My sleep this past few days hasn’t been great. It’s been restful enough, which is sufficient, but it has been interrupted, each night, with periods of wakefulness of varied length, sometimes resulting in actually getting up, puttering around the house quietly, or writing. Last night I woke, at 2:33 am, and after meditation didn’t return me to dreamland, I got up, had a cup of tea, touched up a couple of the new paintings, and went back to bed. I never really went back to sleep, but found letting my consciousness wander in and out of brief dreams adequately restful. By 4:42 am all I could think about was having a cup of coffee, and got up ahead of the alarm.

The solitude doesn’t cause me any stress. I enjoy it a great deal. My recent camping trip, too, it was the solitude – when I had it – that seemed to meet my needs. On that occasion my usually-at-home partner had expressed concern that I might not enjoy being alone out there in the trees and assured me I could ‘call any time and get picked up’. I remember being quite astonished, and as the conversation continued, it was clear that somehow my partner didn’t ‘know me’ on the matter of solitude – and we’d been living together for some time. She directed my attention to that first month or so we all lived together, and the occasion that she and my traveling partner had gone to San Francisco for a couple of days, shortly before or after New Year’s Day, as I recall.  I had a bad time of things and was mid-freak out, when they called to inquire if I would mind if they came home early – out of boredom.

Moving along past ‘how does someone find boredom in San Francisco?’ to the point I’m actually getting to… We really are each having our own experience. My partner stored the recollection of those events as somehow indicating I had difficulty being alone. My own perspective is very different, because I was there. I desperately needed the comfort of solitude on that occasion. We’d all recently moved in together. All my routines and habits were completely disrupted and I wasn’t sleeping much. My PTSD had flared up partly due to the disruption of the move, partly due to finding out about my TBI – and what a big deal that has actually been all along – and partly due to the heinous gang rape in New Delhi that December that set the media on fire with some unstated competition to report as many rapes as possible, in as much graphic detail as culturally permitted; I could not escape my own history and I was in incredible emotional pain and feeling suicidal despair. As if that weren’t enough, the emotional volatility in the household in general resulted in receiving no emotional support for the state I found myself in, no one to talk to, and lacking any tools to really do anything about it. I was at the breaking point of what limited emotional resilience I had to work with. They went on their trip. I found myself alone ‘at home’ in what was at that time still ‘a strange house’ – everything in disarray from the work of moving two additional adult humans and all their accessories into space fully occupied by one. In the moment they departed, I took a deep cleansing breath and began to relax. It didn’t last. In the next moment, it was clear that I didn’t know how to operate the stereo. Or the video. At the time I didn’t have a laptop of my own, and couldn’t access the household network. My phone wouldn’t connect to the internet over wi-fi, and I couldn’t recall the password. The frustration of not being able to simply turn on some music launched me into a private emotional hell built on the hysteria and pain of a lifetime of chaos and damage, and lit like a bonfire soaked in gasoline with that tiny match of pure frustration, and the shame of being utterly incompetent at 49. I spent the next 24 hours in tears, aside from a couple of hours of fitful napping.  I soon found I didn’t know where much of anything actually was – including most of my own stuff, and didn’t know how to work the alarm system in a house I just moved into. For hours I stalked through the house screaming at myself, crying, storming with frustrated child like rage… because I couldn’t find a pen, to write with. I felt trapped, and frightened.

At that point in my journey, I knew nothing of stillness. I didn’t understand meditation – my only experience with it was intended to increase focus and concentration, not build awareness and mindfulness, and it hadn’t done anything whatever to address the needs of my heart. I had no way to move past my rage. I was trapped. Desperate. Unwilling to reach out for help – because not only did I not know where to turn, I lacked conviction that any help was even possible.

When they arrived home, prematurely, I was relieved.  There was music. There was order. Things could be found. I didn’t understand at the time that my partners – neither of whom has been with me more than a small number of years – didn’t understand what was going on with me. (The weeks that followed developed in a painful way for many reasons. I went from ‘feeling suicidal’ to sitting down and planning things out, and making a list of ‘loose ends’ that needed to be wrapped up ‘before I left’.  Their emotional experiences with me over issues that developed around differences in communication styles and practices resulted in behavior that I try to avoid thinking about these days, it was that damaging and hurtful. I was battling coming to terms with my TBI, and doing so mostly without any help or support beyond a casual occasional brush off intended to reassure me that ‘it doesn’t matter’, and prevented further conversation about a topic that was uncomfortable for them, too.)

What got lost in all that was what was up with me, why, and some really important things about my experience, and who I am. I enjoy solitude. I don’t enjoy frustration. More importantly? I am the sum of all my experiences and choices – not just the ones any one friend or loved one has been around for.  Looking back it is more obvious, at least to me, but as with any small review mirror – I am the only one who sees that view.

Today, as I look ahead into a future that doesn’t yet exist, and enjoy the stillness of a quiet morning of solitude, I gently explore that past hurt in my rear view mirror. Something to share, a matter of perspective, a past moment that so clearly illustrates that however close we are as people, whatever our intimate relationship with each other, however connected we are, our perspective and understanding is filtered through our own experiences, our own choices; we create our view of the world using our own limited understanding of events and people. We don’t just create our own narrative, we create the narrative we use to understand others, too, and sometimes without getting input from the main character of the tale. A poor strategy for compassion, or understanding. The Four Agreements nails this one too, with “Don’t Take Anything Personally” and “Don’t Make Assumptions”.

So basic.

So basic.

Today is a good day to ask caring questions. Today is a good day to be compassionate. Today is a good day to recognize we are each having our own experience. Today is a good day to remember that investing in joy and contentment requires acts of will, and choices. Today is a good day to change the world.