Archives for posts with tag: self-reflection

I took an unplanned fairly spontaneous trip to the coast for the weekend. It developed out of a conversation with my Traveling Partner, in his shop, Friday afternoon, after I finished my work day. He was neck deep in wiring a box, or programming a thing, or… something complicated. There was detailed technical documentation open on the computer near him. He had his “engineer face” on. I was definitely an interruption, and he was definitely doing his interrupted-best to be sweet to me in spite of that. “Looks like complicated work…” I said, or something similar. “What do you need?” he replied by way of affirmation and also getting somewhat impatiently to the point. “Would it be helpful if I went to the coast this weekend?” my mouth said, to my brain’s surprise (I no longer remember why I actually went into the shop at that moment – perhaps to ask questions about dinner preferences?). He said something encouraging without really engaging me 100%, and that was as much encouragement as I really needed. It was clear he needed room to work, and space to focus on the work in front of him.

Earlier in the day my browser had pinged me a notification about coastal “deals” at a hotel I like. I dug it out of the trash folder and looked it over. Seemed a reasonable price, and I settled on “the flip of the coin” and “letting fate decide”; if there was a room available still, I’d take it and grab my camera gear and go.

…There was one room left. It was already 4 pm. It was a rainy afternoon, and a Friday. I felt my anxiety surge; I don’t prefer to be driving after dark (I’m sometimes blinded by oncoming headlights, which seems unsafe). I grabbed my overnight bag, my camera bag, and my laptop bag. I grabbed some seasonally appropriate layers of clothing and stuffed them into my overnight bag, along with my toiletries. I swapped my work laptop for my personal laptop and my laptop bag was ready-to-travel. Packing took a brisk 5 to 10 minutes, since I have things like my camera gear and laptop pretty much always ready-to-go, and a default “don’t care” approach toward casual clothing for solo trips (clean and seasonally appropriate is good enough). I put my gear in the car, double-checked that I had my keys, my purse, and the battery charger for my camera batteries. I added my Kindle. I was ready to go. I returned to the shop for a kiss and a departing word. My partner seemed both surprised (“Wow, that was fast.”) and relieved (saying, seconds later, “Just go already.”). There was no sense that anything was “wrong”, just that my lingering to share details was not well-timed. So… off I went.

The view from my room. I arrived in time to see the sun set on a rainy day.

I spent my time walking beaches and wild spots, taking pictures, enjoying some solo time for self-reflection, and thinking over “how anxiety works” without being mired in it. I enjoyed the time knowing that I was not any sort of distraction for my Traveling Partner, who likely enjoyed being free to indulge himself by being immersed in his project without an eye on the clock, or any concern about disturbing me. A win all around.

A new day dawning.

I woke to a text message from my Traveling Partner saying he is “ready for me to come home now” (less in the sense that his project is wholly completed, and more just that he misses me that much) and asking when I plan to head back today. I feel it too; ready to go home. Ready to be in my partner’s good company. Ready to drink good coffee in my own home. Ready to sleep deeply in my own bed. Ready to have life’s conveniences where I expect them to be (instead of tucked in a bag, or splayed across a hotel coffee table). Ready for my partner’s laughter and jokes. Ready to be wrapped in the safety and comfort of home.

The sky this morning is delicate shades of pink and peach, and the air feels soft and forgiving. The morning chill is pleasant after sweating through some troubling dreams during the night. This coffee, here in the hotel room? Dreadful. Quite terrible. Notably so. lol There is time for a shower and time to pack up with care – there’s even time to take a few more pictures and get one more walk on the beach. No rush. I’m just eager to be home. 🙂

I pause my writing long enough to step out onto the balcony to breath the fresh sea air, then make my way downstairs to the breakfast bar. It’s a meager selection here (no kitchen). Adequate. I’m grateful; the coffee is an incremental improvement over instant, which was quite a bit better (still bad) compared to the poor quality drip coffee pouches provided in the room. It’s good enough. For breakfast I just grab a yogurt. The dawn beyond the balcony distracts me a bit from words on a page; the understandable pull of what is real, just outside my reach. The yogurt (a brand-name peach-flavored item) tastes pleasant, and “goes down easy” – which is nice. I woke feeling mildly upset to my stomach after unpleasant dreams (which may have been caused by an upset stomach…?). Nice to have a breakfast option that has the potential to improve things, and is at least unlikely to worsen things.

…Do I actually have “an upset stomach” – or is it symptomatic of my anxiety, which I have been paying close attention to, while also seeking not to “engage” it in direct one-on-one “conversation”? Something to think over. I for sure don’t have all the answers. I can definitely say I’m “over” having my anxiety continuing to “be a thing”… which doesn’t at all change whether it is. lol I sip my fresh cup of coffee. Definitely better. Still not actually good. LOL

…Like my anxiety, “definitely better – still not actually resolved”…

My stomach feels much improved with the better cup of coffee and the yogurt… I think about anxiety. I’d very much like to reliably do something that results in my anxiety also being reliably much improved. I mean, improved beyond the improvements thus far – more improved. I see a clinician this week to discuss returning to an Rx treatment for the anxiety continuing to lurk in the background. Here’s hoping that works out well. 🙂 I’m at least hopeful after discussing it with my therapist (PhD, not MD, so he doesn’t prescribe medications and I have to go elsewhere for that).

I miss my Traveling Partner. 🙂 Oh, but I also enjoy the sound of the wind and the waves, and the gulls calling out to each other in the sky, and from the beach… I’ll be back. For now, it’s just time to head home and begin again. 😀

The tide has turned…

It’s been a month since I was laid off. Shortly afterward and largely unrelated, I took time to go through a large storage tote of odds and ends I’ve been hanging on to. It was a mix of military memorabilia and war mementos (why do people hold on to this shit??), and various employment-related paperwork items from past employers (decades of old reviews and accolades, exit paperwork, offer letters…). My purpose was to pare things down to just those items I really did want to keep. (I’ll make a point of observing that having kept the contents of this bin since the last time I went through these items some 10 or so years ago, I haven’t gone through them or needed/wanted to access any one item in this bin. Ever.)

The tl;dr on the process itself? I cut that bin of stuff down to about 30% of its original contents, with the remaining kept items being limited to a small assortment of military mementos, including 1 complete uniform from my war time deployment. The project seems to live on in lingering intentions to contemplate what I found and learned along the way; I had saved a quick draft with some notes.

about letting go of the past, tossing out mementos, old work papers, moving on from trauma, learning to truly let things go, shit like that

impermanence & non-attachment

fresh perspective on the woman I once was contrasted with who I thought I was at the time, and what it can teach me about getting to be that woman I most want to be

the value in keepsakes, the value in not keeping them

the added challenge in growing/changing if also clinging to reminders of what was

draft notes from the blog post draft of 9/12/22

This morning, I sit with my now-cold coffee, thinking about time, thinking about change, and thinking about how peculiar it was to actually read those old reviews and coaching notes (and yes, reprimands). It had been so many years, my own recollection of that time and those events was pretty firmly skewed toward me-as-hero-of-my-narrative. Fucking hell I needed a bit of work. LOL For one thing – I was 100% wrong every bit as often as I was 100% correct, and I was neither as awesome as some reviews make me out to be, nor as problematic as some of the warnings suggest I was. I was sometimes a liability and a headache, just by being myself, and probably quite difficult to manage, having both cPTSD and a TBI creating noteworthy cognitive quirks and emotional volatility.

Please note, I’m thinking back on events of the early ’00s, and well-before any legitimate push in the direction of “authenticity” in the workplace! Wasn’t a thing, yet, and quite often people really were punished or held back for the sole “crime” of being themselves and being different than the approved corporate drone template – which still goes on, but now we’re more likely to be offended by that. Progress? I’m just saying; I wasn’t always the “good guy” I saw myself as being. Very human. Also? Sometimes quite angry and kind of a bitch. Impatient. Inconsiderate. Smug. Rude. “Basic.” Unsympathetic. Lacking in compassion. Not a good look.

Sounds like I’m being pretty hard on myself. I mean, giving myself some credit …in spite of all that, I managed to find love…so..? Not a “lost cause” among human beings, surely. 🙂

The “truth of who we are” is more complicated that one perspective, even when that one perspective is our own. I know myself pretty well. I’m deeply acquainted with the woman in the mirror, but… until I really sat with a calm heart and new eyes to read those old reviews, coaching notes, and warnings, and really heard the messages, I did not understand the perspectives those Others were sharing with me. It must have been frustrating for people that it could be so hard to get through to me. I’m not into “taking it personally”, particularly at this late date; I am not the woman I was then. Still… I was that woman then. I understand her better now, not because of these old papers, but because I’ve gained so much new knowledge and perspective since then, generally. These old papers filled in some gaps, made sense of some “errata” that crept into my recollections over time. It was a great opportunity to loosen my grip on my existing personal narrative to allow that to be deepened and to become more nuanced through the addition of some really complex outside perspective.

I made a point of being open to listening to those past voices with more vulnerability, and willingness to learn as I went through all those papers. Does it change who I am now? Possibly not. Helps me understand who I was then more deeply, and provides a better understanding of how/why my journey over the years has had some of the complexities and challenges that it has had. Useful. Forces on me some useful and necessary humility, and if I’m being wholly honest, I need that. It also served to give me a moment to really put down some baggage and let go of some pointless bullshit that had lingered far too long. Needful.

If you spend your life thinking that you are Superman masquerading as Clark Kent, your choices (and words, and actions) are likely to be quite different than if you understand that you are Clark Kent daydreaming of being Superman. This is something worth thinking about. 🙂 Is there something so wrong with being an ethical person with a good heart, who is kind and who cares – but totally lacks any super powers at all? Just saying it’s something I think about.

Strange how I worked so hard to hold on to those papers over the years. They served no purpose besides taking up space… until I sat down and reviewed them, read them, and gave them real thought without taking any of it personally at all. And now? Having done that, I don’t need to keep them. What did I do with all that waste paper? Shredded and recycled. Gone. And then? Time to begin again.

Where does this path lead?

I’m sipping my coffee and “getting caught up” – very much in the way I typically would on a routine work day. I check my email. Take a look at my task list. Take a look at my calendar and note the time of upcoming calls and meetings. Very ordinary work-type stuff. Today it’s a mix of working on a project for my Traveling Partner’s business, handling job search details (an interview, an appointment), and a couple calls to contractors for estimates on work needed at the house. Living life is filled with verbs. 🙂

Sometimes life has balloons, too.

I started the day the way I start most days (for awhile now…since June?) – out in a meadow or on a forest trail, camera in hand, taking pictures of birds, flowers, sunrises, small mammals… walking and breathing and enjoying the morning. I’m not sure how this routine developed, but it is a convenient solution to the need to stay motivated to get enough exercise for good health, and also the desire to let my partner actually sleep in some, at least now and then. I’m often the earlier riser of the two of us, and I’m rather stupid and clumsy when I first wake up, which can be noisy. Easier to slip away as quietly as I am able, as soon after waking and dressing as I can, and just enjoy that time with the camera and the rising sun, without waking my partner. I also just fucking love starting my day this way. 🙂

One morning, the location where I parked had quite a few bunnies enjoying the morning with me.

The sun had been up before 5:00 a.m. when I began slipping away first thing with my camera. Now the sunrise is starting much later, some minutes after 6:00 a.m. That trend will continue for some time, but lacking any early morning constraints on my time associated with employment, I can easily just “go with it” as the sunrise shifts toward autumn days. Super relaxing. No pressure. Sometimes I grab a coffee on my way, most often I don’t. It’s not an important detail. I’ve a couple nearby favorite locations – one is a forested trail I enjoy walking any time. The other is a vast meadow split down the middle by a park with some trees. On one side, that lovely meadow is filled with little birds as the sun rises. On the other side, the sun rise itself, trees and some distant mountains on the horizon. Convenient parking in all cases.

My Traveling Partner made a great ground pod for my camera. I take it with me most mornings.

One chillier than usual morning, I set up the ground pod for my camera, and sat in the car with a coffee and my remote shutter, taking pictures, occasionally repositioning the camera, until it was a bit warmer. Most mornings, I throw my camera bag over my shoulder, and walk. I pause here and there to get some shots, and then walk on. It’s lovely time, and I return home feeling recharged, calm, and centered. Is it the 100% reliable “cure” for stress? Nope. Nothing is. It is, however, time well-spent, and pleasant, fulfilling, and satisfying. Close enough.

Sometimes enough has to be enough. 😉

What will you do to take care of yourself today? It’s not too late to put yourself at the top of your “to do” list. 😀 It’s time to begin again.

Good flight, so far. Lots of storms. Lightening. Beautiful. I entertain myself shooting video clips of lightening in the distance as it illuminates the clouds. The sky is “already ” beginning to show signs of the coming dawn. My brain feels confused by that; the clock says 01:14. Soon we’ll land, and upon reconnecting, it’ll be 3 hours “into the future”.

I haven’t slept. Although I often doze on long flights, it’s rare that I actually sleep deeply or restfully. I didn’t expect to. I dozed a couple times. 20-30 minute catnaps, nothing more. I will nap in the hotel, after check-in.

… time passes…

It’s evening, now. Almost 18:00. Florida “has thick air” – dense, still, humid. There has been a hint of coming storms in the air here, all day. The storms over the midwest seem to have followed me here. lol I turn off the A/C in the room. Shut off the lights as night falls. I shoot a few videos. Reliably the most “dramatic” and eye-catching lightening immediately precedes turning on the video, or quickly follows turning it off. LOL Timing matters.

I sit quietly, entertained by “nature’s lightshow”. The heaviest of the drenching rain has moved on, but the lightening persists. There was a balcony light on for a while. It’s off now. Timers? My footage would have been much better without that fucking balcony light. I stop writing for a few minutes and just watch, listen, and breathe. My cell phone is on the charger; no video right now. LOL Timing matters.

City lights in the distance seem to sparkle. Cars move along roadways. It all seems so… “fancy”. I feel lucky to see it; there are very few thunderstorms where I live.

I was so wiped out from traveling that once I checked into the hotel, and got sorted out for where things are located (like the convention I’m actually here for), I crashed hard and napped for a couple hours. Got up. Showered. Went and checked-in to the conference itself. Had another nap. Roused myself and attended the evening conference “mixer” – just a meet-n-greet of various professionals attending, and the folks who are hosting the whole thing. It was pleasant enough, I supposed. Not so much my thing, personally, but I was tickled to run into a couple folks I know from elsewhere: a former colleague, folks I’ve met previously through vendor partnerships when I was employed other places. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Once it was clear the socializing was beginning to turn into “partying”, I made a gracious exit and returned to my room, delicious but unfinished Mai Tai still in my hand. Those are fucking strong. I have one last sip as I enter my room, and put the rest in the mini fridge. (I probably won’t finish it; that’s a lot of alcohol for me, and I rarely drink.) Tasty. Too much. Like travel and conferences. LOL

The thunder rolls on. An hour ago I was unbelievably sleepy again… now, less so. I’m captivated by the lightening, and spellbound by the thunder. I’m missing my Traveling Partner. We chatted awhile, a bit ago, before the thunderstorm started. Soon, sleep, but for now, I’m just sitting here with a glass of water, enjoying this thunderstorm. 😀 …This too shall pass. Storms do. Impermanence demonstrated. I sit with that metaphor, sipping my water.

Soon enough, it’ll be a new day, and time to begin again.

I’m sipping my Sunday morning coffee in solitude. Best that I do so. I’m in a lot of pain after a long walk on a windy winter beach, yesterday, which, while it provided wonderful time to reflect and listen to my own thoughts, was also physically taxing. I’m definitely glad I wore base layers, too; it was chilly!!

Windy, rainy, cold, and the tide coming in. There’s no stopping the tide.

Things went seriously sideways Friday night, and Saturday’s walk on the beach was moody and bleak. It felt wholly necessary, but there was little joy in the moment. This saddens me, even now. It is, at this point, just something I’m adding to the recollection. I breathe, exhale, and let that go.

…I got some great pictures…

Friday might not have turned into the emotional shitstorm it did if I had been paying more attention… or… if I were altogether someone else, I suppose. My Traveling Partner woke in pain Friday morning, and was in an absolutely foul mood as a result (not unlike where I find myself this morning). He made a point of saying so, and was very kind and careful in our interactions all day, although he was cross and irritable. I finally ended my work day and … the whole delicate considerate assembled-with-care framework crumbled. I’m still sipping my first coffee, right now, this morning, and my brain is not yet entirely “on line”; I struggle to recall specifically what went wrong. Something I said, or my reaction to something he said, and suddenly we were lobbing raw emotions at each other in the form of angry words. I wept. We took turns shouting. We both ended up triggered – and triggering each other – and just fucking mired in our individual pain and heartache. To call it “unpleasant” seems insufficient. To make more of it than that seems simultaneously disrespectful of any underlying legitimate concerns that ought be addressed with love and consideration – but also seems likely to elevate those painful hours to something more important than what they were. Chaos fueled by emotions. Emotions that had less to do with the moments we found ourselves in than other moments, in other relationships, that left us scarred. Both unpleasant and unfair. How is it “unfair”? Isn’t it always unfair to ask love to sweep up the mess left behind by circumstances that had little, if any, actual love in them?

Friday morning became a painting, instead of an argument. 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas, untitled.

Yesterday was strained and awkward. This morning I woke up in pain, and found myself saying so, much in the same manner that he had on Friday morning. A cold chill rolls up my spine, and my mouth goes dry, and my anxiety spikes over fear that today will be another Friday, and end poorly. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I do it again. Then another breath. Followed by another. I keep at the breathing until the hinted-at-future-but-not-now feelings of anxiety recede. I definitely don’t need to invite or cultivate that shit.

I sit with my coffee this morning, thinking about my walk, my work, my relationships… I consider how my TBI affects the way I communicate, not just the part where I talk (a lot), or interrupt (too much), but also the part that is the step beyond listening; my ability to make sense of what I am hearing, and to correctly reply to what has actually been said. I do pretty well, generally, but… when I am tired, or in pain, or distracted, I’m not just “less good at that”, I’m pretty horrible – and when I look at that, and also consider the “performance pressure” I tend to feel that pushes me to answer any question very quickly, I see how easily this can go very wrong, leaving someone trying to have a conversation with me feeling perhaps I am not listening at all. It’s rough. It can go a bit like this:

“Did you hear from your friend about that painting?” someone asks.

“No.” I say, “Well, they texted me. I didn’t feel up to talking right then, so I said I would call back today after work,” I add, followed by “They did say they really like the painting, in their message to me.”

(no shit, a real conversation I had)

So… yeah. What the hell?? When I see it written down, I totally get why that would be not just incredibly frustrating to wade through to get a simple “Yes, they liked it.” It also tends to seem potentially … dishonest? Misleading? Manipulative? Crafty? Vague? Withholding? Dissembling? A whole bunch of adjectives could apply. It’s not actually about any of that, though. I started answering the question I was asked before I actually understood the question at all. Along the way, my brain mixed up “hear from” with “speak to” – similar but quite different – and entirely missed the point of the fucking question until I’d provided a bunch of utterly unsolicited other information. So… slow down? Fuck yes. Easy, right? Well… maybe? It’ll take practice. I’ll say very bluntly that I’ve had “reply immediately” literally beaten into me (first marriage was a domestic violence nightmare I’m lucky to have survived). It’s hard to change behaviors that were heavily reinforced with violence or trauma. It takes more work and practice and commitment and awareness and encouragement and kindness and support than I can describe. It can be done. My results vary, though, and every failure is heart-breaking for at least a moment of pure distilled disappointment with myself.

…This isn’t “all about me” though. This particular challenge is very specifically the sort that commonly affects the people interacting with me, most. I’m kind, honest, open, and well-intentioned, but I’ve also got PTSD… and I’ve got brain damage. That’s going to present a combinations of characteristics some people just aren’t going to be willing to deal with long-term. So far my Traveling Partner still chooses to share this complicated journey with me. I’m very fortunate, and very grateful. I know it isn’t easy.

Caution.

So, yesterday, I walked on the beach alone, reflecting on my challenges, my abilities, love, and life, and work, and gave some thought to life’s curriculum on the topics of boundaries, and of communication. I was missing my partner long before I noticed my knees were aching, and headed home when the rain began to fall heavily.

I find myself, now, bringing my thinking “back to basics”: breathing, listening deeply, my “Big 5” relationship values (Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Compassion, Openness), and the book my own beloved recommended to me, early in our relationship…

It’s hard to go wrong with good basics…

Yep. I am re-reading The Four Agreements, again. Sometimes beginning again is simply a step forward, with new thinking. Sometimes beginning again means a new commitment to something that is proven to work well, when applied consistently. Now there is a day ahead of me… I see sunshine through the window shade. The aquarium needs maintenance. There is housework to be done. In spite of aching knees, I’d enjoy a walk in the forest, now that the storm damage from the recent ice storm is cleared away. All of that, and Love to nurture besides… looks like a busy day ahead.

…I guess it’s time to begin again…