Archives for posts with tag: identity and definition

I woke with a headache and a snarl, and I also woke rather slowly and with great effort. I slept poorly, both restless and wakeful, I didn’t get the rest I need. It is a new day.

My pounding head reminds me that although there are no loose bits rattling around inside, this fragile eggshell is cracked. I smirk at myself, aware that some of my tendencies – things like linguistic complexity where none is required, “being deep” in casual conversations, the peculiar awareness of and communication via living metaphors, the likelihood that I will take something sarcastic at face value, the difficulty ending a conversation, oh, just a whole bunch of things, really… “quirks”, eccentricities, moments of weird – are complex outcomes of a brain injury, of PTSD, of surviving some nasty shit by learning to cope with it. I can say I’m “broken” with something like a comfortable feeling of familiarity. I used to let it define me… differently.

For awhile I fought it. I refused to define myself in terms of the chaos and damage. I refused to “be” broken. Other times, I wallowed in it. Yielded to the damage. Gave in to the chaos. Gave up on changing anything.

Time passes. Change is.

This morning I woke up snarling at myself. Frustrated by the headache. Annoyed by feeling so groggy. Eager to get to the coffee…

I am unsure whether it is the caffeine, the comfort of the hot mug, or the slow familiar waking ritual of making it, then drinking it, that serves so well to put the day on track. It does though. It does put the day on track, generally. This moment of warmth – literal and metaphorical warmth – enjoyed alone each morning, a moment to “get my head right”, and get past the headache, or the arthritis stiffness, or the stuffy nose, or the lingering recollection of a bad dream, or… well, whatever the waking moments of consciousness throw at me. I’ve got that cup of coffee to help me turn things around. Does it actually matter to me what the mechanism of action actually is? Not in the slightest.

Be broken, if it helps. Grieve if you are hurting. It’s not especially helpful to squash down all the feelings with a lot of “shouldn’t” and “don’t” and extra helpings of criticism taken from the words of others, and reformed in your own words and returned to your narrative as your own thoughts. No one needs guilt or shame on top of the things that already suck so much – and those things don’t only weigh us down and hold us back from going on with things, they also tend to stop us embracing what is authentically good about who we are – chaos and damage and all. Some of this broken shit frustrates me, daily. Some of this broken shit is part of who I am.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow.

Some of my most cherished individual qualities are very likely specific to my brain injury – or my PTSD. Some are things I like most about myself, others are things that other people have indicated they really appreciate about me. I’ve no intention of “fixing” those things. Don’t want to. Don’t need to. What if fixing the rest would also, by necessity, fix those things as well…? This thought is one underlying my focus on “being the woman I most want to be” rather than focusing on “fixing all the things wrong with me”; some of the things I may think are “wrong with me” in one moment, or from one perspective, may actually be very “right with me”, after all. 🙂

I’m rambling. Sipping my coffee. Grateful to have taken the time to really wake up before going on to other things. I take time to appreciate the value in waking up early enough to let myself really become my best self before I go on with my day. I pause to wonder how I got through so many years of launching myself from bed first thing, and immediately dressing and getting out the door quickly; it seemed efficient at the time. It was a grueling and fairly punishing routine, in practice, and I often treated people who are unfortunate enough to interact with me very early in the morning fairly badly, especially in that first hour after waking. I’m not suggesting that getting up at 4:30 am to depart for work at 7 am would be “the right choice” for everyone, there are other needs, and other ways. This just works for me. By 6 am, I am feeling mostly human. Awake. Aware. More able to respond, and less likely to react. The headache has dissipated. It feels like a lovely morning.

It feels like I can begin again. 🙂

Another morning. I’m irked about small things, but woke early and spent an hour meditating and finding my way to a sense of calm acceptance and general contentment. It’s nice to be able to reach for it like a cold cola on a summer day and find relief. Practice. Practice. Practice.

We are each having our own experience. Surely the decisions made by asshats in black robes are not the product of viciousness, hate, and disregard for the fundamental humanity of others. It’s always far more likely a product of short-sightedness, inexperience, lack of perspective, and sure, actual cognitive shortfalls that are inevitable in the population; we are not all equally gifted, or equally willing to serve mankind well. Even judges and lawyers are having their own experiences, likely quite human ones.  I wonder what it must be like to go to work every day knowing the decisions you make will affect millions, and that a poor choice might cost many lives and change the face of the entire culture for the worse? Do Supreme Court justices wake up in the morning and think “today I will make the very best, wisest, decision I can make to better the lives of the people of this nation”? Or…do they just sort of…go to work?

Sometimes a little bit is quite enough.

Sometimes a little bit is quite enough.

Second espresso. Drinking them straight this morning, in a lovely stainless steel espresso demi-tasse cup I purchased decades ago, in Germany. It is a moment of exquisite satisfaction to enjoy the espresso in this cup, that was selected with such care as an addition to a growing collection of demi-tasse cups and saucers I had begun in my early twenties as a distraction from the horrors and stress of my life. This particular cup and saucer are as close to ‘indestructible’ as anything I own. This morning, that is meaningful, and I savor that quality quietly, as day breaks.

I am thinking about ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ and the way we use words to define our experiences, both physical and emotional, and our rather unfortunate willingness as human primates to deny each other the opportunity to be accepted for the experience we are indeed having, independent of each other.  It’s a pretty unpleasant thing we do to each other, actually. I see it a lot.  I’ll share what I mean by relating a conversation I recently overheard, that appeared to be between lovers.

Man (sharing plans for the near term future) “This will be fine. I’ve updated the budget. Now that you’re back to work, we’re in a good place for this. We’re wealthy!”

Woman (in an irritated contradictory tone) “I don’t agree.”

Man “You don’t agree?” (looks hurt and confused, concerned that plans are now derailed)

Woman “We’re not ‘wealthy’. I don’t agree with that.”

The discussion continued for a few more minutes before they went separate ways, clearly hurt, angry, frustrated – neither of them seemed to ‘feel heard’. Small wonder, really. Most people don’t seem to grasp the idea that it isn’t appropriate to disagree with a subjective emotionally based value statement that an individual makes about his or her own experience.  It’s just mean and rude, and pretty dismissive.  It’s easy to lose our way on that one, too, because disagreeing regarding a factual matter is appropriate, and often needful. “Wealthy” isn’t a factually defined term. It’s an emotionally defined term based on the speaking individual’s personal identity, how they feel about money, their perspective and experience with having, versus not having, and how much room they feel they have in their budget. It’s very personal. I’m sure there are incredibly rich people in terms of cash flow, real estate holdings, offshore investments, and capital in savings, who do not define themselves as ‘wealthy’ at all. Why would I think that? I know one.  I also know people who barely get by on a part-time job who feel incredibly ‘wealthy’ because their financial needs are comfortably met much of the time and their emotional lives are comfortable and nurturing. They view ‘wealth’ differently. There is, however, not a damned thing to disagree with.

This is not a discussion about wealth. It’s a matter of words, and words matter.  A ‘feeling of wealth’ is very subjective and doesn’t really have much to do with money. Any time a person flatly contradicts the emotional value statement of another person’s subjective experience, the person being contradicted feels rejected, dismissed, denied, misunderstood, and ‘not heard’. What they are being told is that their experience doesn’t count, or isn’t valid. That’s a pretty shitty way to treat another person. I work hard these days not to do that particular thing, and instead choosing to really hear what that emotional value statement is actually communicating.  It takes practice.

We each have our own subjective experience with ourselves, and with the world.  I myself feel incredibly injured by the recent SCOTUS decision regarding corporate personhood and the rights of corporate persons to deny me my rights as an actual person. It’s a big deal. It’s also highly subjective; most of my male friends and associates don’t have the same emotional experience with regard to the particular decision I am referencing. It is difficult to describe the additional hurt I feel when I try to talk about my experience in terms of emotional value statements; the lack of shared understanding quickly gets in the way, and I often find myself, once again, feeling dismissed, isolated, invalidated, overlooked, misunderstood, or straight up rejected and denied understanding at all, because of attempts to disagree with my emotional experience. That sucks.

Are you doing it, too? I catch myself now and again; I’m working very hard to root out this particular petty evil from the way I treat others. Is there a chance I’m not being clear on this? How about another example? Let’s use ‘beauty’ instead of ‘wealth’.  Imagine that you have a dear friend, or lover, or family member – someone you really care about in a positive way – and imagine they are horrifically disfigured from an acid attack that left their face badly scarred. You’re hanging out and your family member says, in a moment of great delight – maybe trying on clothes, or preparing for a fantastic night out – “I’m so beautiful!” Do you disagree with them? I mean, even in the privacy of your own thoughts – do you hear yourself saying “Um, but… no, not really.”? Are you that person? The utterly subjective nature of beauty being what it is, and then on top of that the utterly subjective nature of our individual experiences, and how we identify ourselves, and define our experiences… how could you? Rationally, logically, you wouldn’t have a leg to stand on – because ‘beauty’ is not a rational logical construct. It’s an emotional value statement. The person saying they feel beautiful gets to make the call on that – not you.  You’re your own person, of course, and you can have a different experience.  Disagreeing, though? Entirely inappropriate, and actually quite cruel, mean, and the sort of petty nastiness that makes the world less emotionally safe that most of us would like it to be.

I’m definitely on to something here, and a new bit of path opens before me. It’s part of The Big 5, too, isn’t it? I think this one falls under the heading of ‘Respect’. When we respect each other’s subjective emotional experience there is an opportunity to feel more profoundly nurtured, accepted, heard… that all sounds wonderful.

It's a good day to reflect.

It’s a good day to reflect.

Today is a good day to listen well, and with my whole attention. Today is a good day to respect the experiences of others, and to value their teaching. Today is a good day to respect each other’s fundamental humanity, however different we are. Today is a good day to respect my own experience, and understand that no one really can ‘disagree’ with my emotional value statements, or my feelings; they are mine and can’t be argued with unless I choose to allow it. Today is a good day to recognize that we all want to be heard.