Archives for posts with tag: speak gently

Today has been as delightful as yesterday was difficult. I never did really figure out what was up with me, yesterday, or if it was me, at all. I let all that go. My Traveling Partner and I had several rather difficult, frank, conversations, that required greater-than-typical willingness to be vulnerable, and a level of “real talk” that pushed boundaries on both sides. The level of heartfelt consideration and and love involved made it possible. I wouldn’t call it pleasant, but the day was emotional wreckage (for me) anyway, why hold anything back?

(In practical terms, yesterday was a good day, we both got things done, worked productively, and got some leisure time. Stepping aside from the emotional baggage, personal hand-crafted bullshit, and narrative-editing foolishness human primates are prone to, it was actually a pretty good day. I just felt crappy, emotionally, as if I’d consumed emotional poison.)

We got to a place where we were both just being frank and real, just talking, not mean, not confrontational – honest clarifying questions, a straight forward exchange of information, no game playing – and it sorted some things out. Somehow, this morning, things are quite lovely, and life is as good as it is, and we’ve enjoyed each other all day. It’s lovely. 🙂 It’s hard to understand how yesterday was the thing it was. I gaslight myself wondering if I imagined the shitty day I had, until I give up on it, distracted by something in my periphery.

Dahlias

There are flowers on my makeshift workstation. Dahlias. I enjoy them. A neighbor brought them down and took a moment to say hello. She had a chance to meet my Traveling Partner. I could hear them chatting briefly in the front door way. I heard my partner “…working from home…” I looked up and saw our neighbor. “Hi!” I called. She cheerily replied “Don’t you get up!” and waved. A few minutes later, my partner presents me with the lovely handful of purple, white, and pale yellow blossoms atop sturdy green stems. From our neighbor’s garden? She has a lovely cottage garden thing going at her place. (I remind myself to take a mask when I go to check the mail and stop by to say thank you… from a distance, of course.)

I sip on a glass of cold water and consider my neighbor’s thoughtfulness. She also brought fresh-picked ears of corn. (Does she have room for corn??) (How much room does corn really take…?) I find myself wondering which gift is most meaningful to me, and whether the flowers or the corn could compare with the gift of her simple thoughtfulness and consideration, at all.

My thoughts wander. I think about words and meaning, and how something as simple as the sight of a facial expression or the sound of a tone of voice can completely alter the way we are understood, and what we are thought to have “said”. I find myself listening to “Schism” with new ears. Consideration matters. Listening deeply matters. Finding the discipline to refrain from interrupting matters. Taking a kind tone matters. So many things that matter… so many verbs. lol

Lovely evening… I think I’ll begin again.

One of the big motherfucker’s of PTSD is the lasting impact, the lasting change to cognition, implicit memory, patterns of thought – all the things that make up the “D” (disorder) in PTSD. It’s hard. Recognizing the damage done, and the way it holds potential to “call our shots”, in the moment, is one of the enormous challenges involved in healing. It’s a lot of work finding – and maintaining – perspective and balance. I don’t point these things out as someone who has found her way, or has some solution, or is “over it. I point them out because I am still affected, even 39 years later. The worst of it, in the here and now, is the way it affects relationships with people dear to me who were in no way involved in the damage done, who mean me no harm, and indeed wish me well and want to share some piece of life’s journey with me.

Fuck PTSD.

It’s a major “begin again” moment, right here. My symptoms flared up completely “out of nowhere” (by that I mean, “predictably, but I wasn’t watching for it because I made foolish assumptions about my current emotional wellness, generally”). I certainly could have handled myself much better than I did. A chill calm morning shattered by tense voices, hurt feelings, frustration, irrational fears… it can feel like ruination. It can feel like more damage is done. It can feel like “spreading it around”. It definitely isn’t “fair”. There is guilt and shame beginning to try to fill the space where those irrational fears had been acting out their moment of drama. It’s fucking hard. It’s very very real.

Mental illness – and mental wellness – may not conform to our idea of what they “should” look like, who “should” be afflicted, or how we think such things “ought to” progress. I’ve learned a handful of things over the time and distance this healing journey has covered, though. Mental illness is commonplace. We’ve all got problems. We all hurt sometimes. No one is immune to communication challenges, or emotions.

I take a deep breath. I exhale. I relax. I let it go. My Traveling Partner alerts me he is going to soak in the hot tub. His tone is no assurance that I’m actually welcome… so I choose to do the hard thing; I open myself up to potential hurt feelings, and suggest I’d like to join him. He doesn’t say “no” or set a boundary. I take a deep breath… and begin again.

We soak together, listen to birds sing, and let the day begin.

It’s some time later, now. Feels like a mostly ordinary, pleasant morning, aside from the very deliberate gentleness and care we are taking with each other as we move on from a difficult moment. Do you love someone with PTSD? Complex PTSD? Bi-polar disorder? Depression? Anxiety? It’s hard, right? It’s not your “fault” – it’s also not their “fault”. Mental illness is hard work for the one afflicted – and hard work for the people who love them. Take a breath. Get some distance if you need it. Ideally… don’t punish each other. I know. Hard. All of it is hard. Good practices help – they take actual practice, and consistency, and they do help. A lot. Good therapy in the care of a qualified clinician helps (not always easy to find the right therapist, and it can be costly, I get it). Working to avoid compounding mental illness with “second dart suffering” and further inflicted hurts unwittingly delivered on each other is so important… and again, so much work. I can only say “keep practicing” and “begin again”. Yes, my results vary. No lie. Sometimes I fall short of my best self. I may never be wholly “well” in a reliable way that I can casually trust – my vigilance (regarding my symptoms) and (good) self-care practices are one thing I can offer my partner(s) to prevent doing them further damage. It’s not always enough… but I can’t take that personally.

I begin again.

So, I’ve got this day ahead of me, and things to do with it. I’ve hit the reset button, and the rest is a big pile of verbs. It’s up to me which of those I grab onto and apply to the day. 🙂

What about you? Are you ready to begin again? You’ve got this!

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. 🙂