Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness for the win

A new year begins today. The winter sun hits the glass of the patio door and fills the room with light and warmth. My feet are extended into the rays of sunshine spreading across the carpet. I wiggle my toes, feeling them warmed in the filtered winter sunlight. The remainder of my second cup of coffee has grown cold; I continue to sip it, content with the exceptional flavor which is undiminished by the cooling. I am smiling.

New beginnings are quite variable, every experience, each perspective, just a bit different from another. I am not the woman I was on the first day of 2015. That woman was stressed to a breaking point, yet again, mistreated in one relationship, insecure in another, restlessly contemplating where a third might take her, given the difficult circumstances generally.

The path ahead wasn't obvious sometimes.

The path ahead wasn’t obvious.

It was a complicated year. An abusive relationship was creating roadblocks to progress in therapy through behaviors that seemed willful or deliberate at times – it would prove irrelevant whether they were deliberate; the outcome was damaging. The future of my relationship with my traveling partner seemed insecure, and despair crept into my experience a number of times. I felt frustrated, held back, and uncertain where my path would lead me, but committed to continuing the journey. I continued to practice new practices that were definitely doing good things for my resilience, improving my ability to maintain a neutral, honest, and healthy perspective, and helping me manage stress. I wasn’t sure it would be enough to thrive on…and I wasn’t sure that the positive changes I could see developing would be enough, soon enough, to hold on to what I valued most in life – or love.

When 2015 began, I was struggling with attachment, afraid to let go and just be. I struggled with blaming myself for things going on that weren’t about me at all, and I struggled with feeling responsible for making a relationship work, in which it had become clear the other didn’t actually want things to work and was not invested in building a functional relationship with me. Accepting that was painful (rejection hurts) and it was hard to just breathe and let it go without ‘closure’, or honest communication, or even basic civility. The pain diminished in the instant I remembered that the character and behavior of that other human being is no reflection on me whatsoever; she is her own human being, and all the consequences of her choices are entirely her own (as mine belong entirely to me).  That was an important lesson and turning point.

It has been a year full of important lessons in taking care of myself, in emotional self-sufficiency, and in learning to love well, and without unhealthy attachment – with the result that my relationship with my traveling partner has grown and deepened wonderfully, and I am so much more able to love well, generally, and to listen deeply. I ended the other, abusive, relationship (keeping a promise I made to myself long ago), and I declined to pursue a relationship with characteristics suggesting high risk in a number of areas of life in which I’m not inclined to compromise. I’ve stopped trying to meet needs for connection and intimacy through sex, with result that sex is improved; I have sex only in relationships in which there is already intimacy and connection. 2015 taught me a lot about who I am, and what I really need to thrive. In 2015, I learned a lot about ‘enough’, and began investing in lasting contentment, instead of chasing more/better.

2016 begins well. I could stop there. I have, a number of times already. No map. I don’t really know where this new year will take me, what I may learn, gain, or lose. I don’t know what’s up ahead on this journey, and I am feeling tranquil and unconcerned about that – making it hard to write, honestly. 🙂

Today, though, is a good one for contemplation. I will take time to consider the year-to-come, to wonder, to dream, to plan, to question – it’s the questioning that is perhaps most relevant to where I may find myself a year from today. I’ll think it over, and  make some notes; I find it helpful to look back with some context. I’ll write in my private journal, and send myself an email ‘from the past’, as I did last year – it was a special moment this morning when I got that email from myself. Being able to read my own stern warning to end an abusive relationship with the comfortable knowledge that it was done months ago was validating; I am learning to take better care of myself, and my heart.

The view of 2015 is very different from this perspective. The path ahead seems a bit more clear, now.

The view of 2016; the path ahead seems a bit more clear, now.

Today is a good day to take care of me. Today is a good day to begin again. Today is a good day to be my own cartographer, on this journey of my own making. Happy New Year! Are you ready? Let’s change the world!

This morning I woke feeling anxious. There’s nothing wrong, as far as I can tell. I am not in pain or struggling with difficult circumstances. It is a lovely chill morning, nearer to summer than to spring. I slept with my window open to cool the apartment overnight; it had gotten quite hot after the heat of the day, yesterday. The community of crows that lives in our neighborhood wake much earlier than the people tend to, and they woke me to join in the delights of morning – or perhaps they just didn’t realize I had hoped to sleep in? 🙂

Life is full of lovely moments, and beauty - I have to choose to see it.

Life is full of lovely moments, and beauty – I have to choose to see it.

Once I was up, and sipping my coffee, the anxiety had passed – although like a bad tooth, I could feel it any time my consciousness poked at it. I take a moment to appreciate the time I had taken to put to rest any unrealistic expectations about mood management and ‘happily ever after’, while I was moving in. Waiting for anxiety or disappointment to set in to take care of unreasonable expectations and unverified assumptions is an exceptionally efficient way to make things so much worse when they go wrong – and things do go wrong now and again, regardless of how ideal life may seem in some other moment. This morning isn’t so bad. I’m just experiencing some feelings of anxiety – and they are primarily very physical feelings, rather than being a wholly emotional experience. I sit back with a smile as I write those words – the physical feelings of anxiety are very like another emotion, a generally positive one – excitement. Eagerness, too, feels a bit similar to anxiety, on the physical side of things…and this morning I have plans about which I am quite excited, and eager for the morning to wear on such that it becomes ‘time to go’.

Recognizing that my ‘anxiety’ is actually ‘excitement’ and ‘eagerness’ allows the pieces of that experience that drive stress to dissipate; without the perception that something is ‘wrong’, these feelings are no longer ‘anxious’ at all.

Sometimes taking care of me is as simple as enjoying a flower in my garden.

Sometimes taking care of me is as simple as enjoying a flower in my garden. Sometimes I am that flower.

I continue to enjoy my morning coffee, and to watch the sun rise, filtered through the blinds of the ‘dining room’ window. (Trust me, this small space that is so heavenly to me doesn’t really rate identifying the ‘dining room’ and ‘living room’ as separate spaces. lol) I smile, thinking about yesterday. It ended well; I sold a painting, and bought a comfortable chair for my apartment, and a modest, practical set of pots and pans. It still delights me to observe how conveniently money works to simplify the conversion of art into needed goods. The transaction was a very practical demonstration of money as a spendable form of human effort. (From my own perspective, it has no other legitimate value or purpose. I suppose that says something about who I am.)

"Sunset Silhouette" 12" x 16" acrylic on canvas w/india ink 2014

“Sunset Silhouette” 12″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas w/india ink 2014

I enjoy this small place that is my own. I feel content here. It is strange to be so aware that the good feelings associated with living alone cause some anxiety, themselves, and a certain feeling of uncertain restlessness – particularly when things are going especially well.  As a result, I am more aware this morning that even the very good feelings I enjoy so much may take some practice to handle skillfully – perhaps as much practice as managing feelings of anger, despair, grief, frustration, or hurt.  When I am over-eager, or excited to the point of fidgeting and bouncing through my experience, I tend to make poor decisions, and may lack needed awareness of consequences; there are opportunities to improve through meditation, and mindfulness that are as powerful as learning to comfort myself when I am hurting. When I am content for longer periods of time than I am used to, I am prone to taking that experience for granted, and becoming unreasonably frustrated and disappointed when things go wrong; here, too, practices that improve perspective, self-compassion, and mindfulness also ease the rather mundane and unnecessary stress of a challenging moment on a lovely day.

Awake and aware, each day is a new experience.

Awake and aware, each day is a new experience.

This morning, I am both content, and excited about my morning – and I am taking time to care for this beloved darling broken self that is mine, before I head into the world to face what is real about what is also delightful. I stick with my self-care practices, instead of allowing excitement to drive me forth, unprepared for the day. It may seem a small thing, and in this lovely moment it may even seem unnecessary – it will matter very much later, when I am tired, or frustrated over something small, that I took time to take the very best care of me this morning. Yep. Even living with less stress, and more contentment, there are verbs involved. It is still a journey, and an exploration – I am still my own cartographer.

Today is a good day to enjoy my self – and enjoy the world.