Archives for posts with tag: recommended reading

This guy writes way better than I do, and this morning I am reading his work; the new post from Wait But Why. He knows the map is not the world, but also understands that we are each our own cartographer. He writes using allegories, metaphors, and analogies. He’s funny, smart, and on point.  So, this morning, I am just going to enjoy my coffee and read. Totally time well spent. Join me? 😉

I am sipping my coffee, listening to the demands of crows beyond the open patio door. The aquarium, behind me here, trickles softly; I almost don’t hear it moment-to-moment, I am so used to the sound of it. The sound of distant traffic is a hushed murmur still farther beyond, and not a disruption of the still morning – although when I am most stressed out the sounds of humanity are more than I can bear, even at a distance. I sift through ideas, and notions, musing contentedly about this-n-that, unconcerned about the passage of time and the still blank page. There is no point hurrying life, really, is there? Eventually the passage of minutes will take me to the edge of some moment that requires action, but that is not now.

“Now” is for hot coffee, birdsong, and words if I find them.

I have lived alone for a bit more than a month. Thinking about the date reminds me that I must pay the rent on my way to work…and that marijuana became legal in Oregon today. I’m not sure which is more directly relevant to me, today; I will spend the day at work, and certainly neither cannabis nor rent factor in that experience. It’ll be nice to come home to a home, though – so rent is clearly important. I’ll be coming home to cannabis as well, inasmuch as it remains the only medication that eases many of my PTSD symptoms, especially if I am in crisis. I don’t write much about it. I’m not sure I know how. I do know it works, and as of today being a consumer of cannabis is just a little bit less stressful in Oregon.

Worth paying for. The sticky note on the inside of my front door this morning says 'don't forget the rent!'

Worth paying for. The sticky note on the inside of my front door this morning says ‘don’t forget the rent!’

This morning I continue to experience a feeling that has been lingering in the background for a couple of days now; I feel a bit ‘over loaded’… or something. Maybe a bit distracted…by something…or something. I’m not sure quite what the feeling is, but I notice that what eases it most is solitude, and stillness. I get the solitude fairly easily by canceling plans and choosing to be alone. The stillness seems a tad more problematic, lately. The world throws distractions at me almost continuously, and I am again facing mindfulness as a beginner – perhaps I always must? No stereo this morning, or yesterday – I love music and dance, but those are not stillness. The last couple evenings I have struggled to choose wisely, often finding myself flipping on a video that I then do not actually watch, instead restlessly doing other things, and half listening to it. Sometimes I sit down to read, and manage a page or two before sleep finds me…or distraction pushes the book beyond reach and I pursue some other activity, but without real focus. I take steps to paint, and find myself hanging paintings instead, or only sketching rather distractedly.

I am frustrated in a small way by my lack of focus, but I don’t view it as any sort of personal failure or character flaw; more likely my broken brain is working on something I can’t quite get at directly, and the overwork in the background of my thinking fractures my conscious direction and intent. The stillness is needful, getting to it requires verbs, and more verbs after that – particularly some verbs that give every appearance of lacking actual action. Meditation. More meditation after I meditate, and perhaps, some more meditation after that. No, I’m not kidding, but I’m also not certain that I quite have the well-developed adult will and discipline to do this simple thing that I need for and from myself. I am a child. I am a beginner. I am unrealized potential. The choice is in front of me and there are most definitely verbs involved. There will be more practice. Everyday practice, every day.

I am not feeling critical of myself, and I am not disappointed with my choices thus far. I am keeping a lovely home for myself, and I have been enjoying cooking for one – and in some cases taking on some rather more complicated recipes that I might have, had I been concerned about the needs or expectations of others. It’s been fun playing house with myself. I tend my beautiful garden, and eat healthy food. I practice good practices and keep good company. I am enjoying my experience – but on another level I have been sort of ‘taking it easy’. There is more ‘work’ to be done sorting out the chaos and damage, and I have been, in a very real sense, taking a break from all that to settle in here, and get a feel for living solo. My recent level of distractibility – and willingness to be distracted – has been an emotional vacation of sorts. This morning I recognize it so clearly, and with the good-natured tolerance of any parent, I am ready to look into the face of the child within and remind her there is work to be done. There will be no shortage of healthy meals, good rest, excellent self-care, and fun – but there is a purpose to choosing this lifestyle that goes beyond contentment, and it is time to get back to work.

"The Shelf" - everything I need for being and becoming.

“The Shelf” – everything I need for being and becoming.

I suspect that my sudden urgent desire to organize the books on my book shelves was fueled, in part, by my recognition that it is time to get back to the demanding work at hand of healing, and nurturing this broken brain, and this fractured soul. The shelf nearest me while I write holds all the most critical [to me] reference material on which I rely for information regarding my brain injury, mindfulness practices, cognition, language, and relationship building (with self and others). No book ‘makes the shelf’ unless it proves itself worthy – otherwise, there is plenty of room on other shelves along the wall. My kindle also has ‘the shelf’; a collection of similarly prized and limited tomes, some of which are duplicated in real books in my library, others which I could not so easily afford to own in any format besides digital. (Some of the science books are quite expensive.) I am ready. I am capable. The trick, of course, is that there is only ever ‘now’ during which I can work on me, effectively. 🙂

The sweet fruit of commitment, will, and action await me.

The sweet fruit of commitment, will, and action await me.

It is a lovely summer. I have everything I truly need (and more). I am safe in my home and free to pursue any endeavor I care to. I have ‘now’, and I have all the words in the world. I have any measure of stillness I am capable of embracing, and sustaining. Today is a very good day to get back to work on this amazing project I call ‘me’.

 

I woke from a sound sleep with some difficulty. The alarm rather insistently simply continued to beep until I finally pulled myself free of my dreams and shut it off. I lay quietly for some time, trying to remember why the alarm was going off on a Sunday, but certain there must be a reason for it. I smiled thinking of yesterday, of Friday, of lovely days to come…Right. I’m working today. Still not awake, I rise and begin going through the motions of a work morning, peculiarly out of sequence and with little awareness.

A different coffee, on a different day.

A different coffee, on a different day.

It was my first sip of coffee that really got my attention – not because it is coffee, and a lovely taste of morning, oh no, not in the least – it’s dreadful. Well, to be fair, why would I expect differently? I was so careless and inattentive making it that it qualifies as having been made solely because hot water passed through ground coffee and found its way to a cup. LOL I pause for breath, and really give myself a chance for my brain to boot up. My consciousness is barely coming online – I usually don’t actually make the coffee until I am able to do so mindfully, and present in the experience; a good pour over results in extraordinary coffee, a sloppy, careless, inattentive, imprecise pour over results in a far less satisfying brew.

Robotically, I put the warm mug to my lips again, and again I am dismayed at the coffee. Lesson learned? I pour it out and make myself a properly well done cup of coffee, mindfully and present in the moment – I deserve the very best from myself, for myself, and taking the time for a good cup of coffee is more than a ‘treat’ for me, it is one of the first things I do each day to treat myself well. It’s very much worth “doing right”.

There are verbs involved.

There are verbs involved.

The window was wide open yesterday, for some time, while the air conditioner was being installed. This morning I woke with a handful of mosquito bites, where my arms were exposed to the air while I slept. I am unsurprised. They are obviously just mosquito bites, and I don’t fuss with them, or worry about them; they itch a bit regardless. I smile thinking about ‘the birthday spider’ (my traveling partner spotted a spider at an inconvenient moment, and it was dealt with, no freak outs required). There have been far fewer unwelcome visitors since I began taking strong measures to manage them. It is summer in the Pacific Northwest, and I live alongside a wetlands park – mosquitoes and spiders share the area, and this is a known thing – I just want to keep them out of the apartment, generally. 🙂

Life’s curriculum is never completed, summer or not – no spring break, no time out for the holidays, no recess. I was talking over lessons learned about living a polyamorous lifestyle with an interested friend, and because I am no expert on matters of love, I referenced those whose knowledge, experience, and expertise I rely on, myself. I’ve learned a lot about love with my traveling partner, and I’ve read far and wide all manner of words about love and loving. It’s uncommon to find a proper ‘handbook’ on this sort of thing, but I have found three really good ones, myself, that tend to cover the basics of love, loving – and loving more:

  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a great starting point on a basic foundation in good emotional self-care. I am quite certain, from my own experience, that failing to treat myself truly well is a limiting factor when I turn my affection toward loving someone else. There are a number of other weightier tomes I could turn to, but this one covers most of what I ever needed – given committed practice. I regularly revisit this one. It was recommended by my traveling partner and has not yet let me down…but it’s not on point regarding ethical non-monogamy or polyamory, it’s more…how to be a basically decent human being to myself and others.
  • Then there’s How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh, which is simply the utter essence of Love, in words. It is the most basic expression of what it takes to love well and skillfully, in any form a relationship may take. It’s not really a guide, or a rule book, it is simply ‘how to love’ – there are verbs involved, but given this book I’d expect any whole, sane, rational person could nurture love even beginning in its absence, perhaps. Certainly, when I read this book, I realized that this is indeed how I would like to be loved. I am learning to love more skillfully through the simple practices it outlines.
  • There is a book that is entirely on point and quite skillfully written. It not only covers what works – it covers what doesn’t work, and why it generally doesn’t work, and how to avoid the pitfalls. I regularly recommended the content when it existed only as a website, and I recommend it as a book now – More Than Two, by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, and this is the book I suggested to my friend. It is rich with basics and I suspect any sort of relationship benefits from the knowledge within its pages, but it is very specifically written about the many sorts of relationships thrown into the rather large bucket of ‘all consensual adult relationships that are not monogamous’ – of which there are actually many sorts.
Conveniently for sale where words are sold.

Conveniently for sale where words are sold.

My friend and I walked to Powell’s, nearby – itself a wonder of human knowledge – and found that they had More Than Two in stock. I bought a copy for my own library, with the explicit commitment to share it with my friend; I can’t answer all his questions so easily. I have recently observed that I have read all the books I own – it’s a very nearly accurate statement. (I started Fourier, and Pascal, but struggled with their work at the time I made the attempt, and haven’t returned to them.) It’s also a personal commitment; books are not merely objects of beauty in my decor. I use my porcelain demi-tasse cups, however antique, and I read my books. When yesterday began to wind down, and all the chores were completed, I took up the new book in my hand, relaxed in a comfortable chair, put my feet up, and went to the contents in search of content I hadn’t already read online.  Some time later I paused –  I was learning! There is more to learn. I learn best through my mistakes, and More Than Two opened to pages and pages of details of recent mistakes that suddenly seemed much clearer, and more readily understood in the provided context of the book. I will be a better lover, and a better partner, when the knowledge gained becomes actions resulting from better choices. 🙂

Yesterday ended well. Today begins similarly well, if a bit clumsily at first. Each passing day in my new home reinforces how important the choices I make are for my longer term well-being. Relationships matter, and there too I have choices – rather a lot of choices. I am learning that the choices I make in my relationships with others are affected by the choices I make regarding my relationship with myself; putting myself last, or failing to put myself on my own agenda at all, has lasting consequences in my relationships with others. Even the relationships themselves are choices; choosing to maintain a relationship with someone who treats me poorly may be an investment in long-term growth, and a promise of a better future, but it is as likely to be a compromise with serious consequences for my quality of life, and the ‘may be’ may not pay off, ever. My traveling partner taught me the value of being treated well in my relationships – and for me there is no turning back now (he’s set the bar pretty high for my idea of ‘being treated well’, too). My relationships need to be built on my Big 5: respect, consideration, reciprocity, compassion, and openness. Compromising my Big 5 doesn’t work for me.

Another coffee, another day, made with love.

Another coffee, another day, made with love.

 

I sip my coffee contentedly, considering my traveling partner with a smile, considering my friend, my life, and the future of love. Today is a good day for The Big 5, and The Art of Being. Today is a good day to enjoy my experience. It’s enough.

I woke comfortably this morning, the alarm did not annoy or startle me. My sleep was not dreamless, but my dreams were surreal and seemed almost tender, as if chosen with great care to nurture me in the night. The morning feels gentle and quiet. I feel content. The room has a chill to it, and my coffee cup feels warm in my hand in a very pleasant way. This is a lovely morning.

I let my thoughts drift among the delightful living metaphors of my experience: long walks, cups of coffee, home cooking, the pot of gold at the end of… wait…what? I find myself smiling, and thinking of ‘the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’, which for me has tended to be envisioned as both broken, and empty, as long as I can remember. A hidden metaphor for my injury, perhaps, that I didn’t realize I was carrying with me all this time. I used to have a bleak recurring dream of chasing rainbows looking for the pot of gold, and finding it shattered, empty, with just a note left in among the shards…a note I never could pick up to read, however hard I tried. Dreams of disappointment, frustration, and futility were once very common in my dreamscape. They are more rare now. What jolted me back to more awareness of my thoughts, this morning, is that the pot isn’t broken! Here I am just drifting among the thoughts, old and new, and something is changed; it’s a startling sensation. This morning, the pot at the end of the rainbow is neither broken, nor empty; it is duct-taped together with great care, and although I cannot see the contents, I am aware the pot is filled. Someone has written on the duct tape – in my own hand writing, in ball point pen – ‘contentment’. This makes sense; I used to think that ‘happily ever after’ was what I would find in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  When did I rewrite this fanciful metaphor? How is it that I didn’t notice sooner? Why this morning? Do these questions matter at all? (Probably not – they don’t read like the significant questions do, in some hard to identify way.)

What a lovely small thing to notice changed in a positive way, within myself. How easily it could have gone unnoticed! It’s a gentle reminder that our programming exists in the background of our consciousness, weighing in on our experience, and our understanding of our experience moment-to-moment, regardless of our awareness. That programming can support all the heartfelt compassion and delight with which we can face our world, or it can resonate with our doubts, fears, and insecurity, lead us to madness or despair, or influence our thinking in ways we would not choose were we more aware. Gnothi seauton.  It isn’t a caution or a criticism; just a reminder how important it is to be who we are, aware, awake, and without judgment.

Another door opens.

Another door opens.

This morning I am adding a book to my reading list – and I haven’t even finished it yet. This wee volume seems every bit as colossal on my journey as the weightiest tome ever could be, and already, just pages into it, I feel… Yes. That’s really it. I feel. This books moves me, and stirs my thinking, raises my awareness – like unfolding the next relevant section of a map. I won’t ruin the ending… I don’t know the ending. 🙂 “How to Love” by Thich Nhat Hanh goes on the reading list today.

Today is a good day for rainbows, for colorful pots in tiny gardens, for small books with big ideas, and for love. Today is a good day to know myself, and to delight in time I spend with me. Today is a good day to learn to love.

I really wanted to come home and write. I have something bubbling up in  my consciousness, a new level of understanding of something that seems… worth the time and the words….

…but I feel angry. I feel annoyed. I feel… too close to the darkness that lurks within, poetically speaking. I’d rather not taint my tender epiphany with any of that. It’s worth more. So, I am taking some time to chill and contemplate how human we each are, how easily I can identify with many facets of a conflict, how difficult perspective and balance can be – so tenuous, so fragile – in the face of strong emotion.

Sometimes a change in perspective doesn't really answer any questions.

Sometimes a change in perspective doesn’t really answer any questions. It isn’t always about answers.

I continue to chill. To breath. To study. It could be that the most important changes for me of late have been moving away from a need to know, to a comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty, letting go of the desire to ‘be right’ in favor of being calm, and letting go of mastery and answering questions to be a student, every day, asking more questions than I answer, and being open to what is… sometimes more than others; I am, after all, still human. 🙂

Today did bring a nice moment of surprise – I’d forgotten I had ordered a couple of books in pursuit of my studies, and they came today.  Siddhartha; a favorite novel that didn’t open my eyes when I read it in the 70s. I was young, and broken, and more than any of that, I was not ready, now I am, and I really want to read it with new understanding.  I also ordered a book I never read, but could have… but didn’t.  I want to read it now.  As if only I could read all the words, I would be able to… something.  Something more than I can, so far.  Buddha in Blue Jeans. Quite tiny and slim and unassuming (some of my most enduring favorites and influential tomes are tiny).  I opened it tenderly, randomly, in that vaguely reverent  way people who love books do. It’s a keeper. Pretty words. 🙂

Lest you think me more serious than I am, there was a third book. 101 Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies. Mmm, even the title sounds tasty. 😀

Nightfall has over taken twilight. Time to consider things, and take care of me.