Archives for posts with tag: mindful service

It’s Sunday, and today the travelers return. I love a good homecoming. It’s so easy to sabotage a wonderful moment with expectations, and assumptions… today I make my ‘to do list’ with an eye for the work week ahead, and ensuring returning travelers will have the laundry room for their own needs when they get home, and a tidy home to return to. Pain has made being productive around the house a challenge this weekend, but it’s somewhat less today, and I know that if I manage my self-care carefully, and mindful of my limitations, I will be able to meet my own needs for preparing for the coming work week, as well as meeting my own basic standard for household upkeep.

Expectations and assumptions are just about the fastest shortcuts to relationship misery ever. If I had set expectations that a certain amount of very specific housework would be done, then couldn’t do it, it could be disappointing or inconveniencing for other members of the household. Similarly, if they were to assume certain specific things would be done, and arrived to find that those things weren’t done, it could be irksome or inconveniencing, too. If I assume everyone around me knows how much pain I’m in – and how much that limits me – I set internal expectations with myself about how I will be treated, that may not be reasonable; pain isn’t visible to others as a quantity or magnitude of suffering, and the limitations it creates are not obvious at a glance.

Clear – and explicit – expectation setting has enormous value, generally, and I practice clear and specific expectation setting as much as I can. Ensuring that assumptions are quickly moved from ‘implicit’ and unconfirmed to ‘verified with clear communication and clarifying questions’ (resulting in assumptions becoming clearly set expectations), I reduce the stress and drama – and anxiety – of life and love. Seems simple enough in text…it isn’t always so simple in practice. I’ve done my best this weekend. Seems my family has as well. I’m eager to welcome them home.

It'll be evening when they get home... conversations over tea, anecdotes, laughter, the quiet warmth of family...

It’ll be evening when they get home… conversations over tea, anecdotes, laughter, the quiet warmth of family…I look ahead and fight the desire to hold expectations, or make assumptions about the evening to come.

I slept restlessly again last night. I’m not sure what’s disturbing my sleep; I wake frequently for no obvious cause, and I’m only getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night. This morning I just kept at it until daybreak, and managed almost 7 hours of sleep – in 90 minute to two-hour increments. Hardly ideal, but there’s no real distress in it, either.

Today I’ll spend the day in mindful service to home and hearth, and taking care of me with yoga, meditation, study, and working on my manuscript for NaNoWriMo. Today is a good day for all those things. Today is a good day to enjoy the day, this life, and this being I have worked so hard to become. The small details matter, and savoring the pleasant moments matters, too. It’s a good day to enjoy small delights. It’s a good day to enjoy the world.

This morning I woke hurting. The hot shower didn’t do much to ease my stiffness, nor did the yoga. Meditation felt natural and balancing and vaguely routine. My coffee is tasty, but lukewarm already. It’s Halloween, and I’m not in costume. (Not out of any meanness or because I’m taking a stand about this or that, I just didn’t because I generally just don’t.) No headache this morning; just the arthritis. I find myself feeling fairly hopeful about the day ahead, based on the beginning bit right here.

I’ll have the house to myself this weekend. I’m neither enthusiastic about it, nor am I concerned; it simply is. I will enjoy the solitude for meditation, painting, and listening to music that falls into the category of “no one else here actually likes this stuff”, and probably turning it up louder than usual. I’ll spend much of the time on household tasks; I dislike coming home to a house that hasn’t been cared for as well as it would have been if everyone was home, so I attempt to get the same workload done that would have been done anyway, to prevent my family having that experience. I’ve never asked anyone if they need that from me. I sometimes work beyond the point at which resentment begins, which seems a poor choice. I make a promise to myself to question that impulse if it arises this weekend…and to ask my family, sometime, what they actually want/need of a homecoming after a weekend away. Perhaps indentured servitude isn’t actually on their list? Silly human primate… mindful service to home and hearth – and love – is on my list.  Mindful service, however, doesn’t cause resentment. lol

The pain I’m in colors my experience, and my words. I feel less fun, less thrilled with life in general, but it isn’t really a big deal – it’s just pain, and I find myself dissatisfied with just allowing it to call the shots this way. I do more yoga, focusing on postures that I know are most likely to ease the pain, and reduce my stiffness. My Rx pain medication starts to kick in, too, which helps.

"Like dreams dying.." I said bleakly one day. "Like dreams drifting within reach" she replied with love and compassion.

“Like dreams dying…” I said bleakly one day. “Like dreams drifting within reach” she replied with love and compassion.

I’m in the middle of a grand adventure, with an exciting story arc, and amazing unpredictable plot twists… it’s my life. Learning to live it, eyes open, engaged, present, and in use of both intention and will, is an adventure like no other. I’m learning so much! Since I started this post without a specific clear inspiration, and in pain, I take a moment between each paragraph for another yoga posture, or a few minutes of meditation, or some moments contemplating a recent good experience or feeling in fullness in the hope of improving implicit memory and reducing negative bias. All of it ‘works’ – meaning to say it is all effective at driving those subtle internal changes of heart, of experience, of… default settings. It all requires practice.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Practicing doesn’t stop, and there is no ‘perfect’ to reach. Mastery isn’t the goal. The practices themselves are both the experience and the goal. Life is the journey – and the destination. We are here. Now. I am. This is. It’s so easy to stray from what works… a catchy article on Facebook can so easily get my attention before I pause to meditate, and find me having used up all the time I planned in the morning for meditation… days later, I could easily find that I’ve stopped meditating in the morning, and begun reading the news. Again. Frankly, reading the news in the morning correlates directly to the very factual and real experience of my blood pressure going up, staying up, and requiring medication. Meditation, on the other hand, does not. Quite the contrary, once I gave up reading the news as a practice, my blood pressure has since tended to be quite normal, and I don’t take blood pressure medication any more. It’s easy to fall back on poor choices, not because they have more value than good choices, but because [and this is my own experience, only] they were practices I practiced for so long before practicing better practices that they easily become the practices I return to; neurons that fire together, wire together. Habits are habitual. We become what we practice most. What we practice is easiest to do.  Reading the news is just an example of one problematic practice I struggle to let go of; I read so chronically, that words in my visual field are incredibly difficult to refrain from reading. You probably have your own problem practices, or old habits that don’t support taking the best care of you, or foster your development to become the being you most want to be.

So, here it is Friday. The weekend is imminent for many of us. What will I do with it to become more the woman I most want to be? What will I choose to practice that will tend to result in being more kind, more compassionate, and treating myself and others truly well – no strings attached? What practices will I commit to each day that ease my suffering, and the suffering of others? What choices can I make that improve the world I live in? Today is a good day to commit to being the best of who I am. It’s Halloween. Today is a good day to take off the mask.

Better content.

Better content.*

Mindful service to hearth and home.
Mindful service to community and the world.
Mindful service to self, heart and soul.
Mindful will and wide-eyed wonder.
What would it look like to be the nicest person in the room?
Taking care.

One autumn moment worth pausing for.

One autumn moment worth pausing for.

*What started out simply as notes, taken in passing, sloppily written on the palm of my hand, standing in the cold, became a moment to cherish, to savor, to enjoy fully present…and lacking the words to truly share the moment, I shared the notes instead. 🙂

Sunday already? Yesterday managed to feel both busy and leisurely, fully occupied and still including many lovely chill moments of stillness and contemplation. Sometimes I find that harder to manage when the house is filled with people, and I have to untangle shared or overlapping agendas and somehow still take care of me. The occasional solitary day, evening, or weekend often serves, as much as anything, as an opportunity to check in with myself and ensure that my needs remain my priority, and that I’m not allowing them to be swept away by someone else’s moment, or needs. Does that sound ‘selfish’? It did to me, too, for a long while – and well beyond when I’d moved past ‘selfish’ being some sort of secret swear word. I sometimes struggle with a hell of a gap between intellectual understanding and putting something in practice; mindfulness practices are a powerful way to close that gap.

This matters more than I understood when I started.

This matters more than I understood when I started.

This morning the day will be gently balanced between the things that must be done – adulthood is filled with those – and the things that I will do to support, nurture, and indulge myself, before another work week begins. I have a list. Keeping – and efficiently using – a ‘to do list’ is an important detail for me, otherwise I just don’t remember moment to moment what it is I intended to do. I rarely forget what I am doing mid-task, but while I am completing task A, however mindfully, I am highly likely to completely forget the existence of tasks B-Z altogether, or perhaps just one or two of them, and in that case without any predictable pattern to what is forgotten. Important things are as easily forgotten as unimportant things. Things I offered to do for someone else, that they are counting on, are as likely to be forgotten as something I promised myself, and that my heart is set on in some other moment. It can be very frustrating for me – I don’t doubt it is maddening for others. So. A list. This morning my list is filled with all manner of practical things; my partners are away, and no one likes to come home to a house not ready for the next week. I know I don’t care for that, myself.  Similarly, I dislike the experience of suddenly giving up on everything important to me, myself, to rush through a quantity of house work in a day that would impress a superhero if it got done in week; it drives anxiety, panic, and discontent, and I inevitably end up not doing some one thing that will prove to be the only thing the person I wanted to impress ever noticing. Fuck that. I prefer to clean as I go, as much as I can, and tidy up in a calm and mindful way, doing my best, and being satisfied with that. Simple basics that I would usually get done on a weekend will get done today, and I’ll still paint. I’ll do some nice things for each of my partners, small stuff that matters to them, each, as individuals, and I’ll still take care of me, too, ensuring that my needs for the upcoming week are met as well as the needs of my partners. It’s enough.

An opportunity to reflect in stillness and solitude.

An opportunity to reflect in stillness and solitude.

Next weekend I am solo camping. Learning to take care of me has also meant a frank acknowledgement of how my PTSD affects me in some circumstances that previously I would have just gritted my teeth, and endured things, hoping for the best and trying not to be a jerk, or lose my temper. Next weekend is the weekend of a local airshow. Rather than take Rx pharmaceuticals for the anxiety that the military aircraft overhead for 3 days causes me, I’m going camping and taking advantage of the time to invest in other needs. Fall camping feels different from summer camping. I’ve continued to build strength and bring new life to old skills. I’m eager to tackle more forested trails, and meditate under the stars. Camping is more practical, too, than a weekend getaway in a coastal cottage, and I am far less tempted by the world. I’m eager to have the work week behind me so I can head into the trees – so much so, that I am already entirely packed. lol. I’ll finish work Thursday, load my gear into a vehicle, and go.

See, the thing is, my Big 5 relationship values aren’t just about building relationships with other people, they are simple basic good treatment of humans; I try to apply them to myself, too, through my actions, my thoughts and my words. Can you see it? Let’s take a look together…

1. Respect is one of my Big 5. I respect my need for solitude to recharge, gain perspective, and invest in me creatively and emotionally by allowing myself to take advantage of rare solo days and weekends utterly guilt free, and without over-committing to things other people would like to have, or have done.

2. Consideration is possibly the most important of the Big 5; without Consideration, how is Respect even possible? I am considerate of my needs and experience, and of others, and by taking that approach I ensure I do small things that matter without stress – like taking out the trash and not overlooking the small trash cans in each bedroom, or work area, and ensuring the dishes are done and all put away before the house fills with people again, and making sure the household linens are washed, dried, and restocked in bathrooms and linen cupboards. Small things matter, and generally fit neatly between things I am doing for me – like writing, painting, meditating, or yoga. When I consider my own needs, and the needs of my partners, mindfully and in gentle service to hearth and home – without excluding me from my loved ones in my thinking – so much more of what matters gets done, and far fewer projects that don’t really matter end up on my list. When I am treating myself considerately, I also know when to stop and accept that I’ve done my best, confident that my partners will be content, and considerate of my limitations in return. (That’s the ideal, anyway… and when humans are human, and fall short of the ideal? Ah, yes…)

3. …Compassion makes the Big 5 because we’re all quite human. Lacking perfection I turn to compassion, for myself and my very human limitations, for my loves and their own humanity. They will return home tired, and possibly very late in the evening. It’s so easy to get home, relieved just to stop driving, and quickly unload the car into the living room without taking a look around. It’s easy to collapse into bed after a shower, and an exciting weekend, without taking a look around. To wake, thoughts still buzzing from events, and eager to share those…still not taking notice of the small details that make a household ready to welcome travelers home, or understanding that the reason everything is lovely and tidy is that an actual person took time out of their own agenda to  make it happen. Compassion is what lets me smile without a thank you or a word of acknowledgement, and gives me a secure heart, content that the effort mattered regardless of a lack of words. Compassion is what I bring to my own experience, a gift to me from me, if I feel a moment of hurt or doubt if I feel ignored or lacking in importance. I will have done my own best, which is the only piece that is really ‘about me’.

This serves me well, again and again, on the path of treating myself, and others, well.

This serves me well, again and again, on the path of treating myself, and others, well.

4. Reciprocity is a big deal for me, and it makes my Big 5 because it is powerful. Reciprocity speaks up when I prepare for my solo camping next weekend with an equal priority to any piece of housework intended to make a traveler’s homecoming comfortable. I matter to me. Reciprocity is what results in my own return home next week being as comfortable as my partners’ homecoming at the end of this weekend, now. Ideally, we exert equal will, and invest our efforts in each others needs in a way that is consistent with love and loving. Reciprocity doesn’t necessarily mean “I did dishes Tuesday, so you must do them Wednesday” – it could mean “I really hate doing dishes, and seeing them done promptly is a big deal for you, and I know you detest cleaning the bathroom, which I don’t mind – if you’ll take care of the dishes, I’ll similarly keep the bathroom clean.” and then investing a similar effort in those tasks.  Reciprocity in a relationship is pretty easy to determine, too; look at sex. Any sex act that one person benefits from far more than the other and isn’t balanced by ‘returning the favor’ in some clear obvious way is a decent indicator that the relationship itself may not be reciprocal. Some people may not need reciprocity in their partnerships…for me it is non-negotiable, and the lack of it is a strong early warning indicator a relationship will end, although I’ve actually only ever had one relationship, one partnership, that was truly reciprocal, on a relationship defining level.  It was such an incredibly positive defining characteristic, that all my relationships since that one are measured against that standard, and it is what I look for in partners, and strive for in my own actions.

5. Openness makes it all work. Openness to conversation, openness to sharing emotions, openness to shared experiences, openness to considering another view-point, openness to trying new things; openness is an act of will. If my relationship is failing, openness brings my concerns into the open. If I am struggling with my own experience, openness allows me to share it frankly and be comforted. If I feel disrespected, or that my needs are not being considered, openness brings will and words together to express those feelings compassionately and with consideration, and the understanding we are each having our own experience. Openness is even there for me if I must consider that my needs are not met to the point of having to consider other choices in order to respect myself, or treat myself well. Openness is important.

"Some Distant Sunrise" 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

“Some Distant Sunrise” 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

The Big 5 are good relationships values, but they are not the only relationship values. Other people make other choices. Your results may vary. What I have found, myself, is that perspective and balance are important, too; my relationship values are what they are, and if I don’t value myself enough to also apply them to my experience with myself, and show myself the same courtesies I show others, or expect them to show me, the outcome is resentment, anger, and discontent. None of that sounds good to me at all. This weekend I’ve been taking care of me, treating myself well, and enjoying the one relationship I can’t escape, or walk away from, and I’ve been doing it using the same Big 5 that I practice in my relationships with others. It’s been nice.

Am I just stalling? This is a pretty long to-do list… 😉

One choice. One change. One moment.

One choice. One change. One moment.

Today is a good day for action. Today is a good day to get a few things done. Today is a good day for mindful service to hearth and home. Today is a good day to love. Today is a good day to change the world.

…Nothing to see here.

Well, actually, I’m taking a couple days to get my balance and savor my experience mindfully.  Winter came upon us abruptly, with icy mornings and cold winds. I find comfort in the warmth of holiday baking and mindful service to home and hearth. For now, I am taking time for me, investing in personal growth and putting the best of my time and attention where I need it most.

Ginger snaps

Ginger snaps

There is much to learn from this (any?) experience.  I am exploring new things about myself as I learn, and change over time.  I am embracing a clearer understanding of my self, and my values, and what my life means to me – the whole thing, vast, and in places rather bleak; where I begin, where I end, what is about me, what isn’t. I have, for now, time enough available to me to turn the machinery of my analytical mind, and the power of my experience to bring insight to my own life, my own ‘then’ and ‘now’ and tend to the deepest needs of my heart.  What a rare and precious gift. What an exquisite opportunity.

Peanut Butter Kisses

Peanut Butter Kisses

So…my last day at work had been planned for the 11th. Comfortably and easily became the 4th, a day I was again struggling to manage everyday pain in an everyday circumstance, unsuccessfully. It was good to find myself at home, safe, warm, and comfortable, in the company of family and friends preparing for the holidays, sooner than planned.

Peanut Butter & Jelly cookies.

Peanut Butter & Jelly cookies.

I’m still working on ‘getting my balance’, and interestingly pursuing that goal through home crafts as the holidays near. I’m finding it lovely to practice mindful baking; the cookies are amazing. I also find it incredibly difficult to create the cognitive ‘space’ I need to write. I’ll figure it out, I’m sure. (I find myself contemplating what I might find through a silent retreat…)

Compassion for myself, and patience, seems easier than I recall it being. It’s a quiet evening, and the ups and downs and everyday challenges of dealing with me are more nuisance than crisis. It’s a good evening to change the world…or put up lights. 🙂

Changing the world - with twinkly lights. :-D

Changing the world – with twinkly lights. 😀