Archives for posts with tag: read a book

The sun is up. I slept in a bit. Sipping coffee, barefooted, on a weekend morning, late in the spring. It’s a lovely moment. I’ve got nothing to bitch about. Nothing nagging at my consciousness. No drama. No baggage (in this moment). No chaos. The morning is quiet. My mood is calm. My outlook on life is merry. I’m okay, right, in every sense of the word that matters. πŸ™‚ My coffee tastes good. My roses have begun to bloom. My aquariums are thriving. The computer my Traveling Partner built for me while we share Life in the Time of Pandemic, together, is working beautifully – and by that, I mean it is both a wonderful upgrade in performance, and also a beautiful technological piece, aesthetically. I smile every time I sit down at my desk, feeling very loved. I feel content.

“Baby Love” blooming in a pot on the deck. πŸ™‚

Let’s be super real on this notion of contentment and ease; I’ve worked years to get here, and there have been many verbs involved, and many tears shed, over time. My outlook matters more than material details. I could live this life, identical in all practical details, and be mired in misery. PTSD has that power. Healthy emotional wellness practices really matter that much.

No click bait here, no “secret practice your therapist doesn’t want you to know about” in an eye-catching thumbnail. I’m not about that. I’m just saying, perspective matters. How I treat myself matters. How I treat others, and how reciprocal those interactions are, matters. It’s been a long journey, and I’ve often felt I was stumbling haphazardly through the darkness, quite alone. I’ve known despair, and futility and frustration and sorrow and, yes, madness. I’m not alone in that – and that’s why I write. Reminders for me, and maybe, just maybe, a light in the seemingly endless darkness for someone else. Someone that I’ll likely never meet. There have been so many such souls on my journey… human beings on their own journey, helpful co-travelers, sometimes unrecognized until much later, because I simply wasn’t ready to hear what they were saying to me, then. We all walk our own hard mile. (You too.)

Life is pretty good these days, even in spite of the pandemic. It’s not about material success (I’m not wealthy), or finding one true love (I’m fortunate to enjoy a great relationship with someone I love very much, but in dark times love does not “cure” our sorrows, or ease the weight of our baggage). Life is pretty good these days because more of my choices take me in that direction, than choices which don’t. Verbs. Choices. Beginnings. Perspective. Sufficiency. These are only words, but the words represent concepts I’ve found key to making my way, a bit at a time, to a life that feels, generally, characterized by contentment, and joy.

I’ve put in many hours of therapy and study. Reading books isn’t enough; the ideas have to become changes in behavior and thinking. The epiphanies and “ah-ha moments” have to become new practices. Practices that work have to be sustained over time. There is a commitment to treating oneself well involved – this may be the biggest challenge (it has been for me).

Where this really started, back in 2010, and a moment of gratitude for the love of the man who shared it with me, then, and remains with me, still.

I think I’m just saying… “you’ve got this!”. Unhappy with life? Choose change. Rethink your most basic assumptions. Re-examine your expectations of life, of people, of yourself. Try a new combination of real kindness and firm boundary-setting. Ask the hard questions. Consider all the options. Take care of yourself – because you matter to you. No reason to expect it to be easy, or that you’ll never cry again, or that “the world” will ever be “fair”. Be your own best friend – and your own best self, because you can make that choice from moment to moment, and when you fail (and you will, I promise you that), begin again. Just begin again. Don’t beat yourself up over your fundamental humanity – examine your errors with some emotional distance, gain understanding of yourself (and others) from your mistakes, learn, grow, and move on with increased perspective. Accept that you are human – then also accept that everyone else is, too. Make room in your thinking for what you can’t know, or don’t understand; there’s nearly always something new to learn. Check your assumptions.

There’s a lot of baggage to put down. There’s a lot of bullshit to let go of. It’s easier to give yourself closure than to seek it elsewhere. Don’t drink the poison. Tame your own barking dog. Consider your outlook on life, generally. Yes, it’s a lot of work, I know. It probably seems so much easier to get a prescription for some boldly advertised new drug. I’ve tried that, myself. It didn’t work reliably well for me, which is how I found myself at 50, filled with despair, trying one more therapist, one more time, unconvinced that life was worth living. A huge stack of books and a few years later, life looks (and feels) very different to me. I’ve made a lot of changes – to practices, jobs, relationships; I rebuilt basically my entire life (and lifestyle) to better support becoming the woman I most wanted to be, living a life of contentment and joy. Worth it. So worth it. (Not infallibly perfect – that’s not on life’s menu, right?)

So… what do you say? Are you ready to begin again?

So… internet connectivity issues in the 21st century, during a pandemic, while working from home… yeaaaaaaah… so…. wow…

…The world has changed a lot since 2000, hasn’t it?

A couple evenings in a row, we’ve experienced some connectivity challenges. Initially, I soothed my frustration with assumptions that it was, most likely, network bandwidth issues resulting from higher usage during peak hours – after all, my ISP’s status page indicated there were no outages in my area (although, checking the internet showed some consumer self-reporting to the contrary). It got worse, each day beginning a bit earlier, resulting in more frequent interruptions in connectivity, that began to last longer. Each time, resolving itself fully, for a shorter and shorter period of time. I reported it. No resolution, just the usual “did you try unplugging it and plugging back in?” sorts of basic troubleshooting. The next day I tried getting help through chat-based support, and frustrated myself with a fairly terrible customer experience, due to the ISP’s zeal to protect my account security (so, thanks, I guess?) – efforts which sometimes create new challenges because of my TBI. Yeah, that sucked, but apparently there was still “no outage in my area”, and it seemed like our connectivity was back…? Sort of? Mostly?

This morning I awoke and found myself face-to-face with my Traveling Partner’s apparently all night long frustration-journey with the intermittent lack of connectivity having become so severe that it was not possible to connect, which he continued to re-attempt, troubleshoot, and re-attempt some more, without success. His frustration was uncomfortable to be around, but so familiar; frustration is my kryptonite. I get it. What a shitty experience! The longer it goes on, the deeper and more encompassing it gets. Worsening that; all the log-in and authentication details are mine, and there’s never been, previously, any reason for that potential limitation to become a known, obvious, “need to fix this today”, sort of concern. So… he could not simply contact technical support and resolve it with them, himself. (Couldn’t have anyway, since their hours are extremely limited right now, in this time of pandemic; I had to wait until 6:00 am to call.) Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. What a shit experience that had to be for my partner! I only glimpsed those final moments at the ragged edge of his all-night-long frustration, before he yielded to sleep, and left calling technical support in my hands.

Some 90 minutes or so later, after chat support fails me utterly, over-the-phone troubleshooting confirms that some piece of technology outside the house has begun to fail (but still tries to serve), and needs a technician to actually touch it. Repair or replace? Unknown, and to be determined. I feel fortunate that there was an appointment window open tomorrow morning. Working from home, for me (probably for most people), requires a fast FiOS internet connection. No connection? No access to work tools. No ability to authenticate to access those tools if I could access them in the first place. lol I sip my coffee and reach out to my team – instead of enjoying my morning hours. (“Fuck this shit”, I snarl to myself, softly, not wanting to wake my partner with my irritation; I have much to do “in the office”, and this is a valued “get it done” day of the week. Super frustrating. My turn.) I start working on rescheduling what can be rescheduled, and figuring what I can do instead of what I can’t do. I succeed in coordinating with my team. I succeed in moving the one critical meeting that very much needs me to be connected to have any value. So far, so good.

It’s still weird that the only work tool I really have available is my email. I mean… seriously? Still, I can get some things done. That’ll matter tomorrow afternoon, and Friday, when I have to attempt to catch up everything else. πŸ™‚

Finally, I sit down here, and begin to write, even though I already know that with this connectivity challenge, it’ll be the spin of a cosmic roulette wheel determining whether I can save it, and upload it, at any point. I actually feel pretty cut off, which feels pretty weird. If I were out in the trees, I muse, I’d be seeking this experience, and embracing it. Right now, though? It’s a major inconvenience. It tests my patience. Clearly, my Traveling Partner’s patience was also tested. It would be nice to be certain whether or not we “passed”. LOL

“Not connected. Trying in 31s…” I look at the router. Flashing light. Yeah, okay, I get it. I sigh, and make a second coffee.

As I pass through the living room on my way back to my studio, I smile at the books; I’ve got plenty to read. I grin at the aquarium; always something to do, to watch, to enjoy. I frown at my partner’s gaming computer… and my work laptop… It is what it is. Today it is temporary, and will (probably) be resolved tomorrow… but… what if it wasn’t? What if, and this is an unlikely “if” but worth considering, what if it were permanent? What if the internet simply failed. No recovery. No reconnecting. What would life look like without internet… after allowing connectivity to become such a critical piece of 21st century life? I mean, sure, books, games, love-making, conversation, crafts, hobbies, gardens… but… what about online shopping? What about connected gaming – or gaming that requires online authentication to proceed with local play? What about work? What about staying in touch with loved ones. (Do you even remember where you last saw a postage stamp in your home? Do you still have stationary?)

I find myself sitting with these questions, and this coffee, watching the dawn turn to day, and waiting for tomorrow… as if there’s no value in “now”. Weird. I breathe, exhale, relax, and pull myself back to “now”. Present. Awake. Listening to the sounds of life beyond this house – the occasional car goes by. Birds are singing. The otocinclus in the aquarium are contentedly seeking out any remaining algae to munch on. Life is very much still… alive. No connectivity required. I finish my coffee, hit my vape, and begin again.

…I don’t really know what today holds, but there are more ways to be “connected” than the internet. πŸ˜€

 

By now, you’ve probably found yours, right? Productive distractions that pass the time during pandemic “stay at home” orders, or worse yet, during actual quarantine. A productive distraction staves off boredom, and prevents looming chaos from overtaking everything. Mine has been my aquarium, generally, and books. My Traveling Partner has been focused on games and gaming, and tweaking the pc that drives that experience. For us, it’s been helpful that we each have our own “thing” to focus on, the result being we generally have something fun to talk about, any time.

Consideration matters so much right now, for those who are “sheltering in place” with or among other people. Tempers can fray so easily. Letting small shit stay small helps a lot. Mostly it’s all small shit. It’s the letting go that requires the verbs. lol

…My experience this morning “feels different”… I am typing on a different keyboard. My steady regular keyboard is badly in need of cleaning, and I disconnected it to do that. My Traveling Partner said “here, try this one“, and it remains in place, even this morning, loyal favorite forgotten over there, by the stack of things-yet-to-do. This one feels similar-but-different, softer, somehow. Tolerant of my heavy key-stroke, but quiet. Tactile, without being very “click-y”. The strike of each key is vaguely muffled. The “click” is more a “tap” than a click. The keys respond to my touch so fast that I feel as if I am typing “as fast as I think”. It’s nice. Also… the numbers on each key light up. (lol Why does that delight me so?) I enjoy the sensation of typing on the new keyboard. (How many millions of key strokes have I dropped on my old keyboard in the past 6 years of heavy use?) I decided yesterday to stick with this one, and programmed the keys to be illuminated in a lovely dark-ish lavender hue, which changes to a bright greenΒ  with each keystroke, quickly fading to teal as I continue to type. So fun. πŸ˜€

I am distracted by the novelty of typing on a new keyboard. It’s a pleasant distraction.

We meant to watch a movie together yesterday… we spent the day on our projects, and in between (and later on) watched tech videos of various sorts. It was a delightfully productive and fun day together. I mention it because, seriously, this “life in the time of pandemic” gets pretty fucking “real” sometimes, and it has made a lot of difference to my experience to find moments of joy and delight, and to savor those, rather than sit around staring into the maw of media talking heads regurgitating COVID-19 content. I’ve no idea whether we’ll watch that movie tonight… I know we’ll find something fun to share, whether or not it is a movie isn’t very relevant to the shared experience of joy and love. It’s just one way to get there.

What if I were alone, though, how would I “find moments of joy” then? Probably still in the pleasure of caring for my aquarium(s), and reading still more books, honestly. πŸ™‚ I don’t find myself all that complicated, generally, I suppose. Small things delight me (a new fish, a new keyboard, a favorite book), and I entertain myself pretty easily (books, writing, painting, gardening, aquarium keeping… it’s a long list). I fret for a moment, trying to imagine being truly bored right now, and what it would take to lift myself from that boredom. What would I do? I think I would still read books; I can’t really imagine what it would be like to be someone who “doesn’t read”. Lots of libraries are making audio books available for free, too… it is a great time to catch up on reading. lol Online learning? Plenty of that to be had, too. Online travel? There are some very interesting documentaries and streams of a variety of exotic locations. Museums have streamed walk-throughs of their collections, and those are available online, too. Not so interested in someone else’s words, thoughts, or perspective? Pen & ink, my friend – say what you’ve got to say. Self-publish on Amazon. Become the author of the narrative someone else will read. πŸ™‚

I sip my coffee, taking a moment to appreciate the grocery delivery service that keeps me supplied, the farm workers who harvested the beans, the shipper who transported them, the roaster who roasted them, the distributor who supplied them to the grocery store… How can any one of us not recognize how interconnected we all are? We are all in this together (even though we are each having our own experience). Even our own individual experience is built upon more than the mere sum of our own individual decision-making; there is, too, the matrix of coincidences and circumstances that is the combined force of what happens, and what is chosen, out of reach of our own consideration, in every moment. It’s not all “about us”, regardless who we are. This is a great cup of coffee. In a very real sense, I did not “make it all by myself” – all I did was grind the beans, and pour water over them. A rather small contribution to the outcome, frankly. lol

I find myself appreciating how fortunate I am in these challenging times. I miss my friends, though. I miss brunch on Saturdays. I miss shopping together over a lunch break and laughing about something silly. I miss dinners out. I miss strolling a crowded farmer’s market. I miss “community”. Yep. Even me. I do miss the presence of other people. Part of feeling fortunate right now, is about simply not being alone in this. Again, I find myself feeling fortunate. I remind myself to write letters, emails, and send texts to friends. We really are all in this together, and distance is not always about miles. πŸ™‚

Another day of living in the time of pandemic. Another opportunity to begin again. πŸ™‚

So… okay, we’re all human beings. This “social distancing” in a climate of anxiety about wellness, disease, economic downfall, shortages, and human mortality is draining, and tests my patience. (Yours, too, I bet!) Yesterday was punctuated with a bit of snarling, a handful of cross tears, some frustrated moments… Yes, it’s hard sometimes. I sip my coffee feeling fortunate, in spite of that; it could be much worse.

I take some time to watch fish swim.

Gratitude, perspective, sufficiency, and basic mindfulness are all great tools for getting me through stressful times. They do each require that I take that step… sometimes it’s “a step back” to gain perspective, or a pause for gratitude. Sometimes it is a step forward, and a considered reflective reminder that “sufficiency” is enough. (Omg, I can’t help giggling, it’s one of my favorite little aphorisms that is also a tautology.) Sometimes, it’s just a matter of moving from one moment to another, to sit down and seek yet another moment, of stillness, of breath, and then beginning again.

You know what it isn’t, though? It isn’t “easy”. These are not easy times, and I often feel “tested”. I have some coping practices that seem effective day-to-day, but I persist in being quite human, nonetheless, and sometimes that is complicated by sharing space with another human being. We are in this very much together, and somehow still also very much having our own experience, even in these close quarters.

He games… I watch fish swim. We help each other out with projects. We tackle projects on our own. We take turns choosing video content. We both interface with the world using our phones. We connect. We interact. We take a moment for ourselves alone. No surprises here; we’re enduring the challenges with the rest of the world. Similar frustrations. Shared difficulties. Common experiences among friends and neighbors and communities and nations afar… we’re all in this together. It’s gotten very “real”, though, hasn’t it?

I have another sip of my coffee, I pause for a moment of conversation with my partner. I look at the fish, swimming in the new tank next to my desk. I check the time; the moment feels timeless, unlimited, and not anchored to any calendar events. How will I know when to begin again? lol

…I guess when I finish this coffee. πŸ™‚

Another morning in “the time of pandemic”, another good cup of coffee, another work day (for me), and it feels simultaneously very ordinary, and very peculiar. The news articles don’t ease up, not even a little, and probably with good reason; the more ordinary any of this feels, the less likely people will take it seriously – and it’s very serious. Take care of. your health, you precious, strange, delightful, unique human being, you. There’s no one else quite like you, you know, and we’re all in this together. πŸ™‚

As more people do get tested for COVID-19, more people are confirmed to have it. This should not come as a surprise. I encourage you to also consider how vast the numbers of people with no/minimal symptoms who do have it (and are contagious with it) may be roaming around assuming they – and every hapless bystander they may approach – are “fine”. It’s not the obviously sick people I find myself most puzzled by; we know we should stay home when we’re sick, right? It’s the less obviously sick people that cause me most concern. American culture is so deeply infected with the odd notion that only the highly productive among us have value (while also often being underpaid, and devalued monetarily by businesses, primarily to improve the bottom line at no great value to those underpaid employees) – we don’t want to yield a single work day to our own health and self-care. Crazy. Literally crazy. I’m terrified by the reflexive recent calls to “go back to work” and “back to normal” – this is not a normal time, and the pretense of normalcy may get a lot of people killed.

It is what it is. I breathe, exhale, relax – and let that go, for now, with self-reminders to remain “socially distant”, for real. Honestly, though, aside from the working from home piece, it’s not all that different for me. I tend not to “gather in groups”, generally. lol

…Why does “piece” look spelled incorrectly? Weird.

I consider the work day, in the context of the week in progress. I consider my current “sanity project” during this challenging time; my aquarium has been a source of fun, of work, of further developing project management skills, of connecting with my Traveling Partner… well-chosen for a balance of interesting details, required planning, and effort. His project seems to provide him similar value, although it is very different. We share the details in conversation, and give each other a hand with things that need “an extra pair of hands” (I could not have moved the aquarium to the other side of the fireplace, for example, without his help, and practical thinking).

Do you have a project to occupy your thoughts? A good book to read? Are you spending quality time with yourself?

I sip my coffee, feeling mostly content, in spite of a news feed that very much reads like the banner headlines from a mobile game called “Plague“. It’s a little too real world right now… Here’s a video of an actual doctor talking about playing the game.

I glance at the time. Still time to meditate before work. More important than ever. πŸ™‚