Archives for posts with tag: if practice makes perfect what are you perfecting?

In December, 2015, shortly after I moved out from a shared living arrangement with my partners at the time (one of those being my “forever Love”, my Traveling Partner), I wrote the post below, which somehow I never published. No idea why now, seems a perfectly adequate bit of writing. Considering I would have likely been reluctant to cause drama for him with careless words, it may have been the concern that she might still be reading my blog had caused me a moment of doubt, some second thoughts, and into the Draft heap it went. Looking for a shortcut, or a way to jump start my thoughts, this morning, I found it, and read it with “new eyes”. 🙂

It Ain’t Me, Babe (December, 20th, 2015)

I spent much of the day in the company of my traveling partner. We had a great time, generally speaking, although he arrived burdened by hurt, and the OPD [Other People’s Drama] of his other, rather difficult, relationship. My place is a drama-free zone, and I welcomed him in with open arms when I opened the door on his unexpected knock. We watched cartoons – appropriate for a Sunday morning, I think – drank coffee, shared laughs, and lingered long in the warmth of cherished company. Lunch came and went. Eventually, when the gloom of evening suggested it might make an appearance some time soon, my partner went on ‘home’ – that physical space where he is currently sleeping at night.

I spent time contemplating things he said, the emotional content of his experience, and his distress. I thought back on moving here to Number 27 in May, and the heavy burden weighing me down thinking so much of what we were all going through was some how ‘my fault’ – that my chaos and damage ‘is too much’ for any relationship to endure. I put myself through a lot over it. Perspective being what it is, so much of that, then, didn’t actually have that much to do with me at all. It’s more obvious now. It’s a lot more obvious right now.

I continue practicing good practices, learning to love well, and incrementally over time I am becoming the woman I most want to be. It turns out, as things so often do, that I wasn’t ‘the bad guy’ in the complicated tangle of … yeah… all of that. And then some. I wasn’t ‘the guilty party’, or some sinister figure, I wasn’t even the charming antagonist of the tale, the one that you know is entirely wholly in the wrong but just so damned charming. I was – and am – just a person. A human being, subject to emotional volatility and misjudgment, prone to taking things personally and hurt feelings, and able to leap to tall conclusions with no data at all – all very true. Looking back on that living arrangement then, from the perspective of ‘right now’ – yeah. That? That wasn’t about me at all, not even a little bit. We were each having our own experience. We continue to do so, now.

It’s hard to watch human beings struggle, even from a distance, and especially when it’s someone dear. Like a commuter stuck in traffic worsened by an accident up ahead, I am torn between compassionate concern for the injured and my own experience of being inconvenienced along my way; in this case, the drama seems precisely timed to interfere with a lovely joyful holiday in the company of my dear love. It’s pretty hard to avoid taking it personally – but I am stopped in my tracks immediately, being far more concerned about my partner’s safety and well-being; caring for the hearts of real people and treating each other well on life’s journey is more important than any perceived destination, or any planned outcome.

I take a moment to also observe that my partner’s stress today and the particulars of his difficult circumstances didn’t set off my PTSD – that’s a small handful of words to describe something of great personal importance. It’s actually a pretty big deal to sit here, concerned about my partner and a bit worried, but also able to have that experience without being torn apart by my emotions, or so overwhelmed I can’t function or make use of reason. Neither agitated nor immobilized, I am simply aware. Incremental change over time is a thing. 🙂

I take some deep breaths, and make some time to let it all go for a while to meditate. I am okay right now. That matters. I am so much more able to provide a partner with the emotional support needed, when I am taking good care of myself… And there’s one thing I don’t know right now; I don’t know what comes next on this complicated journey, or how much of my strength will be needed on a moment’s notice. I’m ready with what I’ve got. It’s no small thing; it’s enough.

I’m feeling pretty fortunate this morning, and definitely wrapped in enduring love. It isn’t always the easy choice to walk away from a bad situation – for anyone. We cling to what we know. We cling to our illusion of Love, fearful that it may be all there really is. We cling to a promise in the face of our awareness of how human we are, ourselves. We cling to the thinnest hope – because the unknown, the real, and the unscripted outcomes of our own free will can be terrifyingly uncertain, and omg we do love certainty so very much. lol

I have 3 “X’s” – relationships so wrong for me, that there was actual danger to my life, health, safety, and emotional well-being. I am grateful that I walked away from each one, with as little damage as I did choose to endure. I phrase it that way because I did indeed make choices. Each subsequent poor relationship appeared promising at some point… each one also boasted huge red flags and “warning signs” that were more like full sized air raid sirens placed as ear muffs. I chose to look at the promises and ignore the klaxons, which is sort of odd, considering our minds are generally wired to avoid threats and danger, when recognized. It took me awhile to realize I needed to walk away.

“It wasn’t all bad…” my memory attempts to reflect on the best times in those relationships. Of course it wasn’t “all bad” – that’s why it was difficult. Nonetheless, 5 minutes of good times don’t balance the scales when what is on the other side are broken bones, a broken mind, or a broken heart. Just saying. One apology after another doesn’t change the behavior that created the need to make the apology.

I sip my coffee, considering all of it; a river of life and choices, a walking path, a journey that stretches behind me – I have come so far! The path leads ahead, too, and I don’t know what is beyond the next bend. Another challenge, surely. I hear my Traveling Partner’s soft breathing in the other room. We share space easily, and speak of contentment and joy together. It’s a nice life. It’s very early, now. I am awake, writing, drinking coffee, and he sleeps. We have our own ways, and don’t mind that about each other; where our hours and presence overlap, we exist in shared time and space. Where we wander from each other, we do what we do, and return home to share a traveler’s tales, and make merry. I silently wish him well in our safe haven, our wee corner of the world, and I wish him pleasant dreams of being ever wrapped in Love. I smile, sip my coffee feeling safe, and content.

Another day begins, and with it, I also begin again. 🙂

Stressed out? Blue about “who you are”? Feeling like you “never get it right”? Feeling twisted, broken, angsty, or aggrieved? I have some good news for you, and you may not be ready for it (or even willing to accept it, quite yet)…

…It’s mostly all in your head. For real. Most of our stress and weirdness, most of our chaos and damage, most of our baggage – definitely most of our baggage – is not only “all in our heads”, we very carefully made that shit up. We built our narratives from bits and pieces that “feel right” to us, that “seem true” based on our own perspective and understanding of truth. We don’t spend much time checking our assumptions, or fact-checking the circumstances we assume we understand so well. We make mistakes, and ignore them. We misunderstand, without any awareness of it. We seriously bumble around with a head full of made up nonsense we give profound names such as “this is who I’ve always been”, and “if you loved me, you’d ___”, and “I can’t”, “I always”, “I have to” – I mean, just for starters, every one of these beginnings of sentences is demonstrably false, built on assumptions, and fragments of internal narrative that may not even be based in fact, at all. We don’t notice that, much, but make ourselves live on that stew of stress and drama.

…And it’s not even tasty. 😦

How is that even “good news”? Because – and here’s where it gets kinda hard – we choose it. Since we choose it, we can choose differently. 😀

One of the key understandings to unwinding the skein of bullshit that lived in my head for so long (and keeping things generally tidied up much of the time, now), is understanding that repetition is learning. Repeat something often enough, and it seems true. What loops are you playing in your head each day, that color your thoughts about you? Maybe pick one and knock that shit off? 🙂 “I’m ugly.” Says who? I mean, whose opinion counts but your own, and why the fuck would you say some shit like that to yourself over and over? “No one likes me.” Almost certainly false, and again, why the fuck would you kick yourself around in that heinous fashion? If those things are not true, but you repeat them again and again, and you grow to believe them… does this literally and actually mean that you could, in fact, choose something else, repeat it again and again, and you would grow to believe it? Hehehe. Yeah. It does.

The “positive affirmation” movement is sort of built on this basic concept, and in principle, it’s a great approach. I’d suggest making some attempt to be accurate about any re-programming you may choose to do. Really think it through. Trying to force yourself to believe you are a stunning beauty may come at a cost if “down deep” you don’t “believe” it. It’s best to take a more authentic approach. Start with undermining the negative things you tell yourself every day – by disagreeing with those rote statements playing on a loop in the background of your thinking. Add things, as you notice, that you value and appreciate about yourself right now, and get those new loops going. Reinforce what is both true and uplifting. Undermine what is not true, and what tears you down. Slow progress. Trying to get ahead on the pace of incremental change over time can sometimes result in more frustration than progress, and a fallback on “that doesn’t work for me”. 🙂

It’s a lot to ask of someone to love the person in the mirror, if they’ve been talking that bitch down for a lifetime. Start slow. Maybe just enjoy some time with the person in the mirror. Maybe just go to coffee “together” in a positive moment, in the context of positive, secure, self-reflective inner dialogue. You can be a pleasant experience of “companionship” – for yourself. And why wouldn’t you be?

I guess I’m just saying – there’s a more positive experience available to you, of life and of the world, and although you may have to do a little self-work to get there, I’ve found it well worth the journey, myself. 🙂

How do you get from “here” to “there”? Well, for starters, you can begin again. 🙂 When you catch the negative self-talk in progress – disagree. Firmly. Out loud if necessary. Counter that knee jerk bullshit with an observable fact or experience that is quite different. Once you have, enjoy that moment. Don’t rush it. Savor the positive qualities you observe about yourself. 🙂 It’s a journey. There are verbs involved. Your results will vary. Incremental change over time is a slow thing – and there’s no point giving up. You’re going to fail; we learn best from our failures. So… now…

Begin again.

Every time. Every time you fail. Every time you fall. Every time you falter. Every time you face disappointment with yourself. Learn from that.

Begin again.

 

This is a story about coffee – sort of. 😉

It’s a metaphor.

Small things sometimes stall me. I know I can, I have the experience, but lacking a clear recollection, I hesitate, stymied by nothing more than my lack of clear recollection. Hesitation becomes fear becomes inaction. It’s a thing. Today, it’s a thing about coffee. lol

At some point, living at #59 (my previous apartment), my Traveling Partner left some of his things with me, and one of those items was his espresso machine. Nice one. Too big for my space, so it was being stored in a closet. I have considerably more counter space in the kitchen, here in The House Where I Live (so much more delightful, it gets named instead of a number). I put the espresso machine on the counter, when I moved in, and have since sort of just… kept it clean, and “worked around it”. I hadn’t turned it on, or made use of it at all. Nothing stopping me but fear.

The fear started off simply enough; it isn’t actually my espresso machine and I didn’t want to “break it” (which, realistically, should not be such an easy thing to do, considering what it is built for). I put off re-reading the manual, or looking at a YouTube video for days. Well… for 60 days, actually. I smile realizing I’ve been here just two months (a whole two months!). Over the past 60 days, that hesitation to act became insecurity about acting, reluctance to follow through, and finally just a straight up failure to act that was at risk of persisting indefinitely, with the final result that I would have a rather large fancy paperweight on my kitchen counter serving no purpose. Silly.

I put “reboot espresso machine” on my to-do list days ago. I ignored that for a while, fearfully. This weekend, however, has been all about being present, being at home, and working down the list of tasks I had in front of me, many of which fell into this same “tread carefully” category of odds and ends I felt uncomfortable with. Like the sub-woofer. Like the espresso machine. So, yesterday I read the manual. I watched a manufacturer-sponsored video on using the machine. I bought almond milk made specifically for making espresso beverages (different texture than the usual sort). I had already emailed customer support and specifically inquired whether there would be gaskets needing to be replaced after 2 years in storage (there are not, they said). Finally – verb time. I filled the machine with water. Turned it on. Ran some out as hot water. Ran some out as steam. Checked the settings on each feature… and by the time I’d done all those things, it was much too late in the day for strong coffee, and I’d run out of courage. lol I talked myself out of making a coffee, and put that off for the morning.

I woke peculiarly early today. Like… seriously. 2:51 am. Somehow, I managed to be so entirely awake that getting up to pee did not naturally result in going back to bed, and I got up. Fuck it. It’s almost 3:00 am, and 3:00 am is “almost 4”, which is only half an hour from when the alarm would go off, so… Right. I’m up. Coffee time!

I hesitated, again, as I stood in front of the espresso machine, watching it heat up. My eye slid to the right; I could make a pour over… Then I glanced left; a cup of coffee made in the Keurig is drinkable, quiet, and efficient… I recalled the video, which had reminded me how easy it is to use this espresso machine (a semi-automatic), even first thing in the morning. I recalled how many times I have actually made coffee using this very same espresso machine, when it sat upon the counter in my ex’s house, where we all lived together. As the machine continued to heat, I recalled, too, that my Traveling Partner and I intend each other nothing but love, and share everything we have with great joy; there isn’t really any chance that I would willfully damage his espresso machine, nor is there any realistic chance that he would take it badly if something were to go wrong and it got damaged without ill intent. So… what’s the hold up? Well, at that point, just waiting for water to heat up. 🙂

The beans were fresh. The grind may need some adjustment, but that’s fun for another day, preferably a day with plenty of time in it for drinking coffee. lol The puck was quite perfect, the smell of freshly ground coffee was enticing. The shot I pulled wasn’t my best – perhaps in another lifetime, I’d have poured it out and used the opportunity to begin again. At 3:15 am on a Monday morning, I found I was just as content to let it be, and embrace imperfection – and coffee. 🙂 I steamed the milk, enjoying the ease of it far too much for the simple process it is, as enthusiastic as a toddler turned loose in the toy aisle.  I took that first sip, of that first latte made by my hand in my own home in a bit more than 2 years (has it only been such a short time?). It was warm, and tasty, and seemed to me in that moment to be quite perfect – even as I recognized opportunities to improve my craft. There was no room for criticism in that moment; it was enough to be drinking a latte I made for myself. 🙂

Contentment is something I have found I can build. I can craft it from fairly simple ingredients; moments that are enough, small successes, and letting go of attachment to outcomes and expectations. Finding that I can build contentment, and sustain it, has resulted in so many lovely moments – even actual genuinely happy ones that linger in memory and sustain me through tougher times. It’s nice. It’s a process. There are verbs involved. My results vary. Sometimes… yeah, I’m so human, sometimes I have to overcome my fears. Incremental change over time requires practice. 🙂 We become what we practice.

I smile at the clock and sip my latte. I have plenty of time to begin again. 🙂

I woke in a lot of pain this morning, and it feels like it is going to be a hot day. My device says 84 degrees (F), so manageably hot, I guess. It’s a “boxing day” today (packing things up to move), and a chance to get some laundry done, too. I smile and enjoy the awareness that in the new place I have my own washer and dryer in the house, saving both time and money.

It’s a nice morning for gratitude. Yesterday ended on a difficult note at work, not “bad” just… work. Real work. Work that matters. Work I am satisfied and rewarded by. Still work. Still requires working. However difficult the work at hand, I also felt valued and appreciated by my colleagues and my boss, which feels… amazing. So far a very healthy environment for me. I definitely seek to spend more time appreciating those good qualities than dwelling on one difficult day – that still ended very well, with work I am proud of.

Yesterday I also had the opportunity to “be there” for a friend who needed a moment to be heard. We all do, now and then, right? I was glad to be there when he needed someone, and it was good to reconnect.

Another friend is gathering his resources and harnessing his will, considering making a 750 mile drive north to see me, hang out, and help me move. I’m pretty blown away by his affectionate regard that he would do so. I smile every time I consider it – and will for a long while, whether he is able to make it or not. He really wants to. That’s awesome. 🙂

Tonight I will get to hang out with other far away friends, in town visiting a friend who isn’t so far away, and who I enjoy but rarely break out of my routine to see. Yeah, that’s a thing – I’m very human. 🙂 I’m eager to see them all, this evening. Maybe my Traveling Partner will accompany me, although probably not; he is still recovering from his recent surgery, and travel would likely be very awkward.

Life isn’t always easy. I got home last night still suffering the day. The time I spent hanging out with a friend helped. The time I spent meditating helped further. The sleep I got, deliciously restful, found me waking with the dawn and a smile, eager for a cup of coffee, having let go of any lingering stress from the prior day. This ability to bounce back developed over time, and I can’t provide any really sound expectations about “how soon” or “when”…because it is a slow, gradual thing that was an incremental change over time with so many setbacks and “will this never end?!” moments that it was a little like I simply woke one day… changed. I suppose it was sometime between when I began and yesterday, right? lol So… let’s go with an easier question, okay? “How many days from the day I first began “practicing the practices” has it been to achieve yesterday’s results?” That I can answer – after I choose a staring point. So… I think I have to look at two different starting points, and answer with a range. First starting point; when my Traveling Partner recommended that I read The Four Agreements (it’s linked on my Reading List), which puts me around 2,575 days (7.05 years – bit of a long haul, frankly). Okay, that sounds… long. Impossibly long. Second starting point, would be when I began with my current therapist, shortly after I started writing Evening Light, putting me at a more comfortable to contemplate 1,610 days (4.4 years). Soooo… it’s taken me, depending on how I look at where I began, between 4 and 7 years to get this far from where I began… that sounds like a long time to have to “wait”, but there have been verbs involved, so I haven’t exactly been “waiting”…

…It hasn’t seemed so long. The quality of life improvements over time began quickly with small things, and have been entirely worth the work, the verbs, the constant practice, the regular beginning again… It’s a lot to commit to, though. So… I haven’t. I’ve refrained from committing to a specific outcome, and focused mostly on moments, practices, and treating myself (and other people) with great consideration and compassionate understanding – neither of which came naturally to me, so, yeah – practice. A lot of practice.

…I’m not “there” yet. I don’t know that there is a “there” at all. I just know that this morning is quite lovely, even though yesterday was difficult in spots. I know I am well-loved, even though I am, myself, quite difficult in spots. I know that so much of my experience is within my ability to choose change, even though that sometimes feels difficult in spots. I know, too, that anytime things are difficult – I can begin again, right here, now, in this spot. 🙂

It’s a good day to practice being the woman I most want to be. We become what we practice. ❤

It’s early. I woke around 3 am. I napped until shortly after 6 am. I’ve been cranking tunes since then, although it’s much too early for having the stereo on – sort of the whole point of headphones, so… no problem. Headphones it is.

Sunshine streams into the apartment through windows open to the morning breeze, blinds raised. The goosebumps on my arms don’t discourage me in the slightest; it’s the scent of flowers on the breeze that I’m after, and it delights me. Chilly? I would be if I hadn’t put on a sweater… it’s sort of the point of having sweaters, right? So, I put one on.

I caught a glimpse of myself reflected on the patio door, and another as I passed by the bathroom mirror. I’m not yet in the shape I’d like to be in, and my plump curves are a bit plumper than is ideal for my desired longevity and general day-to-day comfort and experience of wellness.  Yeah, middle-age comes with some of that for a lot of us, I suspect. Taking care of my health over time matters, so I make choices that meet that need, including changes in diet, changes in fitness plan, and (at least for now) getting the medical care I need to address longer term concerns about my health.

Professionally, too, there have been (no doubt are, and will be) choices to make that could better or worsen my experience of life, itself, and even my experience of… self.

I sip my coffee – it’s cold now. I’m distracted by the music, and the sunshine on morning dew drops. I’m thinking about how much fun I used to have with the “character building” part of role-playing games; the fun of being able to choose who I would become. This morning I am understanding that indeed, this is a “power” I actually have – we all do. I can choose who I will become! I can choose my hair color, the clothes I wear, what words and phrases and style I express, and what qualities I will embrace… I create my future “back story” with the things I choose to do today… I can practice different behavior, learn different thinking, and literally become someone very different than I am today. I am already someone different than I was when I was very young. I can do it willfully, through selection of behavior, values, actions… or through mindlessly repeating memes, slogans, and succumbing to advertising and literal “programming” offered by the media. I can choose who I will become – or a persona to live within, like a tiny box, can be provided for me.

We become what we practice.

We become what we practice.

We become what we practice.

We become what we practice.

What are you practicing?

Begin again.