Archives for posts with tag: home and hearth

This morning I woke gently, slightly before the alarm clock. I got up feeling nauseous, which is odd; I often feel ill after my morning medication, but I hadn’t had it yet. For the first time in decades unexpected nausea in the morning doesn’t cause me to wonder if I am pregnant. (Yay, menopause!) I lay down for another minute or two to let the nausea pass, if it might be due to getting up too quickly and making myself dizzy. It does pass; I exchange it for hiccups.

It will be a hot day according to the forecast, so I wear cool summer clothes; in the chill of morning I am chilly and feeling a bit underdressed. I know the feeling will pass when I begin the walk to work, and it has me thinking about the a/c in the office – perhaps I should take a light sweater to leave at work for these hotter summer months?

I have worked out the theme and selected the canvases for the long wall along my living room. Many of them have never previously been hung, they do not yet have hanging hardware on them, and some of them are unframed (and clearly meant to be framed). I have a vision, and I am not yet ready to proceed. The lovely sheers for the patio window, too, are ready to hang…only the bracket to support the curtain rod is not quite long enough to reach past the vertical blinds in the intended way.

It isn't always clear where my path will take me.

It isn’t always clear where my path will take me.

In other times in my life any one of these somewhat frustrating circumstances could have blown my day, my experience, or at a minimum my mood. Instead, and seemingly without effort, I feel more or less prepared for each circumstance facing me, and that’s enough. I have forward momentum. I am not stalled in my tracks by other steps, small delays, or minor detours; these experiences are also part of the journey. I didn’t do significant work on this directly – although managing my frustration (rather, my lack of skill at dealing with it) has been on my ‘to do list’ for a very long time. It’s another bit of internal change that is going on as result of other practices, and day-to-day reductions in stress. I didn’t understand the degree to which managing day-to-day stress would improve things that didn’t seem directly stress related in my understanding of things. It’s very efficient, and I smile at the recognition that I am getting a lot of good results from a few simple changes, a handful of good practices, and a commitment to some verbs.

Well, sure, that makes sense...

Well, sure, that makes sense…

There is more to do. It feels a little awkward lately how often I sit down to write and find that few challenges speak up to be spoken about within the quiet of my thoughts. That’s no great tragedy, obviously, it just seems a bit unsettling to be so content – happy? – for so long. More than a month with so little drama that drama seems not to exist, and so little stress that I can count on one hand the number of times I have wept helplessly since I moved into my own place – and it doesn’t require all my fingers. I get more moved in every week, and the small details matter. Once I evicted my arachnid roommates (they were not paying rent, and biting me all the damned time), I settled into contentment, and life, on a new level. I don’t know that I have words for it – or that there is any way to share the experience in a comfortable rational way without sounding like I am bragging, or being smug. It is a humbling experience because I am both challenged to express it, and a little frightened by it – if I stare into the face of contentment, will it take its leave of my experience? It’s silly, but I have never been here before and I just don’t really  know.

I have lived alone a couple of times previously (it never lasted long), and never found this level of contentment for more than hours or days. My first exploration of living alone was when I left my violent first husband. I moved into a tiny partially furnished apartment in low-income housing. I spent most of my time anxiously peering through the curtains to check if he was still parked outside, sleeping in his car, or looking over my shoulder to determine where he was, somewhere behind me (he often was). It was not ever an experience characterized by contentment. I was trying to survive. The next time I made an attempt to live alone I had left my first husband permanently, and although I loved my quiet beige and white apartment, I spent most of my time anxious that my ex was still stalking me, worried about money, and struggling with my libido. Living alone didn’t last long, and it was not an experience characterized by contentment; I was still looking for ‘happily ever after’, contentment was not an idea whose time had come for me.  I don’t consider experiences with barracks life, or shared living, any sort of ‘living alone’ – there are just too many people outside those doors to qualify in any way as ‘solo living’ in the same sense. I also can’t realistically count circumstances where I was alone for a time when housemates, family, or partners were away for however long; not my house, not my rules, not my way.

I didn’t know what to expect when I moved into Number 27. I love this place. Oh, sure, it’s a rental and it’s an older one. The carpet is worn. The appliances (whether new or not) are modest, fairly sturdy and commonplace sorts. The kitchen and bathroom are small, on the edge of ‘cramped’. It is in a largish community, and my windows look out onto the lives of others. Generally speaking, it’s an ordinary enough sort of rental of (as it turns out) minimal square footage to be comfortable for me. I moved in prepared to struggle with sorrow, loneliness, frustration, privation, isolation… and I’ve had brief moments of sorrow, usually hormones or fatigue are involved, the loneliness turns out to be less about whether I am alone and much more about the quality and nature of interactions I have with lovers, however remote. Frustration? I don’t know, now and then I guess, in a very ordinary way, hardly attention-getting. Privation? Not a thing here. Isolation? Also not a thing here. This is my home. I love it here. I don’t mind that it is an older rental and a bit run down; I keep a tidy well-cared for home, and it is mine, and it is lovely and welcoming. The small ordinary details that fall short of ideal teach me what I am looking for in a ‘forever home’… which may turn out to be very like this wee place that is so very much home to me now (perhaps a bit larger in the kitchen, bath, and living room…) only situated somewhere a bit more private.

I once spent a lot of time daydreaming about ‘the perfect home’, and in my daydreams it kept getting grander, larger, fancier, more remote, more secure, with more interesting luxuries, more features, more gadgets…turns out, in real life, all I really want and need is… enough.

The path branches, forks, detours, and the way is not always clear - but the journey is what it is, I am my own cartographer, and enough is enough.

The path branches, forks, detours, and the way is not always clear – but the journey is what it is, I am my own cartographer, and enough is enough.

Today is a good day to let events unfold with an open mind. Today is a good day to coast through the small challenges on a smile. Today is good day for ‘enough’.

I am enjoying a quiet morning without the stereo on, without any additional stimulus in the background, and the cool chill of morning slowly reaching all the corners of my wee home through the open patio door. The A/C is off, more to enjoy the quiet cool morning, and less to save money/energy, but it has those benefits as well. The only sounds are of traffic on the not-so-distant street, and the bubble and zing of the goose-neck kettle heating water to make coffee.

I had a wonderful weekend taking care of me, and enjoying myself as I am. I spent most of it alone, and most of it at home, with the exception of a couple merry hours with my traveling partner, with whom I shared coffee and breakfast out on Sunday morning. Saturday was all mine.

No use crying over spilled tiny hardware parts. :-)

No use crying over spilled tiny hardware parts. 🙂

Saturday I spent mostly on household chores and meditating, and much of that spent meditating on art. Bare walls bother me, and I still have an entire wall running the length of my living space that for now remains quite empty. Because the wall is the length of the living space I’ve been stumped by what to do with it, thematically; it does seem to want some sort of theme. Over the course of the day I hung some paintings in my bedroom, and completed the installations in that space. Feeling quite content and accomplished, (and perhaps not paying attention) I carelessly overturned a small compartmented box of hanging hardware and the tiny contents splashed onto the carpet. It’s the kind of thing that can so easily cause tempers to flare…only…in this case, not mine, not this time, and not over this particular category of mess. I settled down with a fresh cup of coffee to sort all the wee parts into their compartments with some measure of honest delight – and posted the picture and a comment on Facebook to the effect that it would be a fun little diversion. A faraway friend replied with some cynicism that my calm sounded like ‘zen bullshit’. 🙂 I laughed, and reminded him how much I actually enjoy sorting things (it’s a harmless quirk and I don’t bother with troubleshooting or ‘fixing’ it).

I get where he’s coming from on the ‘zen bullshit’, though. I remember when I stood on the outside looking in, at a time when what I thought meditation was ‘didn’t work’ for me (not quite the right sort of meditation for the desired outcome), and snarled at the soft-seeming nonsense other friends who already ‘got it’ tried to share. It’s not actually nonsense, as it turns out. It’s not ‘zen bullshit’ to practice practices that get desired results…and it wasn’t ‘easy’ to find my way here. There were – and are – verbs involved. A fucking ton of verbs, day after day after day, and a surplus of opportunities to quit, to fail… to practice. Practicing never ends, and there is no finish line or clear victory beyond the stillness, itself. The calm and contentment are totally worth the investment in time, in effort, in will –  and in won’t – and in patient acceptance that practicing good practices results in incremental change over time. I didn’t practice ‘being calm’ – I practiced other practices that in time resulted in greater calm. No zen bullshit – just effort, will, and results that vary.

Like garden flowers, we thrive when conditions are right, and bloom in our own time.

Like garden flowers, we thrive when conditions are right, and bloom in our own time.

This morning I am happily celebrating all the value I find in the ‘zen bullshit’ practices that have made their way into my experience. I’ve chosen this path. Sometimes it is slow going. My calm and contentment are not a byproduct of magic, or new age-y mysticism, or some ‘secret the pharmacy companies don’t want you to know’ – I have worked to get to this place, and made some unconventional (and sometimes difficult) choices in order to build a life in which I can thrive. Seriously? I’m 52, and the progress has definitely seemed slow going to me. I’ve given up some experiences I truly love in order to make more room in my heart, and my experience, to live well and invest in joy, contentment, and love. This journey is not about ‘easy’. It is also not about ‘faking it’; authenticity matters to me, and sharing the experience I am actually having is something I do – hard or easy.

We make our own way through life's wilderness.

We make our own way through life’s wilderness.

This morning I raise my cup (coffee, black) to the world beyond the ‘zen bullshit’ and wish friends and loved ones suffering under the weight of their challenges some moment of relief, and hope that they find their way ‘home’ and that their suffering is eased by the choices they make, whatever those may be. We are each having our own experience, and while there are definitely verbs involved there are surely enough verbs to choose from for each to walk her own path. Choose wisely – your choices matter. [Your results may vary.]

This morning I woke feeling sad. Feeling angry. Feeling discontent and dissatisfied.  I woke seething. I woke on the edge of tears. I woke early and without any recollection of the content of my dreams.

My slowly waking consciousness flailed in the darkness for some event or offense to hang on to, to point toward and say ‘this, this is the thing that hurts me now’.  One or two likely items were obviously on the menu… and as new tools and skills kicked in, I recognized that making assumptions about my emotional state was likely to cause me further pain and unhappiness, and result in struggling with myself for hours. I took a few moments to observe the darkness around me, and within me. I took some deep breaths and found that my body was tense beyond explanation, and my heartsick feelings were side by side with significant physical pain – and a stuffy nose.  Another deep breath as I admitted silently in the darkness that pain and a stuffy nose, and unremembered bad dreams could easily result in waking with a feeling of discontent and sorrow. (It isn’t as if I am lacking a history of troubled sleep. )

It’s nice to sit here now, more contented, calmed, enjoying a morning coffee without tears and without festering rage waiting to explode unexpectedly in the face of any attempt to interact with me. I am choosing new practices, and building new skills. I am taking an active role in becoming.

In general, life feels much better than it did a year ago. I feel calmer, so often that it is tempting to say ‘always’ or affix some measure of awesomeness to the improvements. I’ve also learned that sometimes those measurements can lead to a desire to pursue accolades, recognition, and validation rather than simply enjoying growth and change. Sometimes defining progress and growth in a firm way even stalls further progress and growth by creating expectations or a sense of entitlement or a ‘deserved’ outcome.

Meditation this morning was an interestingly deep experience. Making room for the hurting, the sadness, the anger, and without insisting on explaining, or justifying them in my experience in the moment, feels strangely comforting and nurturing. The feelings dissipated and quiet compassionate tears slid down my face without shame or embarrassment.  I let go of feeling the lack of things so strongly, and found myself open to feeling the strength of what I’ve got now.  I felt the grief and sadness of what-is-no-more, and honored the memories of wonders and joys and loves of the past without resenting the absence of any one moment or experience that has gone before.  Having given myself the respect of honoring my experience, and feeling my feelings, the warmth of wonders and joys and loves in my now began to fill my awareness. It was a lovely and moving moment.

What woke me? I do wonder, then I let it go.

Yoga. Pain. More yoga – because it isn’t the yoga that hurts. It’s not that sort of pain. It’s just the pain of my arthritis. The headache of my TBI. These are long-time companions that accompany me so many days that for years I didn’t bother to tell people I was hurting. What was the point of bitching about something that was so everyday? The yoga does help.  Eventually I feel less stiff. I hurt some less, certainly enough to begin the day. Even the headache recedes a bit, although that is likely more about putting some distance between my difficult waking moment, and my right-now.

Thanksgiving tomorrow… a festive dinner with friends, baking, cooking, eating, talking… I look forward to it every year.  For me it isn’t even a little bit about Pilgrims and Indians. Why would it be? Hell, it isn’t even about turkeys, or childhood holiday crafts. It is a harvest feast, a celebratory moment shared with friends and family, a tradition of gratitude in a world that doesn’t appreciate very much, or very often. It is the start, for me, of ‘the winter holiday season’. Thanksgiving,  birthdays,  Hanukkah [the official WordPress spelling], the Winter Solstice, Yule, more birthdays, New Year’s, and sprinkled throughout there are parties and dinners, and occasions for merriment of all sorts*.  I love ‘the holiday season’.  I love celebrations! Something more significant than a party, something that supports a value larger than one person’s joy – these are some of what is best about who we are. We gather and share joy, memory, humanity, culture.. and cookies. 😀

This year I am baking cookies. lol. I didn’t last year, we were in the middle of moving, and the kitchen was not really in a reliably ‘baking-ready’ state. I spent some time last night tracking down my own personal favorite holiday cookie recipes, and finding traditional family favorites I remember from childhood.  I haven’t yet brought mindfulness to cookies…

Face to face with a piece of the past.

Face to face with a piece of the past.

Hunting down those cookie recipes brought me face to face with my past in the form of recipe cards of a series called My Greatest Recipes.  It was a mail order subscription, and not a great idea for someone on a tight budget; a cookbook would have been cheaper. I still love these recipe cards, though, and they were one of the few things I did ‘just for me’ at that tender age, long ago, when I was in my 20s. Texas? No, earlier. Virginia. I’ve long ago lost the clear plastic box they came with, and the cards follow me through life nestled in a plastic food storage container without a lid. They don’t fit in it well. lol. Some of the cards are stained, or the edges frayed. Some are written on in ball point pen, in most cases notes about favorite modifications, in one case a phone number. Most are recipes I’ve never tried. Some are recipes for dishes I prefer to prepare differently, and have a favorite recipe safely stored elsewhere, and then there are the recipes I love…those worn cards, those stained cards, cards I can hold in my hand and be reminded.  🙂

Funny that these recipes cards seem to be some sort of collectible now. lol. They were at one point a rather troubling experience for me, arriving faster and more frequently over time, billing me unexpectedly when I was short of funds already.  I still wanted to have them ‘all’, but like episodes of InuYasha, they seemed limitless and infinite in number.  I ended my subscription before I ever got close to having a complete set (and where the hell would I have stored a complete set?).  Probably a good thing, it was getting really expensive. lol.

There will be cookies this year, and recipes, and holidays, and celebrations, and perhaps more good days than difficult ones. This holiday season holds a lot more mystery than usual – new tools, new skills, new practices. For now it is enough to quietly contemplate whether my Russian Tea Balls will be preferred to my Cardamom Cookies, or if it is worth making the fairly everyday (but tasty) Broken Cookies instead of the more festive and elaborate Butter Horns that I first made in 2010 with a dear love by my side, using his Mother’s recipe. (What a precious memory.) I don’t yet know what cookies I’ll be baking, this year, but I do know there will be cookies. 🙂

Yes, there will be cookies. :-)

Yes, there will be cookies. 🙂

Today is a lovely day to consider recipes, and memories, and to celebrate what has been, and what may be.  Happy Thanksgiving.



*My list of holidays is not, and is not intended to be, inclusive of all possible winter holidays. It merely reflects the holidays I am most likely to be involved in celebrating, myself, at this time in my life, based on lifestyle, personal beliefs, the beliefs of loved ones, and calendared events I have accepted.  If I were to be invited to celebrate Kwanzaa, Diwali, or Ramadan (when it falls in winter), I would include them. 😉

Oh, I know, hugely misleading subject line, if I got your attention and you think I’m going to talk about sex. 😦  Cuz…um…I’m not. Nope. Different sort of sucking.

i suck at making my needs understood. Even when I think I have expressed myself simply, clearly – and even in the face of seeming to have understanding and affirmation from others, I regularly find myself facing a complete disconnect from what I thought I had expressed and what others later recall or seem to have taken from the conversation. There’s no point being mad at them.  My friends and partners and loved ones are pretty rational people who communicate well with others. I, on the other hand, have a lifetime of struggling to have my needs understood (sometimes by me) or to communicate them clearly… so it has to be me.  If past partners are to be understood, maybe it really ‘always’ is.

It’s not ‘self pity’ – let’s be clear. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. I’m angry – mostly with myself, because I tried so hard to get this fucking ‘taking care of me’ thing right and failed with the sort of unarguable failure that I’ll let myself ‘enjoy’ all day.   I’m still not heard, not understood. Everyone involved simply walked away with their own assumptions. My own efforts at clarifying questions or re-setting expectations, or ‘working it out’ equitably just got me a hearty helping of isolation and being disconnected. Peachy.

I feel sad and frustrated. I thought I had today set to go – a lovely day of mindfulness and domesticity in support of my own needs and the needs of my family. I wasn’t understood. Now I still have a lengthy to-do list – and no joy facing it.  I put so much into this – into communicating my own needs, in communicating what I wanted to provide to support our family… and I completely failed. I failed with real skill, considering I went into it thinking what I had to offer was desirable and advantageous to everyone else. I guess I didn’t understand their needs either. 😦

Well, just fucking delightful. When I suck – I do so with real skill, and by way of overcoming all obvious advantages – like everyone seeming to want the same thing. Bravo, me!

Shit. Happy Sunday. Now what?