Archives for posts with tag: I’m okay right now

The School of Life doesn’t have a rigid test schedule that is easy to plan ahead for. Cheating is just about impossible. All the tests are entirely open book, and generally really fucking hard. There’s no curve to be graded on; each test, each question, each student stands alone in judgment, generally the internal self-inflicted judgment is most intense. The grading system is mysterious, flexible, and grades can change even in the past; we become what we practice, and the result is that context, meaning, understanding, and perspective over time can all change as we become someone we weren’t at some other, earlier point.

I’m just saying, the tests are hard.

It’s test time. Maybe it sort of always is, but I’m feeling it more this week. My anxiety comes and goes, and it is both unwelcome, and unsurprising. Happily, I’m also not extraordinarily tense about the anxiety itself, an experience which can really add a lot of additional anxiety to the anxiety that is more about the anxiety itself than whatever I may think I’m anxious about. It’s not helpful to have to sort all that out, but it can be majorly helpful to make the attempt to do so. No pressure… time is passing… what, it’s still there?? I chuckle over my coffee in spite of the mild persistent tension of the anxiety in the background. Shit gets real sometimes.

When a fresh wave of anxiety tightens the pit of my stomach, pulls me over my keyboard, pushes my shoulders high, and makes my chest tighten, I push back gently, raising myself up full erect on my spine, breathing deeply, letting my shoulders relax again. Another breath, reminding myself these sensations are only that, this emotion just a momentary experience – emotional weather. Another breath, “this too will pass”. The sounds of traffic and tinnitus mix with the sound of my very even breathing. Another slow even deep breath, the knot in my stomach begins to unwind.

I keep at it for a few minutes (in this instance, about 6 and a half minutes, actually), until the wave of tension and worry passes over me, and recedes. If yesterday is any predictor, it’ll come and go rather more frequently than usual today, not attached to much of anything, besides the general every day stress of managing expenses, change, and adulthood. I’m okay right now. There’s nothing much “wrong”, really. The comfortable awareness of this reassures and soothes me, and I return to sipping my coffee and writing.

Have a flower. It can be helpful to take time for beauty. I’m a fan of pausing for flowers. 🙂

Some of the most stressful things in life are made far worse by our way of treating ourselves, and this one piece of living life skillfully is so very much within our own control, it’s hard to imagine not to at least give improving those skills a try. It’s been a good strategy for me – admittedly, it’s also a lot of work, and self-awareness, and failing, and learning, and getting things wrong, and owning my own poor choices, or behavior, and change, and practice, and… yeah. It’s a commitment to self that rivals any commitment I could ever consider making to another person. I try my best not to let myself down, and when I do let myself down, I try my best to move forward having learned something from the experience.

I’m so human. There’s no “cure” for my head injury, or for my PTSD, and so… this human experience. Very human. Ups, downs, all the things. This week? Anxiety. I’m not mad about it, just saying; I go through it. It used to be worse and more often. It is mostly manageable, most of the time, now. That’s more than something – it’s enough. Truly.

Ah, yes, there it is again, surging up from a ball of background stress and fear lodged in my gut; anxiety. As it begins to grow large and fill my consciousness, I return my attention to my breathing, and make a point of letting it go, again. I shrug in the silence. I can do this all day. All week. All of the rest of my life if necessary. It’s far better than becoming mired in the feeling of anxiety, frankly. I’d rather practice the practices that dial it back. Yes, of course, there are verbs involved; I have to do the things that help. Just thinking about them won’t do it. Bitching about the anxiety, by itself, is also not effective – although it can be enough distraction to break the cycle, so I can’t say “don’t bitch about anxiety”. lol Sometimes that really does work, too.

Art, puzzles, an intellectual distraction of some kind, these are things that can also help reduce anxiety.

Funny thing; the anxiety does not really want me to focus on my breathing or other self-soothing practices at all. It would far prefer that I try to troubleshoot why I feel anxious, as if deep-diving those details and attempting to fix all that would resolve the anxiety. It might. It might not. Anxiety is its own thing, and it’s a bit of a mistake to fuse it with some narrative about “why” that I’ve built up in my head. Instead, addressing the anxiety itself, from the perspective of being an experience built on some specific sensations and emotions, and accepting that it may not be so directly connected to a “why” at all, tends to be most effective. It doesn’t actually matter whether I’m “anxious for a reason” – the anxiety doesn’t care about that at all, and makes shit up on the regular for me to stress “about”. lol I’m not falling for that bullshit anymore. 😉

It is a short work week. I’m missing my Traveling Partner. Anxiety is currently part of my experience. I’m physically fairly comfortable at the moment. My coffee is almost gone. These are all equally true observations of my subjective experience. One human. One experience. Tons of choices.

I take a deep breath and relax, and choose to begin again. 🙂

I wasn’t quite an emotional wreck yesterday, and remained so through much of the afternoon. In a practical biological sense, it can be difficult to lift my mood without outside intervention, sometimes, because I live alone; the shortcut mood-lifter for me is connection, intimacy, physical contact – you know, the mammal stuff. Everyday human primate needs that want very much to be met.

In the evening, an enjoyable few minutes with friends who ‘get me’ enough to provide that feeling of connection in a few minutes of intimate conversation and some laughs had eased much of my storming about restlessly. Hugs go a long way, too. I enjoyed a quiet evening of meditation, and playing my guitar. It was pleasant enough that looking back on the day, that pleasant finish is the thing I recall first and most. That’s a win by itself.

Awake before dawn.

Between one day, and the next… night.

I woke at 3 am. I began things in the usual way; took my morning medication, opened up the apartment to cool breezes, and returned to bed. Huh. No sleep happening… Well. Damn. I roll over. Rearrange the blankets. Find a new position. Take some calming deep breaths. Nothing. No sleeping whatsoever. Shit. I get up, make coffee, and look into the pre-dawn darkness with some pointless suspicion. Why I am awake? The early morning darkness is very quiet. The world is sleeping, or seems so. Not me. I’m awake. I am even alert. I am in no way sufficiently quiet of mind or relaxed of body to return to sleep.

I walk through the apartment in the darkness, with my coffee. (Yes, that’s why the coffee cups in my house are served up not-quite-full-to-the-brim all the damned time; it’s a habit, because I do wander around with a coffee cup attached to my hand, first thing in the morning, in the darkness. lol It’s sure not ‘room for cream’. Want more coffee? Get a refill.) I like this place. The space here feels comfortable wrapped around me, even at 3 am. Even after nightmares. Even when I’m angry, moody, or frightened. The space itself holds nothing in it to cause me alarm in the wee hours, or in the darkness, or in those terrible moments when I lose myself in ancient pain; I am safe here. This place, itself, reminds me that I am okay right now, because I am. No object here, no person permitted within these walls, is of any danger to me. I crafted this safe place for my own heart, for my own safety. I quite love it here at 3 am, wandering about restlessly with my coffee. It’s strange. I woke feeling pretty out of sorts about ‘things in general’, but the soft quiet and safety here – and the rich awareness of how safe I feel – actually went a long way toward calming and soothing me. Nice. Unexpected. Nice. How often is my emotional disarray a response to some subtle feeling that “I am not safe”? Is there potential for that to occur if only my emotional safety feels threatened? Something to meditate on.

This morning isn’t bad. (“The morning feels pleasant so far”. I smile and think of my traveling partner as I correct from the negative phrasing to the positive phrasing.) I’m okay for very nearly every value of okay. I may be tired later, for having wakened so early. (It’s a small price to pay for not forcing myself to toss and turn moodily in bed for another two hours, weeping over imagined bullshit in the darkness.)

How will I start the day? I know I’d like to start it with a smile shared with my lover, a few minutes of cuddling and laughter, some sex and a great cup of coffee. Well… I’ve got the smile. I’ve got the coffee. The rest will have to wait for a morning when I also have a lover staying over. It is what it is. I could make a dismissive joke at my own expense, or gloss over this glaring downside of living alone by making a crack about giving myself a grin in the mirror after “giving myself a hand”, elsewhere. Ahem. (Yep. Still a human primate, emphasis on primate; I have trouble resisting the lewd joke.) 🙂 Instead of making light of this very human experience of ‘going without’, I’m kind to myself this morning, and make room in my heart for compassion and sympathy, and recognition that living alone isn’t always the easy choice. From the perspective of connection, intimacy, and sex, it’s actually quite the opposite of the easy choice – sometimes it sucks. A very human experience indeed.

I frown over my coffee as the sun begins to rise. For one brief instance the full measure of frustration over how many years of my choicest sexually adult years have been spent in partnerships or circumstances in which sexual privation was the rule, rather than the exception, washes over me. I contemplate what that means to me, personally, as an individual, and as a woman. I feel the feelings. I wonder for a moment what other human experiences are like, with regard to sexual economy. I laugh out loud, literally, when it hits me that I’m pushing concepts of human sexuality through ideas picked up from my Econ studies. I wonder whether there is value in doing so. I wonder how the world would measure up differently if we measure other factors of human experience to tell the tale, instead of “GDP”. What countries lead the way in intimacy? In sexual satisfaction? In connected social engagement? Which countries [genuinely] smile the most? Which country has the most contented population? Which countries citizens work most cooperatively? Which countries value emotional intelligence more highly than a college degree? Which population has the highest oxytocin levels, on average? Which countries bring the most critical thinking to government, science, medicine, without excluding emotion from the life of the mind? I sip my coffee feeling awkwardly aware of how limiting measuring human experience in dollars actually is…not just limiting; it’s a lie. There is more to human experience than commerce, so much more. Mostly everything is not at all about money – what a shame we try to monetize all that, too.


As if I colored the day with a paint brush, in colors of my choosing…

This morning feels as gentle, as kind, and as comfortable emotionally as yesterday felt difficult. I find myself inclined to say I don’t understand why, but realize many small changes over time have resulted in basic good self-care practices I can now count on: listening deeply, accepting my feelings and respecting them, meditation, showing myself the same love and consideration I’d give a friend… Acceptance without attachment. Good stuff. 🙂 I smile, sip my coffee, and notice the sliver of not-quite-orange-not-quite-peach strip of dawn between the tree tops and the sky. The wee hours of night pass so quickly now… that hasn’t always been so.

I reconsider the title, with the rest of the post in mind… That “turn toward the positive” is a real thing that I do. It’s not obvious from this morning’s writing that there are verbs involved, and I could just say that (again) and you’d read the words and probably get what I’m driving at… but maybe not. It’s early. Is there value in also saying, very explicitly and clearly, that I make a willful specific deliberate choice to attempt to ‘turn toward the positive’ on mornings like this one? At 3 am, sexual frustration is something that can hit hard, and become tears or anger quite quickly (for me); it’s the sort of thing that definitely identifies sexual desire as need-related, versus something just nice to have now and then. If I had let my emotions carry the morning, raw and without support, I’d have quickly been mired in tears, and probably had a damned difficult day, based on previous experiences I’ve had living in this fragile vessel of flesh and hormones. By specifically ‘turning toward the positive’, I make choices to re-frame the experience in terms of what I have, what I can affect, and what I want/need to do verb-wise to return to a more balanced state of contentment. It doesn’t ‘solve for X’ specific to meeting the need for physical contact, intimacy, or sex, but it stops me moping around about it, in favor of positive action and experiences, generally. Perspective generally just doesn’t have any down sides… and moping isn’t “sexy”. 🙂

Tangentially, just in case you didn’t get the memo, if you’ve been holding on to an understanding of adult sexuality that suggests to you that people ‘stop being interested in sex’ at some particular age (for example, after menopause), you may be in for an unexpected shock when you get there, yourself. In my own case, my interest in, and desire for, sex has increased, rather than decreased – what has changed is that I’ve become non-negotiable on the requirement for sexual experiences to feel connected, to be intimate, and which support and nurture my sensuous nature. I’m not interested in exploitation or abuse, and I won’t compromise my sense of self-worth to get laid. The quality and characteristics of my wants and needs have changed, the magnitude of my sex drive, the power of my libido and the underlying feeling of urgency to experience sex has not. Frustrating in a world that tends to emphasize female youth as a requirement for sexual attractiveness. I’m not bitching. I’m just saying – if you think that the little old lady waiting for the bus couldn’t really have checked you out with a twinkle in her eye, you are sadly mistaken. She might even rock your world, given a chance.  😉

Beginning again.

Beginning again.

It’s a new day. I’ll begin again. I am my own cartographer, on a journey without a map – that’s okay; the map is not the world, anyway. 😀


This morning it felt strange to wake to a solitary experience after so much delightful time in the company of my traveling partner day-to-day. I meditated in the stillness, as the cool park air filled the apartment. I made my coffee without concern of waking someone dear. The quiet was delicious… then… endlessly vast and deep. I allowed myself to steep in the awareness of the solitude for some time before moving on to other things. The meditation cushion is returned to its location by the patio door; I am alone here, now, and it is no longer in the way. I glance at it in passing – moving through this space, getting the feel of it again – and it is a strangely poignant moment.

Damn I miss my traveling partner. Yearning fills my awareness. It’s not a tragic feeling, and the subtle sadness of it comes and goes. We’ll see each other plenty, and we both have work to do, goals to work on, time passes – right? Change is. Impermanence also is. “The wheel turns.” Why that phrase now? Someone said it to me once, under other circumstances… I can’t recall who it was. A colleague? A friend? It is a comforting thought that speaks of forward momentum. I’m okay. He is too, I expect. 🙂

At some point, I remember how much I enjoy music in the morning… I turn on the stereo, and start a favorite playlist, and the day begins in earnest as nerdcore rhymes fill the space. I smile. Still missing my partner… still smiling. It’s enough.

It's a journey.

It’s a journey.

What do you suppose is the ratio of positive to negative feedback you receive? How about the ratio of encouraging observations, versus critical observations? What about the number of compliments you receive, versus the number of insults or mean remarks? Or the ratio of kind and compassionate interactions versus the number of judgmental ones? Do you feel life’s stings and papercuts more often than love’s kisses? Is the result worthy of the enduring effort? Isn’t “love” an emotion produced by verbs (a whole lot of verbs!) (and chemistry) which results in more of all the good stuff, less of all the rotten bullshit human primates are capable of flinging at one another? So… what are you personally doing to improve the ratio in each and every relationship – or interaction?

Sometimes it’s hard not to just sort of stomp around feeling exceedingly criticized. There is an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well, and I quickly find myself overloaded with a “self-improvement list” so long I end up wondering if my existence is holding back world progress. I’m also pretty good at some stuff; generally that seems much less relevant or noteworthy. (That observation gets a sentence now and then, the rest gets a fucking blog all its own.) I remind myself of two very important pieces of understanding that don’t change much, however ‘picked on by life’ I may be feeling:

  1. Criticism is basically just a very poorly worded request.
  2. Agreement #2 of the Four Agreements – Don’t Take Anything Personally

Generally, if I can hold those two understandings in mind when I am feeling particularly criticized and beginning to feel devalued or angry, I can more easily ask a very important question, “what is this person/situation really asking for (what is the unstated need), and how can I reply gently, while best meeting my needs over time?” Remember that bit about ‘an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well’? Yep. Here we are; I need more practice. I’m struggling not to take things personally, today. I keep practicing.

To be fair, I woke from a troubled restless sleep this morning to immediate decision-making that went mildly awry. In the moments of disappointment that followed, the nightmare I’d had returned to my thoughts provoking painful emotions, a feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness, that seemed supported by the morning thus far. Not only that, I was in pain. I was in a lot of pain – still am – more so than usual. At this point, I’ve taken all the steps to manage it that I know, and I’m mildly sedated, which doesn’t really improve my experience in a wholesome way; it definitely slows my thinking and dulls my reactivity. I earnestly need to spend some time alone, and spend some time creatively. I’m struggling to figure that out – partly it’s the pain, but partly it is this peculiarly plaguing sense of feeling criticized, and the way that feeling sort of ‘weighs me down’ emotionally, and stifles me creatively. It was even hard to write this morning.

Today I am finding communication difficult. Simple answers to clear questions evade me. I struggle to make sense of the context of questions or observations, resulting in mystifying misunderstandings. Everything sounds too loud… I am tempted to wonder if that’s the pain, or the TBI, or… truth is, it doesn’t actually matter; what matters is learning to comfortably state the simple need in simple terms, gently, safely, as an honest request for support – and sometimes for change. Yeah, I’ll just go right ahead and add that to the very long list of ‘an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well’ and I’ll get right on that, too, also, as soon as I can – that’s even sincerely meant. I literally do try my best to actually improve on each and every fucking minute detail of some weirdness or other that doesn’t fit my idea of comfortable emotionally safe socially productive interactions…every moment at risk of being so vigilant of my ‘failings’ that I end up feeling chronically self-conscious and anxious. It’s a delicate balance, and honestly – I mean to treat myself much better than I often do. I am only easily able to treat people dear to me as well as I treat myself… so… it matters greatly to ‘get all this right’. Yeah – that’s a ludicrously high standard to hold oneself, and it is a set up for failure, internal criticism backed up by acceptance of external criticism – real or imagined – with the painful outcome of anxiety, conflict, emotional self-harm, relationship sabotage… blech. Drama and bullshit.

I can do better. I do some days. Today is not a great day for me on a couple of levels. The pain and my sound sensitivity are physically difficult, and drive the emotional volatility and loss of balance. I can’t imagine ‘my happy place’ – and I’m standing in it.

Here’s the thing about improving my emotional ‘golden ratio’ though; it’s not actually about what I hear from other people, or how they see me, or the feedback they give me. It’s very much about whether or not I ‘drink the poison’. It’s about my own choices, and about how I feel about the woman in the mirror. If I am being that hard on me, it’s even more difficult to take care of me when someone else is hard on me, too, or I have to deal with a shitty day, or a lot of pain. There really are some great practices to fall back on. Meditation. Yep. Still works. It does work best to actually do it. Most practices work that way. Getting enough rest is a great practice – and I didn’t. So. Yeah. Mindfulness… ooh, I like that one so much (it’s so hard though…); it helps me stay aware of myself in this moment, and helps me be more compassionate with myself. I really am in that much pain – it makes sense to show myself some kindness. On and on I go. One practice, and then another. One moment to consider some observation that serves me well, or another: perspective, mindfulness, sufficiency, adequacy, worthiness, compassion… I keep at it.

I do hurt… and I’m okay right now.

What a peculiar day. It’s nearly at an end. I began it well enough, waking from a very restful night, having slept in. I woke in very little pain. All very promising as beginnings go. Somehow, something just… wasn’t. It was strange. I sat a long while. Not exactly meditating. Not exactly daydreaming. No music. No coffee. I even ended up chatting with my traveling partner for some time before I ever had coffee.

I did have coffee, eventually. I shook off my ennui enough for that. The rain continues to fall. I enjoy the sound of it. I took my coffee on the couch, and just sat for some longish time, then a distracting email message reminded me of a practical task that needed to be handled. Once that was done, I found myself feeling grateful to my traveling partner for his help on all sorts of practical things I tend to muddle up because of my injury…which got me thinking about gratitude generally, and people who were ‘there for me’ long ago, at various points when I earnestly needed help… I thought, too, about who I am now, how I feel about those things now, and whether or not I also felt I had ‘said thank you’, shown my appreciation, or taken an opportunity to return the gesture at some other point. Am I the woman I most want to be?

I found myself enjoying some time on writing notes for holiday cards and letters to far away old friends, and thinking about how very precious our connections to each other really are. Time well spent.

I spent the afternoon wrapping up other practical details of life, after the nasty weather deterred me from driving in holiday traffic. Marveling at how people can be such dicks to each other, in the abstract is one thing – wasting part of the weekend being pummeled by it just didn’t seem the right choice today. I realized at that point that I might not be where I thought I was within myself. I got things done and headed home, thinking about the recent South Park episode (s19e10 PC Principal Final Justice) and wondering if the scenes of imminent family gun violence might have messed with my head more than I realized at the time. I later made an observation to my traveling partner that it might become a favorite episode, having done something amazing I had never been able to do for myself; it trivialized the threat of violence at the hands of a loved one in a comedic [for me] way – it rendered some of my chaos and damage harmless – a cartoon. That’s powerful. But… in that initial moment, the panic just at the edges of my consciousness was very real, and although it didn’t take me over, it is part of my experience.

Welcome in my own experience.

Welcome home.

At this point, I’m past all that. I took care of me with great tenderness and compassion. I’ve gone through some things, over the years. They’re behind me now. I did a load of laundry, had some dinner, and made a fire in the fireplace – the first since I moved in. It’s a lovely quiet evening, no music, no video, just the sound of the crackling fire, and the rain. It’s enough, and I am okay right now.