Archives for posts with tag: mindful loving

Sipping my coffee on a routine workday morning, the answer seems pretty clear; wherever I choose to go, is the “where” that answers the question “where do I go from here?” No guarantee of an easy journey, obviously (isn’t that obvious? It is obvious, right? I mean… seriously?),  but generally speaking, we chart our own course, as individuals, so long as we have the will to do so. I mean… the choices are ours (even the choice to refrain from actively choosing, which is, nonetheless, a choice). Getting hung up on outcomes and destinations is a lot of what makes the journey so fucking complicated, and often difficult. 🙂

Here’s a video my Traveling Partner shared with me the other day. It continues to resonate with me. It seems a timely share so soon after the New Year, particularly if you are prone to “resolutions”. 🙂

Today is a different day than yesterday. My Traveling Partner and I got past my bad moment. The connection and intimacy we followed it with resulted in some deeper conversations, about things troubling him, about things that continue to cause me unexpected distress and uneasiness. We are each so very human. We each do our best to soothe and support the other. We gently align on some basic ideas for the coming year (primarily the need to focus our attention, financially, on some specific things important to a comfortable future). The evening ended pleasantly. I slept fairly well, waking once or twice, briefly, but getting the rest I need. I woke in the wee hours, shortly before the alarm, just as he came to bed. We cuddled a while, until it was time for me to acknowledge the new day, and get on with things. I silently wish him “sleep well and rest deeply” as I rise from the bed, gently, to avoid waking him, hoping that thoughts he wrestled with through the evening and night give him some peace, at last.

How did we get past our rough moments in the morning, though? It was a small thing. He approached me so gently, checking in with me, and as he walked away, he said “I love you”. I didn’t expect it. I still felt so raw, so disrupted, so disappointed with life. Those simple words, in a dark moment of doubt, of feeling uncertain of being worthy of love at all… they turned my head, and reminded me more clearly to be kind to myself, too, and to give myself a break. Clearly, my partner was not rejecting me as a human being; once I could see that, once I allowed myself to see that, it was easier to let my own bullshit go.

Still… I’ll point out what looks obvious from the perspective of a new day; I get more “bang for my buck” resilience-wise, when I “work from within”, instead of allowing any measure of my sense of self, or sense of personal worthiness, to rest on the impression of me someone else may have. That may not be 100% realistic, as goals go. Love can complicate things a bit. We want the affection of those we love, so very much. Our individual baggage about love and relationships can twist our heads and hold us back. Yesterday’s challenge is a good reminder, too, that we can hold a lot of power over how someone else may feel, and without intending to wield that power at all a poorly chosen phrase, a careless word, a moment of anger, any of these can topple a lovely experience. It’s important to continue to choose to be the person I most want to be, and to continue to practice loving kindness, deep listening, and, yes, non-attachment (because so often, it is my attachment to “being right” or “being heard” or “being understood” that stop me from making room to really listen, and to make the wisest choices in my relationships).

This morning is a new day, a new opportunity to be the person I most want to be, a new set of choices, and a new moment to be present for. I’m good with that. I like a new beginning. 🙂

 

It’s been a wonderful weekend with much to celebrate and very little stress. 🙂 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. 😉 Have pleasant weekends. 😀

…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. 🙂

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. 🙂 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. 😉

…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. 🙂

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. 😀

Time doesn’t wait on us to set our priorities. Reality does not take a compassionate approach toward whether or not we have a realistic perspective on our choices, timing, or whether our opinions are tied to real life. We do get to choose, though, we get to choose so much! There’s a lot of promise in that. 🙂

This weekend I chose sleep, and I chose Love, and I mostly did not choose writing. lol Sometimes it’s hard to fit all of the things into a single short period of time. 🙂 It was a lovely weekend. For the moment, I don’t at all recall what we did with it… just joyful snapshots: a breakfast out, a dinner at home, shared satisfaction tidying up this-n-that together, love, affection, and connection… certainly it’s enough. 🙂

Now I’ve got my stuff ready for the new work week. I’m dressed for it. Sipping coffee. Waking up. Nothing much on my mind. My neck, for the time being, doesn’t hurt. I pause to really notice and even celebrate that; doing so builds an adjusted implicit awareness that makes room for the recollection that I am not literally always in pain – that’s unhealthy hyperbole. I sit appreciating the pain I don’t have… or… I mean to say, that I don’t have it. 🙂 It’s a good starting point to the day, and the week.

…How is it already time to begin again? 😀

It’s just a thought, on a Monday morning; communication is a pretty big deal. It changes the map, changes the journey, and changes the experience – shared or individual. The magical thing about communication is that it does not have to be weaponized and hurled down range as a hurtful salvo of toxic waste – ever. It can be shared gently, with great care, and received with great tenderness. Ideally… it is useful, enlightening, and promising of a better future moment once considered.

The flip side of using words, of communicating with consideration, is listening – deeply, fully present. I’ll note this is the greater challenge for me, personally, although making considered, authentic, use of communication opportunities does require some verbs, itself. Listening seems to require a few more.

Communication is useful for analyzing patterns – and breaking them. (image credit to my Traveling Partner)

It began simply as a weekend at home, ill. It ended feeling re-connected, deeply involved, wholly committed, and very much in love. The power of words should not be underestimated, Friends. The conversations that walk that mile, however, are not necessarily the “easy” ones; small talk isn’t going to get it done. I’m sipping my coffee and appreciating my Traveling Partner’s willingness to talk and listen, to “go deep”, to share intimate details of that most private personal space within each of us; thoughts and feelings. Wow. It got real, and it got deep, and things were shared that perhaps would have benefited from being shared sooner, together, and a few that presented profound healing opportunities to be shared at all. It was powerful.

…It still is. 🙂

…Worth it. 😀

So… here it is Monday. I’d so much rather stay home with my Love than go anywhere else, right now, but there’s a job to be done, and I’m being paid to do that. So… coffee at hand, dressed for work, and smiling, I prepare to begin again.

…Really, though? I’m sitting here sipping my coffee thinking about love, and how much I enjoy this partnership. How much I’ve grown – and feel that growth supported. How much he’s grown, and how much I enjoy supporting his growth, too. I even feel, fairly literally, wrapped in love; most of my selections for work wear today were suggested by, or gifted to me by, my partner. There’s something magical to that. My smile deepens. I think that I smell his cologne in my studio… I think, too, that it makes my coffee taste better. lol Love is a hell of a flavor enhancer. 🙂

I smile, and finish my coffee, and let a new day begin untouched by old troubles. Use your words. (So worth it.) Then…? Begin again. 🙂

 

 

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.  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. 🙂