Archives for posts with tag: SuperBetter

…More practice. You knew I was going there, right? I suspect I am fairly predictable about this topic. There’s just one hitch; it’s all a bit like a game, in some respects, and we’re dealt some cards, given some pieces, or exist with some details of who we are/what’s going on, and the practice is what we do ‘on our turn’. We still each start somewhere. I’ve been a fan (and Hero) playing SuperBetter for awhile. Jane McGonigal’s book, just published, arrived last week. Like any tool, or any practice, there are verbs involved – but it is a fantastically fun, helpful, and supporting way to build a practice, and take a journey toward a goal. Better still, however many times I set one practice or another aside, it’s there for me to resume when I choose to; I can begin again.

I can’t quite pinpoint the ‘true starting point’ of this journey, anymore. Did it begin with a game at the dinner table with my traveling partner, and the many tears that followed that moment? Not really – I was already going somewhere with myself. Maybe it started with the break up of the previous 15-year-long relationship? No, I definitely felt I was ‘on a journey’ before that moment, too. It wasn’t when I turned 40…but it may have been shortly afterward…or shortly before… it matters what I count as revealing, and instructive. It matters what I choose to include as being worthy of the journey I am now on. Any starting point I choose from the past tends to look worthy of calling ‘the beginning of this journey’ if I open my heart to accepting that have I faltered many times along the way… and when I do that, I have to wonder if perhaps I have always been on this journey, and perhaps it is so much less significant and grandiose than I want such a profound thing to be – Is it simply that I am living my life? Starting moments, ending moments, moments of great change, moments of ennui or confusion… one being, one woman, one journey, continuous change on a journey of self-discovery?

Is there any need to deny myself the experienced profundity of the journey I am on in this time, to accept that the journey is, and has been, ongoing “all along”? Thoughts over coffee, on a lovely morning; every day starts somewhere.

With autumn comes pain.

With autumn comes pain.

This morning, the journey of this one day of many begins with pain, rather a lot of it, and I’ve done what I can to put my attention on other things, having taken steps to ease the pain, itself. Giving it a lot of direct attention makes it more prominent in my experience, and although turning my consciousness to other things doesn’t reduce, eliminate, or ease the pain in any direct way, it at least distracts me from it in some moments. Not this moment. This moment I am writing about pain, because pain is where I am. Do me just one favor today? When you find yourself confronted with elders moving slowly, or awkwardly, take just a moment to understand that they do so because they are in pain – the sort of every moment of every day pain that if you ask them about it they may answer that they are not in pain – not because they don’t hurt at all, but because they don’t hurt more than that. It sucks, and I find myself reluctantly facing far greater awareness of all those moments in all those younger years when my impatience with the slow movement of elders frustrated me excessively, and wishing I could go back in time and if not be helpful, at least not be such an impatient dick about it.

I’d like very much to move quickly through my morning, myself, with easy efficient movement – and that isn’t an option on my menu this morning. “Choosing not to hurt” amounts to taking carefully timed pain medication, practicing yoga, and yes – just being patient with myself early in the morning, before the yoga, and before the medication kicks in. Right now? I can barely move without grabbing something else to give me leverage, pulling myself upright, supporting myself for balance if I have to lean over or down, and all of it hurts. Mornings like this one are best when I think to slow way down first thing, and be extra patient with myself, letting yoga begin with the natural movements needed to get out of bed in the first place, and stretching my muscles slowly, unfolding my spine from unknown sleep postures into something more vertical and aligned before I even take a step…my bladder does not always cooperate with that idealized version of getting up in the morning…sometimes my lack of executive function on waking results in nothing at all like a morning ‘routine’ and I lurch around the apartment awkwardly before I remember to slow down and take care of this fragile vessel.  This morning I am getting a taste of what my old age might really hold for me, at least with regard to my arthritis, my mobility, and my experience of pain and movement. Taking care of me and practicing good practices to nurture the wellness of this fragile vessel seem incredibly important – a time machine would be nice right about now; I would try to persuade a younger me to take better care, sooner.

Would I really go back in time and risk changing who I am now? That’s an interesting question for another day.

Today is a good day to practice the very best self-care. Today is a good day to be aware that the people ‘in my way’ are indeed people, and they are having their own experience; kindness is free, and I can’t know someone else’s pain. Today is a good day to change the world.

 

Disclaimer: This post is about emotions. I sometimes work through them more easily with words, in text, that I can see reflecting the experience back at me. It is a way of getting perspective. This post, though, may be a downer – I say that before I even write it, because I am having my own experience, and I feel what I feel in this moment. I am so very human. So…do yourself a huge favor, take a moment for ‘informed consent’; if you are in a place emotionally where someone else’s pain and struggling may wound you, throw off a good vibe you are enjoying, or change your experience for the worse, I recommend skipping this one. Hey, if nothing else, the writing is likely to be of poor quality, and angst-y, and rife with spelling errors and weird grammar fails – who needs that on a Friday morning? I’ll understand, I promise.

Still here? Okay…

Some other morning, a coffee.

Some other morning, a coffee.

I woke crying this morning. I fell asleep crying last night. In between, I found myself ambushed by Demons in The Nightmare City. This is not an emotional space I want to occupy. I am frustrated by my lack of resilience, my lack of emotional regulation, and my lack of perspective. I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel resentful and let down. I feel. Yeah. I definitely feel. I feel mistreated, and mislead. I feel set up and I feel sabotaged. I feel hurt.

“That’s a whole lot of feelings there, lady, what gives?” I’m a human primate. I am an emotional being more than a rational one – it’s a balance. Today it isn’t balancing as well as I’d like. Stress kicks my ass, being hurt kicks my ass, abrupt change kicks my ass – and it takes me a little time to recover, even with some support. Emotions are not criminal actions. Assaulting people with them is, I hear, avoidable. That sounds like fine thing to me, and I turned the little sign on my door this morning to ‘do not disturb’, meditated a while, had a shower, meditated some more… I still don’t want to be as disturbed as I feel, right now. The sign didn’t do much to help with the feelings, but by design it may prevent anyone else from walking through the mess I woke to, within, this morning.

Meditation, mindfulness practices, good basic self-care are all going a long way to improve my experience of me, very nicely. I feel a momentary hurt, recalling with sadness how quickly encouragement turned to criticism, a few months after I began this journey. I was taking a moment to feel proud of my progress, and I was feeling pretty impressed with new tools and practices being effective at helping me on a level nothing else ever had… I got called ‘smug’. I was incredibly hurt. Admittedly, I had been foolishly trying to explain or share the experience with someone else… maybe they hadn’t asked? (I suck at that – put a person in front of me and I will probably just start talking. Are you aware that your executive function manages that for you?) It hurt, nonetheless, and since then I am self-conscious about feeling encouraged by progress, and reluctant to share positive feelings about it in conversations. (Sticks and stones? Fuck right off; words matter.)

I feel confused. “Emptied out”. I feel overburdened by unmet emotional needs piling up over time. I feel like I am not making the progress I could be, right now. It’ll be okay, I think – I hold on to that tightly. I’ve got the hotline number in my pocket, just in case it gets too hard.  I lost a beautiful niece to suicide this year, and I see how it hurts my cousin every day she is without her daughter; I won’t put my traveling partner through that, and I can take the steps to avoid it. Despair is a motherfucker – it is part of our human experience.

...and another...

…and another…

I can’t be certain that the intensity of my emotions this morning reflects something ‘real’ or necessary; they are only emotions. For all I know, this is a 100% bio-chemical experience with no grounding in events or experience. Does that matter in the moment? Well, sure. It matters the way anything true ‘matters’. One true thing is that my emotions are this intense, and unpredictably so. Another true thing is that my emotions, and lack of top-down control, are incredibly uncomfortable for some people to live with. (I don’t get a choice, myself; this is my experience and I live it.) Unfortunately, in a live and unscripted real-life environment, I also don’t get much compassion specific to the ‘invisible’ issues associated with my TBI or PTSD. I rarely fight for it; if it isn’t there to be offered, begging for it, pleading for it or wishing it were there will not make it appear. Compassion can be taught – but that phenomenon also requires an active learner. Change is, but forcing it on someone isn’t appropriate – and generally isn’t effective.

My traveling partner encourages and supports me – he frankly provides a level of emotional support that I can only describe as ‘super human’ – but the environment in the household, generally, is unhealthy for me. I feel aggravated and moody about looking for a place of my own, because I’d honestly prefer to continue living with my traveling partner – he’s wonderful to live with [for me]. I am painfully aware, though, that living with me can be hard on him. Right now so much of what I am working through touches on sexuality, gender, individual identity, boundary setting/management, and relationships with others that it’s harder to treat each other gently in moments when we need it most from each other. So…yeah. I need to be on my own a while – not a break up, not even a separation, just a different living arrangement. It still sucks to hurt over it. I hope by day’s end I am embracing it in good spirits.

I leave other household members out of this, generally; I am writing about my own experience and the other people in it are entitled to be free of public scrutiny of their values and choices filtered through my chaos and damage. But…I am not willing to continue to over-compromise my needs, or undercut my values to keep peace, and the time I spend in the arms of my loves is too precious to taint it with OPD, or games. As a population of individuals, we don’t want or need the same things, and at 52 I have no time to waste on fighting to get the most basic emotional needs met; we are not all equally committed to that endeavor. I don’t yet have the emotional resilience to hold enough in reserve to continue to take care of me when common place bullshit goes sideways, and often find myself without any emotional reserves left to care for me, myself, by the time I have a moment to do so. I feel positive about the choice to get my own place…and for the moment, sad that it is necessary at all.

You know what I don’t feel? I don’t feel guilt or shame over the choice to move out, it needs to happen; I don’t thrive in an environment in which my emotional quality of life is poor. Hell, right now in this moment… I’m okay. (Thanks, Dearheart!) My tears have dried. I’m not feeling social, but I’m not enthralled by Demons in The Nightmare City.  (If I knew that I would have the kind of nightmares that I had last night, in nights to come, I’d never sleep again.) I don’t have the headache that followed me around all day yesterday, which is a huge improvement.  My coffee tastes good – I feel a pang of sadness sweep over me when I realize I won’t have an espresso machine in my kitchen for some time to come after I move; it will be a frugal lifestyle, focused on painting, meditation, and love. Wow. Suddenly that sounds fucking amazing – and all over again I wonder why this hurts at all. I enjoy solitude. I dislike drama. I have musical and culinary tastes that are not shared in the household at large… and I miss a good French press in the morning; it’s a lovely ritual to prepare coffee that way, time it carefully, enjoy the outcome at leisure… I miss living a gentle life. (The most humorous thing about that is how little time I have ever spent living that kind of exceptional quality of life – across years and relationships, I can’t really pin down more than a total of about 18 months that qualify as ‘gentle living’ in 52 years!

I’ve already found my way to a better place. It’s nice. No rushing, either; I’ve made changes to my schedule, effective this week, intended to dial down some of the fatigue-related stress, and don’t have to rush off so soon on Friday mornings. Have you actually read this far? Are you okay? Thank you for being interested, curious, or concerned enough to come all this way with me – whether just this morning, or over these past couple years. I appreciate it. You help me feel heard.

Yeah. Some days, the nightmares win. Today they didn’t. 🙂

Because love matters more. "Emotion and Reason" 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

Because love matters more.
“Emotion and Reason” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

Today is a good day to put down some baggage. Today is a good day to practice good self-care. Today is a good day for self-compassion – first, not last. Today is a good day to enjoy this amazing woman I am becoming without competition, dread, or games. Today is a good day to treat others well, and understand that they are walking their own path; their story, and experience, are not mine to endure, to manage, or to criticize – and participation is a choice.

Like anything else, love tends to be imperfect, and there are moments less worthy of celebration than others: misunderstandings that cause hurt feelings, the human failings and small shortcomings that lead to inevitable disappointments small and large, and the effects of change and the passage of time having their say in matters of love, too.

One perspective on home.

One perspective on home.

I’m back from my trip out to the trees, and I am thinking about love, and the things about love that move me most, that matter most, and that nurture me in solitary moments. I am struggling a lot, lately, with attachment. The challenges pile up, tangential to each other, complicating progress like trying to wind sticky yarn into an orderly ball in a strong breeze; I feel frustrated and dissatisfied. Some of the questions feel angrier than usual, and perspective, compassion and understanding compete with resentment and discontent – emotions all vying for the attention of this broken brain; whatever shouts loudest, first, will likely be the thing expressed, however poorly, and however low on my list of real priorities. That, too, frustrates me.

Not this way...

Not this way…

Moments like this it’s too easy to drown in discontent, to bring the focus to what isn’t, to what was, to what I yearn for and don’t have. I haven’t had much success with changing that; loss hurts. One healthier practice I practice when I’m struggling with attachment and feeling resentful or discontent is to take time to consider, instead, the things I very much enjoy and value in my experience that exist and are real – even things I’m not so fortunate as to enjoy regularly (or at all, let’s be honest; there are times of plenty and times of famine) – because putting the focus on the joy, itself, rather than the momentary or immediate lack of it, does make a difference in my perspective in general. It’s worth the discipline – and there are verbs involved – because if nothing else, it just feels better to contemplate, and savor, the beautiful experiences life offers more than it does to allow myself to become mired in the sorrow and heartache of regret. Enjoying the recollection of the things I like about love is a handy rope ladder I can throw to myself…

…Sometimes I need the help.

The path isn't always well-marked...

The path isn’t always well-marked…

You know what I like about love? Tenderness. I like tender words spoken softly, almost in secret, in my ear unexpectedly. I like the feather soft touch of a lover brushing my hair from my face while looking into my eyes. I like little moments of gentle touch, here and there, in passing, in the hallway, in the kitchen, the unexpected embrace, the sense that love is so urgent that not another moment could pass without touching. I like passion; I most enjoy the passion of reciprocal sexual love, body against body, seeing into each other’s hearts, feeling touch and feeling touched in shared moments, electric, intimate, raw. I like romance, flirtatious, playful, rambunctious, mysterious, and enduring. I like looking into a lovers sleepy eyes as we wake together, realizing that we fell asleep together, unplanned, cuddled like puppies, exhausted from friendly adult play. I like cooking together, and laughing about calories. I like deep conversation, mind to mind, sharing intellectual fervor – and emotional vulnerability, looking for understanding instead of righteousness. I like engagement – heart to heart, sharing personal moments, important memories, things that matter – and things that don’t. I like sharing laughter – laughing with a lover feels better than any other laughter, ever. I like slow lingering intimate moments after sex, when just being, and breathing in the same space is the only ‘I love you’ anyone needs to hear. I like the touches that lead to sex; too exciting for words, communicating so much more than words can. I like that breath-taking moment in a lover’s arms when it is clear that it is the only place in that moment that any of us need to be.

It's worth enjoying the best the journey has to offer, no matter the weather.

It’s worth enjoying the best the journey has to offer, no matter the weather.

Today is a good day to love, and to enjoy what love offers now. Today is a good day to invest in love, by taking time to appreciate, savor, and value all that it means to me to love, over time.

 

I’m still sick. I’m taking advantage of the weekend to take care of my health. I have no other plans today. I am still hopeful that I’ll be over this in time for my camping trip in a few days…if not, I’ll have to decide whether to cancel or just go and tough it out – maybe find out just exactly what I’m made of under even more trying conditions.

I giggle at myself thinking about my middle-aged, suburbanite, white-collar self considering a few days of camping in a state park very near to home to anything like ‘trying conditions’ or a test of endurance of any sort. Somewhere in the distance of time long past, a much younger, more rugged me looks on with some measure of friendly disdain – not meaning to be mean, but me then was just not that patient with people’s notions. lol

Not quite wilderness close to home.

Not quite wilderness close to home.

So sure, today I am putting me first, but that’s not the point of the title at all. “Me First” is a practice, and it’s one that I am currently turning over in my head to add to my SuperBetter  game; I haven’t decided if it serves best as a ‘Quest’ or a ‘Power Up’. Over my morning coffee, I answer some basic questions for myself, such as ‘is this something I do for a course correction, or an emotional boost, or is it something I need to practice, reach for as a goal, and strive to achieve?’ and ‘is this an experience?’ and ‘can I put a face to it?’ Most of my ‘Bad Guys’ are issues and challenges (personal demons) that I can easily ‘face’ more effectively if they wear actual faces. lol

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

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

My “Me First” practice is a cognitive tool to improve emotional resilience by building a sense of perspective, improving my ability to respond to others with compassion, and to foster quick recognition of shared human experience, when I may be inclined to react in a judgmental way, or feeling resentful. “Me First” is simply the practice of observing the judgment or resentment with a high level of honesty and acceptance, and mindful awareness of how I, myself, experience a similar circumstance ‘if the shoe were on the other foot’. I put myself in the other person’s experience very deliberately, and challenge myself to understand how it may be something we have in common, and how human it is. Before I start emotionally or intellectually ‘stoning’ someone, I practice looking to myself – is there really room to criticize? (There rarely is.) Is there room for compassion, encouragement, a moment of humor or Schadenfreude? (There usually is.) Instead of being critical – and understanding that criticism is generally a poorly worded request for change – is there something I can do meet my own needs more simply (like making a clear and gentle request for change)? Can I apply that understanding and perspective to this other human being and possibly do something to meet their needs? That’s the lovely thing about my “Me First” practice – it’s not ‘me first over and above whatever you need, and go fuck yourself for your trouble’, not at all; it’s ‘let me take care of me first, work out some of these issues I’ve obviously got, get my head right and see what we can do together, to meet shared needs, and understand each other’.  Before I criticize someone else, I launch this practice and I check myself – and use the object lesson to work on me, first – because realistically, I don’t actually get to work on anyone else. None of us do. Not really – and attempting to take that power of self management, and autonomy away from someone with criticism, judgmental remarks, or intimidation and controlling behaviors is in a category of ‘bad acts’ I consider emotionally abusive. I definitely don’t want to be doing something to other people that I consider abuse.

What a wonderful thing – you get to make all your own choices about these things, yourself, and my notions of what is or is not abusive doesn’t dictate your choices! Fantastic! Ideally, it’s all sort of self-adjusting, isn’t it? If we treat someone poorly, or abuse them (physically or emotionally), surely they don’t stick around for that, and we find ourselves bereft and alone, as we would surely deserve for our bad acts…right? Well, not always, and sometimes tragically so. Learning not to stick around for more abuse is one of the things I work on, myself. It’s not always easy. My sense of loyalty is far more well-developed than my sense of when I may be over-compromising my values, or allowing myself to be mistreated emotionally. As a younger woman, some portion of my identity was wrapped up in whether my relationships ‘succeeded’, but the definition of success wasn’t my own, and I stuck around for some heinous shit. We are each having our own experience, too. What injures me, or hits damaged bits related to my PTSD, or may be of more concern because of my TBI, may not at all be what hurts you as an individual. (Clearly there are some experiences that could universally be recognized as abuse, but this is not about that.)

Learning good self-care, for me, also means learning to recognize when I am treated well, when I am treated poorly – and what amount of poor treatment is unacceptable, rather than an incidental and unintended by product of someone’s humanity. So I practice treating myself well, and I also practice treating others well; because I am not a blameless victim in my experience of life – I am living it, and I too make poor choices, or fall short of ideals, or ‘drop the ball in the big game’. I’m very human. I honestly don’t find it acceptable to criticize someone for issues I have myself, things I am also prone to do, or stuff that’s just shared human experience needing to be managed or learned from; so I am practicing doing something differently, and walking my own path to be the woman I most want to be, myself, on my own terms.

We each walk our own path, paved with our own choices.

We each walk our own path, paved with our own choices.

I’m also not smug about this stuff, and I struggle. These are my challenges, more than my triumphs, and I have more questions than answers. You’re welcome to take whatever value you find in my words; your results may vary. There are verbs involved. 🙂

I tried learning to treat others well, without taking care of me, without addressing my own needs first, without really putting in the time to learn what treating others well really meant. It was not an effective effort.  I don’t find attempting to care for me to the exclusion of treating others well to be a good fit; it nearly always feels like I am treating people poorly as a default decision. Balance wins again, and perspective; treating myself well matters a lot, and treating others well isn’t even truly possible to do with skill if I don’t start with me…but putting myself first by taking good treatment away from others turns out not to be very good self-care at all. It’s quite an interesting puzzle.  I found the realization that ‘good treatment’ is defined by the person experiencing it, rather than the person taking the action being experienced, very valuable; it’s not about the intention of the person delivering the words or behaviors at all, and that’s important to understand.

Endure the journey, or embrace it, this choice, too, is yours.

Endure the journey, or embrace it, this choice, too, is yours.

I am sick today, and it’s raining; today is a good day for puzzles. Today is a good day for first-rate self-care. Today is a good day to treat the hearts of others just as well as I treat my own – knowing that I treat my own heart very well indeed, well… practicing the practices, at least. There’s still a journey ahead. 🙂

This morning I woke with anxiety riding shotgun. I woke early, and abruptly, feeling unable to take a breath. In the face of imminent panic, I managed to grab hold of the nearest practice – in this case, simply breathing – and focused on that, instead of the anxiety.

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

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

With the first deep breath, in and then slowly out, I observed the quiet environment, and the lack of immediate threats to my safety or wellness.

With the second, I observed my own body and state of being, finding and gently letting go of tension, then self-soothing by improving my posture, and comforting myself with reminders to be present, now, and letting the safety and comfort of the moment soak into my awareness more fully.

With the third breath I acknowledged Anxiety traveling with me this morning, and instead of panic, I gave myself a mental pat on the back for dealing with her – and my PTSD – so well these past couple days.  I took a moment to refresh my understanding that my TBI sometimes prevents my chemistry from appropriately returning to baseline because the inhibition/disinhibition circuitry – and other executive functions – are impaired; this too will pass, but it may take longer than I’d like, and I’ll probably have to help it along.

By the time I complete 5 deep cleansing breaths, my heart stopped pounding, and the surreal terror eased. Was it something in my dreams that woke me so badly? It hardly matters. I am okay, and a new day is beginning. I anticipate the anxiety may come and go today, as it eases over hours without new stimuli. I smile realizing that it feels almost natural… almost easy… to take care of me in the face of my anxiety. It is quite deliberate, very structured, almost ritualistic, extremely practiced, and in no way ‘natural’ or ‘easy’ – but it is lovely that it feels that it easy, and that’s more than enough to bring a smile to my face, this morning as I sit with my coffee, quite alone, and recognizing anxiety as merely an emotion, rather than envisioning it as some powerful super-being capable of destroying worlds.

The tools and practices I have invested so much time and study in really do make a difference. Using SuperBetter regularly helps me stay focused on practicing good self-care practices, and reminds me of all the variety there is in self-care tools and skills, and in creative ways to break problem patterns of thinking and behavior. Directing entertainment consumption towards the educational (TED Talks, SciShow…) has proven helpful, too; the brain is a sort of ‘use it or lose it’ tool, itself, and the sharpest elders I know are people who continue learning well into their elder years as a lifelong passion.

…And then there’s love.  I don’t want to overlook or underestimate the value of supportive relationships, emotional nurturing by loved ones, the comfort in someone listening, or the emotional safety in being accepted and loved – exactly as I am.  Being loved is a bit like buried pirate treasure, though; even though I suspected it might be ‘out there’, and even with a map that had a spot marked ‘X’ to point the way, it took some searching and some persistence, mostly because I did not understand that the love I most yearned for above all others needed to come from me, and until I found my way to that safe haven, no searching would ever turn up the pirate treasure of romantic love in the arms of another (because, even if someone loved me that much, in that way, I would struggle to recognize and feel it, having no similar feeling about myself).

It’s a lovely morning, and a good day to tell anxiety to take a hike – I will choose, instead, to walk with love, deliberately and willfully. Today is a good day to practice good practices, and to take care of me. Today is a good day to enjoy what works, and improve on what doesn’t work so well. Today is a good day to change the way I deal with my world.