to defend it from being healed.  It mattered, and I ignored my pain. What a shitty way to treat the woman I was then – and the woman I am now.

Long post today. 🙂 It’s a good day to take another look at why I’ve held myself back, and to take a step or two on the path of making that right with me. What about you? It isn’t too late to do what you love – or what you yearn for. There will be choices to make, verbs involved – your results may vary. Good luck on the journey ahead – and remember, when you stop to ask directions, that other person doesn’t have a map, either. 😉