Archives for posts with tag: so human

I woke during the night with an unsteady tummy. I took steps to be prepared for being sick if things were to turn for the worse; I left the light on in the hall bathroom and a hair tie on the counter. It’s not the closest bathroom of the two in this place, but it is bigger, and more suited somehow to being ill. It’s near enough. Easy to get to, too. So. I was prepared, and I went to back sleep.

I woke sometime shortly past day break. 6:30-ish. I slept in. 😀 Well… that’s my idea of sleeping in. I’m usually up by 4:30 am. I woke to a tidy home, a clean kitchen, and a smile on my face. Nice. There are a few things to do today, to face the short work week ready to travel: some tidying up, laundry, vacuuming, empty the dishwasher of clean dishes… basic household care. It’s a good day for it. I feel rested. The gray featureless sky doesn’t tempt me to the trail – or to the studio. I have brunch plans, and a partially read book. Brunch and housework sounds like a fine when to spend the day, and winding things down with a quiet evening reading sounds lovely, too.

As I sip my coffee, first one brunch friend, then another, lets me know they can’t make it today. I hear from my Traveling Partner as we cross paths in the digital world, as I wake up, and he winds down from a long night. By the time I finish my coffee, brunch “with…” has become “brunch solo?”. I barely register any disappointment – and perhaps this sets me apart from some sorts of people; I genuinely value and enjoy time spent with myself (particularly now that I’ve learned to treat myself well, generally).

I pause for a moment to consider, seemingly rather randomly, that “genuinely” and “generally” positioned so close to each other in a sentence seem a tad repetitive, even though they are totally different words. Then I find cause to be irked with the frequency of -ly endings. I notice my coffee is finished. I feel irked by that and slightly irritable. I take a deep breath, relax, and allow myself to recognize that I am, actually, a bit disappointed about brunch falling through. Acknowledging the feeling, however fleeting, prevents it from becoming festering discontent. The moment needed nothing more than awareness, respect, and acknowledgement, and the feeling dissipates. Emotions are funny that way. Fight them, they fight back. Embrace them, feed them, they deepen, and sometimes take over. Resist them completely, they flare up in the background, influencing our experience of other circumstances in sometimes subtle ways, and altering our understanding of other moments. Acknowledge them with awareness, respecting the experience without fueling the fire, and they become a sign post on a journey, a reminder, and a moment observed; that tends to be what I’m going for these days.

I find myself still a bit irritable, and not finding anything in my immediate environment or experience to explain that, I pause my writing and do a quick “self inventory”. I take a moment to simply breathe and feel my feelings, both those of my physical experience (sensations) and those of my cognitive experience (emotions). Emotionally, I feel pretty at ease, and content. Physically, I find myself having to take note of a substantial amount of fairly ordinary arthritis pain in my thoracic spine. Well shit. Okay. That’d be enough to feel sort of grumpy and out of sorts “for no reason” – only, there’s clearly quite an obvious reason to it, once I am aware of it. Awareness is such an amazing tool! I continue checking in with myself, and notice that in spite of the arthritis pain, no headache. Hey, that’s pretty nice. Uncommon these days. I enjoy that experience, and allow myself to sit with the awareness of “no headache” awhile, while I decide on the morning, and what to do about the pain.

I think over the day ahead. I’ve got what I need, generally speaking. Maybe a bite of brunch and a stop for art supplies somewhere? I head to a search tab to look up my options…

It’s a great day to begin again. 😀

To change the world
It starts with one step
However small
First step is hardest of all
Once you get to your gate
You will walk in tall

by Dave Matthews Band

I start the morning with music. Yesterday was a good day of self-care, and housekeeping. Needful things. I woke feeling rested and cared for, with the smile left over from visiting my Traveling Partner still lingering at the edges of my mood. So far, another good day. These good days are not coincidental in my life, I build them with my choices, and my results vary. Oh, that’s not to say that circumstances can’t (they do) intervene and change the course of a day for the worse (or for the better), it’s just that over time I have learned how much power over the quality of my days I actually do have. It’s enough. It’s more than enough, generally.

Today is a work day. A day in a life. A day of choices and practices. A day of moments and opportunities. It could be any day of so many. Where will it take me? What will I do with it? Will it go to waste, lost among bad choices and disordered thinking? Will I build lovely memories from a quality experience? Will I commit to action, but find myself resenting it as “wasted time”, wanting instead to play? Will I snatch the chance to meditate in the evening from the waiting clutches of more moving in that could be done?

Last week was a reminder that my choices are my own, and that how I make them is what my week – and my life – are built upon. I all but gave up on self-care trying to force everything I thought needed to get done into the limited time I had available to me. I ended up exhausted, aggravated, and too tired to follow through on the entirety of my original plan for the weekend. Lesson learned? I’d like to think so, but it’s doubtful. I’m a human primate. I’ll need more practice. 🙂

Today I’ll meditate in the morning. I know this works for me. I’ll have any dishes started before I’m out the door. The bed will be made. The garden will be watered. I’ll have had my coffee, my oatmeal, a shower, brushed my teeth, and fed the fish. I’ll make a point of hitting the gym at work for some strength training, and get a good walk in over my lunch break. I’ll get home after work… and the evening will be mine. Then what? I don’t really know all that yet; I’m satisfied to have mornings more or less worked out at this point. lol

I notice I’m tugging at a jagged bit of cuticle. In the dry hot weather, my cuticles have begun to split in places. I fuss with the edges mindlessly, often. I try to stop that behavior when I catch it. The effort required is hard to adequately describe, even after a lifetime of partners, friends, and family members nagging me about it. I make the effort of will this morning. Put myself on pause. Actually fully mindfully stop myself… but then, I have to also stop writing, also go get the little cuticle nippers to trim that up so it isn’t so tempting… again with the damned verbs, right? lol Yep. There are always verbs involved, somehow this is true even of the things I want not to do.

Oh hey – it’s already time to begin again. 🙂

 

I woke ahead of the alarm, and almost immediately my thoughts turned in a dark direction, filling with negativity, doubt, imagined hurts – all in the seconds after waking, before my broken brain really has a chance to boot up and fight the demons in the darkness. With a sigh I flip on the light – and reach for the alarm clock. No way to I want to hear it go off – my internal alarm bells were already clanging away.

I took my morning medication and went straight for the music – “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” for openers, first thing, and loud enough to hear in the shower. In this case, the ‘bitch’ in question is the woman in the mirror – and I sing along, right to her face, all through my shower and getting dressed for the day. Seriously? Acknowledging the power of my own freedom to choose, and the potential it has to color my experience, means on a morning when my own brain attempts a sneak attack – it’s totally okay to call me on my bullshit, myself. By the time my coffee is ready, I expect to be past the difficult waking moment, without using up the emotional reserves necessary to deep dive the chaos and damage; it’s enough to recognize that I have more than my share, and understand that it can make for some challenges now and then. (At least, that’s definitely enough at 4:30 am on a work morning, before I am even completely awake!)

By the time my coffee is ready – I’ve recovered my now-utterly-routine peaceful leisurely morning. I celebrate with my favorite bounce back anthem. Dancing from the kitchen with my coffee, singing along as I cross the room with a wink and a smile at the woman in the mirror – that crazy bitch knows I am not taking her bullshit today! lol [Reminder: there are no literal voices in my head, and I am just this one person right here – but I do find it handy to face the woman in the mirror on terms that allow me to communicate more easily with myself across the chasm of this injury and the vast piles of chaos and damage left behind from other experiences with other people.]

It’s a morning for music, I guess. I am moved.  Listening to “Love Sex Magic” when it comes up in the playlist, I grin and feel the residual heat and fervor of my love for my traveling partner…and on some other level, my pure delight and animal enthusiasm for healthy adult play, generally. Few things chase the demons back into the darkness like a really good playlist. 🙂

Aside from the complicated moments immediately after waking, it’s a lovely morning. My coffee is tasty, smooth, hot – and I managed it without spilling boiling water on the counter when I moistened the filter, or getting dust from ground coffee all over the floor – I often do both. It’s okay; I’m learning not to take my own humanity personally, or treat small such ‘mistakes’ as any reflection on my worth as a human being, a partner, a lover, artist, writer, or woman – hell, it’s not even “about” having a brain injury. Every human, everywhere, has moments of clumsiness, makes mistakes, causes a mess by mistake, or falls short of their own vision of who they can be on some occasion. Perfect? It’s not a thing in real life. I’m over that. I haven’t lost anything but some needless heartache to let go of emotionally brutalizing myself over ever action or outcome that could be viewed as a mistake – and with good reason, frankly; too many of them turn out to be, if not utterly necessary in some unanticipated fashion, just not a big deal at all, and definitely unworthy of the drama, turmoil, and hurt. I figure, over time, continuing to treat myself well in this fashion will also result in having the reaction, itself, come up far less often. That tends to be how incremental change over time works out.

My arthritis is hurting a lot this week. Dancing helps – hurts, but it does help, and the easiest way to overcome the inertia of pain is to find movement irresistible – that’s dance, right there, isn’t it?  Turning on the music this morning was a good call for my body, as well as my heart and mind. My playlist is mostly dance tracks, hip hop, crunk, and couple of other favorites that ‘don’t really belong here’ (Santana, Billy Idol, Skrillex) … only… this is my playlist, and they do ‘belong’. How much easier would so much of life be with practices that made the practicing itself irresistible? There’s often a real thrill or moment of gratification associated with experiences in life that present the greatest risks of negative outcome… sex… money… rage… That’s more than a little bit inconvenient for a woman with a dis-inhibiting brain injury, trust me. I’m glad I can yield to the urge to dance without concern for adverse consequences. 🙂

A summer day, a journey that continues.

A summer day, a journey that continues.

The point this morning, as much as anything, is that I am often in my own way more than anything else is. Injuries do happen. Pain is part of the human experience. The constant struggling is a choice. Learning to make my choices differently is a process. Today is a good day to practice the practices that are working best for me. It’s a good day to remind the woman in the mirror I won’t be taking her shit, either; we need each other, but I won’t be allowing her chaos and damage to call the shots, when I can avoid it with other choices. Today is a good day to enjoy the journey.

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’. 😀