Archives for posts with tag: mindful living

“Success” is a funny thing; it is defined quite differently from individual to individual, from task to task, from moment to moment, and exists on a slippery gradient that shifts just when it seems to be “obvious”. When we chase it ferociously, it’s often not our effort that determines our outcome, it’s more about our focus… or our willingness to learn, to grow, and to begin again. There is, unquestionably, effort involved, and that varies, too… with preparedness, with good fortune, with circumstance, with how much help we are likely to receive, with how relatively difficult our own notion of success actually is (for us, individually). It’s weird to me when I see people pin all their hopes and sense of self on a single idea of success. Personally, I like my success to stay fairly manageable, and not keep me up at night. So… small stuff generally. 🙂 It adds up.

A flower seen along yesterday’s walk.

Why am I on about this, on an easy Sunday morning? Simple; I walked 3 miles yesterday, hitting a tiny milestone, a modest goal, and finding a small bit of success on my fitness journey. It’s such a small thing. All the driving last year, and the lack of trail miles that resulted from the lost leisure time spent on the road, resulted in starting this year struggling to make 2 continuous walking miles with any ease. I like ease. I embrace ease. I strive for ease. Which means… I need more time walking. My scale agrees. lol I’ve been at it this year, a bit at a time. I’ve been slowly and steadily losing the weight I’d accumulated (in part due to diet, and definitely due to not walking – see the pattern?). I had been approaching things rather unproductively, for some time, pushing too hard and struggling across my imagined finish line, and ending up so exhausted (or injured) that I’d need days and days (weeks) of much lower intensity work to recover… and… um… walking is pretty low intensity as it is. lol I changed my approach; it helps to study and learn, and reinforce practices that have proven to work.

I’ve put in some study time. Consulted a dietitian. Gotten more serious (again) and more focused (again), and returned to seeking and accepting – and celebrating – smaller successes. They do add up. Yesterday’s three miles will join the three miles I’ll walk later today, and next week getting an easy two miles in over my lunch break won’t break a sweat. It bodes well for my camping trip, and how much fun that will be, hiking out in the trees, with so much more ease. 😀

I’ve got my favorite site reserved. 🙂

When my practice fails me (because I am allowing myself the choice to fail myself), I begin again. Knowing what matters most to me, myself, helps with that; practicing things that have no value, no positive outcome, or which contribute nothing positive to my life can be added to that long list of things to let go. Recognizing successes is dependent on understanding success… my idea of success is pretty definitive if I’m hoping to recognize my successes. It took me awhile to get here. It’s easy to let an externally imposed notion of success drive our choices and our behavior… education, marriage, offspring, career, address, social status, wealth… none of that is specifically, explicitly, characteristic of “success”. Seriously. You get to choose for yourself what your success looks like. Is an unwed PhD-holding carpenter living in a small town successful, or not successful? Hard to say, isn’t it, unless you know what they want from their life. Is an accountant of limited means, living luxuriously, resources stretched to the breaking point, losing sleep to panic attacks, while impressing colleagues and neighbors, a “success”? Well… “At what, exactly?”, would be my question. (I tend to think not, but again; I would need to understand their idea of success to have any reasonable thoughts on that.)

So…yeah. My idea of success really only applies to me. I’m more successful, professionally, than I ever imagined I would be; it wasn’t what I was focused on in life, generally. I’m more emotionally well, and enjoying better mental health than I have at any previous point in my life – that feels incredibly successful, to me. I worked to get here, and it’s been a slow, often quite difficult journey. Worth it. Am I wealthy? Nope. I don’t expect I ever will be. I’m content with knowing the bills are paid, and that “getting ahead” is within reach. It’s enough. I’ve already wasted too many years on someone else’s idea of success (a parent, a partner, a teacher, an employer… lots of folks out there ready to suggest that we are not successful because we have not yet achieved something significant to them). What gets me out of bed with a smile every day may not be the thing that satisfies you. Do you. Definitely a better choice, day to day. 🙂

Still… I do put time and thought and effort into being a better me today than I was yesterday. Every day. There is no “finish line”. No completed product. No final goal. No level of mastery such that I can’t continue to make that single, purposeful effort to be my best self, as I understand the woman I most want to be, here, now. There’s always another mile I could walk. Sometimes I’ll falter. Sometimes I’ll fail. That’s okay too; I can begin again.

I smile into my fairly dreadful cup of coffee and consider my morning walk. It’s early, and not yet hot. The trail I intend to walk is level, and paved, and not likely to be crowded at this time of morning. I’m eager to get started, but also aware that I didn’t think to grab socks when I slipped out of the bedroom with the rest of my clothes; going back in risks disturbing my sleeping partner. I really don’t like messing with people’s sleep; a byproduct of my own sleep difficulties coloring my thinking about sleep, generally, and my tendency toward (perhaps excessive) consideration. I catch myself mindlessly scratching at a mosquito bite from yesterday’s walk, stop myself, and add “bug wipes” to my camping list, still smiling. The moment also serves as a useful reminder that I would do well to walk in my hiking boots today (not wear sandals) – if only because mosquito bites on feet just suck so much. lol

I think over my approach to getting socks without waking my partner, smiling, and grateful for the lovely start to the day. So far? Very successful. 😀

 

 

It’s hard to call it “waking up early”, when on a different day of week, under other circumstances, I’d just be… still awake. lol I woke around 1:30 am. I’m not sure what woke me, and initially I had every intention of simply going back to sleep. That just didn’t work out. I’m awake. Wholly and completely awake, and quite alert, and ready to begin the day… only… it’s not time for that.

I finally gave up on trying to sleep; it’s not an endeavor that lends itself well to vigorous attempts, and it had become clear that I wasn’t going to be sleeping again any time soon. I’m too familiar with the enduring grogginess that comes of finally falling back to sleep, less than an hour from the alarm going off, and then having to more or less drag myself through my day. Wasted effort. Never able to fully wake and enjoy my day with any sense of purpose. Trapped in a dream-like state. I just have too many other things to do with my time, heading into the weekend, and getting things ready for my Traveling Partner to return home. So – awake it is. I showered, meditated, did some yoga, and made coffee.

…So far it is a lovely morning. 😀

There is some sort of cosmic, comic, betrayal in my experience of sipping on this excellent cup of coffee; I am immediately sleepier than I’ve been since I woke up! I laugh it off; the clock keeps ticking, and I’ve committed myself, at this point, to starting the day a bit ahead of schedule.

As if mocking me, this also ends up being a morning on which I have little to say, as I sit here. I’m sort of just… here. That’s okay, too. There’s no requirement (or real potential) that every moment of living life be somehow spectacular and richly fulfilling. Some moments are just moments – quite enough as they are, and nothing noteworthy or fancy. It’s that sort of morning, only with extra minutes. 😀

I put on my headphones, and hit play on my favorite playlist. It’s tempting to read the news…but… I don’t need to fill my head with outrage machinery and Other People’s Drama, certainly not this early on a quiet morning. Music seems a better fit to this moment. 🙂 I smile into the day ahead, and let the moments tick by, contentedly. This morning, it’s very much enough. 🙂

Perspective is sometimes about the view from a singular moment. If I stand somewhere else, doesn’t my perspective change? 🙂

It took time, and still requires regular practice, and I can’t stress enough how valuable it has been to learn to shift my perspective. Getting hung up on one element of one moment of one experience can really wreck a day (or days, or weeks, or a lifetime…), and there is so much more to consider, to appreciate, and to incorporate into totality of this human life. I’m definitely a fan of a change in perspective in stressful times. Sounds easy – isn’t always. It’s easier with practice, though; we become what we practice. 😀

How though? I mean, in practical terms, how do I “change my perspective” on some hard moment, or other? Well… sometimes I play “The Multi-Verse Game”. 🙂

Every window potentially a different human life in progress, a different point of view…

To play The Multi-Verse Game, I consider my challenge from the basic assumption that there is variety in human experience. Given a large number of human beings, each potentially sharing some slightly different version of a similar, potentially very common, experience, how could the subtle variations play out? What different results would play out, based on differing choices, and subtle differences in experience? I imagine many different sorts of human beings, having this experience that is challenging me so very much, and I allow the scenes to play out, one by one. This person, that choice, these details – how does the story end? That person, other choices, different details – and now how does it go? I extend this into various versions of my own experience; if some one choice or detail were different, in my own life, how would my experience change, then? If nothing else, it becomes entertaining narrative craft, a little internal theater – and often, it allows me to more easily let go of bullshit assumptions I’ve made, and failed to notice are needlessly driving my stress. Sometimes the game serves to alert me of alternatives, and choices, that could work out well for me, that I had not previously understood with clarity, but are revealed in the story-telling.

Another great practice in dark times is making a point to test my assumptions; so much of my anxiety turns out to be caused by my assumptions, rather than by any solid truths or realities of my circumstances. 🙂

…I think of a friend. One of those old friends that is somehow “always there”, even if we’re out of touch for years. Still… sort of a dick move to not make at least some effort; people matter more than that. I pause to send him an email. Just a greeting, really, and a reminder that we exist on a shared journey, separated only by distance. 🙂 Dropping off of the social media landscape has been a little odd in this regard; I’d grown very dependent on it to maintain friendships and associations across vast chasms of geographical distance, and even across time. Now? I’ve got to actually work at those – and occasionally find myself “trapped in the now”, far away, and less than inclined to do so in any practical way. I contemplate my great-grandmother’s letter writing, which I can recall from the edge of adolescence. She was still living, and it was the focal point of her life. She wrote letters to friends. They wrote letters to her. It’s a habit worth cultivating. The world changes – will social media (and the internet, or even electricity) always be available? I sometimes wonder…

The music plays on.

Yeah… that’s the stuff I listen to “in real life”. lol  What about you? Aren’t there details about who you are, the you that you, yourself, know so well, that all those “non you” people seem regularly surprised by? 😉 I grin to myself, content to be who I am, in the wee hours, half-aware of the time as it passes, song by song, minute by minute. I notice that my coffee, cold now, is almost gone. It’s well past 3:00 am, already. Feels like a new day, and not the “middle of the night”, now. I guess it’s time to begin again… 😀

“Do you.”

“Be who you are.”

“Be yourself.”

“Be real.”

If we’re struggling to know ourselves, it follows that being ourselves comes with an obvious challenge; we may only be trying things on for size, exploring our options, or even (and often) terrified by the potential that we may be wrong about it. Uncomfortable – and in our discomfort, and insecurities about “who we think we are”, we lose our way, and potentially become a composite of other people’s values, notions, and assumptions of who we are – some tidied up caricature of who we most want to be, perhaps, or worse, in the struggle to resist, we remake ourselves as monsters. Yikes.

Is it enough to “be who we are”, if we’re not sure about who that is, exactly? Is there an alternative that doesn’t require fakery or bullshit? How do I “become my best self” – and who is that? 56 years old and still, sometimes, wondering who I want to be when I “grow up”. It’s not a process that has a clear conclusion, ideally; I will strive to be that woman I most want to be, until the day I stop being, having become, in that final moment, only a collective of deeds – and memories. No “finish line” – and it’s not a race, more a walk in the countryside. When we’re fortunate, our journey is well-lit, paved, and we’ve got company along the way, and maybe a sense of direction. Less fortunate travelers walk a harder path; it’s dark out there, the way is not paved, at all, there’s no map, and we wander, confused, alone, and feeling wholly fucked over. There’s a lot of options in between – variations in the human experience.

I’m sipping my morning coffee, and thinking about mortality. 🙂 Oh, I’m not feeling gloomy, or down, nor am I obsessing over the details, just very much aware that even this will pass. All of it. I’ll “move on”, not necessary to anything else, perhaps this truly is all there is? I can’t know that in advance – that’s part of the challenge – and I personally choose not to attempt to fill that uncertainty with any sort of conviction about the unknown. It will be what it is, when that time comes, right? Whether I face it with inquisitive openness and curiosity, or with an assumption built on faith and assumptions, it will, reliably, be only what it actually is, in fact. We’ll see when we get there. Or, um, not. lol Sorry – I’m not prone to existential angst, and if you are, this prosy nonsense about whatever the hell may or may not be on the other side of life could be stressful. My bad. Please forgive me – let’s move on. 😉

We’re mortal creatures, that’s my point.

Being my authentic self got tested yesterday. Work stuff. I had a moment, as an adult, to live my values, speak my truth to power, be as frankly and honestly the woman I am, without compromise, in a work scenario that would previously have provoked me to mold myself to the moment, and to try to be who I perceived myself as expected to be. Reasonable enough; people do that all the time. Compromise. Small compromises in values justified as “choosing our battles” or “not starting shit” can so easily lead to becoming a shell of a human being, feeling disconnected, closed off, “not heard” (because we’re not speaking our truth in the first place), and even ashamed – once the dust settles –  of whatever the outcome turns out to be. I don’t want that for myself. 🙂 I went home feeling… clean. Satisfied. “Legit.” I felt whole, empowered, and inspired; I was heard, accepted, and valued. Well… so, yeah, that made it easy, didn’t it?

It’s much harder not to cave to social pressures when we are not accepted, not valued, and dismissed or diminished, instead of heard. It’s not up to chance, though, and I made specific choices to refrain from making assumptions about the outcome of necessary conversations, and chose to simply prepare for the moment in an authentic away – relying heavily on experience, professional knowledge, and trust that my values – and the convictions I hold that are built on those – would be enough. No panic. No “presentation” building. No “controlling the narrative” – and frankly, I’m pretty good at conversation. 😀

…I even managed an entire 45 minutes of conversation without interrupting. lol

This morning, I sip my coffee, smiling, listening to music, looking forward to brunch, and feeling something I guess I can call “proud of myself”… or, maybe… “inspired”? I am even excited to return to work on Monday, which actually feels pretty strange, I gotta say; I’m not generally “about that”. lol It’s not that I don’t enjoy the work I do… it’s more that it definitely feels like a job that takes time away from my lifetime. Time I could – and would – so easily use differently for myself, were I a woman of means on that order of magnitude. I’m not. I work. That’s just real. 🙂

Being our most authentic self is challenging at work. Challenging in relationships that are precious to us – particularly if we feel insecure about the relationship… or who we are. A few years ago, I opted out of most relationships in my life that felt insecure, or which seemed to hold an element of investment in my worst self. Easier than trying to force some other human being to be a different person than they are, I learned to understand that (as with any work team) “fit” matters – and not all human beings are “a good fit” for friendship, romance, partnership, casual fun, lunch out… so many humans to choose from, why would I spend time struggling to force any one relationship to be something it isn’t? Those choices definitely served to make authenticity easier. That just leaves managing the work piece – and the “being out in the world” piece.

Random interactions with strangers. Right. Those, too. There are expectations of how we behave socially. Being my best self doesn’t require me to be inauthentic – but it may require me to change, to grow, or to choose differently than I might, if I were left utterly on my own, feral, undeveloped, un-socialized, and without context. lol There are choices to be made, every social moment. Kindness or cruelty? Compassion or callousness? Patient or angry? Polite or rude? Distant or intimate? Quiet or talkative? Chill or anxious? Rushed or relaxed? So many choices. Who am I?

Who are you?

“Your vibe attracts your tribe.” That’s real. When I am “my own person”, living my life in an authentic way, the people who enjoy my company are enjoying “the real me”, and my social circle, over time, fills with those people. Other people walk on. Letting them go is a natural fit – no need to fight it. Easier not to, too.

Today, this moment, feels easy and relaxed. My coffee is nearly gone. It’s a lovely morning that looks like a hot day to come. I sip my hot coffee grateful for air conditioning. My Traveling Partner went back east to see family – during a heat wave. I frown sympathetically, and ineffectively, at my monitor, when I think about that. I’m sure not going to bitch to him about 86 degrees, when we next speak. 😀 I finish my coffee, and jot down a quick list of things to do today; I like being prepared, when I begin again. 😀

 

It was a good weekend. Relaxed. Filled with reading, conversation, and quality time, well-spent. It was a bit peculiar, but only inasmuch as a 9-hour power outage changed the character of a Saturday, and ultimately of the weekend, but occurring pretty closely to the start of the earliest possible thought of preparing dinner on the grill, and watching UFC with my Traveling Partner… we did neither of those things. LOL The grill is electronically temperature controlled, and has an electrically powered fire-starter. Well, shit. The UFC fights? Yeah, we needed the power for that, too. :-\

Initially, we fussed, in turns, over whether one or the other of our phones would provide enough bandwidth to support streaming the fights… my internet isn’t quite that good. Well, shit.

It was a lovely day to catch up on my reading.

We let it go. We hung out, reading, playing small games on our phones, enjoying the sunny Spring day out on the deck. The day was pleasant. I went to bed a bit earlier than I often do, and missed the power coming back on. lol

The entire weekend ended up being a very pleasant, relaxed weekend, spent with each other. It was quite lovely. Yesterday, I happily ran an errand, then spent the day doing laundry, and tidying up. I dunno… it was a heavenly weekend. 🙂 I sip my coffee, very much aware that it was also entirely ordinary. I’m okay with that. 😀

56 in just two days. I’m okay with that, too. I grin at myself, thinking about all the things I am – and am not – sitting here today.

…My thoughts are interrupted most aggravatingly by my neighbor revving his car in the drive way, rattling the wall. I haven’t heard it quite like this before, and find myself hoping his cute lowered and modified car is “okay”. Then, the wall rattles again, and I frown, see-sawing between interested concern, and the raw nerves of noise sensitivity. Damn, dude, that car does not need to warm up for 10 fucking minutes… for fucks sake. I note the reaction, and take a slow, deep breath. He pulls away. I exhale and let it go. 🙂

It’s a morning to practice non-attachment, I suppose… 😉

I finish my coffee hurriedly, and realize my mistake when I begin coughing (I inhaled some of it. lol). I slow myself down with my whole will, and take another breath. There’s time. 56 doesn’t get here any sooner if I am rushing myself along, it only diminishes the quality of the journey getting there. lol

I consider a moment of contentment, captured in a photograph, and begin again.

I’m thinking about the way social media tends to give us each the impression we know all there is to know about what’s going on around us, and with the people we know, or observe from afar, as though eavesdropping a conversation in a restaurant booth behind us holds any potential to give us context and depth of understanding of the unseen faces having that conversation. It’s a misleading sense of the world, at best, and at worst… we participate in lying to ourselves, and dumbing down the world. Frustrating to attempt to have a deep conversation with a human being heavily invested in the world-via-tweet or yeah, even Instagram – my last remaining social media account. lol

…At this point, I’ve unfollowed every “influencer” (I hadn’t followed many, to begin with, because I don’t know them), and anyone who re-shares spammy bullshit, or advertising, or memes. I have limited my feed to direct relationships with people I actually know “irl”. No exceptions. It’s not about them. It’s about me; I don’t want to build shadows of relationships with distant entities who hold no potential to be “real” in my experience. I may not always like every one of the people around me… but I like them all 100% more than I hold any affection for a twitter account. LOL I mean, seriously? An ever-loving-fuck-ton of celebrities don’t even “manage” their own social media. They hire people to take care of that “workload” for them. They definitely don’t “care” about me – or you. They care about their brand. 😉

I can’t save anyone else from the impersonal science fiction abyss of dystopian disconnection. Sorry. You’ll need to crawl out on your own, if you can. It’s not actually hard, exactly, but it does require your will, and honest intent. So… verbs are involved. Choices. Practice. I kept Instagram, at least for now, simply because I enjoy sharing my photos with my actual friends, and enjoy seeing theirs. Innocent. Authentic. Rather unworldly, inasmuch as I guess I think that’s something I can have… Maybe it isn’t? I sip my coffee and wonder about that. Instagram remains a profit-generating social media platform on which I am not the consumer… I’m the product. Yick. I may need to rethink even this. lol

Snail mail, anyone?

I have been writing letters lately – a bit like the “elderly aunt” I seem to be becoming, slowly, over time. Hell, I’m okay with that. 🙂 I write a lot of email. I receive far less, but it’s not likely that a handful of emails and letters can provide a societal course correction in any detectable way. In my own experience, though, it’s quite a lovely relief from the fuss and bother, and anxiety, of a life in which every possible moment is “connected” via social media. That’s not really being connected at all, as it turns out. We’re all just shouting our opinions at each other, and sharing the ones that agree with our position, hoping to be rewarded with attention, with likes, with clicks, with a boost in personal status, or a large collection of “friends” or followers. How is that not toxic as fuck? lol

There is much less bullshit and drama in a life that is mostly pretty starved of social media. 🙂 Maybe take it for a test drive? If you were born in any year after about 1980, chances are good most of your life has been tangled up in the digital world. Take care of yourself if you do a really serious digital detox; you may be surprised to discover how actually dependent on it you are. Social media has some very drug-like qualities, and you may even be an addict. Be kind to yourself. Be patient.

I laugh for a minute. Quitting wasn’t anything like easy, and the world is just… yeah. My bank uses hashtags on their social media posts. Some of the merchants I do business with have specials that are only presented using digital coupons. Some of the artists and craftsman whose work I favor have contests that require “liking”, “subscribing” and sharing of social media items. It’s everywhere. I still walked away, because I’d rather live very authentically in the real world, such as it is, rather than become a (cognitively) fat shapeless media-fed caterpillar… without at least knowing what I will become, later on. (Pretty sure it won’t be a lovely butterfly of emotional wellness… just saying.) 😉

I finish my coffee. My thoughts continue to rattle around in my consciousness. I’ll spend time on my meditation cushion this morning, making a point to let all of this go, before I begin again, here, alive, awake, and aware, a solitary human being living in the world. ❤

A rose in my garden. You can’t smell it from a picture, or feel its silky petals – that’s only available in the world. 😉