Archives for posts with tag: Gnothi seauton

Heat wave. Already hot this morning. Slept well, woke refreshed. Felt… content. Balanced. Merry…

…Whole.

Off to a good start on a hot day. Things slide sideways, slipping gently, somehow inevitably tilting toward irritation in spite of a great starting point. Best efforts. Humans being human.

I put aside my coffee and go for a walk before the heat of the day might stop me, or just make the experience miserable.

A favorite park has finally re-opened after all the damage during that last winter storm.

Muggy warm air filled with the sound of mowers, small aircraft taking off from the nearby municipal airport, and swarming insects seemed to cling to me as I walked across the parking lot to the start of the one open trail. It doesn’t really go far enough to satisfy the need, but it has been a long while and I have missed this place. I walk the trail twice. I take note of the wild roses in bloom – there look to be three distinct species growing in this wooded area. I spot ripe thimbleberries, but none within reach – too fragile for commercial agriculture, they are a rare special treat, tiny, soft, and mild. The birds will get most of them. Piles of cut up trees give some insight into how much damage the storm caused. Every few feet, there’s a pile of logs and branches on either side of the trail. The forest is full of huckleberry bushes, but I don’t see flowers or berries, yet. On my way back down, before my second walk of the trail, I realize I haven’t stopped at a favorite bench… I never saw it! Weird… I begin to really look for that thing, that expected thing, as I head back up the trail. My focus results in missing other details. Something more to think about.

Oh. Reality is what it is. Expectations are shit we made up, and cling to.

It was a lovely morning for walking, in spite of the heat. In spite of the changes all around me. In spite of a less than picture-perfect lovely summer morning. Expectations and assumptions can so quickly undermine a potentially lovely experience. I mean… I even know that. It still trips me up more often than I care to count.

I put on some music. Sip my rather delicious iced coffee – I’ve been planning this iced coffee on a hot summer morning for days. Really looking forward to this moment. I made coffee ice cubes to go in it. I sip it thoughtfully, savoring the moment that is, instead of yearning for another. It may not be what I expected, but it’s quite pleasant, and that’s enough. Maybe I’ll finish it on the deck…

My Traveling Partner and I both hurt today. Pain sucks. Aging is a mixed bag of qualities, and pain is just one of many experiences… We both try to avoid taking it personally, or lashing out at each other in a short-tempered moment of our frustration with the limitations of these very human forms. He says “maybe you should just avoid me today” – right about when I was thinking of saying gently that I’d give him some space because I’m hurting that much today. lol It’s generally an exceptional partnership, even when one or both of us is in pain, or just generally not being our best selves, together.

I sip my coffee and reflect. I think about the walk, the summer morning, recalling the sights and scents, and the feel of the air around me.

Just because there’s sunshine where I’m sitting doesn’t mean I’ll find illumination.

I walked, reflected, observed, and gave myself that time I need to spend with the woman in the mirror. It’s good to get perspective. I mean… I find it so, myself. πŸ™‚ I don’t always do a good job of making time for me, and for what I need from and for myself. I could do better there. More practice? Obviously. I know where I’ll start, too; a familiar place.

I am rereading the Four Agreements; a worthy starting point on any journey of self.

Funny thing about The Four Agreements? It was my Traveling Partner who first recommended it to me. Good basic practices to practice that tend to heal a lot of hurts and limit a lot of negative self-talk. That seems so long ago now.

Treating each other well has reliably tended to start with treating myself well, and as it turns out that has nothing whatsoever to do with buying things, and everything to do with reflection, perspective, and practices that build resilience and emotional wellness. Boundary-setting. Testing assumptions. Confirming expectations. Being flexible and adaptable in the face of change. Being there for myself. Being kind, and treating the world as gently as I am able to. Good self-care. Getting enough rest. It’s a lot to juggle, and I suspect that I half-ass a lot of it, just trying to do all of it… but…getting things ‘half right’ or ‘half finished’ is still a more useful result than never making an attempt to be my best self at all. Incremental change over time. I get better at something each time I attempt it… eventually. Learning is a process. Change is often a verb. I keep at it. Incremental change over time requires both time, and increments.

Feeling frustrated and challenged can sometimes mislead me into thinking I haven’t improved – a lot – on a lot of little things that had been far more problematic before this journey began. That’s a shame; it robs me of my chance to celebrate small wins. I think on that while I sip my coffee, gazing into the sunshine beyond the window.

I hear the A/C come on. Then I feel it. I recall the heat of the morning as I walked the wooded trail, and think about the apartment in which my partner and I first began sharing our lives… and that roasting, horribly hot all-drama-all-the-time summer some 11 years ago; no A/C. I feel grateful for the A/C, definitely… but the love matters most. We brought that with us, to this place, across years of shared challenges, growth, change, loving moments, and petty arguments – it’s a very human experience, and it’s hard to imagine spending life differently and still enjoying it as much. I sip my coffee thinking about my partner (my lover, my best friend), and the pain he’s in today. Maybe I’ll bake oatmeal cookies? Would that help? (I don’t know why it would, it just occurred to me to wonder – sometimes I have a mind like a child. LOL)

There’s enough of this coffee left to enjoy a few moments of summer morning on the deck before it gets to hot to enjoy… seems like a good time to begin again. πŸ™‚

My coffee tastes different this morning. It’s not because I am sitting cross-legged on the surprisingly comfy Queen bed in this seaside hotel, not even because it’s fairly typically-terrible hotel coffee made in a fairly generically terrible-coffee-making drip machine sitting atop the small room-sized hotel refrigerator, but more because I am sipping it solo, with no chance at all of sharing the moment with my Traveling Partner. Right at the moment, in all practical terms, we’re traveling separately (he’s sleeping still, at home, I hope, and I am sitting cross-legged in sloppy-loose blue jeans, laptop perched precariously on my lap, waiting for my terrible coffee to cool enough to drink properly).

I’d say my goal of relaxing and getting some “down time” before shifting gears to start the new job has been successful; I woke having entirely forgotten about Daylight Savings Time, and looking at the clock and finding “6:30 am” to be both believable, and an acceptable time to wake on a leisure morning… I woke up. I laughed when I finally noticed the discrepancy between the clock that I had checked upon waking (which automatically updated) and the one that did not (provided by the hotel, plugged into the wall in the usual way). I shrugged it off and got started making terrible coffee and looking over the notes I took at several points yesterday, as I walked and wandered, waited and reflected, breathed and meditated.

The ocean does not care when or whether I check into my hotel room, nor when I leave. My presence makes no difference to the timing of the waves, or the fierceness of the winds.

I arrived to the shore much too early to check into the hotel, and my room was not yet ready. Didn’t matter much; the endless ocean tickled the shore without regard to check-in times. The hotel graciously allowed me to use the private beach access in the meantime, and I went down what seemed like 1001 concrete steps to the beach. The wind was brisk and cold. There were bundled up families flying kites and enjoying the day. There were even barefooted kids playing in the shallow water of the waves as they spread across the beach, then receded; they seemed as shore birds, running forward as the water pulled back, running back as the waves spread forward. I found myself reflecting on that. There’s something to learn, there, I suppose.

…This coffee is simply dreadful. I add sugar and the available non-dairy creamer. Still awful. I’m still drinking it…

I gave up beach walking when my legs became tired, and trudged patiently up those many steps once more. Room not yet ready, I headed into town and, masked and distant, and wandered through enticing antique shops.

In a shop filled with carefully crafted miniatures, I find room after room of furnishings that seem to be idealized versions of various stages of my own aesthetic, and wonder if, after all, so many of them could really have come from… doll houses?

The tourist “traps” that line the street are the sort common to any seaside town I’ve visited… saltwater taffy shops, “old time” candy stores, antique shops, t-shirts, sea shells, and nautically themed whatsits of all kinds (lighthouse sculptures, pirate “treasure”, glass fishing floats and paperweights, and “the world’s best” of some local dish). I wandered until I was more distracted by my own thoughts than engaged by what I saw in front of me, and returned again to the hotel, and to the beach, to walk and reflect awhile longer.

I sat for a long while, occasionally attempting to light a joint in the fierce coastal “breeze” without success.

I spent a couple of contented hours walking, and thinking. Reflecting on lessons learned, both generally (and recently), and also specifically (with regard to my most recent job, and how to make good use of what I learned in future roles). It was time well-spent. Aside from the wind and my tinnitus, the only thing I was hearing was… me. I walked the beach listening deeply to what the woman in the mirror has to say… about life… about love… about work… about a future that is unknown (and largely unknowable). I contemplated the confounds of expectations and assumptions.

…At check in time, I made my way to my room, let myself into this small space that is more or less my own (until check out time), and unpacked my baggage – literally, and metaphorically.

…Damn this is dreadful coffee. Wtf? Why am I putting myself through this? LOL I stare into the cup, warm in my hand, astonished by its prodigious awfulness with a certain amount of respect; it’s a hell of an achievement for a cup of coffee to be this bad.

I took time to reflect on all I’d seen, and on my notes, and the many “living metaphors” the day had presented to me.

I ask myself “the hard questions” on my mind as the day becomes evening… What matters most? What has me chained to some past moment? What have I accepted as the basis of my sense of self? Is that truly “who I am”? How do I free myself to soar to greater heights? Where does my path lead? The moments, questions, and the thoughts they carry with them crash onto the shore of my consciousness, and recede one by one. I find “embracing change” to be a process, and an ongoing practice. Taking some time alone to be with my thoughts – and, unavoidably, with my self, is a useful break for “sorting things out”. For finding the signal in the noise. Life may not have a map, but I can sure jot down some notes as I might if I were writing down directions to go from here to … somewhere else. It’s important to be clear on the desired destination. It’s important to be aware of where I stand right now. πŸ™‚ With those things in mind, how much more easily can I begin again?

…It’s that time, isn’t it? Beginning again, I mean. The new job starts tomorrow. The new laptop was delivered Friday, and is waiting for me to set it up.

…Fucking hell I am missing my Traveling Partner this morning. I missed him ferociously last night, too. The value in missing him has nuances that are worthwhile experiences of their own. Missing him reduces the likelihood that I will take his precious presence in my life for granted. Missing him reinforces how much I enjoy him being part of my experience. Being absent the many things he does for me (and for us), large and small, reminds me that I legit don’t do as well for myself on my own as I seem able to in this specific partnership. (Not dissing myself or minimizing how much I appreciate myself for (and as) myself, just saying there’s a ton of stuff that just doesn’t seem to stay on my radar, and my sometimes general lack of fucks to give, or pain, results in more chaos than I easily manage… and that seems far less likely in his company, and with his help.)

…And both of us make an excellent cup of coffee that is so much better than this warm brown liquid that I’ve decided can’t at all be called “coffee” – it’s just that bad, and I am seriously missing something better… and my partner… this morning. πŸ™‚

The sun is not yet up. Check out time is not for another 3 hours. There is time to walk on the beach, time for a bite of breakfast, and time to find a better cup of coffee. LOL There’s time to begin again.

A group of rocks along the shore, exposed at low tide, inaccessible at high tide. Even in that, there is something to reflect on, a metaphor in action, something to learn about who I am, and where I am headed.

I look at the clock, and see daylight beginning to show through the curtains. Definitely time to begin again. πŸ™‚

Sipping my coffee and listening to the rain fall. Artificial rain…although… it is raining outside this morning. This particular video also has the sound of a crackling fire, a river flowing nearby…and honestly, sounds rather like a rainy day here, in my own living room, on a day when the creek is flooding. It’s a relaxing soundscape, and tends to push distractions out of my immediate awareness very well.

…The relaxing, soothing, comforting, background soundscape tends to be very helpful with managing my anxiety, which has been coming and going rather a lot the past week or so. I could have expected it, I suppose. When my values and my circumstances feel as though they are in opposition to each other, or somehow at odds, I don’t feel “comfortable”, and the longer it goes on, the more my anxiety increases in intensity, and the frequency with which it surges into the forefront of my consciousness also increases. It’s an “early warning system” that there may be a decision-making point coming up very quickly, or that the time to reflect on things and make other choices may be upon me. I could “fight it” with soothing sounds and do nothing more. I could meditate regularly, “accept my lot in life”, and struggle with the anxiety and discomfort – or attempt to medicate it away – and settle for quiet misery.

…Or I can acknowledge that I am unhappy, seek to determine what the primary cause of that discontent may be, and consider other options… this is particular effective if, after all that, I’m prepared to choose change. I mean… maybe the options aren’t really an improvement? That’s certainly a scenario that comes up now and again. I’ve often found that getting to that place where I can critically consider and factually determine that the present options don’t result in a clear likely improvement also serves to reduce my anxiety – it’s more about giving the matter real thought, and allowing myself the consideration and respect required to resolve my discontent with action, where action would do so.

I would use the example of working a job that isn’t ideal. Maybe it really is a poor fit, and making a change would be an improvement? Maybe the available options would not actually present a legitimate shot at the desired specific improvement at all, and would therefore be of no real use? Maybe the options are “more of the same” and “more of the same-r-er”, and time would be better spent in improving skills, and investing time in other endeavors during leisure hours? Maybe it really is time to move on to some other thing? I’m not a fan of reacting in the moment with drastic action built on an emotional moment. Personally? I like self-reflection. I value introspection. I seek self-awareness. I’d ideally prefer all of my decision-making be built on those qualities, and a hearty helping of perspective, self-respect, and non-attachment, besides! πŸ™‚

“Having it all” comes in many forms. What do I really want? What matters most? Where does lifelong fulfillment lie on this path? Am I headed down a path that even leads me in the direction I hope to go? No map.

I’m sipping my coffee and listening to the rain fall. It’s not relevant that the sound of it “isn’t real”, particular when I’m seeing the rain fall beyond the window. What I see and what I hear are well-aligned. Isn’t there real value in also having my circumstances and professional values also aligned? I’m just saying; I have choices. There are verbs involved. My results may vary…

…And I also get to begin again. πŸ™‚

I woke up groggy, aware of today’s agenda. Court. So, okay, the day is not my own. Today, a guy stands accused of a bunch of burglaries, one of them my old apartment. That seems a long time ago, but finally, it’s time the case is heard. The commute through morning rush hour traffic, all the way across town the far other side, holds no appeal for me. I’m dreading it. I’ve already decided to take the light rail, instead, which will probably take longer, but be much less stressful…

…It’s already almost time to go. There is a certain focused tension to my morning. I’m admittedly not excited to burn up an entire day of my time off for this; I have my own life to live, and my own uses for that time. Still. Our justice system rests uneasily on some big ideals… If I don’t participate, or fail to do so in an honest and authentic way, I participate, instead, in the slow chipping away at our potentially-amazing-if-we-could-get-over-ourselves-and-get-our-shit-together culture. I admit it; I’d prefer to be a good guy in my own narrative, and to do so by actually being the woman I most want to be, not by saying nice words about myself. So. I’ll go to court. I’ll give testimony. I’ll hope that in so doing, truly justice will be served (by determining whether this guy actually committed those crimes, not by “getting a conviction” without regard to truth). I’m uncomfortably aware how commonly our “justice system” is not truly serving justice. I feel wary.

I feel tense. Aware. Present. I sip my coffee and consider the moment. I consider other, different moments. I breathe. It is a new morning. A new day. An opportunity to begin again… I think about beginnings, and endings. I think about perspective, and hard to confront truths in life. I think about lifetimes of human experience, varied and similar, strange and mundane, each of us having our own – all of us in this together.

It’s complicated.

It’s time to go.

Let it go.

Walk on.

Begin again.

 

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, andΒ  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?