Archives for posts with tag: The Art of Being

I’m sipping my coffee and reminding myself – again – to stop picking at my cuticles. It’s more like a “tic” than a “habit”, and it comes and goes with my background anxiety or general level of stress. I’m less than ideally skilled at managing it. I sigh out loud and begin typing. I know that I can’t pick at my cuticles while also typing…so… there’s that. Helpful.

A glance at the news doesn’t need to go any deeper than headlines. Click-bait-y or not, the news in the world is pretty grim. Earthquakes. Murder. War. Femicide. Sexism. Racism. Xenophobia. Greed. Human primates are a fucking dumpster fire of mistreatment and poor decision-making. It’s ugly out there. I feel “the weight of the world” as a big disappointing bummer. A metaphorical weight holding me down. Bleh.

I feel, momentarily, that I have little power to change the world. I guess that’s mostly pretty true… another sip of my coffee. I think about the coffee itself. Where it likely comes from, far away, in a hotter climate, and likely the product of a great deal of back-breaking manual labor that was not well-compensated. I frown at my coffee. At the world. We could do better. Every fucking one of us, most likely. Me too. You too. All of us.

Another sigh. Another sip of coffee. A glance at my work calendar for today. I’m feeling low and unmotivated. My dreams were troubled and my sleep was restless. If it weren’t a work day, I’d maybe just go back to bed and hope to wake in a different place, emotionally. So much less work involved than trying to sort myself out in this moment.

…”Do better.” I remind myself…

I take a breath. Take a break. Walk around the block feeling the cold morning air on my face. Funny – I don’t recall ever needing to take a break while I was writing in the morning, before. Strange. It’s not about the writing. It’s about the human being doing the writing (clearly). I take a minute to think about things that make me feel good. I think about love. I think about my Traveling Partner sleeping at home. I think about sunshine, Spring, and meadows covered in flowers. I think about forested trails and the sound of a creek flowing beneath a bridge. I think about rain showers and days at the beach. I think about quiet afternoons with a good book. I think about the many beautiful miles I have walked in a lifetime, and how many more miles there are to walk that I’ve never yet set foot upon. I think about the beautiful things my Traveling Partner has made for me (or us) since we moved here to this little house. I think about his smile and his laughter. I think about the warmth of his embrace and the way he misses me when I’m not with him. I think about the first time I ever heard The Sultans of Swing on the radio. I think about my first set of oil paints, my first really good brushes, my first easel. I think about the roses in my garden, and my plans for Spring this year.

…There’s more good than bad, more delightful moments than unpleasant ones, in this one life of mine. I’m fortunate. Trauma has left some scars, and imprinted me in some unfortunate ways. We are changed by trauma, it’s true. I still have choices. I still have opportunities to grow, heal, and improve. I still have so much to say about how I experience moments – even if I can’t do much to change the world. (Individual people do change the world… it’s just fairly unlikely, statistically. lol) Still… our choices matter. How we treat each other matters, and the small things we do to be our best version of ourselves, and enjoy our lives and lift each other up all make an huge difference… if only in small ways. 🙂 It’s still worthwhile to do our best.

…and then do better than that, too…

One moment at a time. One choice at a time. Today I’ll just do my best, and hope to get it more right than wrong, and do better tomorrow. 🙂

I’m ready to begin again. Again.

This morning is a routine Monday morning. It seemed to start too early. It feels utterly ordinary in every possible way. I’m on my “second coffee”, but only because I made the first one, and as I turned to walk to my desk, it slipped from my hand, spilling everywhere. Quite a bit of it into the sink that was near me as I turned, a bit on the carpet, a bit on my jeans. Just spilled coffee. I mopped up and made a fresh cup. I was sitting down before I really noticed that nothing about the experience caused me any particular alarm or distress. I’m fine. The morning is fine. The coffee I ended up with… also fine. Just a Monday morning, nothing to see here.

…There’s something to be learned from this…

I glance over the industry-related news linked in a feed in a work channel. I just skim the headlines for anything properly “new”. Nothing to see here; it’s all retreads and updates. Click bait. I look over my list of tasks, projects, and work activities. Pretty routine. In a very real sense, “nothing to see here” either. I breathe. Sip my coffee. Put on some music in the background that I promptly stop paying any attention to.

A pounding rain begins to fall on the skylights overhead. It sounds like thunderous applause. lol I grin, enjoying the thought of thunderous applause over an ordinary Monday morning coffee. The notion is ridiculous and this delights me. My mind wanders through thoughts of heroes and villains, and paintings yet unpainted. My Traveling Partner pings me a good morning emoji and my morning feels somehow completed by that.

I remind myself of a couple errands that need to be run, and then I begin again.

I’m sipping on a class of cold clean filtered drinking water. It’s pleasantly refreshing. I’ve been drinking a lot more water this year (so far). Pro-tip for the women in the post-menopause set; it’s incredibly helpful to stay adequately hydrated if you’re hoping to continue to enjoy an active sex life that may – at least sometimes – include natural vaginal lubrication. lol Lesson learned. Drink enough water, People – we’re made of the stuff!

…Coffee #2 a little later…

It’s a relaxed Sunday. My “to-do list” is relatively short and utterly commonplace. I’ll do some laundry, empty the dishwasher, tidy up here and there. Clean the bathroom. Ordinary stuff. I could resist, resent the practical workload needed to support our quality of life, bitch about it endlessly as I drag myself through these tasks… but… doing so represents rather a lot of wasted effort, doesn’t it? I mean, compared to just going about getting the things done that need doing, with a certain… accepting merriment? I’m feeling both accepting and merry, so I know which approach I am taking today.

Things are quite lovely with my Traveling Partner and I lately. Like, since we had our rather painful conversation “the other day” (more than a week ago?). Feels like we turned a corner on an important understanding of each other. I feel loved. He seems to also feel loved. We’re enjoying a lot more intimacy (and also more sex). We’re having a better time together day-to-day, and taking each other’s humanity less personally. It has proven entirely useful to have had that conversation… so I’m glad we did. I still have to work at some things, as a person dealing with another person. I think we both tend to take each other “personally” now and then over petty bullshit that isn’t personal at all… more to do with quirks in the way we each communicate and express emotion. Taking shit like that personally is a recipe for heartache. So… don’t do that. 🙂

“Inspiration” 24″ x 36″, acrylic mixed-media w/glow and ceramic details, 2010

Right now the two books on my shelf I find having the most day-to-day value in guiding my skill at self-care, and my ability to communicate with, and nurture, my partner, are proving to the The Four Agreements and surprisingly, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***. It’s not that these two slim volumes are somehow “more correct” than some of the weightier tomes in my reading list (like Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn), which are certainly worth reading, it’s more to do with immediate practical utility and perspective. There are books that teach us deeply, and there are books that give us quick useful insights that we can apply right now with great results, and upon continued reflection continue to teach us.

…I won’t kid you about The Four Agreements, it has a loose sort of “ancient wisdom” style framework that very practical people may be inclined to approach dismissively. Do you. I’m not here to foist a religion off on you or suggest magical thinking. I simply find enormous value in the very basics of the four agreements discussed, specifically, and also the basic understanding of how our life and culture program us for certain problematic thinking or behaviors that we’d do well to at least understand more deeply (if not change outright). So… with that in mind, yes, I’m a huge fan of The Four Agreements. It “works” for me – I still have to “do the verbs” myself, and it’s not a given that my results are reliably awesome; sometimes it very much matters what folks around me are also doing, thinking, and believing (we’re all in this together, each having our own experience) – but it’s a helpful way to look upon the world. It was The Four Agreements that taught me the most about the importance of not taking shit personally.

The modernity and mildly humorous cynicism of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** is different; it points out some seriously obvious things about why mindfulness does work – and how it doesn’t work (and why). It points out how very individual we each feel, and how “special” we are truly not (as individuals). Each of us having our own experience, and nonetheless all of us quite human, with all the baggage and bullshit that implies. It reminds me to take myself – and the world – a bit less seriously, at least now and then, and re-engages my attention on some of the paradoxes of living well and enjoying that experience.

I mention them both this morning because time and again I come back to them, where this is not the case with some of the other books on my list (which have tended to be “read twice and move on” experiences that provide value, but don’t gain more value with additional readings). In every case, though, I think of the books on my shelf less as “self-help” and more as “self-education”, and it’s with that in mind that I make my selections. It’s not necessarily helpful to just gobble up library books desperately seeking answers – that’s not how these came to sit on my shelf. It’s more to do with learning specific things about how my brain works, how emotions function, and how I can make use of what I learn about those things. Then I move on, working to practice the practices I’ve learned over time that help me build resilience, communicate more clearly, and treat others (and myself) well. Just tools in my toolbox. I’ve still got to do the work.

…Books that don’t demonstrate real value and worthiness don’t end up on my shelf; I just read those and then donate them (or return them to the library they came from).

I finish my water, and wonder “where this path leads?” I’m enjoying the journey. It’s nice to feel this way.

It’s a lovely relaxed Sunday. Maybe I’ll spend some time in my freshly tidied up studio…? It’s definitely time to begin again. 🙂

Sunshine and a clean work surface – like a blank page.

Sipping my coffee, drinking water, sitting here with my fingers poised over the keyboard feeling a little distracted before my thoughts even begin to form into something coherent. I had a really useful and well-considered thought quite early this morning, but I didn’t take notes, and yeah I got distracted before I could really commit it to memory in any lasting way, and now… it’s gone. So human.

Yesterday, I headed home to finish my work day there with my Traveling Partner’s encouragement. He was missing me a lot. I was “feeling the mood” and eager to enjoy some close romantic time with him after the work day ended. We found ourselves in quite a different place rather quickly; he was sort of cross, generally, and my pain was flaring up. We still had a lovely evening together, but romance (or, to be more frank, sex) became progressively less likely as the evening developed. Very human.

I woke this morning with a headache. It’s Friday, though, and the entire day ahead of me yet. I’ve no idea where I’ll be on the other side of the day. I look at my work calendar. Somehow the day looks so long. (It’s actually a short one.) I sigh out loud feeling – still – distracted and somewhat discontented. Hilarious and rather silly. Another very human experience.

I think about tomorrow. I’m eager to “really sleep in”, although I know how difficult that really is for me, generally. I think about going out to breakfast with my Traveling Partner. We had meant to do so last weekend… and I forgot. He politely didn’t mention it to me. I realized my failed plan too late. I’d really enjoy having that out-to-breakfast experience with him, though – and although we’ve lived here now for going on 3 years (wow), we still haven’t gone out to breakfast here in our new “home town”. lol Pandemics suck. Still, I think over the logistics of going to breakfast and remind myself to bring it up with him and see if he’s up for it. We’re both plenty human. Our results vary. lol

Another sigh. It sounds loud in this quiet space. My eye strays again to my work calendar, and I “feel the clock in my head” ticking away. An internal rather self-imposed distraction. I let it go. I let my thoughts drift to other places, other times in my life, other human moments. It’s a bit like “scratching an emotional itch” in some peculiar way. I silently remind myself now and then “don’t pick at that!” – some memories are best left alone, unexplored, generally speaking. Human is complicated, and it’s not all sweetness, warmth, and love. lol

I miss late night coffees with far away friends, and a time in my life when work was sort of seasonal, and there were weeks of downtime between jobs routinely. This is not that life. I’m okay with this life, too – it’s a good one. I’m just saying, I think I could have slept in today, and enjoyed breakfast out with my Traveling Partner, and a lazy romantic morning… sounds pretty good. Work is… work. Today, I’m earning my pay just based on the effort it will clearly take me to steady down and focus on the tasks in front of me. LOL

A new day, a new beginning. What will I do with it? I don’t know yet. Where will this path lead? That’s not super clear right now. I do know this is a very human experience, one of many. Each just enough different to deceive us into thinking we are unique and special in all the world as individuals, when, just as truly we are all in this together, and very much sharing a fairly common human experience. lol

It’s a good day to practice Wheaton’s Law. It’s a good day to begin again.

How funny that this one got saved as a draft, and never published…? Strange. Here’s a peak back at 2015.

It’s been a lovely weekend, so far. There’s a bit more to it, yet, and I am smiling, and feeling unhurried. I spent yesterday enjoying me, and completing some practical tasks with a hint of the artistic to them, like hanging a few more paintings, and beginning re-organizing all the shelved books into some arrangement that is both visually appealing and allows any one book to be located…ever.

When I moved in, I simply shelved all the books to get them out of boxes (because boxes take up precious space) – in general I have no idea what books are where. Yesterday I carefully went through all the books and identified a handful that I don’t find worth keeping at this point in my life. The minimal square footage requires that I be frugal about possessions, keeping only what actually has meaning, value, or utility. Today I will begin the more complex process of sorting them by author or by topic, and re-shelving them in a more logical way that permits research, and of course simplifies grabbing a particular book before bed, if I choose. 🙂 Truthfully, sorting tasks are a favorite of mine; I find them calming, pleasant, and likely to promote clear creative thinking. I have spent the weekend sorting things…books…small parts and fasteners…canvases…thoughts. It has been a singularly self-nurturing weekend without stress or urgency.

I enjoyed the morning with my traveling partner, and he indulged my longstanding fondness for breakfast (or brunch) by taking me to a favorite local breakfast spot. Now that we don’t live together 24/7, each moment we do spend together is something I willfully and mindfully cherish. At some point during his visit, hanging out at my place and talking about books, paintings, and when to wall mount the big monitor, he made the observation (rather astutely) that I had ‘tolerated’ (or was it ‘endured’?) living with him because I adore him so, but that it has become obvious that my clear preference for myself is to live alone. It’s true. My traveling partner is quite literally the only person I’ve ever really enjoyed living with…and even so, would prefer, generally, to live alone. Living with other people has been some degree of mostly miserable, for as long as I can remember – even as a kid. Some of the broken bits, and chaos and damage, just don’t make cohabitation easy for me, and having to share day-to-day space with other people just doesn’t feel good – or easy. I end up spending a lot of time with my teeth clenched, feeling tense, angry, irritable, trying to find some space for myself in which I will not be intruded upon – and it’s not because other human primates are any more fundamentally flawed than I am, myself. I don’t know that I have a solidly rational explanation, and making the attempt holds plenty of risk of hurting feelings, or creating imagined sorrows. It is enough, I think, to say that I prefer to live alone, and that I am comfortable with solitude day-to-day.

This has been a fantastic weekend. I have spent most of it quite alone, not even venturing forth except to do a little gardening yesterday evening, and breakfast out this morning, followed by the briefest possible trip to the market for coffee beans, and dishwasher detergent. I am understanding something differently about myself, as a result of this lovely [and much-needed] solitary weekend; loneliness is not about solitude at all, at least not for me. Ah, but my traveling partner is so right about the things phrased in the negative – knowing what loneliness is not about is far less useful than understanding what it is about. Perhaps I will learn that some other day? I won’t be learning much about loneliness this weekend – I am enjoying the solitude. 🙂

Contemplating patience, incremental change over time, and the tender ongoing exploration of self that my move as supported got me thinking about the idea of ‘pacing myself’ – taking my time with things in a mindful way makes so much sense. I tend to rush. I am enjoying the outcome of slowing things down in both life and love, and investing in quality of life through careful choices, mindful actions, and a willingness to practice being present in each moment without sham efficiencies masquerading as ‘multi-tasking’. I am ‘pacing myself’. I am living my life thoroughly, and enjoying how naturally my home seems to have become a ‘no stress zone’.

Today is a good day to slow down and enjoy each task, and each moment. Today is a good day to love. Today is a good day for stillness, for solitude, and for contentment. Today is a good day to create the world I prefer to live in. [Your results may vary.]

That was quite a long time ago, I suppose. Have things changed? Sure. I live in a home in a small town. I’ve got a mortgage instead of rent. My Traveling Partner lives with me and is my fond and adored companion on life’s journey, every day. My garden is a little bigger. My job has changed (and changed again). Have I learned to slow down and pace myself? Well… a bit more than I once knew how, yes. My results still vary.

…And it’s time to begin again.