Archives for posts with tag: listening deeply

It’s a good morning. It was a lovely weekend. There’s not much else to say about either of those things. πŸ™‚ I miss my Traveling Partner so much this morning; the weekend was delightful, romantic, connected, and satisfying. I sit here smiling to have a partnership with someone of such heart, intelligence, compassion, and competence… who loves me in return. Pretty splendid. πŸ™‚

We didn’t just fall into this Love, of course; we built it. We built it on choices, using values, and verbs, and good communication. We treat each other well. We support each other. We set and manage our boundaries, each of us, and we each respect the other’s. We take delight in each other’s joy – even when we aren’t sharing it, even when it isn’t about us, even when we “don’t get it”; it matters most that the other person feels something so beautiful. We recognize they are having their own experience, and value each other’s agency as individuals. We nurture each other, and support each other’s goals, and each other’s work. Authenticity. Real respect. Reciprocity. Consideration. Compassion. Openness.

My “Big 5” values became most clear to me as I learned to understand what makes this particular relationship so profoundly good compared to others I’ve had. Respect, reciprocity, consideration, compassion, and openness are my Big 5 relationship values. I (now) build all of my relationships on a foundation that rests on these values. Why not? They are strong and steady, and foster solidly good relationships. Notice that “trust” isn’t there? Yeah… I am not convinced that “trust” is a strong value on which to build human relationships, personally. Honesty, sure, “trust? Not so much. I often hear tales of hurt, deceit, and woe, in which lost trust, or misplaced trust, or a lack of trust is a feature, and people somehow manage to feel fairly terrible that something they could have seen coming caught them by surprise. I’d prefer to know people, to see them as honestly as I can as who they actually are, based on behavior they actually provide, every day, as sample material. I don’t find it helpful to require people to affirm they are something other than they are; it only sets me up to be surprised and injured, when they turn out to be the person they have been all along. Better to see them clearly, accept them as they are, risks and flaws and all – and work to mitigate the potential harms in other ways, or walk on. For example: a friend known to gossip? Yeah… don’t share information or secrets with that person (and if they are doing you harm, are they a friend, in fact?). That’s a very simplified example, but it works with all sorts of character flaws.

Asking people to be someone they are not, however well-intended, then staying around to bear the consequences every time they disappoint us, or treat us badly, is one of the stupidest relationship models ever, of always (or so it seems to me). Choosing relationships with people who don’t share your values is fraught with complications and predictable painful moments. Sure, you can ask for change, demand it, even expect it; but the change is theirs to choose or to make. We make better choices when we are honest with ourselves about the people around us. Seeing them honestly, and recognizing who they are for real, without talking ourselves into anything, is a great beginning. I value authenticity… and real is still real if someone is really out of step with my values, but I don’t choose them for a partnership, or, maybe, any association at all, so there is real value in seeing people as they are as much as possible. If, for example, I know someone builds their life on deceit – why would I ever choose to become entangled with them romantically, however pretty they are, or funny, or willing to say nice words to me? Me, personally, I would not. It just doesn’t make sense to do that. I get the fuck out of there, fast, if it seems I have become involved with someone who’s relationship values, themselves, are so out of step with mine as to hold potential for emotional or physical injury. At least… I do now. It took practice, and a lot of self-reflection, and there were verbs involved.Β  πŸ™‚

The weekend with my Traveling Partner contrasted sharply with goings on in other lives, shared with me while catching up with this friend, or that one. Other People’s Drama. I listen. I can’t say I “understand”, exactly; I choose differently. I mean… I “get it”. I’ve been there. I’ve been the one hurt by lost trust… in the context of a relationship in which “trust” was a soap-bubble built on a fantasy that existed only in my head, in a relationship wherein a simple honest look around me would have told me the truth about all the lies. lol Yeah. I’m laughing. I’m laughing because crying about it is unproductive. Don’t like being lied to? Don’t make relationships with people willing to lie to you. Begging for their honesty and offering them your trust is… well, it’s what they’re counting on, because they are likely gonna lie to you, if that’s their way. Just saying. That’s how character works; people are who they are, based on the values they hold, themselves. Only. What they say to other people about their values is not relevant to the values they actually hold. The honesty I know I need to be able to “trust” most is my own. πŸ˜€

Not my circus, not my monkey. πŸ™‚

This weekend, particularly, was super low drama; my partner and I enjoyed each other. Drama stayed outside our small world with each other. although there was plenty out there. It was a lovely break to share. Weekends do end, though… and… look at the time! It’s already time to begin again…

…You can too. You have choices. There are verbs involved. You can start again now – or any time. You’ll probably need practice; your results may vary. Choose wisely – you matter. πŸ˜‰

 

I often think of life as a metaphorical garden. (Isn’t it?)

I sometimes stray down the path without tending the garden.

The healthy tilth is a good starting point; planting seeds in crags and rocks may not yield a generous crop of fruits, vegetables, or flowers. Understanding what is fertile ground, and how to prepare ground for planting has value.

Composting scraps and garden waste skillfully results in more fertile soil… but which scraps are suitable, and which will ruin the compost? Not all that is waste or scrap is worth keeping.

Lush and beautiful, chosen with care. We reap what we sow, and how we tend our garden matters.

Choosing seeds and plants with care, understanding the climate, and the seasons, locally, in my own garden, really matters; however fertile the soil, planting something that can’t thrive in my climate puts my garden at a disadvantage.

A weed in one context may be a crop in another.

Taking care, every day, to nurture my garden, to fertilize when needed, to water, to cut back spent blooms, to weed out noxious or invasive intruders that consume resources, but yield nothing, matters greatly over time. If I am not present, some plants may thrive, willy-nilly, coincidental to the luck of the rainfall and the weather, but the outcome is left to chance – other plants will wither and die. My harvest may not be plentiful. My blooming season limited.

My roses suffer my lack of attention; this is true of most things that require attention.

Self-care works very much in this same way. I don’t suppose I need to spell it all out more factually – if you already keep a garden, you already get it. πŸ™‚

My results vary, as does the weather.

I haven’t been home much, lately. Most weekends I am away. I travel to see my Traveling Partner, catching up with him wherever he is. I travel to see friends. I travel for this or that event or festival. I travel on a whim. I catch myself yearning to be at home, in my own garden…

…Yes, it’s a metaphor. πŸ™‚

This weekend I am at home. I am in my own garden, tending it with care, making up for lost time, present, and appreciating this moment, right here. It’s enough to be here, now, and there is no need or time for self-criticism, or what-ifs, or if-onlys. This is now, and now is enough, and I am here, enjoying it with the woman in the mirror – who has been missing this quiet place, and time.

Be present. See wonders. Experience the moment, fully.

The morning started slowly, and auspiciously enough; I slept in. I woke gently in the twilight of a new day, the room turning light in spite of the curtains, as day broke. I got up. Showered. Found my feet carrying me toward the car as soon as I was dressed. Coffee-to-Go and a breakfast sandwich on a hilltop looking out across the countryside, with a view of Mt Hood beyond. Bare feet. Damp grass. Contentment. No firm plan, and coffee finished, I found my way to the farmer’s market, then heading home with fresh local strawberries, fully ripe – the sort one never finds in a grocery store. The scent fills the car.

I arrive home, smiling so hard my face hurt, in spite of the peculiarly moody dark sky, threatening imminent rain (that has only now started to fall, some hours later). I make a Turkish coffee, melt some chocolate, and feast on strawberries dipped in warm chocolate, sipping coffee, in my garden. I raise my cup cheerily at a robin who joins me, watching me from the deck rail. There is work to do in my garden, metaphorical or otherwise, and I have been away far too much for my own good. I finish my coffee, then finish the spring planting, finish the weeding, finish the watering, just in time to head indoors before the rain comes. I leave a strawberry, fat, juicy, and fully ripe, on the deck rail… in case of visitors. πŸ™‚

Rain is definitely coming.

Inside, my metaphorical life-garden greets me, and here too there is work to be done. Untidiness has crept in, a corner here, a stack of paperwork over there, a piece of gear that was not put away, a book askew from all the rest, a stray sock left where it fell, unnoticed, and so much laundry that very much wants to be put away… I’m still smiling. It’s a good day to begin again. πŸ™‚

Tuesday it was Kate Spade. This morning, I read that Anthony Bourdain has also taken his own life. I pause for a moment to consider the engaging chef whose books and television shows entertained and educated me. I enjoyed his wit. The headline “Anthony Bourdain Has Died” didn’t prepare me for the further information regarding his suicide. There’s a certain different ache in my soul when I read of suicide…

…I know what despair feels like.

Well, shit. It’s a scary, seriously frightening and frustrating world these days. I get feeling overwhelmed by despair. Some days it is hard not to. We will see, for days to come, articles about suicide help lines, and some analyses of what drives people to take their own lives. There will be salacious gossip about the lives of the fallen. Someone will share a recent article about the high rate of senior or veteran suicides. Most of the people who read those will shake their heads, and turn away, unaware someone dear to them is on the brink of making that major “life” decision.

Connect with your loved ones, your friends, associates, and coworkers. Be sure to mention that they matter to you in an authentic way, and be real about it. It’s not about hyperbole and fake compliments, and it isn’t necessary to use superlatives. Easier to straight up give voice to that thing they do that you enjoy, or count on, or appreciate, or wish you did as well – or, fucking hell, just have lunch, or coffee – make time. Be present. Don’t rush those connected social moments; they are what matter most in our days. There’s no knowing when someone may choose to check out, and while you may not be able to change their mind about it, you can, at least, enjoy who they are while they are here.

On the other side of the equation, please consider sticking around awhile? If you’re considering a firm end to the chaos, and stress, and trauma, and struggle, and despair… please, just for a moment, consider that there may be other things you have yet to try. There may be practices that improve your experience, even if they don’t change the entire world, itself. Incremental change takes time – please give yourself some. Someone, I promise you, will miss you if you go.

I stayed. There are a lot of verbs involved, but it has been, very much, worth it to have stayed. I’ll go on with that, with staying around I mean, because things got better. Things continue to get better. I can’t promise that for you, but I can assure you that choosing change results in changes, so long as you do the verbs. πŸ™‚ Your results may (will) vary, and the changes you choose in life may be somewhat askew from the changes you subsequently find unfolding around you, but change is. Despair isn’t particularly sustainable, it’s just annoyingly difficult to see through when we’re feeling it.

There’s one irksome thing about suicide that never fails to leave me feeling bereft and discontent; I don’t know why. No, I mean… I don’t know why. That’s what leaves me feeling so bereft and discontent. I’m not sure there’s any solid “why” to suicide. Surely, people have their reasons. Many leave a note behind, but often those are not public, and even when they are public, they leave so much left unexplained – as if I think there is, or should be, a reasonable explanation when despair overtakes someone. Despair is shitty enough to be its own reason.

One more time, I let the “why?” go, and pause for a moment to say good-bye to a fallen soul. I pause for regret. I pause to appreciate, to mourn, to find personal solace after a time. I pause to be aware I am, myself, okay right now… as though it could creep up on me, and take me by surprise, myself…

…Then I begin again.

We can so easily do “society” and “social contract” and “social network” better than we do. We have the best possible raw materials for it; the greatness among us. Have you ever sat in the company of your smartest, wittiest, most competent friends, and wondered… “how did the world get hereΒ with these people in it?” I have. I did a bit of that yesterday, enjoying deep conversation, meaningful, topical, varied, insightful – with people of experience, heart, intellect, and will to drive change. How did we fucking get here??

The day was well-spent in the company of long-time friends of great intellect and consideration. We sat outdoors late into the evening, at a cafe, mostly drinking water and talking. Occasionally someone would order something (it’s the proper thing to do). We sat down around 3 pm, my good friend The Author and I. Later another friend joined us, and he and I continued our conversation for hours – The Author had an errand to run elsewhere, leaving us behind to catch up on old times and find out more about these people we had become over the years. The Author returned some time later, and we were all joined by still another old friend. We talked into the twilight and beyond the fall of darkness. We could have saved the world last night, if anyone else had cared to get on board. lol It’s the way of things; there really are people who know how, truly, to “save the world”, unfortunately for the world, the rest of humanity has no intention of following a wise plan. Ever. Too busy being greedy, self-serving, cruel, and destructive. Sad really – we’re a pretty cool species, otherwise.

I fell asleep still dressed, exhausted by a day in the blazing sunshine (no sun burn, yay!!), filled with visiting friends, and grand adventure. I woke with the earliest hint of dawn, and returned to sleep. I woke a bit later, and went back to sleep again. No reason to get up super early… I slept in.

I woke gently some time into the morning, but the highway beyond the motel was still quiet. Yoga on a rock. A cool refreshing shower. An icy coffee, creamy and rather too sweet, full of ice crystals like an unexpected frappe… the tiny fridge is set much too cold. LOL Refreshing.

The Author has to try to run his errand again this morning, early. I opted to stay behind (though I now wonder why). The morning is gentle and lazy, and easy on my spirit. I watch the sun continue to rise, feeling the cool morning breezes fill this odd place. I am barefooted. Relaxed. Contemplating a second coffee while I half-wait to hear from friends about breakfast, or brunch, or hanging out. There is a party, later, and it isn’t at all about me. More friends to connect with, to hang out with, more children to meet before they stop being children anymore.

It’s a beautiful morning. We didn’t save the world last night, maybe we’ll get to it today? It’s a good day to save the world. If we all worked together we could manage it – by relying on the greatness among us. There is so much of it. What about you? Are you the person you most want to be? Are you making the world a tiny bit better every day you live, simply by being who you are? If not – why not? These are important extra credit test questions on the final exam in life’s curriculum. Yeah, it’s a test. All of it. Are you going to get a passing score?

It’s an open book test. It’s time to begin again. πŸ˜‰

Eventually, there comes a time when “forgiveness” comes up in many discussions of past pain or trauma (even very recent pain and trauma, honestly). Sometimes it comes in the form of someone seeking forgiveness, other times it comes in the form of someone wondering if providing forgiveness is overdue… or possible at all.

Forgiving someone for something they have done to hurt us isn’t about the person who hurt us, at all. That’s an important detail we sometimes forget (as do seekers of forgiveness). So… there’s that.

Forgiving someone for hurting me has been a peculiarly tender and personal thing to learn to do. It took me a while to figure it out; so often the conversation around forgiveness has seemed to center on the actions being forgiven, or the person, and it’s actually not at all about any of that. Forgiveness is letting go our attachment to pain – that deep down personal aggrieved attachment to feeling wounded, and carrying the anger associated with that hurt. Forgiving is the process of letting that go, and moving on, ourselves.

You know what forgiving someone is not? It’s not permission to repeat that hurtful behavior. It’s also not any sort of agreement to continue inviting that person into our life to continue a shared journey as though there had never been any hurt. In fact – forgiving someone has nothing at all to do with the nuts and bolts and practical details of whether they are a part of our life ever again at all. Forgiving someone else is a way of allowing ourselves to move forward from a painful moment.

I’ve long ago forgiven my first husband for the injuries and scars that still sometimes hold me back, or at least affect my day-to-day experience of health. I’ve forgiven my second long-term partner, now also an ex, for the prolonged slide into learned helplessness and chronic frustration that come from being gas-lighted and manipulated for years. I’ve forgiven childhood enemies for their transgressions, and adults more recently who’ve mistreated me in one way or another, over time. Learning to forgive became almost easy once I understood that to do so did not require me to also invite people back into my life to repeat those behaviors – there is no expectation or requirement to do so at all.Β I can forgive, and move on with my life, allowing them to move on with theirs.

Forgiveness is powerful. I highly recommend it as a practice. I also, and without conflict or contradiction, highly recommend maintaining – and enforcing – healthy boundaries. Respect your own boundaries, respect the boundaries of others, and yes, even when you’ve forgiven someone. Non-negotiable relationship deal-breakers remain non-negotiable, and also deal-breaking, even in the face of “forgiveness”. That’s totally correct and appropriate. That’s proper. Having forgiven my first husband for his violence in no way suggests or requires that I allow him back into my life. πŸ™‚ Forgiving him is for me, not for him.

When people seek forgiveness from us, the intention often seems to be to re-ingratiate themselves in our favor, as though “all is forgiven” also means “do over” and “no harm done”. That seeking suggests that the forgiveness is somehow about the person who has transgressed – but it isn’t, at all. I understand wanting to be forgiven; it sucks to ache with the pain of having hurt someone we care for. Too bad. It’s actually supposed to hurt if we hurt someone or treat them poorly; to remind us to do better, and to nudge us into making it right. Being forgiven doesn’t get someone off the hook for having to make amends, or somehow right our wrongs, and we’re mistaken if we assume that it does.

Being forgiven does not wind back the clock as though what was forgiven never happened. Relationships end on the backs of some pretty heinous deal-breaking words and actions – they should. Forgiving someone for those words or actions in no way suggests continuing the shitty relationship is going to be a thing, or that somehow the pain of what went down will just stop existing. We are each accountable for our actions. We face consequences – real consequences – for our choices, for our words, for our behavior, and whether or not we are forgiven by someone we’ve hurt, this is true.

I spent some time reflecting on forgiveness this weekend, having overheard a remark to the effect that “he’s not going to forgive me this time…” from a woman aware she chronically and repeatedly abuses her mate. I was astonished at the phrasing, which suggested she did not at all understand that the forgiving of her shitty behavior is not in any way related to whether or not the relationship itself would, or should, continue. It got me wondering about forgiveness, generally, and boundaries, and I found myself looking over past moments, myself, that I had forgiven. I felt pretty relieved that forgiveness has been so hard to learn, for me; the result has been that it did not become the kind of leverage that could be used to get me to “stay with a sinking ship” or “run back into a burning building”.

Here’s a thing that ranklesΒ me about that overheard remark; it also suggests that the speaker does not understand accepting forgiveness. Understanding that one has been forgiven requires a change in behavior – because accepting forgiveness implicitly acknowledges the wrongdoing. Once we know we have wronged someone, there is an obligation to change the behavior. No change? Well…um… why the fuck would a reasonable person expect that relationship to continue?? Furthermore, continued poor behavior, once forgiven, and having been acknowledged as poor (and undesirable) behavior – is willful. Yep. I said it and I mean it; if you know it’s unwelcome behavior, you’ve previously expressed regret for it, previously been forgiven for it, and you continue that behavior? You are deliberately, willfully, and yes on purpose,Β doing this hurtful thing. Seeking further forgiveness for the same shit is fairly sick, very manipulative, and in the face of chronic behavior, just a way of holding back that person you are hurting from seeking healthier relationships, and keeping them mired in bullshit with you. Particularly since the forgiveness isn’t about you. lol

For those faced with forgiving someone yet again for the same old same old, maybe also consider getting off that fucking hamster wheel at some point. Forgive, yes, but damn – respect your own boundaries, and be prepared to follow through on your non-negotiable deal-breakers. It’s okay to do that – and more to the point, it’s healthier to be free of abusive relationships than it is to attempt to “fix” them in the face of chronic mistreatment. Forgiveness is not tantamount to permission, or an agreement to ignore the damage done. πŸ˜‰

It’s a whole new day. It’s a grand one to forgive old pain! It’s also an excellent day to stand strong on your resolve to treat yourself well, and to respect your own boundaries. It’s a lovely day to begin again. πŸ™‚