Archives for posts with tag: The Big 5

I’m on my third coffee this morning. I slept poorly. My Traveling Partner slept poorly. I slipped away early in the morning hoping he would be able to get some better sleep, but that didn’t work out ideally well. I am sitting in the studio, drinking coffee and considering the causes and the potential outcomes, and wondering how best to be helpful.

“Being considerate” may very well be one of the most powerful skills (and practices) that a person can bring to social relationships (of all kinds). I have found it sometimes a bit difficult to define “consideration” – in spite of placing it high on my list of things to look for in relationships. I see people who are “considerate” practicing deep listening, explicit expectation-setting, skillful boundary setting, asking clarifying questions, testing their assumptions, yielding their natural desire to be “right” preferring to be kind, making an explicit effort to refrain from “centering themselves” in every circumstance or conflict, and being very comfortable making a prompt apology when another person points out a transgression. That seems like a lot to manage, but it really does all map to “consideration” – as in, genuinely considering what those around them are going through or may need.

Let’s be clear on one point; I don’t see considerate people being doormats or open to being abused or mistreated. They use boundary setting and expectation setting with great skill and comfort. They consider their own needs along side the needs of others, and make a point of practicing good self-care, too.

Lacking fundamental consideration leads people to casually mistreat others without intention – and often without noticing, and sometimes following-up by callously doubling-down on that mistreatment by attempting to deflect blame (by way of excusing their actions as “unintended”). Doesn’t really “make things right” to do things that way, and feels still more inconsiderate. People who are inconsiderate are by far more common than people who are considerate! It has become socially “normal” to see (or have to accommodate) inconsiderate behavior from others. People are busy. Self-involved. Dealing with their own shit. Struggling to heal trauma. Uneducated about the impact their choices/words/behavior has on others. Unaware how much difference consideration can make. There’s a lot going on with inconsiderate people. Most of it is even shit everyone has going on in life. One thing that isn’t going on with inconsiderate people; they are not being “considerate” (probably a huge timesaver, I don’t know…).

Consideration and considerate behavior isn’t “natural” to human primates; we learn it from our social group(s) – and therefore must teach it to our companions, explicitly. Children generally get taught “sharing” – a part of consideration. Every element of consideration probably needs to be explicitly taught. As a culture we’re clearly falling down on the job, there, based on the general rise in inconsiderate behavior, basic rudeness, and prevalent violence. I’m pretty certain that very considerate people are likely less prone to violence. It’s something to think about.

Today, I’m struggling with “my nature”; I tend to be very considerate (of others), but also tend to fail myself on the self-care and boundary-setting side of things. Knowing my Traveling Partner did not sleep well, I consider what I can do to be helpful, or to at least minimize the potential for stress or conflict in our relationship due to the both of us being fatigued and in pain. It’s complicated. What does he need? What does he want? Can I provide those things? Is guessing at them wise? What about me? What do I need, myself? Can I meet his needs and my own? When do well-intentioned inquiries about what he needs become invasive or pestering? How do I prevent my own boundary and expectation-setting needs from being swept aside in the pursuit of a gentle day together (under difficult circumstances)? What is reasonable, and what is excessive? How far do I take “not taking things personally” before it becomes entirely necessary to “push back” or point out a boundary – and how do I do that gently enough to also avoid sounding “bitchy” or unreasonable?

My anxiety simmers in the background, and that’s not at all helpful. Consideration, like “mindfulness”, is something that takes quite a bit of actual practice (at least for me). It’s not my “default” human behavior. It is, however, something I value quite a lot – enough to keep practicing. Enough that it matters to achieve mastery – and balance.

It’s a new day. There are opportunities to be a better person than I was yesterday. There will be verbs involved, and practice required. My results will no doubt vary. It’s a good time to begin again. 🙂

I’m down to the end of this cup of office coffee, here in the icy chill of the co-work space. (Seriously? It’s summer, it’s okay if the office is 75 degrees, instead of 67! It’d still feel cool. LOL) There’s so much angry shit in the news, so much violence, and generally bad behavior. It’s hard to fathom how so many people can take the actions they do, say the things they do, treat each other the way they do. Why is there so little practical effort to “make the world a better place” – most particularly by the people making it bad to begin with?!

We could all do better, I’m sure. This is not an “us vs them” thing; we each have opportunities to do better, with regard to something. This isn’t about “left vs right”, either – there are some shady “bad actors” on the left and on the right. There is a seemingly endless uncountable number of misogynist racist xenophobic ass clowns just… every-damned-where trying to rationalize or excuse their bullshit (or force it on the rest of us). It’s pretty horrible, and I’m frustrated and saddened by it.

I’ve heard that if I’m inclined to complain, I ought to come with a solution to propose. I’ve got you. No problem. Here it is; practice Wheaton’s Law. Every day. All the time. Reliably. Everyone. Simply that. If everyone really did embrace Wheaton’s Law to guide their day-to-day interactions, I suggest that that world would be a far better place than it is right now. Just saying. Do better.

…Yes, you, too. Yes, me too. Just do better. Be a better human being today than you were yesterday. One interaction at a time. Practice. Sure, your results will vary (I know mine do). It’s still better than just not doing a damned thing about human misery. Do something. Some small thing.

Practice Wheaton’s Law.

Begin again.

I write the word. You read the word. “Tantrums.” We probably both think of children, first. Adults having tantrums are… embarrassingly human. I’ll bet you’ve done it. “Thrown a fit.” Maybe, “lost your shit”? Did you “blow up” over something small? Tired? Not feeling well? Headache? Suddenly you found yourself in the middle of an emotional firestorm, losing both self-control and resilience? I don’t know anyone who can be entirely honest and say they’ve never, ever, lost their composure inappropriately over some moment or another. It’s unpleasant to experience. It’s unpleasant to witness. It’s unpleasant to be around. Each and every one of us who has found ourselves succumbing to the worst of who we are in some moment, who has blasted some innocent bystander, colleague, – or worst – someone we care about deeply over our bullshit, knew right then and there that we were fucking wrong as hell. We probably didn’t say as much. Maybe we never even apologized. Maybe we think because the “facts were on our side” it excuses our shitty behavior? Is it you, this time? Was it them? Do you think you were “right”? Do you think they were? (Do you actually think that matters more than the unpleasant moment you’ve created?)

“Am I the asshole?” Good question to ask oneself in a moment of tension or conflict. Just saying.

I’ve been there, for sure. It’s definitely not “always me”, though; I am but one human among many. Even narrowing the view to just the company I work for. Just my community. Just my family. Just my partnership. Even with my “issues” – it’s not always me. Just saying. Any one of us can, and likely will, succumb to emotional weather, however pleasant the emotional climate may be. Storms come and go.

I sat down to write, over the weekend, but my thoughts had not yet become a thing I could express in words. It was fatiguing weekend of relaxing effort. lol My body was tired. My mind was seeking a moment of quiet to really process things. Maybe I get that moment when I seek it, maybe I don’t. It sometimes ends up being the sort of thing that keeps me restless and wakeful into the wee hours, quiet, and reflecting, filtering, sifting, sorting, all the thoughts and questions, and moments. In the meantime, I’m struggle to put my thoughts into some coherent share-worthy whole. Interruptions. Distractions. Endless seeming “high priority” distractions, and demands on my time and attention.

My Traveling Partner is having his own experience.

Our A/C seemed to be malfunctioning. I mean… it demonstrably was “malfunctioning”, keeping in mind the intention, and settings, should have it cooling the house, and it is doing quite the opposite. Time spent troubleshooting (and snarling at each other), eventually pays off; blown fuse replaced. I struggle to “keep up” with his shifting emotional weather, some days. That was one of those. I imagine my own notion of resilience as a deep, calm, still pool. I perceive his (substantial) resilience more as a wave pool; big swings that reliably settle into calm fairly quickly. We’re each having our own experience. It’s not “personal” – not even truly “adversarial” in any clear way. Just quite different from each other, and sometimes not complementary. We are so similar…and so different. I don’t think I’d change that… I’d just like to be a bit better at it than I am… preferably without having to gain those skills through experience. lol

I continued to write, but ultimately set it aside over distractions. The pain I was in had increased, even though our stressful moment was quite brief, and it colored my thinking. I finally gave up on it. Today it’s days later, and reaching for words in a different moment of stress and conflict, and I find this, half-finished, waiting for me. A reminder that emotional weather comes and goes. That we are each having our own experience. Each seeking to understand the world through the lens and filter of our own experience – and often completely limited to that context, because it is all we truly know. Empathy is hard sometimes. Compassion requires more verbs. Kindness, too. Finding my way to a fully accepting and loving place is hard right now. I’m angry.

I remind myself that my Traveling Partner and I both have only good intentions. That we both love each other. That we are each doing our best with shared goals in mind. That we are individuals seeking to thrive – and help each other to do so – on a shared journey. It’s hard to be the best version of myself when I am feeling angry, or misunderstood, or unappreciated. I know that’s true for him, too. I look at my calendar – another meeting. I take a breath, and begin again.

I’ve got a headache. The usual. “Nothing to see here.” I’m also feeling aggravated, frustrated, and annoyed with commonplace (fairly ordinary) communication challenges with my partner. Right now, I don’t really know what to do with that, besides my very best to maintain a cool head, a calm demeanor, and a better than average attempt at “holding my tongue”. Allowing things to escalate, over something so incredibly petty, would not be a good demonstration of adult communication. So… okay. Working on that.

It’s not the communication itself, in these circumstances, that is petty – it’s very much the small shit that so easily gets out of hand, becoming a source of conflict. Manufactured conflict. Unnecessary conflict. Pointless conflict. It’s the sort of thing human primates are super good at. (Creating conflict, I mean.) I snarl quietly inside myself. I’m so completely fed the fuck up with human beings creating drama. I’m fed up with us/them bullshit arguments that are little more than territorial pissing matches, and ridiculous vortices of righteous anger and outrage used to justify terrible behavior. Unclear expectations. Untested assumptions. It’s not even about my partner, or our relationship in any direct specific way. It’s… all of us. People. “Society.”

It reaches me unavoidably through the limited media I consume, and even in the behavior of passing strangers on city streets, in unexpectedly crowded shops (“There’s still a pandemic going on, ya fuckwits.”)(I’m shopping, too.), and in parking lots. Most people think they’re right – about something. Mostly those same people are not actually “right” about the things they are so invested in being right about. They just have a fucking opinion. I’m no different. We’re each having our own experience – but we’re all human beings. We’re not very good at being our best selves. We treat each other – even our loved ones – pretty fucking badly, rather often. It’s incredibly shitty and I’m feeling cross just actually being a fucking human being, at all. We kind of suck, as creatures, rather a lot. We mostly don’t even make a fucking effort to be better today than we were tomorrow. I’m saddened by that.

A thoughtless harsh word, a moment of frustration or anger, of disappointment, or hurt feelings, and my whole experience feels colored by that moment. How is it that moments of intense joy don’t have similar impact, across an entire day or experience, in the same way? That seems unfair to me, sitting here right now. I feel chilly. The room is not cold; it’s me. I’m fighting back frustrated angry bullshit tears I don’t choose to indulge. My headache worsens with the effort of pure will at the end of a long day and week. I’m alone in this room, in this moment, because this is not about him. He’s got his feelings and experience, too; those are his. This? This right here is about me. Me, seeking to be and do my best, struggling with some things that are definitely not me at my best. Me, working to get over my bullshit and baggage, and manage my chaos and damage. Oh, I’m not being an ass to myself, and there is no cruelty here. I’m not being down on myself, but this is hard emotional labor, right here, and I need focus and concentration, and some quiet space to do it.

I practice being better than this petty moment of provocation. It’s just not very easy, as practices go. I love my partner. He’s earned my respect, and has my enduring affection. He’s my best friend. My lover. My Traveling Partner. My spouse. I’m still just fucking maddened by some of our small challenges, now and then. I’m sure he feels similarly. It can’t be easy living with me. I’ve… “got issues”. (Who doesn’t?)

I take a breath. Exhale. Relax. Let it go. Let all of it go. Just… breathe. I listen to the computer fan spin up, slow down, cycling as I type. I listen to the steady ring, chime, shimmer, and ping of my tinnitus, in the background, louder than any sounds from the other room. This too has started to become an impediment to good communication; I watch people closely when they talk to me to avoid missing an important detail. I often mishear things when I don’t see them spoken, like when I am walking away. It’s frustrating. Now and then it gives the impression I’m “not paying attention”.

I’d planned – considered? – writing something quite different, but the idea (which I really liked) was washed away by my irritation. Another bit of aggravation, this evening. I take another breath. I blow it out fiercely, childishly, crossly. I take another breath, and insist on exhaling it gently, without hostility or resentment.

My partner sticks his head in the door. He smiles and there’s so much love there. We’re in this together. “Still cranky?” he asks. Yeah, yeah I am – but it isn’t so bad. I feel very loved, and that matters more. Even when my head aches. Even when I’m cross.

…I guess I’ll just begin again. 😉

Sipping my coffee and listening to the rain fall.

I’d been watching the rain fall, through the open curtains of the patio door, but in a careless moment of conversation with my Traveling Partner over our morning coffee together, I managed to inhale when I meant to swallow, with the end result of choking on a mouthful of coffee, about half of which ended up in my sinuses. While also hilarious, sort of, this disrupted the flow of conversation, and also made me incredibly uncomfortable and cross. Emotions spread like a brush fire in this household, particularly when we’re both so open, and vulnerable, and still sipping our first coffees early in the morning. Rather than attempt to pretend it away or struggling with it, I took my uncomfortable self and my coffee into my recently thoroughly tidied up studio to write, and reflect, and hopefully get past this (physically) uncomfortable moment. 🙂

He sticks his head in the door of the studio, and asks how I’m doing. I’m already okay by that point, and say something mind numbingly uninteresting about clearing out my spam folder. lol

This week my partner had taken time to hang curtains in the rooms that didn’t have any. All the windows had shades, so it wasn’t really a privacy thing – more to do with comfort, quiet, and temperature control. I am impressed with how much difference it makes! My wee library? Sounds like a library; there is so much quiet in there. The other household noises don’t really get through, if the door is closed, and the addition of curtains over the window have made the space somehow more finished looking, and even quieter than it previously seemed. The window looks out into the space between our house and the one next door, where both have air conditioning units placed, and also where the trash bins are located; it can be noisy on trash days, or when our neighbor comes home in the wee hours, or when the a/c cycles on… I mean… yeah. It’s noisy along that wall. Well, it was. Not so much now and I don’t really understand how a couple panels of soft fabric make so much difference. Hell… I’m even okay with not knowing how this works. I’m frankly delighted, and that’s enough.

I’m fortunate to be in a partnership that results in pretty reliably good quality of life. We each do our part. Our skills and abilities overlap in a few places – which is handy sometimes – and even more of our skills and abilities complement the other’s. Where things get super exciting (for me) is those areas of life where we just don’t have much common ground, skill-wise. I’ll likely go to my grave seriously impressed by some of the things my Traveling Partner has done to ensure we live well and comfortably. Partner. Husband. Lover. Friend. “Battle buddy” on days when it feels like the world is against us. I sit here sipping my coffee and feeling wrapped in his love. It’s nice. I’m fortunate.

Another sip of coffee, considering my good fortunate in life, these days, and generally… I take a moment to also be appreciative of the choices I’ve made, myself, to be in this place. I’ve made changes. I’ve grown. I’ve faced traumas and done much to put my chaos and damage to rest. I’m for sure not perfect, but I’m also not a passive observer of my experiences; I’m living my life, with my eyes open and my arms spread wide to embrace my circumstances on this journey to become the human being I most want to be. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always as I expect it to be – but I’m not a passenger in this journey; I’m in the driver’s seat, in my own life, and that feels so good to me.

Another sip of my coffee, and I find myself wondering and hoping if I do enough to provide an emotionally safe environment that my partner and I can both thrive in. I’m aware that it isn’t “all about me”. Ups and downs are real enough. There is emotional weather – and emotional climate. (I chuckle quietly, grimly pleased that our relationship is not facing a “climate crisis”, in spite of occasional “stormy weather”; the sentiment and experience please me, the metaphor strikes a grim chord.)

I find myself back at the titular recommendation. “Let the rain fall.” Yes, definitely do that. Honest tears falling in a moment of stress can be an enormous relief. No tears this morning. 🙂 I’m just saying – it’s not a reasonable expectation that we would be reliably able to “control the weather” – even emotionally. Especially emotionally? I’m often surprised (and yes, horrified) that we treat our emotions as enemies, so often, pitting them against our ability to reason and be “rational”. As if rational thought alone was some sort of super hero, and emotion the exaggerated all-powerful bad-guy our hero fortunately defeats in the end. Emotions are not the enemy. Maybe fear of them is? Maybe the panicked free fall that sometimes happens when we’re swamped by emotion, or “flooded”, or “triggered”, is the greater threat? We don’t make a point of educating children (in public schools, as part of structured curriculum) to deal with their emotions skillfully, such that those powerful feelings are an advantage, and something to value and appreciate. Isn’t that odd? Considering what a huge part of our experience of living our lives our emotions happen to be? We experience emotions long before we begin to reason skillfully, or think critically. We experience emotions without having to be educated to do so. Emotions require no training to have them. There they are. Being.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

Emotions are part of who we are. Easy to take “personally”. Tempting to dismiss as lacking value (particularly negative emotions). Sometimes overwhelming. Sometimes at odds with what we “think”.

Let the rain fall. Feel the feelings. Acknowledge them. Be there for yourself. Continue to make the best decisions you are able to make. Continue to practice healthy self-care – and also to treat others well – without regard to the content of your emotional experience in the moment. I don’t say that as any sort of “telling you what to do” thing – I’m just saying, this approach seems healthy to me. I work on it. I fail more often than I’d like to. We live in a world where there are a lot of people so thoroughly uncomfortable with emotions – theirs or anyone else’s – that it can feel uncomfortable to be honest and open with our own emotional experience. Still, seems worth doing to make the attempt. I’m far happier as a human being, treating myself with consideration about my emotions, and really giving myself a moment to understand them, feel them honestly, and working to make actions and decisions dependent on a balance. Emotion and reason. Not either/or.

My coffee is cold. I’m rambling now. It’s time to begin again. The morning feels pleasant, and I feel merry. 🙂 This is a lovely place to begin.