Archives for posts with tag: just breathe

Well. That was a night of something other than rest. lol Nightmares woke me around 2 am. It was almost three before sleep caught up with me again. My dreams, thankfully, shifted gears, but… the content was strange (very) and fantastical… something about a church service breaking out into a raucous, violent, drunken party in the basement of a building in which corporate performance reviews were about to be given out under (for some reason) strict secrecy. There were Leprechauns in attendance (whether they were party-goers or work colleagues wasn’t at all clear), and for some reason, the professional folks were all wearing pajamas, and big screen tvs were showing Saturday morning cartoons. Very odd. Let’s never discuss it again. LOL

…Being awake, sipping a hot cup of coffee, seems a relief, and a clear return to normalcy. 🙂 It’s enough. I yawn through these first sips of coffee, tired after the 3rd (4th?) consecutive night of fairly bad sleep. These things often go in cycles, so I refrain from taking it at all personally, and figure, more than likely, the rough sleep is due to the injured shoulder; it is a pain that is disrupting my sleep. I feel it every time I try to turn over, every time I lay on my right side, and my sleep ends up interrupted, restless, and not very deep. Lots of opportunity for dreams, and yes, nightmares. I remind myself that I already have a doctor’s appointment scheduled, and look at my calendar. It’s not on my calendar, so I look it up online, and add it – and invite “my work self”, so it’ll be on my calendar in the office also. 🙂

Nothing to see here – all routine human stuff, the business of living life. 🙂 I’m okay with “average”, “routine”, and “normal”, and drama is not welcome here…so… yeah. I get back to sipping coffee, and feeling this shoulder ache. lol

My thoughts careen through memories and random stream-of-consciousness weirdness for a time.

I breathe, exhale, relax, and sit present with the pain in my shoulder, and the tinnitus in my ears. It’s some time before I realize some of what I’m hearing is traffic beyond the window, and some of it is the fan on my computer. Another sip of coffee, contemplating the day ahead, gently (work has been intense, lately). The cup returns to the stone coaster on the desk with an unexpectedly loud clunk, and I shoot a suspicious look at cup, coaster, and fingers still wrapped through and around the white porcelain handle, motionless – as though freezing for a brief instant somehow mitigates the loud noise in the quiet room. LOL

…I wonder, for the first time, why the hell I am using a stone coaster with a porcelain coffee mug, early in the mornings, in a very quiet environment, when I am specifically cultivating the quiet? This seems an inexplicably counter-productive choice. Shouldn’t I be using a soft, silent, coaster, perhaps of cork… or… fake fur…with googly eyes? I quake silently with mirth at the mental image of a fake fur coaster. (Omg, I need more sleep. lol)

Something about the mirthful moment is a reminder of recent inspiration; my Traveling Partner shared something artistic (a painting technique), and I found it inspiring, fascinating, and potentially very suited to my artistic approach. I’m excited about the weekend to come; maybe I will spend some of it in the studio? The idea becomes a smile, another sip of coffee, and a moment – it almost becomes a plan. My eye roams the room… paint… glitter… glow in the dark… canvases… Yeah, I’m overdue to get some creative work done. I think I screwed myself attempted to exorcise the toxic demon that is an X of mine by way of paint on canvas; an individual so utterly vile, so irredeemably poisonous, that even finishing the representation was hard to approach, and the likeness sits unfinished on my easel, holding me back. Maybe I should “finish” it with some quick machete work, instead? The idea amuses me, maybe enough to finish it properly, let go, and really, finally, completely move on.

…It’s the forgiveness that’s hard, isn’t it? Once we have been wounded badly enough, deeply enough, damaged thoroughly enough, the forgiveness becomes… difficult. It’s hard to stay with the awareness that the forgiveness isn’t about the person who hurt us, not really, it’s about us, ourselves, letting go. Forgiveness doesn’t absolve someone of the wrongs they have done. It’s not an excuse, and does not condone bad behavior. From my perspective, the forgiveness simply allows us to move on, to admit to our pain, to refuse someone who has injured us any further opportunity to command our attention through their hurtful acts; we can walk on, and leave them to deal with their own pain, their own chaos and damage. Not my circus, not my monkeys. It’s a letting go that mitigates some of the damage, releases us from the powerful hold someone who has hurt us can maintain, and lets us get on with our own lives. There is no lasting requirement to see the forgiven one again, ever, or interact with them, or pretend we were not hurt, or to allow any further damage. I think what makes forgiveness hard is that it is clearly more kind, and more compassionate, than vengeance or punishment – but even though either of those (or both) may be entirely deserved, they do a lot of damage to the person needing to deliver them. It’s a bother, and a weird puzzle.

I can’t have vengeance, and I can’t punish that X, ever, enough to “make things right” – there is no amount of punishment available that could do that work. It is what it is. (Maybe we’re all someone’s villain?) Forgiveness tastes bitter in my mouth, like unripe fruit; I haven’t been ready. That portrait has mocked me, now, for months. That X does not “deserve” forgiveness… then I remember; my X may not “deserve” the relief that forgiveness may bring… but I do. 🙂 Forgiveness is for the one forgiving. Forgiveness allows us to walk on. I guess it’s time. After all, what are they to me, now? Nothing and no one; it’s time to let them go in a proper and final way. I’ll feel so much better – and I’ll finish that damned painting. LOL

I glance into my empty coffee mug. Obviously. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

We all deal with occasional emotional “stormy weather”. I wish I could really help. I’d hand you an umbrella, or some wet weather gear, if it were, you know, properly weather. Instead, all I can really do is take time to listen. Give you a hug. Hand you a tissue. Frustratedly attempt to assure you it will pass.

…You won’t be letting it go until you’re ready.

Your perspective on the situation is your own, and you may not be ready to own any piece of your circumstances, or recognize any amount of personal accountability – and right now you’re hurting. I see it. My frustration sources with your choices, and your unreadiness to look yourself in the face and understand which of your choices may have contributed (or be contributing) to the situation quite directly. It’s hard to watch. I could tell you that some of this is made up nonsense in your own head, or that some of it actually just doesn’t “matter”, in fact, at all.

…You won’t be believing or accepting anything you aren’t ready for – how could you?

Your suffering is quite real. I wish I could help in a real way. I lack the tools. I’d offer you perspective, a quite moment over a cup of tea, perhaps some words over coffee and a moment to gather your thoughts… but the verbs are all yours, in the moment you choose to bring action to your experience and really do something about… whatever is going on.

I’ve found far too often that my own assumptions, expectations, and attachments, were precisely the thing causing me so much suffering, rather than the circumstances themselves. My very human insistence on attributing a “because” to some action taken by another, or words I’ve read or heard, and making it all exceedingly personal (whether it had any legitimate potential to be so, or not), often causes me much more pain than anything anyone actually did, regardless of their intention. Seriously. We make so much shit up in our heads. Yes, you too.

Then, “the hormone thing”. Yeah. Fucking hell. I get it. It’s hard. Hardest still is seeing how much choice there still is. We get used to “can’t help it” and we get so used to making excuses, apologies, and accepting sympathy, that we entirely overlook our opportunities to behave differently in the face of our hormonal challenges – and most of us could realistically do a lot better. No, I’m not going to take a step back from that, and I’ll point out the choice to do better is available both to those with the hormone challenges, and those who love those who have them. Then, how hard is it, sometimes, to even acknowledge “the hormone thing” at all, in some moment when we feel so righteous about our pain or anger? Everyone can win when we all simply treat each other well. No kidding. It’s about behavior, not emotions. Verbs. Choices.

Do better. You can. No kidding. However stressed and freaked out you are right now, you can choose so much of your experience – including how you deal with it. I need reminders too, sometimes. I’ll finish this, and drop the link in an email to myself with some alarming subject line like “I JUST CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!” all in caps, and tag it and archive it without thinking twice about it, and some future day when maybe I find myself lost in the deep end of emotional bullshit, I’ll go searching for emotional wounds to pick at from my email archives… and instead, find the link to this reminder that I have choices – and that I can do better. 🙂

A lot of the shit we allow to upset us most is of little real consequence. Let it go. Take a breath. Take another one. A proper deep breath. Let it out slowly. Have a cup of tea and just stop for a minute. Maybe take 10 minutes to meditate, or have a calming shower. Go for a walk and sift through your thoughts without judgment. Give yourself quiet time to process things. Get some perspective. Deal with your emotions without taking them personally. Take care of yourself – if you haven’t eaten, have some calories. Drink some water. It will pass.

Feasting on our anger or heartache by ceaselessly venting, again and again, about the same shit, tends to grow it larger in the garden of our hearts. Seriously. We become what we practice. Practice anger, you get good at being angry. Practice tears and tantrums, you get really good at crying and raging. Practice losing your shit and becoming hysterical and wrapped up in yourself, and, no kidding, you get good at that.  Maybe practice letting go of your attachment to your own bullshit, instead? Or practice building calm and emotional resilience? How about practicing contentment? You could even practice communicating your emotions without screaming them at people… I’m just saying, behavior is something we can change through choices and practices. It’s not about emotions, at all. Go right ahead and feel all of the things you are feeling. How are you behaving? It matters. 😉

You’ll most likely be okay, you know? How about right now? Are you okay right now? Start there. Begin again. ❤

“The Holiday Season” is almost upon us*. Well, my idea of ‘The Holiday Season” is almost upon me – I don’t know many people who celebrate quite as I do, quite so enthusiastically. It’s a thing with me. For me, the winter holidays begin with Thanksgiving and continue through to the new year, ending on New Year’s Day, with my personal “One Hour” celebration (a personal tradition that has endured decades through tough times and good times), spent reflecting on the year before, progress made, obstacles, new and old goals, and committing my intentions for the year to come. It’s a whole lot of holiday celebrating, connecting, sharing, and enjoying – and it’s my idea of how such a thing can be experienced.

Even the creatures of forest, meadow, and marsh are getting ready for winter.

Even the creatures of forest, meadow, and marsh are getting ready for winter.

I rarely experience ‘holiday blues’ and I am eager for the holidays this year, utterly unreservedly eager. It’s not about money, I’m stretched pretty thin these days, and I don’t expect to afford a lavish holiday. That’s irrelevant – it really is about the baking of cookies, and the sharing, and the letters, cards, and calls to far away friends and dear ones. It is about having cocoa or cider with friends, more than about presents – although I do love to see the colorful wrapping paper under the tree; I suspect it is the colorful paper more than the contents of the packages that delights me so. It is the meals and memories enjoyed and shared, not the dollar value of the money spent. Yes, I say “Merry Christmas” – and I also say “Happy Holidays”, and most importantly – “welcome to my home” and “I’m so glad to see you”. I am as likely to celebrate Chanukah with Jewish friends or loved ones, or Diwali when it falls ‘within the holiday season’ as to celebrate a holy observance in any other faith; it is the celebration that makes the occasion both special and holy, although my personal experience of Christmas began as the usual mostly secular sort. I would cram the season with observances of all the holidays I can value, honor, and welcome into my own experience – all of them that I know of, I make the attempt. These darker winter months, the metaphorical end of things, are a good time to welcome light and laughter into my home and my heart – and I do it every year, because life reminds me, every year, that there is an end to all things – by bringing winter to my experience.

This is my way of celebrating… so many things… all jumbled together, day over day, week after week. I take time to contemplate life, love, the nature of success, and how fortunate I am. It’s definitely a strong foundation to begin with gratitude and a holiday of giving thanks – and yes, that’s how I celebrate it, I am not hesitant to acknowledge the troubling origin of the holiday, and for me part of that Thanksgiving Holiday is a certain ‘spirit of hospitality’ and accord that sources with the tradition of indigenous Americans welcoming foreigners from across the ocean, helping them settle and survive – and sharing a harvest meal before winter sets in, in earnest. Many years ago, a stranger stranded with a flat tire (that was a thing back then, and not uncommon) stopped at my door to use the phone on Thanksgiving. I invited him in to use the phone. When I over heard him telling his family he would not be home in time for the holiday meal, I made room at my own table, and when he finished his call, invited him to join us. My partner-at-the-time helped the man change his tire while I finished getting dinner to the table. It was a joyous occasion. It seemed the right and proper thing to do, for a stranded traveler on a holiday. Why would I not? (If a list of reasons pops into your head, examine them with care – how many are about fear?)

This year, I’ve been content to look forward to a solitary Thanksgiving holiday. I have been surprised to find that I haven’t been at all blue about it; the menu will suit me perfectly, being entirely only things I enjoy myself. No compromises for tradition or taste. It turns out my traveling partner may be joining me for the holiday meal – which takes me from content and eager, to excited in the time it takes to understand the words. I’ve been smiling ever since. The remainder of the weekend, aside from the bit interrupted by work commitments for a couple of hours on Saturday, will be spent putting up my holiday tree, decorating the apartment, baking fruitcake, and picking out a wreath for the front door.

There’s this grin on my face just now, as I sip my coffee and realize that the winter holidays are something I’ve ‘gotten right’ for many years; I made them my own as soon as I turned 18, keeping what I valued and changing things that didn’t suit me, and have continued to build and enjoy my own traditions and deeper meaning to each feast, each ritual, each calendar date celebrated. At one time, it was the one time of year I took care of me, luxury self-care to the limit of the skills and knowledge I had at the time… once a year. This year, I am doing it with my eyes open, and that makes it all sparkle even more. 🙂

What will you be celebrating with your traditions this year? Something old? Something new? Something for others? Something for you? With enough twinkly lights the darkness can’t win. What a very good time of year to be enough. 🙂

*Almost upon us. I spared you the pictures of Christmas’s past – it’s a bit premature for all that. 😉

This morning I woke with anxiety riding shotgun. I woke early, and abruptly, feeling unable to take a breath. In the face of imminent panic, I managed to grab hold of the nearest practice – in this case, simply breathing – and focused on that, instead of the anxiety.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

With the first deep breath, in and then slowly out, I observed the quiet environment, and the lack of immediate threats to my safety or wellness.

With the second, I observed my own body and state of being, finding and gently letting go of tension, then self-soothing by improving my posture, and comforting myself with reminders to be present, now, and letting the safety and comfort of the moment soak into my awareness more fully.

With the third breath I acknowledged Anxiety traveling with me this morning, and instead of panic, I gave myself a mental pat on the back for dealing with her – and my PTSD – so well these past couple days.  I took a moment to refresh my understanding that my TBI sometimes prevents my chemistry from appropriately returning to baseline because the inhibition/disinhibition circuitry – and other executive functions – are impaired; this too will pass, but it may take longer than I’d like, and I’ll probably have to help it along.

By the time I complete 5 deep cleansing breaths, my heart stopped pounding, and the surreal terror eased. Was it something in my dreams that woke me so badly? It hardly matters. I am okay, and a new day is beginning. I anticipate the anxiety may come and go today, as it eases over hours without new stimuli. I smile realizing that it feels almost natural… almost easy… to take care of me in the face of my anxiety. It is quite deliberate, very structured, almost ritualistic, extremely practiced, and in no way ‘natural’ or ‘easy’ – but it is lovely that it feels that it easy, and that’s more than enough to bring a smile to my face, this morning as I sit with my coffee, quite alone, and recognizing anxiety as merely an emotion, rather than envisioning it as some powerful super-being capable of destroying worlds.

The tools and practices I have invested so much time and study in really do make a difference. Using SuperBetter regularly helps me stay focused on practicing good self-care practices, and reminds me of all the variety there is in self-care tools and skills, and in creative ways to break problem patterns of thinking and behavior. Directing entertainment consumption towards the educational (TED Talks, SciShow…) has proven helpful, too; the brain is a sort of ‘use it or lose it’ tool, itself, and the sharpest elders I know are people who continue learning well into their elder years as a lifelong passion.

…And then there’s love.  I don’t want to overlook or underestimate the value of supportive relationships, emotional nurturing by loved ones, the comfort in someone listening, or the emotional safety in being accepted and loved – exactly as I am.  Being loved is a bit like buried pirate treasure, though; even though I suspected it might be ‘out there’, and even with a map that had a spot marked ‘X’ to point the way, it took some searching and some persistence, mostly because I did not understand that the love I most yearned for above all others needed to come from me, and until I found my way to that safe haven, no searching would ever turn up the pirate treasure of romantic love in the arms of another (because, even if someone loved me that much, in that way, I would struggle to recognize and feel it, having no similar feeling about myself).

It’s a lovely morning, and a good day to tell anxiety to take a hike – I will choose, instead, to walk with love, deliberately and willfully. Today is a good day to practice good practices, and to take care of me. Today is a good day to enjoy what works, and improve on what doesn’t work so well. Today is a good day to change the way I deal with my world.

 

Have you ever considered how strange it is that we put so much into the idea of a resume or curriculum vitae to get the job we want…but don’t put anything like that kind of time into detailing our experience and qualifications for a new relationship? That seems odd to me, given the greater importance of connecting with others over ’employment’, to the quality of our human experience.

Have you ever considered how strange it is that we allow ourselves, that is to say many of us do and much of the time, to treat people we care about, and even love, less well than we treat relative strangers, or colleagues? This also seems very odd to me.

There is likely a valuable understanding or change of priorities to be gained by giving these thoughts more consideration. Certainly, if nothing else, I find myself curiously moved to attempt to write a ‘relationship resume’ just to sort of ‘see where I stand’ in the love market! (I keep my resume up-to-date routinely, whether I am job hunting or not.) The elements that catch my attention are the simple and fairly classic format: an introductory paragraph or ‘personal statement’, relevant education and certifications, a list of relevant skills, and then the important experiences on which I hope to build my future. I’ve never taken a look at me domestically or romantically from the perspective of a resume. It seems a worthy exercise in self-knowledge and preparedness for life and love…possibly fun.

All the practices...

All the practices…

This morning I am using one of many practices to defuse the anxiety I woke with. I woke early. My sleep was adequately restful, I suppose, but interrupted and waking more than half an hour early often has the potentially to start my morning with some irritability. This morning, I also woke to find my aquarium lights didn’t come on. I stubbed my toe heading to the bathroom. I dropped most of my pills into the sink instead of into my mouth. I spent the first several minutes of the morning feeling nauseous. None of it has proven especially challenging so far – I have practices. This morning, distraction – intellectual sleight of hand using problem solving, and learning – has gotten me past most of it. That, and meditation and breathing.

It still blows my mind how powerful breath is; in any stressful moment, pausing to take a few deep cleansing breaths, exhaling fully, and doing so with disciplined awareness, and self-compassion is often enough to nudge me well past any serious turmoil to a place where I can manage things more comfortably. Breathing. Who knew?

Randomly, I observe that I’m over 500 posts here now… and often find that I, myself, benefit from re-reading something I wrote some time ago, working out some similar challenge or puzzle, or just being very human and valuing the reassurance that “I’ve got this” that I sometimes find in words I have written before…or, still struggle with, and could use some perspective. It’s a bit much to wade through more than 500 posts, and I’m rarely so certain I know just what I’m looking for. Instead, I generate a random date and read that post from a new perspective, or look at the dashboard to see what older posts are being read most by other people – and tap the zeitgeist by rereading that one, along with ‘everyone else’.

Have you ever considered how small a number ‘everyone’ may sometimes be, by the implied parameters of a statement? That seems odd to me…but I definitely do that, myself (see above).

Thanks for reading. My writing is another practice that has a lot of potential to calm me, and lower my anxiety, and I appreciate your help with that.

Today is a good day to practice the practices. Today is a good day to change the way I see the world.