Archives for posts with tag: stay on the path

It’s early evening. Or… late afternoon. I guess it depends on how you count the hours, and when you dine – or end the day. This once, let’s agree it is early evening, though the twilight before nightfall is quite a way off still. I am sipping a glass of ice water after a leisurely soak in the hot tub, and some yoga to ease tense muscles. I am thirsty, and almost peculiarly I am not completely worn out beyond usefulness, which is a nice change of pace for this time of day. It’s been a pleasantly productive day of work, and I’ve managed to be genial, relaxed, and content all day. I have not burdened myself with the additional stress of self-imposed ridiculous deadlines or “production goals”, nor worn myself thin with too many “yes” answers and not enough “no” answers. I have enough left in me to write, and likely even to prepare a meal later. What did I do differently…?

Let me count the ways I did things differently today, and the things I tried:

  1. I gave myself a lovely few minutes before ever beginning work to reflect quietly on the day ahead, and give some thought to what I hoped to get done – and to realistically plan ahead the things I probably would not get to, without giving myself any shit over it, or making any excuses.
  2. I focused on, and completed, the few specific tasks I had committed to, and having left myself some room to do so, I was able to pick up a handful of other helpful things and get those done without any pressure to do so, nor any sense of failure if I did not.
  3. I took real breaks, and made a point to walk away from work – the way I often recommend to other people, and often fail to do for myself.
  4. I had real conversations with real humans, and during those conversations I focused on that human I was speaking with, and really listened to what they were saying. (Doing this, and getting it right, was the most difficult thing I did today!!)
  5. I took care of myself when I got home from work… yoga, a hot shower, a soak in the hot tub, and this quiet time spent writing, all fill that requirement.
  6. I did some site maintenance on my blog that I’d been putting off and feeling crappy about.
  7. I updated my to-do list without rushing to do any of it just yet.
  8. Each time I experienced a moment of anxiety, I gave that feeling a minute of my attention, and some self-compassion. I paused long enough to practice self-soothing, and to consider what might really be driving that moment of anxiety, without judgment or shame. I even learned some things by doing so.

Not bad. In fact… (I feel) pretty good. I’m pleased by this feeling of being settled and centered, at the end of a work day. It’s a good feeling. Comfortable.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

…My anxiety surges as if on cue. I’m okay. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I look it in the face – “why now?” Probably simply that success (on this issue) is a little scary, itself. I’ve struggled with anxiety for so long, it is a little… weird… to contemplate who I am without it. That seems very human, and acknowledging both the emotions/sensations and the humanity of it, I feel myself relax again. Less anxious. Good deal.

Perspective matters. “Emotion and Reason” acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow 2012

I see my therapist Wednesday. Our first in-person appointment since before the pandemic. Wow. Milestone.

My Traveling Partner sticks his head in for a moment. “How’s your writing?” he asks, pleasantly. No stress between us. This also feels very good. My anxiety fucks both of us up. lol I gesture vaguely at the screen, “I’m writing about anxiety, things I’m doing differently to handle it, stuff we were talking about…” He nods looking serious and hopeful, “That’s promising…” he says (or words very like that – I may already have forgotten precisely what he said).

…It’s time to begin again.

Staying on the path is a choice, and there are verbs involved.

The path ahead in life often isn’t all that clear. From one day to the next, it can very much feel like forward momentum is unpredictable, chaotic, and fraught with unexpected trail hazards, literal pitfalls, and lacking a map, shit gets… complicated. Practicing healthy practices, particularly those associated with mindfulness, and good self-care, definitely help keep me on the path, but it’s still a journey without a map.

…How do I get from wandering (with purpose) to… orienteering?

I found myself thinking over what kinds of small things motivate me most – those little personal celebrations of milestones and goals achieved that serve to bolster my resolve – and support my resilience. I think about diet and exercise. I think about staying on track to meet various personal and professional goals. I consider meaning, purpose, intention, and will.

The path ahead isn’t always obvious.

Two nights in a row of relatively poor sleep. Brain grinding away on whatever it can’t let go of until the next day. Nightmares (war… pandemic… civil unrest… it’s all a bit much, and it’s finally hit my sleep). Funny thing is, somehow, I’m managing to make use of the chaos and anxiety to prompt some needed self-reflection, and re-assess some values, some goals, some ways of getting from points A to points B, and beyond.

It’s gotten me more serious about healthy exercise, again. I’ve resumed daily walks with more enthusiasm and real joy, and found some fun in my dumb bell workout and step exercises. Honestly? I’d like to be around, and healthy, a long time – and spend that with my Traveling Partner in good health and good cheer. 🙂 I found an exercise challenge app I like, and that’s helpful for a bit of “gamification” to motivate me further. (I’m not linking it, because I haven’t used it long enough to endorse it.) This is something that works for me, at least during an initial “habit building/rebuilding” process. 🙂

…Also… why would I not choose an opportunity to have some fun, at all? Fun is good, right? Joy? Also good, yeah? I’m not feeling like dragging around more misery, or punishing myself for not being good enough to clear some high hurdle I stupidly set for myself. lol I just want to enjoy a sunny day, some fresh air, and the flowers along the way. 🙂 Isn’t that enough to be something worth doing? 😀

Apps come and go. Fitness trackers, too, wax and wane in popularity nearly as often as the moon phases change. I find it rather obviously okay to change with the changing times, and with the changing tools. Change is a thing. People know about it. 😉

Anyway… it’s a lovely day to begin again, to make a choose, to course correct, to choose a new path… to turn the page.

Ask the questions. Do the verbs.

You are your own cartographer. You get to write your own map. Your results may vary – but they’re yours. ❤ Maybe it’s time to begin again?

I’m sipping coffee and listening to videos in the background. Pleasant Sunday morning. Housekeeping on the agenda, not much else. I expect it’ll be a hot summer day. I’m okay with a couple hours of chores and a few moments for myself, and some pleasant hours with my Traveling Partner.

Our path may not always be level, the day may not always be sunny.

…Love isn’t “perfect”. Life either. Nothing really is. (Maybe this cup of coffee…) I make a lot of choices, and some of those are compromises, and some are just poor choices…on the other hand, I’ve got a lot of very cool opportunities to choose from, and fascinating people with whom I can choose to associate. Kinda neat, actually. Even our most intimate relationships are filled with choices.

We choose our path, and we choose what we consider our choices to be.

I chose my Traveling Partner a long time ago (11 years)… on a commute, I think. There was a hug involved. Hours of conversation, over time. A friendship developed. I adore this human being. He is “flawed” (inasmuch as he is quite human), as I am myself. There are days when one or the other of us seriously aggravates the other. (Just being real, and let’s be frank, one thing I know I can count on in life is that life will be, generally, quite “real”. lol) I enjoy him, as a friend, as a human being, as a partner… I smile when I think of him, and he is the person most easily able to unintentionally hurt me emotionally with a harsh word in a difficult moment. I still choose him, and yeah, even when I’m crying over a moment of hurt feelings, I still choose him.

He’s very dear to me. 😀 (bad pun intentional)

Why bring it up? It’s been a lovely weekend. This is all pretty obvious practical shit, right here, and hardly bears pointing out. Don’t we all go through it? Some moment that contrasts the wonderful qualities with the very human, sometimes much less wonderful qualities? Again – pretty real. Pretty ordinary. I dunno. I was thinking about it as I walked yesterday… “What matters most?”… “What builds a firm enduring foundation for love?”… “What does a healthy relationship look like, over time?”… “How does healthy boundary and expectation-setting look and feel in the context of a healthy adult relationship?”… “What part do I, myself, play in ensuring I am treated well based on my own understanding of “good treatment” – and how I do ensure I am skillfully, authentically, ensuring I treat my partner well based on their understanding of “good treatment” – and my own?” Big questions. (Long walk.)

Growth isn’t about what’s easy or comfortable. It’s often about hard questions, and answers that require rather a lot of real work. “Is the effort worth it?” is one question that is easy to answer, for me, in the context of this relationship: yes.

Sometimes choices seem so limited… or complicated… those perceptions are also choices.

I’ve had 3 other “long term relationships” of any notable duration. Two ran far longer than the quality of the relationship warranted. (Okay, well, all three of those, actually, were far longer than what was healthy, but I did manage to cut that last one short before my life or mental health were in complete chaos.) I’ve often been that person working at it longer/harder and loyally clinging to the carcass of a relationship that did not at all rate such a ferocious commitment in the first place. “I didn’t know better” doesn’t describe the goings on so much as “brain damage”, honestly. Yikes. That feels “too real”, right there. I sigh, finish my coffee, and let it go. 🙂 I’m rather happily in a very different place these days, different relationship altogether. “Learned my lesson”? Possibly not – more than I’ve been fortunate, and this particular relationship grew and developed largely in the context of ongoing therapy and other positive life choices (and changes) that took me down a healthier path.

Choices.

Don’t sit around miserable, is what I’m saying. You have choices. You don’t have to wait for decades of your life to slip by – you can choose change. Any time. You can begin again. Oh, I know, it’s a difficult sort of choice to make, but truly, it is yours.

Maybe what looks like a dead-end just isn’t your path at all?

Heat wave. Already hot this morning. Slept well, woke refreshed. Felt… content. Balanced. Merry…

…Whole.

Off to a good start on a hot day. Things slide sideways, slipping gently, somehow inevitably tilting toward irritation in spite of a great starting point. Best efforts. Humans being human.

I put aside my coffee and go for a walk before the heat of the day might stop me, or just make the experience miserable.

A favorite park has finally re-opened after all the damage during that last winter storm.

Muggy warm air filled with the sound of mowers, small aircraft taking off from the nearby municipal airport, and swarming insects seemed to cling to me as I walked across the parking lot to the start of the one open trail. It doesn’t really go far enough to satisfy the need, but it has been a long while and I have missed this place. I walk the trail twice. I take note of the wild roses in bloom – there look to be three distinct species growing in this wooded area. I spot ripe thimbleberries, but none within reach – too fragile for commercial agriculture, they are a rare special treat, tiny, soft, and mild. The birds will get most of them. Piles of cut up trees give some insight into how much damage the storm caused. Every few feet, there’s a pile of logs and branches on either side of the trail. The forest is full of huckleberry bushes, but I don’t see flowers or berries, yet. On my way back down, before my second walk of the trail, I realize I haven’t stopped at a favorite bench… I never saw it! Weird… I begin to really look for that thing, that expected thing, as I head back up the trail. My focus results in missing other details. Something more to think about.

Oh. Reality is what it is. Expectations are shit we made up, and cling to.

It was a lovely morning for walking, in spite of the heat. In spite of the changes all around me. In spite of a less than picture-perfect lovely summer morning. Expectations and assumptions can so quickly undermine a potentially lovely experience. I mean… I even know that. It still trips me up more often than I care to count.

I put on some music. Sip my rather delicious iced coffee – I’ve been planning this iced coffee on a hot summer morning for days. Really looking forward to this moment. I made coffee ice cubes to go in it. I sip it thoughtfully, savoring the moment that is, instead of yearning for another. It may not be what I expected, but it’s quite pleasant, and that’s enough. Maybe I’ll finish it on the deck…

My Traveling Partner and I both hurt today. Pain sucks. Aging is a mixed bag of qualities, and pain is just one of many experiences… We both try to avoid taking it personally, or lashing out at each other in a short-tempered moment of our frustration with the limitations of these very human forms. He says “maybe you should just avoid me today” – right about when I was thinking of saying gently that I’d give him some space because I’m hurting that much today. lol It’s generally an exceptional partnership, even when one or both of us is in pain, or just generally not being our best selves, together.

I sip my coffee and reflect. I think about the walk, the summer morning, recalling the sights and scents, and the feel of the air around me.

Just because there’s sunshine where I’m sitting doesn’t mean I’ll find illumination.

I walked, reflected, observed, and gave myself that time I need to spend with the woman in the mirror. It’s good to get perspective. I mean… I find it so, myself. 🙂 I don’t always do a good job of making time for me, and for what I need from and for myself. I could do better there. More practice? Obviously. I know where I’ll start, too; a familiar place.

I am rereading the Four Agreements; a worthy starting point on any journey of self.

Funny thing about The Four Agreements? It was my Traveling Partner who first recommended it to me. Good basic practices to practice that tend to heal a lot of hurts and limit a lot of negative self-talk. That seems so long ago now.

Treating each other well has reliably tended to start with treating myself well, and as it turns out that has nothing whatsoever to do with buying things, and everything to do with reflection, perspective, and practices that build resilience and emotional wellness. Boundary-setting. Testing assumptions. Confirming expectations. Being flexible and adaptable in the face of change. Being there for myself. Being kind, and treating the world as gently as I am able to. Good self-care. Getting enough rest. It’s a lot to juggle, and I suspect that I half-ass a lot of it, just trying to do all of it… but…getting things ‘half right’ or ‘half finished’ is still a more useful result than never making an attempt to be my best self at all. Incremental change over time. I get better at something each time I attempt it… eventually. Learning is a process. Change is often a verb. I keep at it. Incremental change over time requires both time, and increments.

Feeling frustrated and challenged can sometimes mislead me into thinking I haven’t improved – a lot – on a lot of little things that had been far more problematic before this journey began. That’s a shame; it robs me of my chance to celebrate small wins. I think on that while I sip my coffee, gazing into the sunshine beyond the window.

I hear the A/C come on. Then I feel it. I recall the heat of the morning as I walked the wooded trail, and think about the apartment in which my partner and I first began sharing our lives… and that roasting, horribly hot all-drama-all-the-time summer some 11 years ago; no A/C. I feel grateful for the A/C, definitely… but the love matters most. We brought that with us, to this place, across years of shared challenges, growth, change, loving moments, and petty arguments – it’s a very human experience, and it’s hard to imagine spending life differently and still enjoying it as much. I sip my coffee thinking about my partner (my lover, my best friend), and the pain he’s in today. Maybe I’ll bake oatmeal cookies? Would that help? (I don’t know why it would, it just occurred to me to wonder – sometimes I have a mind like a child. LOL)

There’s enough of this coffee left to enjoy a few moments of summer morning on the deck before it gets to hot to enjoy… seems like a good time to begin again. 🙂

I woke to a misty Spring morning. I even slept in. I woke feeling rested, content, and calm. My Traveling Partner woke, expressing similar feelings of rested-ness, and a similar sense of having slept deeply through the night. A pleasant start to a misty Spring morning. The scents of imminent summer mornings are already being carried along on the Spring breezes. Birds are nesting in the trees beyond the deck; it may have been their morning chatter that woke me so gently.

Lovely Spring morning.

My writing cadence is somewhat diminished lately. I’m adjusting to new routines; Spring in this new place, the progressively less restrictive-seeming restrictions of the pandemic, the new job – new work hours, new workload, new expectations in a new work culture – the end result of it all is that there is so much to process, and so little time for living, that I’m just not crowding my writing into that space very often. lol

…Am I “here”? Finally “arrived” at that legendary mythical destination called “happily ever after”?… Um…No.

No. No, I am not “there yet” – because “happily ever after” is more fairytale than possibility. I’m okay with contentment, and joy, and occasional moments of happiness that linger in my recollection. That’s enough to demand of a good life. Certainly, it’s more than I would commonly expect for myself. 🙂

My Traveling Partner and I are both made of pure human. In most my fragile vulnerable emotional moments, my partner can sometimes seem a bit of an insensitive dick. Sometimes (often?) (whether I want it or not) I need his practical refusal to succumb to my emotional weather, although I’d prefer to see his more tender, kinder, more encouraging side (obviously). Realistically, neither of us reliably 100% has our best nature facing our partner when our partner needs it most; we’re each very human. I can be a bit much. I know this about me. I can be emotionally intense. I can be a ceaseless chatterbox. I can be excessively, cryptically, whimsical to a point that I become… hard to understand. It’s a bit as if we share our sense of humor, but occasionally just don’t get a particular joke… Oh, hey, that’s a real thing too, isn’t it? What matters, what works (for us), is that there is bountiful enduring love here; we “get” each other, and we both want to be here (as far as I know… I mean, that’s one of life’s scariest questions, is it not? “Do you really want to be here, with me, as I am, sharing this lifetime, loving me?”).

I’m smiling on a sunny Spring morning, sipping my coffee, writing a few words before I hop in the shower, before a second coffee, before running a couple errands. I think of faraway friends, overdue for an email from me… I’d been writing last weekend, but a sour moment, a wrong note in love’s symphony, put me off writing. I entirely lost interest. I’d been sharing joy, and didn’t care to share sorrows or aggravation. lol Instead, I dove headlong back into sorting things out and loving my partner with my whole being until our momentary sorrows began to ease. Why not? What matters more than love? (Ok, ok, to the practical out there, yes, breathable air, drinkable water, nutrition food, adequate rest… chances are good these things all “matter more” in the most practical way. LOL)

…My Traveling Partner pops into the studio to share a thought, another practical idea to solve a practical concern, and I feel my spirit lift in the way it does when I see him. Good idea, too. 🙂 It makes me eager to begin again. 😀