Archives for posts with tag: not my circus not my monkey

My gear is packed. I’m rested. The work week is behind me. The weekend is ahead. My anxiety is through the fucking roof, in spite of there being “nothing wrong” in any literal sense; I am facing my inner demons, today, or at least one small cohort of the mocking hateful little bastards, and I am hoping to come through, if not “victorious”, then at least fairly cognizant just how okay I actually am. That’d actually be a pretty spectacularly big deal.

I survived family violence in my childhood home. I survived domestic violence. I survived the Army, and yes, I survived war. I have, actually, survived all of what life has thrown at me so far – even the good stuff. 🙂 What has lingered are the scars, emotional and physical. The learned limitations. The fears. The background stress of my injured brain insisting something is imminently going to go very very wrong. Scary dangerous wrong. Look out for that hazard right there!! Only… generally? No hazard. PTSD instead.

When things went sideways with my Traveling Partner’s other partner (in poly vernacular, my “metamour”), becoming a mental health crisis of epic proportions, affecting an entire fairly closely associated community, it was also a re-traumatizing event for me. The aftermath was even directly emotionally abusive, specifically targeted to be so, hurtfulness set on “stun”, although the weaponized words and emotions were being launched by a human being fairly obviously not in her right mind at the time, I am human, and I feel. All the feelings. I’ve got my own baggage to carry. Afterward, the easy solution for me has been to just “let all that shit go” and walk on. I do not need (or want) that kind of bullshit in my life, and I have learned to turn away from it.

Not all of life’s decisions are mine to make. Funny how that works. I get to make mine, and I have learned to respect, value, and insist upon my agency. It’s precious to me. On the other hand, I’m not strolling through life utterly alone, here; other people have their lives, too, and their own decisions to make, and they so do make them. I live with those decisions, as well as my own, because we’re all in this together. lol One such decision is to have a birthday party at the very location where “all the bad shit went down”, some weeks after the fact, and almost-but-not-quite as if nothing untoward or unpleasant had even been a thing. Weird. I have trouble wrapping my head around that. Inviting me into that environment seems a tad disrespectful, or even callous, although more likely it is merely ignorant of the potential impact to me, or even more likely still, I am highly regarded, desired good company – which may matter more to all of the non-me people involved. lol I got invited.  …And… I’m an adult, right? My friends are adults, too. We are each having our own experience. Mine says ‘do not walk, run, get as fucking far away from that shit, as far as possible, because you do not want to be there when that mad bitch burns her fucking house down’… but… really? Well. I don’t know, do I? Mental health challenges being what they are, and love being what it is, people do make a fairly wide range of choices when loved ones lose their shit in one flavor of mental health crisis or another. People don’t always turn entirely away. I still don’t get it, myself, at this point in life; I’ve stopped taking abuse. Protestations of love are not enough to keep me in an abusive relationship. That’s non-negotiable…but…

…What’s a “safe distance”? In this instance, specifically, when there is no clear certain threat to me personally of any notable sort, what then? So… I’m doing something occasionally suggested in therapy, and utterly resisted by me. Exposure. Facing my fears, in real life. Making the choice to visit friends, and have a good time, in a physical location that causes me a fuck ton of anxiety and stress… for no obvious reason in this moment (the stress I mean; hanging out with friends does not need reasons, and every moment is a good one for hanging out with friends). This could be a very healing thing for me. It’s fucking hard as hell, though, and I find myself dithering a bit as I prepare to leave for the weekend away. It’s just an overnight, down and back, and a chance to look over some real estate on the way back. This? This is an experience to have.

There are verbs involved. Self-soothing. Taking time out to regain perspective. Practices to practice. This? It’s a test. 🙂 I’m content if I get a “C”… I would like to pass it, though. lol I take a deep breath and relax. I’m aware of the physical pain I am in – and the potential that some measure of that pain is directly related to my emotional well-being in some way. Another breath. I let my shoulders slide back down where they belong. I am okay, right now. The road beyond the driveway is quiet. It’s a good time to get started on this journey.

I am my own cartographer. My choices are my own. I walk my own hard mile. My results may vary; and I have choices. I become what I practice. The woman in the mirror smiles back at me. We’re in this together.

It’s time to begin again.

I’d just barely hit “publish” on yesterday’s blog post when a severe OPD storm blew in. Other People’s Drama splashed all over my doorstep, and a tsunami of emotion blasted my morning, my afternoon, and my day generally.

In moments of gloom, there are often still flowers.

I am not the sort of person to turn someone fleeing domestic violence away from a moment of safety, though, and my OPD-free zone is certainly a safe space. I invited my friend in, and started working to help her calm herself; difficult decisions in life are most easily made from moments of calm, I find. I make a point of checking in with myself regularly, too, because this shit hits all of my buttons, and I am myself on the edge of panic being around domestic violence, at all.

When conditions are right, flowers bloom.

My friend and I took a walk through the park, “enjoying” the flowers. To be more precise, I was enjoying the flowers, my friend was moping along beside me, less than fully engaged in the moment. I didn’t really intend to give up on 100% of the beauty and fun of my weekend, just because someone else has drama to choose to invest in. 🙂 It was a lovely walk, and I’m sure the fresh air and sunshine did her some good too. She talked. I listened. Sometimes I talked. I hope she made a point of listening, but it’s not something I can confirm with any confidence. We walked in silence some, too. I did my best to respect her emotional experience and be present, welcoming, and comforting.

I’m not always sure what one flower or another actually is, and this does not stop me from enjoying them.

She figured out what to do with herself in the short-term, and where to go. Her things were already packed up and ready for all of that. I gave her a ride. I gave her hugs. I gave her my time. I came home. The evening from that point was very quiet. Her now-ex is a friend, too. I know he must be hurting, and I’m here, even for him, if he wants to talk. He hasn’t reached out. I don’t expect that he will. The situation saddens me. Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Not my drama.

Sometimes, a closer look.

I slept restlessly, waking often toward the end of the night. My restlessness got me out of bed more than once, to walk through and around the apartment before returning to bed, no particular purpose in mind. It was a weird night. I sip my coffee contemplating the weekend behind me, and the day ahead. Yesterday’s investment in drama was time-consuming; I didn’t get my laundry done, and I didn’t paint my nails. I didn’t read that book I started. I didn’t get much housework done. All of that will inconvenience or annoy me this week, at some point, more than likely…but… what I did do counts too, and comes up less often; I spent time with a friend who needed me.

It’s a journey.

Still, I’m looking around the place this morning and recognizing opportunities to take better care of the woman in the mirror. Today seems like a good day to begin again. 🙂

 

Journey’s are fraught with obstacles. This one, too. This morning I am feeling a bit ‘stuck for a topic’, not because there is nothing worth writing about, more because there are so many splinters of issues, small things, and bits of background anxiety this morning it’s simply difficult to determine what I can most productively put my attention on, for myself.

The work day yesterday was complete turmoil and not very productive due to a system outage. The transportation to/from my appointment was notably unpleasant with rude people, ludicrously heavy fragrances, loud voices, and emotional content. I spent much of the day in pain, with both a headache, and my arthritis giving me grief. Therapy itself was disruptively powerful, and as efficient as it was effective – thought-provoking? Eye-opening? Forward progress. Incredibly emotionally painful. I arrived home with an aching jaw having spent the ride gritting my teeth and avoiding lashing out at hapless fellow travelers unaware how urgently I needed quiet to get myself back together. Just as the evening began to wind down it was shot through with intense anxiety and… more stress. It wasn’t about me, and no threat to love or family harmony, it was ‘just a thing’, but I wasn’t at all up to it. I held my own, avoided any nasty drama or emotional bullshit, and retired for the evening at more or less the usual time. My sleep was restful enough, but I woke already filled with anxiety. The day begins, lacking in enthusiasm and joy, and filled with lingering stress over so many things…real? Imagined? Mine? Other?

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

So…now what? From a practical perspective, I address the stressors where doing so can fairly easily be done. I work on ‘letting go’ of what isn’t actually mine and trust that things will work out, rather than borrow additional stress, and worry obsessively over things I can’t ‘fix’. It’s a very difficult practice, as practices go – “let it go” sounds so simple. I struggle with it this morning. I keep practicing. Work related stress I examine with some detail, finding it useful for sorting out what I really want from employment, adjusting my resume to more clearly reflect utility, vision, purpose and personal fit for work I might enjoy more.

I consider how the stillness both highlights the anxiety, and allows it to more easily dissipate. I breathe. Relax. The anxiety comes and goes. I spend some time in quiet reflection. More time meditating would be good this morning… My perspective could use some re-calibration. I would benefit from being more present in this moment, and more easily able to tap into the day-to-day positives, and some measure of gratitude. There are verbs involved.

I allow my anxiety to climb into the front seat long enough to deliver a powerful worst-case scenario. I breathe calmly and let it unfold in my imagination as fearlessly as I am able to allow. Could I cope? Strip it all down to the basics, and most likely outcomes, would I be able to get by? I consider it point by point, allowing myself to recognize that change is, and that even if every possible thing went terribly wrong, I would most likely be okay (for some values of ‘okay’). There really are verbs involved, and how I feel about my experience is something I have a lot of choice in. I remind myself simultaneously how damaging it can be for my ability to feel content, to burden myself with comparisons. I remind myself, too, of how much of what I love and enjoy I could also comfortably do without…even this blog, and the internet connection that makes it possible…well…I wrote using ink, on paper, for so many years, right? I smile, recognizing the differences between ‘want’ and ‘need’ more clearly, and the anxiety recedes for the moment; I am okay. My head is still fairly busy with weird nagging details and subtle stress, but even in my worst case scenarios, contentment is possible – and contentment is powerful.

This is a good morning to fall back on The Four Agreements.

Stick with the basics - it's a great place to start.

Stick with the basics – it’s a great place to start.

I read the brief statements, simple, encompassing, and deeply relevant. I fill up on a sense of adequacy, sufficiency, and self-acceptance, and prepare myself for the day to come. This journey isn’t always an easy one, but it is mine – and that is enough.

 

I have to keep turning off the news lately. The election year propaganda machine is running at max capacity to generate stress, hysteria, fear, and anger, feeding us divisiveness and outrage in servings so large it actually seems to be tearing the culture apart. Maybe we’ll build something better from the wreckage? Maybe the wreckage will be what’s left when we’re finished?

I have some simple practices I get by on pretty comfortably for dealing with the media feeding frenzy:

  • Avoid speaking in slogans and sound-bites, and use my own words to share my own thoughts, with care and consideration.
  • Test assumptions, and understand that I am human, and untested assumptions are generally just made up shit in my head.
  • Don’t be mean. (Seriously, at all, it’s just not useful or necessary.)
  • Don’t argue; I’m not likely to change someone’s mind, and arguing sucks. A calm reasonable statement is sufficient to communicate.
  • Be open, and really listen; many people have built their opinion over a lifetime of consideration, and have their reasons. We don’t all think alike, or have the same life experiences.
  • Turn off the news. (Be a selective media consumer.)

It’s not fancy stuff, but I’m getting by on it pretty well. I can’t take credit for any of it; as with most practices, suggestions, recommendations, or rules guiding behavior, someone else came up with it first and it eventually reached my thinking by way of printed or spoken word, observation, or coincidence. Knowledge is one of the most powerful things we can share… It’s tragically – and comically – difficult to tell apart from bullshit.

Welcome.

Welcome.

Bits and pieces of things on my mind. Thank you for taking the time. 🙂 I have building and destroying in my thoughts today, and not generally because of the contentious media circus revolving around the swarm of presidential candidates, although it is painful watching an entire nation squirm with the slow recognition that as a country we maybe aren’t who we say or think we are… and that we are divided. No, it’s not ‘about’ that – it is about love, and life, and work, and the future. Building makes more sense, generally. Even the process of growth and change isn’t about destruction – when I undertake practices that change and develop the woman in the mirror, I’m not seeking to destroy the woman who already exists; I am seeking to become her more fully, more authentically, and leveraging the full measure of her potential to do so efficiently and beautifully. If I face that as a process of destruction, how can I be surprised to discover later that I am wounded, damaged, limping through life feeling beaten down?

Love, too, benefits greatly from building, from the constructive practices that build intimacy to quiet evenings with my love building furniture together (a powerful living metaphor for cooperation, intimacy, and good communication). As I worked step-by-step through the instructions provided, feeling soothed by the process of building something beautiful and functional after a fairly crappy day in corporate purgatory characterized by feeling dehumanized, implicitly criticized, and under-valued, I was also sharing productive collaborative time with my traveling partner. He doesn’t deliver a stream of criticism, or expect me to be superhuman; he is aware of my challenges. A gentle observation as I begin to assemble a drawer incorrectly spares me a lot of frustration later, and I don’t have to deal with taking it completely apart because it is just wrong. Later, I get to a point where the required task is one I know is a weak area for me; I ask for his help. We share the project with open hearts, listening to each other, and demonstrating skilled use of The Big 5 (respect, consideration, reciprocity, compassion, and openness). We have a great time with it. The finished nightstand is well-made, and represents a lovely experience we enjoyed together.

I sometimes find the choice to ‘walk on’ from stress a challenging one. I could so easily have spent the evening complaining and venting about work… but… I already know I am not where I want to be professionally – so does my partner. I had already said, simply enough, that the work day was aggravating and unpleasant. We both know I am looking for something else that suits me better, and is a better fit for where I am in life. What else is there to say that doesn’t keep me tethered to the work day that is now behind me? I don’t get paid for those hours – why would I spend them emotionally still at work? There are, however, verbs involved and choices to be made. It was nice to find that the practice of building was a good way to move on from what was troubling me, and find a firm place to stand, content and wrapped in love.

Sharing the love, and sharing the building. Destruction is far less joyful.

Sharing the love, and sharing the building. Destruction is far less joyful.

The practice of building (instead of destroying) isn’t limited to sharing the experience with someone else. I can choose to build (my experience) when I am alone, too, by enjoying any constructive practice, task, or process that wholly supports my own emotional well-being and being fully engaged in that, whether it is sketching note cards, building furniture, tidying my patio garden, mindfully attending to household chores, coloring, reading… So long as the thing I am doing supports my emotional wellness and engages my thinking on something that is not the thing stressing me out. It is a way of letting go by specifically embracing what has greater value.

Here it is morning. I’ll head to the office soon enough, and I am more well-prepared this morning for having gotten some real rest last evening, and a good night’s sleep undisturbed by stress. I’ll remind myself, as I arrive at the office, not to make assumptions, to be mindful, to communicate clearly, to take my time, to set clear expectations and boundaries – and to avoid taking things personally. It seems a lot to be reminded of, but every small commitment to living my own experience my way and taking care of me is another step on a journey in a profoundly positive direction, away from what stresses me out, and towards what builds contentment.

Today is a good day for contentment.

It is a very quiet morning. The keyboard ‘sounds loud’. I park my mechanical keyboard and opt to use the soft quiet keys of my laptop, typing with the most delicate touch I can manage. I am alert and a bit sound and light-sensitive today, and recognize it is something to be aware of as the day wears on. I don’t often get such a good opportunity to get ahead of my issues this way. I even have a good idea what the drivers are, this morning. Hello, PTSD-as-residual-of-domestic-violence. It can be a complicated experience.

I am not surprised that I am faced with managing my symptoms; my traveling partner is spending a great deal of time here, struggling with his own challenges, needing more than usual emotional support, frustrated, hurting, and understandably angry with the use of emotional weaponry in another relationship. It’s too easy to let his anger, the emotional experience itself, resonate with me; he does not ‘deserve’ this, I often find myself thinking. While that’s true (I mean, who does?), it’s counter-productive to providing emotional support. I practice listening deeply. I practice compassion. I work on finding a comfortable balance between soothing the hurts, and providing requested input without making it about me – this is sometimes complicated by my reliance on metaphor and comparison to similar experiences I’ve had to gain understanding or clarity. I keep practicing. I definitely need the practice. This isn’t mine to ‘fix’.

I began re-reading The Four Agreements. “Be Impeccable With Your Word” is most specifically the agreement I am reading, although… it’s the first one, and I’ll read the entire book. I am re-reading it for a refresher and deeper understanding of the first agreement, “Be Impeccable With Your Word”. I think of other experiences in life, other relationships, and of finding myself on the receiving end of some angry accusatory tirade in which some practice or way of thinking, recommended in the self-help aisle has been launched against me as a weapon. I remember also a tense, peculiarly cathartic sight of  young, angry, 20 -something, literally throwing a self-help book at the face of a partner in a public argument – a public moment of a human being lashing out directly at another human being physically – screaming “it’s a self help book, you asshole!” I had almost burst out laughing with understanding. We can only ever work on ourselves, really.

Being impeccable with my word, The Four Agreements makes clear, is not about ‘telling the truth’ precisely, or about ‘keeping promises’ either, well… not only those things. It’s vastly more complicated, subtle, and nuanced. It is a favorite practice of mine, and my own understanding of it is as a fundamental statement of mental and emotional purity, as in ‘don’t fuck with people’s reality, and especially don’t do that on purpose’. Lying counts, so does misleading someone with great care through choice of language or use of misdirection. Explicit expectation setting on which there is not intent to follow through is also a failure to be impeccable with one’s word. Then there is name calling, beratement, judgement – yes, even that; the things we say to people can cause them great pain. We all know it. Sowing discontent is another way to undermine the impeccability of our word. Mean jokes, too. Even just being irritable and cruel. Yeah…basically, the idea is that language is a powerful shared tool for human primates akin to actual magic. Being impeccable with my word is a practice intended to keep me on the path of treating myself and others well. (I may not say out loud the words I use to/about myself, but those count too.)

I breathe through my increasing irritation about how my traveling partner is treated in another relationship; I can’t fix it, and it’s not mine to fix. It’s hard to be on the sidelines watching someone use their words as weapons against someone so dear to me such that he is further hurt, further tested. I contemplate my own similar experiences, the choices required to take care of myself. I know there are verbs involved, and that it is a journey with many choices. It’s hard to watch, though. I find myself puzzled why more people don’t recognize that they are crafting their own hell-on-earth with the way they mistreat people they say they love – hell, the way they treat people generally. Sounds a little judgmental when I see the words hit the page. I return my thoughts to my own experience, my own actions – things I can affect directly through my choices. I am human. I can do better, myself. I observe in moment of cynicism, that this is one of the great challenges in a human life; I acknowledge I can grow, change and do better – a lot of people do – and then there are others, seeing that acknowledgement and replying through their own choices and actions ‘you go right ahead working on you, thanks, you owe me that and I’m not changing shit myself, so… yeah’.  It’s a thing. It’s frustrating – and more. Still… this is my own journey, my own path, and although there is immense power in the words used aggressively or wickedly by others, I don’t have to drink the poison. I can choose differently.

I hear the wail of the morning train not so far away. My cup is empty of even the last cold swallow of coffee. I feel the chill of the room sitting in a soft cotton camisole and wondering where I left the sweater I chose to wear to work. I feel a moment of gratitude that my traveling partner has such a good heart. It is a lovely quiet moment, this one, filled with opportunities to embrace the best qualities of my experience, and build my day on that foundation.

Today is a good day to walk my own path, and use my words with care, kindness, compassion, and awareness. Today is a good day to listen more than I talk.

Today is a good day to walk my own path, and use my words with care, and compassion. Today is a good day to listen more than I talk.