Archives for posts with tag: stay on the path

What’ll it be? There’s a next step ahead of you, right now… will you take it? Do you have something in mind? Is the future as yet unscripted, unplanned, undecided…? Where are you headed?

The map is yours to write…

So… What’s next? It’s time to choose something – big or small.

Journey

It’s not about how many steps you take, so much as it is about where the journey takes you.

It’s time to begin again. 🙂

3 days, two nights, one purpose, and I return to my apartment by the park with sore feet, aching muscles, stiff joints, and a smile that  won’t quit.

3 mosquito bites, two unexplained bruises, 1 blister over 17 miles of trails, and I shot more than 100 pictures, and spotted a rainbow’s worth of different wildflowers in bloom.

I reached my campsite and set up camp well before dusk settled in, on Wednesday evening. I managed more than 4 miles of hiking that evening, just getting my gear to the hike-in camping area, and exploring the nearest trails after making camp.

A coffee well-earned, an evening of quiet.

It rained most of the night, and I laid wakefully, contentedly listening to the rain fall, more than necessarily pleased that my tent doesn’t leak.

The rain-drenched morning didn’t quench my enthusiasm for the day ahead.

I spent Thursday meditating, after morning coffee and a short hike to stretch my legs, and didn’t do much else. I brought a journal to write in, and a notebook, a sketch pad and colored pencils for drawing, my camera, my kindle… and other than my camera, I didn’t touch any of the distractions I brought along to pass the time; I didn’t need them. Time passed just fine without any help from me. 🙂

Given the necessary conditions, I bloom in my own time. It is often enough to sit quietly and allow the moment to unfold.

I spent Friday hiking, departing fairly early in the morning to walk a new path. The trail I chose was sufficiently challenging to push me, lovely enough to be utterly worth it without any other “reason” to go the whole distance, and totally within my ability. I returned to camp in the afternoon, got my boots off, put my feet up, and made coffee. Out among the trees, coffee doesn’t seem to keep me from sleeping, ever, however late I may be drinking it. I bet there’s something to be learned from that…

Where does my path lead? It’s helpful to have a map, but the map is not the world.

…Instead of learning anything about coffee, though, I learned something different. As campers arrived to fill nearby sites for the weekend, I learned that my needs were met, and that I was “done”. I learned that I didn’t really want to sit through a chilly evening overhearing loud conversations about corporate headaches, challenges with the kids’ teachers, or sports. I learned that I didn’t find value in enduring another camper’s choice to bring a generator into the forest for the weekend.

Ultimately, we each choose our own path…

I learned, this weekend, that it really is quite okay to make my choices my way, without any pressure from my own expectations, or anyone else’s; I broke camp late that afternoon, taking my time, packing up skillfully and efficiently without feeling at all rushed. I packed my gear out of the park (taking the same three trips it took to bring it down to the campsite in the first place), still smiling when the effort was completed. I let the park rangers know I was checking out, so they could release that camp site to another camper – it’s a great spot.

The beauty in the world exists whether or not I choose to observe it. My choice to observe the beauty in the world is necessary only to my own appreciation of it.

I got home before the sun set, unpacked enough gear to begin properly unpacking a bit at a time. First, a leisurely shower. A fresh salad. A hot cup of coffee. A moment to begin the upload of all the photographs. No music. No social media. No TV. Patio door open to the breezes and the sound of birdsong. A quiet evening, alone in the stillness, aside from a few minutes checking in with a friend from next door.

Roses blooming on the patio welcome me home, rain-drenched, fragrant, and lovely.

Yesterday I woke, still feeling fairly wrapped in my own purpose, and disinclined to be particularly social. I wrote a dear friend. I unpacked some things. I meditated. I gardened. It was a chilly gray day, and I enjoyed the morning with a crackling fire in the fireplace – which I might also have done if I had remained out in the trees another day. There seemed no urgency to connect to the digital world with any haste – no one was expecting me to, in any case. (Good expectation-setting for the win!) I watched the birds come and go from the feeder.

It was a lovely day of bird-watching.

Here it is, today. (Isn’t it always? 😉 ) I figured I’d sleep in… I didn’t. I woke with the dawn. I figured I’d move purposefully down a long list of things I’d like to get done… also not happening, at least not so far. I sip my coffee, smiling softly, watching the birds at the feeder with my laptop balanced on my knees, writing from a slightly different perspective – though whether that is a matter of my laptop, a chilly morning, and cold coffee on the patio, or simply that my perspective remains altered by my time out in the trees is neither known, nor relevant to the experience.

What now? Just this. Isn’t it enough? 🙂

A patio with a view.

A good day of house-hunting, yesterday, reminded me that the world is not what I expect, nor does it adhere to my plans, or limit itself to my beliefs or whimsical notions. It is what it is. I can change. I can, perhaps, change the world. The world itself can (will) change – may even choose change – but at all points, in all moments, it (the world) and I (myself) remain entirely precisely what we each actually are (in that moment) without regard to belief.

I am  a practicing non-believer, generally. I prefer my understanding of myself and knowledge of the world be closely tied to what is, and not at all dependent on what I assume, expect, want, pretend, or make up in my head – or what I’m told. It just simplifies things. My only requirements at that point become awareness of the world around me, and acceptance of reality. No “believing” required. (Reality, like science, does not care what I believe.) I see, lately, a rather sad surplus of human primates mis-using the words “think” and “know” as synonymous with “believe”, but I’m on to those verbal shenanigans, and I’m watching for it. Believe what you like. I’ll seek knowledge, and accept that I do not know what I do not know. (Your beliefs can’t really substitute effectively for my knowledge, nor mine for yours. I’ll do my homework.)

The wisest among us know to refrain from supporting decision-making with untested assumptions, magical thinking, and “believing” things without checking them out thoroughly. Strangely, in spite of the modern surplus of data, there is a clear shortage of wisdom in the world. lol

I sip my coffee, watching signs of spring coming, just beyond my studio window. Small brown birds gathering up soft bits of this and that for nests. A large flock of Canada geese strutting and posing on the lawn between the patio and the meadow beyond. Blue sky streaked with indecisive clouds of several sorts, as though the weather for the day is simply not yet decided. Rain spatters the window, but only for a moment. I notice that my coffee has, at some point, gone cold. I’m smiling, nonetheless. Why not?

I think about the houses that I saw yesterday. The one that I “liked” the best was also in pretty bad shape. No… I mean… like, seriously, not good. As in, not fully habitable. At all. The cost to make it a home would be prohibitively high (obvious structural repairs were needed to interior floors, and the roof, every scrap of carpet was so badly damaged and soaked in cat urine that the entire building reeked of it… and so much more!), but I did like the floor plan, very much. I made notes when I got home. I’d almost talked myself out of being mindful of the quantity of obvious deal-breakers, by the time I sat down to consider the day. lol I marked the address in my favorites on a listing website I use, to keep an eye on it… maybe a radical drop in price…? I was stunned to see it updated to a pending offer before I finished dinner. That change didn’t realistically do anything to change that it wasn’t a good choice for me, personally, so it was interesting to observe my emotional landscape shift and change with the new knowledge. I had already formed the belief that “no one would want to undertake all that, even at that price” and already developed an expectation in my thinking that it “might still be available months from now, at a reduced price”. LOL Silly primate. No means no.

I looked at a house that was well-kept, clean, cosmetically very pleasant, in a nice seeming neighborhood, a reasonable commute to work, and move-in ready… It was also at the top of my price range, and on the small side of what I am looking for – and didn’t actually meet most of my significant needs, carefully listed and carried with me. It was just the only house I looked at that I could envision living in, myself, fairly contentedly… and that was the case primarily because it was clean, well-cared for, and vacant. Those characteristics aren’t really the ones that meet long-term needs for quality of life, and being at the top of my price range just as it was, it would have been unaffordable to improve it. Another set of pitfalls avoided. I remember thinking “this is hard!”

I looked at a house that had many of the characteristics that would meet my needs over time – and even those of my Traveling Partner at any point he might choose to be staying with me. It was occupied, which for me complicates looking at it; I struggle to filter out the experience of the resident, and their use of the space. I do my best, and it is a learning process, and there is a lot going for this one, I think to myself… and begin to observe the process of my brain working to talk me into or out of it. The house is on the corner of a very busy major street, across from a brightly lit car dealership, next door to a very large multi-family complex that is noisy, and littered. Could I “make it work”? Probably, but the location is both less-than-ideal and also manages to be inconvenient to shopping and services I would, myself, need. How long would it take before my PTSD and noise-sensitivity resulted in feeling unsafe, or uncomfortable? It’s not the one, either.

There was a very cute older place, well-cared for, and fairly fancy for its time – lots of well-crafted built-ins. It was an “open house” and there was a lot of interest in the wee charming move-in ready house. The rooms were small to the point of feeling claustrophobic, and the basement stairs were the deal breaker for me, with tread so narrow it was necessary to turn sort of sideways to safely go down into the finished basement. The ceiling in the basement was so low I had to stoop in places – and I’m only 5’5″-ish. Uncomfortable, and the safety hazards revealed themselves quite quickly; my realtor hit his head going back upstairs, and I stumbled on the narrow tread, causing me to also notice the utter lack of bannister or rail. A bannister or safety rail is an easy addition… but the concrete stairs with narrow tread? No way. Shivers ran up and down my spine when I considered the risk of falling down those stairs and hitting my head.

I could have tried to talk myself into any one of them, I suppose. I choose, instead, patience and learning. Instead of investing in the belief that I must choose one as soon as possible and settle for all of the compromises on all of the characteristics I would want to build a home upon, I continue to study what matters most to me, building by building. Belief is pretty easy; someone says something with conviction, and I then accept the words as true, and build on that. No homework required. Learning requires more effort, more cognitive strain, more moments confronting the human being in the mirror and demanding a reality check; it’s uncomfortable. I’m okay with that. Non-belief is also a practice. 😉

I didn’t find a house I would want to call my own yesterday. I’m okay with that. I’ll begin again. This too is part of the journey.  🙂

I didn’t sleep last night. I’m not sure why. It probably doesn’t matter. The night didn’t seem long, and it wasn’t at all stressful, I just wasn’t sleeping most of the night. I don’t recall being aware of, or concerned about, the passage of time… perhaps I slept and merely dreamed that I was awake? I’m groggy this morning, tending to support my perception of poor quality sleep in limited quantity. Spelling mistakes are more common. My head aches. My eyes feel sticky. I’m not at all cross, yet, but hey – the day is young. I laugh out loud and startle myself with the harsh edge to the sound of it. Hmm… a good day to take care of this fragile vessel.

Sunrise. A chance to begin again, every time.

Sunrise. A chance to begin again, every time.

I cool the apartment while the morning temperatures are low. I sip my coffee. I catch up my email, and follow up on job search tasks. It’s all very organized and systematic, which is almost irrelevant most days of late, these are qualities I am relying on this morning to get me through the day. I find myself easily distracted and a little out of sorts over the practical matter of squinting at my monitor. I notice again that I am overdue for new glasses, and my prescription lens’ clearly need to be somewhat different than they are. The sunshine pours in over the windowsill, spilling across my fingers and the backs of my hands like some exotic liquid. My years are more obvious in the unforgivingly revealing summer sunshine. I smile. These are my hands. They have served me well all these years. It’s quite okay that the years show a bit. I’ve worked hard to get here.

My thoughts are fractured and inefficient. The lack of sleep matters more than I want it to. I find myself struggling to remember something (is it a real something, or have I imagined it?) that I had wanted to do today, or wanted to plan today for some other day, or…something. Perhaps I’ve only imagined it? Perhaps I am thinking of something already planned, now, and confused myself thinking there remains some detail to be planned? Perhaps it is something important – isn’t that the fear? That I’ve forgotten something important? Doesn’t change how the forgetting feels… This vague sense of something missing lingers. lol Perhaps a walk in the early morning sunshine will clear my head, and wake me up? I smile when I notice the time; I am ‘right on schedule’ for my morning walk. Funny how our ‘sense of things’ can so easily sync up with things like time of day, day of week, or seasons… It feels very natural to be preparing to walk right now.

I enjoy living life more or less  unscripted these days. It’s nice to know I can fall back on a  handful of good habits to ‘keep me on the path’, when I am tired, or rushed, or feeling disorganized.

Was it an email I wanted to write, or…? Damn it. I’m still stuck on whatever it is I feel I am forgetting. lol Today is a good day to let it go, and be mindful and present in this moment. I think I’ll do that. 🙂

This morning I woke up crying. And in pain, but the pain is an everyday thing, waking up broken and emotional less so. This morning I woke up on the dark side of the bed, clumsy, hurting, and weeping. I initially tried a ‘reset’, took my morning medication and had a glass of water, went back to bed. Not helping. The tears become sobbing. Why am I crying? Is it only the pain? Nightmares? I slept well and deeply, and don’t recall my dreams… My brain carpet bombs my heart with every misstep, every failure, every scrap of potential risk in my near future, all my doubts, my fears, my insecurities – I’m drowning in panic. What the fuck is going on?? I stop caring much about any of that at some point and just give in to the sorrow, the dread, and the tears.

…Clearly, I was not going back to sleep. I get up. I make coffee. I open the apartment to the cool morning air. I am so overcome by restlessness and anxiety that meditation is difficult. I pace a bit. I’ve barely been up half an hour; yoga is difficult this morning and I am too stiff and too clumsy for now. No relief. No ease. The tears start again. My own words are attacking me, becoming water leaking from my eyes as soon as they form sentences in my head. The layered meanings of English words become enemies, and I hear only darkness and despair in the most beautiful poetry. I feel sad and lost – and can’t bear to put it into words. Fuck this… But now what?

I finally reach for my coffee and take a sip. Well. There’s one bright spot in a difficult morning – my coffee is excellent. It’s something – and I grab onto the moment and hold on. It’s still very early – earlier than I’ve been getting up most of this week. The sun has not yet risen, and I can see the colors of the sunrise just beyond the window of this room.

My brain sucker punches me again, when I try to write “just beyond the window of my studio”, and I start weeping all over again. How fragile happiness can seem when it slips away. “This is temporary, and it will pass.” I remind myself. I remind myself, again. Uncertain what is causing this emotional experience, even now, I go through the motions of any small thing that I know has the potential to be comforting, soothing, balancing… things that provide perspective, that ease emotional pain, that tend to support long-term wellness. I keep waiting for something to work. “Be kind to yourself, it’s a very human experience.” Yes, isn’t it? I feel rather as if I am… grieving.

I’m in pain this morning. I read my traveling partner’s well-wishes of the night before, hoping that I rest well and wake without pain. Well… 1 out of 2. It’s a start. Is this all just pain? If I start root-causing it now, I’ll likely be trapped ruminating over this all day without really getting anywhere. I woke up crying. I sure did. Now I work on pulling my focus away from it, and practicing practices that nudge me a different direction a bit at a time. The sun rises, peach and orange along the tree tops, dissipating into a pale cerulean blue wash of sky above. I watch the sun rise, and listen to the birds singing their morning songs. Today is not a work day, and clearly I need to take care of the woman in the mirror – once I figure out what this mad bitch actually needs to ease her hurts. Fuck this is hard sometimes.

My coffee is fucking good though. That’s something.

I take a really good deep breath. I observe my posture, and how tight my chest feels. I take a moment to stretch, really stretch, and breathe, really really breathe. More tears. Fuck it – let them come. I slowly ease myself through my ‘stiff back morning yoga sequence’, cutting myself some slack that it is so difficult today, and just doing it. Slowly. Try again when I can’t quite do some simple posture. I’ll get there. I remind myself that today will be a good day to meditate. I feel no enthusiasm for it. I’ve lost my joy for the moment – but chasing it is an exercise in frustration. The word frustration causes more tears; words are often associated with a visceral reaction for me, inconveniently. I remind myself that the tears are not my enemy, just another way to communicate an experience – a way that is very hard to shut down without actually addressing whatever the fuck is the matter. I let the tears come.

Okay, I’m done fucking around with this – and I need to break the cycle. Well – it feels like a need, and that’s enough to drive desperate action in human primates. So… I take a step I might ordinarily avoid, and I head to the internet. No, seriously, totally where I’m heading. Perspective is a powerful tool, and right now I’ve lost mine. I feel deeply aggrieved about… nothing, and it’s really messing up my ability to be in this moment and also okay – and I can’t identify any reason this would be the case. So. Perspective is on the internet. There is war. There is a refugee crisis. There is poverty. I let the tears continue, and I look on the face of the world’s suffering – because there are things worth crying about. There are people suffering, really suffering. I’m not among them. This is emotional bullshit I’m struggling with, and I can at least stop fucking struggling with it, and just be.

My tears stop. My heart aches for the suffering of others, and I feel grateful to be where I am, in the circumstances I have right now. I pause to reflect on what is, without burdening myself over whether it will last, or what ‘forever’ looks like, or whether this is enough. The sun clears the trees and fills my studio with light. Well… it’s not ‘enlightenment’ in any meaningful way, but it’s a start.

I’ll say that as practices go, diminishing the magnitude of my own suffering by immersing myself in the suffering of others (compassionately) in order to gain perspective is a fairly aggressive approach to take with myself when I am hurting – but it is often an effective tool. Compassion and gratitude don’t leave much room for despair, for anxiety, for sorrow, and tend to crowd out the chaos and damage, and the voices of the demon chorus.  (Note: I have found that it is not at all effective to attempt to take this approach with someone else when they are suffering – it’s sort of a ‘self serve’ tool, at best.) I’m not necessarily less angst-y, or feeling any less pain, but things being relative… yeah. I’m okay right now.

My coffee is quite exceptional this morning, and admittedly more so because I’d been getting by on the last of the pre-ground packaged coffee from the grocery store, left over from the trip to the coast for two days. The whole-bean artisan-roasted coffee this morning is a very different experience. I take a moment to allow myself to be comfortably aware that “this too shall pass”, that circumstances change, and that I may not ‘have it so good’ at some future point; change is. I am here right now, though, and it is enough. 🙂

A lot of the time I’ve spent bitching about how awful things were in that moment would likely have been much more enjoyable had I been focused on how exceptional other details of that moment happened to be. It’s just true. Hard, sometimes. Still true. My tears have dried. The day looks like a lovely one. The air is fresh and cool, and filled with birdsong. I am in a quiet safe space, with the day ahead of me. The pantry is stocked. The bills are paid. I head for my meditation cushion…

…I am okay right now. It’s enough.