Archives for posts with tag: intimacy

I was sipping my coffee between moments in the studio when I really noticed; there’s a tree missing from the view beyond my deck.

What I expected to see…

It’s not a great picture, and I warn you now, it isn’t from an identical perspective – and perhaps that’s why it nagged at me so much. Something is different, I spotted that right away, but figured, in the gloom of twilight, last night, that perhaps it was just more winter, fewer leaves, more lights in the distance… something.

…what I see today.

There’s a missing tangle of mostly-dead tree. Obvious as anything could be, once I allowed myself to really see it, absent my expectations. There’s something to be learned from that.

The healthy heart-wood of the stump left-behind, quite evenly cut, about 18 inches from the ground, tells me it was not lost to misadventure or high winds. Willful. Probably well-intended. I feel sad about it anyway, thinking about the owl that had been making her home there. The squirrels using it as a freeway ramp to the tree nearer the deck. The loss of privacy from neighbors beyond. Just… the loss of a tree. It’s painful. Oh, I’m sure a dead tree just hanging out there on the steep edge of the yard, where it suddenly drops off just past the fence, was a hazard of some sort, to something, but… fucking hell. I’m getting a little sick of people just taking my fucking trees away every-fucking-where that I move. Irksome.

There’s much to learn from contemplating this change. Trees fall. Trees are cut. Impermanence is. Non-attachment helps with the pain of circumstantial misfortunes. We have choices. Trees can be planted. Trees sprout. Trees grow.

I sip a delicious afternoon coffee – a perk of having a 3-day weekend, afternoon coffee always feels like luxury to me. πŸ™‚ I contemplate impermanence, and change – and choices. I think about seeing. I mean, really seeing – eyes and mind both open to what may be new and changed. I contemplate acceptance; change can be hard. Recognizing what has changed is not without it’s own challenges. I breathe. Relax, and consider what I am practicing, and what I want to achieve. I think over conversations with my Traveling Partner; this last visit was rich with thought-provoking, inspiring, observations, and discussion. Connected. Insightful. Loving.

We become what we practice.Β (Remember, “trees take a long time” πŸ˜‰ )

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –Β  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. πŸ™‚

It’s time to begin again.

Strange weekend. Pleasant, oh yes, wholly pleasant – uninterrupted pleasantness, actually – nonetheless, it was a bit odd as well. More than once I found myself in a moment that was similar in perspective to peering over a high garden wall on tiptoes, wondering curiously how to get in there, from out here; a sensation and perspective I tend to associate with yearning for change.

I spent more than usual time with my Traveling Partner, but in some moments felt very much an outsider looking in onΒ a relationship I cherish, wondering how it is that it is what it is, and yearning for more – for a deeper more intimate connection between adults. We each play a part in limiting that depth, in restricting that connection. I wonder why we do that? I sip my coffee, and consider it. In the quiet of early morning, there is no cause for discontent, and I decline the subtle attraction of the attack my brain offers me. I let it go. I breathe. I relax. Nothing to see here. Yearnings are sometimes merely… yearnings, lacking any more substance than any other stray emotion or thought in the earliest hours as my day begins. To want a deep connection is, on its own, not a problematic thing. πŸ™‚

I spent a lovely quantity of weekend time simply relaxing, and doing things I enjoy doing: hiking, meditating, exploring new recipes that meet all my nutritional needs, reading, writing, gardening, enjoying the birds at the feeder and the wind chime in the breezes. It was a relaxed weekend of self-care and ease. Still, in some moments I felt distant and hollow… yearning for more… for a deeper more intimate connection… with myself? With something. With someone?

I had, several times, the sort of brief emotional experiences that suggest I am “seeking but not finding” or missing something that is limiting my joy in life. The words “intimacy” and “connection” keep coming up in my thinking, associated with a feeling of “yearning”. What to do about it? If I were in my 20s, I’d figure I “just need to get laid”, and I’d be fairly grumpy and cross about it until I sorted out “solving for X” and met those basic animal needs. I’m no longer sure that it is that simple… I’m no longer willing to re-purpose sex to meet non-sexual emotional needs, but… I don’t actually know quite what it is I’m yearning for. (Maybe it really is “just the sex thing”; over-50 the opportunities are considerably diminished, but my appetite has not decreased – something to look forward to, for those of you who don’t see it coming. 😦 Just saying. Your turn will come, and no words will soothe the ache in your heart, and no lover will be by your side to dry your tears with kisses… and it sucks. lol)

I pause and appreciate how far I have come; I am willing to take time to sort myself out before grasping at solutions. The timing is good for more self-awareness, for deeper consideration of longer-term needs, to learn more about how to best take care of me. Life is a solo-hike of considerable distance (if I’m lucky); it makes sense to do what I can to be well-prepared, and I am feeling a bit like I’ve stepped off the map to stand at an unfamiliar/all-too-familiar trail head, uncertain whether to back up and re-consider the moment – and the path ahead – or to just boldly continue, taking things as they come and hoping for the best.

In the past, these subtle nuanced moments of deeper reflection have led me quickly astray, down dark spirals to some unexpected morass of internal conflict or some corner of chaos and damage held together with ancient rage – mostly, I think, because I did not know what to do with them at all. I would quickly become a primate with a locked puzzle box, resorting to rocks and rage, and hoping that smashing the problem to pieces with my tears would amount to a solution. This morning, I sit quietly, considering the puzzle box, quite content to give it further thought, over time, without being rushed, or self-critical. There is more to know, more to understand, and I do not yet know what I don’t yet know.

No tears this morning. No drama. It was a lovely weekend.

One very lovely weekend.

I still need to begin again. πŸ™‚

Yesterday was an intense roller-coaster ride of emotions.Shortly before midday I hit a low point. Not an everyday lull in my enthusiasm, or a mildly blue moment – I was overtaken by darkness, and feeling an almost suicidal level of despair. This is not an exaggeration; I know what that feels like, and what those words really mean. It took me my surprise. It took me over. While I struggled in the sticky mess, tangled in despair, and unable to find any fucks to give, a soft defeated inner voice tried her hardest to pull me back. “This is emotion; it lacks substance unless you give it substance.” “Begin again.” “This will pass.” I not only didn’t give a fuck, I couldn’t remember at all why I should. Bleak.

As I arrived home from what, in the moment, seemed like a fairly pointless waste of time (my annual physical), I let my Traveling Partner know I would be going offline to take care of myself and to avoid spreading my vile mood like plague. He offered understanding, compassion, and support. He cracked a tender understanding joke. He’s having his own experience, and as much as I am able, I return that loving support, and endeavor not to “weaponize” my emotional experience. I approach the apartment, already prepared for the person with the pressure washer cleaning the building exterior and sidewalks; the landlady alerts me of these things, these days, in advance so that I am not taken by surprise. I find room for gratitude and appreciation, but it does nothing to lift my mood.

I sat down with a cup of coffee, a notepad, and an attentive eye and begin making a list of the housekeeping details I would like to handle. The list grows. I begin weeping intermittently. I don’t make any effort to stop it. I just don’t care. I pause, aware for a moment with more than usual clarity that I am indeed in A Very Bad Place and that steps are in order. I remind myself to let my friends next door that I’m in that bad place, and to check on me later “if things sound too quiet” or… just because. I don’t get the chance; my phone nags at me briefly to attend to a message from them. We end up hanging out and talking about… house work. Room mate drama over housekeeping is such a mundane real-life challenge of adulthood that it’s no surprise to hear that there are such challenges next door… and… I’m preparing for my own afternoon of housekeeping, facing some loose similarities in dealing with the woman in the mirror, who I hadn’t noticed had been slacking off a bit. I also hadn’t noticed I’d dropped my highly effective habit of making a to do list each day. What the hell? When did that happen?

As we converse, I mention I figured I’d been a little overly casual about the housekeeping, myself, for… “about two weeks, maybe”. I flipped back in the notepad on which I was making a new list. Nope. A month. A month ago I’d stop making lists. Just… stopped. Damn it. I laugh. My friends laugh with me. We drink coffee together. We talk about chores. We talk about the way our inner narrative and our assumptions change our perspective. We talk about “theory of mind” and how we tend to assume people generally think as we do, know what we know, and make decisions in the same way. We walk about compassion. We talk about explicit communication. We talk about boundary setting. We talk about life – and we talk about The School of Life (great videos!) We lift each other up through affection community and conversation. When they leave, I feel… able to go on.

“Go on” is exactly what I do; I get on with the housework. I tidy. I organize. I clean. I really clean. My mood begins to lift. Details that were dragging me down, in the background, begin to lift me up as the apartment takes on that well-cared for, detailed, tidy, orderly appearance that I love. Small tasks, large tasks, general tidying, deep cleaning – all of it matters if I am “feeling disordered”. Each task lovingly handled from start to finish, satisfying once completed, builds the foundation for the task that follows.

An hour or so of connected social interaction, and another hour or so of household chores, my mood completely turned around. I felt connected, present, and capable. The bleakness and despair of the morning were behind me. By the end of the day the apartment feels great. It is tidy and clean and orderly. I like order. It gives me a rest from the chaos still lurking within.

Today? Today I begin again. πŸ™‚

Are you hearing that as ‘what would you do to get love?’, because that isn’t what I have in mind this morning. I’m asking a different question all together. I’m asking ‘what would you do to support, nurture, and invest in love’? They’re very different questions.

I already know, with fair certainty through day-to-day observation of human primates in their suburban habitat, that human beings will do almost anything to have love, or to say they have love. The mystery for me, and thus the question, is how peculiarly few people seem to make the connection between being loved, loving – and all the many verbs involved in nurturing love, supporting love, building a foundation on which love can stand, cultivating an emotional environment in which love can thrive, and just generally actually demonstrating loving behaviors. Love isn’t a noun that one can rob from existence on a whim, branding one being or another as property. Love can’t be taken. Love can’t be demanded. Well, I suppose one could make the demand, but I seriously doubt love comes running when called, based on such a demand.

A lot of people say they want love. Some of those same people seem to expect that saying so is preparation enough to be able to love well and skillfully, or to be ready to be loved – and thus be ready forΒ all that reciprocal enduring affection demands. It doesn’t appear to work that way at all.

What are you willing to do, about you, in order to find/have/get/make/acquire/experience love? There are verbs involved. There are no guarantees, and no returns. Your results may vary. It may be necessary to begin again, and to practice new practices. It may be necessary to choose change. No kidding, you may not be ready for love and loving because of who you choose to be right now. No one else can do anything much about that, besides the person in the mirror. It was a slow journey coming to terms with some of that, for me. Yes, I am still talking about wholesome, safe, connected, nurturing ‘unconditional’ love. That it is ‘unconditional’ doesn’t mean that it will survive someone just insisting on continuing to be a spoiled brat, or a jerk, or distant, or disrespectful, or cruel, or any number of potentially entirely self-selected character flaws that love might enjoy us working on some little bit along life’s journey. “Fuck your needs, love me anyway!” is not what unconditional love is about, as I understand it myself. It’s more… “Oh, hey, fuck – I’m sorry I’m still working on that, so human; thank you for loving me, and appreciating my best qualities while I work out the details on my bullshit over here.” (And it’s probably a value add if everyone involved is similarly committed to, and invested in, working out their own shit, and walking their own path… seems likely, at least.)

I’m no expert – not on life, or on love. I see a path ahead of me, and I enjoy the part of the journey I get to walk hand-in-hand with love. It’s taken a while to recognize how much more of myself goes into that than I understood as a starry-eyed young woman, all hormones and blood-boiling libido. There are a lot of verbs involved, a lot of listening, some good self-care and boundary setting/respecting. My results vary; it’s a very human journey.

It is always a good moment to listen, to begin again.

It is always a good moment to listen, to begin again.

Today is a good day to love.