Archives for posts with tag: just keep practicing

I woke in a lot of pain this morning, and it feels like it is going to be a hot day. My device says 84 degrees (F), so manageably hot, I guess. It’s a “boxing day” today (packing things up to move), and a chance to get some laundry done, too. I smile and enjoy the awareness that in the new place I have my own washer and dryer in the house, saving both time and money.

It’s a nice morning for gratitude. Yesterday ended on a difficult note at work, not “bad” just… work. Real work. Work that matters. Work I am satisfied and rewarded by. Still work. Still requires working. However difficult the work at hand, I also felt valued and appreciated by my colleagues and my boss, which feels… amazing. So far a very healthy environment for me. I definitely seek to spend more time appreciating those good qualities than dwelling on one difficult day – that still ended very well, with work I am proud of.

Yesterday I also had the opportunity to “be there” for a friend who needed a moment to be heard. We all do, now and then, right? I was glad to be there when he needed someone, and it was good to reconnect.

Another friend is gathering his resources and harnessing his will, considering making a 750 mile drive north to see me, hang out, and help me move. I’m pretty blown away by his affectionate regard that he would do so. I smile every time I consider it – and will for a long while, whether he is able to make it or not. He really wants to. That’s awesome. 🙂

Tonight I will get to hang out with other far away friends, in town visiting a friend who isn’t so far away, and who I enjoy but rarely break out of my routine to see. Yeah, that’s a thing – I’m very human. 🙂 I’m eager to see them all, this evening. Maybe my Traveling Partner will accompany me, although probably not; he is still recovering from his recent surgery, and travel would likely be very awkward.

Life isn’t always easy. I got home last night still suffering the day. The time I spent hanging out with a friend helped. The time I spent meditating helped further. The sleep I got, deliciously restful, found me waking with the dawn and a smile, eager for a cup of coffee, having let go of any lingering stress from the prior day. This ability to bounce back developed over time, and I can’t provide any really sound expectations about “how soon” or “when”…because it is a slow, gradual thing that was an incremental change over time with so many setbacks and “will this never end?!” moments that it was a little like I simply woke one day… changed. I suppose it was sometime between when I began and yesterday, right? lol So… let’s go with an easier question, okay? “How many days from the day I first began “practicing the practices” has it been to achieve yesterday’s results?” That I can answer – after I choose a staring point. So… I think I have to look at two different starting points, and answer with a range. First starting point; when my Traveling Partner recommended that I read The Four Agreements (it’s linked on my Reading List), which puts me around 2,575 days (7.05 years – bit of a long haul, frankly). Okay, that sounds… long. Impossibly long. Second starting point, would be when I began with my current therapist, shortly after I started writing Evening Light, putting me at a more comfortable to contemplate 1,610 days (4.4 years). Soooo… it’s taken me, depending on how I look at where I began, between 4 and 7 years to get this far from where I began… that sounds like a long time to have to “wait”, but there have been verbs involved, so I haven’t exactly been “waiting”…

…It hasn’t seemed so long. The quality of life improvements over time began quickly with small things, and have been entirely worth the work, the verbs, the constant practice, the regular beginning again… It’s a lot to commit to, though. So… I haven’t. I’ve refrained from committing to a specific outcome, and focused mostly on moments, practices, and treating myself (and other people) with great consideration and compassionate understanding – neither of which came naturally to me, so, yeah – practice. A lot of practice.

…I’m not “there” yet. I don’t know that there is a “there” at all. I just know that this morning is quite lovely, even though yesterday was difficult in spots. I know I am well-loved, even though I am, myself, quite difficult in spots. I know that so much of my experience is within my ability to choose change, even though that sometimes feels difficult in spots. I know, too, that anytime things are difficult – I can begin again, right here, now, in this spot. 🙂

It’s a good day to practice being the woman I most want to be. We become what we practice. ❤

It’s evening, and rather late. A strange time for me to be writing. I’m okay with that. There’s a warm fire crackling in the fireplace. I’m home, safe, warm, and contented. It’s definitely enough… It’s strange that I’m here, now, tonight.

I went to bed last night with a plan for the work day. I’d be up very early, with the intention of getting into the office by 6:00 am, fully expecting to commit to 12 hours to catch up what had gotten pushed to the side while I worked from home on these recent snowy days. It was a good plan, realistic and carefully considered. I set my alarm. I checked it again, as I got into bed. I had a back up alarm set on my phone. I made sure my alarms were not muted, even though my phone was on Do Not Disturb. Sleep came easily.

…There may have been a moment during the wee hours when I opened my eyes briefly, and only enough to see the time on my fitness tracker, assuring myself it was not yet morning, and returning to sleep, I don’t really know for sure whether the vague recollection is actually from last night…

I woke at 6:19 am. It was much later than I planned to be up. Later than the alarm was set for. Later than I commonly sleep even when I don’t turn on an alarm. Waking was difficult. I was groggy, struggling to understand the beeping. I turned off the alarm. It didn’t go off. I shook it, as though that would do anything. I got up, aware that I was late, and began to dress hurriedly, still not awake, clumsy, awkward, stiff, stupid. I picked up my phone – the alarm was still chiming. I shut it off. I opened my work laptop and typed words intending to communicate I was on my way. Irked at myself. Shit! How could I be late, today?? I had that crazed “everything relies on right now!” angry surging roaring panic running through my bloodstream, filling my thoughts. I slowed myself down, again and again, facing the panic, facing the inwardly-turned fury. I admitted to myself that I felt disappointed in myself. Angry that maybe – just maybe – it could be self-sabotaging behavior. I stopped for breath. I inhaled deeply. Gave myself time to accept my own humanity. Gave myself a moment of compassion, sympathy, understanding – how human am I? Very. Always have been – and it’s totally okay. I got my things together, and left for work. Feeling humble. Feeling human.

Some journeys are easier than others.

Some journeys are easier than others.

I was waiting for the bus (not my original plan, either), when my Traveling Partner messaged me a good morning, and his supportive reminder that I am enough. It’s just a moment. A small thing. All totally true, and I slowly continued the commute, eventually making it in to the office at about the same time I always do.

Wait, or walk? Today I wait.

Wait, or walk? Today I wait.

The day passed quickly and wasn’t at all what I expected. I’m glad I hadn’t built those expectations up in my head, instead choosing to let go and let the day unfold, doing my best in each moment. The day came and went quickly, and ended more or less the time it generally does. Generally speaking, a good work day. I returned home feeling mostly pretty good.

Now, I’m just relaxing here, in this quiet place, wrapped in comfort, a fire crackling away merrily, and a tasty glass of sherry that I’ve mostly overlooked, just sipping on it now and then, as the hours pass. If I’d stopped to write in that moment this morning, I would not have been able to look ahead to this delicious heady calm.

Right now, right here, it doesn’t matter at all which of the many practices I practice got me from where I was years ago, to where I am now. Yep. It’s taken years. Literal years, many practices, and a lot of verbs, and the journey stretches farther on, and beyond anything I can imagine. Years of practicing. Years of beginning again. So many verbs. Incremental change over time – it happens in increments. It takes time. I’ll keep practicing.

…More practice. You knew I was going there, right? I suspect I am fairly predictable about this topic. There’s just one hitch; it’s all a bit like a game, in some respects, and we’re dealt some cards, given some pieces, or exist with some details of who we are/what’s going on, and the practice is what we do ‘on our turn’. We still each start somewhere. I’ve been a fan (and Hero) playing SuperBetter for awhile. Jane McGonigal’s book, just published, arrived last week. Like any tool, or any practice, there are verbs involved – but it is a fantastically fun, helpful, and supporting way to build a practice, and take a journey toward a goal. Better still, however many times I set one practice or another aside, it’s there for me to resume when I choose to; I can begin again.

I can’t quite pinpoint the ‘true starting point’ of this journey, anymore. Did it begin with a game at the dinner table with my traveling partner, and the many tears that followed that moment? Not really – I was already going somewhere with myself. Maybe it started with the break up of the previous 15-year-long relationship? No, I definitely felt I was ‘on a journey’ before that moment, too. It wasn’t when I turned 40…but it may have been shortly afterward…or shortly before… it matters what I count as revealing, and instructive. It matters what I choose to include as being worthy of the journey I am now on. Any starting point I choose from the past tends to look worthy of calling ‘the beginning of this journey’ if I open my heart to accepting that have I faltered many times along the way… and when I do that, I have to wonder if perhaps I have always been on this journey, and perhaps it is so much less significant and grandiose than I want such a profound thing to be – Is it simply that I am living my life? Starting moments, ending moments, moments of great change, moments of ennui or confusion… one being, one woman, one journey, continuous change on a journey of self-discovery?

Is there any need to deny myself the experienced profundity of the journey I am on in this time, to accept that the journey is, and has been, ongoing “all along”? Thoughts over coffee, on a lovely morning; every day starts somewhere.

With autumn comes pain.

With autumn comes pain.

This morning, the journey of this one day of many begins with pain, rather a lot of it, and I’ve done what I can to put my attention on other things, having taken steps to ease the pain, itself. Giving it a lot of direct attention makes it more prominent in my experience, and although turning my consciousness to other things doesn’t reduce, eliminate, or ease the pain in any direct way, it at least distracts me from it in some moments. Not this moment. This moment I am writing about pain, because pain is where I am. Do me just one favor today? When you find yourself confronted with elders moving slowly, or awkwardly, take just a moment to understand that they do so because they are in pain – the sort of every moment of every day pain that if you ask them about it they may answer that they are not in pain – not because they don’t hurt at all, but because they don’t hurt more than that. It sucks, and I find myself reluctantly facing far greater awareness of all those moments in all those younger years when my impatience with the slow movement of elders frustrated me excessively, and wishing I could go back in time and if not be helpful, at least not be such an impatient dick about it.

I’d like very much to move quickly through my morning, myself, with easy efficient movement – and that isn’t an option on my menu this morning. “Choosing not to hurt” amounts to taking carefully timed pain medication, practicing yoga, and yes – just being patient with myself early in the morning, before the yoga, and before the medication kicks in. Right now? I can barely move without grabbing something else to give me leverage, pulling myself upright, supporting myself for balance if I have to lean over or down, and all of it hurts. Mornings like this one are best when I think to slow way down first thing, and be extra patient with myself, letting yoga begin with the natural movements needed to get out of bed in the first place, and stretching my muscles slowly, unfolding my spine from unknown sleep postures into something more vertical and aligned before I even take a step…my bladder does not always cooperate with that idealized version of getting up in the morning…sometimes my lack of executive function on waking results in nothing at all like a morning ‘routine’ and I lurch around the apartment awkwardly before I remember to slow down and take care of this fragile vessel.  This morning I am getting a taste of what my old age might really hold for me, at least with regard to my arthritis, my mobility, and my experience of pain and movement. Taking care of me and practicing good practices to nurture the wellness of this fragile vessel seem incredibly important – a time machine would be nice right about now; I would try to persuade a younger me to take better care, sooner.

Would I really go back in time and risk changing who I am now? That’s an interesting question for another day.

Today is a good day to practice the very best self-care. Today is a good day to be aware that the people ‘in my way’ are indeed people, and they are having their own experience; kindness is free, and I can’t know someone else’s pain. Today is a good day to change the world.

 

Weird day. I don’t know that it could easily be called ‘good’ or ‘bad’; it was the sort of day that defies such simple judgments. Perhaps that’s best. This moment here is very pleasant and quiet.

Evening on the edge of spring.

Evening on the edge of spring.

I recently went to a yoga class at a nearby studio. I enjoyed it greatly, and it gave me some cool things to work on – one of them is balance. I’ve tended to skirt postures that test my balance ‘too much’ out of fear of falling. In the class I attended, balance was central theme of this particular teacher’s sequence that night. Simply balance. Simple balance; most of the time we were focused on simplicity and elegance, and none of the poses were notoriously difficult or fancy ones. I didn’t exactly excel, but it opened my eyes to the need to improve my balance.

I love a good metaphor.

Tonight I am treating myself gently, and enjoying the evening quietly. From this quiet chill vantage point, it’s even tempting to smile when I think of the day; there is a lot to appreciate. Balance doesn’t have to be fancy.

This morning I woke hurting. The hot shower didn’t do much to ease my stiffness, nor did the yoga. Meditation felt natural and balancing and vaguely routine. My coffee is tasty, but lukewarm already. It’s Halloween, and I’m not in costume. (Not out of any meanness or because I’m taking a stand about this or that, I just didn’t because I generally just don’t.) No headache this morning; just the arthritis. I find myself feeling fairly hopeful about the day ahead, based on the beginning bit right here.

I’ll have the house to myself this weekend. I’m neither enthusiastic about it, nor am I concerned; it simply is. I will enjoy the solitude for meditation, painting, and listening to music that falls into the category of “no one else here actually likes this stuff”, and probably turning it up louder than usual. I’ll spend much of the time on household tasks; I dislike coming home to a house that hasn’t been cared for as well as it would have been if everyone was home, so I attempt to get the same workload done that would have been done anyway, to prevent my family having that experience. I’ve never asked anyone if they need that from me. I sometimes work beyond the point at which resentment begins, which seems a poor choice. I make a promise to myself to question that impulse if it arises this weekend…and to ask my family, sometime, what they actually want/need of a homecoming after a weekend away. Perhaps indentured servitude isn’t actually on their list? Silly human primate… mindful service to home and hearth – and love – is on my list.  Mindful service, however, doesn’t cause resentment. lol

The pain I’m in colors my experience, and my words. I feel less fun, less thrilled with life in general, but it isn’t really a big deal – it’s just pain, and I find myself dissatisfied with just allowing it to call the shots this way. I do more yoga, focusing on postures that I know are most likely to ease the pain, and reduce my stiffness. My Rx pain medication starts to kick in, too, which helps.

"Like dreams dying.." I said bleakly one day. "Like dreams drifting within reach" she replied with love and compassion.

“Like dreams dying…” I said bleakly one day. “Like dreams drifting within reach” she replied with love and compassion.

I’m in the middle of a grand adventure, with an exciting story arc, and amazing unpredictable plot twists… it’s my life. Learning to live it, eyes open, engaged, present, and in use of both intention and will, is an adventure like no other. I’m learning so much! Since I started this post without a specific clear inspiration, and in pain, I take a moment between each paragraph for another yoga posture, or a few minutes of meditation, or some moments contemplating a recent good experience or feeling in fullness in the hope of improving implicit memory and reducing negative bias. All of it ‘works’ – meaning to say it is all effective at driving those subtle internal changes of heart, of experience, of… default settings. It all requires practice.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Practicing doesn’t stop, and there is no ‘perfect’ to reach. Mastery isn’t the goal. The practices themselves are both the experience and the goal. Life is the journey – and the destination. We are here. Now. I am. This is. It’s so easy to stray from what works… a catchy article on Facebook can so easily get my attention before I pause to meditate, and find me having used up all the time I planned in the morning for meditation… days later, I could easily find that I’ve stopped meditating in the morning, and begun reading the news. Again. Frankly, reading the news in the morning correlates directly to the very factual and real experience of my blood pressure going up, staying up, and requiring medication. Meditation, on the other hand, does not. Quite the contrary, once I gave up reading the news as a practice, my blood pressure has since tended to be quite normal, and I don’t take blood pressure medication any more. It’s easy to fall back on poor choices, not because they have more value than good choices, but because [and this is my own experience, only] they were practices I practiced for so long before practicing better practices that they easily become the practices I return to; neurons that fire together, wire together. Habits are habitual. We become what we practice most. What we practice is easiest to do.  Reading the news is just an example of one problematic practice I struggle to let go of; I read so chronically, that words in my visual field are incredibly difficult to refrain from reading. You probably have your own problem practices, or old habits that don’t support taking the best care of you, or foster your development to become the being you most want to be.

So, here it is Friday. The weekend is imminent for many of us. What will I do with it to become more the woman I most want to be? What will I choose to practice that will tend to result in being more kind, more compassionate, and treating myself and others truly well – no strings attached? What practices will I commit to each day that ease my suffering, and the suffering of others? What choices can I make that improve the world I live in? Today is a good day to commit to being the best of who I am. It’s Halloween. Today is a good day to take off the mask.