Archives for posts with tag: practice makes perfect – what are you perfecting?

I had gone into the office yesterday, and I stuck it out for more than half my shift before calling it a day and going home to be sick more efficiently. I crashed out and slept most of the day away, waking briefly for tea, broth, or a slow woozy chills-and-sweats journey to the bathroom. I slept through the night without waking, when the time came. I woke this morning, still feeling symptoms, struggling some little bit with a stuffy head. Better, but not over it. Today I’ll work from home.

The hard part right now is not over-working myself when I do start feeling better. There are sticky notes all over the house reminding me to slow down and to pace myself. lol A short and unexpected bout of coughing catches me by surprise. Time for a cup of coffee or tea – some hot liquid of some kind.

…And I manage to somehow screw that up… coffee ground, drip cone ready, kettle on; I let work distract me as soon as I logged into work tools, and never heard the kettle’s quiet “click” letting me know the water was hot. Yep. Still sick. I paused when I realized what I’d done (or more accurately, failed to do) and quickly restarted that process, and sat down with a satisfying hot cup of coffee, that went cold before I drank it, because I got caught up in work. LOL Oh my. It’s gonna be like that, is it?

So, I resign myself to work, and capitalize on my early morning energy and willingness to focus on it. The headache I’ve still got, and the stuffy head, suggest I won’t be working any long hours. Probably for the best. 🙂

The self-care details do matter. It’s a complicated puzzle, though. On the one hand, I know that taking contagious illness into the office drives absenteeism as other people succumb and call out, day after day. On the other hand, there is nearly always also the subtly conflicting messaging that we have an obligation as productive adult citizens to commit to the agenda of our employers and show up. There’s work to be done! Are we really that sick??! It’s a weird and counter-productive conflict that seems to be so commonplace most of us fail to even gain traction on the idea that maybe, just maybe, our employers have a specifically pro-work agenda they are focused on that doesn’t support wellness at all – and can’t. I’m fortunate to be able to take the work-from-home option when I need to, but can’t help but also take notice of my own discomfort with making the choice to take care of myself. If I were a school kid, I would not be going to school today, and I’d stay home bundled up in bed. Period.

Is adulthood defined as “having reached the point in our maturity when we can efficiently take over the day-to-day management of our own employer-serving exploitation”? Well… that sucks. 0_o

Today I’m working on taking care of me, and making the attempt to make that the focus of my day. I’m no good to my employer if I am too sick to function. I’m no good to myself if I work myself literally to death.

Self-care matters. I do, actually, care about myself. So… there’s that. 🙂 Time for a hot cup of coffee that I can enjoy while it is still hot. 😉 I’ll just have to begin again.

 

It’s a paraphrasing, of course, but so many noteworthy leaders of people, visionaries, and prophets have said it, pleaded with others, asserted that the message is more than the messenger. It’s a valid point. I mention it because, some days ago, someone dear to me commented in conversation how inspired they sometimes feel after reading my blog.

Then…there’s today. More specifically, there was last night, and realistically it is behind me. I feel very human this morning, and not really the best bits of that experience, and my behavior last night can easily be described by someone as ruining something. This morning, it’s just the physical and emotional aftermath of a very bad few moments last night. Not even an hour, actually, but when something feels bad, it doesn’t have to last long to make an impact.

This morning, my head aches fiercely, and my ears are ringing. I have a headache that feels like I took an axe to my own head and tried to cleave my skull in two. I don’t even care about my arthritis – the headache overwhelms most other sensations. It’ll pass. It sucks right now, though.

Yesterday was an amazing day. Great stuff at work, great evening at home hanging out and connecting over conversation and the glow of love and family. The mood was loving, and there was clearly romance on the mind of my traveling partner. I felt loved, appreciated, and we all seemed to be enjoying the evening. Almost out of nowhere, I lost my damned mind. Seriously. I don’t really understand what happened at all. I went fairly quickly from communicating a misunderstanding I felt somewhat emotional about, even recognizing I was likely mis-understanding something. That seemed to work out okay, but I felt my level of fearfulness and insecurity suddenly take an abrupt turn for the worse, and simultaneously had a sense that I was no longer communicating clearly. What happened next doesn’t make sense, to the point that I’d likely complain about it if I saw it in a movie…I simply disintegrated into little better than a cornered animal, attempting to communicate using emotions, exclusively, but trying to express them in words – which felt in the moment like a distinctly foreign language. It was, quite frankly, horrible. My partner was obviously hurt; his desires for the evening blown to pieces in a shit storm of unexpected and inexplicable negative emotion.

He did his best to sooth me. I could even recognize his efforts then. What reached me wasn’t the feeling of his love, although I recognized the love existing there; what reached me was his powerful hurt, his anger, his doubt, and I reacted incredibly poorly to both what was going on within me, and how badly that was affecting him.

Now I’m sitting here doing things I’ve been practicing, things I’ve worked hard to build over time, and trying to resist the emotional and very human impulse to turn on myself and destroy whatever is left of a pretty decent human being within – because I let myself down in a moment, disappointed myself in the face of an earnest desire not to do my loves more damage, and a feeling that only justice matters, and that I must be punished. Harsh. I’m not easy on myself when I fail fall. So. It could be a lovely morning after a night of passion. It isn’t, and I do feel hurt by that, and I do feel I let myself down somehow, and I do feel saddened to be so human and so easily able to hurt someone I love, and I do feel frightened and confused that it was such an inexplicably small step to what felt very much like madness.

I spent a bit less than an hour meditating this morning. I need that time for stillness, awareness, presence; reconnecting with the firm foundation in love and compassion that I’ve been working so hard to build is tough right now. It’s a pretty new thing to keep taking that step, again and again, to allow myself my humanity, and to recognize that it won’t always be easy, that I am going to make mistakes, and that this journey is about growth, not perfection.

I still wish I understood, and in the wishing I recognize that I do, and that what I understand is ‘enough’. My hormones have been fluctuating, I can tell because my face broke out yesterday, which I generally only experience with PMS. I’m pushing myself incredibly hard at work this week on an important project, and also in therapy on an even more important project (me); I was tired, and aware of that piece of my experience in the moment. I was in a lot of pain with my arthritis, and my ankle. I already had the beginnings of this headache, and some emotional baggage I was struggling with in the background and trying hard not to share that experience out of a very human reluctance to bring anyone down. I had a nasty bite of my PTSD apple earlier in the evening over a small nothing that hit my consciousness wrong, and those experiences can change emotional chemistry for some time to come.  I didn’t take care of me, by dealing with those things straight up, and with a high  priority; I was enjoying hanging out with my partners, because we were all enjoying each other. I chose poorly. I ended up hurting people I love.

Now… now I get to figure out if I’ve made enough real progress to take those deep breaths, understand that I am human, to allow myself to celebrate that in the bigger scheme of things it’s huge progress that the whole ugly mess lasted less than an hour – and that I can choose not to linger in that bad place for days, because I do have choices, and can take actions. I can allow myself to face, and accept, my emotions about the experience without lashing out or blame laying. I can be kind to myself – this headache is a motherfucker, and being human is something we all share. I can trust that my partners love me, and that love is bigger than a bad moment. It’s an effort of will to step away from the self-inflicted emotional brutality. I intend to do my best; it matters. If nothing else, I’ll get more practice. But, to be fair, I can’t suggest that anyone ‘follow’ me… we are each having our own experience, I would not want to mislead you that I’ve somehow gotten something ‘right’ or found an ‘answer’.

Love is the only answer I feel sure of.

Love is the only answer I feel sure of.

Today is a good day, full of unknown potential, new opportunities, and choices that lead to change. Today is a good day for change.

Life doesn’t offer any particular promises beyond opportunities, choices, and change, as far as I can tell from my current perspective.  The opportunities aren’t always obvious. The choices are sometimes difficult to accept, to make, or to figure out in advance. Change is, whether we reach for it, or run from it. What we recognize as our opportunities does affect our experience. The choices we make do alter the flow of events. Change… well, change simply is, whether we see opportunities or hurdles, whether we make careful choices, or stumble on our choices through despair, anger, or eagerness. Life is not ‘one size fits all’, even in the most legislative sense; we are each having our own experience, and no amount of law-making can change that.

This is a strange contemplative journey I am on, these days. When I started this blog I felt so lost, and on the edge of discarding this one life I have, in favor of an unknown of a most permanent nature. I can’t always express the difference between ‘here’ and ‘there’, but I am in a very different place in life, and with myself, than I was then. This is not a journey with a destination – that is one piece of learning I feel confident I can count on. The map is not the world. The journey is not about a destination. The metaphor is not the experience. The point of practicing is not mastery – it is the value in the practice, itself, and in the journey from ‘there’ to ‘here’ and beyond.

What a long way I have come in such a relatively short time. 🙂  It’s a moment worth celebrating on a quiet Sunday morning.  How about you? I hope you are also celebrating some worthy moment, great or small. It’s a good day for it.

I found myself feeling a little lost yesterday, as late afternoon gently became evening. Metaphorically, it felt a bit like stopping in the middle of a very long walk, looking forward and seeing only horizon…looking back and seeing…only horizon, and feeling suddenly without perspective, without context, without certainty of destination, or origin, or distance traveled. It was a very peculiarly sad moment, poignant, tired, and a little child-like. I put the day on pause at that moment, and sat down with myself over a nice cup of tea. I paused the music on the stereo, put down the paints, the camera, the clean-as-I-go chores, and took a few minutes to check in with myself.  (That I can do this, and take care of me so easily, is a wonderful change over how I handled challenges or feeling ‘disconnected’ before I started this portion of my journey; it, too, requires practice.) I made time for meditation; there’s no stronger Rx for the pain of chaos and damage, and I found the evening easily restored to a comfortably pleasant experience.

I don’t really think of painting as pushing myself to any sort of physical limits, it feels easy in the moment. When I was finished with the day’s creative work, yesterday, I was in a lot of pain, and feeling pretty ‘old’. My joints ached, and were incredibly stiff. My muscles were sore in unusual places. I felt fatigued. I wasn’t as aware of this physical piece of my experience until after I took a time out for me, and re-centered myself, and re-engaged my experience with greater awareness, and presence in the moment.  The afternoon painting had slowly pulled my awareness out of my ‘here and now’ experience into the strange space between colors and brush strokes, artistically engaged with the new work developing in front of me, but less engaged with the experience of me, in the moment. Clearly, more practice has value;  I am stiff and sore this morning, and extra time with my morning yoga did nothing to make me feel ‘young again’.  I can move with sufficient ease and fluidity to spend the morning painting, however, and that’s more than any Rx opiate could have done for me, and I am grateful.

"Wildflowers" 12" x 16" acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

“Wildflowers” 12″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

I don’t know how many more creative years I have ahead of me. (None of us do.) I want very much to figure out a better arrangement for creative working space. I’d value the luxury of permanent studio space, and while recognizing it as a luxury generally stops me from bitching about not having it, it doesn’t stop me from yearning for it. My always-available opportunity to meditate on sufficiency tends to be my lack of space to paint, how much I want it, and gently and compassionately finding my way to a place of contentment and balance without it. I suspect having space to paint that isn’t ‘weekends only’, or needing to be packed into a couple small boxes and put away when I’m finished, will remain a pleasant daydream well beyond any legitimate opportunity to meet that need. Becoming attached to any other outcome has only ever caused me pain. I’ve come close a time or two, but…

I blink away unexpected tears. Wow. I’m always taken by surprised how much the struggle for space to paint comfortably, freely, an in a comfortable emotional context, is part of my everyday experience, and how much it moves me. This is clearly important to me, and worthy of my self-compassion, support, and attention. Is my near-chronic desire for ‘a place of my own’ that I can count on more about artistic space than personal space? Is the ‘getaway’ I crave so often entirely about creative space and freedom? If that’s the case, do my opportunities, and available choices change? What meets that need?

Well, another Sunday;  one more day to paint before it all gets put away for another time. So often I feel as if I am barely finding a comfortable pace and really exploring inspiration, and it’s already time to put it all away…

Untitled, unfinished background, 12" x 16" acrylic on canvas w/UV and glow.

Untitled, unfinished background, 12″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas w/UV and glow.

Today is a good day to enjoy what I love about who I am. Today is a good day to choose well. Today is a good day to be grateful for opportunities. Today is a good day to savor the moment. Today is a good day to change the world.

 

Here it is, another day. Another week. Another sequence of moments about to unfold, touched by choices, and circumstances, colored by coincidence and thinking. Today is an entirely new experience. It’s a lovely morning to contemplate that, it is a Monday.

I slept like hell last night. It hardly matters this morning; it has become routine during periods of prolonged wakefulness, to choose an appropriately comfortable supine pose, still in bed, and meditate. There’s no ‘goal’ and I’m not ‘trying to get back to sleep’, I’m simply taking advantage of the quiet night hours to meditate, because I’m awake, because it’s a quiet activity, because it feels good, because it creates a lovely state of relaxation. Sometimes the need is greater, and I sit up and take it quite seriously, meditating in that timeless time in the wee hours, before the alarm goes off. It’s a nice bonus that I am often able to return to sleep afterward. Meditation did nothing to help my sleep, when I tried meditation to help me sleep. Meditation has done a lot to help my sleep in general, now that I am not trying to make it improve my sleep. lol There is real insight somewhere in there.

It is enough this morning that the headache I woke with dissipated while I was meditating, and that I feel rested in spite of having relatively little sleep. ‘Enough’ is good with me; I am not looking for more than that.

Enough.

Enough.

On the subject of new experiences, I spent the weekend focused on study, self-work, contemplation, and yoga. I don’t have a clever portmanteau for it (like ‘stay-cation’ or something of that sort), but it was time I definitely needed after an emotionally difficult week. I am still learning how to take care of me, and a big piece of that is boundary setting, communicating limits, and honoring those boundaries and limits myself enough to remind others to honor them as well. It doesn’t come nearly as naturally to me as undercutting my needs and fostering resentment over time – I’m super good at those, but find they don’t suit my long-term needs, or build healthy relationships.

One choice. One change. One moment.

One choice. One change. One moment.

So…it’s back to work, another week, practical details, calendars, meetings, ‘getting it done’… I have a busy week ahead. I observe that I have both the experience of eagerness to get back to a job I love, as well as mild impatience – because what could be more important than investing my time in me? (Every Monday I face that dilemma, and wonder why our culture is not more advanced by now; we have the technology to provide greater leisure to all…why haven’t we done so? I’m good at being employed, but it isn’t what I want to be doing with my time, in general.)

I am eager, too, to welcome my traveling partner home. I haven’t had any particular stress over his absence, I guess because he doesn’t feel gone to me, aside from missing the experience of his touch. He needed some time away, and certainly I’ve benefited from that time myself. (He said something once about the value of an opportunity to miss each other, and I have observed the truth of it in my own experience.) Still, I enjoy the tales of travelers, the opportunity to sample something different from the experiences I’ve had myself, the newness and intimacy of the restored connection, the subtle differences in language brought home from faraway, and stories. I just love stories, and my partner is a good story-teller. I hope to listen well.

Something changed for me last week. It requires further consideration, acceptance, and understanding. Fewer words, less thinking, and more awareness seem useful on this one, and it may be some time before I write much more about it. I find that I have a more clear idea of what I want in life, what I need from and in my relationships, and the choices it may take to get there. That’s a very big deal, I suppose, although it rather gets in the way of other things just at the moment. The timing is peculiar. Last week sucked in a most extraordinary way, but I managed a good amount of emotional resilience, balance, and self-compassion, and greater ease and a feeling of naturalness to making room for my emotions, and being kind to myself. I had feared learning emotional self-sufficiency might result in … greater loneliness. That isn’t seeming to be the case, so far, instead I feel more whole as I learn skills that allow me to rely on myself as a sort of emotional ‘first responder’. So far, pretty awesome. There’s more to learn, of course, and I suspect that like mindfulness itself, emotional self-sufficiency is more a practice than a goal. 🙂

Finding love everywhere starts with how I feel about myself.

Finding love everywhere starts with how I feel about myself.

So, yeah. Here it is morning, again. Time to start a new day. Today is a good day to treat myself well, and to embrace my values – and my friends. Today is a good day to smile at small children. Today is a good day to remember most people are already doing their very best, much of the time. Today is a good day for kindness. Today is a good day to recognize that respecting my own boundaries and limits, and setting them clearly, and managing them well, is a very nice way to tell myself ‘I love you’. Today is a good day to change the world.

 

No pictures today. I wish I could photograph the sounds of the song birds outside my window happily aware of being safe from the cat (mostly because of the rain), and enjoying the morning. Perhaps they are commenting, too, on the shitty service around here? I need to refill the feeders today. The rain falls. I sip my coffee, catch up on my email, eye my plan for the day and the gray rainy skies.

On a morning like this, the tragedies in the news reflected in the dismay of FB friends seem farther away from the moment I am in, right here, right now; this is a precious moment of chill and calm and peace. Something more than a quiet morning, or an extra day off. I’ve no reason to celebrate the existence of presidents, really, so… I celebrate the morning.

A good night’s sleep matters so much. Starting my day with what has become a stabilizing routine of meditation-yoga-meditation, generally followed by coffee, and email or a few minutes of writing, feels very natural and unforced. The day that follows a morning like this may not always be without challenges, or without stress, but whatever challenges and stress I do find myself facing are more easily managed. It’s lovely and feels rather grown up.  Progress. Growth. Change. It actually does ‘work’ to change ones practices to support desired experiences. When life sucks and experiences all feel pretty bleak, undesirable, challenging, stressful, frustrating, disappointing, and lacking in fulfillment or satisfaction, it can be incredibly hard to believe that our choices and practices have so much to say about it. I’m convinced.

So…back to the birdsong, back to the morning. I hope you find every reason to enjoy the day, to grab your moment and make the most of it, and to practice what feels good to you and builds a good foundation for the future you desire. I’m sure going to! 🙂  Today I will change the world.