Archives for posts with tag: it’s a process

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.

 

I woke this morning, early, with a stern parental shout still ringing in my ears from my dream, “Slow down in this house! It’s not a race!” I turned off the alarm before it went off, and got up – making a point to indeed actually slow myself down; there’s simply no need to rush.

I make a point of planning my time so that I don’t need to rush in the mornings. This morning I made a point to really take that one to heart in a more mindful way, not just by counting on having more minutes before departure time, but also seriously slowing myself down. Meditation without a timer. Lingering in the sensuous warmth of the shower. Brushing my teeth awake and aware, and enjoying the sensation of tooth-brushing-as-a-process. Letting the casual touch of hand to skin as I dressed become something more like an appreciative caress. I spend a lot of a time with the woman in the mirror – I have no good reasons for treating her poorly, dismissively, or in any way lacking affection. I am enjoying the morning, slowly, patiently, attentively.

Making my coffee this morning became a further exploration of mindfully caring for myself. No stress. No pressure to achieve perfection. That’s not at all the point of mindful self-care; it’s just about being right here, right now, doing these things with great care, and great awareness, savoring the processes of life, itself. My coffee is exceptionally good today, without any particular additional effort; I simply made a point of showing up ‘in person’ – real, and awake, and aware, and comfortable with doing this thing, right now, with my whole attention.

A great coffee in the morning is a practice, a ritual, a measure of time, and a way to take care of me.

A great coffee in the morning is a practice, a ritual, a measure of time, and a way to take care of me.

Right now, too. This process is the one about writing a few words in the morning, getting my intellect and my heart synced up for the day, and moving forward together – if not with some plan in mind, at least able to capitalize on what I am learning, and able to understand that there is always more to this than what I think I know, and that we are each having our own experience. This moment in the morning, when I am most likely to write, is my opportunity to reflect, to gain perspective, and to do it in a safe space with good ground rules that protect me from poor practices, OPD, and self-defeating rumination. (When I write in the evenings, it is often because I am in emotional pain, and reacting to circumstances using any practical tools at hand to get a grip on myself – it’s quite different.) When I sit down very inspired, I sometimes fail myself on practicing good self-care practices, losing myself in the moment, slumped over my keyboard, leaning into the visual space of the monitor, typing away aggressively, enthusiastically, brains spilling all over fingers, becoming words – this morning, although I feel inspired, I approach my desk, and this process, with consideration for this fragile vessel. I begin with deliberation, and deep breaths. I am attentive to my posture. The resulting writing may not be of any different quality – but my back hurts less, I am making fewer spelling mistakes, and struggling less with my dying mouse.

When I rush through things, I make more mistakes, miss details, and feel a greater sense of urgency that generally becomes a more noteworthy amount of stress. This is an important detail, this morning; it is Monday. Time to get back to work after a long weekend. Definitely having the sense that my employer may have begrudged me the time I needed for me, there’s the temptation to rush into things. I could have gotten up quickly, thrown on my clothes after a bracing shower, and quickly marched into the office to become a good productive cog in the corporate machinery, getting a ‘head start’ on all the work I had ‘fallen behind’ on… just thinking the thoughts got my heart racing a little, my breathing became more shallow, my body began to prepare for fight or flight… Shit, it’s just a job! It does not require all that. So – yes. I slowed things down this morning, because there’s no reason to rush; it’s not a race. Remember ‘the rat race’? Sure, it’s still going – it’s a real thing, and lots of people participate, consuming themselves over the course of a lifetime for whatever pittance is paid to them for their trouble. My opinion? No amount of cash is enough to sacrifice the pleasure of really living life. Even my work suffers, when I rush myself. So… I’ve stopped racing. I’ll just walk this one, thanks. (It’s not as if there were ever any chance of ‘winning’ the rat race. “The cake is a lie.”) 🙂

Time well-spent following my own path.

Time well-spent following my own path.

The weekend was lovely. Long forest hikes among lush greenery, on twisting paths, up hills, and down…and relaxed evenings spent on creative endeavors. It mattered to get out among the trees. It mattered to have the powerful reminder in the ever-present sounds of distant traffic that the thing I was trying to escape is something I carry with me. It mattered to take a few days just for me, no interruptions from work, or routine communication from loved ones, or urgent pressure to get this or that done. My only fixed agenda being to take the very best care of me. It mattered to me to spend time sketching, writing, painting. I sought stillness – and I found it. Strangely, I found it at home, and within myself, to my very great delight (after the frustration of discovering I could not easily escape the sounds of traffic)…and yes, there are verbs involved (and my results varied).

The journey doesn't always take me far from home.

The journey doesn’t always take me far from home.

I reset my expectations of myself over the weekend. Had some important conversations with the woman in the mirror about how she makes use of her time. Set some important boundaries with myself about time, and what I want most of that precious limited commodity. When I am feeling more than usual stress, the easy thing is more distractions: YouTube videos, favorite t.v. shows, movies, Facebook… I can kill a lot of time with any one of those things. There’s no constructive point, later, in moaning about “not having enough time for me” if I am letting brain candy soak up those minutes of lifetime that could be spent meditating, relaxing in a hot bath, gardening, writing, reading, enjoying the company of friends in my actual presence doing some actual thing… It’s down to the verbs and the choices. It is sometimes necessary to slow myself down, to be aware of how quickly the time does pass. Being rushed stresses me out…slowing things down generally has quite the opposite result, and I face Monday feeling calm and prepared, unworried, patient with myself and the world, and feeling well-rested and well-cared-for. I found the stillness in the spaces between other things, once I slowed down enough to notice it waiting for me there.

A helpful change in perspective, and time spent listening deeply to my own heart, is a good place to find inspiration - and stillness.

A helpful change in perspective, and time spent listening deeply to my own heart, is a good place to find inspiration – and stillness.

Today is a good day for stillness, for calm, and for slowing things down long enough to savor both in the moment. Today is a good day to enjoy living life – without rushing through to the end. Today is a good day to decline urgency, in favor of appreciation, and to refuse to be hurried in order to enjoy right now. Today is a good day to slow down enough to enjoy the world.

 

 

…Or, well, don’t. I can’t really help much on the topic of forgiveness. I’m not an expert on it – hell, I barely understand the concept, and I am pretty sure I suck at ‘forgiveness’. (I hear the recollection of 20-something me, in the distance past, snarling at an associate “there are things even your god does not forgive!” in a moment of unreserved hurt and rage.) I am having to come to terms with some things about the idea of forgiveness, though. Firstly, that ‘forgiveness’ is not a religious tenet; it’s a concept available to anyone for their own benefit, at any time. Secondly, forgiveness says nothing at all about the person being forgiven – and says a lot about the person forgiving. The last thing I am coming to terms with is that to grow beyond ancient pain, and ancient rage, sooner or later forgiveness comes up as a topic; I can’t move on, or let go, without the power of ‘forgiveness’… Which means sooner or later, understanding the concept would be useful.

I resent the hell out of being faced with any expectation or demand that I forgive some heinous transgression. I’m very human. When I hurt I want it ‘made right’ with me by the person who hurt me, and no substitute will do. There is no room for ‘apology by proxy’ in my heart. These feelings give the anger a foothold to become bitterness over time, and the hurt to become a festering wound that changes who I am. That’s powerful – and not in a positive way. When I find myself unable to let go of a hurt over time, it has the power to slowly see me evolve to become that thing that hurt me so, or something worse. Hell of a puzzle there; failing to forgive someone who hurt me gives them the power to continue to influence my heart and mind!

"Broken"  16" x 20" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic & glow 2012 Once the damage is done...then what?

“Broken” 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic & glow 2012
Once the damage is done…then what?

Not knowing how to forgive, and not being permitted vengeance or retribution, I have sometimes found myself trapped, holding on to pain, frustration, impotent rage – slowly poisoning myself from within. This is not a condition in life I would wish on myself, and recognizing that one key to the puzzle of ancient pain may be this ‘forgiveness’ thing I hear so much about, perhaps it is time to consider it further?

I have some experience with forgiveness. Childhood experiences mostly, in some cases rather scripted – the parental ‘say you’re sorry to your sister’ example comes to mind, where following the steps end with just letting it go, and returning to play. Compassion may be a natural quality of human beings, but I am pretty sure ‘forgiving’ has to be taught to us. Forgiveness was not emphasized in my upbringing. Is it a process, more than an emotion? I’m pretty handy when I have the steps of a process written down in front of me for practice…maybe that’s what I need to do here? Figure out the steps to forgiveness, write them down, and…oh yeah, you know what comes next right? Practice.

Why am I on about this, this morning? I read a quote on the internet recently that got my attention, and resonated with me in the moment, and lingered:

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning their behavior. It doesn’t mean forgetting how they hurt you or giving that person room to hurt you again. Forgiving someone means making peace with what happened. It means acknowledging your wound, giving yourself permission to feel the pain, and recognizing why that pain no longer serves you. It means letting go of the hurt and resentment so that you can heal and move on. ~Daniell Koepke

It is from a larger article, that I didn’t have time to read and bookmarked for later. The quote has stuck with me for days. I’d never understood forgiveness in those terms. This matters, at least to me; I have long struggled with the idea that forgiveness gave that other ‘a pass’ – they ‘get away with it’ – they ‘win’ – and at my expense! It seems so incredibly unfair. When I read this quote it opened my heart to understand that forgiveness isn’t ever about that person who hurt us, and it isn’t something we do for them – is it the ‘missing puzzle piece’ that allows me to move on, to heal, to ‘let it go’ on my own terms, and in my own time? That’s a pretty big deal. Definitely worth further consideration.

Life finds its own path, sometimes the 'obvious' choices are not the only choices.

Life finds its own path, sometimes the ‘obvious’ choices are not the only choices. (A rose seedling growing in the crook of a tree.)

Life’s curriculum continues to put the most challenging coursework I can manage in front of me for my continuing education. 🙂 I’ve come a long way to be ready to study forgiveness; it seems like ‘advanced studies’ to me. It dovetails with a recent discussion with my therapist about anger, and another that followed on that topic with my traveling partner. Anger is another very big deal, and difficult for me to discuss without rousing the beast within; is forgiveness also a path to cooling the heat and ferocity of ancient rage so that I can at last actually just talk about it? I feel a bit as if I opened a chapter in the text-book that opens with a promising paragraph that ‘connects the dots’ in a much bigger puzzle, but does so using new vocabulary that I don’t really understand. I am eager to continue.

Taking the obstacles one at a time, and taking the journey slowly; there's a lot to learn along the way.

Taking the obstacles one at a time, and taking the journey slowly; there’s a lot to learn along the way.

Today is a good day to study, and a good day to embrace new knowledge. Today is a good day to grow, and to become more that woman I most want to be. Today is a good day to take a different look at the world I live within; it is of my own creation, and perhaps it is time to change the emotional landscape?