Archives for posts with tag: love and lovers

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…

The morning is off to a difficult start. I woke in pain after a restless night. My Traveling Partner also woke in pain, and considering every time I was awake, he was also awake, I’m reasonably certain both of us have had less than ideal sleep. I make coffee. We don’t manage to enjoy it together – we aren’t enjoying each other very much this morning. While this does suck, it’s a temporary thing, and it will pass. I focus on other things.

I seek to be kind with my words, and to speak gently.

I already suspect today is one of those days on which whatever my best effort happens to be, it may fall short of ideal. I’m tired. I’m dealing with unmanaged pain. I’m aggravated. Is it me? Is it “us”? Is it just one of those very impermanent situations that will pass when it passes and simply be forgotten? Is it more important than that? I fuss quietly to myself, sip my coffee, and work on breathing through it, and letting it go. I work on not taking it personally. These are “practices” for me because they do indeed require practice. Steady. Regular. Repeated.

Kinda feels like I’m almost always standing in hot water. It’s frustrating, and this morning it is holding me back from enjoying this moment.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I focus on “now”, bringing my mind back to my breath, again and again. It’s something. Is it enough? I find myself wondering what conversations my Traveling Partner has with himself on mornings such as this. I wonder what he does to get past the difficult moments of life with a brain injured partner with PTSD. Doubtless it is not always an easy experience… How does he avoid fusing with my experience? How does he nurture and soothe himself?

Tomorrow, I am taking a break for myself, and driving out to the coast to walk on the beach, and listen to the wind and the waves, and be still and solitary for a little while before returning home. Another breath. Another moment to relax. I contemplate the drive without much eagerness in this particular moment right here. The morning is a difficult one, and I’m struggling to distract myself.

Human primates seem always to be trippin’ over something or another. Emotions are part of the human condition.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I turn to respond to my partner when he opens the door to ask me to empty the little trash can in my studio; it’s trash day. He’s preparing to take the bins to the curb for pick-up. Life is… so ordinary. Difficult moments are only that, moments. They pass. They are finite. Sure, they recur. My results definitely vary. I often find myself wanting or needing to begin again. I keep practicing, and instead of “looking for signs” that things are somehow worse than a moment gone wrong on a difficult morning, I let it go (again).

We put caution signs everywhere… but we create the hazards, too.

I am reminded that we make most of our own drama, and routinely blow small shit way out of proportion. Human primates are messy, complicated, and emotional. We aren’t as smart as we think we are. We’re prone to reasoning poorly, and reacting emotionally to circumstances in which our emotional reaction lacks value or utility – and expecting our emotions to have all that going for them is asking a lot of feelings. “Do not touch the edges of this sign.” No kidding.

Also? Stay on the path. Breathe. Keep practicing.

Begin again.

An emotional storm of unexpected magnitude blew in from deep within the darkest recesses of lingering chaos and damage. Maybe it’s my “fault” – it nearly always feels like it must be. I am, after all, the broken one in many interactions. It is, at least, how I often see myself. It feels, in such moments, as if “it” (meaning my experience of self in the context of my own life) is inescapable. An ugly tantrum. Hurt feelings all around. Yelling. My explosion of emotion. My tears. My apologies.

…This shit again??…

I can’t seem to hold on to the slippery recollection of how rare this really is these days, post-menopause. I’m reluctant to point to “hormones” as a root cause (can’t I do better than be a slave to biology?), but in acknowledging a recent rare use of HRT, I find myself wondering.

It’s frustrating. Small issues blow up and become seemingly larger than life. A moment of frustration develops into a cesspool of futility and despair. I end up weighed down by baggage I thought I’d set down a long time ago. Fucking hell.

Breathe

Another coffee. Another moment. A break to stand in what remains of the morning’s sunshine, watching the storm on the horizon approach as if to mock me. Nah… It’s not that bad. I’m okay right now. I’m fortunate to be in a partnership with someone who loves me even beyond moments of tears or madness. It’s fucking hard, though. Having to apologize, again, while sweeping up shards of emotion, and mopping up tears… it’s not on my list of favorite experiences. I could do without it. I don’t mean the act of apology or experience of remorse and contrition – I mean having put myself in a position that earnestly requires it. That sucks. It’s very human. I still don’t like it.

My Traveling Partner doesn’t bullshit me when he’s angry, or hurt, or cross. We’re pretty real with each other. We find our way to a more comfortable place, emotionally, pretty quickly. He understands the trauma history, and the lasting damage. He has his own. We’re in this together, more than many people understand to be. It’s enough, generally, and fairly often it’s far more than enough. Doesn’t make a difficult moment less difficult in the moment, sometimes, although we do both try.

My tears dry. The ringing in my ears left over from my … whatever that shit was… will likely last the day. I mean, the tinnitus is always there, it’s just a bit worse right now. That’ll pass. So will this gray fog of ennui and anhedonia. I remind myself not to confuse these states as having any sort of permanence, and to allow them to pass as if clouds on the horizon. I remind myself they are only the chemical aftermath of strong emotions, and not to be taken personally.

…We begin again.

It’s afternoon. Near the end of the work day. I decide to take my break here, writing and reflecting. It’s been a busy few days since my last bit of writing. Busy with winter weather, and winter power outages. Busy with a bit of leisure, a long weekend that most definitely turned out quite differently than planned (see “winter weather” and “power outages” in the previous sentence). It was still a very enjoyable weekend…

Winter view of an icy dawn through the kitchen window.

…There was this one thing, though…

“Are you breathing?” It’s not an unusual question for my Traveling Partner to ask me, with varying levels of aggravation, frustration, or concern. I get frustrated by it, myself – although most of my frustration has had to do with interrupted flow, interrupted reading, interrupted thoughts, interrupted concentration, all interrupted by what felt like a fairly silly question. “Am I breathing? Well… for fucks’ sake, how am I not??” I would think it to myself, before “checking in with myself” to determine whether, for some reason, I might actually be “holding my breath”. I mean, seriously though, why would I be holding my breath?? BUT… and it’s legit… my Traveling Partner cares about me, loves me, and wants me to thrive, so… why would he be making shit up and just randomly interrupting my every leisure moment with such a silly sounding question?

…Tl;dr? He wouldn’t.

…Frustrating for both of us…

Monday I found myself crying over this well-intended, concerned, loving question. “Are you breathing?” I’d fucking had it with that question. Why does it keep coming up?? I cried and cried, all of my frustration with this one question spilling over as tears, and – possibly for the first time – I let myself actually think about the question. I got angry with it. I fought it in my head. I denied it with reasonable arguments, alone in the twilight of a quiet dimly lit room (I was at that point on the edge of a stress-migraine), but I was actually fully considering the question, and what could be driving it.

…I caught myself “holding my breath” while I sat there thinking and crying, too, more than once… Well… shit… so… this is thing?

My partner checked on me a couple times, offering hugs and sympathy, and assurances of his love and abiding affection. He maintained a non-judgmental approach, and gave me room to have my experience without taking it personally. He “let me cry” – and I needed that. See… this “breathing thing” sources with some very old trauma. Very very old. Ancient pain. Unresolved heartache and chaos and damage, from a lifetime ago. Well, damn… I guess, as my partner pointed out to me encouragingly later on, I may just be, finally and at long last, in a place in life where I can actually tackle some things that were too big for me at any earlier point. Squelched and squashed down for so long… erupting unexpectedly in a fury of tears and sadness, like a timer going off.

Later he shares an interesting article with me that seems potentially relevant, about some people experiencing “email apnea“. Reading it gave me a framework to understand the physical behavior of “not breathing” and how that may be affecting my experience moment-to-moment if it is any sort of common concern. A way to understand the observed phenomenon without mistreating myself, and giving me a way to put it into the context of my TBI, or my PTSD, or both. Well… I like science, and I like empirical evidence much more than opinion… so… I took advantage of the technology at hand to begin taking a measurement of my blood oxygen if my partner expressed concern that I wasn’t breathing… I’ll admit, hoping very much to “prove this wrong”. It only took a few such measurements to have to acknowledge that he is noticing something that could be a legitimate concern. I can’t take “real” personally. Instead, I put practices in place to get better at noticing if I am holding my breath (without requiring someone else to point it out), and also to breath more fully without having to actually stop every-damned-thing and actually meditate.

I know to expect incremental change over time to be slow. I know my results may vary. I know I need practice. That’s okay, too; new need? New practice. Hilariously… kinda the same old practice in a fairly basic way. Breathe. Seriously? (I hear myself laugh out loud. Okay… at least I’m still laughing.)

…By the end of the day, we’d had a lovely day together, one of the most pleasant days I can recall in a while… just… really comfortable, connected, pleasant, romantic, tender, wholesome, and just… fun. Good bit of positive reinforcement there. I smile thinking about the day. Today I keep practicing, and find myself recalling scenes from Demon Slayer (season 1), in which the hero, Tanjiro, is learning “Total Concentration Breathing”. I smile and feel considerably less insecure, or sad, or diminished, or frustrated, or put out, or inconvenienced, or… yeah, I’m not feeling anything but love, and gratitude; I have a partner who cares – literally – that I am able to breathe. That’s pretty amazing.

I smile. I check my blood oxygen monitor. 99%. Nice. I pause for a moment to breathe mindfully… and begin again.

Choosing change can bring such tremendous calm. Choices made become contemplation of next steps, a plan develops, new choices, other actions, and with care and consideration, momentum toward a chosen change begins to build. Plans begin to become outcomes. Through all of it, chaos is managed through practices chosen for their proven success at managing chaos. Meditation. Good self-care. Self-compassion. Non-attachment.

I’m walking my own path. I am my own cartographer.

Sure, I already know my results will vary. I understand that the map is not the world. I embrace the new beginnings life offers. I continue to practice, and work toward becoming the woman I most want to be. So far, it’s enough; incremental change over time seems to be something I can count on.

For now, I’m sipping my coffee contentedly. I’ve chosen change, and made a plan, and each step forward takes me a step further down my path. Where does it lead? I don’t really know that; the future, at least how I am able to experience it, is not yet written. There are changes that occur around me, some chosen by others, some simply turns of circumstance, and perhaps those will become the sorts of things that change something in my own experience, too. Change is.

I stare out at a gray wintry sky. It hints at rain. There is snow in the forecast. It’s a gray rather uneventful day. I think about baking coffee cake to snack on later. I smile recalling my Traveling Partner’s request for specific flavors, winter spices. Vanilla glaze on that, I think, sipping my coffee. It’s a lovely partnership to share, and I take a moment for gratitude as he walks away after standing close, rubbing my shoulders as I write. Hot coffee, cold day, and the warmth of being loved… nice moment.

“This too shall pass”, my brain rather grimly reminds me. I laugh back, because, sure, yeah, that’s true… but I have memories of love and partnership for a lifetime, and an enduring relationship to enjoy now, whatever the future may hold. That’s enough. More than enough. It’s honestly pretty splendid compared to a lot of the options in the vastness of human experience, right? 🙂

I look at the time. My break is over, and it’s time to begin again. 🙂