Archives for posts with tag: practice pays off

Early evening, in autumn, golden sunlight filtering through the vertical blinds over the patio door, me fussing a bit, somewhat uneasy, headache-y, annoyed. I am not sipping coffee; it is too late in the day for that, unless I’m planning to be awake all night. This is a fairly noisy time of day, here, even in the relative quiet of my comfortable space. I can nearly always hear the traffic on the commuter thoroughfare 100 yards away (ish).  Today the background noise isn’t in the background at all. Contractors are using power saws, hammers, drills, pry bars, and talking loudly all around the outside of my apartment. The noise is well-beyond what could be considered comfortable without hearing protection.

I came home from work to finish the workday in a quieter space; I’m feeling irritable, a tad stressed, and extremely sound-sensitive. There is no quiet to be had here, and the headache I arrived home with, hoping to feel dissipate quickly upon arrival in this chill safe space, now commands my attention from my lower back, on up across my shoulders, up my neck and over my skull, coming to rest as a sensation of tightness in my head, and teeth clenched, neck aching. I am numb to most of anything else going on just at the moment, wanting only to alleviate the pain in my spine, my neck, my head. My tender heart finds its own way to misery; I kick myself while I’m down, resenting the attention I am giving to my physical pain, when there are tears lurking so near to my eyes, waiting to spill out. I suspect my heart doesn’t quite understand that there’s nothing really wrong, I just hurt, and the noise is hard to bear. I promise myself that once the contractors are gone, I will soak in a long hot Epsom salt bath, then linger in a luxurious shower, indulging myself with the sensuous pleasure to be had in hair washing, and the simple sensations of warm water and lovely scents, listening to music I enjoy. It’s not ‘everything’ – how much ever is? It is, perhaps, enough – and enough will do nicely.

How 'real' is all this stress? What's it really made of?

How ‘real’ is all this stress? What’s it really made of?

So much for a change of perspective! In the moments when I hurt most, the practices that sooth me best can seem subtly out of reach. That’s very frustrating, and sometimes even ‘unreasonably difficult’. The noise is very nearly unbearable, and it is a physical feeling of its own. Hard to describe. Painful. Enraging. It’s quieter now, and later. I’ve taken time for a chat with my traveling partner. Had a bite of dinner. Did what I could to care for this fragile vessel in any way I can…any way that isn’t dependent on quiet, I mean. Quiet is just not available at the moment, even with ear plugs in.

I’ve gotten past the anger, frustration, disappointment, and yes even emotional hurt of getting home to find, instead of a quiet sanctuary, noise. A lot of noise. Irritating, ceaseless… wait… That’s the thing, though, isn’t it? This is the hard part. The part where practice shows off what has been built over time? This isn’t a drill, people!! It’s doesn’t matter what I expect. Preparation helps – but the map is not the world. The plan is not the experience. What I think is not to be confused with what is.  Learning the distinction between acceptance and futility has been a difficult bit of life’s curriculum for me. I hurt so much right now, there is real effort in refusing to yield to anguish, in drawing in line in the behavioral sand, so to speak, and finding the balance between taking care of me devotedly, and simply taking care, graciously, compassionately, understanding with some perspective that we all suffer with things like noise. I still hurt – but I haven’t lashed out at any of the carpenters, or my landlady, or the neighbor’s well-meaning child, or …well… you get my point. There’s no ‘easy’ to this piece of the journey, I do hurt, and the noise is making me just fucking crazy with irritation. I still have choices; focusing on the easy ones and excluding the difficult ones also limits my outcomes.

I take time to do some yoga. I breathe. I meditate with a warm cup of chamomile tea in my hands, warming my fingers and soothing me, enjoying the fragrant steam rising up from the mug.

Perspective matters. What I see is colored by my experience.

Perspective matters. What I see is colored by my experience.

There are moments beyond the noise. I can reach them; there are verbs involved. Not easy? No. Not easy. Still worth it. Still practicing.

There are all sorts of details I could have handled better today – but I handled things well enough, and I’ve taken care of me generally, and done so pretty well. I’ve taken care of the things most needing my attention, and I’ve put off some things that can comfortably wait for me to get to them another time. Success isn’t always obvious, or profitable, or heroic – sometimes it’s measured as ‘enough’. I’m okay with that – and I’m okay right now.

This morning my mind wanders through all manner of oddness, sifting through bits of things as I resist sleepiness and try to shake off the grogginess which is the most common outcome of waking up on time, after too little sleep. (I rather foolishly caught myself still sipping coffee at 3:00 pm; a rookie self-care fail.)

When I realized, last night, that I just wasn’t succumbing to sleep, I got up for a little while, dimmed my monitor to avoid rousing my brain further, and archived photos to make room for more photos, and puzzled over camping comfort ‘how to’ questions; there isn’t really such a thing as ‘too well-prepared’.  I meditated a while more. Then I considered my common overuse of figures of speech, adjectives, and semi-colons. Sometime after that, and after returning to bed, I began sorting my dreams into categories, looking for patterns. This morning feels more than a little like a continuation of last night’s unfocused, undisciplined activities of mind. I’m okay with that, for now; my brain isn’t hurting anyone, not even me.

Perspective still matters.

Perspective still matters. Enjoying the night is vastly more pleasant than fighting wakefulness.

Last night could have gone much differently. I went to bed feeling vulnerable and anxious after a very frank, explicit conversation of the ‘where I’m at with this’ variety. It wasn’t a confrontational exchange, and my emotions remained generally well-managed. I’m pleased that I didn’t react to my own emotions as though they were ‘causing’ something – or being caused by someone else – they sometimes take on a life of their own and get way out of hand before I can do much about it. I work on this a lot, and the practicing of a great many practices related to emotional intimacy, emotional self-sufficiency, and good communication in general, really proved themselves last night. I had a conversation about emotional quality of life and actions I anticipate taking to meet my own needs over time, and felt mostly heard. No meltdown. No tears.

I also learned some things that I’m still sorting out; we are each having our own experience, no surprises there. Seeing my experience reflected back at me through the lens of someone else’s perspective revealed some interesting misconceptions, or differences in understanding, that I am unsure how to correct simply; they fall into the ‘you had to be there’ category of misunderstandings. It’s thought-provoking; I’m not actually sure there is any need to correct them, or that there is value in attempting to do so. We’re still having our own experience, and mine will not be understood from the perspective of living it by anyone but me. Seeking that level of understanding would be a fool’s errand.  Still…some factual issues were apparent that are likely correction-worthy at some point. At the time it mattered more to be heard – comprehension was less critical in some hard to describe way – and it meant more just to enjoy the time with someone dear to me, knowing I’d be out of the household for a few days, quite soon.

It's just one night...

Tonight is just one night…

My traveling partner is out-of-town for a work conference. It’s strange to miss him so greatly for an over-nighter. Although I am generally very aware of his absence when he is away, and often find myself thinking of him, last night I felt myself yearning for his company, his presence and his touch in a very earnest and almost adolescent way. Strange to feel it so strongly when he’s barely been away hours… We’ve got time set aside to spend together tomorrow evening, before I head to the trees. I am self-conscious about the lingering cough that may be with me a few days more…coughing is not particularly sexy.

I feel a bit of anxiety surge at the self-conscious, self-critical observation; I apply basic emotional trouble-shooting, which for me comes in the form of the titular ‘basic problem-solving’ – the first step being (for me) ‘determine if there is an actual problem requiring a solution’. I did the same with my anxiety last night. (It’s been powerful for defusing internally driven emotional escalations of the sort that begin with an attack on myself, and generally result in lashing out at someone else once I have reached a highly aroused emotional state they are unaware of.) I observe that the anxiety began with the self-critical observation pinging against implicit expectations I was unaware of until that moment. I pause, take some deep cleansing breaths, and work on letting go of the expectations; they aren’t entitled to existence, and are entirely within my control. I choose what I expect in life. Further, in this instance, those expectations exist on a deep level; they were set by some element of the chaos and damage, and are not expectations I set with intention. This doesn’t necessarily make them easier to let go of…but it does function as a handy mile marker on life’s journey that I have reached a new point of self-awareness, and acceptance, that feels very solid. I reinforce the positives by lingering on this experience of improved self-care and improved awareness with contentment, and an almost merry pat-on-the-back sort of feeling.

Taking time to appreciate pleasant moments gives them lasting impact on my day-to-day experience.

Taking time to appreciate pleasant moments gives them lasting impact on my day-to-day experience.

Today is a good day to take time to celebrate small victories. Have you had any, yourself? Today is a good day to share your triumphs, too! If not with someone else, surely with yourself. 🙂