Archives for posts with tag: listening deeply

Weird day. Weird week. I think one of the most challenging things about learning to manage my mental health and emotional stability over time has been also holding on to an understanding that I can do 100% of my best, make a ton of progress, gain resilience and emotional intelligence as an individual – and still struggle enormously in the context of any one relationship with another human being (who is on their own journey, having their own experience). It’s that parenthetical that gives it away, right? We’re each walking our own hard mile. Each having our own experience. It won’t matter much however much self-healing and emotional recovery from trauma I do in some relationships; that other person’s own pain and trauma is going to have a lot to say about how much we’re able to understand and enjoy each other. Sometimes that sucks. It’s certainly complicated. I can’t do much about another person’s journey besides doing my best to be a considerate fellow traveler.

I sit with that for a minute. Grateful to come as far as I have. Frustrated when it is clear that some days, in some interactions, the “us” is affected by elements outside my direct control. Yesterday (was it only yesterday? I check my email for confirmation, yep, yesterday), I had a seriously difficult day. Some of it was me. Physical pain sucks ass. Anxiety is a motherfucker. Expectations can throw a wrench into the best machinery and shut things down until the details of a shared understanding emerge. At the end of the day, yesterday, I took a minute to look at stats on this blog; I couldn’t recall if I had posted and if I had, whether I was just bitching pointlessly and creating new drama from old drama. Oddly, a different post had been linked as one that was viewed, and since I find it interesting where the curiosity of folks who read my blog may take them, I clicked the link to see what I had been writing about that day

…You may recall that I’ve said I write for myself, as a way of reaching out to myself with hopeful reminders, and useful tips that I may one day lose track of…? Yeah, this was one of those lovely moments of serendipity, and the blog post that was linked seemed almost to speak directly to me now:

Don’t sit there being miserable, filled with frustrated rage, stalled, wounded, or oppressed. Choose something different… and yeah, maybe even if that means walking away from everything you have chosen before, to choose differently, with greater wisdom, with more self-reflection, with greater awareness, and more commitment to the person you most want to be.

…Maybe you need to hear this…? You did not “ruin everything”. You are not “a complete fuck up”. You are not “the reason all of this went wrong”. You are neither master of the universe nor the single cause of all the world’s ills. You just aren’t. You aren’t that significant, actually. Neither are you unimportant. You matter. You just aren’t to blame for every fucking thing. Ever. Let that shit go? If nothing else changes, today, in this moment, you can choose to let  that shit go…

…Yeah. Wow. A bit on the nose, and I really really needed to hear that – and I needed most to hear it from me. I’m pretty fucking hard on myself, sometimes. Far more so than is necessary. Too often I internalize someone else’s emotional experience, take it completely personally, getting more hurt and more angry and more painfully aware that they (may) be taking something I’ve said or done quite personally themselves…without seeing my own error. Messy. Messy…human…and fairly fucking stupid. I mean…yeah. Easy mistake to make, and once a human primate is convinced that someone has wronged them, it’s fucking hard as hell to get them to walk that back and reflect on the part they played themselves in how things went sideways. I’m not pointing fingers here – I’m talking about me. Why would I be breaking this down if it were actually about what some other person did or said? The most I can do about that is bitch about it. If I focus my thoughts on my own words and actions, and reflect on the differences between those and what I might expect from the woman I most want to be, I may be able to understand myself more deeply – and do better.

…Let’s be super clear on an important detail, though; I’m not trying to be the best version of me that anyone else has in mind. I just want to be the best version of me that I can, myself, envision. She’s probably still not “perfect” – and I’m quite certain some of the things I like most about her won’t at all be what anyone else wishes I would become. I’m okay with that. It’s me that I have to satisfy. When I look back on this life, the only scorecard that counts is the one in my own hand. “Was I the best person I could be? Did I make time for the people I love? Did I do some good in the world? Was I the woman I most want to be?”

…Moving on…

I woke this morning wanting to paint. I finally got around to it shortly after 2 p.m. My Traveling Partner wanted to hang out, and our mortal time together is too brief, so I put off painting to hang out. I’m not sure that was 100% my best decision-making… I tend to fall short on self-care first, and where I currently am mental/emotional health-wise, I need this time with a canvas in front of me and a brush in my hand. Fuck I love that guy, though, and he’s got his own stress to wade through. I definitely want to be there to give him the support he needs when he needs it. As individuals we are so… similar and also so different, it’s easy to get taken-over by each other’s emotions. We are definitely at very different “mile markers” on our journey, and neither one of us has a map. Complicated. There are verbs involved.

My head is full of inspiration, sitting here in my studio. My painting playlist is loaded up and my ears are filled with yet another layer of inspiration. In spite of the stress of the week that is ending, I feel hopeful and grateful. It’s a good life, in spite of my challenges. I’m fortunate to be where I am in life these days. I’m aware of how fleeting good fortune can be and I do my best to stay humble and to prepare for whatever may lie ahead on life’s journey. For me, though, hope and joy and love and gratitude are rarely the well-spring of my artistic inspiration; these feels are so much more than enough on their own. It’s the hard stuff, the darker stuff, the hurts, the trauma, the tedium, the tears, the unexpressed anger that so often push me to my studio. Funny… how is it those are the things that seem so hard to express “appropriately”? Canvas and paint = no censorship, no excuses, no holding back. Art doesn’t have to worry much about being polite in good company, or taking care not to hurt the feelings of others. It can just be what it is. Strangely, even knowing this about myself, what hit the canvas today, so far, has been very much about this tiny hopeful flame that ignited within me very recently. It’s complicated (what isn’t?). I don’t know quite what sparked it, and I very much don’t want to extinguish it. So… I tend “my hearth” and look after my heart, and I take some time to put on canvas what I can’t put into words so easily.

…She’s not finished yet…I don’t know what to expect from her once she is. She’s a late addition to a series I’ve been painting for awhile. You get to see her “first” (well, after my Traveling Partner, who looked in on my progress a few minutes ago from the shores of his own journey).

“Every Dawn a Beginning” 12″ x 12″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, glitter, and resin details. 2022

It’s time to begin again. Again. May there ever be a new beginning.

…Oh, but it’s gone now. Sorry. Bit of a teaser. Too click-bait-y? That’s on me. Cold coffee and a bit of wait time; we have a houseguest coming (my Traveling Partner’s son, on vacation). Should be fun, but I am admittedly distracted by the nagging thought that there is (still) another task or bit of housekeeping that could be done before our guest arrives… The feeling is an illusion; the essentials are handled and the house looks tidy and welcoming. The reality of it, though, is there is (nearly) always more that could be done to improve one’s quality of life in some small way.

…My eye lands on an “extra” coffee cup sitting on my desk; it could have made it into the dishwasher. I overlooked it.

…I suddenly remember that I’d said I would weed under the deck (definitely needs it) but until just now, I’d forgotten that.

…This nagging headache could use some mitigation, maybe some acetaminophen or ibuprofen. I can pretend that will help, until maybe I forget I have a headache, and it eases a bit?

…I had made a really well-crafted list of things I wanted to … was it “do”? or… specifically write about? paint? …fuck… Well, at least it is a Saturday. (It is a Saturday, isn’t it?? I pause to check. It is. I could trust myself more, I guess.)

…A couple of weeks to the new job…

…There are quite a few local trails and small parks I have not yet visited. This could be a good time for that. I remember, too, that my partner and his son have been planning to camp for a few days while he visits. When (if?) they do, it will be the first time since we moved here (more than two years ago, now) that I’ve had the house to myself for more than a couple hours (no exaggeration). I’ll enjoy the solo time at home. I generally have to go somewhere for that luxury.

My Traveling Partner sticks his head into the studio (again). He’s “grabbing little moments” as often as he thinks to, before our guest arrives. I love that he cares to do so. Hard to focus or concentrate, though. lol I am struggling to write coherent complete thoughts or find meaning in words.

…Relationships are important, and rejection is painful. Easier to let go of the writing for now. I can begin again later. 🙂

I queue up my favorite Portishead + Morphine playlist… reminders that “this too shall pass – or maybe not, but fuck, it’s life, right?” It’s enough to keep me engaged in the work in front of me, honey-smooth and mellow, low notes and minor chords, and the occasional poignant moment in the background. An Rx solution to “take the edge off” – not enough to put the pain to rest completely, but frankly, I wouldn’t be comfortable with coming so close to shutting down my ability to think and work and write in the middle of a work day.

Weird world. Chaos and pain and anger everywhere. Hate. Killings. More killings after that. Blood in the streets. What a strange and terrible time to be alive – but it’s not as if we get a choice; we’re born into the world as it is. Nothing more.

I take a breath, and exhale. I go looking for something more uplifting to listen to in the background. I don’t have anything in mind aside from being distracted from my personal experience of subjective pain, and the very ongoing need to manage that. It’s a good track for data entry, and I pull my shoulders up, straightening my spine. I don’t “feel any better”, but I know “good posture” results in “more up time”. I feel a certain subtle resentment over turns of phrase that conflate human beings with machinery… I am not a machine. Just this fleshy meat sack wrapped around a consciousness. Humbling. Limited.

It’s been an amazing (delightful) few days. I’m not sure what the “secret sauce” has been. My Traveling Partner has been in the shop (a lot) working on projects (several for me), and I’ve been enjoying sharing some of that time, and helping where I easily can. The quality of life lift that results his handiwork is more than pleasant or convenient; I feel very loved. Every time he finishes some project that is the result of some stray “I wish I had a…” or “it would be cool if this would…” kind of remark, I feel heard and understood. It’s special. I feel respected and cared for.

A new cutting board, made for me.

…Then, in some unexpected moment, he’ll snarl at me out of frustration or annoyance over something or another, and I am reminded how human we actually both are. lol Which is to say, “very”. Very human, indeed. Most of the time I let those moments go. Sometimes I laugh with him over it. Sometimes I cry. (Yeah, very human.) Those sorts of moments are more common when one of us is in pain. Pain shrinks our world, pulls our focus inward, and we lose perspective.

My Traveling Partner comes in to share with me his latest finished work; lovely earrings, laser cut from wood. They delight me. (Earrings are the only jewelry I commonly wear, and I do love a fun new pair of earrings!)

Partnership has highs and lows. Pain comes and goes. There’s this moment, now, and very little else has to grab my attention “right now”. It’s okay to take a breath, and begin again.

I’m still “work in progress” as a human primate. I’m aware of that. Lots of character – lots of “character flaws”. Sharp as hell… dumb as fuck. Filled with good intentions, infused with vision, sparked by inspiration, and eager to exert my will to create the life I most want to live… mostly. I’m also capable of unreasonable anger, making incorrect assumptions and poor decisions, and sometimes barely have the will to lift my hand to take a drink of water when I’m thirsty.

Sometimes I get wrapped up in a moment, and without realizing I’ve done so, I get lost in someone else’s emotional experience, vacillating between wanting to “solve the problem” and wanting to be emotionally supported – over an experience that isn’t even my own. I forget that I’m a separate person, and put effort into “centering myself” and my experience, and completely lose any comprehension that someone else has actually come to me for support. Not particularly helpful, and definitely unpleasant for that other person, who probably feels not only unsupported, but also regretful that they ever brought whatever it was to me in the first place.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

Today my Traveling Partner came to me, frustrated, angry with a project going wrong, dealing with the challenge of the day. I managed – I think – to listen. To be available and present. To hear him out without trying to solve the problem (he did not ask me to solve the problem, just to listen). My only assertion, beyond sufficient response to ensure he knew I was listening (in spite of the busy workday just over my shoulder), was to acknowledge his obvious frustration, and to share that I was sorry I did not have some immediate solution I could offer (at all). He thanked me for listening. He went on with his day.

This was, for me, still a very deeply emotional experience – but it wasn’t mine. It was his. The intensity of the emotions I was feeling? A mixture of his emotions being shared, and my PTSD shrieking in my consciousness that intense negative emotion from a male partner is dangerous – “fix it, fix it NOW, or get out! Get away! Danger!” Today, I pushed my fearful consciousness into the background long enough to really listen and be there for my aggravated partner. I stayed present and engaged, in spite of his obvious emotion. It was hard. This is one of the most difficult things I ever have to do, even when my partner’s emotions have nothing to do with me or something I’ve done/not done – in spite of requiring only as much physical effort as it takes to not run away. (It surprises me how much physical effort that does take, though.)

I got back to work when he walked away. My mind still struggles to let it go and really move on. There’s this “sensation in my spine” that tickles my awareness with a lingering sense of urgency and restlessness. I know these things will pass. I keep “wanting to help” – in spite of my absolute lack of potential do so in this particular circumstance. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I sit with the awareness that my desire to help is most definitely built on a foundation of terror; my PTSD reminds me of all the things that could follow, leftovers from another life and a very different relationship. Another breath. This is not that life. Not that relationship. I hear music in the other room, and the sounds of my Traveling Partner working.

Men have emotional lives. Men need to talk about their feelings (just as anyone else might need to do). It’s okay to listen – really listen. Be there. In the abstract, I know this, and it is “so obvious”. In the moment I’m actually called upon to be there, listening, it’s still sometimes quite terrifying. I sip my tea – made for me with such love, earlier this morning, by this human being who puts so much heart into listening when I need to talk. I’ve got a lot to learn about love, and I’m not surprised that there are so many opportunities to practice. This tea is pretty sweet, and I am pleased to “do more/better”, this time, even though it feels a bit as if I’ve done nothing much at all. I see the progress. I let myself sit with that awhile, reflecting on the moment over this nice cup of tea. Soon enough, it’ll be time to begin again.

…I wonder how things are going now? I will fearlessly check on things when I take my next break…

Here it is, another holiday season. 🙂 Still got this pandemic going on, although it’s clear that many folks are sort of just pretending that it doesn’t exist (which is frankly a bit terrifying, and the lack of basic consideration involved there is disheartening). “The world” seems a bit askew, but I’m not really certain that there is legitimately more (or potentially actually less) violence going on “out there” (none at all in here)… it definitely seems so. The news is filled with an alarming number of articles alerting us all of a huge assortment of violent events, from the very peculiar outbursts from adults on aircraft to truly heinous reprehensible acts of terror and gun violence in schools and on our streets. The long term solutions are complex – but achievable, if we were to bother with them as a society. The short term solution is easier; change the channel. Turn off the news. Log off of social media. Be here. Now. (This does assume that your “here” is safe and quiet and calm… which sometimes feels like a very privileged position to be in, these days. Yeah…. turn off the fucking news for awhile.)

I am sipping this tasty mocha I made for myself after running a quick errand. I’m feeling a bit run down and “off” – I had my seasonal flu shot and my Covid booster (both) yesterday. I’m not ill, just… feelin’ it. lol This mocha, though, is super tasty, and I’m delighted with it, as much because I made it for myself as for the taste of it. 🙂 Self-care feels pretty nice. What are you doing for you? So much effort, and heart, and time goes into these holidays – it’s important to take care of yourself. Life is an endurance race, not a sprint. 😀

I had an idea before I sat down here… thought I’d write about this or that, things that have been on my mind, vexing details of life, how to do this or that in a way that would be more productive, useful, or… something. Those ideas faded when I looked into my Traveling Partners eyes after arriving home, and feeling his embrace. lol I thought then, perhaps, that I would write about love in some way… it’s not always easy to love skillfully, and my own awareness of that halted me; what do I even know about that? I’m a student of love, still learning the basics. 🙂 I’m feeling more inspired to live and to love than to write about either – and I surely need practice at both. lol

I load my favorite playlist. I don’t sort it very often, and listening to it “takes me back in time” in an interesting way. Leave it on long enough (it’s many hours of music) and it rolls the clock back by years, through complicated times, through memories of life and love, the beats a steady reminder that time passes, and that our joys are fleeting – but they live on in our memories, when we allow it. It’s too easy to focus on the shit that has made us most miserable over the years, and too easy to forget all the good times. This particular playlist hints at the miseries now and then, but mostly it’s a merry romp through the good times, and a celebration of joy. I mean… if you like dance music, and videos. lol 😀 (Not all of these tracks are what I’d call “great art” – some of them are just “catchy tunes”, others are amazing works of video art supporting music that maybe isn’t so impressive, and others that it’s the music that gets my attention, and a few with no video at all, just happens that I found the track on YouTube.) Enjoy. Merry Giftmas in advance, and thank you for continuing to read my writing. 🙂 I’m glad you’re here.

My holiday earrings tinkle and jangle with the turn of my head, as my Traveling Partner walks by. G’damn, all these years and I still absolutely adore him. I tell myself that I’ll write more tomorrow, maybe… 🙂