Archives for posts with tag: self compassion

Sipping my coffee, scrolling through my feeds, reading the posts of friends dropped into this app or that one, during the night. There is content that troubles me, and I see a lot of it; people posting vague remarks that are self-critical, negative, and on a hopeless sort of downer that shrieks of depression, self-loathing, and… a regrettable lack of understanding that there are, still, and yes, even if they are deeply depressed, some choices involved. Harsh. Why the ever-loving-fuck would someone repeatedly post this sort of quagmire of terribly self-contempt-filled morsels on which to feed themselves? Horrifying.

I don’t have to look too far in the past to “get it”. I only “don’t get it”, now. It’s one major drawback, for me, of healing and forward momentum; it can be hard to understand, or identify with, those past challenges. I guess I’m grateful for that, generally, but when I want to offer comfort, or suggest there is another way, I wish I were more easily able to do so. How do I tell someone in such circumstances “that’s just your opinion of yourself, and only for right now, and holy crap – did you know you can change that??”… when it is their own heartfelt convictions, and deepest terror, about themselves, that I’d be seeking to challenge? I mean, I can say words. Words I’ve got – lots of them – but, generally, these friends are not listening to those words. They hear the words they say, themselves, about the self they so loathe. Anything I could (and often do) say is drowned out in the din.

…It can be heartbreaking to scroll past egregious thinking errors that recognizably mire dear ones in misery. We each can only do so much. If a feeding frenzy of corrections, positivity, love, and encouragement, in response to such posts does nothing to bandage a wounded heart… what can? Well… being present helps. Listening deeply helps. Constancy and steady patient friendship helps. Eventually, though, it’s down to that person and those feelings. …And the verbs…? Yep. No surprise; they’ve got to do the verbs, themselves. No one else can actually undertake to do the work to feel better, aside from the person having the shitty experience – particularly if that shitty experience is one they’ve willfully crafted for themselves and reinforced over time.

Well… shit. That sucks. I’d love to be able to reach out a hand to a friend and take their pain away. Generally, it does not work like that. If I cling to them, wrapping myself up in their pain, eventually some may even sap my strength for living my own life, and caring for my own heart – and not out of malice, just done in a way not so dissimilar to someone overboard grabbing for a life vest or flotation device and just holding on desperately. So, I focus on self-care, and listening deeply, and sharing the journey, and “being there” – but I also work to set skillful boundaries, to be there for my own self, reliably, and to avoid getting sucked into drama. I do what I can to encourage friends who are suffering to choose less suffering, if they are able to. I still feel sad when I watch them choose suffering again and again, in a way that appears crafted and willful. My heart aches for them; I’m pretty sure that if they were able to really understand how much suffering they specifically choose, foster, nurture, and feed, they would also understand they could choose differently.

…I couldn’t treat myself differently until I both understood that such a thing were possible, and – but? – also not until I was ready to see myself differently, and as worthy of better treatment from myself. Harsh – but the truth of it is that I can’t walk that mile for anyone else. I can only suggest that there is such a path available to be walked.

It was a lovely quiet weekend, spent in the gentle good company of my traveling partner. Some snow fell. Some rain fell. Movies were watched. Content was shared – as was contentment. It was warm and connected and close. It feels good to share the company of such good companions: my Traveling Partner… and the woman in the mirror. It feels good to be in a place in life where my own good company is precious to me. I finish my coffee, wondering what words it takes to suggest to the worn down, forlorn, depressed, or anxious, that they, too, have this amazing relationship near at hand…? That perhaps the answer to the question “when will I find someone?” could be found in their mirror, right now?

The coffee is finished. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I had a lovely dinner with my traveling partner, after a very productive and thought-provoking appointment with my therapist. “Effective” is a good word. Maybe follow that one with “important” and “relevant”, maybe add “needful”… now I am alone. Alone is hard right now.  I don’t even know why I’m crying, right now… It is a measure of progress that I know it won’t last and that trying to stop the tears has other, sometimes profoundly negative, consequences. The tears themselves serve a purpose, the science says, and will reduce my (apparently high) cortisol levels faster than most other things might.

The a/c is on, and the house is cool. The day has been very hot. I got home with a headache from the heat, and more than a little noise-sensitive, uncertain if I might be ‘dealing with the appointment’ – there is often a delay between the appointment dialogue itself, and ‘when it hits me’ later. Often. More often than not.

It passes. I remind myself that it will. I breathe. I let the tears fall. I feel grateful that I didn’t get to this place while hanging out with my traveling partner – he is supportive on a supremely deep and connected level, but I know that going through these things with me is hard on him, too. It is, frankly, one of the reasons I moved into my own place – some of this is ‘easier’ to face alone. Sometimes is just harder, in general, to face it at all.

I have all the usual choices in front of me. All the practiced practices supporting my emotional resilience – much improved over the past two years – and I feel equipped to take care of me, even now – but fuck it’s harder than I want it to be. I think back to the morning’s contentment and ease. There is another morning tomorrow, and surely I will not still be weeping. I don’t understand why I am weeping now…unless it is simply that some stuff really is worth crying over – at least once – and some of it I just never got to that part at that time. I was too busy enduring, surviving, overcoming, managing, withstanding, and holding on to whatever fragments of self I could maintain in the chaos. The damage piled up, and now I am crying. So. Okay. Now what?

A bit like squinting at fruit I can't reach, with the sun in my eyes.

A bit like squinting at fruit I can’t reach, with the sun in my eyes.

A few more deep breaths. A big drink of water – it’s a hot day and the headache itself is enough to make me weep. A cooling shower…comfy clothes…yoga…meditation…medication (medical cannabis, I’m looking your way on this one!)…and being gentle with this fragile vessel and the tender hurt thing resting within it. We’ll be okay, this woman in the mirror and I; we’re making this journey together – and we aren’t traveling alone; I’m never far from my traveling partner’s thoughts. I could call, right now, and he would answer.

Hell…incremental progress over time is – and in fewer than 500 words, harder already seems a bit easier. I wonder for just a moment whether posting this is “necessary” and realize…maybe that isn’t about me, at all. It wouldn’t be a very complete narrative if I just take the bits I don’t find comfortable out of it. Isn’t that part of what hasn’t worked for me before? It seemed ‘too easy’ – and not relevant to the very real ups and downs. The failures. The struggles. How much harder it sometimes seems…the tears. I get back up. I start again. I let it pass.

It rained the other day, quite a lot. It isn't raining now.

It rained the other day, quite a lot. It isn’t raining now.

Yesterday I had to choose; a really cute floor cushion that is ‘just the right thing’ and a lovely set of high thread count king size sheets that suit my color theme quite perfectly… or not buying those things right now, at risk of having to pass on them all together – they are on sale, and not regularly available in any case. It’s a difficult choice, and I fight myself; I have a budget, and financial goals – one of which is buying myself a little home of my own, which, however small the home itself may be, is by far the largest budget impacting goal I can imagine for myself in this lifetime. Buying a set of sheets, itself, holds no potential as an individual purchase to derail my longer term goals…only…things like that are so rarely really individual purchases. I don’t mean that they are reliably associated with the purchase of additional (or impulse) items – I’ve gotten pretty decent at staying on budget and resisting those temptations – it’s that they seem small and insignificant in the moment, but annualized they end up amounting to a larger sum than easily predicted – because they are not entirely, fully, 100% planned.  “Needed but not planned” is a category of expenses I have yet to fully master.

I’ve come a long way with learning to handle my finances with some measure of skill – my TBI being what it is, I also rely on a fiduciary caregiver – someone whose role in my life is to assist me with managing my money, through budget assistance, financial planning, coaching, reminders, regular activity monitoring and regular reviews of progress to goals. (I have been financially abused in prior relationships often enough to be uncomfortably aware how much I need the help – and how risky even the help has the potential to be; it’s scary sometimes.) I still have challenges – and most of my day-to-day challenges with managing my money fall in the “needed but not planned” category. It has been the threat of potentially facing old-age destitute that forced me to consider having help with the money piece of my puzzle, and so far it has been a very wise decision.

Yesterday on my lunch walk I wandered through a nearby retailer filled the with joy that the sense of the recent payday tends to provide me. I spotted the cute cushion – and it is so perfect – and oh hey, those sheets are just the right color! I resisted the impulse purchase (hey! go practicing!) and assured myself that I could easily walk back after work and buy those then. I got back to my desk some time later and checked my budget and my bank account – which has become a habit, a regular practice, when I consider any unplanned expenditure. I expected to feel that satisfying feeling of confidence and self-assurance that comes of managing my affairs so skillfully these days…and…oh. Wait…what?? My balance was lower than I expected (not low, just lower), and I felt crushed for a moment, and deeply disappointed with myself. What had I done ‘wrong’? I emailed my traveling partner, agitated and stressed out by my findings, and feeling worried and somewhat frantic. He called me back with gentle reminders that goals are ahead of me, progress is incremental, and that everything is okay. Reassured I moved on with my day.

Heading home, I felt the pull of that cushion and those sheets… the urge to walk that way, look at, and touch those things was very powerful. I also know so much more about how my injury works, and why there have been so many times in my life when I would literally be checking out at the register paying for things I could not realistically afford, all the while negotiating with myself, trying to talk myself out of it…until I was at the exit, at which point I would switch to trying to justify the mistake I had so obviously just made. Disinhibiting injury. Loss of executive function. Not a game – and holding so much potential to destroy my future. 😦

The only thing in life that's all about the money is the money itself.

The only thing in life that’s all about the money is the money itself.

Yesterday, the power of incremental change over time, and practicing the practices, made itself clear; I kept heading for home, thinking about the cushion and the sheets, and the purchase I am not making now – but may make later. I get home, and add those things to my list of ‘things to have maybe’ (I generally  use my Amazon wish list for that purpose), which I consider each payday with great care, and an eye on the future. “Needed but not planned” is restricted, these days, to things like grocery essentials, and toilet paper – stuff that just can’t wait if I have run out, truly legitimate needs. Everything else goes to plan. This is what works for me, day-to-day. [You are not me; your results, and your best practices, may vary.] Any time I recklessly stray from that practice, I end up facing some moment of fearfulness and panic – or regret – when my budget and financial planning suddenly don’t add up. (That’s what caused me to be taken by surprise regarding my account balance yesterday; a reasonable, affordable – but not planned – purchase, made on the recommendation of my traveling partner, definitely affordable – still, not planned – and I had failed to account for it over the following days of other spending that had been quite planned… but not adjusted to account for the unplanned expenditure.)

I’m not good at skillful self-indulgence. I get easily carried away and take things too far, spend too much, lose sight of my longer term more important [to me] goals. I’m not good at managing panic and regret, either. The extremes of too much and too little mess with my head (thus the ongoing emphasis on sufficiency, contentment and ‘enough’). Attempting to practice austerity or extreme frugality to balance poorly planned spending, or reckless over spending don’t work very well for me, either; I react to the emotional sense of deprivation, privation, and ‘you can’t have that’ and find myself acting out against those feelings before I take time to remind myself that “I’m in charge around here, and I did this to me” – I would call it childish, but truly it is simply part of living with the combined challenges of my PTSD and my TBI. Struggling to work around the damaged bits isn’t ‘childish’ – it’s just complicated sometimes. I am very human. I have grown so much, though! I am actually frankly delighted with myself this morning, even joyously celebrating the small win that is not buying that perfectly cute cushion and that exactly right set of sheets – it’s a far bigger deal that I managed it so comfortably, than I know how to share. This morning I can see a future where I may not be destitute, living in poverty, homeless, abandoned, broken, and finished off by inevitable starvation or disease! Wow. Win and good. 🙂

When I consider money from the perspective that it is the spendable form of my very life force, I understand more easily what value it has, and find it easier to respect the needed planning and careful decision-making required for a comfortable lifetime.

When I consider money from the perspective that it is the spendable form of my very life force, I understand more easily what value it has, and find it easier to respect the needed planning and careful decision-making required for a comfortable lifetime.

My lack of skill at long-term austerity, if required, or basic day-to-day frugality when resources are limited drives continuous practice of those practices that seem most effective for me – and most of those have to do with planning, and capitalizing on the fact that I am good at planning, enjoy the planning, and leverage the planning for the joy of anticipation – which is quite as exciting and nice as the joy of spending right now, for me. Relying on my ability to plan, and follow a plan, not only gives me great delight in minutes and hours of happy anticipation and eagerness – those feelings give me opportunities to practice day-to-day resolve to stay on  plan (yep, reinforcing feedback loop for the win!) and give me a window of opportunity to carefully reconsider what I really want and need in my life – often things that are exciting in the moment (like a really super cute cushion, or just the right set of sheets) may lose their luster over a few days of consideration. I remove things from my wish list regularly, happier that I didn’t make the purchase, at that point, that I would have been to enjoy the item if I had bought it. It is rare to actually feel regretful over things I did not purchase – in fact, that generally only comes up with things like art, where a piece is one of a kind, never to be duplicated; in those cases the sting of regret is unavoidable, and may last a lifetime, for me. It is what it is; in some cases I will never have the funds to afford some piece I yearn to see in my home – in a roundabout way it is an element of what drove me to become an artist, myself. 🙂

Today is a good day to remember that resources are limited, and to plan accordingly.

Today is a good day to remember that resources are limited, and to plan accordingly.

Funny…so many words this morning, and really just to say ‘practicing the practices is effective’ and ‘incremental change over time does happen’ – and of course, ‘choosing the most appropriate practices is a pretty big deal’ and finishing it off with ‘your results may vary’ – because of course, ‘we are each having our own experience’. 😀

 

I am having a difficult moment. I write those words simply, and hoping that perhaps seeing them on the page in such a practical no bullshit way might give me some kind of leverage, a way to pull myself from the edge of this pit. It feels harder than that. Given a chance I know that it probably isn’t any more difficult that giving myself some tenderness, some compassion, and maintaining the will to look the truth straight in the face, fully accepting disappointments, hurts, and all the small things that don’t feel good. Awesome is possible…but the effort to lift a finger to let go of the hurting long enough to change it is hard to muster right now. It won’t stay this way ‘forever’, however much I hurt right now.

I am not skilled at managing my emotions. I’m still such a beginner. I feel my feelings so strongly – as if they are the only real reality, the only true truth. Intellect tells me it isn’t so. Study suggests perspective matters. Practices, over time, have resulted in so many fewer such moments like this one. Here I am now, though. This one’s harder than most, lately things have been very good. It’s not helping matters that I have no name for this feeling…some mix of disappointment, sadness, frustration, loneliness, and grief…and over something probably pretty small in the bigger picture.

I wrote more. I deleted it. I wrote more after that. Deleted it, too. Writing. Reading. Deleting. Contemplating words in rows. Feeling feelings. Tears slide down my face, ignored. I write. More words. I delete them; they say nothing. I am uncertain what I feel beyond this gray heavy hurting and loneliness. People are not who I expect them to be, or who I want them to be, or even who they once were. People are only who they are, in this moment now, and not even reliably so; I persist in expecting things, assuming things, wanting things. Mere mortals, one and all, each with our own baggage, our own failures, our own hurts – each of us the ‘good guy’ in our own narrative, and making it up as we go along. Something about this must be worth it – most of us keep at it. Again and again.

...Maybe a picture of some flowers will help?

…Maybe a picture of some flowers will help?

I am covered in mosquito bites. The itching drives me mad. I am in tears, head stuffy, eyes swollen. I am resentful of my weakness and my failure – how the fuck did I manage to fuck up a nice bit of hang out time with my traveling partner so easily? I mean, aside from being utterly human? My head aches with doubt and insecurity. Right now, nothing feels good, or holds any promise. This seems an unfair extreme, and rationally I know to doubt the intensity of it. Right now, I feel sad…and a lot of other stuff, none of it any good.  My demons head for the playground. I feel stalled and helpless – and angry with myself that any one other human being anywhere has this kind of influence on my state of mind, however loved, however well-intended, however valued.

Words on a page. Maybe I should delete more of them? What is there to be gained in words about tears? It is wishful thinking to hope the demons might be distracted by a handful of words. They are not inclined to listen deeply, to be considerate, affectionate, supportive, or friendly – they don’t have my best interests in mind at all.  They do not love.  I do, though… it’s just hard right now. First I’ve got to swallow this bitter pill, with a side of fail sauce – then, later, when there are no more tears, sometime after a shower, after time spent meditating, after some sleep…maybe then it won’t be so hard to be alone. I may be doing quite a lot of it in the future – there’s really no way to know what the future holds for  me.

Some moments are harder than others. They’re all just moments, brief and ephemeral – good or bad, they are over so quickly. Hurting sucks, but it will also end. Eventually tears dry. Eventually wounds heal. Eventually, wherever I happen to be will be okay with me. I focus on something small; I am okay right now…it’s a place to start.

Begin somewhere, and keep taking steps.

Begin somewhere, and keep taking steps.

…later…

Change is. Really. That’s even okay – sometimes it takes getting used to. Sometimes there are regrets – and apologies. Sometimes there is distance. Words can be misunderstood. The summer showers of my emotions pass quickly. I’m okay. Tears do dry. 🙂

I woke this morning, too early, because biology said so; I had to pee. I wanted very much to go back to sleep, even though I knew the alarm would go off in less than an hour. It mattered less that I might not sleep more, than it did to honor my desire to do so. I snuggled up in the warmth of the blankets, and let myself drift off, favoring meditation if sleep didn’t come. Sleep didn’t come. Anxiety did, though. Like a blast through my relaxed near-dream consciousness, like a bucket of ice water on a challenge I didn’t volunteer for, like a pit in a pitted cherry in a particular good bite of pie, my anxiety surged very suddenly, and without obvious cause. Amusingly, I ‘heard’ a distant imagined voice, calm and professional, my own, in the background “please do not panic…” and smiled as I comfortably shifted my body to a more open position, and focused on my breathing. The anxiety quickly dissipated, lacking anything to feed on, and I continued to meditate until the alarm went off, and then for a couple of moments afterward; reacting to the alarm often starts my day badly, for some reason, perhaps some association with the word ‘alarm’, itself, and I often take a couple of minutes to breath and relax before I rise.

Like any muscle, my will becomes stronger (and healthier) the more I exercise it. Practicing good emotional and physical self-care pays off over time, although initially I wasn’t really  certain that such small changes would ‘matter’. Isn’t that the thing though? If I had insisted for myself that small changes, better practices, and that really committing to the practices that feel good to me were of no value – or no lasting value – or that I ‘won’t be able to make that work’, I most assuredly would have achieved what I was certain of – they wouldn’t have been of much value. Don’t get me wrong on this one, I am not decrying the value of empirical evidence, or sneezing on the standards of proof in science. I am suggesting that it is rather obvious, regardless what can be proven effective, that we have the power to render the most effective treatment worthless by undercutting our will, or by defining our successes as failure, or simply by choosing to identify the outcome as ‘not working’. This is not a matter of ‘faith’ – because the things I am practicing are not ‘faith-based’ practices. Like any practices, if I don’t actually practice them, they will not be effective – it is my choice to apply myself, to enact my will, to see change manifest because I choose it. There are verbs involved…but there is also acceptance, and awareness involved.

Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge... or just a tree? You choose.

Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge… or just a tree? You choose.

Why am I on about this today? For a friend, actually. It seems he has lost his will, and is surviving life on his ‘won’t’ instead. It sucks to see him suffer – worse still, it sucks to see him not only choose suffering, but to invest heavily in the continuation of suffering as though the suffering itself has great value, or is the desired outcome. Hell, maybe it is. He does get to choose. I feel both sympathy and compassion for his struggle; I have my own such moments. Maybe we all do, now and then. We each make our choices. There are verbs involved. Our results vary. We are each having our own experience. The map is not the world. The journey is the destination.

My friend has been exposed to all these ideas, himself. He has a lot of people who support and encourage him (although he often doesn’t recognize or acknowledge it). He very specifically enacts his ‘won’t’ at many decision-making points, and defines many moments as failures, accepting that there is no possible good outcome available to him. He often makes a point of limiting his perceived options, and holds onto life-goals that appear specifically chosen to be as far out of reach as possible, while firmly refusing himself any opportunity to see more of life’s potential. It makes my heart ache to see him suffer…and it confuses me to see that it is willful, and so carefully crafted. I am powerless to help – because these are his choices to make, and he makes them. Another lesson on attachment, perhaps, and a reminder that some of my own self-inflicted suffering is a matter of choosing (poorly) to find myself responsible for someone else’s self-inflicted suffering by assigning myself some portion of the task of alleviating that suffering. It doesn’t work that way with self-inflicted suffering; only the self can choose to let that one go.

The loveliness of life is not visible so easily if my eyes are closed; knowing this may not be enough to decide to open my eyes. That's how choice works.

The loveliness of life is not visible so easily if my eyes are closed; knowing this may not be enough to decide to open my eyes. That’s how choice works.

Today is a good day for good self-care, and for loving the being of light that inhabits this fragile vessel. Today is a good day to be compassionate. Today is a good day to consider more than the obvious options, and choices that didn’t make the first list. Today is a good day to be open to success, and to accept failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Today is a good day to love, and to put myself at the top of my own agenda. Today is a good day to change the world within.