Archives for posts with tag: speak gently

So much effort in keeping small things small, in being considerate day-to-day, moment-to-moment, in managing reasonable boundaries, in clear communication… all the things.

(It’s all worth the effort.)

Perspective – gaining it, maintaining it, and keeping it, is huge right now. I’m not any better at it, I think, than anyone else. More effort. A lot of deep listening. A lot of letting shit go. A lot of “taking a step back” and “trying to see things from another point of view”.

I don’t claim to have a lock-down on making things work. I often struggle with my timing, my phrasing, my “tone of voice”, my TBI, my bullshit & baggage – like anyone else.

Today is another fairly ordinary day of life in the time of pandemic. I’m at work, working. My Traveling Partner is also at home. So far it isn’t unpleasant. It does get “real” now and then. We manage it – probably as gently and skillfully as either of us understand how to do, or are able to.

Today, I don’t take much time for words. Seems like a day for actions. 😉

…It’s time to begin again. There are verbs involved.

So… okay, we’re all human beings. This “social distancing” in a climate of anxiety about wellness, disease, economic downfall, shortages, and human mortality is draining, and tests my patience. (Yours, too, I bet!) Yesterday was punctuated with a bit of snarling, a handful of cross tears, some frustrated moments… Yes, it’s hard sometimes. I sip my coffee feeling fortunate, in spite of that; it could be much worse.

I take some time to watch fish swim.

Gratitude, perspective, sufficiency, and basic mindfulness are all great tools for getting me through stressful times. They do each require that I take that step… sometimes it’s “a step back” to gain perspective, or a pause for gratitude. Sometimes it is a step forward, and a considered reflective reminder that “sufficiency” is enough. (Omg, I can’t help giggling, it’s one of my favorite little aphorisms that is also a tautology.) Sometimes, it’s just a matter of moving from one moment to another, to sit down and seek yet another moment, of stillness, of breath, and then beginning again.

You know what it isn’t, though? It isn’t “easy”. These are not easy times, and I often feel “tested”. I have some coping practices that seem effective day-to-day, but I persist in being quite human, nonetheless, and sometimes that is complicated by sharing space with another human being. We are in this very much together, and somehow still also very much having our own experience, even in these close quarters.

He games… I watch fish swim. We help each other out with projects. We tackle projects on our own. We take turns choosing video content. We both interface with the world using our phones. We connect. We interact. We take a moment for ourselves alone. No surprises here; we’re enduring the challenges with the rest of the world. Similar frustrations. Shared difficulties. Common experiences among friends and neighbors and communities and nations afar… we’re all in this together. It’s gotten very “real”, though, hasn’t it?

I have another sip of my coffee, I pause for a moment of conversation with my partner. I look at the fish, swimming in the new tank next to my desk. I check the time; the moment feels timeless, unlimited, and not anchored to any calendar events. How will I know when to begin again? lol

…I guess when I finish this coffee. 🙂

Another working day spent in the time of pandemic, another opportunity to connect with my Traveling Partner more deeply, with more openness, and greater… something, something, and etc. I mean, love still takes some work, and being my best self still takes real commitment to self-awareness, and practice (which feels pretty hit/miss sometimes, for results). We are each individuals. We’re in this together. Shared experience. Individual experience. All the overlap between. If we share nothing, we lose our connection, over time. If we share everything, we lose our sense of individual self and agency. There is a balance. In these days of isolation and confinement, it sometimes feels like dancing – the awkward, often self-conscious dancing of youthful uncertainty, which is a bit uncomfortable at times; we’re not kids anymore.

I worked a fairly routine day yesterday. Each time I took a break, I left my studio (which is also my “office”) and discovered some new thing had been done around the house. My Traveling Partner keeps busy with various quality-of-life-focused projects. It passes the time in a healthy way.

…He moved the furniture around…

You know, it could have been drama and bullshit, but honestly, it’s just furniture. If we don’t like where it is – and I mean either of us, over time, could decide it is a poor fit – we can move it around differently. We have that freedom. We have that power. Each of us. Both of us. I managed to find peace and balance with all of it super quickly, which was nice. No one needs my drama and bullshit right now, right? I’m unsettled by the quantity of small changes as the aesthetic of our home inches further and further from what I most ideally enjoy, myself, but there really are two people living here, and it is our home, not exclusively mine. It matters to be open to new arrangements of things. There’s so much joy in it when we both feel a comfortable sense of place. When we both feel at home.

The street is nearly silent outside this morning. These days there is very little commuter traffic through this neighborhood. People who can, really are working from home. People who don’t need to work are generally really staying home. A quick trip out for supplies revealed a world in which suburban men commonly work in the garage, or in their yards, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, building and making things to improve their quality of life, and that of their families. I saw a dad-aged man teaching a little girl to ride a bicycle… on a Wednesday. It was beautiful. It got me wondering, decades from now, how will we view this time of pandemic, looking back? Our perspectives are not universal.

Some people will remember store shelves stripped bare, and being unable to buy stable food items, and basic household items.

Some people will remember the profiteering, the incompetence and mismanagement, the heinous disregard for employee health and safety shown by some companies.

Some people will remember having to work from home, after years of begging for the privilege of being able to do so.

Some people will remember being sick, or supporting sick family members.

Some people will remember the anxiety, the chaos, the fear-mongering, and the uncertainty.

Some people will remember losing their jobs – others will remember being forced to work.

…And some people, who were children in the time of pandemic, will remember long happy weeks at home, with their parents and siblings, connecting over fun projects, entertained, loving, and they will, perhaps, look back on this time with real fondness, as a time when they enjoyed all the love and attention from their parents that they could ever possibly need. I like to think about that as a tiny pin-prick of an upside to all this COVID-19 stuff; some children will get loved more, by attentive parents who perhaps don’t realize that their efforts to stave off boredom, and keep their youngsters developmentally on track, is making some amazing memories.

Then, I frown over a news article pointing out how terrifying this time must be for people in abusive relationships, or households that experience domestic violence. 😦 Let’s don’t be that. We can each do so much better than that.

Be considerate and gentle with your words. It can really wear even your nearest and dearest down quite a lot, over time, to be in such close contact for so long. Social distancing can complicate that – you’re probably not hanging out with anyone else. The lack of variety may serve to highlight small things, which can make them appear to be The Next Big Deal Breaker. Doesn’t have to be that way. 🙂 Choose kindness. Choose authenticity – and positive intent. Be your best self, even though that definitely takes practice.

I’m saying it to you, because I’m saying it to me. There are verbs involved. Work. Effort. Commitment. Self-reflection. A lot of do-overs and new beginnings. A lot of practice.

I’m ready for another work day in the time of pandemic. I’m ready to begin again. 🙂

I am sipping my morning coffee, considering the walk I am eager to want to take. I’m “not there yet”. lol My muscles ache from pushing myself, already. I’m not bitching about it, and I’m not unhappy over it. Sore muscles are muscles working a bit harder, doing more things that need done, and becoming more capable of more work. Consistency is a requirement for forward progress; if I skip the walk today over sore muscles, I don’t make as much progress toward my goals, nor as quickly, so… at some point? Walking. I’m not looking forward to the walking itself, although I’d like to. I am in pain. The walking helps the pain in my back and my neck (osteoarthritis), but is less helpful with the bad ankle that has to support the weight. Without walking, the weight remains an issue. With the walking, the ankle is an issue. I’m not saying it as though this is an unsolvable conundrum, either, just saying that these complications are part of my experience. 🙂 There’s a metaphor here…

It’s a journey with a lot of steps.

We become what we practice. Emotionally and physically. There’s not a lot of room to argue on this one. Are you hot tempered, easily frustrated, quick to react, and tending to fall back on negative feedback and criticism to communicate your needs? Well, that’s the person you become, over time, in a fixed and rather predictably unpleasant way. Are you tender-hearted, prone to tears in the face of negative feedback, (whether or not it is accurate or well-intended, or useful at all) particularly when it comes from someone whose opinion you value? Same slope; you become more of who you already are, and what you choose to do with the toxicity of the world around you, because it is what you practice. You may get called a bitch when you demand that your agency be respected, or when you insist on not being interrupted in a meeting, but that lack of boundary-setting? It’s a practice, too.

…Also? Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a bitch. Don’t call someone names, either; how about we start there? Speak gently. Be clear, and also honest. “Stay in your lane” in the sense that not every opinion you have actually needs to be shared (particularly with regard to your aesthetic, and someone else’s appearance). Check your assumptions – a lot of them are wrong (the science is in on that) – and practice deep listening, instead of waiting for your turn to talk.

Does it sound like I’m venting aimlessly, about commonplace bullshit we all seem to engage in, if not regularly, then once in a while? Well… then I’ve failed to communicate clearly. I’ll try again…

Your words matter. Use them with care. If you are communicating with someone you say you love, communicate with love – real love, using words and tone that make it very clear that the love is first and foremost in your mind, rather than some momentary frustration. Our bitterness, our hurt, our anger – once shared, it’s out there. Shared with emotional force, and absent the love that may be part of our experience, it causes real harms, real doubts about our affection, and can undermine that love we cherish so much.

Don’t let the sun set on a treasured relationship without saying something encouraging, supportive, authentically affectionate – the smallest moment of authentic appreciation and praise can change the color of an entire day. I am fairly certain most of us share negative feedback with cherished others almost every day… imagine the crushing weight of all that criticism, all that negativity, the constant pressure to raise oneself up from beneath the weight of it… Let’s not do that. Let’s handle our words with greater care, ensuring that we take more time for what is positive and uplifting that we do for things we see as problems needing correction.

I challenge you to practice even a 1 to 1 ratio of (authentic) compliments and (sincere) encouragement to criticism and requests for change. I hope you find that incredibly easy (and succeed) – because people need more love and encouragement than that, and as starting points go, it’s a bare minimum for success. I promise you that if you are only sharing negative feedback, that’s all that is being heard. That sounds like a pretty terrible experience to be on the receiving end of, just saying. Use your words as a force for good in your life, use them to lift others up, to encourage what is positive in everyone you meet.

A lot of people may grow up in environments in which very little positive feedback is shared, or the positive words are hollow superlatives about qualities they can’t control, and no attention given to the whole person. People coming from that place may not know how to give authentic positive feedback, and may genuinely not understand why it is necessary. They need to see it done, to feel it, before it will be something they can easily practice themselves. Is that someone part of your life? Be open to explicitly telling them what you need to hear – without excuses, or a need to justify yourself. It’s okay to need what you need, and it’s also quite okay to ask for it. 🙂 “I need you to say something nice to me right now.” may feel weird to say, but it is one place to start. 🙂

We’re all so human. There’s so much stress and hostility in the world right now. Our culture feels so toxic. Be someone who understands there is work to be done, and recognize you can do some of it. Be someone willing to do it. Be the change we need. Speak gently. Be encouraging and kind. Soften your tone. Be trustworthy. Be honest without being mean. Let small shit go. Don’t drink the poison offered to you. Don’t offer others poison.

Don’t like the world as it is? Be part of what changes it. We become what we practice. Practice being the person you truly most want to be. Every choice, every interaction, every day. Sometimes you will fail (I know I do); your results will vary. Practice more. 🙂 Be that better version of yourself, because you choose it, and it matters. Other people may not make these choices – don’t drink the poison they offer you, and walk your own path. 😉

It’s time to begin again.

I measure a hike in miles. I think measuring my progress over time, as a person, may be easier to do in words.

I started this journey, here, in January of 2013, after my emotional wellness crashed hard at the end of 2012 (due to the combination of a traumatic breakup, a fairly (terrible) new relationship I’d gotten tangled up in, and a serious flare up of my PTSD in the aftermath of the infamous Delhi rape in December 2012). While I sought therapy, I also sought a more useful way of communicating and reflecting on my experience, and ended up here. Since that very first blog post, a rather shy introduction, I’ve written 2013 posts, in 7 years, with an average word count of about 700 words.

…I’ve written, right here, 1,317,956 words. Yep. 1.3 million (and a few more) words…

…I haven’t solved anything by doing so. I haven’t “fixed” myself, or the world, or made any noteworthy mark on society, as far as I know. I’m not bitching, I’m just saying – these are the words of one woman. One human being. One perspective. The word count will no doubt continue to grow. I manage about 187,000 words a year. I write nearly every day, even when I don’t write a blog post (I’m not even going to try to quantify all those words). I average 286 posts per year, which, while it doesn’t amount to reliably “every day”, shows some astonishing constancy. Still… I do miss an average of 79 days each year… about 6 and a half days per month, although I doubt there’s that sort of reliable monthly cadence to it. lol. It feels more as if I take a breather, now and then, for a few days, or when I’m out in the trees camping, and then shake that off and get back to it.

…I find myself wondering how many total words I’ve written, and spoken, over the course of a lifetime… a lot of words, no doubt. 🙂

I sip my coffee and smile. This morning feels good. That’s enough. 🙂