Archives for posts with tag: intimacy

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 –  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. 🙂

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 on 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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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 for 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.

This morning is a very different morning than I had expected. I find myself sorely regretting allowing myself expectations, at all. I am struggling with this moment right here, when all evidence indicates that this moment right here isn’t a bad one taken in the context of nothing more than this moment.

I made a hash of the lovely morning I expected to be having with my partner. It’s that simple; a handful of insensitive words, poorly timed, and the whole thing goes sideways. Complicated fancy fucking monkeys. I feel frustrated with myself. Disappointed with the situation, and still struggling just to get a grip on the sudden spilling over of needlessly intense emotions into every damned thing. My demons dance happily in my tears; today they won. Now my head aches, and I can’t seem to stop these loathsome tears from falling. I am angry with myself for lacking ‘control’ – as if forcing myself to feel specific emotions, or display them quite correctly based on some set of rules, is the point of this whole mess. (It isn’t.) I am disappointed to have hurt my partner’s feelings – and being a fucking primate, I am admittedly even more disappointed to have blown my chances at having sex today. (We’re really good at it together, and I like it just about more than anything else, and it has become a rare thing for a number of reasons, not the least of which are simply geographical distance and calendar conflicts.) I am filled with regret and sorrow – which is a completely shitty emotional experience.

At least for the moment, I have lost touch with my sense of purpose or of progress. I feel stalled. I feel overwhelmed.

Getting it wrong first thing can be hard to take, but there is still a whole day ahead to work with. Choose.

Getting it wrong first thing can be hard to take, but there is still a whole day ahead to work with. Choose.

…We didn’t even finish our coffees together; the realization launches a flood of new tears, and they cascade down my cheeks, hot, plentiful, and resented. I cry more when I notice that I forgot to ask him to help me put on my locket; my fingers haven’t successfully worked the clasp for two days now, and I ache with a strange subtle hurt every time I notice I am not wearing it.

He didn’t leave me alone like this willingly. I sent him away. I write those words through even more tears. What the fuck is wrong with me? I don’t feel any sense of the progress made over time. I seem unable to connect with how good I have felt lately, or how well-loved. I feel cut off from intimacy – and it’s self-inflicted, a byproduct of the combination of my chaos and damage, and an injury so old I don’t understand why am still dealing with it now.  I am child-like with my misery, weeping unreservedly until I’m all cried out.

Sometimes it's hard to focus on the distant horizon when the shadows and silhouettes of the chaos and damage seem so near.

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the distant horizon when the shadows and silhouettes of the chaos and damage seem so near.

The phone rings. He reaches out to tell me it wasn’t all me, and it’s a message I need to hear. I don’t understand it as a given that when we interact we’re both in it, both involved, both using verbs – and words. We both forget about my injury – and the unfortunate resulting lack of impulse control, and the peculiar communication challenges that are much more significant when I am first waking up. He’s gentle with me over the phone, reassuring, reminding me that love is, and that he loves me; this is a shared journey, as much as any journey can be. I still have this headache. It will pass. I will be okay – I am, in fact, actually okay in this moment right here. I make a point of expressing appreciation that I am able to [emotionally] safely and comfortably ask him to go when I need to take care of me – that’s not something everyone has in their relationships. I still feel like a dick for being insensitive and hurting his feelings; it is irrelevant to feeling hurt whether that hurt was delivered willfully or cluelessly. Hurting hurts.

So. Here I am, alone, and mostly feeling pretty crappy with an entire autumn weekend stretching before me, nothing on my calendar, no plans, nothing that much gets my attention to do with my time; this is not a weekend to be running away from me with entertaining distractions. I’ve logged off of Facebook. Logged off of my social media accounts. No announcement or vaguebooking statement required; I am just taking some time for quiet and stillness. There are very few things that help with this particular shit storm of emotional disregulation; meditation is the most powerful tool in my arsenal, alongside cannabis. My Love arrived before I had time for either, and before my prescription Rx for my pain management, or my thyroid condition had time to be effective. The timing of his visit was itself enough to increase the risk that something would go wrong. We both know a lot about my limitations in that first 90 minutes or so after I wake; we made choices based on how much we miss each other, how much we want each other, and the convenience of opportunity. 😦

I am still working on me.

I am still working on me.

I’m not writing all this down to evoke pity or sympathy – if you find yourself feeling either, I thank you for your good nature, and your concern. I’m okay – well, I feel pretty ick right now, but I will be okay. I am taking the time to share this for two reasons: the most important and first reason is that ‘using my words’ is a perspective-providing tool that tends to most efficiently help me dial down the ferocity of my emotions. I make an effort to be quite clear, and reasonable, and careful to be truthful, accurate, and fair to other people when I write a blog post. When I write in my private journal, I am more prone to spiraling negative self-talk, or skewed perspective that can be punishing, or accusatory – neither is helpful, and both have the potential to build damaging narrative that fuels drama. The second reason to take the time to write about the hard stuff, the bullshit, the hurting, and the chaos is also about perspective; it’s not easy to cope with and rehabilitate a brain injury, and it’s not easy working through the hurting of PTSD.  There are verbs involved. My results vary. Change and growth over time are incremental…and sometimes the increments are fucking small. It can be very discouraging, and I think there is value in being real about the work involved. It won’t always be easy – it may not ever be easy – but there is value in trudging through, practicing the practices, and beginning again when I falter. (You, too.)

I’m fortunate to have such a strong partnership with someone who really does love me supporting me emotionally through all this, and realistically I can’t help but be aware that there is some risk this love won’t survive my struggles; at some point it may really just be too much to ask. That’s part of what hurts so much; there’s no knowing with certainty when that point has been reached, until I get there. Scary.

Begin again.

Begin again.

Today is a good day to take care of this fragile vessel, and to take another step on this journey; the steps add up. Today is a good day to begin again.