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Most of the time, these days, I’m writing from a contented, emotionally fairly comfortable place. Life is pretty good day-to-day, in spite of the pandemic. I don’t have the terrifying, chronic, so-frequent-as-to-be-routine, issues with emotional volatility that I had 8 years ago. I’m fortunate. I also “work hard” at this. There’s a lot of practice. A lot of very necessary restarts, do-overs, and new beginnings. My results vary. I am entirely 100% made of human, from the soaring heights of the most delightful moments of great joy and celebration, to the lowest depths of the most grim, bleakest darkness, the most despairing moments of sorrow, ennui, and futility. Anger gets a turn in there, somewhere. Frustration, too.

…So does love. So does hope. So does happiness – yep, even happiness gets her day in the sunshine. Doesn’t happen to be today, but today this moment is apparently not about feeling good. At least not right at this very moment, right here, right now, which mostly sucks.

…This too shall pass. It sure will. Eventually. I wonder sometimes if that’s actually a good thing at all. Storms pass. The weather clears up. It’s so tempting to just move on from the things crying out for attention during stormy weather, once the sun is shining again. Something to think about.

I’m not sure what to say “about” this moment, right here. I feel…angry. I… feel hurt. I’m annoyed and frustrated. Not just with myself and my own limitations. Not simply with “not being heard”. It’s complicated. I don’t have a healthy relationship with anger. I am aware of that. Mine or anyone else’s; it’s not specific to whose anger it is. I’m uncomfortable with anger. I’m especially uncomfortable with mine. That’s true. Today, I’m angry with my Traveling Partner. (This may be the first time I’ve written that sentence in this blog, I’m not certain.) I haven’t lost any affection for this human being I am so fond of… I’m just angry right now. I don’t know what to do with/about that… it just is, and I’m incredibly uncomfortable with it. So. Here I am. In a separate space, door closed, headphones on, working on “being alone right now” – which is very tough in a small house during a pandemic. As I said; uncomfortable. I’m not lashing out or escalating. I’m maintaining a self-inflicted disciplined calm, because I just don’t know what else to do with or about my anger. I clearly can’t act on it. I’m also having trouble conversing through it to resolve things with my partner; I start weeping. It makes conversation difficult and needlessly, unproductively, emotional. Not okay – and I’m frankly not at all interested in taking the risk of damaging anything I own by having some tantrum, or finding myself in the middle of further emotional escalation and angry words with my partner. Anger feels like emotional poison to me. I know there are ways to process anger more skillfully than I do. I haven’t finished that work, yet. I am unskilled. It takes a lifetime to process a lifetime of trauma, apparently…Or, at least, I have not, personally found a shortcut to the work that must be done to heal the damage that already was done.

Yelling at one’s partner is mistreatment. I work to avoid raising my voice. I don’t even like “yelling across the house” in a conversational way (seriously seriously dislike that shit – if I’m not in the same room, let’s just not converse, or hey, it’s a small house, join me in a shared space). I’m human, though, and I am more easily provoked than I want to be. If I raise my voice, I’ll also apologize for that, and having accepted responsibility for that behavior, immediately seek to bring the volume back down. It’s hard. I don’t always succeed. I struggle with anger – particularly when I am not feeling heard, or when I am being interrupted, or when I feel mistreated myself, in the face of mockery, insults, or other such (also very human, unpleasant, not okay things, but I particularly detest mockery). I work on not yelling. I ask people in relationships with me to not yell. It’s a choice. Take a kind tone. Speak gently. Choices. Encourage each other. Worthwhile – but, yeah, there are verbs involved, and it takes a lot of fucking practice, and it’s got to actually really matter. No one can do the work for you. Hell, you may even find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to choose to make these changes or do this work without much encouragement or reciprocity. Hard, right? Sometimes, yeah. For anyone.

What makes any of that shit worth it? Why is the ongoing effort – and ongoing frustration with having to make that effort – worth it at all, if it won’t placate an angry partner, or restore the peace, or diminish the chaos, or create calm? …I think about that question a lot, and I’m pretty clear on my answer; it’s about being the woman I most want to be, myself, for myself. I’m okay with feeling anger. I’m not okay with losing my shit and yelling at someone I love. Doesn’t matter how provoked I feel. Doesn’t matter who is “right” or who is “wrong”. Doesn’t matter whether I am in pain, or exhausted, or absolutely 100% justified in my opinion, or my understanding of the situation. What matters is … who do I most want to be, and is my behavior consistent with that standard? How does that woman respond to such a situation? How does that woman maintain her calm, stay balanced, and process strong emotion? I think that over, looking for answers, and a next step to being that woman… more so today, than yesterday. More so tomorrow than I am right now. We become what we practice.

…That’s true for everyone, and everything we choose to practice (or fall into habitually). Just saying. Choices. Practices. Beginnings.

Again.

…I hear the tv in the other room. My partner bravely checked-on me, and expressed his desire to hang out – in spite of the chaos, what matters most is our affection for each other. It’s hard to be vulnerable. Hard to set down the baggage. Sometimes it’s even hard to begin again. I take a breath, and steady myself to take that step…

My lovely chill Saturday morning was suddenly disrupted by the screaming next door. Not my duplex neighbors, other neighbors. A door slams. Slams. Slams. Slams. Hysterical rage. She’s out on the front stoop screaming to be let in, so clearly the target of the yelling has now locked her out. From her repeated enraged screaming, “if you would just HEAR ME!“, again and again, I’m pretty certain she already felt “locked out” for some time, this morning, if not for far longer.

I can see their front stoop from the window of my studio, where I am sitting. I’ve turned up the music on my headphones to try to drown out her anguished vocalizations, but at this point, I’m at risk of damaging my hearing to turn up the music more. My eyes are helplessly drawn to her misery and anger, and she’s begun throwing her body at the door, again and again, and isn’t making actual words now, just animal sounds, anguished, enraged, frustrated, demanding, pleading. She is lost to “now”, and exists in some moment of complex emotion, trapped in her narrative.

This isn’t where I want to exist this morning. The morning began quite differently. My tears, part sympathy, part PTSD, part lack of executive function, part pure animal stress at being exposed to pure animal stress, spill down as I write. I glance at the phone – should I call 911? Shoulders shaking now with sobs, helplessly overcome by my own memories of terror and rage, I watch her collapse, crying, on the front step of her home… what do I do? I mean, aside from sitting here crying, myself? I can’t bear to be that person who observed and did nothing, even recognizing that I don’t know who the “good guys” or “bad guys” are (it’s “other people’s drama” – in a very real sense, we are all both good guys and bad guys; they are human beings, having their own experience), and I don’t know what’s really going on there, or what the risk is.

…I’m triggered now, but I’m also aware of the other human being, over there, alone in her moment. Shit. I sigh as I rise from my chair, slipping my sandals on to walk next door and offer her a moment of calm, a cup of tea, someone to talk to. Hell, I’m already crying, and I know how terrible such experiences can feel in the moment. May as well… Can I conquer my fear with my compassion? Can I be a friend to someone suffering?

…. … …

It’s some time later. I got to the front walk, and started to walk down the driveway as the first police car pulled up. I find myself wondering who called, and when, although those details don’t matter at all. I go back inside, figuring this is likely a deeply embarassing moment for their household, and not wanting to compound it being an obvious witness. I’m trembling. Crying again. Leaning with my back to the inside of the front door, the unexpected knock startled me. It’s a “cop knock” – they have their own unique way of making a knock on a door sound terrifying (or is it just me?). The officer at the door “just has some questions”. He scanned my face, the tears were obvious. Was I involved, or…? “No, dude, I’m a survivor with PTSD. I’m stressed about that shit going down next door, is all…”

His questions aren’t hard, but I unexpectedly broke down trying to express myself clearly, sinking to my floor helplessly weeping uncontrollably, lost to a moment that doesn’t exist anymore, that can’t hurt me anymore, that isn’t my experience of life anymore… He asks to see my id, and I try to retrieve it from the wee card case in my pocket. Cards spilled everywhere. Credit cards, id, my insurance card, my medical cannabis card, assorted defining cards of an adult human – without any real worth or meaning, just then. I cry harder. He picked up my cards, because I clearly couldn’t. I looked up, feeling embarrassed and childlike. He looked at my id closely. “You’re a veteran?” I just nodded. He sat down with me on the stoop. He sees how my view frames the stoop next door. “Did you see anything?” “Heard her screaming at her door is all” I say, sniffling and wiping my eyes. Practical questions gave me something in the present to hang on to. She is not me. I’m here, now. I’m okay, now. “She was body slamming the door a couple times, then just sat down crying”. I wipe my eyes on my sleeve. “I was going to offer her a cup of tea and help her calm down” I observe, “…you guys got to her first.” My tone sounded vaguely accusatory in my ears, although that’s wasn’t my intention. He sounded sad when he replied “That’s all the questions I had” and “thank you for your service” as he stood and reached out his hand to help me up, before shaking hands with me and leaving.

It’s quiet now. Very quiet. I don’t even know if anyone was arrested, or who, or… I only know it’s quiet now. I’m okay right now. This wasn’t about me, or my life, and now the moment is about letting it go, and taking care of the woman in the mirror. Begin again, I remind myself…

…Please treat the people you say you love as if you do indeed love them. The damage done when you don’t lasts longer than you may understand. There are never enough tears to wash away the stain of cruelty, neglect, or violence.

I woke with a smile an hour ahead of my alarm. It’s a calm quiet morning. It’s more than enough, in all the best ways. I sip my coffee, smiling still, very much aware of my good fortune in this lovely moment.

I saw my therapist yesterday. It’s been a long while, and the visit had its own flow, its own unique vibe, familiar, intimate, comfortably supportive, safe enough to reach into the darkest pit of anxiety, fear, or damage, and come through the experience still whole and with my sense of self intact. I arrived home to enjoy the evening with my traveling partner. It was a lovely fun evening, and we shared some of that with friends.

Only one thing marred an exquisitely lovely evening of fun among friends; drama. OPD (Other People’s Drama). Close friends, in a quiet moment, began an obviously stressful conversation about personal finances. I did my best to give them some privacy and overlooked it as things started to escalate emotionally. My place is a “drama free zone” by choice and by design; once things began to escalate, I attempted to communicate a boundary, first by gently working to change the conversation. I was not effective. They continued to have their moment. Although we had planned to have dinner together, one partner stormed off all door-slamming-ly to deal with things elsewhere, leaving the other rather morosely working to deal with it from the vantage point of my dining room table, staring into a personal device, exchanging messages at length. Who hasn’t been there?

It's hard to unsay the words.

It’s hard to unsay the words.

In spite of my sympathy, and my compassion, my own self-care is a higher priority than OPD, and the house rules include such things as “don’t slam the door, or the cupboards, or – yeah, actually don’t slam shit”, and “don’t yell”. These are non-negotiable. Says who? Um… me. My house, my rules, my way. The eventual return of the partner who stormed off was accompanied by an air of “who me? nothing happened with me, why?”, and followed by an abrupt departure by the pair, headed for other things – and no apology for the drama. My final attempt to communicate a reminder to the door-slamming friend that my home is a drama free zone was met with a weirdly childish defensiveness, as though it were more important to assign blame than to be accountable for ones actions and show some consideration for my space, and my boundaries. It was uncomfortable. That discomfort lingers. I’m not yet certain how I’ll deal with the whole mess once I have a chance to process it.

I set that aside and return to the morning, here, now, this lovely quiet morning. Last night was unexpected and delightful – what does tonight hold? There’s nothing on my calendar for the weekend, and a quiet weekend at home sounds really good. I laugh about that, reminded that last night’s great joy was built on a foundation of music, laughter, and boisterous good times. It was not quiet here last night. I think about my traveling partner, and smile. I am well-loved indeed. Finding that comfortable balance between planned and spontaneous, boisterous and chill, rules and anarchy, boundaries and the things that lay beyond them is all part of the journey, I suppose.

Love matters most.

Love matters most.

What a lovely morning to begin again.

Let’s not talk about yesterday. Well… we could, but if we do, let’s only talk about the best bits, the fun of it, the things that worked, how we overcame a challenge, why we’re feeling good about the future – and if we don’t have any of that to appreciate, let’s take a moment to be right here, right now, and just breathe through the things weighing us down. It’ll pass.

I woke earlier than the rest of the household. I indulged in a rare (for now) luxury; meditation without a timer, on my cushion, in the patio doorway, watching the night become dawn, and unfold into day. Almost two hours later, I made a cup of coffee, feeling nurtured and enriched. I needed that so urgently.

My emotional resilience begins to erode quickly without my meditation practice; I don’t withstand the continued onslaught of human emotions, drama, assumptions, projections, noise, or even endure the ongoing presence of other consciousness’ very well without literal every day meditation. Having a house guest, and my traveling partner staying over, and parties breaking out at my place before I even get home from work has meant that I don’t have the quiet time I really need with any reliability, right now. This too will pass. I’m not even bitching – I get to spend a wonderful amount of time with my traveling partner. I don’t grudge him his human moments. We all have them.

He has his own perspective.

He has his own perspective; he’s having his own experience.

My walk this morning took me, new camera (phone) in hand, around and through the park. Autumn is showing up everywhere. It was lovely, and time well-spent. It’s enough.

Autumn is here.

Autumn is here.

Today is a good day to is a good day to breathe, and to practice. Today is a good day to begin again.