Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness matters

…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.

I got a walk in this morning. The mornings are cooler. The sun rises later. I felt rather as if I “slept in”, but it’s more that the sunrise has shifted and affects my timing. I haven’t used any sort of alarm, not even my artificial sunrise on Home Assistant) since I left my previous job. It’s lovely.

Tuesday sunrise.

I sat for a moment watching the sun rise. Today is a work day. No need to rush, though. I have a handful of meetings on my calendar, related to onboarding in this new job. It’s a relaxed, very organized experience without being stifling or rigid. Yesterday was excellent as first days go. There’s a lot to learn, a lot to sort out and understand more deeply, and quite a handful of new tools to msster. No objection from me; there is a lot of opportunity for growth in this.

So far, this is a very good week in a choice new role. Lovely morning, too.

…This cup of coffee is about gone, and I would definitely like another. Sounds like a reasonable point for a new beginning…

I’m on my third coffee this morning. I slept poorly. My Traveling Partner slept poorly. I slipped away early in the morning hoping he would be able to get some better sleep, but that didn’t work out ideally well. I am sitting in the studio, drinking coffee and considering the causes and the potential outcomes, and wondering how best to be helpful.

“Being considerate” may very well be one of the most powerful skills (and practices) that a person can bring to social relationships (of all kinds). I have found it sometimes a bit difficult to define “consideration” – in spite of placing it high on my list of things to look for in relationships. I see people who are “considerate” practicing deep listening, explicit expectation-setting, skillful boundary setting, asking clarifying questions, testing their assumptions, yielding their natural desire to be “right” preferring to be kind, making an explicit effort to refrain from “centering themselves” in every circumstance or conflict, and being very comfortable making a prompt apology when another person points out a transgression. That seems like a lot to manage, but it really does all map to “consideration” – as in, genuinely considering what those around them are going through or may need.

Let’s be clear on one point; I don’t see considerate people being doormats or open to being abused or mistreated. They use boundary setting and expectation setting with great skill and comfort. They consider their own needs along side the needs of others, and make a point of practicing good self-care, too.

Lacking fundamental consideration leads people to casually mistreat others without intention – and often without noticing, and sometimes following-up by callously doubling-down on that mistreatment by attempting to deflect blame (by way of excusing their actions as “unintended”). Doesn’t really “make things right” to do things that way, and feels still more inconsiderate. People who are inconsiderate are by far more common than people who are considerate! It has become socially “normal” to see (or have to accommodate) inconsiderate behavior from others. People are busy. Self-involved. Dealing with their own shit. Struggling to heal trauma. Uneducated about the impact their choices/words/behavior has on others. Unaware how much difference consideration can make. There’s a lot going on with inconsiderate people. Most of it is even shit everyone has going on in life. One thing that isn’t going on with inconsiderate people; they are not being “considerate” (probably a huge timesaver, I don’t know…).

Consideration and considerate behavior isn’t “natural” to human primates; we learn it from our social group(s) – and therefore must teach it to our companions, explicitly. Children generally get taught “sharing” – a part of consideration. Every element of consideration probably needs to be explicitly taught. As a culture we’re clearly falling down on the job, there, based on the general rise in inconsiderate behavior, basic rudeness, and prevalent violence. I’m pretty certain that very considerate people are likely less prone to violence. It’s something to think about.

Today, I’m struggling with “my nature”; I tend to be very considerate (of others), but also tend to fail myself on the self-care and boundary-setting side of things. Knowing my Traveling Partner did not sleep well, I consider what I can do to be helpful, or to at least minimize the potential for stress or conflict in our relationship due to the both of us being fatigued and in pain. It’s complicated. What does he need? What does he want? Can I provide those things? Is guessing at them wise? What about me? What do I need, myself? Can I meet his needs and my own? When do well-intentioned inquiries about what he needs become invasive or pestering? How do I prevent my own boundary and expectation-setting needs from being swept aside in the pursuit of a gentle day together (under difficult circumstances)? What is reasonable, and what is excessive? How far do I take “not taking things personally” before it becomes entirely necessary to “push back” or point out a boundary – and how do I do that gently enough to also avoid sounding “bitchy” or unreasonable?

My anxiety simmers in the background, and that’s not at all helpful. Consideration, like “mindfulness”, is something that takes quite a bit of actual practice (at least for me). It’s not my “default” human behavior. It is, however, something I value quite a lot – enough to keep practicing. Enough that it matters to achieve mastery – and balance.

It’s a new day. There are opportunities to be a better person than I was yesterday. There will be verbs involved, and practice required. My results will no doubt vary. It’s a good time to begin again. 🙂

I am feeling relaxed and hopeful. Encouraged. Genial. Quietly merry. The quiet of the evening is occasionally and quite joyfully interrupted by my partner’s laughter. He is hanging out with his son.

My partner calls out to me, inviting me to the other room. I join him there and he hands me a cool new 3D printed fidget toy he printed to try out a new filament. It’s super cool, and he gifts it to me. A nice detail to add to a lovely day.

Pretty!

Emotions come ango, like waves. If I exhaust myself fighting the ebb and surge of my emotions, it does nothing to improve the quality of my experience, and results less joy, less often. By “riding the waves”, being present, feeling my feelings and taking thoughtful, considered actions, and practicing both presence and non-attachment, I more deeply enjoy my experience – and my emotions.

I sip on this glass of ice water, and play with the new fidget toy. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Feel the plastic rings twist between my fingers smoothly. I smile. This too will pass. I make a point to savor this moment.

Tomorrow is soon enough to begin again.