Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness for PTSD

Last evening was relaxed, and contented. I shared that time with my Traveling Partner. All is well. We checked in with each other regularly, gently, careful to be our most considerate and our most kind. The evening followed a difficult morning, for sure, and we were not planning to worsen that experience, or prolong it. We let that shit go. We each embraced a new beginning, individually, and together. There were verbs involved. Now and then, our results varied (at least initially).

I crashed early, likely one of the consequences of my emotional bad weather from earlier in the day. I slept deeply, waking once or twice – noisy neighbors, partying on a Saturday night – and returned to sleep quickly each time. I woke early, late for me, managing to sleep in a couple hours. I made coffee. It’s good. I refilled my vape with this “peach gummy” flavored juice I made, then found my morning halted momentarily when I could not change the battery in my vape device. Shit. Small thing. I shrug it off and grab a different vape to use, frowning with distaste at the “vanilla latte” juice I no longer favor. I try a few more times to unscrew the cap from the battery box on the other vape, without success. I use a tool or two, no luck there either. Fuck. I set it aside, refusing to allow the morning to become characterized by frustration.

I make a point of letting my frustration go. This particular challenge need not command the whole of my attention this morning; I’ll deal with it later. 🙂

I sip my coffee and reflect on yesterday, ever so briefly. This, too, need not command the whole of my attention this morning. 🙂 I’ve already dealt with it. 🙂

I hit my vape. Less than satisfying. I sip my coffee. Very satisfying indeed. I contemplate balance, and choices. I contemplate emotion and reason. I think about our new life in a new home in a new community, and find myself wondering if at long last Emotion and Reason will take her place on the wall somewhere, in our home?

Because love matters more.
“Emotion and Reason” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

It’s a leisurely Sunday morning. I think about some household chores I’d like to get done today. Nothing major: vacuum, dust, clean the bathroom, do some laundry, empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, routine quality of life stuff that simply has to get done, regularly. I’m okay with it. Doing those things is a meditation of sorts. My Traveling Partner is very helpful with the housekeeping. He counts on me for some of it, I count on him for some of it. Together we get it all done. Partnership. I feel calm, and okay with myself, my life, my relationship, my recent choices, the move ahead of us…. Hell, I feel okay with the rather gray morning, that hints coyly at sunshine later, but promises nothing. It’s a pleasant day, and I’m in a good place. It’s enough.

I may never be “fully over” or entirely free of PTSD. I’ve learned to spend more time on joy than on sorrow, and on creating order than on creating chaos. I’ve learned some practices that help me bounce back in hours instead of days (or weeks). I’ve learned not to take my own moments of despair personally. The actual damage was done so long ago, how does it actually even matter now? I don’t take that personally, either. I’m human. I feel a pang of deep, abiding regret for the pain my PTSD causes my Traveling Partner… then I give myself a moment of kindness and compassion, and some for him, too; his PTSD similarly causes me pain. I let it go. We’re in this together, although we are each having our own experience. 🙂 Forgiveness is about letting go of the hurts, and growing, and moving on from that chaos, and beginning again, isn’t it? I regularly choose to begin again, right here, with my Traveling Partner, because it really is the sort of partnership worth forgiving the small hurts, and sharing this complicated journey toward being the human beings we each most want to be. Nothing about that suggests we’re traveling with a clear plan, a detailed map, or smooth illuminated pavement. Our results vary. There are a lot of new beginnings, together, and individually.

The clear simple perspective of a quiet Sunday brings me a satisfying peace.

I sip my coffee and think about the move ahead of us. That’s not until July, and I have time to plan, to anticipate, to consider, to daydream, to tackle real questions, to discuss, to share, to work out this-or-that detail. We’ll enjoy many hours of conversation about rooms, placement of objects, things we may need (or want) in the new place that we do not have now. A budget is already beginning to take shape. A countdown of sorts has already begun.

Life is very good. I’m okay. I happen to have PTSD, and maybe I’ll always have symptoms flare up unexpectedly? Maybe I won’t. I’ll become what I practice.

It’s time to begin again. 🙂

Where’s mine? That’s an important question…and this is me ranting about the underlying frustration with finding real ‘work:life balance’. You can skip this one if you prefer the lovely pictures and focus on day-to-day mindfulness and search for balance and stillness. This… is not that. 😉

Perspective matters.

Perspective matters.

If I am over-extended, over-committed, over-worked, and rushed to a point that I more easily overlook needed medication, appropriate breaks for self-care, measured healthy calories to sustain good health and cognition, I can’t sustain emotional balance, physical wellness, and maintain all those logistical quality of life details that matter so much… rent…bills…vacuuming…showering… Just saying – how about we all take a nice deep breath and take a step back from being dicks to each other all the fucking time? That other person over there, that didn’t meet your expectations this time, or that time, or some other time – still human. Still having their own experience. Still entirely worthy of common courtesy, consideration, and patience. How about showing some? If we make a collaborative effort on that, culturally, the whole fucking world improves just a little bit. (This is a reminder for me, myself, as much as anything. I could do better on this.)

Raise the minimum wage? You bet – paying people appropriately is simply the right thing to do, and it is pretty ugly that we can say ‘he works full time’ and ‘he doesn’t make enough money for rent and groceries’ about the same person. Any person. And guess what? We’re all people. The same thing is true of time – we’re all human. People. Beings of emotion and reason, creative, romantic, philosophical beings who live and laugh and love – and need time for those things. No one needs time to be employed by some other person on some other agenda; we do need an exchangeable form of our life force to pay for the goods and services required to support our desired quality of life. That so many are not being paid what our human life force is worth as human beings is tragic. That anyone at all would argue that the life force of some human beings is worth more than others is… yeah. To be approached with caution at best. Go ahead, tell me how the average CEO is truly worth more money hour-for-hour than the guys who built your roads, your house, who pick your produce, who sweat over ensuring you have power after a storm, who work in factories manufacturing the goods you want so badly. I’m ranting. Sorry. This matters to me.  You matter to me. People matter to me. Even in my most solitary least social moments, I still value human life, and struggle to understand why it so often seems that many people just don’t, not even their own.

It makes me ache to see people tear each other down to somehow excuse modern-day indentured servitude: pay so minimal there is limited potential to survive, and no real hope of actually thriving or ‘bettering oneself’. I’m spitting into the wind. Job crisis? No problem; reduce the standard work week, refuse to allow salaried employees to work more hours than that, and insist businesses go ahead and hire the staff it actually takes to do the jobs they want done. Pay people to retire earlier in life if they choose to (so they can afford to). Ensure wages are adequate to live on, and stay so. Job crisis over. Yes, I am saying that businesses take the hit on the bottom line – less profit, more labor cost. Human labor is worth far more than we make it out to be. I’m not afraid to say that; businesses are building their success on the backs of those employees, capitalizing on the limited mortal lifetime of individual actual real human beings who might very much enjoy living their actual fucking lives doing something they truly enjoy and thrive on. So… not fast food, probably. Not a call center, probably. The reason jobs are work is because businesses do actually have to pay people to do them. We don’t all wake up and just go to call centers, food service jobs, or gas stations just because we totally love the fun of it; we do it as part of an agreed to exchange of our precious life force for cash money to use as we may. We have so much more to offer ourselves and the world than 40 hours of grinding unrelenting tedium for employers who are (in some cases) actually destroying the world (or just up to no good).

If you do work you love, I applaud you. If you have found a way to love the work you do, regardless what sort of work that is, or whether it benefits you beyond a paycheck, I applaud you, too. I haven’t figured that one out yet. I earn an adequate living doing something I am very skilled at, and most of the time it’s enough that it be so. Tonight… I am tired. I hurt. I’m struggling to understand why I choose to spend so much of my limited mortal lifespan on something that has no potential to nurture my spirit, or build memories of wonderful experiences, or deliver real value to my life… beyond that infernal bottom line. There are bills to pay. This is such a limited and precious mortal life… what is appropriate compensation for the irreplaceable minutes with loved ones, or hours spent walking in the forest, or… yeah, the entirety of a lifetime we can’t replace once spent?

My perspective on work:life balance is very different at 52 than it was at 25. Maybe that’s as it should be? There’s more to understand here, and some hard questions to answer for myself about what matters most. Maybe for you, too? Perhaps the answers are as individual as we each are as people? Does the man or woman of 70 who is angry about ‘forced retirement’ have any less right to their experience and will than does the man or woman of 45 who would prefer to retire from the world of day-to-day hourly wage employment to write the novel they have within them? Does it matter what drives that preference? I don’t have answers – but I’m pretty sure cookie cutter solutions aren’t the solution, and falling back on what my grandfather found right and proper will likely not work for me. We are not ‘one size fits all’ in life.

Autumn becomes winter; there's only so much time, and all of it is 'now'.

Autumn becomes winter; there’s only so much time, and all of it is ‘now’.

I am more questions than answers. Tonight I am also tired, in pain, and feeling rather terse with myself ‘for even bringing it up’, as if ignoring a wound has any potential to heal it. So, I take time to take care of me, meditation is a good practice in this head space, a healthy meal, a good night’s rest. There is time to consider, to wonder, to contemplate – there is time later to ask questions, to make choices, to figure out what works and do that thing. Tonight it is enough to slow down, and take care of me.

I could as easily ask ‘what time is love?‘ – same answer: at the tone the time will be…’now’. It’s always ‘now’, actually, and never any other moment…unless, I suppose, we count the possibility of time travel, or perhaps the influence of huge quantities of certain hallucinogens. So… sure, okay, a few things may shake the unavoidable ‘now’…but…generally…’now’ is the time. Here we are. This is it. Whatever it is…it is.  This morning, ‘now’ came early – at 3:17 am, actually. I turned off the alarm once it was clear I was definitely entirely awake, and headed for the shower.

It’s still ‘now’. A shower, yoga, meditation and preparing coffee…and although it is later, it remains very much ‘now’. I can look ahead…it’s still simply ‘now’. I can look back…still, here I am, fixed firmly in the ‘now’ moment. Wherever I turn, ‘now’ is what I really have to work with. It’s not that the future is unaffected by ‘now’ – it is most definitely affected by ‘now’; every choice I make ripples through my future. Even the past is altered by ‘now’; my perspective changes with experience, with new information, with the passage of time itself. Still, however busy life is, all I have to work with, to enjoy, and to live is ‘now’.

Taking a few moments to consider an idea.

Taking a few moments to consider an idea.

What time is it? Right now it’s coffee time. My coffee this morning is quite dreadful. I am considering pouring it out and making a fresh cup. ‘Now’ matters that much; if I am not present in the moment, my actions may not be sufficiently relevant to my needs, and I may be unaware even of what my needs in the moment actually are. Me, personally, at 4:43 am…I need coffee, and frankly, my preference is that it be, if not exceptional, at least quite good. So…now I am going to make a fresh cup of coffee because this one… yeah… it sucks. It’s definitely important to pay attention while making coffee if using something that requires an artful touch, and some precision, as with a pour over. “Paying attention” is one way to describe mindfulness.

Second cup, no second thoughts – and it is still very much ‘now’. That’s how it tends to be – ‘now’. What will I do with the moment? I rarely pause to consider it, I simply do and be much of the time, and I don’t make that observation with any hint of criticism. I find life is to be lived. I strive to live well, and mindfully, and mostly doing so is more pleasant than not, and tends to result in a certain sense of worthiness to the entire endeavor – which seems worth having, and reason enough to work at it attentively, investing in good self-care practices, and learning to cope compassionately with my injury and my damage. ‘Now’ has become a pretty big deal.

Here’s something noteworthy about ‘now’, though – it’s easily wasted. It can slip away in an instant and become hours that have passed me by without action, without effort, without any investment of will and intent, and without significant result, or activity worthy of later recollection (I’m looking at you, television!). I find that almost any moment spent mindfully aware, even the painful ones, and yes, even the ones spent in stillness, meditating or watching clouds drift by, is a moment well spent. I remember more when I am awake, aware, and present. I have the sense that I am doing or achieving more, regardless how much ‘got done’. Life feels lived – as though the noun itself comes alive and gets all verb-y straight away – when I approach it mindfully, aware of my choices, deliberate in my actions. Time itself passes more slowly – and ‘now’ becomes of even greater value, extended, prolonged, and significant.

There’s nothing actually ‘easy’ about mindfulness. It’s also not actually ‘difficult’. It isn’t expensive to pursue it, and it requires no costly memberships or equipment. It need not be attached in any way to profit-generating activities, although it is clearly finding its cultural moment, and along the way many people are finding ways to market mindfulness or profit from it. The current popularity of mindfulness as a word, as a concept, and as an endeavor don’t make it any more likely that people will actually practice the needed practices to become more mindful – though many will say that they will, or do, or are. I don’t worry much about any of that, although I am sometimes frustrated to read articles that seem critical of practices I find have such value, myself. I worry, sometimes, that people innocent of the marketing bullshit, the hype, and the inevitable disappointment of people who expected it to be ‘easy’ or to ‘fix everything’ will result in someone who really needs what mindfulness has to offer not finding their way to it – that was my own experience. I didn’t get ‘here’ sooner; I was distracted by other people losing their way, being discouraged, and because I was discouraged, myself, the first time I was exposed to meditation – there were verbs involved, and more than one sort of practice, and… and… and… it’s not easy! (“Isn’t there some prescription, or…?”)

Mindfulness practices can be very simple and very basic. My own favorite meditation is not any sort of elaborate guided meditation with a soothing voice, lovely visual image, or lofty conceptualization – it isn’t necessary that it be such, and those don’t ‘work for me’ in the sense that although they may be soothing and pleasant, what I need myself is to become very centered, present, and calm within myself. I rely on meditation to keep me from standing on the precipice, to pull me back from the brink of disaster, to clean up the chaos and damage; the only world I am looking to change with any urgency is the world within. My own favorite meditation is simply to focus on my breath, to remain in this ‘now’ moment until I achieve stillness and inner calm. Yes. I have to keep at it. Yes. My mind wanders. Yes. I am sometimes distracted by physical discomfort, noise, stray thoughts, having to pee, and suddenly remembering other things that arise in my recollection attached to a sense of urgency. There’s no rush, no pressure, no report card, no internal criticism; I just keep at it until I do find that inner stillness. If’ I’m uncomfortable, I adjust – and begin again. If I am distracted, I take another breath, and begin again. If I have to pee, I take care of that biological need and begin again. If I remember something important that has been forgotten, I take a note and begin again (and often meditate with a notepad very near at hand for that reason). It’s called a practice for a reason – and there are most assuredly verbs involved.

“Does mindfulness work?” is a question with similar value as “what time is it?” – It really depends on what you are trying to find out. I find mindfulness practices very effective, myself, but the outcome is entirely dependent on my actions, my own investment in practicing the practice, and how well-chosen the practice is for my needs. If I were to discontinue the practice of meditation, would meditation itself be less effective because I stopped practicing it? Um…no. I might be less effective – but it would be a choice I make for myself, not a failure of meditation as a tool or practice.

The Stillness Within

“The Stillness Within” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

The time is ‘now’. If one practice has failed, try another. If the ‘failure’ is simply a lack of actual practice, easier still – begin again. There are verbs involved, and there is all the ‘now’ in the world to use them. 🙂