Archives for posts with tag: mindful love

I don’t generally get so many opportunities to simply relax in the good company of my Traveling Partner. The opportunities we do get don’t always work out ideally well (both of us being quite human, and dealing both with our own “baggage” and our own issues with being in physical pain). It’s been an extraordinary holiday season, filled with connected hang out time, together, enjoying favored content from here and there, relaxing, playing games, making conversation about topics of mutual (or separate) interest, and because it isn’t reliably an everyday experience, I’ve embraced it without any guilt or reservations about how I am spending my time – even when doing so may subtly undermine long-standing practices that support emotional wellness (like meditating), or “press pause” on routines and practices that create the foundation of this life that has become commonly characterized by contentment. πŸ™‚ So… without apology or excuse, I’m not writing as often, and I’m fully living in this moment much more, at least for the duration of the holiday season. It’s quite nice, and I am making a point to savor the opportunity, the experiences, and the moment-to-moment joy of being so well-loved, and having the chance to love so deeply, myself.

Today is a pleasant Saturday, in the middle of a long weekend (for me), planned well in advance as part of my holiday. My Traveling Partner and I are both in pain, today. It happens. No drama or bullshit associated with that; we’re both very much aware of each other’s physical limits and concerns, and we cherish each other’s efforts, and the shared will to explore joy in spite of pain. It is characteristic of this partnership that we do so, generally. Worth the effort (and yes, there is reliably effort involved).

Note to self: it’s worthwhile to make an effort at the things that you’ve determined matter most. Your results may vary, but the outcomes will prove to be reliably better than not making the effort. Sooner or later, effort goes into something – what better choice than to make that effort in support of the life you most want to live, the experiences you most want to have, or becoming the person you most want to be? Choices. (And verbs.)

I smile and think of cruise brochures, plans for our shared future, life right now, and all the things that have lead to this moment, here, which leads on to those moments as yet unexperienced. I think about potential life-style changes, wellness, and longevity. I pause a moment to celebrate this experience of being partnered with a human being I truly want to spend my life with.

The smallest tokens of lasting affection can feel huge.

Giftmas has come and gone. It was lovely. Warm. Joyful. Loving. A delightful holiday. Precious mementos will remind me for some time to come just how exceptional this holiday was. I hope never to forget any detail, but… “always” and “never” aren’t concepts I feel comfortable investing emotional energy in. lol I’m content to smile when I do remember, and let the warmth of being well-loved wash over me, in that moment of recollection. Good memories. πŸ˜€

I sit quietly for a moment. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I feel the pain… here. Over here. That one, there, too. This newer one. This one that has lingered far too long. This one that is so well-understood. That one, that I just don’t understand. I let each one go; recognized, accepted, and where possible, attended to as skillfully as I am able to do. Another breath. Another exhalation. A sip of water. A correction in seated posture. Moments tick by.

“This, too, shall pass.” Even pain is mostly fairly temporary, inasmuch as it is not truly unfailingly continuous. It matters to savor those moments in which pain is lessened, or isn’t there at all; doing so reduces the likelihood of becoming mired in an implicit experience of “always” hurting. “Always” isn’t very common. Neither is “never”. I smile and let them both go. They’re oftenΒ  just words for a more nuanced experience that takes ever so many more words to describe accurately. “Often” is useful, but less than satisfying when describing the experience of pain; I want the emphasis that is associated with “always”. So human.

…Being in pain is human, too. Way more people spend a lot of time in pain than people around them seem to recognize. Don’t be a dick to people; maybe they’re in pain. Maybe it would be more helpful to be kind, to listen deeply, and to refrain from taking people’s crossness or irritability at all personally? We are each having our own experience. πŸ™‚

The new year (2020, in this case) is approaching quickly. Just days away, now. I’m eager to embrace a quiet holiday, filled with meditation, and forward-looking thoughts. A refresh of the budget seems in order. A new “map” of the future, too, perhaps? An update to my “life in weeks” chart, also; it’s been an eventful year. Perspective on it is worthwhile. It’s time to contemplate what to keep – and what to cast aside. Time to consider what matters most, and commit to the effort to bring more of that into my life, and to the effort to stay focused and purposeful, over time.

What about you? What matters most? Where are you headed in life? What will you choose to do about any of that? (So many choices!!)

…It’s already time to begin again. πŸ˜‰

 

It’s been a wonderful weekend with much to celebrate and very little stress. πŸ™‚ Life doesn’t always hand out such lovely weekends, uninterrupted by bullshit and drama, characterized by laughter and love; warmth and affection saturated each welcome moment. It was beautiful. I’m sipping my coffee and smiling, and taking time for gratitude. I can even pin-point what made this particular weekend so incredibly delightful; kind words.

It is not an exaggeration to observe that when most people talk about giving “feedback”, they are talking about negative feedback. Let’s be real about that; negative feedback can also, generally, be called “criticism”, and being criticized, especially if it is a regular thing, is not pleasant. It’s quite difficult to give negative feedback in an encouraging way that lifts someone up, and promotes improvement and positive change. It fairly commonly feels like a beat-down, discouraging, punishing, and devaluing. Yes, even when well-intentioned, and particularly if there is no balancing positive feedback or encouragement offered. Negative feedback is hard to do skillfully, and can be damaging.

You know what isn’t all that difficult? Positive feedback – encouragement. You know what is also fairly easy to do skillfully, and rarely causes damage? Kind words. Yep. Negative feedback isn’t nearly as effective, but it does provide a certain something for the giver-of-feedback (that isn’t at all needed by the person receiving it); the satisfaction of insisting on being heard. Many people avoid clearly understanding what the negative feedback experience feels like for the recipient – until they are, themselves, receiving it. It’s a shame, because positive feedback, encouragement, and kind words, given honestly, and from an authentic place, work in the most remarkable way to actually change behavior over time. Seriously.

(No one is talking about “white lies” here! Or lies at all.)

The key to both positive and negative feedback is the honesty and authenticity, but without kindness and encouragement, negative feedback is often just… mean. Whether we intend it that way or not. It’s just that no one likes being criticized. Feeling rejected actually causes an experience similar to physical pain. It does not matter in the least whether we are “right”; negative feedback stings a little every time, and if it comes as a barrage of nagging and complaints, all the positive intentions in the world won’t ensure the person we are speaking to thinks of it as “helpful” or “welcome” or will recognize that we are well-intentioned, at all. It’s often what comes to our attention most commonly, and most quickly, though – all those things we see as “could have been done better”. We notice that immediately. We are irritated by things that aren’t “right”. We speak up quickly to offer “feedback” – or feel like we’re not being “heard”.

Kindness does take a bit more effort; it’s important to actually notice real things that please, impress, or support us, or which we want to acknowledge and reinforce. That means actually actively paying attention to that person we care enough about to give feedback to. It also means understanding what is important to us, and being very aware of words and actions that support what we see as something that “matters”. Where negative feedback has it’s own notification system in place to let us know when something isn’t quite right, positive reinforcement doesn’t seem to do that, and puts the burden of awareness in our relationships where it belongs; it our here and now, a practice we practice. Can you even count the number of kind things, encouraging words, that you’ve said to your partner or a dear friend in the past 24 hours? If you’re like most people, that number is pretty low, most of the time, and the number of criticisms, “negative feedback”, and back-handed compliments are probably pretty high. It’s a pretty sad state of things considering that there is science to support the need for healthy relationships to have a high ration of positive to negative interactions. Just saying. Do better. Be kind. Be present. Be encouraging. πŸ˜‰ Have pleasant weekends. πŸ˜€

…Now, having said that, it’s also a real thing that if we’re not playing the game of life by the same rules, within our relationships, it can get weird and unpleasant very quickly when we make a change in our behavior of this sort. If a person living in the context of a very negative, sarcastic, gas-lighting relationship starts trying to embrace positive feedback and kindness, it’s not going to “fix” the other person, or the relationship. It’s just not. (I’m not saying negative feedback and criticism are therefore the way to go; sometimes the way ahead isn’t easy, and a few small changes just aren’t adequate to put things right, generally.) What I am saying is that otherwise generally emotionally healthy people do well to treat each other truly well, placing more emphasis and priority on positive feedback, encouragement, and kind words, than on negative feedback.

This past weekend really proved that idea for me. The once or twice I was offered any sort of negative feedback in the moment completely fades from my recollection. I remember the points being made, and the suggestions, but not the negative words or moments. What I remember most about the weekend was the kindness, the compliments, the encouragement, the supportiveness, the listening, the connectedness, the shared humor… it was a wonderful weekend. I felt valued, appreciated, and loved. Words do matter. Assumptions do matter. How we approach each other as human beings does matter. All weekend long I’ve felt the heartbeat of this partnership in a warm, positive way, wrapped in love and held in high regard. So much kindness and tenderness. πŸ™‚

There are subtleties to consider. The difference between “a helpful suggestion” and “unwelcome criticism” is in things like tone, context, and intention; it’s super hard to make useful “rules” about how to do that skillfully, that I could share and someone else could make use of. I am painfully aware of the complexities and required nuance – I’m learning as I go, myself. (Sorry for the extra “homework”!)

Empty compliments are hollow, and don’t work as positive feedback. Content, authenticity, honesty, these things matter. The moment matters. The choice of words matters. Tone of voice matters. Sincerity matters (we can all hear a passive-aggressive “tone”, or sarcasm.) It does take some practice, particularly if we’ve tended to be very negative in our life (possibly framing our choice to be so as “taking care of myself” “expressing my needs” or “setting boundaries”). If you find yourself reading these words thinking “well, except for so-and-so, because I literally have nothing good to say to them”, well, now you’re in “if you can’t say something nice…” territory. Seems unlikely that any one individual could be someone with literally no redeeming qualities of any kind worth reinforcing or encouraging… certainly seems unlikely you’d have chosen to marry such a person, or build a life with them, or develop a deep friendship with someone like that, right? So, start where that positive feedback and those encouraging kind words will make the most profound difference; at home. This holiday season, don’t be a dick. πŸ™‚ Tell the people who matter to you that they do matter. Say nice things more often than you criticize or “correct” them. Trust me; it’s painless to be nice. πŸ˜‰

…And if you just have to offer up a “correction” or “criticism”, definitely try to at least soften your tone! Sounding angry or irritable is real communication of emotions. It’s helpful to be at least aware that the emotional experience we’re having is our own, and to acknowledge that honestly and not try to put it on the person we’re talking to in some kind of blame-laying way. πŸ™‚

Are you afraid of fucking this up? Are you worried about “being wrong” or “taken the wrong way”? I get it. Change – however necessary, or desirable, can be hard. Fortunately, there are a ton of opportunities to begin again. Go ahead – take a chance on being kind to people you care about. Hell, it’s the holiday season, be kind to everyone, as though each person you meet is human, and really matters. (They are, and do.) If you don’t like who you become, the new year is here, soon enough, and you can begin again, again. πŸ˜€

This morning it takes me awhile to get where I’m going with this. Please forgive. Short night, early morning, sluggish thinking.

Sometimes patterns of light distract from illumination

Is it really notably different whether you are being obviously aggressive to someone, or acting out passive-aggressively? I personally don’t think there is, aside from the lack of forthrightness, and personal accountability. Micro-aggression fits in there, too; it’s in the intention, it’s in what the underlying feeling is, it’s how the person attacked feels the harm. I think most of us dislike feeling attacked, whether or not it is provoked by obvious ill-intention, or subtly camouflaged.

With overt aggression, I am at least certain I’ve been attacked. There’s an honesty to it. A certain… certainty. It’s not pleasant, but it’s clear. I may be taken aback, or wounded, but I also have unmistakable means to deal with it. Passive aggression is sneaky, sly, and dishonest. The attacker masquerades as well-intentioned, in some cases convincingly (to outside observers). The attack is no less damaging. The attacker no less intentional.

I try to avoid passive-aggressive attacks, and micro-aggressions (sometimes complicated by a lack of self-awareness), as well. I’m not a perfect human being, but a willful, considered, attempt, and a good-heart, go a long way. There’s less I understand to do about my own potential for overt aggression, beside stifle it, keep it in check by force if necessary, and continue to work on not having to deal with it, by making it less a part of my implicit thinking, and “natural” behavior – by practicing other ways with a firm commitment, and apologizing swiftly and without reservations when I recognize I’ve hurt someone.

…I’m my own human being. I find living with other human beings incredibly difficult. I’ve been badly damaged by violence, aggression, passive-aggression (and her evil twin, gaslighting), and the scars are, in some cases, still very raw, the wounds still easily re-opened. Healing from this kind of damage can take… a lifetime. I’m sitting here at 56, feeling rather as if I’ve used up most of the time available, without much improvement. Oh, I take the improvements I do get. I value those (they are the thing that makes life livable). I keep at it. There’s plenty to work on. It’s true, too, that the only thing I can truly effect change on – talking about human beings, human feelings, human experience, here – is this one. Mine. Me. What I do, what I think, how I behave, how I feel – all mine to work on, and perhaps improve. There is literally no realistic potential to change anyone else’s behavior, or how they interact with me. It’s hard, if I hold onto a perception that “they” are the cause of my experience.

Stare at something long enough it may appear to be more significant than it is

Sleep matters too much – even to love. I don’t get enough good sleep. It affects my cognition. It affects my emotional balance. It affects my ability to reason. I take some pretty profound steps to maintain good sleep hygiene – because it’s necessary to ensure I get the minimum amount of rest necessary to sustain human life. It’s been two weeks since I last got more than an hour of deep sleep, according to my sleep tracker, and that was interrupted and in smaller increments. Before that? Back in September, same thing; interrupted, 5 and 10 minute chunks of deep sleep, interspersed with light sleep and wakefulness. I have to go all the way back to July to find a night when I got more than an hour and a half of continuous deep sleep. I’m often short on REM sleep, too, mostly just getting “light sleep” that is neither deep or REM sleep. It’s no wonder I’m tired so much, and I guess no surprise that my resilience has been reduced, and my temperament more irritable, over time.

…During my first (very violent) marriage, I went nearly a decade without actually sleeping more than an hour or two a night, mostly just resting motionlessly, and sleep-walking through my “waking” life… My sleep issues are not about my current relationship, they have been with me a long long time, even into childhood.

I don’t have any idea, just now, what to do about it. “Stop being annoying” and “stop being irritable” are bullet points on a long list of things to change that don’t work that way. I know to start with improving my self-care. Meditation matters that much. I know to harness the power of gratitude when I am feeling resentful and hurt, and to let go of small things, understanding that we are each human, each having our own experience, and that taking things personally is what allows them to hurt so much in the first place – as well as giving others power over my experience. Even the most direct actual-no-bullshit-fully-intended-to-specifically-hurt-me attack isn’t all that personal; it’s usually an expression of that other person’s own pain, frustration, challenges, hurts, and baggage. Often, people don’t know another way to behave. They do what has worked for them in the past. Taking that shit personally just piles my baggage onto their baggage, and it all gets very heavy – for everyone.

It’s not as if people who favor aggression or passive-aggression are actually enjoying all that stress and agitation. (The sorts of human beings who enjoy that kind of thing are a wholly other sort of monster, and I do my very best to stay far far away from those.)

is there really a pattern, or is it a trick of the light?

Then, too, there are so many circumstances in which my own understanding of “what’s going on” is colored by my baggage, my perception altered by my own pain, and I see an attack – or an attacker – where there is really only another human being, being human, and it just happens to conflict with me, also so human, being human, myself. My own feelings of being hurt, or my own petty resentments, build up a foe in my thinking – an opponent, a challenger – against whom I struggle…

…I’m nearly always, in truth, struggling with myself. There’s a lot of bullshit to let go. There are a lot of great reasons to let go of my own bullshit. (No good reasons to hold on to it.)

I sit here this morning sipping my coffee, past feeling sorry for myself, around the corner from feeling aggrieved by the brief restless night. I am listening to my Traveling Partner working out his feelings his own way, tidying things, handling chores that nag at him visually, checking things off his “to-do list”. It was a brutally early morning for both of us. Neither of us slept well, I’m fairly certain. It wasn’t personal, or chosen, or intentional, or deliberately inflicted in any way. No bad guys. No real “good guys”, either. Just people. Human beings who choose love, but struggling in the moment to live that intention, gently. Too real? Too common, for sure. I listen with care, identifying the tasks by the sounds, mentally refreshing my own to-do list as I hear him move through the house.

I used to think love wasn’t a “real thing”, because it isn’t easy, and requires actual effort. lol I’m grateful for love, even when I am frustrated or confounded by what love asks of me, as a human being committed to love and loving – and doing so well.Β  That’s really where it gets complicated. Every-fucking-body is so damned human. I can love haplessly, without real skill, and it doesn’t take too much work… aaand.. doesn’t last too long, flaring up and flaming out, leaving chaos and sorrow in the aftermath… that’s the “easy” way (and most common outcome). Harder is working together, listening deeply, fostering a long-term sanctuary in our hearts, keeping a welcoming embrace always at the ready, and seeking to build, approach, support, and persist in our tenderness and gentleness, day after human day. Life is a long journey – I’m fortunate to have the Traveling Partner I do; we chose each other. Some days we have to reach across a very human moment, to choose each other all over again. (So worth it, rarely effortless.)

sometimes it is enough that there is sunshine streaming through a window; it doesn’t need to be more complicated than that

He puts his head in my studio, makes eye contact, asks a question, starts a conversation – builds a bridge. Love is worth a little bridge building, when our very human stormy weather floods our path. He gets it. (Usually before I do.)

I finish my coffee and begin again. πŸ™‚

 

What a delightful homecoming! I enjoyed my Traveling Partner’s return, and we spent a delightful, and most peculiar, weekend together. Peculiar in the sense that it often felt like a time warp – back to that first year together. Exciting to spend time together, exciting to get to know each other more deeply, and occasionally challenging as expectations collide with reality, or miscommunication confounds a moment. It was very… real. πŸ™‚

I spent a lot of time talking about potential futures, with my partner. Longer-range planning, and very long-range planning, a future that includes a comfortable retirement, and a home of our own. We shopped together – wow I have missed that so much! He takes suggestions, inspires new thinking, and accepts gifts with humble & practical delight. I overcome my surprise at his suggestions, and accept moments of change both large and small, with eyes open to the value of his perspective, and a heart full of love. The result? I definitely feel more future-focused, more aligned on key details of our shared planning, more certain of our mutual commitment, and so well-loved. πŸ˜€

It was, in brief, a lovely weekend spent in the company of someone who loves me, and who I love.

I’m sitting here sipping my morning coffee before dawn, nothing new there. Another work day ahead, also pretty routine. New boots on my feet, a new sweater wraps me in warmth – and love. I’m smiling. Hell, I don’t even hurt much, as I sort out my thinking to begin a new day. Even hearing him breath or sigh as he turns over in the other room is enough to deepen my smile. I’m definitely entirely in love with this particular human being. I’m okay with that. I’m even okay with how very much love asks of me, as a human being – all the growth is worth the time, consideration, and numerous additional verbs. We are both, each, better human beings for loving each other. πŸ˜€

…I could be more skillful at love, I know. Plenty to learn. Plenty of opportunity to practice. It’s a lovely morning for beginning again. πŸ˜€

A morning with some challenges. I sip my coffee, finding my center through music. Love Rollercoaster feels appropriate. I take another sip of coffee, clean up my subscriptions in YouTube… astonished that I ever subscribed to that. What was I thinking? For real? Life and love, as journeys go, aren’t a smooth, well-lit, comfortably paved, straight broad path from this moment to the next. Like a lot of journeys, sometimes it’s gravel, sometimes it’s grassy, sometimes it’s a steep climb, other times it is so effortless is passes nearly unnoticed, caught up in my own unrelated thinking about it in the abstract. Like a rollercoaster? Sure, near enough, I suppose.

I’m not cross or unhappy this morning, and eventually I settled into a comfortable groove, feeling good. This Love Rollercoaster has many twists and curves, and I’ve learned much about love. The morning just got off to a bumpy start. It happens, and it’s not always about love. πŸ™‚ There are other things going on. Let’s start with aging – and pain. Aging sucks in one or two regards – pain being one of those. I’ve got mine, my Traveling Partner has his. I woke this morning, with him, we each had our reasons for wakefulness to do with physical pain. Feelings were briefly hurt over unintentionally harsh words, because… pain. We both let it go, quickly, because neither of us wants to add to the other’s hurting, and we both mean to treat each other well. Affectionate reassurances, and loving heartfelt apologies, and the moment is behind us.

I had made coffee for us both, but we weren’t really up for coffee together; the morning started too early, and with too much discomfort. I sat down in my studio to chill with some music videos. I’d have gone back to bed, but had awakened feeling “triggered” and on edge by my own pain, and sleep wasn’t going to come easily (or, possibly, at all) – and I was near enough to “well-rested” to let that go, I just needed to restore that sense of balance, and begin again. πŸ™‚ Eventually, my partner pops in to admit that he’s not really ready for coffee, after all, and shares his intention of attempting to go back to bed. Makes sense to me. I would, if I could. πŸ™‚ He offers me his coffee, apologetically, appreciatively, and lovingly. I’m warmed by the gesture every bit as much as I would be by the coffee… sometime later, after I finished mine, I go get his – still warm. I smile, pleased to have a second cup of coffee without running the grinder and potentially disturbing my partner’s rest; I know he needs the rest.

I sit in the warmth of what an amazing weekend this has been for love and loving, without trying to analyze it – just enjoying it.

I think about our lovely evening the night before – dinner out with friends, hanging out at our place, afterward. It was nice. My smile deepens. Brunch with a friend at noontime – also quite delightful. Good weekend. I sip my coffee feeling content and satisfied. Fulfilled? Definitely. Happy? I think maybe, yeah. Feels good.

The difficult moments this morning weren’t personal, weren’t any sort of attack, really weren’t a big deal – just difficult, and actually, very very momentary. I can deal with that. I can also remember a time when a moment like that one this morning would not only have blown my day – it would have blotted out my recollections of this delightful weekend of love, affection, romance, and shared experiences with friends. I’d have drowned my heart in emotional “weather” – unable to enjoy the lovely “climate” in this period of my life, generally. I’m glad I have undertaken so many small practices that prevent me from becoming mired in a painful moment and unable to connect with a joyful life.

Quite a lot has gone into getting from “there” to “here”. πŸ™‚

I sit quietly sipping my coffee, appreciative of how far my journey has taken me, how wonderful love is, and how pleasant it is to be so easily able to let go of the small stuff, and bounce back quickly. Basic mindfulness practices. Real actual practice. Verbs. Incremental change over time. Lots of books (have you seen my Reading List??). Lots of practice. My results have varied, and I’ve avoided taking that as a personal failure, beginning again thousands of times. What works, works; we become what we practice. πŸ˜€

…Well… It’s a lovely Sunday. Time to finish this coffee, and start the day. πŸ˜€