Archives for posts with tag: listen deeply

The possible (likely) impeachment of the US President? I don’t care right now, at all. Local weather? I’m indifferent; it’s meaningless. Work? Connectivity? Housekeeping? The appointment I have scheduled later? Nothing matters beyond one small (huge) thing; I’m sitting alone, heart aching, while my partner is elsewhere, also alone (an assumption), and probably having a less than ideal experience, too.

…I’m not even sure what went wrong, exactly. We started down the path of a conversation… we converse daily, often, and manage both deep conversations, and light-hearted banter (and lots of things in between) quite effortlessly, most of the time. Was I pre-disposed towards frustration, after spending a morning frustrated by technical difficulties, on a rare day working from home? Was he having his experience from within a context that had him potentially predisposed toward difficulties, himself? Is this even “about” either of us, at all? We are each having our own experience – this much is reliably true. I feel, at the moment, sort of bitter, rather heartsick, fighting off tears I don’t want to deal with, and feeling that I am a failure as a partner because – how can I not manage something so fucking basic as a conversation??

In all respects it was a lovely morning to start with. I sit staring disinterestedly into this 3rd cup of coffee, trying to hold onto the morning’s delights. Elusive. Those moments feel as if they were only a dream, now. I am acutely aware I have a “routine” check up with my therapist coming in a couple weeks, and I find myself struggling with a feeling of shame over maybe really needing that time, even after so long, and so much progress. It flares up as resentment and anger, then recedes as a sort of sad gray shadow over my experience, and a hint of despair and futility. “Doesn’t it ever stop…?” My demons attack where I am weakest, that’s a given, and I’m unsurprised by the bleak feeling of doubt, the sense of loss, of abandonment, the feeling of hurt and unworthiness. Damn, this is shitty.

…I hope he’s okay (he’s probably feeling shitty, too).

I look into my coffee mug again, as if I were even going to drink it. I put the cup back down. I also don’t care about this cup of coffee – not compared to how much I care that I am enduring this moment, or that he is enduring his… or that we ended up in this place, in the first place. This coffee doesn’t even smell good. I made it the same as always. No interest in drinking it now. It just sits. Same as me. Just sitting here, mired in this mess. I tried the “walk away and calm down” approach to handling miscommunication and frustration… it does not seem to have provided any useful benefit. I mean… I suppose it’s better than waiting around poking a hornets’ nest until one or the other of us seriously lose our temper. I can’t stand raised voices. Instead… oh sure, it’s fucking quiet, but… I am isolated with my despair… my most dangerous personal foe. “Misery loves company”? Nah. I don’t buy that. Misery doesn’t love a fucking thing, it’s grim, stoic – a loiterer who takes everything pleasant and destroys it without hesitation.

…I even know the steps to take to not be here… and can’t raise the motivation to do a thing about it… like giving up. The futility becomes a quiet waterfall of hot tears. A lifetime of frustration and learned helplessness clench my jaws. My back aches with the weight of it. This? This right here is another very human experience. (“It’s just a moment”, I hear my internal reminder on autopilot, “this will pass. It’s just weather, not climate.” I can’t hear it; it feels very distant and irrelevant.)

Too fucking human. So… what’s to be done about it, then? Yeah, um… I don’t know right now. I’m too busy feeling hurt and filled with chaos and damage. Let me get done with all that, then I’ll move on to doing something else… probably sort myself out at some point… maybe even begin again.

I am sitting quietly, sipping coffee, on a Sunday morning. Does’t feel like “the end of the weekend”, because it isn’t; I’ve got tomorrow off for the Memorial Day holiday. This feels, instead, like a proper “day of leisure”, and I am enjoying it quite gently. Perhaps I’ll garden later? For now, I am reading emails, reading the news, and contemplating questions. Big questions, small questions – there are a ton of questions worth asking. Many of them have achievable answers worth having, some of them have more power and enlightenment to offer in the asking, itself. To sort out which are which, I sit idly, asking the questions, considering the answers, and hoping to know more at some point in the future than I do right now, or at least to gain the wisdom to recognize sufficiency, even in the realm of knowledge.

Maybe I “get there”, maybe I don’t; either way, this is a good cup of coffee. 🙂

Be present. Listen deeply.

It’s just a list. It isn’t personal. 🙂

1. It isn’t always about you.
2. You don’t know everything.
3. You probably don’t know “exactly how that feels “, even if you have “been there/done that”.
4. Your emotional experience belongs to you, only.
5. You can’t “fix” anyone else, or force them to change.
6. No one owns you. You don’t own them, either.
7. Rejection is painful. For everyone.
8. Heartfelt convictions don’t become facts because you believe them.
9. Sometimes you are wrong.

Have a flower, think things over. Do better today than you understood to do yesterday. Be the person you most want to be. 🙂 You’ve got this, it just takes practice.

Don’t forget to pause and notice something lovely. 🙂

I woke ahead of the alarm, and realized groggily that I never wrote a word that wasn’t in the service of my employer yesterday. Wow. So unlike me. I’m tired. The lovely weekend comes at a price, and that price is fatigue. My disrupted sleep unavoidably has its moment to weigh in on my well-being.

I scroll lazily through my feeds, not really reading, just skimming headlines and posts in the weird “I used too few words” extra-large font. I’m not yet awake. The delicious fragrant mug of chai tea (with almond milk) definitely takes longer than a cup of strong coffee. I’m sneezing a lot this morning. My throat is a little… raw. Shit. I hope I’m not coming down with a cold. The timing is poor; I have a life to live and shit to get done. lol

Walking and thinking – a favorite practice for gaining perspective.

Yesterday, I forgot I had a late meeting on my work calendar, and got into the office at the usual very early hour. Early enough to get a lovely 2 mile walk in, along the waterfront. Early enough to get back to my desk, still quite a bit earlier than I had planned to be in – or needed to be. It was a long day, with very little leisure in it. I was pretty glad, by the end of the day, to have taken that walk in the morning. I was less pleased with the commuter traffic when I hit the road heading home around 5:30 pm. Wow. So glad I am generally home earlier. lol

This morning I find a lot to be content with, and it feels good.

I sip my tea and let my mind wander to the day-to-day misery and drama of being a woman in America. My feed is filled with it. Fuck. I’m grateful for menopause, and being generally beyond many of those storms now. You could not pay me to go back to being in my 20s (or 30s), particularly if it meant also having to return to that volatile emotional world of extreme highs and lows, and strange chaotic emotions. I wish I could sit with each of my agitated, distressed, sorrowful, wounded, beautiful friends, listen and let them feel truly heard, give them hugs, and maybe, just maybe find some way to share practices – or perspective. It’s a chasm that is quite difficult to cross, though. I can remember so many similar situations in which an “older sister” or elder in my life did attempt to communicate to 20-something me that this would pass, that I could master and, yes, even control my reactivity – with practice. I could not really fathom what was being said to me. I didn’t believe what I heard when it was shared with me. I did not follow through on any of the practices that were suggested. It was all completely out of reach. I wasn’t ready.

(I still try.)

I’m not saying their experiences “aren’t real” – not at all. Those chaotic emotionally difficult experiences are wholly real, in the sense that they are being experienced, for real. Totally real. Even, in fact, and like it or not, entirely appropriate and reasonable, from some points of view. Culturally, we don’t treat women well. This has unavoidable outcomes in the emotional health of women. We each play a part in creating that culture, and hurting our women. We could do better. (They can do better, too, but it’s a tale for another day, perhaps.)

This morning, I’m just sipping my tea and trying to wake up, and wondering how it is that so many of us, as human beings, being human, are so terribly unhappy… and wondering what I could do to help in any small way. Incremental change over time is slow. So slow. Change does happen, though, and we do become what we practice…

It’s the practicing that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Yeah. Here, too. I do “try”… but… and this is a thing… it’s really more about doing. Many of the practices that have helped me most with emotional volatility require me to “let go” – to practice non-attachment – which means having to yield to circumstances, and give up that righteous feeling of whatever I am feeling so righteously. lol An urgent desire to “be right” – and holding on to that feeling – creates so much fucking misery, and often on many sides of a discussion. I noticed more than once or twice that once I am attached to feeling righteous about something, I’m no longer willing to listen at all, and everything I hear is run through a filter that demands my position be defining for everyone’s experience. I gave up, quite purposefully and deliberately, the “need” to be right. It’s not helpful. (I learn more if I’m wrong, anyway, and often circumstances just aren’t even that clearly defined.)

Listening is hard. It is quite frankly one of the most demanding practices I practice each day. I often thoroughly suck at listening deeply, listening with my full attention, listening skillfully… It takes a ton of practice. Here’s the thing, though, a lot of my experiences of contentment, and balance, have their source in listening – and rarely have their source in talking, in expressing myself, or in “being right”. (Here’s where I slip in a reminder that “listening deeply” needs to be something I also do for myself; really hearing the woman in the mirror, understanding my experience and needs, also requires practice.)

One very cool thing about practicing practices, though? It doesn’t matter at all how many times I fail to “get it quite right”… I can keep practicing. I can begin again. 🙂

I carefully flipped through stacked canvases, and pictures in my archives, considering this one, then that one, understanding that as a last-minute additional to an upcoming art show just days away, I’d likely have little space. The choices matter. (Don’t the choices always matter?) After selecting several canvases, in a couple of sizes, and deciding on bringing along some work on paper, too, I set all that aside in favor of a quiet evening of housekeeping, meditation, and self-care. It was a pleasant evening, well-spent.

I stayed away from the echo chamber of public comments on the internet. I avoided the outrage-machine of news media. I managed to mostly avert my eyes from social media, generally. “Nothing to see here…” It’s difficult, over time, to continue to read filtered, reprocessed, repeated bullshit and slogans, often then repackaged as “new” editorials and memes, shared and re-shared repeatedly; repetition is learning. Eventually, that shit starts to stick in my consciousness. Fuck all that; I’m an original.

Carefully consider your opinion on some controversy (I’ll wait); how much of “your” opinion is truly the result of independent thought? How much research did you, yourself, actually do on that subject? Most people just repeat some stew of “comfortable thoughts” with which they agree, that they heard or read somewhere, or trust from their childhood education. It’s terrifying (to me) how little real thought people give what they say they believe. Our implicit understanding of the world is every bit as questionable as our explicit knowledge, and every bit as worthy of being directly questioned, with real rigor. Making an aggressive sincere attempt to “prove ourselves wrong” – based on the likely-to-be-true assumption that we are more than likely wrong about something – ensures that we understand what we say we believe. Most people don’t. Most people just fucking wander around insisting on shit they do not even understand. Such a thing can cause great damage in the world – and to real actual human beings. We can do better.

I challenge you, today, to overturn a sincerely held belief for which you have no legitimate, factual, evidence-based, support – in other words, an unsupported opinion. Pick one. Any. Just do it. Found one? Probably one you don’t care too much about, or which holds little controversy? (Minimum risk to your emotional comfort, I get it.) Okay, now go explore the “other side” of that controversy. There’s probably more than one other side, actually; false dichotomies shore up a lot of bullshit opinions. The goal here, as I see it, is to learn enough to hold a truly nuanced opinion that undermines our “us vs. them” thinking entirely, forcing us to see the world as a small dirty rock hurtling through space, one which we must share with others, because there is nowhere else (yet) to go.

This isn’t really an “easy” practice. I mean, just as an example, if you’re a male human being, you most likely still have an opinion on abortion (although why you would think your opinion should have any sway in the world of women, I do not know)… but do you actually hold a nuanced opinion that accounts for the real-life experience of actual women? Like… all of us? From everywhere? Do you have your own first-hand experience of having had to make the choice whether or not to bear a child or terminate a pregnancy? Quite probably not. Plenty to explore there, opinion-wise. (Are you mad, already? This is just an example… take a breath.)

If you feel emotions rising just listening to someone’s opinion, particularly when it does not agree with your own, there’s a very real chance you are not acting from a place of reason, at all, but instead reacting to shit you accepted as a given, and memorized, so long ago you know longer recall where those “opinions” came from – definitely question that sort of knee-jerk emotional reaction to the world. lol That’s not a reliable approach to understanding those around you, at all. Myself, I find that if my emotions attempt to lead the conversation, it’s a great time to shift gears and ask more questions; there is much I do not know.

I do know three things I can count on pretty solidly, though…

  1. Very few things in life break down into two neat categories; most things are not properly definable as dichotomies (without seriously lying to oneself).
  2. I can do better today than I did yesterday.
  3. I can begin again.

Ready?

Our choices can change the world. It’s time to do better. It’s time to begin again.