Archives for posts with tag: resilience

I am sipping my coffee at leisure; I took today off. I know, sometimes it’s tough to sort out the days during a pandemic, working from home. Some folks may find “taking a day off” sort of pointless under those circumstances… I still find it pretty essential for my quality of life and general enjoyment and self-care. So. A day off? Yes, please.

I’m thinking about how easily loved ones can “push each others buttons”, even without meaning to. I contemplate how much more comfortable human beings often seem to be with being their most vile self in the context of their most favored or intimate relationships. (I still do not get how that makes any sense… why not, instead, be your worst self with absolute strangers, than with people you say you love? Would you not want your loved ones to enjoy the best of who you are?) It often falls to the individual to vigilantly “supervise” their vulnerable “buttons”, and to learn to be less reactive, generally. I’ve certainly found value in that, although my results do vary. “Expectation-setting” and asking any one individual to avoid pushing a given button doesn’t seem very helpful, sometimes (or within some relationships).

I sip my coffee, and my mind wanders on.

I think for a moment about the coffee, itself. A moment of comfort. A metaphor for self-care, for being centered, for self-reflection (at least for me). I so routinely take a moment of ease over a cup of coffee that having a coffee cup in my hand feels “complete” in an odd way. So… what happens when the coffee runs out? What would replace this coffee cup in my hand, if there were literally no coffee (or, at least, none for me)?

My mind wanders on. Payday tasks are handled. There is a secure comfortable feeling that comes with that, these days, especially with the holidays ahead. Another sip of coffee, and my mind moves on…

I hear the soft sound of lo-fi coffee house “radio” from the other room, over the whirr of my computer’s CPU fan. It reaches my consciousness as a sort of “wellness indicator”, telling me it’s a fine morning to enjoy life, just as it is. This prompts me to consider other “indicator dials” and gauges of wellness in my moment-to-moment experience of living life. What other signals do I send myself that “all is well”? Do I recognize conditions on a spectrum, as one might see on a gauge or dial on the dashboard of my car? Do I have an “internal dashboard” that I could quickly glance over in a moment, and correctly evaluate conditions developing in real-time? I mean… that’s sort of what all of consciousness is, more or less, I suppose… if I listen. I like the notion of an internal “wellness dashboard”. Buttons and dials. Better be careful with that. I smile at the thought of it. I have another drink of my coffee.

My mind wanders on. Not a bad start to a long holiday weekend at home with someone I love. Certainly it’s enough. ­čÖé

I’m still chuckling about getting all the way to work yesterday without realizing I had forgotten my phone. ­čÖé You know what? I totally survived it, and there was honestly no actual stress involved. lol It was interesting how wholly unprepared for the morning I actually was, yesterday, though. I’m not sure why… I didn’t feel particularly groggy, or tired. I bumbled about my morning routine fairly unconvincingly, as though it were all new, or maybe… an afterthought. All good. The day happened, without regard to my readiness for it. ­čśÇ

Here it is another one. Good cup of coffee. Good night of rest. I feel comfortable, and from the vantage point of just waking, not in much pain. Nice. Good start to the day.

I get lost in my thoughts for a few minutes, staring into the pre-dawn darkness beyond the window of my studio, drinking coffee. This is not wasted time. It is time spent in a contented reverie, relaxed, calm, and present. I smile, partly because the smile feels good, and partly because this moment feels a bit like an achievement. No anxiety. No doubt. No seething unsettled unsatisfied rage. Just a woman, a moment, and a cup of coffee in the morning. This moment feels like a destination arrived at. My smile deepens in a moment of self-directed encouragement and quiet joy.

Sufficiency. Contentment. Perspective. These can be built, worked at, and nurtured, so much more easily than one can “chase happiness”. Having built them over time, I find them a durable foundation to explore joy, to find “ease”, and to experience fearless presence in my own experience. A worthy journey, thus far. I enjoy the morning’s wee quiet celebration.

I think ahead. I can’t see beyond the “fog of the unknown” future ahead of me, not really. I trim away expectations, and regularly check my assumptions, looking for hints that I have mislead myself, and making corrections before fanciful self-deceits can sabotage my experience. Gently vigilant. Still so human. I’m not even frustrated by that. Not this morning. Not over this good cup of coffee, in this pleasant moment. I laugh at myself joyfully, for no real “reason”.

Without warning, in an instant… and we can only be prepared for so much.

Emotional resilience is that quality which allows us to “fill our tanks”, or build a healthy foundation, to be emotionally able to withstand life’s unexpected moments, occasional crisis or trauma, and to bounce back with our sense of self and general “wholeness” intact. It’s that resilience that allows us to hear the sound of a glass door unexpectedly shatter, breaking the peace of a work morning into countless fragments, broken, chaotic, and then from that wreckage, to retrieve a perfectly excellent day of work, and life, and love. I happen across the photograph, and recall the moment that I heard the “crack!” of that door, a corridor away, as it yielded to some force of physics. I’d already forgotten about it, and in a moment when I later walked past the shattered door, my eye saw only the beauty of the patterns of the fractured glass. Having forgotten my phone, I asked someone else if I could use their phone to photograph it… which created a joyful space for a conversation about art, and life. It’s rare that the woman in the mirror gets to be the artist she is, in the place she works for a living. It was quite wonderful, and somewhat distracting, and I finish my coffee pondering the happy coincidence that I had forgotten my phone. That worked out nicely. ­čÖé I was present – for all the moments.

Later, after I returned home, my Traveling Partner and I relaxed and enjoyed our shared evening. My phone was still forgotten on the charger. I was still present, enjoying the moments my partner and I share. Quite delightful. I hope I learned some things… It’s already time to begin again. ­čÖé

We become what we practice. I keep saying it. It’s a thing you can learn more about. There are even actual experts in the field of becoming happy. No kidding. Right here.┬áYou’ve got this. There are just some verbs involved. A path. Some choices. A lot of practice. A bunch of beginning again. It’s a journey, and the journey itself is the destination.

You don’t have to choose to endure endless relentless misery. You. Yes, you. However bleak things feel in this moment right here, you can choose differently. Your results will vary – and incremental change over time can feel infernally slow, but you can choose to practice practices that improve your experience of life (and self), overtime, and maintain it long term. No kidding. This is real. Doing it. It works.

Maybe read a book? Got an entire reading list for you right here. ­čÖé Watch a video? How about this one?┬á(Be sure to also watch the less tongue in cheek follow up, though… ­čśë )

You have choices. Maybe you chose poorly some recent day and you’re feeling sort of defeated. even now? Maybe you haven’t yet understood just how much of your misery you are not only choosing, but also working very hard to carefully craft and maintain it? Just begin again – please. Give yourself that chance. Be your own best friend on this one.

Be real with yourself. Be who you are. Be authentic about where you are in your life right now. It’s a place to begin. Now?

Begin again.

There are no shortcuts available in life, not really; everything that feels like a successful shortcut is probably┬áa lack of understanding of the options available in the first place. Just go with me on this one, and also accept that we’re each making the rules – and drawing the map, and writing the narrative – as we go along on this journey. I’m pretty sure of myself on this point, which does nothing to validate whether I am correct, it just speaks to whether I am likely to be acting on these assumptions (and I am).

No shortcuts – there are verbs involved, and I┬ádon’t use all of them equally┬áeasily. When I┬áallow others to dictate to me┬áwhich verbs are available in the first place, and set limits on how and when I┬ácan use them, it can definitely feel liberating – and like a shortcut – to use a verb not on the ‘official list’. ­čÖé

Another reminder – to me, myself, but here if you need it – we’re all making this up as we go along; mistakes, successes, highlights, bloopers, heartfelt emotions, embarrassing moments, every bit of every detail resting on the foundation we give it. If I choose to build my experience on negative self-talk, boosting the volume on negative bias, and allowing my fears and doubts to lead the way on this journey it will be a very different one than it tends to be when I choose differently. It can be so incredibly difficult to remember this in a difficult moment. Like last night.

Perspective over coffee.

Perspective over coffee.

A simple errand taking advantage of a special offered to military veterans turned into an exercise in frustration that began with the heat of the day, and the inconvenience of the destination. Problematic circumstances complicated things; I left the office later than I needed to, traffic was much worse than anticipated and the public transit system was facing serious delays. When I reached my destination, still feeling positive, although rather tired and in a lot of pain, I found myself faced with business practices that put me at a disadvantage, and I came face to face with my arch-nemesis Frustration. (I’ve mentioned it before, but if you’re new here… I’m seriously not wired for frustration, and it’s a problem. My disinhibiting TBI and the common human experience of frustration do not play nicely together.)

I managed my emotions pretty comfortably for the circumstances.┬áAlthough I walked away feeling on the edge of tears, I managed┬áto hold things together and do the adult thing courteously. Trembling and in a lot of pain, I headed back into the heat and made my way home feeling more frustrated than I needed to (the errand wasn’t essential – part of the frustration, actually, was the wasted time), and more pissed off than felt comfortable. I could see how the scenario would likely play out. I’d hold back tears, gritting my teeth all the way home, rationalizing the experience and dismissing my emotions until I felt like I wasn’t being heard, and I would begin┬áfeeling disconnected from my experience, and once sufficiently overwhelmed by my utter disregard for my own feelings, I would likely crumble – perhaps in the shower – and cry for a long time until I was exhausted from that, collapsing into an unsatisfying sleep plagued by nightmares of futility and helplessness… Only… I do have choices…

In my darkest moments, I find value in asking myself 'dark relative to what?'

In my darkest moments, I find value in asking myself ‘dark relative to what?’ It helps to let small stuff stay small.

I figured I’d try some of the┬ánew things I put so much practice into, instead of re-hashing the same old emotional shit storm, and blowing the entire evening. On the way home I emailed my traveling partner (who is out-of-town for the weekend) and shared the experience in simple terms. I was honest about my feelings without projecting the experience into his.┬áI owned up to feeling angry in simple terms, and didn’t make it personal (it’s just an emotion). I kept it simple, and didn’t ask for help, or encroach on his time – there wasn’t anything to do about it, and already the experience was in the past. I made a decision not to continue to do business there, myself – I didn’t feel valued as a consumer, and the business is not conveniently located, so that’s an easy win for me, and I felt ‘heard’ (by me), cared for (by me), respected (by me) and supported (by me). I got home and made choices that looked like shortcuts (like nutritious┬ácalories fast, rather than a long cooking process for a hot meal), but were really only┬ádifferent choices, ones that maximized my ability to continue to treat myself well, in the shorter amount of time available. Later in the evening, my traveling partner followed up with a phone call, hearing me, caring for me, and showing his support, too. No tears. No tantrums. No drama. No exhausted restless night. No nightmares. Practice, and good self-care for the win. ­čÖé

Perspective is a really big deal - we see what we are looking at. Limiting our vision, limits our options.

Perspective is a really big deal – we see what we are looking at. Limiting our vision, limits our options.

Last night could have gone so differently. I’m taking time over my coffee this morning to consider how differently, and why it went so well. Choices matter. I have so much power to change my experience, right in the moment. Emotions are powerful, so much so that they don’t always lead well. Reason has her place in life. I didn’t understand how much less tug of war there is between emotion and reason in a life built on mindful practices, and good self-care. It’s not the sort of thing that’s easy to explain in words. The unfortunate commercialization of mindfulness tends to promote these ideas in a way that suggests a fad…there are so many voices being raised that shout into the wind about the value of being mindful, the din sort of fades into the background. That’s unfortunate because nothing has worked for me as well as practicing mindfulness, practicing meditation, practicing good basic self-care…all completely free, available for the taking literally anywhere, and effective on an order of magnitude that makes monetization irresistible for the business savvy primate looking to stand on a taller pile of bananas. It happens to me too…I get excited about how well this is going for me, and I share eagerly, and then wonder…can I profit from the sharing as well as from the practicing? The answer is, I think, actually ‘no’ [for me] – and not because it isn’t possible to make money selling mindfulness to people (who perhaps don’t realize they can get there for free) – it’s totally possible to do that (just Google mindfulness, you’ll see).

The mindfulness being sold commercially isn’t that thing that is working so well for me; it’s a product that looks very similar, packaged and marketed for appeal, that has some potential to put real people on a more mindful path, potentially, with practice. There are verbs involved, though, and paying the money doesn’t change the┬áneed to actually practice. ┬áThere’s the disconnect; when we buy a product we’re rarely expecting to also do the work. We bought it, shouldn’t we have it? Mindfulness very definitely doesn’t work that way; no amount of money spent reduces the amount of practice required. While I could profit from selling a mindfulness product of some kind… it wouldn’t truly be this thing that has done so much to improve my own experience; that’s┬ánot for sale, and I also can’t withhold it from you. Mindfulness is free for the taking – it just requires practice. ­čÖé

Finding the lasting value in perspective and good practices.

Finding the lasting value in perspective and good practices.

I will admit that once it was clear that practicing mindfulness was easing my day-to-day symptoms, and potentially even improving my wellness, I bought a few books (more than a few) and read a lot about this experience, this path, these practices; educating myself was ┬áworthy, and┬áI was admittedly still looking for ‘shortcuts’. Where some new ‘shortcut’ seemed to be working out well, it was a matter of honest practice, an effort of will and intent with a lot of verbs involved, and had I known where to look, the information was available for free all along. I’m just saying – it’s the practicing, and you can do this – your choices, your intent, your will, your vision… your life. This isn’t about ‘being right’ about mindfulness, for me. I’m not making any rules for you, or ‘showing you the way’ – I’m just practicing, taking care of me, and sharing my experience is one┬ápractice I use, for me, to maintain perspective, build resilience, and┬átidy up some of this chaos and damage.

Perspective is a big deal; the spiders in life are not actually as big as they sometimes look.

The spiders in life are not actually as big as they sometimes look.

I remember being ‘lost in the wilderness’ with my PTSD, desperate for any voice of hope, no idea where to turn, what questions to ask, or what books to read, and feeling so lost. I write┬áhoping my words can be a┬álighthouse in the stormy darkness of some┬áheart, now that I know it is possible to reach a safe harbor, within. (With the challenges I have with my TBI, that heart is often my own – I come back often to these words.) Still…I guess what I’m saying is that the practice is still your own, whatever you choose to practice. I’m not really interested in selling you on these ideas, I’m just living my life, and sharing some small piece of my experience along the way. It’s still my perspective. Your results may vary. ­čÖé

Today is a good day to begin again.┬áHead where you are headed. Be who you most want to be. Walk your path eyes wide to wonder and delight, and if you fall, fail, miss, slip, or pause… just begin again. Lead with love; it’s a good place to start.