Archives for posts with tag: mindfulness

I woke with a headache and a snarl, and I also woke rather slowly and with great effort. I slept poorly, both restless and wakeful, I didn’t get the rest I need. It is a new day.

My pounding head reminds me that although there are no loose bits rattling around inside, this fragile eggshell is cracked. I smirk at myself, aware that some of my tendencies – things like linguistic complexity where none is required, “being deep” in casual conversations, the peculiar awareness of and communication via living metaphors, the likelihood that I will take something sarcastic at face value, the difficulty ending a conversation, oh, just a whole bunch of things, really… “quirks”, eccentricities, moments of weird – are complex outcomes of a brain injury, of PTSD, of surviving some nasty shit by learning to cope with it. I can say I’m “broken” with something like a comfortable feeling of familiarity. I used to let it define me… differently.

For awhile I fought it. I refused to define myself in terms of the chaos and damage. I refused to “be” broken. Other times, I wallowed in it. Yielded to the damage. Gave in to the chaos. Gave up on changing anything.

Time passes. Change is.

This morning I woke up snarling at myself. Frustrated by the headache. Annoyed by feeling so groggy. Eager to get to the coffee…

I am unsure whether it is the caffeine, the comfort of the hot mug, or the slow familiar waking ritual of making it, then drinking it, that serves so well to put the day on track. It does though. It does put the day on track, generally. This moment of warmth – literal and metaphorical warmth – enjoyed alone each morning, a moment to “get my head right”, and get past the headache, or the arthritis stiffness, or the stuffy nose, or the lingering recollection of a bad dream, or… well, whatever the waking moments of consciousness throw at me. I’ve got that cup of coffee to help me turn things around. Does it actually matter to me what the mechanism of action actually is? Not in the slightest.

Be broken, if it helps. Grieve if you are hurting. It’s not especially helpful to squash down all the feelings with a lot of “shouldn’t” and “don’t” and extra helpings of criticism taken from the words of others, and reformed in your own words and returned to your narrative as your own thoughts. No one needs guilt or shame on top of the things that already suck so much – and those things don’t only weigh us down and hold us back from going on with things, they also tend to stop us embracing what is authentically good about who we are – chaos and damage and all. Some of this broken shit frustrates me, daily. Some of this broken shit is part of who I am.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow.

Some of my most cherished individual qualities are very likely specific to my brain injury – or my PTSD. Some are things I like most about myself, others are things that other people have indicated they really appreciate about me. I’ve no intention of “fixing” those things. Don’t want to. Don’t need to. What if fixing the rest would also, by necessity, fix those things as well…? This thought is one underlying my focus on “being the woman I most want to be” rather than focusing on “fixing all the things wrong with me”; some of the things I may think are “wrong with me” in one moment, or from one perspective, may actually be very “right with me”, after all. πŸ™‚

I’m rambling. Sipping my coffee. Grateful to have taken the time to really wake up before going on to other things. I take time to appreciate the value in waking up early enough to let myself really become my best self before I go on with my day. I pause to wonder how I got through so many years of launching myself from bed first thing, and immediately dressing and getting out the door quickly; it seemed efficient at the time. It was a grueling and fairly punishing routine, in practice, and I often treated people who are unfortunate enough to interact with me very early in the morning fairly badly, especially in that first hour after waking. I’m not suggesting that getting up at 4:30 am to depart for work at 7 am would be “the right choice” for everyone, there are other needs, and other ways. This just works for me. By 6 am, I am feeling mostly human. Awake. Aware. More able to respond, and less likely to react. The headache has dissipated. It feels like a lovely morning.

It feels like I can begin again. πŸ™‚

Crap. I’m stuck on finding a particular item, post-move, and it is most likely still packed in one of the few remaining boxes. I’ve been stuck on it since yesterday evening after work, and I woke with it nagging at it me. An old “day planner”…

Remember having a “day planner”?

It’s not what’s in that old day planner that I’m looking for, though. It’s the cover. I painted on the plain coarse fabric cover. I’m looking for that original piece. The ideas and inspiration behind it persist in my consciousness, even going on to become other pieces of work on those themes, using similar colors, similar compositions. Iconic. Metaphoric. Allegorical. I’d share a picture… but… that’s sort of the point just now; I can’t find it. LOL

Wait. Stop. I need “do over”! I haven’t found it yet. I will though. Or… I won’t. There’s always a slim chance that in some moment altered perspective, or left brain/right brain weirdness, I looked at it with new eyes, finding it lacking in value – being just an old day planner – and tossed it. Oh yeah. I totally do that shit. Regrettably often.

I keep looking in the same boxes hoping I over looked it. Fucking hilarious. It will take unpacking every one of the remaining boxes…but… I want it before Friday. I guess tonight I am at least opening those two boxes I just keep hoping I won’t have to open prematurely; breakables. It’s not time to unpack those. I may have to open those boxes nonetheless – just to quiet my mind. I’ll almost certainly be unable to refrain from unpacking the remaining boxes of books – in spite of the lack of shelves for them. Damn it.

“Stop it.” The sound of my voice in the stillness startles me. Right. Let it go.

I sip my coffee. Breathe. Relax. Let the music in my ears reach my attention. Remind myself that satisfying the compelling idea I’m stuck on is not actually the sole solution to this aggravation – and possibly only a second best solution. Letting go of attachment to finding that day planner is a first-rate solution, also, and doable. Meditation is the verb I could be reaching for there. Helpful. Yeah. I put myself on pause. I give myself that precious gift of time, my own awareness… and I let it go. Really let it go.

Maybe I find it.

Maybe I don’t.

Maybe I choose to open those boxes.

Maybe I don’t.

…And hey… Hasn’t the intention been, all along, to unpack all the fucking boxes, at some point? πŸ˜‰

Imperfect circumstances and impermanence are part of the experience. I breathe, relax, sip my coffee and begin the day again.

My schedule is suddenly Monday through Friday again. Less than ideal for me, personally, but I adapt to the changes as they come, as comfortably as I can. There will be amusing moments when colleagues offer expressions of appreciation, relief, or recognition of some ‘good fortune’ involved (“Well, at least you get weekends off…”), but for me, this is a shitty change. Sure, sure, “everyone” I know (not everyone at all; it’s a misperception) has weekends off. I like having weekdays off and working the quieter weekend days – and the commute on weekends is definitely more pleasant. Having days off that permit doctor’s appointments, errand-running, and provide more retail options is just a better fit for my lifestyle. I don’t find it helpful to miss work to go to therapy – it’s adding stress to the process of relieving stress. It’s inconvenient to be in the middle of a large painting and discover too late that I’ve run out of a particular color that I won’t be able to replace on the weekend. Stuff like that. Monday through Friday work schedules? Keep my share. But… it’s what I’ve got, starting yesterday. Yeah, I’m kind of bitching about it. Sorry. I’m cross over the whole mess. I’ll get past it. Find the good in it for myself – the good that matters most to me, personally.

(It’ll make visiting my Traveling Partner a bit easier. That’s something.)

The point, really, is that there is work to be done; this affects all my planning for the next… 4 months. Yep. I’ve got plans on the calendar – shared plans – 4 months in the future. Damn, I’m glad I hadn’t yet planned the winter holidays. lol Another point? It affects this coming weekend, and the weekend after that; both weekends I’d made firm plans. Well, shit. So… some plans will change, other plans will require changes to my time off planning… it’s a good think I enjoy planning. lol

Was there really a point to any of this? I take a sip of my coffee, brow furrowed, acutely aware that my attention was on something else as I made coffee this morning, and I considered not writing a blog post in favor of writing to a dear friend… then, this. How strange.

…I really want to find that day planner…

I head back to my meditation cushion to begin again.

…Funny thing about meditation…

20170817_060419

… I couldn’t quite let it go… but… I also found it.Β 

A very long time ago, my Traveling Partner said something to me which I found very peculiar. He suggested I “be less negative”. It struck me as peculiar because I didn’t define myself in those terms, and perceived myself as “being” quite positive. (I wasn’t. At all.) He pointed to the frequent use of negative phrasing in my speech, and sarcasm in my humor (which, by the way, I used heavily – but am fairly tone-deaf to, myself). I could not argue his point, and I really tried. I found myself having to agree that I was indeed fairly negative. Negative phrasing, negative outlook on life, awash in unsupported certainty, argumentative, and admittedly, on occasion (too many occasions) deeply in despair… yep. Negative. Negativity. Just all the nope to life’s questions.

It’s been a long weird path to here. This place in life where I find myself now is very different. “Being a positive person” isn’t something easily faked, or forced, and repeating wholesome affirmations in the mirror isn’t going to do it, either. It’s more subtle than that. Making that change from negative to positive requires some adjustments in implicit memory, implicit biases, and habitual behaviors, and takes practice. I found that it began most easily with accepting that I wasn’t positive in the first place, which was exceedingly difficult, initially.

By the beginning of this year, I was already in a very different place, and would have said that I am a fairly positive person. Kind. Compassionate. Polite. Helpful. …And still there was a tiny core of rot at the heart of all that, with the potential to color my thinking heavily, and not in any particularly helpful ways. A coworker, in the office, in conversation about work-related matters, calmly noted one way by way of feedback “you’re not assuming positive intent”.

I had come a long way toward becoming a positive person, but she was correct; I had not yet come far enough to allow myself to understand others as being similarly positive, similarly well-intended, similarly worthy and sufficient, each of us having our own experience. I still tended to assume the other human beings populating my experience may be acting on ill-intent. Her observation clung to me, and polluted my consciousness for days. Over weeks it actually began on change my thinking, as I considered it in the context of real life interactions, in the moment. Β This, too, has been an interesting journey.

Assume positive intent.

Seriously. I’m not saying that there are no hazards in life, or that there are no “bad people” out there, but how many folks are actually scary dangerous killers with murder in their hearts? How many of those do you actually know, or may run into, ever? So… all those other people, the not scary dangerous killers with murder in their hearts people? Yeah, those other people who are neither you, nor a danger to you – what value is there in assuming they wish you harm, or may do you harm through ineptitude? And your loved ones? Surely they mean you literally and entirely no harm? (If any other thing is true about their state of mind, maybe choose your loves differently?) When we approach other human beings holding onto a state of consciousness that suggests they “may be up to no good” or that they constitute some as-yet-unidentified threat to us, our defenses go up, and we are not our own authentic selves. Sometimes we even behave or use language that can seem to provoke the very circumstances we seek to avoid. We send mixed messages, and our non-verbal communication doesn’t agree with our verbal communication. It’s all very confusing, and I noticed something wonderful when I began to live life differently by assuming positive intent; my social anxiety diminished.

Assume positive intent.

Seems simple enough (is). Just stop feeding the internal narrative that details how some other person means me harm, right? That and more. It’s a subtle thing. A colleague took a really really long break? Instead of being annoyed by that, assuming positive intent opens the door for concern – are they okay? Is there a reason they needed a long break? Is it an opportunity to be supportive, or to connect? That was the sort of thing I started with. I moved on to things like … that driver ahead of me slammed on their breaks suddenly – are they just a giant jerk who drives badly? Assuming positive intent reminds me to consider their circumstances from their perspective. Perhaps something startled them, or they had a foot cramp, or maybe I was following very closely behind them and their discomfort with that situation resulted in choosing to break suddenly to send a message (however dangerous and in poor judgment that seems, it is also simply a bit of communication, right)?

Assume positive intent.

I just kept at it. Looking for the situation in which my assumptions of anything besides positive intent were more useful and appropriate than if I would assume positive intent. More and more often, I found myself fully embracing that assumption of positive intent. Funny thing; my relationships improved. All of them. Work relationships. Romantic relationships. Friendships. I’m still thoroughly human. I still make mistakes. I still hurt people’s feelings without realizing it, and make assumptions that are in error. It’s a journey, and there is no map. πŸ™‚ Assuming positive intent does seem to make most experiences, particularly shared experiences, so much more pleasant, generally. I have come to no harm through an assumption of positive intent. So… I think I’ll keep doing that. Assuming positive intent, I mean. πŸ™‚

Hey… haven’t I written about this before? Yep. It’s still working. πŸ˜€ This one? This is a practice that could change the world…

Shall we begin again? πŸ™‚

The morning is gentle on my waking consciousness. I’m glad of that. The headache pounding away at my forebrain when I woke has dissipated. I’m glad of that as well. I notice, at the same time I notice my half-finished coffee has fully gone cold, I never opened the blinds (or the window) here in the studio when I opened up the windows to let in the fresh morning breezes. It strikes me as odd, until I also notice my latent noise sensitivity is quite a presence, in fact, and recognize that I had simply not opened the window, to dull the sound of the morning commuter traffic, which I definitely don’t care to hear.

Who am I today? Am I headache-y? Am I well-rested and merry? Am I irritable? I’m not actually certain. I may be all of those things at some point today. Right now, in spite of a leisurely shower, a good yoga sequence, and the fresh forested breezes on a summer morning, I remain rather groggy, somewhat irritable, and annoyed by my stuffy sinuses (which may have been the cause of the headache I’d awakened with). The more I focus on this experience, the more it intensifies, and the more irritable I become. Interesting. Sometimes mindfulness brings uncomfortable experiences into sharper focus.

I breathe. Relax. Pull my posture more comfortably erect as I sit at my desk. My eyes close, and without giving it further thought, my hands rest, quite still, on the edge of my keyboard. I breathe. Relax. My eyes closed. Feeling this space, this moment. My shoulders sink down until they are no longer crammed up against my damned ears. The sound of the traffic blends with my tinnitus. I breathe. Relax. Time passes.

Some time later, some 30 or so minutes, actually, my eyes open. I’m smiling. I needed that moment, I suppose. Just some meditation time, right where I sat, no further fuss or bother. Nothing to disturb me. I feel better than I did. More comfortably aware of the commonplace discomforts that are a thing. I am a mortal creature. This fragile vessel is not always an entirely comfortable thing. lol

The house is nicely cool now. It is sometime past day break. I still have time to water the container garden, do the dishes, make my bed – all the things I like to come home to at the end of the work day. It’s just me, right? So… I gotta do the things. πŸ™‚ That’s pretty much how adulthood works generally; if I want a result, I must do the things. Shopping around for other human beings to do the things on my behalf isn’t nearly as efficient. Partnerships are not a form of indentured servitude, or long-term service, and I’d far rather count on mine for shared experiences I truly cannot have solo in life… sex, shared laughter, intimacy, exchanges of touch and emotion… all stuff I really love, too. How nice to share it! Not to imply that reciprocity with the housekeeping and whatnot isn’t valued – in my relationships it is both valued and required. Everybody eats? Drinks water, coffee, tea, whatever? Everybody showers? Sits on the furniture? Then everyone works to keep the place nice. It’s sort of obvious and non-negotiable. πŸ˜€

It’s still early. A good time to begin on the housekeeping. A good time to begin again, living and being, and becoming the person I most want to be.

Peculiar morning. I woke from a sound sleep to the message from my Traveling Partner letting me know he is safely home. I felt okay when I woke… not “merry” or overly enthused, but calm and content, certainly. My emotions have shifted and boiled up since then, mixing, shifting, seeming detached from any specific circumstances. Moments of deep love, poignant moments of almost-grief, a lingering vague sadness, a certain tinge of disappointed bitterness with edges gilded in cynicism – variety, this morning, a sampler of feelings lacking in context. No point to be made. No knowledge to be gained. Random emotions in the hours after waking, only.

Last year a morning like this would drive me to my meditation cushion, seeking solace and self-soothing. Two years ago, maybe three, I’d have been feeling low over it, pensive and moody, wondering “what it all means”, but diligently avoiding becoming fused with the emotions, and putting a lot of effort into being present in the moment. 5 years ago, a morning like this one would have found me weeping quietly behind a closed door, frightened of shadows, certain there was no emotionally safe place to turn, filled with despair, and enraged that “it’s all happening again and I can’t make it stop!!” – and not sure what exactly I meant by any of that.

This morning I am a calm observer of my emotions as they ebb and flow, passing through me, sweeping over me, arriving, and then also departing. “This too shall pass” is pretty much approximately always a true statement, whatever the circumstances, if only I can allow it to be so. I open windows to let in the breezes. I enjoy my coffee as day begins to break. I watch dawn arrive from the deck, bare feet on wood, the hair on my arms raised in the pre-dawn chill. I meditate. I have my oatmeal for breakfast. I do my physical therapy stuff. I water the patio garden as the sky begins to lighten from pale to more obviously blue. This is my life, emotions and all. I am okay with that, and with them.

It’s a strangely emotional morning, though. No obvious cause and effect – that’s hard for me, because as human primates are often inclined to do, I really want my emotions to “make sense”, even though “making sense” and being “reasonable” are not their role. I am human, very, and both emotion and reason are part of that experience. I find that some of the power of emotional experiences is lost if I force some kind of rationalized context on them, instead of simply feeling my feelings. So this morning I am feeling things. I wasn’t expecting such a morning, or planning on it, and I don’t know where it may lead or what the day looks like if filled with such experiences.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details

I hear vehicles passing by. Some slow down near the cross-street nearest my driveway. My heart jumps each time – is it him? Each time, I feel that it could be my Traveling Partner. My emotions reach my consciousness first. Reason politely points out that although it is physically within the realm of possibilities that he could indeed have immediately gone from his RV to the SUV and headed this way, arriving here sometime around now-ish, it’s really not likely – he just finished driving hundreds of miles through the night, arrived home safely – and tired – and more probably is now soundly asleep. That’s “reasonable”. Reason gets to the party a little later than emotion does. How much fucking drama does that timing cause humanity day-to-day? I smile and sip my coffee. It’s nice to have the practical example in the moment.

Here. Now.

Pink clouds against a blue sky as the sun begins to edge over the unseen horizon. I know the sun is there, though I can’t see it. Peering at my life through my emotions is a little like that, this morning; I have reason, waiting in the background like that unseen sunrise, but for now what I see are those pink clouds of emotion, reflecting facets of what is, all colored up and altered, changing with the light as the sun does rise. Eventually, day light. Eventually, emotion and reason in balance, awake, and aware.

Strange morning. I have time for another cup of coffee. I have time to begin again.