Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness matters

I am sipping some iced tea with lemon. I didn’t make it. It is a canned commercial product. It’s okay. Mildly carbonated, which seems pretty unnecessary for iced tea, but it is available, it is cold, and it did not require me to make iced tea to have some. lol I am thinking about what that says about my desire for “ease” vs my desire for good quality of life. It seems the sort of thing worth thinking about.

As I made the drive in to the city this morning, I was also thinking. Mostly about “work life balance” and what that actually seems to mean, and what that can (or has)(or does) look like (for me). I have tended to mostly think about “work life balance” in terms of … a scale. Two opposites in equal measure, you know – balanced. It has not generally been the case that I have been able to make that work out quite that way. I mean… there are 7 days in a week. I work 5 of those, most of the time. The common assumption is 40 work hours in a week, divided more or less into 8-hour days (when we’re fortunate to enjoy working conditions that preserve an expectation of employee leisure being respected). That’s a pretty big chunk of our life time, so… where’s the “balance”?

Fairly often, in my own experience, any appearance of “work life balance” has been more like a pendulum swinging between extremes, some weeks mostly work, some weeks a bit more leisure than is typical, and back and forth pretty endlessly. There have been notable exceptions where the “routine” wasn’t routine at all, and finding any “balance” was more like a dance than a pendulum’s steady swing. In other cases, any hint of “work life balance” was purely linguistic, and not to be taken at all seriously by anyone involved. Those are commonly pretty toxic experiences, and I avoid those.

I continue to look for a better balance, though; more life, less work… it gets tricky when the conversation turns to pay. I definitely still want to get paid. LOL

I sip my tea and reflect. I think about how tricky it is to balance all the elements of a life well-lived… the living, the loving, the working, the resting… and I think about how often one or another detail feels “just right”, while literally everything else seems to be going to shit. lol How very human. Certainly it’s been those “just right” experiences that have often been what has “kept me going”, avoiding despair, keeping up practices, breathing through the emotions, and accepting that “this too will pass” – because it will, and it does, and it’s on to the next thing.

My Traveling Partner has got the truck set up for camping and off-roading and overland adventuring. Exciting. I’m expecting that any day now he will calmly advise me that he is going to “hit the road and check everything out” in preparation for camping together for my birthday. I’m super excited about the camping trip we have planned. I’m also excited to have a couple days home alone… by July we’ll have been in this little house for 3 years. I’ve never spent a night at home alone in all that time. I guess I’m fortunate to be able to say that, given the quality and good character of this love of ours. I’m still looking forward to it. 🙂

…And every time I think about being home alone, while my Traveling Partner travels, I miss him with an incredible ache in my heart that feels just a bit like… withdrawals. lol I’m pretty crazy about this particular other human being. Like a teenager with a first crush…

The minutes tick by. I sip my tea and think my thoughts. I breathe, exhale, relax… soon enough, I’ll also begin again. It’s a new day ahead. New options. New choices. New circumstances. There is room for improvement. Room for change and for growth. All it takes is a new beginning, and a handful of verbs.

I am sipping my coffee and waking up from a deeply restful, rare, uninterrupted night of actual sleep. I woke befuddled when the lights slowly came up (silent alarm clock). I felt disoriented, and uncertain why I was waking up…? It took me a minute to “place myself” in the context of day, date, and time.

I managed to get dressed and out the door without crashing into something or dropping something, or making a ton of noise; this surprises me. I’m grateful though – it likely means my Traveling Partner also got to sleep without being wakened by my departure.

I sat down at my desk with my coffee this morning without much thought about what to write. My thoughts were still filled with fragments of dreams, scattered about, disorganized, and fairly random seeming. I found myself beginning with those pieces… like a jigsaw puzzle. Individually they don’t amount to much, just the many details of a life being lived, you know? Assembled into a coherent whole, they begin to form a picture of this human being that I am in the context of this life, this location, and this moment in time.

…so many little details…

Like… I tried out my newest batch of shower steamers yesterday. Pleasant. Here’s a thing I noticed about both batches, though; the scent is a bit too subtle and understated (for me). I ended up doing a bit more homework trying to find something more measured and specific for the amount of fragrance needed than “X many drops“. Are they kidding with that shit? We’re grown folks here, I can take it; give it to me in fucking milliliters, please!? 0_o LOL I finally found a source with a clear measure; I was using about a third what I actually needed. Well. That explains a lot. lol

…I’m a human being still learning things. I hope I always will be…

Then there’s also my continued efforts to lose some excess weight, and regain some lost fitness. I’ve been logging my steps. Logging my meals. Logging my sleep. It’s not much effort; my wearable does a lot of it for me. There really are a lot of verbs involved nonetheless… I tend to enjoy “easy” when I can find it, though, and that sometimes results in far too little actual effort exerted than would be wise (seeing how I’d like to be fitter). I keep resetting and beginning again, and I keep making slow progress. Faster progress would be sweet to see, but the slow gains are more likely to be ones I can hold on to for the long-term. Again and again, I look my frustrations in the face and remind myself that incremental change over time can be … super slow.

…I’m a human being still trying, and still working out how to get things done…

I’m starting to feel more confident and secure in my new job. It’s good to feel more “settled in” and comfortable. Making a change of career so late in life feels a bit… awkward. Unsettling. Scary? Maybe scary, yeah. Feels good, too – more to learn, more opportunities to grow. New skills developing. New understandings of things I hadn’t previously been exposed to. It’s pretty wonderful in some respects. I sip my coffee and smile; it felt right at the time, and it feels right, now. 😀

…I’m a human being willing to change…

Being back in therapy has been good for me. It’s given me a sort of “safety net” for dealing with deeper traumas, and for talking over shit that’s on my mind that would only serve to disrupt the harmony of my relationship to bring it up casually along the course of a day. My Traveling Partner is not (and cannot be) my therapist.

…I’m a human being willing to seek the help I need…

I remember the leftovers in the fridge from dinner last night; I’d planned to have those for lunch today. I forgot to grab that container on my way out this morning. LOL

…I’m a human being, being human…

I smile and yawn, and sip my coffee. I feel contented on a Tuesday, and filled with a certain hopefulness. Feels good. It’s a nice starting point from which to begin again. 😀

…Don’t forget to make time to appreciate the small things that make you who you are on the journey to become the person you most want to be; it’s a nice way to begin a day.

I am sipping my morning coffee. It’s already mostly gone cold before I ever thought to put a sentence together, this morning. I started the morning thinking about far away friends, and the vagaries of the job market, and the likelihood of further lay-offs, and the nature of greed. That was pretty grim shit, and I shifted gears as a responsible adult, and did my payday budget and sent that to my Traveling Partner for his review and contribution to our planning and “household wellness”; his suggestions and planning are an important part of us getting where we are together. It’s a team effort. A partnership. Once that was done, I found myself still feeling restless and distracted, with elevated background anxiety lurking in the general “quality of the day”.

…It was as I typed those words that I noticed; I’m not “here and now”, just now – I’m “then”. Some of it is old baggage, and I’m snagged on some past moment. Other details are the pitfalls of worrying over a future that is not now. Doesn’t even matter whether it ever will be; I’m all over the worrying about it, already, well ahead of any need to do so. lol Fucking hell.

I take a breath. Then another. I let my shoulders relax. I drink some water. Another breath. I exhale, relax. I get up and stretch for a moment, breathing. I walk over to the windows and look out, down “main street”, taking in the sparkle of the lights that festoon the trees, and the way they are reflected off the wet pavement. The morning is relatively mild, for February. The snow is gone. I step outside, breathe the fresh cold morning air, and feel the hint of a chill that immediately begins to soak into me. I breathe. Exhale. See the fog of my breath expand and dissipate. I relax, again. I repeat the experience, before I return to my desk. Better.

Here. Now. Just this.

It’s time to begin again.

…But maybe it is?

I am sitting in the co-work space, hours before my work day needs to start. I’m alone. It is quiet. There isn’t even any cheery pop music or inexplicable disco playing on the PA system, just the steady low “shhhhhhh” of the heating, and the occasional sound of a passing car, or passing storm. My coffee? Just an ordinary cup of hot liquid pulled from the name-brand coffee-pod machine on the counter in the break area. It’s fine. Ordinary. Comforting.

Although my Traveling Partner accepted my apology yesterday afternoon for delivering an unexpected and hearty helping of my bullshit and bad temper yesterday, he is icy this morning, and our interaction as I prepared to leave was minimal, and emotionally distant. He seems pretty hurt and mad, still. That’s him working through his shit, I guess. I don’t dig into it, I just get my shit together and head out. I continue to consider him kindly and with love as I head to “the office” – I mean, what else? I love that guy. We’re both quite human. He’s got his bullshit and baggage, and I’ve got mine. Sometimes shit gets complicated. Love is love, and there’s no lack of that. We’ve each also got trauma-built behaviors that once functioned as coping mechanisms that are no longer appropriate (that the other one thoroughly dislikes) – there’s plenty of room for further growth and incremental change over time. I know when I’m feeling angry, let down, or hurt, it can be really difficult to trust that he is working on such things – I can only imagine it must be similarly difficult for him to be certain I am “working on me” under such circumstances.

…Later I’ll talk to my therapist about all of this, and much more…

Last night was the second night of unexpectedly shitty sleep. Night before last it made some sense; the storm outside was noisy. The wind and rain were an understandable cause of my interrupted restless sleep. I napped about an hour when I first went to bed that night, woke and remained awake until sometime close to 1 a.m., returned to sleep and woke to my alarm feeling groggy and out of sorts. It wasn’t a great start to the day. Last night followed a similar pattern; I crashed hard and slept for about an hour (I think) then woke abruptly (but feeling as though I’d never slept) and didn’t go back to sleep until around 1 a.m., again waking to my alarm. I am so tired. Being deeply fatigued tends to also make the subjective experience of my arthritis pain much worse. So. There’s that.

…What the hell is fucking with my sleep though?? My thinking is fuzzy, and my emotions are raw and near the surface. I sip my coffee and take a breath. I take a moment to appreciate how nice it is to “have someplace else to go” that allows me to stay on track with work and whatnot, while also getting out of my partner’s space so he can maybe get some additional rest, or work without interruption (as can I).

While I was awake last night, I reached for a book. This one; The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. No time to read? The author summarizes it here. Apparently, it’s even been made into a movie that will hit theaters in January… could be a good way to start a new year. This is content that lands in the “self-help” space, and is largely very practical mindfulness & self-awareness focused. The language is more 21st century American than any one of several options from amazing teachers such as Thích Nhất Hạnh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, and Rick Hanson. Many voices, a fairly basic consistent message. Choose the language and teacher that you find suits your style most, I guess (and there are others, many). I read a variety of them and value the repetition. My results still vary. lol I continue to practice the things that seem most likely to help me become the person I most want to be; we become what we practice.

My Traveling Partner pings me with a video share. “This“, he says. I pause my writing and queue it up to watch it. He often makes very useful and apropos recommendations. And also? Love and respect. I appreciate that he took the time, and I “accept his bid“.

Growth doesn’t come from what we’re good at, or what comes easily to us. One of life’s painful truths right there. Growth is often ridiculously uncomfortable and fraught with conflict or comes out of actual misadventure. “Progress” is often paired with growth – or so it seems to me, sitting here with my coffee this morning – it’s just that “progress” is on the other side of growth from wherever we started. An outcome. A result. At least, that’s what I’m thinking this morning.

I hear myself sigh aloud. My coffee is almost gone, and already cold. It’s time to begin again. Again.

Later, I went to my email and found the latest Just One Thing newsletter from Rick Hanson in my inbox. The content is (hilariously) relevant and very apropos. The topic? “See Your Part”. Timely. I figured I’d add a link to it – good content, and worthy of a moment of self-reflection.

Coffee #2 going down easily after dropping a couple ice cubes in it. I didn’t really want iced coffee, but I also didn’t feel at all like waiting for it to cool to “drinking temperature” – or burning my mouth. So. Ice. Easy solution.

It’d be super handy if more shit were that easy to resolve. I’m just saying, from the small painfully tedious bullshit we’ve each got to overcome, master, or endure, to the globally-scaled huge threats to humanity’s survival (or quality of life), there often seem damned few things that fall into the set of “things that are easy to resolve”. It’s annoying. I’m sitting here sipping my very drinkable coffee feeling annoyed by a seeming plague of petty b.s. aggravations that lack easy resolution. I am very skillful at feeling annoyed, unfortunately, and less skilled at letting shit go.

I got some gardening done. Planted fall bulbs. Thinned some seedlings I hope to winter over. Watered. I’m in the middle of doing laundry, too. It’s a task that easily “stacks” with other things that need to get done. I look over my garden notes, still hoping to make my way to a less annoyed state of mind.

Just keeping it real, all these years of practices and progress (and there has been tremendous progress) don’t amount to a “cure” for an anxiety disorder (cPTSD) on top of a brain injury, and I still deal with my “issues” rather a lot. I don’t despair often, but when I do it can seem just as hard to claw my way out. I don’t feel mired in sorrow or a sense of futility or learned helplessness much these days, but when I am, it’s still brutally difficult to pull myself out of that spiral. My lack of skill with my anxiety, frustration, or anger can too easily result in an unexpected explosive temper tantrum – and trust me when I say there are no good outcomes from that sort of thing, it’s just messy and unpleasant all around. The lingering cognitive challenges of surviving head trauma (and a handful of transient ischemic attacks over the years) can wreck my ability to communicate well – and that is worsened when I’m under stress, or fatigued, or swamped by emotion.

Not one fucking thing I’ve learned, practiced, or changed, has amounted to a “cure” for cPTSD, or wholly resolved the consequences of my head injury. No one ever promised that they would, but damn I had sure hoped for a very long time that they might.

I’ve tried a lot of things to keep my background anxiety managed and to reduce the risk of panic attacks, or “funhouse mirror effects” on my perception of an experience. Some of them have worked, most haven’t – or only for a short while. Each incremental improvement is a pretty big deal, but they still don’t yet add up to “enough”. I put constant pressure on myself (that I simultaneously manage to resent) to take any steps available to minimize the impact on other people; I don’t honestly believe 100% relief is even possible for me, myself. Not gonna lie; it’s a fairly bleak perspective some days. I kinda figure I’m “stuck this way” – improvements are possible, nonetheless, and I keep at it. Every improvement matters. A lot.

It’s been a very long while since I was willing to rely on Rx relief of anxiety symptoms. I didn’t have a great experience of prescription anxiolytics. I experienced exceedingly uncomfortable side effects that while not life-threatening, were uncomfortable to the point of me being unwilling to continue down that path. I’ve tried using Benadryl for my anxiety; it worked very well for me, but the effect doesn’t last indefinitely. I’ve tried very low doses of nicotine, too (we’re talking single puffs from a 1mg concentration of “vape juice”, not whole 24mg cigarettes here). That worked too, but again, the effectiveness quickly diminished over time, and the side effects (on my voice mostly) were unwelcome. I gave that up, too. Herbal tea? Valerian was good… but not reliably effective. Same thing was true of lemon balm, although just cup-of-tea-wise I enjoy that one very much. Cannabis? Sort of helps. Sometimes doesn’t. Reliably leaves me feeling somewhat stalled and stupid, and because of that I’ve given it up as a mood stabilizer; the trade-off cognitively and intellectually isn’t worth it. Meditation helps, reliably, but… not enough, and not always when I need it most. I can’t fucking sit on a cushion all damned day. Controlled breathing? Super helpful if I’m having a panic attack, but with my brain injury being what it is, now I’ve backed myself into a corner where I am prone to inadvertently slowing my breathing when I just relax to a point that I start depriving myself of adequate oxygen (verifiable on a pulse oximeter). Fucking hell. Not one god-damned thing is easy about this shit. I’m annoyed by that, too. Buuuut, anxiety being the monster she is, I’m faced with returning to therapy to work on it, and bracing myself even to request Rx support (if only short-term). I’m frustrated by that.

…I am also angry, but my anger is a story for another time, perhaps…

I think I’m just putting words around this annoying observation that I still struggle. I’ve got a lot more “tools in my toolkit” for dealing with my anxiety than I ever have before. I’ve still got to deal with anxiety. It fucking sucks giant unwashed balls. I’m not feeling any despair over it, presently, though I sometimes do. Today I’m just annoyed. Lovely sunny day. I’m annoyed. It blows. I feel almost as if I “need something to be properly angry about” in order to release this energy, but that’s a shitty approach to doing so; it puts other people’s joy at risk and that’s really not okay. So, I focus on my to-do list and get a few things done. Try to focus on the positives as I experience each moment. I keep taking a new breath, exhaling that, and letting go of my irritation. I know it’ll likely be an all day sort of thing I’ve got to do, but facing it for the day is a whole lot less irritating than facing it for (the also likely) lifetime of work that may be ahead. One bite at a time.

The sunshine on the leaves of the pear tree beyond the window remind me that this is a lovely lazy Sunday. My list of housekeeping I’d like to get done keeps the day framed with productive tasks and wholesome distractions. I hear my Traveling Partner in the shop doing his thing and staying as far from my bullshit as he can easily do. I’m grateful he has that to turn to. I hope it’s enough to satisfy his needs. I keep working on me.

Time to begin again.