Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness matters

I woke up sort of cross and stupid, and bumbled clumsily through my morning routine, until I sat down with my coffee. Most of my ideas, at that moment, were half-formed, vaguely annoyed, and wholly human. I considered unpacking my complex relationship with anger – and traffic – or bitching about some other mundanity a great many of us struggle with daily, and lost interest before the ideas even began to take shape. You see, there’s a small bird in the hedge just beyond the stoop, outside my studio window, and this bird is singing, chirping, and generally really making itself heard. First, a “distraction”, now the soundtrack of the morning; I pause, and listen.

I am now enjoying a quiet morning, with a nice cup of coffee, and the sounds of early morning traffic, and birdsong. It’s a better-than-average start to a morning. I refrain from contemplating the day ahead; I’ve got an entire commute for that. Instead, I think about my garden, and consider the weekend for a moment, and quickly return to sipping coffee, and listening to this wee bird chirping and singing, beyond the window. I wonder what woke the little bird so early, this morning?

I give myself a moment or two, to fully wake, to be more prepared for the day ahead (any day ahead, really, not just this one). I sip my coffee, feeling quite content, and at ease. I consider how I want to approach my commute, this morning… knowing it likely won’t matter what I “decide” to do; I’ll find out what I’m doing about that as I drive along, just at that moment when a decision-making turn is necessary, and I see what I did about that, in fact. lol

I guess the point, today, is fairly simple; slow down. Let go. Exist for a moment without demanding so much of yourself, or your time. Just be.

Begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚

Me, too. Well, actually, I found one – a bunch of them, and a great perspective shot down a busy, picturesque street, on a sunny afternoon, between spring rain showers. I snapped a quick shot from my position on the corner, waiting to cross the street. I grinned, satisfied, and hurried on across while the light was still on “walk”.

Later, when I sat down for a moment with my thoughts, and this metaphor about signs just waiting to become words on a page with an apropos perspective shot supporting it… no picture. It didn’t save. The moment… has passed. Unrecorded. Soon to be forgotten.

Well… shit. Moving on, then?

…Or… are you still “looking for a sign”? What’s holding you back from that next step, right now? Fear? Money? Discouragement? Frustration? Disappointment? Ennui? (Have you ever noticed that what holds people back from pursuing something of interest is rarely joy, contentment, or satisfaction in life?) Okay, so, it’s not easy to “live the dream” – if what we want requires more than we have. Doesn’t matter if that’s money, or training, or experience, or skill… there’s an effort implied to any of it, and the suggestion that if we truly want to achieve that achievement, we’ll do the work. Luck only takes us so far. (I say this as someone who has been astonishingly lucky in life, all things considered.)

Wanna be a rock star? Are you making time, and putting in the hours, learning to play an instrument, read music, write songs…?

Wanna be a renowned author? Are you practicing your writing skills, you know, by writing? Are you honing your craft, and seeking feedback that will result in becoming the writer you most want to be, telling a story only you can tell?

Wanna kick butt at roller derby? So… yeah… are you on skates, looking for a team to practice with?

Wanna build custom furniture with amazing space-saving secret compartments and interesting built-in features that are entirely unique to your brand? Okay… are you already learning cabinetry and wood-working?

My point is this; it’s not luck alone that walks us down our path in life. We have to take actual steps. ๐Ÿ™‚

…Don’t just stand there! Start walking. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I read a post online today that frankly offended me. Did you see it, too? It was so… well, you saw, right? :-\ Lingering outrage is a pretty common reaction. Sharing it. Talking about it. Coming back to it again and again. Writers, advertisers, and media outlets count on it; it drives “engagement” to get people mad or to offend them. Engagement means $$, or so goes the common thinking about such things. It seems to be true.

I didn’t link the post, no. That was deliberate. Why would I need to link it? Are we not offended, equally, by all the same things because all such things are entirely obvious?

LOL You know I’m messing with you there; it’s a ridiculous idea.

My apologies for messing with your head. Here’s a flower. ๐Ÿ™‚

We are each having our own experience, and the fun meme that made you laugh sooo hard that one time? Maybe that was a thing that hurt me to my very core, leaving me shaking and triggered. Isn’t that possible? Isn’t it equally possible to simple reverse the circumstances – you offended, me amused? Sure, it is. That’s the thing about being so individual, and why the idea of “equality” can be so tricky, linguistically. It’s tempting to let the abstract word games obscure our awareness that real people are really affected by… all of it. The words, the choices, the actions, the memes, the assumptions, the reactions, the excuses,ย  – every bit of all of it is part of a very complicated larger whole thing. We are human. We are all quite human. We are each having our own experience. We are unique and individual. We are a lot alike. We are all in this together. We each have to walk our own hard mile.

Are you right about what “is” offensive? Am I? Even if either of us are “right” about something we understand individually to be “offensive”, what is the value of our individual experience relative to the existence of all of the individual experiences of each of the other human beings also having their own experience? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… Don’t kill me. Don’t confine me. Don’t coerce or force me. It’s that “pursuit of happiness” that is such a challenge, is it not? Do I get to pursue my happiness in any way that undermines your ability to pursue yours? I would not expect to. Perhaps you think differently? Then what? And what of being “offended”? If I am offended by your words or actions, but those words or actions in no way do me any damage, risk my life, reduce my liberty, or stop me from pursuing my happiness…? What if it is my actual existence that offends you? Do I no longer have the right to be? It doesn’t follow that such would be the case, does it? We know better than that, at least …don’t we?

Here’s the thing about “being offended”; it’s an emotional experience. If I feel “offended”, that’s mine, and it can’t be taken from me any more than my anger or my sorrow can be taken from me (i.e.; only if I allow it); my emotional experience fully and wholly belongs to me. No one gets to tell me how to feel, how I “should”ย feel, or that my feelings are not “okay”. Having and experiencing my emotions is mine. Changing how I feel? Mine, too. People sometimes do or say things that result in my having an emotional reaction to what was said, or done. My emotions are still my own to experience – and mine to manage. It was a long journey getting to that understanding. Understanding that my feelings don’t dictate reality or obligate others to action was farther still to go. Understanding that my feelings are only feelings – sensations, emotions, perceptions – which are also exceedingly easily manipulated, was a bit farther still.

I generally don’t continue relationships with people who regularly do or say things I find “offensive” or specifically hurtful to me. I am learning over time that ending such relationships is important self-care. It’s not for me to choose someone’s values, or dictate what they may find amusing or acceptable; if I am offended by something, that is a reflective of my own values, and for me to resolve. Taking care of myself isn’t on their “to do list”. Simple enough, generally. Having taken this approach, as an individual, though, I find myself occasionally in the awkward situation of interacting with someone I’ve offended (usually with some thoughtless remark), who clearly has the expectation that I will take steps to “fix” the situation beyond a sincere expression of remorse for causing them upset, and making a point to understand their experience in context. I mean… yeah. I wouldn’t cause offense willfully, with the intent of hurting someone. That’s just mean. That’s not who I understand myself to be, at all. I am, however, capable of causing offense just by being the person I am… depending on who you are yourself, offense could occur. I’ll apologize for offending you, I surely will. Next step is for you to walk away, if there is a fundamental mismatch of values that may cause the offense to recur. Take care of you. I’m not likely going to be changing the person I am solely to avoid offending you, under most circumstances

On another hand, though, I do enjoy authentically connecting with other people, and I don’t enjoy hurting them. So, when I learn that something I am likely to do or say, particularly with any regularity, or by any preference or defining characteristic of self, is reliably offensive or hurtful to others, I take a long close look at that, and ask myself if that is who I truly want to be, and does it really reflect my values? Because it matters. Because I do care. Sometimes, I even care enough to change who I am, or how I express myself, in order to be a better human being, just generally. Sometimes, upon reflection, whatever the potential offending moment is doesn’t seem to be a thing I want or need to change, for myself, and I choose instead to stand firm on those values, understanding that my choices reflect my character, my values, and define who I am. I recognize that not everyone is going to find me likable. That’s okay, too.

My swearing, and sarcasm, are good examples to use to illustrate my point.

I swear. I swear rather a lot. I sprinkle my writing and my speech with swearing. Feels naturally expressive, and I use it as a sort of verbal punctuation. There have been times in my life when individuals of varying closeness have expressed a distaste for, or even been offended by, my swearing. I reflected on that long, and often, and chose not to change, other than refining the way I do use such language to be more limited, more specific, and less likely to be a direct attack on another person.

Sarcasm, on the other hand, once flowed from my lips like a singer’s song, and as it turns out, I’m also a bit “tone-deaf” in that form of speech. I can dish it out, but don’t understand it reliably when I hear it, and did not understand when I was much younger how easily people can be hurt by sarcasm, or how easily confused if they don’t recognize it, or at the extreme edges of the verbal form, how little difference there may be between sarcasm and, say, gas lighting or deceitfulness. It has a lot to do with whether or not the listener realizes what they are hearing is sarcasm. Turns out quite a few people, including me, often don’t recognize sarcasm when they hear, or read, it. I reflected a lot on sarcasm, and how I used it, how I received it, how I understood it – and how commonplace it is that someone else doesn’t realize what is being said could be being said sarcastically, resulting in misunderstanding. I chose to change. I rarely use sarcasm, even as humor, at this point in my life. Now and then, and usually without realizing I’ve done so until too late to reconsider, one might still hear sarcasm from me. It’s rare. Very rare. More common is to hear sarcasm in my speech and misunderstand me – because I wasn’t being sarcastic, I was perhaps, just… wrong. Or thinking I was being funny (I’m not that funny, and I have a very weird sense of humor based, primarily, on wordplay, and the layers of meanings of words). These days I try to stay very deliberately away from sarcasm. It’s hard to do well without hurting someone.

When do words matter? When don’t they? Language functions by agreement. Communication is most effective when we understand each other. We build healthy relationships most easily when we don’t use language to hurt each other. Explicit clarification of our position is more readily understood than implicit acceptance of assumptions. These things seem obvious to me. They resonate with me, personally, as fundamentals of speaking, of listening, and of being heard. I found it worth changing, to make use of these principles with greater ease. There are still verbs involved. I’m quite human. I still find it necessary to “check myself” now and then in a moment of frustration, or annoyance. Still, I have a good idea of who I want to face in the mirror each day, and what her values truly are. I make mistakes. I can begin again. I become what I practice. ๐Ÿ™‚

Life is messy sometimes. Challenges I didn’t expect come up, and I’m not always prepared. I don’t think that’s out of the ordinary. Quite the contrary; I think it’s wholly commonplace. How I deal with bullshit, turmoil, change, and challenges, defines me. You, too.

…It’s back to the “who am I?” question. lol

So… who are you? How do you tackle challenges? How do you manage change? How do you handle bullshit? How do you cope with confrontation? I think these are all the same question – and that question is a difficult one to answer in a simple way. What are the defining characteristics that make you the person you are right now? I guess the follow-up is, “is that who you want most to be?”

…Well, is it?

Today I make a journey, more physical than metaphysical, and along the way I will be this person I have become over time. I reflect on that as I dress, and brush my hair. I reflect on that without my coffee, rather oddly, choosing instead to get coffee along the way. A treat. A convenience. A part of the journey. I’m not clear on whether I am “enjoying the moment” or “getting this out of the way”. Maybe it’s both. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am eager to go – because I am eager to return home.

I’ve made this same drive so many times, to see my Traveling Partner, feeling as though the destination was “my true home”. Love is a luxurious home for my heart. Now, he’s here, sleeping in the other room… My trip this morning doesn’t feel like a journey to my home, unless I consider myself a boomerang… flung far, returning soon, to this same point. lol The relaxed evening we shared last night still warms me, and lifts my smile to my eyes.

Journeys being what they are, it’s very nearly time to get going. I consider the journey ahead, and wish myself well. See you back here tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m drinking coffee and giving thought to the day ahead. Days ahead. The weekend, too. Building a mental map of what is likely to come, and also gently letting that go; the map is not the world. Hell, it’s not even properly a map; it’s just a sense of direction. ๐Ÿ™‚

A local transit map gets me across town, but tells me nothing much about the places to which I travel.

Maps are funny things. They give me a sense of security about the direction I’m headed, and some hints and pointers about how to get where I’m going. I appreciate those things. I also recognize that there are some limitations. Maps have scale, and boundaries; anything too small disappears from view, anything outside the borders isn’t shown. Depending on the distance I want to travel, or the complexity of the journey, any one map may be unsuited to the purpose.

Other maps, other details; not all maps suit all purposes.

If I take the wrong map on the hiking trip, I could easily become very lost. ๐Ÿ™‚ Too little detail, and I don’t see the trails to follow. Too much detail, I don’t see important details of the terrain. Get in too close, and I can’t see “a bigger picture”. Pull away too far, and I lose a sense of context, and place. Perspective matters, on the trail, on the commute, and in life. The accuracy of the map matters, too.

I fell yesterday. I was walking briskly across a busy street, after work, heading to the train platform, and slipped on a rain-slick manhole cover. I fell hard, into the street, onto the train tracks. I hit the ground hard enough to knock the air out of my lungs, and I struggled to pick myself up easily. I was shaken, and stood confused, on the sidewalk for some moments. Passers-by expressed concern. I wasn’t entirely coherent, for some seconds. My jeans were soaked on the side of my body that took the impact. I walk across that street almost every day. You’d think I’d have mastered it by now. My mental map did not have that manhole cover noted anywhere, and the risk escaped my notice as I hurried along.

I got home with minimal frustration, still aching all over from falling. I made a trip to the store, because I’d said I would, but my head was still reeling a bit from the fall, and I made the trip short and very efficient. I really just wanted to go home. I felt vulnerable, raw, and very very mortal. I felt betrayed by my awareness, and overly sensitive to the excessive real-world detail strewn about all around me. Overwhelmed by the sudden awareness that I just don’t notice everything, I was feeling a bit anxious, and still kind of dizzy from the fall.

I got home, and just as I was breathing a sigh of relief, hands full of shopping bags, and also juggling my keys, my cane, and my backpack… the door would not unlock. Fuck. I snarled at the door and tried again. Nope. Not unlocking. I snapped. I felt my consciousness winding up to prepare me to lash out against that wretched, cursed, unresponsive door, and just as the stream of invective began to leave my lips – my Traveling Partner opened the door with a sheepish, loving smile, and an apology; he’d locked the door knob (I lock the deadbolt). I started to cry, he immediately offered me comfort. We moved on from the moment very quickly. He made sure I was really okay, and helped me look after my health properly. No obvious lasting damage, honestly. I just fell. I got back up. I got home safely. We enjoyed a lovely evening. Well and good. ๐Ÿ™‚

The mental map matters every bit as much as any physical map ever has. Expectations, unchecked, often result in disappointment, confusion, resentment, and frustration. Assumptions that are not verified against actual facts, can lead to some terrible decision-making, miscommunication, and poor quality relationships. Even simple lack of awareness can wreck a map and render it entirely useless due to lack of relevant details. I’m just saying – it’s not enough to take just any map, it also needs to be a map of the correct place, and drawn to the correct scale, using an accurate perspective.

If you’re struggling to get where you are going in life… maybe it’s time to redraw the map? ๐Ÿ˜€