Archives for posts with tag: living authentically

Heat wave. Already hot this morning. Slept well, woke refreshed. Felt… content. Balanced. Merry…


Off to a good start on a hot day. Things slide sideways, slipping gently, somehow inevitably tilting toward irritation in spite of a great starting point. Best efforts. Humans being human.

I put aside my coffee and go for a walk before the heat of the day might stop me, or just make the experience miserable.

A favorite park has finally re-opened after all the damage during that last winter storm.

Muggy warm air filled with the sound of mowers, small aircraft taking off from the nearby municipal airport, and swarming insects seemed to cling to me as I walked across the parking lot to the start of the one open trail. It doesn’t really go far enough to satisfy the need, but it has been a long while and I have missed this place. I walk the trail twice. I take note of the wild roses in bloom – there look to be three distinct species growing in this wooded area. I spot ripe thimbleberries, but none within reach – too fragile for commercial agriculture, they are a rare special treat, tiny, soft, and mild. The birds will get most of them. Piles of cut up trees give some insight into how much damage the storm caused. Every few feet, there’s a pile of logs and branches on either side of the trail. The forest is full of huckleberry bushes, but I don’t see flowers or berries, yet. On my way back down, before my second walk of the trail, I realize I haven’t stopped at a favorite bench… I never saw it! Weird… I begin to really look for that thing, that expected thing, as I head back up the trail. My focus results in missing other details. Something more to think about.

Oh. Reality is what it is. Expectations are shit we made up, and cling to.

It was a lovely morning for walking, in spite of the heat. In spite of the changes all around me. In spite of a less than picture-perfect lovely summer morning. Expectations and assumptions can so quickly undermine a potentially lovely experience. I mean… I even know that. It still trips me up more often than I care to count.

I put on some music. Sip my rather delicious iced coffee – I’ve been planning this iced coffee on a hot summer morning for days. Really looking forward to this moment. I made coffee ice cubes to go in it. I sip it thoughtfully, savoring the moment that is, instead of yearning for another. It may not be what I expected, but it’s quite pleasant, and that’s enough. Maybe I’ll finish it on the deck…

My Traveling Partner and I both hurt today. Pain sucks. Aging is a mixed bag of qualities, and pain is just one of many experiences… We both try to avoid taking it personally, or lashing out at each other in a short-tempered moment of our frustration with the limitations of these very human forms. He says “maybe you should just avoid me today” – right about when I was thinking of saying gently that I’d give him some space because I’m hurting that much today. lol It’s generally an exceptional partnership, even when one or both of us is in pain, or just generally not being our best selves, together.

I sip my coffee and reflect. I think about the walk, the summer morning, recalling the sights and scents, and the feel of the air around me.

Just because there’s sunshine where I’m sitting doesn’t mean I’ll find illumination.

I walked, reflected, observed, and gave myself that time I need to spend with the woman in the mirror. It’s good to get perspective. I mean… I find it so, myself. 🙂 I don’t always do a good job of making time for me, and for what I need from and for myself. I could do better there. More practice? Obviously. I know where I’ll start, too; a familiar place.

I am rereading the Four Agreements; a worthy starting point on any journey of self.

Funny thing about The Four Agreements? It was my Traveling Partner who first recommended it to me. Good basic practices to practice that tend to heal a lot of hurts and limit a lot of negative self-talk. That seems so long ago now.

Treating each other well has reliably tended to start with treating myself well, and as it turns out that has nothing whatsoever to do with buying things, and everything to do with reflection, perspective, and practices that build resilience and emotional wellness. Boundary-setting. Testing assumptions. Confirming expectations. Being flexible and adaptable in the face of change. Being there for myself. Being kind, and treating the world as gently as I am able to. Good self-care. Getting enough rest. It’s a lot to juggle, and I suspect that I half-ass a lot of it, just trying to do all of it… but…getting things ‘half right’ or ‘half finished’ is still a more useful result than never making an attempt to be my best self at all. Incremental change over time. I get better at something each time I attempt it… eventually. Learning is a process. Change is often a verb. I keep at it. Incremental change over time requires both time, and increments.

Feeling frustrated and challenged can sometimes mislead me into thinking I haven’t improved – a lot – on a lot of little things that had been far more problematic before this journey began. That’s a shame; it robs me of my chance to celebrate small wins. I think on that while I sip my coffee, gazing into the sunshine beyond the window.

I hear the A/C come on. Then I feel it. I recall the heat of the morning as I walked the wooded trail, and think about the apartment in which my partner and I first began sharing our lives… and that roasting, horribly hot all-drama-all-the-time summer some 11 years ago; no A/C. I feel grateful for the A/C, definitely… but the love matters most. We brought that with us, to this place, across years of shared challenges, growth, change, loving moments, and petty arguments – it’s a very human experience, and it’s hard to imagine spending life differently and still enjoying it as much. I sip my coffee thinking about my partner (my lover, my best friend), and the pain he’s in today. Maybe I’ll bake oatmeal cookies? Would that help? (I don’t know why it would, it just occurred to me to wonder – sometimes I have a mind like a child. LOL)

There’s enough of this coffee left to enjoy a few moments of summer morning on the deck before it gets to hot to enjoy… seems like a good time to begin again. 🙂

My view of the meadow, covered by morning mist rising from the marsh, is obscured by condensation on the window, left open during the night. My view is obscured by my perspective. Something to think about, generally.

Low mist on the meadow before sunrise.

Sometimes I have to change my perspective to enjoy the view…

Today my traveling partner [figuratively, metaphorically] becomes my literal traveling partner, headed to a favorite festival. I smile every time I think about him enjoying himself there. I come back to the thought frequently; I enjoy his joy. 🙂

I caught myself getting caught up in the news… the usual horror and tedium, frankly, and fairly dismal. Getting mired in it does no one any good, and doesn’t change things. I can change only those things that are precisely and specifically changeable by me. It’s entirely a worthwhile endeavor to be the best human being I can, without bothering with the day-to-day stress and drama of comparison, or competition. Yeah, life?  It’s so not a competition. What a lie I’d been sold there! When I allow myself to be distracted by how well you are doing, or how well that famous person over there is doing, or how well a motivational speaker suggests I could be doing, or any number of other frankly revenue-generating (for someone) bits of bamboozlement, I lose precious time on my own authentic journey. Sometimes the journey is difficult. It’s mine. Sometimes the journey is a disastrous maze of detours. It’s mine. Sometimes the journey is fraught with confusion, sorrow, or anger. It’s mine. Sometimes the journey is delightful, joyful, and fun. It’s mine. My journey to make on my own terms; I am my own cartographer, having my own experience. Sure – we’re all in this together, and that matters, too. Still my journey, on my terms, in my own time – and similarly, yours belongs to you. We don’t gain much when we try to use someone else’s map… and we lose a lot when we’re sold on someone else’s destination. Just saying. Do you.

The mist begins to lift, the sky to lighten. I hear crows discussing their plan for the morning. I see the earliest hints of autumn in the trees on the far side of the park; shades of yellow and orange beginning to show in the summer green foliage.

Today is a good day to wish the world well, and my traveling partner too; each of us having our own experience. Each of us on our own journey. Today is a good day to be authentic, genuine, and also the very best of who I am able to be. (Each of us doing so would change the world.) 🙂

My morning began quite gently with the rare treat of sleeping in. I emptied the dishwasher while water boiled for coffee. I made a wee celebration of turning the page on the notepad I use for my ‘to do’ list each day, flipping the page over boldly, fully disregarding anything remaining on yesterday’s page (at least for now), and then cheerily walking away from it without writing a single thing on the blank the page. Yesterday wasn’t a bad day at all – it’s still over. Entirely past. Done. Behind me. I’ve turned the page. 🙂

What's left of yesterday? Photographs, memories, and change.

What’s left of yesterday? Photographs, memories, and change.

Today my intention is to keep things simple and enjoy the day. I have committed to some general tidying up, studying, and sorting through my thoughts on a topic that inspires me both as an artist and as a writer. It may be days or weeks in the making, which feels… amazing. It is a topic that pushes me to think differently about connection, intimacy, individuality, identity, interdependence, image, authenticity, and where my value as a being truly lies.

What exactly is an 'individual', anyway?

What exactly is an ‘individual’, anyway?

This seems a nice morning for thinking thoughts, taking notes, making observations, and for balancing presence with insight gleaned from experience over time. (Caution: there are no fewer verbs involved when the work we do is within ourselves!) I enjoy intimacy, connection, communion with others; I am a social creature. I am also an emotionally injured human being. Emotional injuries are those that, whether they are also physical injuries or not, hit us in the deep down places where our being resides, seemingly safe. The result? Mental illness. Post traumatic stress. “Anger management issues.” Difficulties connecting, attaching, and being intimate. Difficulties being comfortable, trusting, being social, sharing, cohabiting. Hurt feelings. Drama. Weirdness. Strange negative assumptions and expectations. Fear. I mean…maybe not all of those, for everyone, every time, but… yeah.  The effort to clean up the chaos and damage, find a better way to live, maybe even find a way to actually thrive in life… it’s slow going, not easy, requires practice – a lot of it – and verbs – too many. (Totally worth it.) The point I think I’d like to make is that sometimes it feels as lonely and distancing to be working on cleaning up the chaos and damage, as it does to have it in the first place. That’s okay – it’s a bit of a solo hike, sometimes. It sort of has to be. 🙂

Look closer. How many individuals are in this picture?

Look closer. How many individuals are in this picture?

It’s reassuring to consider that I’m not really in this alone. I’ve felt so alone sometimes. But… Really? I’m not – it’s an illusion, one that is, itself, part of the chaos and damage, isolating me and suggesting I am too broken to be accepted as a human being, too broken even, perhaps, to be loved. My results vary, and there are verbs involved, and sometimes it seems damned slow going – but I’m learning to go beyond being warily, passively open to connection (hoping for the best, certain no good can come of it), to being willing to reach out, to actually being open. It’s a very different thing. To be open requires a measure of vulnerability and authenticity that can feel pretty scary… What if it isn’t reciprocated?? I find some solace and security in the awareness that individuality, however defined, isn’t sufficient to fully undermine how interconnected we also are as creatures; we are not alone. I’m okay with that. Sometimes it’s nice to share the journey – it’s a long one.

I am my own cartographer, keeper of the list, and adult-in-charge, in this life that is mine.

I am my own cartographer, keeper of the list, and adult-in-charge, in this life that is mine.

This morning, I am alone with my time and my chores. Later? So not alone. 🙂 It’s ‘date night’, and I’ll spend the evening in the charming company of my traveling partner, filling my moments with love and laughter. The time has come to set aside the morning in favor of the day… Today is a good day to pause and enjoy progress over time, and to appreciate and enjoy the woman in the mirror.

I purchased “Remembrance of Things Past” (an alternate title in some editions is “In Search of Lost Time“) by Marcel Proust. I suspect most people are familiar with Proust’s writing indirectly, and possibly often only through the fairly well-known “Proust Questionnaire“. Maybe in college a few people read “Swan’s Way“, or flipped through a condensed version, guide, or graphic novel of the author’s great work. I say ‘great’ because… wow. Yeah.

I don’t know why I’ve put off reading Proust. “Remembrance of Things Past” has clung to the edges of my personal ‘must read’ list since I was much younger (at a time when books were my escape from the unbearable). I read Milton. I read Plutarch. I read Rand. I read Tolstoy. I read de Beauvoir; I am not fearful of weighty tomes, nor voices other than my own. So…what’s been the hold up? Perhaps I have been waiting for a moment; I’ve only just begun it, and even a mere handful of pages into Swan’s Way (vol 1), I am completely blow away by the beauty of it. There’s the thing of it right there; it is singularly beautiful writing. Powerful. Complete. Authentic. I am not putting it off even another day, having tasted it and found it beyond worthy.

So… 2016. The year I read Proust. 🙂

How many ways exist to view the world?

How many ways exist to view the world?

I slept well and deeply last night, setting aside my reading some time before bed; these beautiful words are worthy of the respect and consideration of not falling asleep over them, and potentially missing even one shred of meaning over drowsiness. I woke this morning, smiling, with a heart filled with lightness, and empty of weight. My coffee is good. My yoga sequence felt helpfully pleasant, and comfortably eased the stiffness in my joints. I am not missing the opiate painkillers, and I suspect that more often than not any queasiness in the early mornings was due to the opiates, based on how I feel in the mornings since giving them up. Strangely, on the thought of painkillers, my consciousness both tries very hard to veer away from the thought of them, and also delivers a powerful moment of peculiar disconnected yearning. Craving in action. I breathe deeply, and let my thoughts move on.

This morning, the new place feels much larger than the modest increase in space measurably involved. Life is beginning to fit into the new space more fully. Morning is beginning to evolve to fit the space, routines adjusting to the changes in object placement, and room arrangement – for one thing, I have an actual dining room now, and I find myself now inclined to eat at the table, away from other things, rather than perched on the couch, which was the way of it for many of my adult years. Similarly, my studio is both real, and quite separate from the remainder of the household – and my desk is here in my studio, but the majority of my morning is not. It’s interesting how this one change actually changes so much; I do not spend time sitting for hours, fussing at the keyboard, scrolling through feeds, articles, tinkering with pictures aimlessly wondering if another email will come. Unproductive time is kept to a minimum here; I am in the studio only when I am in the studio, and at my desk only when I am actually writing. I seem to ‘have more time’ when truly, I’ve only stopped wasting so much of it … (wait for it…) mindlessly. 😉

Having moved from somewhat less than 650 sq ft, to somewhat less than 1000 sq ft, I sort of expected the feel of things would be mostly pretty similar… How incorrect was I?? lol Very. Vacuuming in the apartment I moved from took me about 15-20 minutes to do a nicely thorough job of it.  Yesterday, after 45 minutes of vacuuming, and the sense that it would never end, I still find myself wondering how an increase in square footage of less than 400 sq ft still results in more than twice as much time needed to vacuum?! Realizing, as I sip my coffee, that being quizzical about housekeeping matters signals how very moved in I really am, I relax and smile and enjoy the moment; I’m okay with a few extra minutes of vacuuming, floors, windows, and tidying. This is a really cute place, it suits me well, and I am taking care of the woman in the mirror by investing my resources in very good quality of life day-to-day. Sure, there are choices, but it is in these choices that I find my way to being the woman I most want to be, living a life of contentment and sufficiency. Isn’t that enough? 😉

Today is a good day for taking care of me – even if that means vacuuming. Today is a good day to read Proust – because I earnestly want to experience his words. Today is a good day to live authentically, and to face the woman in the mirror with honest acceptance, and real enthusiasm – simply because it is time well-spent. Isn’t that also enough?

The recollection of my nightmare lingered much of the day, unprocessed, and in the background. It wasn’t distressing me. I had already accepted its existence in my experience, and ‘dealt with it’ – I thought. In a spontaneous moment of unintended sharing with my traveling partner, it clearly still had the power to unsettled me, and I felt the emotions rush through me. It was a powerful moment to share, and he was there with comfort and support and his steady calm demeanor on which I so rely when I am in distress. A hug, a kiss, and our moment ended; I went back to work. The day finished well, and I thought no more of my nightmare…

…It was on the walk home tonight that the threads of that distant dream began to unravel, to tangle, to take new shape as I walked and considered love, considered the book I am reading now and a book I have long yearned to read and simply never started. I considered the nature of time and opportunity, in the context of this one finite mortal life stretching back 52+ years, and ahead of me some indeterminate additional number of (I hope) years. That was no mere nightmare last night – I walked home today grinning in the sunshine over the feeling of sunlight on my face, on my back, and a feeling of being illuminated from within. Perspective is still a very big deal.

Darkness must exist for illumination to reveal what is hidden.

Darkness must exist for illumination to reveal what is hidden.

Proust is on my Kindle now. There is a blank canvas on my easel. There is time in my day, and a feeling of lightness in my heart, as if all that is not mine has fallen away – some strange sort of ‘letting go’ has occurred in my sense of self. I’m okay with that; it’s a beginning.