Archives for posts with tag: learning to love well

Most details of this delightful love I share with my Traveling Partner play out in our kitchen. Discussions about recipes, cooking techniques, taste preferences, costs and sources of various ingredients, and sharing suggestions, tips, and offering practical help, or even just hanging out to watch and share the experience, are all very commonplace happenings here. We both cook. He’s quite good at it. I’m a perpetual novice, tackling every new recipe as if cooking for the first time. I’ve learned quite a lot from my partner, in our kitchen. Even subtler nuances of love play out in our kitchen; how our dynamic works (or doesn’t, now and then), the search for balance, mutual autonomy, mutual respect, and the way our obvious fond regard for one another eases the strain of occasional conflict. How to communicate. How to follow instructions. It’s all in the kitchen.

I personally have a strange mixed up relationship with “the kitchen”. In my childhood, this was the place women gathered – or were directed towards. “Real chefs” were respected in the world… women in the kitchen were not. I have a lingering fuck-ton of baggage about misogyny, the kitchen, feminism, equality, and what it means to be a woman in the kitchen, in American life. All mine. I don’t think my partner shares that garbage (he’s no doubt got his own to deal with), and this too becomes part of the theater of life – and the kitchen.

…I do love cookbooks. This may seem odd considering my strange relationship with the kitchen and with cooking. I long resented the dishes (as in “dirty, in the sink”) as emblematic of servitude, for like… decades. No idea when I got over that… I think it was when I realized that it was my own desire for order that drove my stress about the dishes, that I was finally able to put some of that down and walk on from it. I even like cooking. I like taking ingredients and making them something more than they once were – something worth sharing, and experiencing. The effort has meaning and value, when I allow myself to wholly enjoy the outcome, authentically, honestly, and fearlessly. I mean – let’s be real here – I’m not the most fantastic cook on the block. lol I’ve got a lot to learn, and mistakes have been made. 🙂 I’ll probably enjoy learning more about cooking for a long while to come.

I’ve learned a few things in the kitchen, in this relationship, and not just recipes or gadgets. I’ve learned more about “the dance” of lovers in close quarters working on separate tasks; kitchens are often small confined spaces, and in some cases even two people is one person “too many” for ease and convenience. Coordination becomes relevant. Communication is important. Acceptance, and understanding, and the assumption of positive intent keep things merrily moving along toward a successful, hopefully tasty conclusion. 🙂 There are some really useful lessons to be learned in the kitchen.

Friday I said I wanted to work on my pancakes this weekend. They’re okay. Not “great”. They’re perfectly good pancakes, but not such that anyone is going to ask me to make them. LOL So, okay. I made pancakes yesterday. Re-learned the lesson that is “make sure your surface is hot enough before you start cooking the pancakes”. Important lesson there. 🙂 In the evening, I remembered my plan to make pancakes and spoke up about my intention to do so again today for breakfast. My partner’s reply? “Waffles?”. Yep. I learned to make waffles pretty well last year, around this same time, I think. At that time, my Traveling Partner was kind, and very clear about it “I don’t really like waffles, but…” he was totally open to supporting my efforts by eating waffles now and then. He just didn’t want me to be disappointed if he just wasn’t wowed by waffles. I appreciate expectation-setting, especially when done with such care and love. I made the waffles. They were “okay”. We ate them. I made more waffles, and the next time or two they were beyond “okay” – we ate those, too, obviously. My waffles are pretty good. Good enough to freeze any excess and using them as homemade freezer waffles for later. lol My partner asks me to make waffles – because my waffles are fucking delicious. 😀 There’s a lesson here. There’s a metaphor here. I think it over and sip my coffee.

Soon, it’ll be time to begin again. In the kitchen. Making waffles. Feeling loved.

I woke feeling strangely out-of-sorts, not quite cross, but not feeling buoyant, merry, or joyful. I rested well. I even slept in and woke some time after the sun was heaving himself into the sky again. My coffee tastes good, and for the moment I am not in any noteworthy amount of pain. I feel subdued, nonetheless, and not as enticed by the prospect of the morning as I have generally grown to be. I can’t quite force an understanding smile, though the intent to have one is there…

My traveling partner arrived last night later than he often does. It’s been a busy week, and he’s got busy days to come, in preparation for an upcoming festival. It’s still days away, and it’s likely we’ll see each other once or twice before he departs. He’s busy getting ahead on work in order to vacation comfortably and he made the choice to return home at the end of the evening, rather than stay over with me. There’s no stress in that, no aggravation, no sense that I am in any way less important to him – but I miss him on this sunny Friday morning. There’s something about sharing our morning coffee that isn’t like any other moment.

I’m not yet entirely awake. I sat down to write first, because missing my traveling partner had overcome me, before I woke. My routines broke with my implicit expectations. I sip my coffee and wonder about the day… the song in my head isn’t a sunny one…but it is one that I strongly associate with a tender moment with my traveling partner, wrapped in love. I put it on the stereo (the only way I know to vanquish a musical “earworm” is to play the song) and let the tears come – and they do. They aren’t hateful, contemptible, bad, wrong, or weak, they’re just tears; they are a sign that I feel. I totally do. This morning I feel love – just more of it than I can contain.

Tangentially, isn’t it strange how powerful music is? I can sometimes change my mood – a lot – by changing the music I am listening to. So, I try a little of this and a little of that, and watch the sun continue to rise. It’s a new day. It feels good to begin again. 🙂

IMAG8161

It’s true. This morning I woke well ahead of the alarm clock, but late enough that I initially figured I’d just go ahead and get up…I woke anxious. No obvious cause for the anxiety, at least in that waking moment that it was the thing owning my awareness. As I allowed myself to become conscious other things shifted into my awareness: my head was stuffy, and I had to pee. I got up to deal with those very practical matters, and as I did so I wondered if the source of my ‘anxiety’ was simply these biological experiences of being human – could I take a chance on returning to sleep? I might not sleep… I might sleep and wake up groggy… I could just cuddle up in the warm blankets awhile longer without worrying about sleep one way or the other – I felt ‘rested’, although I wasn’t convinced I wanted to be awake.

I pulled the covers around me, compromising on the sleep/no sleep dilemma by choosing meditation – in corpse pose, wrapped in blankets. lol I woke when the alarm went off, without any anxiety, and smiling. I noticed when I woke that the headache I had the night before was gone – suggesting perhaps it was not gone when I had awakened earlier. This would not be the first time I have beaten back anxiety by taking care of this fragile vessel in practical ways, and refraining from investing additional attention in the anxiety itself. I’m not sure it counts as a ‘practice’ and it’s not one of those ‘100% effective!’ things – there are definitely verbs involved, and a certain genial tolerance that it won’t always be so simple is definitely required.

How much of my anxiety used to be caused simply by treating myself poorly day-to-day, largely unaware of it, generally not paying any attention to my own needs until forced to by some emotional storm, or physical failure? How much anxiety was caused by simply not hearing myself, not giving myself the consideration and respect that I continued to seek in the world, and all the resentment that went along with not finding it anywhere?  I’m glad that things as simple (although not effortless) as meditation, good self-care, being considerate of my own needs and boundaries, and treating myself as well as I would ask others to treat me (and then some!) have so much power to reduce [my] anxiety. [Your results may vary.]

In spite of the headache and a trying day yesterday, I enjoyed hanging out with my traveling partner in the evening after work. It wasn’t a dinner date – we just hung out. It wasn’t a booty call. Seriously – we just hung out. We talked intimately, warmly, connecting on that heart & soul level so common to dear longtime friends – and often so rare in long-term romantic relationships of many years. We are not together ‘out of habit’, or ritual, or despair, or… He and I are together by choice. We enjoy each other greatly. We choose each other again and again. Literally ‘in sickness and in health’ – I am fortunate that my traveling partner on life’s journey is far more than a romantic partner – he’s a best friend, a partner in work and play, a cook in a shared kitchen, an adventurer with whom I can adventure, an adviser, a coach, a buddy, a wingman – and my dear love. I’m doubly fortunate that we are intellectual equals, have shared interests, and are similarly competent in very different areas of life – a hell of a partnership, honestly. 😀

Love.

Love.

This morning isn’t fancy or exciting, or extraordinary in any way. The anxiety is gone – no idea why it was there, or why it isn’t there now. Doesn’t matter, and I don’t plan to dig into it. It’s enough that the anxiety is gone, and a new day begins. I am sipping my coffee contentedly, listening to music. I’ll get some housework done before work, and when I get home I’ll have a quiet evening ahead of me – maybe a movie tonight? I lose interest almost immediately; I’m reading a book that really has my attention, and I’ll probably come home, make a cup of tea, put my feet up and read until evening fades to night.

When I was a kid still living at home, reading was my escape and my refuge from the drama of family life. When I became an adult, I lost that somehow – couldn’t read without some quiet, some stillness, fewer interruptions. Rather than find the quiet I needed, for many years I had mostly given up reading in favor of the condensed concentrated entertainment products available for video consumption. Easier. (Also a sharable experience – how many families endure their challenges by painting over them with a bland wash of media entertainment, rather than facing them and resolving them, talking together, using the verbs?) I began picking up books again at about the same time I begin writing this blog – the Reading List developed quickly as I gobbled up relevant books desperate to find my way out of The Nightmare City in which I seemed to be so trapped. I still read now, finding it intellectually nourishing, and a convenient way to continue to build on my understanding of life and the world, to keep my mind young, and the results are hard to argue with – learning does so much to keep life engaging and interesting!

My traveling partner asked me about the book in conversation. His gentle awareness of my injury is there in the background; he has learned to help out in so many little ways with my recovery, generally. He asks me about the book knowing I have trouble articulating material I am reading – answering the questions, as difficult as it can feel for me, is a way of solidifying new knowledge, and figuring out where I am not actually comprehending new material fully, for further review. I will come back to the book tonight eager to revisit ideas I tried – and failed – to share. The deeper understanding matters to continued growth. He listens patiently, and doesn’t press when I stumble – he knows I will come back to it with a deeper more complete understanding, having heard questions about the material that will help me build that deeper understanding, myself. There is so much power in partnership. The reciprocity is critical; I return the favor, listening deeply when he talks about his experience, too, asking questions, listening to the answers, feeling feelings, honoring experience – ‘being there’.

Be love.

Be love.

Maybe that’s really what makes a good partnership – the ‘being there’ in the moment, fully engaged in the interaction with that other person, no other agenda, not ‘waiting to talk’, no rush, no pressure – just together in a shared moment?

Today is a good day to share an experience with someone. Today is a good day to listen with my whole self, and give my undivided attention to someone’s words. Today is a good day to be, and to ‘be there’. Today is a good day to change the way I interact with the world. 🙂

I am sipping my coffee. It is a quiet Saturday morning, far earlier than I have any need to be up and about, but consciousness is what it is, and sometime around 5:00 am, mine shifted gears from sleeping to waking, largely without any obvious inputs from me. Coffee comes first this morning, and I run my fingers through my unbrushed hair, laughing at the ‘lack of order’ in my morning, and the seeming urgency to have that first sip of coffee. I feel both quite awake, and also not so very awake at all. I made my coffee quite strong.

My thoughts light gently on one thing and then another, like a butterfly. I notice a cluster of closely grouped small insect bites near my left elbow. The adult self residing in this fragile vessel part-time suggests that I do not scratch there. Minutes later I find myself scratching that spot, anyway, without realizing I had started to do so. I find myself struggling to stop, and change the motion – which is easier for me – to a soft light stroking, less likely to tear my skin. I am not yet fully awake, and I have learned to understand it is at these critical points of consciousness – not fully awake, or when deeply fatigued – when I am less able to self-regulate behavior. I find myself wondering how ‘different life might have been if’ I had at least known about my injury much sooner; I have no specific actual recollection of it in my memory that I can be sure of. I lose interest in the bug bite as my attention wanders; I return to simply writing and sipping my coffee.

I consider the wanderer. As wanderers sometimes do, he stood me up this week, likely not out of malice, and our plans were not firm in the first place, but discourteous lack of communication or lack of expectation setting is not a comfortable fit for me in relationships; I made a point of setting very clear expectations about requiring clear, explicit communication, as a reciprocal courtesy. Days later, seeing him active elsewhere and having still heard nothing from him by way of regret for the discourtesy, I reached out and received a predictable pro forma apology, but missing the point – and the lack of openness doesn’t work for me, even a little bit. So. There’s that.

The goddess of Love within the Temple of My Heart; she only asks everything of me, and I only have everything to give.

Love demands that I tend the temple of my heart with great care.

I found myself thinking about it yesterday, too, after the brief text exchange. Thinking about what constitutes an ‘ex’ in my own experience, from my own perspective – because if you asked me, I’d say I have only 3 exes. From my view, an ex is not someone who is defined as ‘no longer my lover’ – an X is a very big deal. An X is someone I am so incredibly done with, and depart from feeling so badly injured (emotionally, physically, or financially) that I do not want any further contact with that person, ever, under any circumstances. An X is someone I don’t even want to continue thinking about, let alone interacting with. I have only 3. Lovers who become friends, but are no longer lovers? Those are not Xs. They’re my friends – there’s nothing diminishing or discontinued about that.  People who were once more than casual lovers, something deeper but not lasting? Most of them go on to become friends as well (some of them just go on to other things). Some of my dearest friends were once my lovers. Casual hook ups don’t become Xs – they’d have to become more than something casual for that to be an option at all. Becoming an X of mine requires a level of damage, destruction, or disregard that results in enough pain that seeing signs of that experience later on causes new stress.  I do what I can to make them an X in my recollection, as well as in my present experience, and even in my writing; they are no part of my life beyond the legacy of the damage that needs to be repaired, and they are surely not involved in that!

Lust

Lust makes her own demands, and does not always play nicely. “Face of Gods: Lust” 12″ x 12″ acrylic on canvas with ceramic, gold leaf, and broken glass. 2009

The wanderer isn’t an X anything – he’s a human being, with free will, and character flaws, and baggage, and a life built on the consequences of his actions. (We all are.) Sure, I’m irked by the mistreatment, but I also recognize that his perspective is his own, and likely quite different. I’m even sure he found adequate rationalization for his discourtesy.  There’s no real damage done – I’m learning to make better choices, myself, and take care of me, and I set clear boundaries. He’s charming, funny, listens well, and every minute of time we spent together was worth it for me. That we’ve moved on to other things isn’t relevant to that experience, it’s just the period at the end of a sentence.

Fond memories are worth the investment in time.

Fond memories are worth the investment in time.

My Xs are few in number, but they are orders of magnitude more damaging than a change in relationship dynamic; in some cases I continue to work to repair that damage years later (decades later), and to restore order to the resulting chaos. One X was horrifically violent – there’s not much else I can say about that without my PTSD starting to flare up. One X was enough less violent that I overlooked it to my detriment; the relationship was characterized by day-to-day controlling and manipulative behavior (even gas lighting me) and financially exploiting me near to the point of total ruin. One X was distressingly mentally ill perhaps, but often seemed to me merely entitled and narcissistic, shifty, and an unexpectedly destructive force willfully breaking objects and damaging things (even other people’s things) with a frequency that can only be described as ‘routine’. My Xs are each and every one an individual who managed to inflict so much damage that I have lasting scars – in some cases physical – and did so without also investing in the relationship in any positive way that had the potential to make the damage ‘worth it’. 3 may not sound like many Xs by count, (only 30 years of my life!) but it definitely shows my lack of skill at selecting long-term partners; 3 out of 4 long-term partnerships I have invested my heart in were incredibly toxic and damaging. I’m not bitching, I’m just saying it’s hard to make the list. Certainly I  have learned a lot about what human beings are capable of, and how little it may mean when one of them says “I love you”; I am changed by that knowledge.

Relationships of all sorts come and go. Most of them are lovely moments along life’s journey, and I have very few regrets – surely no regrets about love and loving! One key difference between other relationships that have ended and one I consider to have ended with an X, is that I look back fondly on all those others – and endeavor not to look back on an X at all – not even the good moments. Even relationships that didn’t end on the best of terms, those former lovers can expect a warm greeting from me when we run into each other. Every experience ending with an X seems tainted with the pain of being hurt, willfully, continuously, and egregiously; ‘running into’ any one of them would feel traumatic, undesirable, and I actively take steps to prevent it occurring. I’m glad that I have very few Xs. I am grateful to have so many excellent friends.

Worth more than antiques, diamonds, or a fat bank account: friendship is a treasure beyond measurable worth.

Worth more than antiques, diamonds, or a fat bank account: friendship is a treasure beyond measurable worth.

It’s an amazing journey, isn’t it? I find it so. I enjoy the opportunities to share some portion of it. My traveling partner and I share something profound, deep, remarkable – and still we’re human. There may come a day when what we share now is no longer our experience together – I don’t see him ever being an X, however long our shared journey lasts – or doesn’t. He’s more than a partner, or a lover – he’s a very dear trusted friend, too. That’s where we started. I’ve learned, over time, that in fact that’s precisely where love does start, for me… with a friendship. Friends are precious threads of gold woven into life’s tapestry. However intense or magical some love game might feel to me in the moment, I can be fairly certain that if it didn’t begin with a friendship, it isn’t actually love. [Your results may vary.]

My coffee has grown cold. I’ve written more words about Xs than they deserve of my attention – yeah, I’m that serious when I say that I make an attempt to mark those places in life with an X – a big, black, bold, dark, fully obliterating X, as with a sharpie on the page of a journal, and walk on. Doing so, they have no lasting power over me, and the scars heal more easily over time.

So much of life is about love and loving.

So much of life is about love and loving. It’s an important area in which to become skilled.

Today is a good day to breathe deeply, and savor life’s riches, and love’s joys. Today is a good day to enjoy the woman in the mirror, and celebrate the incremental changes over time that result in better choices about life and love, and more skillfully taking care of my heart. Today is a good day to live beautifully, and to tend the garden of my heart with the same devotion as I tend the garden that puts food on my table. Good choices about love may not change the world – but they do change my experience.

Yesterday turned out to be a strangely difficult day, and the difficulty of it confused me; I had all the ingredients of a very good day, and yet, the day unfolded so poorly. Amusingly, the title for yesterday’s post remained relevant throughout; it was all very subjective, and it was clearly a matter of my own unique perspective on matters. The color of the day wasn’t a factual matter at all, it was pure emotion. One very awesome thing about yesterday? It’s yesterday. It is not ‘now’. 🙂 I am okay right now.  That’s enough.

Growth can't be forced; I unfold like a flower, opening my heart on my own timeline.

Growth can’t be forced; I am a flower, opening my heart on my own timeline. My journey and my seasons are my own.

My traveling partner takes being supportive and makes it his own, showing me the depth of his love by giving me space when I need it; that’s got to be hard for him sometimes, knowing how he adores me, and enjoys being with me. He misses me even when what separates us is not a matter of miles in distance, but more about my chaos and damage piling up between his heart and mine. This morning I take time to smile gently, grateful, appreciative, and content to have the strength of his love, even when I haven’t got strength enough of my own to be easy to share it with.

Love is always 'there' for me, when I recognize it sources from within.

Love is always ‘there’ for me, when I recognize that it sources from within.

Love sounded like it would be ‘easy’ when I was young. Easier still because I really wasn’t sold on it as a notion; it didn’t seem likely, or real to me, and I had had no experience of it to show me otherwise. Love, then, was a fairy tale. When I did eventually meet love, I was as a child bringing home some wounded animal and attempting to keep it as a pet; I didn’t know what I needed to know to treat love well, to nurture it, to grow with it. It quickly diminished, and eventually died, leaving me wondering how real it ever was. I probably had other chances at love, and didn’t even recognize them, after filtering every experience through my chaos and damage, and taking life coaching advice from my demons. I spent some portion of my life snarling ‘fuck love’ and striding purposefully through my experience without regard to my heart, on a campaign to stamp out emotion entirely.

Love being what it is, I did not succeed in stamping out my emotional fire. We are creatures of both emotion and reason; crippling one, mocks the other. Love, being what it is, gave me another chance to open my eyes – and my heart. I’ve managed to muck it up now and then, pretty badly, nonetheless. I’ve been frustrated more than once to make such an important journey without a map…or a rule book. Love does have rules, it needs to be built, to be nurtured, to be invested in, to be taken seriously – and not taken seriously at all – in order to thrive. Where romantic love must be reciprocal to thrive, love itself – the fundament of love, the foundation of love, the essence of love – all that must come from within, and it’s hard to get to the best that romantic love has to offer without doing the important work of loving myself, preferably first…but certainly at some point. ‘Now’ serves nicely.

If we don’t know how to nourish our love, it withers. When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love.”

How to Love, by Thich Nhat Hahn

The journey ahead winds through the chaos and damage, and no mystery there; love touches everything within me, every hurt, every sorrow, every shard of broken dreams. Like a rope thrown into a well, it’s up to me to pull myself out of the darkness and it looks dreadfully difficult sometimes, but the opportunity is there, the choice is mine, and with patient practice, and the will to do the verbs…well… I can see the light, just ahead…

Love is a living, breathing thing. There is no need to force it to grow in a particular direction. If we start by being easy and gentle with ourselves, we will find it is just there inside of us, solid and healing.”

How to Love, by Thich Nhat Hahn

Easy? Gentle with myself? Why does that sound difficult? Is it only because my skill is limited, and I need more practice? Is it because I am still fighting off demons, and wading through chaos and damage? Is it because old programming and negative self-talk get in the way? Is it because I sometimes overlook that will, choice, and action are required, moment to moment? Is it because when I am hurting I still punish me first?

Why, yes. All of those things. There’s good news, though; I have choices. 🙂

My path takes a turn I don't expect; the way ahead holds so much promise.

My path takes a turn I don’t expect; the way ahead holds so much promise.

Today is a good day for love. Today is a good day to change the world.