Archives for posts with tag: listen deeply

Oh sure, it’s a few days yet before the Vernal Equinox, so Spring is approaching, but not yet here. Still feels more like Spring than Winter, this morning, and the song birds seem to agree; the morning air is filled with the sound of them, even though the sun is not yet up. The air is soft and smells like forest, even though it’s a bit chilly… it’s more like the chill of Spring than the frosty mornings of Winter or Autumn. I say this in spite of my recollection that yesterday morning was quite frosty. lol I’m eager to welcome Spring.

Already there are signs of Spring among the trees.

…During this year-long (and then some) pandemic, time has seemed more easily measured in seasons, than in days, weeks, or months…

My first week at the new job is nearly over. It’s been a peculiar week, in one very specific way; I’ve had the subjective experience of “checking off a list” in my head of things that have been unsatisfying or “problematic” at various previous places I’ve been employed, not because “oh, it’s that here, too…”, but because delightfully to the contrary, these concerns are explicitly demonstrably confirmably not issues at this new place. Wow. Powerful. My cynical side whispers “okay, but what is wrong here… what about that?”. So far, I’m tickled to shrug her off with a laugh; I haven’t found anything to give me reservations or hold me back. It’s seems to be a pretty healthy well-supported environment. I make a note on a future calendar date to check in with myself about my overall job satisfaction in six months, a year, two years. Looking over past notes, I can see that it is often the case that concerns I am aware of within 6 months often become the thing driving my departure at the two or three year mark. Interesting. (I’m a slow learner, I guess.)

…Pretty good start on this particular new beginning…

Last night went well, after my Traveling Partner and I sorted things out in the evening. Apologies that had been made were eventually accepted, and normalcy allowed to return. We hung out a bit. Soon enough it was the end of the evening. I enjoyed my first night of deep restful sleep since the DST change, and even slept through the night. It was lovely. I’m not at all annoyed that it took 4 nights to “get my sleep back”, either; there have been years when it took weeks.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced with seeking change, and with working to “stay on my path”, and in the pursuit of emotional wellness, has been allowing and accepting success when it comes. That’s been more difficult than I expected. Non-attachment (to outcomes, to emotions, to people, to the past…) requires committed practice, and self-awareness (which also takes practice), and my results do vary. Incremental change over time can be so slow as to seem undetectable, leading to some unpleasant “this never changes” feelings and unhappy “why do I even try??” moments. Harsh. Moments pass, though, and over time change and progress are revealed – and experienced. It does go faster, though, when I let myself have those wins without reservations or self-doubt. It’s all too easy to doubt, to resist, to argue, to refute, to turn away… because the things I am working to change are often “coping skills” that have their source in real trauma, and it can be tough to persuade myself, on some deep remote still-damaged level, that I don’t need them anymore. What if I do?? (So what if it does feel that way, though; is it the healthy way to cope? Is that way of coping “who I most want to be”?)

So, a pleasant Thursday morning begins the day. Another beginning. Another opportunity to practice the practices that best support me (and my quality of life, and my relationships) – and to become the woman I most want to be. 😀

Most of the time, these days, I’m writing from a contented, emotionally fairly comfortable place. Life is pretty good day-to-day, in spite of the pandemic. I don’t have the terrifying, chronic, so-frequent-as-to-be-routine, issues with emotional volatility that I had 8 years ago. I’m fortunate. I also “work hard” at this. There’s a lot of practice. A lot of very necessary restarts, do-overs, and new beginnings. My results vary. I am entirely 100% made of human, from the soaring heights of the most delightful moments of great joy and celebration, to the lowest depths of the most grim, bleakest darkness, the most despairing moments of sorrow, ennui, and futility. Anger gets a turn in there, somewhere. Frustration, too.

…So does love. So does hope. So does happiness – yep, even happiness gets her day in the sunshine. Doesn’t happen to be today, but today this moment is apparently not about feeling good. At least not right at this very moment, right here, right now, which mostly sucks.

…This too shall pass. It sure will. Eventually. I wonder sometimes if that’s actually a good thing at all. Storms pass. The weather clears up. It’s so tempting to just move on from the things crying out for attention during stormy weather, once the sun is shining again. Something to think about.

I’m not sure what to say “about” this moment, right here. I feel…angry. I… feel hurt. I’m annoyed and frustrated. Not just with myself and my own limitations. Not simply with “not being heard”. It’s complicated. I don’t have a healthy relationship with anger. I am aware of that. Mine or anyone else’s; it’s not specific to whose anger it is. I’m uncomfortable with anger. I’m especially uncomfortable with mine. That’s true. Today, I’m angry with my Traveling Partner. (This may be the first time I’ve written that sentence in this blog, I’m not certain.) I haven’t lost any affection for this human being I am so fond of… I’m just angry right now. I don’t know what to do with/about that… it just is, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable with it. So. Here I am. In a separate space, door closed, headphones on, working on “being alone right now” – which is very tough in a small house during a pandemic. As I said; uncomfortable. I’m not lashing out or escalating. I’m maintaining a self-inflicted disciplined calm, because I just don’t know what else to do with or about my anger. I clearly can’t act on it. I’m also having trouble conversing through it to resolve things with my partner; I start weeping. It makes conversation difficult and needlessly, unproductively, emotional. Not okay – and I’m frankly not at all interested in taking the risk of damaging anything I own by having some tantrum, or finding myself in the middle of further emotional escalation and angry words with my partner. Anger feels like emotional poison to me. I know there are ways to process anger more skillfully than I do. I haven’t finished that work, yet. I am unskilled. It takes a lifetime to process a lifetime of trauma, apparently…Or, at least, I have not, personally found a shortcut to the work that must be done to heal the damage that already was done.

Yelling at one’s partner is mistreatment. I work to avoid raising my voice. I don’t even like “yelling across the house” in a conversational way (seriously seriously dislike that shit – if I’m not in the same room, let’s just not converse, or hey, it’s a small house, join me in a shared space). I’m human, though, and I am more easily provoked than I want to be. If I raise my voice, I’ll also apologize for that, and having accepted responsibility for that behavior, immediately seek to bring the volume back down. It’s hard. I don’t always succeed. I struggle with anger – particularly when I am not feeling heard, or when I am being interrupted, or when I feel mistreated myself, in the face of mockery, insults, or other such (also very human, unpleasant, not okay things, but I particularly detest mockery). I work on not yelling. I ask people in relationships with me to not yell. It’s a choice. Take a kind tone. Speak gently. Choices. Encourage each other. Worthwhile – but, yeah, there are verbs involved, and it takes a lot of fucking practice, and it’s got to actually really matter. No one can do the work for you. Hell, you may even find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to choose to make these changes or do this work without much encouragement or reciprocity. Hard, right? Sometimes, yeah. For anyone.

What makes any of that shit worth it? Why is the ongoing effort – and ongoing frustration with having to make that effort – worth it at all, if it won’t placate an angry partner, or restore the peace, or diminish the chaos, or create calm? …I think about that question a lot, and I’m pretty clear on my answer; it’s about being the woman I most want to be, myself, for myself. I’m okay with feeling anger. I’m not okay with losing my shit and yelling at someone I love. Doesn’t matter how provoked I feel. Doesn’t matter who is “right” or who is “wrong”. Doesn’t matter whether I am in pain, or exhausted, or absolutely 100% justified in my opinion, or my understanding of the situation. What matters is … who do I most want to be, and is my behavior consistent with that standard? How does that woman respond to such a situation? How does that woman maintain her calm, stay balanced, and process strong emotion? I think that over, looking for answers, and a next step to being that woman… more so today, than yesterday. More so tomorrow than I am right now. We become what we practice.

…That’s true for everyone, and everything we choose to practice (or fall into habitually). Just saying. Choices. Practices. Beginnings.

Again.

…I hear the tv in the other room. My partner bravely checked-on me, and expressed his desire to hang out – in spite of the chaos, what matters most is our affection for each other. It’s hard to be vulnerable. Hard to set down the baggage. Sometimes it’s even hard to begin again. I take a breath, and steady myself to take that step…

More specifically, I mean to say that I find it pointlessly disruptive and uncomfortable to deal with the time changes twice yearly, and most particularly the change in Spring. I’m groggy this morning. I have this splitting headache (not the usual one, just the one that comes of messing with time/timing and circadian rhythms that I experience each year for a handful of mornings following the Spring change to DST). I’m more than ordinarily grateful for a good cup of strong coffee, and the mellow companionship of my Traveling Partner. But, yeah… Fuck Daylight Savings Time. For real. Damn. We ought to consider not doing this, as it serves literally no one. (Seriously, no one. Google it.)

The weekend is behind me. New job starts today. This morning. In fact, in a sense, it has begun; it’s Monday morning. The laptop in its neat factory packaging sits on the desk to my left, waiting to be opened. I’ve read over the instructions provided by the IT department, and those seem pretty clear. First onboarding item on my calendar is at 10:00 am. Last meeting of the day is at 3:00 pm. Between those events, my calendar is full of other meetings with other colleagues, “meet & greets” and onboarding sessions of various sorts. I’d be more excited, perhaps, if this were not also the first Monday following DST, with its associated headache and brain fog. :-\ I’ll get there; I am actually excited, I’m just not completely awake yet.

I glance at the clock and notice it is “7:04 am” (my body says that’s a lie, and that it is “really” 6:04 am, and while a perfectly reasonable time to be awake… it feels “too early”, because I woke up “too early”). I think about expectations and assumptions, and look out the window into the pre-dawn darkness. I know I’ll feel more awake when the sun rises. I take a couple Ibuprofen for the headache. I make my second coffee much earlier than usual (and consider whether to indulge in a third once I finish the second one).

Every year I go through this. I’d prefer not to. I’ve seen some encouraging news articles this year that suggest I am not alone in my desire to be done with this bullshit fairly arbitrary twice-yearly time change. Maybe we’ll do something about it instead of just pissing and moaning about how unpleasant it is? 🙂

I think about the weekend. Sip my coffee. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. Pull myself fully upright, again, and smile; my Traveling Partner has been helping me improve the ergonomics of my workstation at home (for which I’m very grateful, since I’m less able to see where things are off, and it really matters since I now work full time from home). I’m delighted with the most recent changes. I still have to make the effort to maintain good posture, but the placement of my gear now makes that quite comfortable, almost effortless aside from needing to be aware of my body in the first place.

It was lovely to return home, yesterday. We enjoyed a splendid day together, relaxing, playing video games. The house looks amazing. Tidy. Welcoming. It was definitely worth putting in the effort to tidy up my spaces before I went to the coast, because on top of the work my partner did (before and after), the homecoming ended up being sooooo relaxed and comfortable. No housekeeping pressure. 😀 Worth it. I’m fortunate to have a partner who is also very committed to our quality of life, day-to-day. I already know I don’t have the energy reliably available to do it all myself. 🙂

…Damn this is good coffee. Definitely better than the utterly dreadful hotel coffee of yesterday. 🙂 A good start on a new beginning. I see daylight developing beyond the window. Looks like time to begin again. 😀

I mean, seriously though? I could use a real break. A break from the pandemic, and all the inconveniences, hassles, and stress of it. A break from being on lockdown with the too-often-strained-by-circumstances companionship of my partner. A break from work. A break from housekeeping. A break from well-intended reminders and critical feedback of all kinds. A break from the noise and bother of “the world”. A break from strong emotion – mine, and everyone else’s, too. I’d like a real, proper, restful, wholly recharging, legitimate break, please.

…I am silently “screaming into the void” on this one. It’s not that the need for a restful break from whatever-the-fuck is unreasonable, it’s just that getting that break is entirely on me, myself. To make or find the time? That’s on me. To create the conditions? Again, all on me. To set and manage boundaries considerately and explicitly? Again, that’s mine to do for myself. I am certainly feeling the strain of prolonged fatigue and day-to-day frustrations with pandemic life, and occasionally very poor self-care.

I write a bunch more very specific, petty, cross, bad-tempered, resentful words about small, petty, trivial humans-being-human crap. I delete it. I write a bunch more and delete that too – not because the words hold no truths, but because the truths they appear to hold are filtered through so much baggage and bullshit that the actual worthwhile truths are hidden, and I need a break from that, too. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I take a minute to look at things differently. I work on taking shit less personally, while also accepting that I have no control over how personally anyone else may take things, and being mindful that our individual experiences as individuals are quite separate, even as we’re “all in this together”. No two human beings ever really see the world quite the same way, and even in the moment, in a shared experience… and in a sense we each walk a very different path. Alone. That’s not a sorrowful thing, it’s just a thing. Maybe I can find my much-needed break somewhere within that understanding of separateness…

…I mean to say, maybe it’s not the circumstances weighing me down so much as my attachment to some element of them? A moment…and outcome… an expectation? Maybe a misplaced assumption? I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I let go of everything that is not this moment, now, me, here. This room. This text editor. This open window and the fence beyond, lit by the morning sunshine. Now.

I breathe, and focus on my breath. I let the slamming and banging of my partner doing housekeeping tasks on the other side of the house recede into the background, and listen to the sounds of rain falling through my headphones. I breathe and make room for gratitude – it’s no small thing to have a partner willing to do housekeeping, and eager to maintain a nice home, and good quality of life together. It’s helpful to have reminders on things I commonly forget or overlook, even though it can be uncomfortable, awkward, or embarrassing to need them. (It’s got to be uncomfortable to provide them, too.) I breathe and let go of baggage I’m lugging around that is to do with work; my last day is tomorrow. I let that go, too. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. I sit comfortably upright in my chair, and let my shoulders relax. The cold fresh air coming in through the open window already smells of spring. I breathe, inhaling deeply. I smile, exhaling my entire breath.

…These spreadsheets won’t update themselves. It’s already time to begin again.

*Moments later, my partner asks me to come take a look at what he’s gotten done. Spotless, beautifully organized kitchen, broad ready-to-go counter space for food prep. I feel appreciated and loved. He appears to have taken note of how I work in the kitchen, when I’m cooking, moving some things from one place to another, better-suited to my needs. I feel heard. I listen while he explains what the changes are, and why, and asks me to help out maintaining it and keeping things tidy. All reasonable. He asks that I explicitly ask for help if I am falling behind on housekeeping I expect to handle myself, and let him actually help me instead of trying to do it all. I suck at that – I want to do “all the things”, and demonstrate that I can… but who I am trying to prove that to? Is that even, ever, realistic? Doesn’t that approach also undermine our partnership by robbing him of the opportunity to work with me, alongside me, cooperatively? Together. It’s different than alone. lol I look around the kitchen again, and thank him for the work he’s done. I head back to the practical matter of work (as in “the job”) feeling very fortunate indeed…

I’m sipping my Sunday morning coffee in solitude. Best that I do so. I’m in a lot of pain after a long walk on a windy winter beach, yesterday, which, while it provided wonderful time to reflect and listen to my own thoughts, was also physically taxing. I’m definitely glad I wore base layers, too; it was chilly!!

Windy, rainy, cold, and the tide coming in. There’s no stopping the tide.

Things went seriously sideways Friday night, and Saturday’s walk on the beach was moody and bleak. It felt wholly necessary, but there was little joy in the moment. This saddens me, even now. It is, at this point, just something I’m adding to the recollection. I breathe, exhale, and let that go.

…I got some great pictures…

Friday might not have turned into the emotional shitstorm it did if I had been paying more attention… or… if I were altogether someone else, I suppose. My Traveling Partner woke in pain Friday morning, and was in an absolutely foul mood as a result (not unlike where I find myself this morning). He made a point of saying so, and was very kind and careful in our interactions all day, although he was cross and irritable. I finally ended my work day and … the whole delicate considerate assembled-with-care framework crumbled. I’m still sipping my first coffee, right now, this morning, and my brain is not yet entirely “on line”; I struggle to recall specifically what went wrong. Something I said, or my reaction to something he said, and suddenly we were lobbing raw emotions at each other in the form of angry words. I wept. We took turns shouting. We both ended up triggered – and triggering each other – and just fucking mired in our individual pain and heartache. To call it “unpleasant” seems insufficient. To make more of it than that seems simultaneously disrespectful of any underlying legitimate concerns that ought be addressed with love and consideration – but also seems likely to elevate those painful hours to something more important than what they were. Chaos fueled by emotions. Emotions that had less to do with the moments we found ourselves in than other moments, in other relationships, that left us scarred. Both unpleasant and unfair. How is it “unfair”? Isn’t it always unfair to ask love to sweep up the mess left behind by circumstances that had little, if any, actual love in them?

Friday morning became a painting, instead of an argument. 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas, untitled.

Yesterday was strained and awkward. This morning I woke up in pain, and found myself saying so, much in the same manner that he had on Friday morning. A cold chill rolls up my spine, and my mouth goes dry, and my anxiety spikes over fear that today will be another Friday, and end poorly. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I do it again. Then another breath. Followed by another. I keep at the breathing until the hinted-at-future-but-not-now feelings of anxiety recede. I definitely don’t need to invite or cultivate that shit.

I sit with my coffee this morning, thinking about my walk, my work, my relationships… I consider how my TBI affects the way I communicate, not just the part where I talk (a lot), or interrupt (too much), but also the part that is the step beyond listening; my ability to make sense of what I am hearing, and to correctly reply to what has actually been said. I do pretty well, generally, but… when I am tired, or in pain, or distracted, I’m not just “less good at that”, I’m pretty horrible – and when I look at that, and also consider the “performance pressure” I tend to feel that pushes me to answer any question very quickly, I see how easily this can go very wrong, leaving someone trying to have a conversation with me feeling perhaps I am not listening at all. It’s rough. It can go a bit like this:

“Did you hear from your friend about that painting?” someone asks.

“No.” I say, “Well, they texted me. I didn’t feel up to talking right then, so I said I would call back today after work,” I add, followed by “They did say they really like the painting, in their message to me.”

(no shit, a real conversation I had)

So… yeah. What the hell?? When I see it written down, I totally get why that would be not just incredibly frustrating to wade through to get a simple “Yes, they liked it.” It also tends to seem potentially … dishonest? Misleading? Manipulative? Crafty? Vague? Withholding? Dissembling? A whole bunch of adjectives could apply. It’s not actually about any of that, though. I started answering the question I was asked before I actually understood the question at all. Along the way, my brain mixed up “hear from” with “speak to” – similar but quite different – and entirely missed the point of the fucking question until I’d provided a bunch of utterly unsolicited other information. So… slow down? Fuck yes. Easy, right? Well… maybe? It’ll take practice. I’ll say very bluntly that I’ve had “reply immediately” literally beaten into me (first marriage was a domestic violence nightmare I’m lucky to have survived). It’s hard to change behaviors that were heavily reinforced with violence or trauma. It takes more work and practice and commitment and awareness and encouragement and kindness and support than I can describe. It can be done. My results vary, though, and every failure is heart-breaking for at least a moment of pure distilled disappointment with myself.

…This isn’t “all about me” though. This particular challenge is very specifically the sort that commonly affects the people interacting with me, most. I’m kind, honest, open, and well-intentioned, but I’ve also got PTSD… and I’ve got brain damage. That’s going to present a combinations of characteristics some people just aren’t going to be willing to deal with long-term. So far my Traveling Partner still chooses to share this complicated journey with me. I’m very fortunate, and very grateful. I know it isn’t easy.

Caution.

So, yesterday, I walked on the beach alone, reflecting on my challenges, my abilities, love, and life, and work, and gave some thought to life’s curriculum on the topics of boundaries, and of communication. I was missing my partner long before I noticed my knees were aching, and headed home when the rain began to fall heavily.

I find myself, now, bringing my thinking “back to basics”: breathing, listening deeply, my “Big 5” relationship values (Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Compassion, Openness), and the book my own beloved recommended to me, early in our relationship…

It’s hard to go wrong with good basics…

Yep. I am re-reading The Four Agreements, again. Sometimes beginning again is simply a step forward, with new thinking. Sometimes beginning again means a new commitment to something that is proven to work well, when applied consistently. Now there is a day ahead of me… I see sunshine through the window shade. The aquarium needs maintenance. There is housework to be done. In spite of aching knees, I’d enjoy a walk in the forest, now that the storm damage from the recent ice storm is cleared away. All of that, and Love to nurture besides… looks like a busy day ahead.

…I guess it’s time to begin again…