Archives for posts with tag: mindful loving

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. 🙂

It’s time to begin again.

Be who you are. I say it. Other people say it. I think when it is said, it’s generally well-intended, and a sincere expression of an understanding of being that implies being all of the best of who we are, and hopefully still contains a kernel of awareness that reducing ourselves to our own worst qualities, as we understand those ourselves, is not at all the intention. But… just in case… I’ll go ahead and say that, too; being who you are implies being who you are wholly, with skill, and with your fundamental good-nature and humanity intact. Don’t just dissolve in a heated moment, becoming your inner most slime mold. lol That’s less… yeah. It’s less. Less well than you could choose to do. Less pleasant among all your character qualities. Less ideally you than even you would have you be. Yep. Still a shit load of verbs involved there, and some willful decision-making, and the needs to manage your chaos and damage with a modicum of adulting – and you will fail. Sometimes. Other times, you will rock the shit out of all that adulting, and friends and loved ones will be astonished by your general awesomeness and ability to love and treat others well. Mostly, I’ve found, I fall somewhere between those two extremes, day-to-day. Doing my best. Capable of improving on that. Working to improve over time, and become more the woman I most want to be.

Authenticity is a big deal. You really are you, and not someone else. Becoming the person you most want to be isn’t about faking something, or wearing a mask, or playing dress up. When I say I want to become the woman I most want to be, I mean in all the best ways I see myself, and then maybe improving on that – in a bunch of other ways I would like to see myself, but don’t yet, because I’m legitimately not that, yet. We become what we practice. If I want to be accepted as being gracious, calm, and loving, it is necessary for me to practice actions and behaviors that are gracious, calm and loving. Those qualities don’t become “who I am” until there has been so much practice, sufficiently skillfully, and entirely sincerely, that over time the behaviors themselves become my default behavior, and the thinking behind them has become, over time, my natural way of thinking. Am I “faking it” in the meantime? Nope. I’m practicing. Still has to be “the real deal” – I can’t grit my teeth, clench my jaw, and go through the motions (that’s not practicing a behavior, that’s enduring having to comply with a commitment, perhaps, but it’s not “practice” – which requires a certain amount of “buy in” and willingness to change). “Fake it to make it” isn’t a thing I do, myself, because I don’t think that works for me. The key is in the word “fake”. I prefer to rephrase that well-meaning sentiment as “we become what we practice”.

Don’t be fake. Get real.

Who do you most want to be? Behave as though you are already that person – because those behaviors align to your values. (If they don’t, is that really who you want to be, or are you just saying that because someone else wants that of you? Something to think about.) Sure, there is awareness and effort involved, and every day choices matter a lot. It helps, too, to have an understanding of who you already are. Ask the hard questions of yourself. Look yourself in the eye and call shenanigans on your own bullshit – leave all those other people out of it, they’ve got their own hard mile to walk.

Being authentically this person that I am doesn’t permit me to be nasty to people and just say “well that’s who I am, accept me” in any comfortable way (I’ve seen a lot of people take this strategy, though). I find, instead, that it forces a certain uncomfortable obligation to be authentically vulnerable about where I could improve, or change, based on my own understanding of myself and what I want of me. Yep. Being authentically me, accepting of myself, and non-judgmentally aware of “who I am right now” doesn’t alleviate the burden of self-reflection and personal growth, and it doesn’t allow me to break my social contract with the world (which is basically an agreement to treat others well, based on certain common standards). What it does do is place my growth and progress in life in my own hands, based on my own choices. I can choose to be the worst of what I am capable of – or the best – or I can fall somewhere between the extremes. I can choose to progress, to do nothing, or to fall behind. I can act using my own will and agency, or allow learned helplessness to stall me in the moment. All choices. I can choose authenticity – or I can choose to go through the motions, resenting my lot in life.

Thoughts on a Wednesday morning, as I prepare to begin again. Real-ly.

Well, here it is Monday… again…already… What a good weekend. So good, actually, it’s hard to look back on it without some measure of guilt, knowing my Traveling Partner did not have such a good experience with his weekend. Hard to look ahead to the day, too; I’ve got another doctor’s appointment, another diagnostic procedure. An entire work week ahead, beyond today, too. I’m already less than excited about that. lol Clearly, new beginnings have value – and I could use one this morning.

I am already feeling a little aggravated, and it’s foolish – exceedingly foolish. Honestly, any time the word “aggravated” finds its way into the same sentence with the brand “Facebook”, well… yeah. Totally foolish. I laugh and let that dumb shit go. New beginnings are often as easy as letting something go. 🙂

With my morning quickly restarted, I still find that I am less than ideally engaged with the concept of “work”, generally. 🙂 I have so much of my own stuff to do. I learn that all over again every time I take a long weekend, a vacation, any kind of real break from the day-to-day grind. The reminder is writ large and in bold strokes. Life exists beyond our employment. We are not defined by (or limited by) our occupation – the world is so much larger than a job. 🙂

A few minutes exchanged with my Traveling Partner. How does this one human being so easily nurture and support me, treat me well, value me, and respect my heart, from such a great distance? I still crush on this guy like a teenager. Hilarious. 🙂 We talk briefly about the weekend. The present. Our future. Friends. A pleasant conversation with my partner over my morning coffee. The world feels… right. I finish my coffee smiling. It’s a good beginning.

My evening ended with a plot twist. Being the author of my experience day-to-day, I wasn’t taken by surprise in any noteworthy way; I am the protagonist, I am also the plotter, and the chooser of twists, in this one very human story. 🙂

I’m not on the road this morning. I’m not headed south to the countryside for a long weekend. I don’t yet know much about what I am doing, but it isn’t that. lol I chose differently.

I take my Big 5 relationship values super seriously, and I attempt to apply them to all the different relationships I have with others. Respect, compassion, consideration, openness, and reciprocity seem pretty foundational to achieving contentment and harmony (to me). I made choices about my weekend based on these qualities in my relationship with my Traveling Partner, and his Other (by extension, friend, family, and metamour). She’s having a shit time of things right now, very human. I respect my Love, and also his desire to care for this other human being. I feel compassion for his situation (complicated), her experience (difficult right now), and their journey together. I consider what she may need, what he may need, and what I need for myself. I recognize the love and respect (and consideration) that went into comfortably accommodating my need for (rather a lot of) space to live and grow and work out my bullshit without ruining friendships, love, or just the general good vibe every-damned-where, when I moved into my own place. To reciprocate, at least this weekend, it seemed pretty clear that changing my weekend plans could be the most loving-kind thing I could choose for those dear to me. Or… I could stick to my plans because I’d made them, and risk creating a more difficult experience for everyone concerned (including me). Well, shit. I not only don’t want to do that, I don’t need to, and have other intentions and desires for my own experience this weekend; I’m celebrating Spring. I made the choice to cancel my trip down this weekend.

I haven’t yet planned the weekend, and now I am sipping coffee, and listening to commuter traffic pass by on a dark gray misty rainy chilly spring morning, that, in the abstract, had seemed a likely one for a hike in the early morning (not so much, actually, as it turns out).

I woke at 4 am feeling “ready for the day” – and such was my original planning that this would have been “time to go”. lol I went back to sleep content to sleep in as late as I cared to… and woke up at 5 am. I made coffee. Watched the sleepy gray dawn grudgingly admit day break had arrived. I did dishes. Tidied up. Made a second coffee. Put away some laundry. Purposeful but without a clear agenda. Relaxed and feeling easy in my skin.

…Still no idea about the days ahead. I think I’m even okay with that. It’s a good day to take a trip. To find an adventure. To pursue an unexpected novelty or fanciful notion. It’s a good day to paint. To write. To finish this book I am reading. It’s a good day for exceptional self-care. It’s a good day for leisure. I’ve been needing this. Not just the leisure between work shifts, or the leisure of time enjoyed with loved ones wedged between work weeks, but also the deep satisfying soul-healing leisure of time spent mindfully with self. So far, so good.

Really, though, my point this morning is not about what I am specifically doing with my time and my experience. It’s about a question. How’s your experience going for you? You know; the one you are having. The one you are choosing. If it isn’t what you’d hoped it would be, there are some options. My favorite first option is to take a closer look at expectations and assumptions; are you heavily invested in some outcome, or an assumption that is untested, or an expectation that is unstated? Are you attempting to force real life to comply with your narrative? (Don’t forget; you made that shit up in your head, and possibly without even fact-checking the details.) Totally something that can be corrected. If you choose to. The second great option when having a less than ideal experience is also about choices – your choices, your actions, your verbs. Don’t like what you’re doing? Do something different. Don’t like the outcome unfolding around you? Choose another. I’m not saying this is as easy as using words – your results may vary. Here’s the thing, though, you’re already choosing – and what you are choosing is this.  If you don’t like it, you do have other choices. Tons of them.

I think where a lot of us get stuck (I know I do) is that the menu of choices is pretty vast, and the easiest way to manage that cognitively is to pare it down to the most extreme choices, or the most obvious choices, or the choices that “get a reaction” in some seemingly useful way – instead of legitimately, authentically, sincerely, considering our choices in a wholesome positive way that truly contains the potential to change things up for the better. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that we are shunning authenticity in favor of manipulation, control, or chaos. It can be hard to watch another human being go through that (and put everyone around them through that), but I don’t know how to shake someone out of those shenanigans, and can’t force anyone to “be authentic and real”. Certainly shouting that at people hasn’t worked well for me (yeah, I’ve tried that). lol

I hope your experience is a lovely one. I hope you are content and satisfied in life, day-to-day. I hope you feel, deeply, heartily, and with great awareness – and I hope you reason clearly in spite of your strong feelings. If not, and you want more or different from life, why then I hope you choose something different. 🙂

I’ll be over here, enjoying Spring, and this opportunity to begin again. ❤

…Or maybe even just care.

I’m sipping my coffee. Scrolling through social media. I’m stunned by the quantity of anger, of propaganda, of knee-jerk reactions to both of those – I’m stunned by how often and how easily I am, myself, baited.

I reach a repeat of a meme that is some version of the “I don’t know how to convince you to care about people” meme. It’s one that resonates with me. Why are we even still trying to convince each other? Well, obviously; because we do care. But.

(And it’s a big but)

We’re each having our own experience. Some people really don’t care about other people at all. That’s real. It’s who they are. It’s who they choose to be. They practice that whole not caring thing, daily. Other people care so much, so hard, so publicly, that they become an abstraction of caring, a caricature of caring, an advertisement for caring – so emotionally invested in the pain of the whole world that they become immobilized with grief and outrage, and all of that without actually acting on their caring, except, possibly, through some Facebook posts, Tweets, and charitable online donations, with just enough energy left over to shame others who appear to care less. Some people care less publicly. They care quietly. They care privately. They help when and where they can. They don’t talk much about it. Maybe they don’t think their effort is enough, or that it doesn’t really matter. (Of course, it matters if you are a person needing help, right?) Maybe they worry that if undefined mobs of people know they care, they won’t have enough resources to share that caring with all of them. Some people help those they love, and only those they love. Others help only strangers. (Fuck family and friends, don’t they have jobs??* Those losers…*) Some people care, and help, and support, and nurture, and really deliver on their commitment to care… except for themselves. There is, as with so many other human behaviors, a definitely spectrum, a range, an assortment, a real variety of choices and experiences.

I sit sipping my coffee and thinking about who I am in the context of caring about others. Where do I fit in? Is it “enough” – from my own perspective? Do I “wish I could do more”? Is that something I can manage more efficiently? Considering the matter of “caring” – do I communicate well and clearly, expressing my appreciate, my gratitude, my loving concern, my support? Could I do that better? Is there someone yearning for my time, my presence, my help, my companionship, that I’ve been overlooking? Someone I could reach out to, who needs me? Am I giving myself enough of my time, enough of my effort, enough of my good-natured regard and consideration?

We can care without spending a dime. We can be considerate of others without giving more than a moment to slow down and really be aware of the needs and experience of other people in the moment. We can be present. We can make a point to understand, and experience compassion for, circumstances we’ve never endured. We can listen deeply – what a priceless treasure to really be heard by another human being.

I smile and sip my coffee. Of all the things I am learning in life, the most cherished detail may be learning to love, to care, to consider, to listen, to share a human connection with another traveler on life’s journey for some little while. To experience and understand things that aren’t “about me”. Today is a good day to care and to love. Today is a good day to change the world – even just this tiny corner.

Today is a good day to begin again. 🙂

 

 

*that was sarcasm – seemed worth pointing that out in this instance to avoid confusion.