Archives for posts with tag: MBSR

Yesterday was hard. Just watching the world watching the Kavanaugh confirmation stuff going on was sufficiently painful to make for a difficult day. He’ll probably be confirmed. It’s a damning indictment against all of us, and this world we’ve built. Seriously. (I’m quite serious.)

…Which leads my morning musings elsewhere, because there’s more meat on this bone than one man’s plum lifetime government appointed gig; it’s about all of us. It’s about the way we listen. It’s about the way we treat others in their moments of pain, grief, and stress. It’s about how readily and easily we dismiss the concerns of others, most especially if we don’t experience life the same way, or suffer with the same disadvantages. It’s about privilege, and the dichotomy of having it versus not having it, and how confusing the chrysanthemum flower Venn diagram of privilege actually is, with its overlaps, and intersections. It’s about how little we care about the pain of strangers, and how quickly we minimize the pain of loved ones because (although we likely mean well) it is uncomfortable to share it.

Be considerate. Listen deeply. Understand that the experiences of others may not be your own – and that this does not invalidate those experiences! It’s less about trusting their narratives, and much less about their veracity and your willingness to believe, and so much about “basic human decency” and being considerate, just generally. I’m saying we could all do better on this one, and that we all do well to make the attempt.

I’m pretty fucking done with angry men shouting me down. I’m pretty fucking done with angry men deciding what my truth is. I’m pretty fucking done with being dismissed, diminished, shouted down, talked over, or patronized. I’m done with a whole fuck ton of bullshit. I’m pretty fucking angry, myself. So… what am I going to do about any of it? Well… I’ll for sure be voting. That’s one thing I can do. Speaking truth to power is another. Refusing to soften my tone, or yield my position, these are also things I can do. Already am. All those things. Still… I could do those things more skillfully, I’m sure.

It’s time, then, to begin again? Isn’t it always? ๐Ÿ™‚

I woke ahead of the alarm, and realized groggily that I never wrote a word that wasn’t in the service of my employer yesterday. Wow. So unlike me. I’m tired. The lovely weekend comes at a price, and that price is fatigue. My disrupted sleep unavoidably has its moment to weigh in on my well-being.

I scroll lazily through my feeds, not really reading, just skimming headlines and posts in the weird “I used too few words” extra-large font. I’m not yet awake. The delicious fragrant mug of chai tea (with almond milk) definitely takes longer than a cup of strong coffee. I’m sneezing a lot this morning. My throat is a little… raw. Shit. I hope I’m not coming down with a cold. The timing is poor; I have a life to live and shit to get done. lol

Walking and thinking – a favorite practice for gaining perspective.

Yesterday, I forgot I had a late meeting on my work calendar, and got into the office at the usual very early hour. Early enough to get a lovely 2 mile walk in, along the waterfront. Early enough to get back to my desk, still quite a bit earlier than I had planned to be in – or needed to be. It was a long day, with very little leisure in it. I was pretty glad, by the end of the day, to have taken that walk in the morning. I was less pleased with the commuter traffic when I hit the road heading home around 5:30 pm. Wow. So glad I am generally home earlier. lol

This morning I find a lot to be content with, and it feels good.

I sip my tea and let my mind wander to the day-to-day misery and drama of being a woman in America. My feed is filled with it. Fuck. I’m grateful for menopause, and being generally beyond many of those storms now. You could not pay me to go back to being in my 20s (or 30s), particularly if it meant also having to return to that volatile emotional world of extreme highs and lows, and strange chaotic emotions. I wish I could sit with each of my agitated, distressed, sorrowful, wounded, beautiful friends, listen and let them feel truly heard, give them hugs, and maybe, just maybe find some way to share practices – or perspective. It’s a chasm that is quite difficult to cross, though. I can remember so many similar situations in which an “older sister” or elder in my life did attempt to communicate to 20-something me that this would pass, that I could master and, yes, even control my reactivity – with practice. I could not really fathom what was being said to me. I didn’t believe what I heard when it was shared with me. I did not follow through on any of the practices that were suggested. It was all completely out of reach. I wasn’t ready.

(I still try.)

I’m not saying their experiences “aren’t real” – not at all. Those chaotic emotionally difficult experiences are wholly real, in the sense that they are being experienced, for real. Totally real. Even, in fact, and like it or not, entirely appropriate and reasonable, from some points of view. Culturally, we don’t treat women well. This has unavoidable outcomes in the emotional health of women. We each play a part in creating that culture, and hurting our women. We could do better. (They can do better, too, but it’s a tale for another day, perhaps.)

This morning, I’m just sipping my tea and trying to wake up, and wondering how it is that so many of us, as human beings, being human, are so terribly unhappy… and wondering what I could do to help in any small way. Incremental change over time is slow. So slow. Change does happen, though, and we do become what we practice…

It’s the practicing that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Yeah. Here, too. I do “try”… but… and this is a thing… it’s really more about doing. Many of the practices that have helped me most with emotional volatility require me to “let go” – to practice non-attachment – which means having to yield to circumstances, and give up that righteous feeling of whatever I am feeling so righteously. lol An urgent desire to “be right” – and holding on to that feeling – creates so much fucking misery, and often on many sides of a discussion. I noticed more than once or twice that once I am attached to feeling righteous about something, I’m no longer willing to listen at all, and everything I hear is run through a filter that demands my position be defining for everyone’s experience. I gave up, quite purposefully and deliberately, the “need” to be right. It’s not helpful. (I learn more if I’m wrong, anyway, and often circumstances just aren’t even that clearly defined.)

Listening is hard. It is quite frankly one of the most demanding practices I practice each day. I often thoroughly suck at listening deeply, listening with my full attention, listening skillfully… It takes a ton of practice. Here’s the thing, though, a lot of my experiences of contentment, and balance, have their source in listening – and rarely have their source in talking, in expressing myself, or in “being right”. (Here’s where I slip in a reminder that “listening deeply” needs to be something I also do for myself; really hearing the woman in the mirror, understanding my experience and needs, also requires practice.)

One very cool thing about practicing practices, though? It doesn’t matter at all how many times I fail to “get it quite right”… I can keep practicing. I can begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

…I just hurt, is all. Like… predicting a hard early winter levels of arthritis pain, here. Pain sufficiently severe to present a chronic distraction, to drive volatile moods, to aggravate me to the point of anger-driven anhedonia… the cluster-headache-pain of spinal pain. I hurt, and I’m fussy, and I’m irritable, and I’m… not at my best. The problem with the pain is less about the pain than the sabotage. No kidding; pain shrinks my world and limits my focus. Worse still…?

…You can’t see it. Some of us are pretty stoic about pain, most of the time. You’ve no idea what you’re up against when you interact with someone with invisible injuries like chronic pain. Was I terse with you? Yeah, well, I couldn’t stand up without my cane this morning, and every step hurts – except the ones that don’t require my spine. Breathing hurts. Moving hurts. Not moving hurts (actually more so than moving, over time anyway).

“Take something for it. Duh.” Uh-huh. I like that idea. So, after I finish ruling out the OTC stuff that may be problematic for some other health conditions and the Rxย  non-opiate pain relievers I can’t have because of some contraindication or another against those, that leaves, generally, just opiates and cannabis. I’d rather not deal with the political and medical minefield of opiates, but if I could be without pain… then? Rarely. I dislike the sexual side effects, and yes, I said it; I’d rather endure my pain and still be able to enjoy sex than be 100% pain-free but not able to enjoy sex. So. Get over that with me, I’m human, and I’ve got a lifetime of experience with my priorities – the pain management options available to most of us are fairly shitty in one way or another. It’s a thing that some of us are entirely too aware of. Cannabis? Yep. Definitely. As much as I can, and it is my “go-to remedy”, but let’s be frank with each other; it’s not a perfect fix, and it is not appropriate for all circumstances (or all pain).

This is not a quantity of pain that is easily medicated away. Pain is a signal from our body about our health or circumstances. It shouts loud because it is supposed to. Drowning it out is a major task; our body would much rather we fixed whatever is actually wrong. It’s complicated, and it’s imperfect, and there are so few days in the year that I’m entirely pain-free that they become cause for real celebration. I hurt so much of the time, and have for so long (since around 1990), that I’m seriously bored of bitching about it. (Can’t people who actually know me somehow just also know that I hurt…? Like… mostly always? lol)

I plan my life as if there is no pain. I don’t know how else to do it, really. I still want to live my life. I still just fucking hurt. Sometimes I hurt too much to hike. Sometimes I hurt too much to party. Sometimes I hurt too much to do housekeeping or even to get dressed. This weekend, I filled my calendar with cool stuff I was seriously looking forward to doing, and people I am eager to see. By the time the weekend actually came, and with it the welcome rain and the autumn weather I enjoy so well, my pain had come back, too. This weekend ended up being less about going and doing, and more about connecting (with my partner) and chilling (at home). It was lovely. So worth it, in spite of my pain.

Fuck pain.

Autumn and winter are worst. Then Spring. I get some relief in the summertime heat. Most years I even get to put away my cane. It’s been in my car, unused most of the time, since May. Four and a half months almost pain-free this year… less than the year before, which was less than the year before that. I find myself wistfully remembering years ago, when it seemed like I only hurt like this in the coldest months…

I got into the elevator at the end of my day and ignored the tears that just started spilling down. I got into my terrifically hot car with a real “aaaaaaahhhhh” moment of relief; however brief, totally worth it. “Pain management”. lol It’s more like “endurance” if you’ve got chronic pain. It is an endurance test filled with well-meaning suggestions, well-wishes, and an utter inability to communicate what this experience is like to people who don’t have it; we all feel our own pain, and can’t feel someone else’s. I’ve had some amusing experiences with people whose most serious pain in life has been a hangnail, stubbed toe, or bump in the night, who don’t understand chronic, relentless, serious pain, and how it wears away at one’s enthusiasm, and will. “I hope you feel better soon! Have you tried…” Uh-huh. Yep. That too. Yeah, and that. No, it didn’t “work”… What to say when someone who really cares tries so hard to offer support and comfort? A weary chuckle and a reminder that “chronic” pain is… um… not going go away,ย really, probably ever. That’s when I gave up the Rx pain relievers; between the fucking hassles getting them, and the constant nagging about their use, the side effects, and the fact that this shit is fucking forever…? Nope. I actually still work for a living. I have shit to do. People are counting on me. I’m counting on me.

I’m so not saying I hurt more than you do! I’m not saying my pain is worse than… anything. I’m just saying, frankly, in clear explicit terms that chronic pain is a thing I do deal with. Daily. You, too? I’m sorry to hear that. “Have you tried…” (jk jk lol)

What I am saying is that it is not possible to sufficiently well-medicated to truly stop hurting, only to get medicated enough that I care even less about the pain in the background, for a while. Shit. That sounds bleak. Don’t be sad. Sometimes it helps a lot. Sometimes it helps enough. Right now, today, nothing helps; it is the beginning of autumn, and I go through this every year… and…

I’m glad. I mean… it’s a fair trade. It could be worse. I’m still walking.

In 1986 I broke my back. It was pretty bad. My spinal canal was more than 60% occluded by a piece of vertebrae that had broken off from the impact, and gotten jammed into my backbone. There was real concern I would not even walk again. I was kept on a backboard for a couple days, very still, and partially restrained while we “worked out the next steps”. I wasn’t allowed to roll over, ever, without calling for nurses, who would ever so carefully roll me onto my side, re-secure my body so I couldn’t roll forward, backward, or move much at all, and put supporting pillows here and there to try to make me comfortable. I was heavily medicated. My back was broken in two places. My wrist was broken, and I had a head injury. I was not in the best shape for decision-making, but I had a good medical team. My surgeon offered me an option; a somewhat experimental procedure that could result in staying on active duty, being able to walk, and fully recovering from my injury, with some lengthy convalescence…, or, well… some less than perfect outcome in that basic “still walking” context. I took the deal. I absolutely did. (If he’d told me I’d be facing a life time of pain, would I still have made the same choice? Well, sure; we don’t know what we don’t know. I’d never known a lifetime of physical pain of this type or magnitude, and would not have been able to imagine what it might be like.)

I was in the hospital for months, then recovering on active duty long enough to be certain that I needed more time. It was going to be two years before I could “go back to work”, but that was in some rosy optimistic future I couldn’t yet envision any differently than “a full recovery”. Arthritis? That’s something that happens to old people, right? I worked hard throughout those two years of convalescence – and I returned to active duty feeling pretty fucking triumphant, no kidding; I was lean, strong, fit, and flexible. The pain came later. About a year into being back on active duty. Something definitely felt wrong… I kept going back, appointment after appointment. I wanted a diagnosis, and then I wanted to be treated, and I wanted to recover.

“Well, it looks like you’ve got a touch of osteo-arthritis…” I got my diagnosis. Shortly afterward, and feeling fairly heartbroken about it, I also got my discharge. That “touch of arthritis” has continued to spread over the years, commandeering my spine and my experience one joint at a time. I’m still walking. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the hikes, for the downtown shopping on foot, the strolls through gardens, the slow dash to a meeting… all of it. It could be so much worse in some way. Most of the time, it’s just pain. It’s mostly manageable. It is… what it is. We age. We feel pain. We are mortal creatures.

I live my own personal Little Mermaid allegory. lol

But fuck. I hurt. Damn it. Sometimes I’m so fucking tired of hurting, and I forget myself, and end up taking it out on… maybe you? People. People who matter to me. People who couldn’t have known. People who have things to get done and need something from me. People who want to enjoy my company. People who have never hurt. People who, also, always do.

In spite of my pain, I feel very appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚ I could do better at demonstrating that.ย 

…I tryย “not to bitch”. (My results vary.) I do my best to manage my pain without making it anyone else’s issue. (Again with the varying results.) It doesn’t always work out well. This weekend, my Traveling Partner reminded me gently how much better a shared journey can be, when each moment and step is taken from a fully present place, in a completely authentic way. We talked about the pain. I’m glad we did. It stopped feeling like a shameful secret. It stopped feeling like a weakness. It’s just an experience.

Suddenly I’m not sure whether to post this one. Too many words about an experience no one likes to have (pain)…

…It’s time to begin again. I’ll go try some things… maybe I’ll feel better soon. ๐Ÿ˜‰

This was a weird week. Work felt like 3 Mondays – and I believe 3 Mondays make a case (…of the… lol. I know, it’s bad.) Yeah. So. Today, though? Not a Monday.

The morning started with a foggy drizzle and chilly, still, air. No breeze. No traffic. The commute was easy. I don’t remember it in any detail, aside from the pure moment of delight as the signal light at intersection after intersection turned green immediately ahead of me. Bliss! I maintained a disciplined eye on my speed, marveling at the sequence of intersections, and enjoyed the uninterrupted momentum. I wasn’t speeding, wasn’t going slow… just… driving. It was lovely.

I parked and stood in the chilly morning cityscape for some minutes, just breathing, listening, watching. It felt… mischievous and tempting. I considered getting back in the car and going… where? Somewhere. Somewhere new, or strange, or… away.ย  Ah. Is that it? I smile at the morning, gray and misty. Am I needing “a getaway”? Cuz… that usually means I’m not taking care of myself, and have made that infernal “to do list” a bit too long. I nod wisely to myself, as if I think I know something, and head to the elevator to enjoy a few hours of feeling like I know things.

I got home less concerned about knowing, and more focused on being. It’s a chilly evening. I turn on the gas fireplace. I make a cup of tea. I put everything else aside and properly care for this fragile vessel, and the woman in the mirror.

…At least for the moment, I am not concerned with politics, the scary world we’ve made, how mean people can be to each other, the cost of living life, my health, mortality, or bank account. I’m just sipping this cup of tea, and taking a few quiet minutes. (You think I’m writing; this laptop is balanced carefully in my lap, I am seated on my meditation cushion, with a cup of hot tea gently perched on my knee – a sneeze could be very costly right about now – and I am sitting contentedly with my thoughts, and the lovely view of autumn arriving slowly, and only writing now and then… and almost not at all.

I sit awhile.

Then awhile more.

I finish my tea, and continue, seated… relaxed.

…Sometime, later, I begin again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Damn. Fuck this week. Already. Shit.

I say “this week”, but in all reasonable ways, and well-considered perspectives, this has been building slowly, event by event, detail by detail, day by day, and stitched together by threads of good intentions, affection, kindness, and commitments. I’m still having some moments of major anxiety as delicately balanced circumstances teeter on the edge of not going very well at all, which is stressful on a level I don’t recall feeling in a long time. It’s hard.

…Every new responsibility adds to the burden.

…Every new need piles on still more to a growing list of shit to do.

…Every new moment of stress dials up the intensity of the anxiety in the background.

…Every day… each moment… add another… then another… now one more… still standing? Here, have a little more extra… and more… and again… and still… and even… and then… and now… wait…what?? No time for questions – go go go!!

I caught myself “screaming into the void” on the commute home – a solo rant, with some ferocity, something on the order of a spoken word performance, or poetry, only much less pleasant. lol Not tearful, not exactly frustrated – just mad… about feeling anxious. Mad about feeling ill-equipped to be fully adult, even now. Mad at circumstances that could be just the tiniest bit better and end up quite splendid. Angry just to feel these ancient-seeming feelings of “shouldering the load” again. It’s not any one thing. It’s not any one individual. It’s not specifically work orย specifically personal. It’s not lacking in context. I’m not “in it alone”. I’m just one human, having this human moment of mine, myself, and really feeling it. Which is… uncomfortable.

Mid-rant I remembered something I have been finding important; I don’t grow much through experiences that are comfortable, or reliably pleasant, or completely planned and predictable… or easy. That’s just real. Ease does not correlate with personal growth. That thought shut me down completely for a moment. I even stopped being so aggravated by that ludicrously slow driver ahead of me (15 in a 25 – one lane, no passing room) maintaining easily 3 car lengths of distance from the car ahead… during the evening rush hour commute… down a road with intersections more frequently than every quarter mile… with bumper-to-bumper traffic behind him for many blocks (I could see when I got a good view from the top of the hill in my review mirror). Yep. Even that stopped bugging me in the moment that I realized I’d been handed something precious – discomfort, anxiety, and a chance to work through those things and grow.

I’m pretty committed to my personal growth as a human being – I don’t know how much time I’ve got to complete this project, really, and I’d like to get as far along as I can toward being the human being I most want to be. It’s a real and true thing, that “doing better than I did yesterday” is a bit more complicated if the days roll by so gently that what I feel most of the time is delicious simple contentment, wrapped in the affection and high regard of those who hold me dear. I can choose change, but I won’t kid you; I’m not likely to choose to be uncomfortable, stressed out, anxious, fearful, worried, nervous, or in dread of what comes next out of this craze-tacular fun house of chaos and human drama. I like it easy.

Well it doesn’t feel fucking easy right about now. I’m having to bring a lot of attention to maintaining good self-care practices in the face of a lot more stress than has been commonplace for a couple years now. I’m having to skillfully practice “letting shit go” when holding on to it only creates more stress, and has no productive outcome. I’m having to really search for perspective, really work to find balance, and really practice the practices that have brought me so far in such a short time – as if failing to do so could send me crashing into a pit of despair (which it easily could). So many verbs. So little time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tonight I’m not doing beginnings – just practicing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

…A soft autumn rain begins to fall beyond the open window. I chat a bit with my Traveling Partner. The scent of petrichor wafts into the room, filling the space with fragrant reminders that this too will pass. Summer is ending. The tightness in my chest and shoulders begins to diminish. My breathing becomes deeper as a smile starts to transform my face. I’m okay right now. I let my thoughts glide over my day gently, finding a kinder truth in tense moments that are now behind me. I listen deeply to my internal dialogue, pointing myself to a compassionate path, reconsidering human beings in the context of their humanity. Reminding myself to assume positive intent, each time I note that perhaps I had not done so. I take time, too, for gratitude; a lot of people came through for me today, in so many small ways. My smile feels pretty steady, and I feel pretty much at ease; the anxiety in the background is subtle now, less a plague and more a pimple. (…Maybe if I don’t fuck with it, it will clear up on its own?)

I listen to the traffic go by outside. The house is very near to the street, and the walls don’t keep out much noise. Right now it isn’t bothering me; I am aware of the open window. That makes a difference to me for some reason. The noise doesn’t matter. The smile matters more. This gentle moment matters more. Taking a little time to enjoy the moment matters more. Following through on moments and smiles may not save the world, but right now, in this moment, it’s enough. ๐Ÿ™‚