Archives for posts with tag: The Big 5

The ringing in my ears is ferocious today. Like a jumbled up combination of a distant (persistent) phone ringing next to a fire alarm, surrounded by chimes. I have the sense that my hearing may even be impaired, though generally that’s a bit of an illusion (tinnitus is very distracting, though). My back aches – arthritis pain. My head aches, too, not sure why, but sometimes “it’s a set” rather than just one something or other hurting.

The work day is behind me, and I sort of feel as though this could/should be a “joyful moment” – but my physical limitations at the moment are aggravating my partner, who is, himself, aggravated by other things – most particularly, his frustration with a new tool that he’d like to upgrade, and has the parts with which to do so, but… sometimes things are not as simple as all that. Real life getting real. Instead of his infectious delight with a new tool, I’m breathing in his profound frustration, which is not at all pleasant. I wish I could help, but aside from offering up one suggestion that seemed to have some small bit of promise, I’m just staying out of the fucking way. It’s the best I can do, right now.

Instead of getting mixed up in his moment, I’ve got mine, right here. My phone has been laggy and less-than-ideally responsive lately, and with the addition of the home automation application – which serves best when it runs smoothly – I am painfully aware of the poor device performance. What I am not, however, is “surprised”. My SD card is 100% absolutely entirely full of photos and videos… and when that happened, some months ago, I haplessly went ahead and told the silly thing to save new ones to the device storage instead. Now that’s full too. Not a little full… I’m talking 10,000+ high resolution images. LOL So, after some apparently-necessary reminding by my partner, I’m cleaning that mess up. With some hesitation (I’ve definitely got some “hoarder ancestry”), I checked “erase after importing”, and clicked “import”… now, it’s a matter of waiting… and writing. 🙂

I take a breath. Relax. Turn my attention to my Traveling Partner when he comes to me with his stress and aggravation. He’s disappointed – it’s an exciting moment to acquire a new tool, and when it doesn’t meet expectations, for some reason, particularly reasons that render the tool no longer a functional tool, it’s a whole other order of magnitude of disappointment. Great customer service was a selling point for the brand… but… so far? Not actually “great”. Well, shit. Here I am, still wishing I could help, still got nothing to offer but my sympathy, my compassion, and my unfortunate empathy. (I say “unfortunate” because I don’t really want to feel this disappointment and frustration alongside him in such a visceral way – it’s unpleasant for both of us to feel this, and my empathy is not helpful or useful, in this instance. He’s having his own experience. I’m mostly working on “being here” for him, and not making it worse, while I have mine.

Fuck. Damn, I was hoping to be feeling the soaring heights of his delight, right about now. Still wishing I could properly help.

…6303 items imported of 10,176. Progress.

My work trip to Seattle fell through. I guess I’m not surprised, although I was momentarily quite disappointed. I’m okay being home. I was able to cancel all the reservations for travel and lodging without any penalties, which was an unexpected success. My partner made a point of mentioning – while also being very grateful and appreciative that I’d be staying home – he would miss having some solo time to work on things around the house. I changed up my plans and found a room on the coast at a reasonable price, and made new reservations for an entirely other experience. I asked for, and got, Friday off to extend the time I can offer my partner for his own purposes.

…My head begins to ache when I recall that he’d asked for that time primarily to work with the new tool that is sure to be returned before I ever check into that room on the coast, and I realize I’m clenching my jaw in sympathetic frustration…

…Was I sufficiently encouraging and supportive…? I wonder to myself and drink more water. (Maybe this headache will go away if I drink more water?)

…Fuck this headache…!

I think over books to read. I think about videos I’ve been meaning to watch. My head pounds in the background. I drink more water.

…My bag was already packed for my business trip. I won’t have to repack it, just swap the shined boots for sandals, and make a point to throw in my sketch book and some pens & pencils, and maybe my watercolors. All I’ve got to do between now and Thursday, to prepare for my short getaway is resist the urge to pull something out of that bag to wear sooner. LOL I think I’ve got this. 🙂 Not that hard.

…8234 items imported…

I feel a moment of trepidation – there likely won’t be any images (of mine) on my phone at all. I could have been more precise, selecting a few to keep on the device for… reasons… (Is this how we accumulate bullshit and baggage? Why yes, I think it is…) I sigh to myself. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let go of that lingering attachment – there are always new pictures. Always. 🙂

I watch the final steps of the import process playout as a fast sequence of thumbnails in the import window. Entertaining. I feel the pain medication I took before I sat down start to have the desired effect. I hear my Traveling Partner close a door somewhere else… it wasn’t slammed, so that’s progress. (I still wish I could actually help soothe him and ease his stress and disappointment, but we’re each having our own experience, and there’s no real way to it differently, I think.)

The shards of sharp summer sunlight sneaking through the fabric of the window shade pierce my vision, and add to my headache. I recall the vestiges of a dream I had recently, in which bright sunshine was “shining directly on my brain” through my eyes, and as much as I covered them or dodged the light, I could not escape the blinding pain. Strangely, it wasn’t a nightmare at all, just an odd dream, filled with frustration. The recollection dissipates before I can assemble it more completely, and I lose interest in thinking about it further.

I finish my bottle of water, head still aching. I know that once I get up for another, I won’t return to this… it’ll be the beginning of some other thing I will be doing, then… but I don’t yet know what. I sigh, letting the air out of my lungs, and refilling them completely a time or two. Wondering what to make for dinner.

It’s a good time to begin again.

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. 🙂

The morning is off to a difficult start. I woke in pain after a restless night. My Traveling Partner also woke in pain, and considering every time I was awake, he was also awake, I’m reasonably certain both of us have had less than ideal sleep. I make coffee. We don’t manage to enjoy it together – we aren’t enjoying each other very much this morning. While this does suck, it’s a temporary thing, and it will pass. I focus on other things.

I seek to be kind with my words, and to speak gently.

I already suspect today is one of those days on which whatever my best effort happens to be, it may fall short of ideal. I’m tired. I’m dealing with unmanaged pain. I’m aggravated. Is it me? Is it “us”? Is it just one of those very impermanent situations that will pass when it passes and simply be forgotten? Is it more important than that? I fuss quietly to myself, sip my coffee, and work on breathing through it, and letting it go. I work on not taking it personally. These are “practices” for me because they do indeed require practice. Steady. Regular. Repeated.

Kinda feels like I’m almost always standing in hot water. It’s frustrating, and this morning it is holding me back from enjoying this moment.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I focus on “now”, bringing my mind back to my breath, again and again. It’s something. Is it enough? I find myself wondering what conversations my Traveling Partner has with himself on mornings such as this. I wonder what he does to get past the difficult moments of life with a brain injured partner with PTSD. Doubtless it is not always an easy experience… How does he avoid fusing with my experience? How does he nurture and soothe himself?

Tomorrow, I am taking a break for myself, and driving out to the coast to walk on the beach, and listen to the wind and the waves, and be still and solitary for a little while before returning home. Another breath. Another moment to relax. I contemplate the drive without much eagerness in this particular moment right here. The morning is a difficult one, and I’m struggling to distract myself.

Human primates seem always to be trippin’ over something or another. Emotions are part of the human condition.

I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I turn to respond to my partner when he opens the door to ask me to empty the little trash can in my studio; it’s trash day. He’s preparing to take the bins to the curb for pick-up. Life is… so ordinary. Difficult moments are only that, moments. They pass. They are finite. Sure, they recur. My results definitely vary. I often find myself wanting or needing to begin again. I keep practicing, and instead of “looking for signs” that things are somehow worse than a moment gone wrong on a difficult morning, I let it go (again).

We put caution signs everywhere… but we create the hazards, too.

I am reminded that we make most of our own drama, and routinely blow small shit way out of proportion. Human primates are messy, complicated, and emotional. We aren’t as smart as we think we are. We’re prone to reasoning poorly, and reacting emotionally to circumstances in which our emotional reaction lacks value or utility – and expecting our emotions to have all that going for them is asking a lot of feelings. “Do not touch the edges of this sign.” No kidding.

Also? Stay on the path. Breathe. Keep practicing.

Begin again.

Some of my “favorite” practices feel the most difficult… or… it’s at least accurate to say that some simple-seeming practices present me with my greatest challenges. It doesn’t much matter whether it is the brain injury, or the PTSD, or the circumstances, or the particular relationship affected by either my ineptitude or the lack of proficiency on some thing or another… difficult is difficult. “Hard” is subjective, in this case.

This evening I’m watching the light fade, filtered through the window shade, and thinking about an important simple-but-difficult practice, “listening deeply“. Practices need practice. Maybe this is more accessible?

…Maybe this is relevant, too? (I know, I know, none of us want to think so, but, …_) I’m just saying.

Paying attention, really listening (instead of “waiting to talk”) isn’t “automatic” – and some of us really really have to work at it. I’m even saying that there is legitimate intimate and social value in doing so. It’s worth it to get to be a “good listener”. So… I focus on the practice.

I seriously need more practice, too… I cut people off while they are still talking, way too often. It really doesn’t matter whether I’m correct or incorrect about where the conversation is going – cutting people off that way, interrupting, is rude. I am aware this is something I need work on. I work on it. Practices need practicing. I can tell I still need more practice. So… yeah. Working on it.

…I get interrupted too. A lot. At work, at home, out in the world… I’m not the only human being who would benefit from working on my listening skills. I suspect maybe a whole bunch of us, maybe even “most”, would find life and relationships improved by tackling this important life skill.

So. Here I am. Sitting in the afternoon light of a winter day, and wondering “fucking hell, how do I still suck so much at this particular skill?” I mean… it’s meaningful to me, it matters to me, it is a lot of what I want when I converse with someone – that they listen to me. Just seems reasonable that they’d want the same…and yet… I still need so much practice.

…I sigh out loud, rubbing my aching neck…

…It’s time to begin again.

I’m sipping the last of my second cup of coffee. It’s a Friday; I might have a third, later. I’m in pain, mostly managing it. I’ve felt the tiniest bit “under the weather” since yesterday, as if fighting off a head cold. I feel… tired. Bone-deep fatigue unrelieved by a good night’s sleep. Rested – still tired. I struggle to fully engage routine tasks. I don’t feel wholly alert. I struggle to resist distractions.

I find myself becoming annoyed with myself over my “lack of motivation” at the end of what has been a ridiculously busy work week. My inner dialogue begins to become aggressive and adversarial, and a tad “punishing” and disrespectful. I could take time to try to sort out where all that garbage and mess comes from… or I can take the break I so clearly need, and do a good job of that, instead. I mean, clearly I learned this self-abusive unproductive bullshit somewhere, but those sorts of ugly relationship dynamics are not a regular part of my everyday life now. I can just “let all that go”, and make a point to willfully treat myself with more kindness and understanding. To embrace my own “Big 5″ relationship values – even in my relationship with myself.

I’ve got a long weekend coming up. I feel my shoulders relax when I think about spending time in the studio painting. As I imagine the moment, and anticipate the feeling of “treating myself” to that creative time, I feel my shoulders relax, and a smile begin at the edge of my mouth. I imagine hiking my new favorite local trail, again, and doing some sketches there, and returning to canvas and paint at home. I imagine sleeping in, and waking slowly. I imagine waffles for brunch, and little breakfast sausages, piping hot, fat crackling and popping in the pan. I imagine putting my feet up with a new book, and sipping a glass of sherry as twilight becomes nightfall. I imagine spending quiet time with my Traveling Partner, and long leisure hours discussing one plan or project or another. Rest and art and love seem like good things to spend the weekend on…

…I straighten my posture, and look over this spreadsheet, feeling just a bit less beat down, and ready to finish this week… One more way to begin again. 🙂