Archives for posts with tag: the benefits of good self-care

Tooth extraction. I guess I’m more than a little grateful how far dentistry has come. It was, as suggested, not all that painful. Even getting the shots to numb the area was insignificant, pain-wise. The extraction, itself, was peculiarly… forceful. I mean, seriously? My dentist basically pulled a living tooth with no interest in being removed right on out of my jaw, where it was pretty permanently lodged, right? The amount of force required was… impressive. I couldn’t really feel anything but the pulling, and even now, I am ever-so-grateful for the advances modern dentistry has made. It got a tad grim when I could literally hear bone snapping, breaking free, and the taste of blood isn’t particularly pleasant. Still… no pain.

“…Oh, just one thing to cover before you leave… after we get an x-ray…” Yeah, well… okay. A “complication”. A small perforation of my lower sinus, which is, I guess, not an especially uncommon complication of an extraction of one of those back molars. I walked away, face beginning to ache, equipped with care instructions, and feeling very grown-up; I got through it, and it’s done, and I’m fine.

I arrived home. Relaxed for a few minutes with my Traveling Partner. Reviewed those care instructions… carefully. Wondered about what I’d be able to eat for the next few days. Frowned at the likelihood that it may be 2-3 weeks before I could vape again, or drink through a straw, or do literally anything that results in any notable amount of suction (trust me, this affects my quality of life! lol). I was pretty quickly overcome with a serious case of “I don’t actually care about any of this, actually”, and crashed out for a “nap”, that turned into about 18 hours of solid sleep, interrupted only long enough for interludes to sip water, sit up for a handful of minutes, go to the bathroom, and have a few very finely minced calories with great care. lol I still feel like I’ve been hit hard in the face, several times. I still taste blood, faintly. I’m still incredibly careful about every swallow of liquid, every bite of food.

…2-3 weeks??

Fourth of July. Well… no BBQ for me. I’m still “injured” enough that I don’t actually much care about that. I’m grateful for Ibuprofen; it’s getting me by nicely for pain management. My mouth “feels weird”. Talking, too, seems affected by the change in the shape of my mouth, the swollenness of my gum, and the pain in my jaw. I know it will pass.

…I think I’ll have another nap. LOL

To change the world
It starts with one step
However small
First step is hardest of all
Once you get to your gate
You will walk in tall

by Dave Matthews Band

I start the morning with music. Yesterday was a good day of self-care, and housekeeping. Needful things. I woke feeling rested and cared for, with the smile left over from visiting my Traveling Partner still lingering at the edges of my mood. So far, another good day. These good days are not coincidental in my life, I build them with my choices, and my results vary. Oh, that’s not to say that circumstances can’t (they do) intervene and change the course of a day for the worse (or for the better), it’s just that over time I have learned how much power over the quality of my days I actually do have. It’s enough. It’s more than enough, generally.

Today is a work day. A day in a life. A day of choices and practices. A day of moments and opportunities. It could be any day of so many. Where will it take me? What will I do with it? Will it go to waste, lost among bad choices and disordered thinking? Will I build lovely memories from a quality experience? Will I commit to action, but find myself resenting it as “wasted time”, wanting instead to play? Will I snatch the chance to meditate in the evening from the waiting clutches of more moving in that could be done?

Last week was a reminder that my choices are my own, and that how I make them is what my week – and my life – are built upon. I all but gave up on self-care trying to force everything I thought needed to get done into the limited time I had available to me. I ended up exhausted, aggravated, and too tired to follow through on the entirety of my original plan for the weekend. Lesson learned? I’d like to think so, but it’s doubtful. I’m a human primate. I’ll need more practice. 🙂

Today I’ll meditate in the morning. I know this works for me. I’ll have any dishes started before I’m out the door. The bed will be made. The garden will be watered. I’ll have had my coffee, my oatmeal, a shower, brushed my teeth, and fed the fish. I’ll make a point of hitting the gym at work for some strength training, and get a good walk in over my lunch break. I’ll get home after work… and the evening will be mine. Then what? I don’t really know all that yet; I’m satisfied to have mornings more or less worked out at this point. lol

I notice I’m tugging at a jagged bit of cuticle. In the dry hot weather, my cuticles have begun to split in places. I fuss with the edges mindlessly, often. I try to stop that behavior when I catch it. The effort required is hard to adequately describe, even after a lifetime of partners, friends, and family members nagging me about it. I make the effort of will this morning. Put myself on pause. Actually fully mindfully stop myself… but then, I have to also stop writing, also go get the little cuticle nippers to trim that up so it isn’t so tempting… again with the damned verbs, right? lol Yep. There are always verbs involved, somehow this is true even of the things I want not to do.

Oh hey – it’s already time to begin again. 🙂

 

I’ve gotten some decent sleep this weekend, even ‘slept in’ two days in row. This morning I slept until nearly 9:00 am. I woke abruptly, some noise most likely, but truly I was well-rested and returning to sleep was neither likely, nor would it be a healthy choice; the day had begun. I woke in considerable physical pain, and moments into the morning it was clear that I was not yet sufficiently able to maintain emotional balance to be casually interacting with people – I was genuinely hurt by the initial interaction with one member of the household, this morning, and it was not worth all that; it was a just moment of insensitivity and callousness common to people before they are completely awake, first thing in the morning, and I myself was also just waking up and prone to taking things excessively personally. It wasn’t personal, but I was – and perhaps still am – unprepared to deal with it appropriately, although I think I did okay with it. Pain management is a very big deal for good emotional resilience; if my pain is not well-managed I tend to take things more personally, and also struggle with being very emotionally needy. I chose a wiser path, and took my coffee with me into a quieter space, to take time for meditation, then catch up on email…and now, here I am.

Choose your experience; we're live and unscripted.

Choose your experience; we’re live and unscripted.

Good sleep. Appropriate pain management. Taking medication on time. Taking time to meditate. Recognizing and distinguishing between internal and external stressors. Calories. Exercise. There are a lot of pieces to the self-care puzzle, and they all matter. The challenge is practicing good self-care even when I am in a crappy mood, in pain, feeling ill, or distressed with PTSD symptoms. Today shouldn’t be that difficult…the major challenge today is ‘merely’ physical pain. I hurt, but I hurt pretty much all winter long, every year, and have for many years. I’m not bitching; other people hurt more often, and hurt worse than I do. I have a lot to be grateful for, and I don’t take those things for granted these days; they really matter, and taking care to appreciate the good things, and be grateful for what I have, and what works, and what feels good is a practice that is tending to ‘adjust’ my implicit memory, and my ‘default settings’ regarding how I experience my life in a more positive direction. I’ve made a lot of progress down this path – I both enjoy a better experience, generally, than I used to most days – and I can tell that my experience is improved, too.  (It’s not much help when things get objectively better, but do so in the absence of being able to recognize that improvement!)

It’s an interesting puzzle that what I want in life, the things I yearn for most fervently, can so easily sap me of my emotional resilience and self-sufficiency, and undermine a good experience I have by drawing my attention away from what is good right now, and putting the focus on some moment of discontent – that in some cases actually only exists in my thinking, without any anchor in some element of my experience in life.

Discontent joins the emotions on the short list of ’emotions I just don’t enjoy or find value in’…worry, guilt, jealousy, disappointment, and discontent amount to a lot of dark days for a lot of human primates. I don’t put anger or fear on that list – they both serve obvious purposes ‘used in moderation’; they are legitimate warning klaxons to improve my chances of survival. Moving away from what frightens me may mean my surviving some dangerous moment in the world. Being moved to anger tends to keep my awareness aligned to my values, but for now I can’t do much more to describe anger’s potentially helpful qualities; it’s an area of weakness for me, and I struggle with it to this day. The thing about those other emotions? They are all pinned to expectations and expectations are so often the ruin of a good time. I love to plan, and I like the comfort and security of having done so…but becoming attached to an expectation is a different thing. Clear and explicit expectation-setting has its place in day-to-day life, absolutely true. It’s the implicit, unverified, un-validated, unconfirmed, “I thought we…” sorts of expectations that fuck us all up. It occurred to me this morning, sipping coffee that is unexpectedly ‘bitter’…if I could entirely let go of implicit expectations, I would likely also be letting go of worry, guilt, jealousy, disappointment, discontent…and possibly other subtle negative emotions that can potentially mess with another otherwise great day. It’s a practical thing, and probably worth the effort involved. I won’t miss even a moment of discontent, worry, guilt, disappointment, or jealousy if I never feel those emotions ever again.

Today? Yes, I’m contemplating expectations and discontent, because I woke first with one, and then trending toward developing the other. I happened to take notice of the trajectory of my emotions, and put myself on pause to give it some thought. Had I allowed the moment to overwhelm me, and gotten caught up in ruminating about the drivers of my discontent, and begun wallowing in my disappointment that ‘my expectations’ failed me, I’d be in a very different place right now. I think the constant practicing of better practices proved itself this morning; I found perspective over my unexpectedly bitter coffee, and a tiny bit of unexpectedly positive news.

Today is unscripted. Ideally, I hold no expectations that I haven’t set explicitly, and even then I understand that change is. Today is a good day to live life engaged in the moment, present in my interactions, and open to the possibilities I hadn’t considered exploring. Today is a good day to change my experience of the world.

Actually, it’s not that bad, I just woke feeling cross. Most likely cause, based on the sort of out of sorts that I am, would be hormones. That seems unreasonable and frustrating from the perspective of being ‘post menopause’…but I just barely claimed that prize, and I know the machinery is still winding down. I made a point to handle things very frankly, as gently as I could, and in clear simple language and a mostly cheerful tone when my traveling partner inquired how I am doing this morning. It actually required considerable effort not to launch emotional weapons of mass distraction, and since the effort was successful, it was also entirely worthwhile. No hard feelings, everyone safe and cared for; I am taking the morning to care for me, quietly.

A quiet bit of writing often puts my head right on the nastiness day…when I have something I feel moved to say, or reflect on, or even simply when some interesting bit of word play is stuck in my recollection from my dreams, or from the prior day’s interactions with others. Today… I don’t feel very inspired, just very cranky. There’s really nothing amiss. I slept well. I woke on time and feeling reasonably comfortable physically. My coffee is hot and tasty. There’s nothing more than the usual things coming up in the work day ahead of me, as far as I know now. It’s a day. A Tuesday, actually. Dinner out, after work, and I’m looking forward to the outing. Still, for now I am rather cross with myself, and potentially inclined to blame the world. It doesn’t seem very fair, and it isn’t very pleasant.

Meditation does help. I still don’t relish company in this state, and I continue to pass the time quietly, keeping to myself without rancor; I enjoy solitude, more than a little, and it is ever so much harder to hurt people I love casually through my irritability when I give myself room to have that experience without forcing it on them, too. I take deep cleansing breaths, do some yoga, too, and flip through pleasant images – beautiful photographs of things, places, flowers… my own pictures. I have no idea why they delight me so, and I find myself wondering what power they hold that such is true, and could I ‘reinstall’ my memory from my photographs, if ever there were a need?

The colors of autumn.

The colors of autumn.

Although it is more challenging to go through the steps when I feel so raw and irritable, I find significant value in the practical exercises from Rick Hanson’sJust One Thing” and “Hardwiring Happiness” this morning. The difficulty is just going through the steps in an open and sincere way, without caving to cynicism, doubt, or letting the irritability that I feel undermine the simple goodness that exists in the world – it so often seems just out of reach when I am cross. There is value in making the effort. Each success, over time, results in improvements in my implicit memory – my default settings are becoming more positive, more content, and I am less prone to volatility. I sometimes find it emotionally painful to consider my prior perspective; the pain and discontent I endured as part of my everyday experience seems pretty horrific now. Noticing now, that I am noticing that, I take time to feel compassion for that hurt creature for a moment, and to accept that she is me, and understand that I’m not there now. No tears, just a moment of compassion, and recognition, even some gratitude for having the strength to go on long enough to find my way somewhere else in life.

Patterns exist. We have choices.

Patterns exist. We have choices.

The irritability begins to recede into the background, and slowly starts to dissipate. There was a time when that alone would seem so significant I’d rush into the world eager to restore contact, and find myself overwhelmed, unprepared, and not in the great shape I thought I was in. I would rush myself, mostly out of some sense of obligation to others. This morning, I take time to enjoy the improvement, without hurrying to the next thing, recognizing that I’m still dealing with the challenges, and being patient with myself. It’s a nice change to take care of me. It’s seems somewhat amusing that the irritability got my undivided attention so readily. As it recedes, I notice the headache and the nausea that seemed so unremarkable when I woke. This makes day 5 of something vaguely like morning sickness…and another reason I feel fairly certain the morning’s crankiness is likely due to hormones. The machinery is winding down. Sometimes that seems sad, this morning it simply is.

Today is a good day to take care of me with the same loving kindness and compassion I would show a partner, or lover, or friend – or human being. Today is a good day to accept my very best treatment from me – and from anyone else treating me well. Today is a good day to make a clear distinction between how I feel in the moment, and the actions I choose to take. Today is a good day to invest in a genuine smile, because smiling even feels good. Today is a good day to change the world.