Archives for posts with tag: the journey is the destination

A steady rain falls this morning. I woke a number of times during the night, and it was raining then, too. My dreams were lively, rich in surreal detail, and graphic, but lacking in emotional content. However grim the imagery was, I felt nothing; my brain was just “taking out the trash”, clearing buffers, wiping away bits and pieces left behind that serve no useful long-term purpose. No nightmares, just data processing in moving pictures. It’s important that our consciousness be ready for a new day, it only makes sense that while I sleep, my brain is busy in cycles, resting, getting caught up on things, resting more.

(Note: I am not a sleep scientist, this blog post is not science, my subjective experience has not been rigorously scrutinized and peer-reviewed, following years of replicable research. There are people doing those things and they are very much worth reading! I’m using words, to share my subjective experience, my own thinking, lacking in any hardcore vetting against known science. My writing may serve someone a useful purpose, be helpful, or an entertaining read, but please don’t settle on me as settled science; do your homework. Use your critical thinking skills. Walk your own mile.)

I woke feeling more than usually rested. I woke feeling more rested yesterday, too. Both mornings follow days with much less involvement with my handheld device, my computer, or the internet, generally. I feel less distracted moment-to-moment. I feel less emotionally volatile. I am less easily frustrated. I feel more content. I find myself wondering how many generations of saturating all-day computer use human beings will commit to before becoming actually able to fully multi-task their consciousness, for real? (No, you can’t. There is science on that.) No doubt over time our consciousness will change with the tools we use regularly, we are adaptable. We become what we practice. Epigenetics is real. Our children’s children will have different characteristics than our Great-grandparents did. Some of those differences may indeed be cognitive. More to the point in this moment, though, is that setting aside the complicated dense multi-channel continuous streaming information into my consciousness for a couple of days has had real value on my overall state of being. I feel more relaxed. My rest is more restful. I feel calmer, less anxious, more easily able to “hear myself think”. I think I may have gotten more done, too, using my time more efficiently, and spending no minutes staring into a repeating feed full of copies, memes, and reshares for unmeasured hours of the day.

A favorite trail was flooded. It was necessary to choose another way.

A favorite trail was flooded. It was necessary to choose another way.

The rain continues to fall quite steadily. It rained yesterday, and I enjoyed the short hike I took through the park in spite of it. Time well-spent, in the wind and weather, breathing the fresh air, seeing the trees tossing in the wind, and hearing the water birds on the marsh calling to each other. This morning the rain is falling harder, enough harder that some of the fun of hiking would be washed away in it. So… perhaps not this morning…

Favorite places for a moment of meditation are flooded, too.

Favorite places for a moment of meditation are flooded, too.

I’ll spend the day taking time for being here, now, and enjoying (or enduring) what is real, and live, and in front of me. Tidying up a bit more. Taking out the trash, the recycling, and maintaining order. Those are useful practices, too. I have found that the state of order – or disorder – in my environment reflects the state of order – or disorder – in my internal world, as well. My consciousness seems only ever as ordered as my environment. Keeping my head, minding my emotional wellness, tends to result in more will to keep my home tidied up and very neat. Keeping a tidy orderly household seems to promote and support my cognitive wellness. I don’t know what the science says about all that; my experience confirms it for me, and as “ways” go, it works for me. 🙂

Today is a good day for practicing practices. Today is a good day to enjoy the woman in the mirror. Today is a good day to be open, to be kind, to be aware – and mindful that change is. It may change the world – we have that power. 🙂

 

 

“What’s in your wallet?” I chuckle to find jingles and advertising slogans ‘stuck in my head’ as I pack a bag for a weekend of adventure and love. I pack in a fairly structured way, beginning with thinking through what I hope to do, and envisioning getting ready for those sorts of things – what might I miss? I make a list (and yes, sorted by categories of things, it’s part of ‘who I am’). This morning, I take another look at the list and assembled the listed items, group them, pack them, and move on to the next trusting that the planning is adequate to the purpose. If I think of something I overlooked, I add it to the list as well as packing it; the list will be the last thing packed, and a handy resource on the other end of the weekend to ensure that all the things I thought I might need also make their way back with me. 🙂

I don’t make a point of calling this out day-to-day, but for the benefit of those joining me here more recently; having a brain injury definitely affects how I do what I do, and it is also a very… personalized? Customized. It’s a very individual sort of thing in some regards; what works for me to cope with my own gaps, losses, quirks, etc, is very likely to be finger-print-distinctive if compared to what someone else with a TBI does to cope with their own needs. I do well making lists… which is kind of a good thing, since I also feel a certain… compulsion… to do so. 🙂 We are who we are, right? I mention it, because it may be that some readers may come to this blog with the perception that there are ‘one size fits all’ perfect-fit solutions to the chaos and damage they – or a loved one – may be experiencing. It’s not that easy. Perhaps if it were as easy as following some handy steps on a cheat sheet shared by all who suffer a head injury, I wouldn’t still be noodling around blogging about ‘wtf??’, ‘how the hell??’ and ‘oh, hey… that worked’ in this haphazard trial and error sort of way? 🙂  We are each having our own experience.

Anyway… moving on… this morning I am finding myself fairly engaged with the process of preparing for adventure, and packing what I’ll need. I consider everything quite carefully, not wanting to drag around a lot of weight that doesn’t serve a definite need. I find myself wondering how I can shift gears, and look at life itself through the lens of packing for adventure, applying the power of metaphor (and perhaps some linguistic shenanigans) to extract a better understanding of bags and ‘baggage’ on life’s journey… Could I… ‘pack lighter’? Could I drag along fewer things that no longer truly serve a purpose? If I were to consider my needs with greater care, and lighten my emotional load? I learn so much about myself, and about life and living, by contemplating the whole of it within the context of some smaller process or task.

…My poetry notebook! Damn… I almost forgot to pack it. I mean…I can write poetry on napkins in diners, and even in the quiet moments walking along, in my own head (some of my best poetry never finds its way to paper)… but… I do like writing it down neatly in my notebook, and poetry is one style of written communication which I never leave behind. The weight of a notebook, versus the weight of the unspoken word? Yeah. The notebook goes with me. 🙂 (For a moment, the demon chorus in the background gives voice to a bitter and angry hurt woman of long ago, “What are you, fucking 12?” and I am briefly stalled on the hurt I feel, delivered by my own brain. I take a deep breath, and allow myself to recognize the profound struggle to be heard represented, and show myself a moment of real compassion – it has been hard, and there are times when I’ve hurt myself worse than the world ever would think to, and it isn’t at all necessary or helpful. I imagine a softer kinder me giving that bitter angry woman a tender hug and a smile, as I pack the notebook; it’s important to both of us.)

Of course... the map is not the world.

Of course… the map is not the world.

It’s a lovely quiet morning with a good cup of coffee and a packing list. Adventure awaits!

I’m sipping my coffee and staring at a blank page, waiting for my brain to kick in with actual thoughts. So far… nothing. It’s not a lack of thoughts lurking in the background waiting their turn to be given a moment, or a lack of living metaphors, or whimsy. There is surely no shortage of photographs of this and that, out and about, useful for illustrating some point…or just being a lovely image or image of a lovely moment. Quite the opposite; my head is full of things to do, thoughts, notions, observations, yearnings, fleeting illustrative imaginings, and some of the best poetry I’ve never written, too… It’s a noisy mess in here, and frankly some tidying up is in order!

I slept well last night and rested deeply. I even ‘slept in’ some, having not set the alarm and waking at the time my eyes were most inclined to open and face the day (still quite early in the morning, sun not yet up). But what is there to say about sleep, besides noting the obvious value in being well-rested? Certainly it is worth taking the time to go to bed early enough to get a needed night’s sleep; no late night programming is truly worth passing up sleep. I’ve already used more words than needed on the topic of sleeping. Waking well-rested is an excellent start to any day that may have verbs in it. 🙂

There’s the thing, right? There are so many verbs from which to choose! I could meditate – and tidy up the mess within. I could do some housekeeping and tidy up the mess that surrounds me (it is limited to my studio, and is both inconvenient, and an impediment to working creatively). I could finish getting moved in – which tends to have a tidying up effect both internally and externally (it’s just that sort of process). I could ‘mix it up’ and spend some measure of time on a variety of tasks, ‘getting ahead on things’ in a more generalized way. I could choose to do something less obviously useful, like going for a long hike, or having an at-home “spa day” and really taking care of me on a whole other level, or spending the day bird-watching from my patio, or catching up on my studies by reading (and finishing) one or two exceptional reading selections I’ve been finding highly useful and haven’t yet finished… The point I am making (for me as much as anyone else) is that there is a fairly large variety of verbs I can choose from – in most any moment, on nearly any day – and the day is only begun. I am unlikely to make ‘relaxing’ and ‘sipping coffee’ last for the whole of the day, and not only are there more hours ahead of me (as far as I know) there is ever so much more to be done…

It’s down to choices. Choices and verbs.

I sit awhile, sipping my coffee and looking at those words, “choices and verbs”, and giving myself time to consider my choices and the verbs required more fully. I open my “to do list” and my “list of things” (which is a willy-nilly ‘as it came to me’ unsorted vast sort of list of all the many things I might like to have or ‘need to get’ to improve my day-to-day quality of life, or to resolve some small household issue or another), and make an addition here or there. I continue to sip my coffee. I consolidate the two lists into one, for convenience. I continue to consider the options – and the opportunities. As I review the list, add to it, and remove items that have been completed, I find myself feeling more organized, more aware, and less at loose ends. I feel more purposeful, and more mindful of my long-term needs. I remove some things from the list that are no longer relevant; needs and plans change. Change is. This individual day facing me in this moment is mostly unaffected by the changes I make to my lists, but I feel more organized, more clear-headed, and more present in this moment, being less burdened by the lack of ‘sense of direction’ that had occurred as planning broke down in the face of change. Change is – that much is entirely unavoidable, and fighting it is an unworthy use of precious limited life force, particularly when harnessing the power of change can be such a powerful ally on a much longer journey.

It’s still about choices and verbs, and my coffee is down to one last, cold, sip. It is a rainy day beyond the window, and the sun is apparently giving all the light and warmth it can. The gray rainy day nudges me in the direction of indoor choices, limiting the list just a bit. It’s still plenty to choose from. I pause, and notice a serious omission from my list, and make a point to add it… “Enjoy the day and take care of me.” I smile. I’m eager to check that one off every day, and recognize the value in making it a priority, and taking the time to fulfill my obligations to myself.

...Making a list... checking it twice...

…Making a list… checking it twice…

Choices. Verbs. The day won’t wait for me to keep up… Today is a good day to embrace change, and to take care of me… I’ve got a list, and I know how to use it. 😉

 

So hey, someone one that colossal PowerBall jackpot… Well, of course. Probably wasn’t you. Definitely wasn’t me – I didn’t buy a ticket. I could have, I suppose, in the spirit of ‘Can’t win if you don’t play!’ On the other hand, I am also not out the money spent on the ticket, which I’ll contentedly spend at some future time on something I need.

The PowerBall jackpot just kept growing, and people were getting so excited about it that for some short time their day-to-day fears and insecurity were drowned out by the eagerness to escape their lives in a moment of good fortune. I’ve been there…daydreaming about how I might spend the money, what the moment of realization would feel like, how life would change…earnestly wishing for more, different, or ‘better’, and forgetting entirely that I can have ‘more’, ‘different’, and ‘better’ – yes even that – by using some verbs, and letting time take its course. There are choices – and a lot of useful verbs.

I’m not criticizing you if you bought a PowerBall ticket, let’s be clear with each other; I have bought my share in years past. I even used to have rules for how and when I would do so, and which included, very specifically, just buying just one. I was fortunate when very young to see the impact on a family when a family member compulsively buys up lottery tickets with the grocery money – as with any other damaging compulsion, the outcome isn’t pretty, and I have avoided that behavior, aware that the odds of winning are such that those behaviors do not realistically improve the odds of winning a jackpot. My focus in recent years on sufficiency and emotional self-sufficiency just tend to turn my attention away from ‘instant win’ schemes, generally. I wish the winners well, and hope that each of them were the sort of folk who will both benefit from, and truly appreciate, the opportunity they now have to change their lives. That’s really the bigger deal isn’t it? 🙂

It is a quiet morning, and I feel a little as if I am a ‘blank page’, a clean whiteboard, or an empty day in a generally crowded day planner. It is not a bad feeling. It’s also not a particularly good one. I feel… ready? Available. I am not ‘waiting’ – nor am I acting on plans. I sip my coffee aware of the world, aware of the quiet space wrapped around me, and aware of this strangely timeless moment. I am aware of the clock ticking, and the distant sound of traffic outside these walls. I consider the state of my pantry; declining as I use things up and don’t quickly replace them. I consider my tidy habits, and calmly anticipate the tasks I plan to handle after work tonight (it is too noisy to vacuum at 5:30 am). I breathe. I live. I have enough.

Clearly sufficiency is still on my mind. I find myself wanting so badly to reach back in time, and have an earnest conversation with the woman in the mirror as long ago as 1995 or so, and talk about ‘sufficiency’, particularly emotional self-sufficiency, and talk about why it so quickly feels like there isn’t ‘enough’, when I squander what I have foolishly, or thoughtlessly. I want to point out her 10 or more $5 coffees every week in the 00’s, eagerly consumed morning and night – while struggling to make ends meet and putting a partner through college on wages that most definitely didn’t feel like ‘enough’ to begin with. I want to show her how her fears are preventing her from managing her challenges with greater skill. I want to talk to her about love, loving, and taking care of herself. I want to tell her not to wait to make the changes that will turn things around for her…but she can’t hear me from ‘now’. I smile, realizing that it’s enough that I eventually did make some good changes, woke up to some important [for me] ideas, and did eventually embrace the values that find me here, now… There’s more ahead of me, more challenges tackle, more problems to solve, more eagerness, more loss, more verbs… because the journey is the destination, and there are more opportunities to choose, to practice, and to learn.

Practice the practices that take you closer to being the human being you most want to be.

Practice the practices that take you closer to being the human being you most want to be.

Today I will practice the practices that take me ever-closer to being the woman I most want to be. It’s enough.

I am at home now, slowly warming up enough for a hot bath to be comfortable, sipping tea, looking forward to clean dry clothes, and catching up on calories and medication.

The only picture all day isn't of anything much; the photos are not the experiences.

The only picture all day isn’t of anything much; the photos are not the experiences.

I hit the trail at mid-morning with my hydration pack and emergency gear carefully checked off, map in a side pocket within easy reach. I felt utterly prepared for the hike ahead of me – new trails to explore, and a good plan for 6 to 8 miles of beautiful forested winter countryside, and considerable solitude along the way. I hopped off the bus with a smile at the trailhead most convenient to both mass transit and miles I had not yet walked. I crossed the street and headed up the trail – which in this case was rather literal, as the trail headed steeply upward, renewing my appreciation for my anti-shock hiking staff. I spotted the first snowflake as I neared the hilltop, and the drizzle carrying it along to the ground was quickly becoming more tiny snow flakes than drizzle. I wasn’t discouraged in the least, and visibility was not particularly impaired, except at a distance. There would be no distant vistas to view today. I walked on.

As I walked I contemplated how very prepared I felt when I departed for my hike – and how little my preparation seemed relevant in the present moment, unplanned snowflakes falling all around me. I considered this other solo journey I am taking – the one we each take, every one of us, through this wilderness territory called life; I am my own cartographer. Another way of saying that is – I don’t actually have a map. Yep. I’m making it up as I go along, aren’t I? Aren’t we all?

I turn the ideas on their heads a few times and consider things I do each time I hike to depart as well prepared as possible for all those many things that may come up along a journey, unplanned. Even the snow – I didn’t expect it, and in that sense I didn’t plan, but I did take my day pack, and checked my emergency gear quite carefully before I left, removing the Deet that isn’t needed in December and adding things that seemed more likely to be necessary for a winter emergency, then checking off my basics: a compact emergency shelter, bivy sack, an emergency blanket, first aid gear, water, fire – and my map. I hadn’t planned for snow – but I had done my best to plan for ‘whatever’ might come up that could find me out in the cold over night, and maybe lost or injured.

I hike solo most of the time, and being prepared is one of those things that is about more than me; my traveling partner relies on me to depart prepared to come home safely. Getting home safely may very well be dependent on preparation handled before I ever leave the house at all – and there’s no way to know in advance if this is the hike on which it will matter that I had my _____. With my injury, my PTSD, and the implied potential limitations of each, and both together, I take my time preparing for new trails. I study maps. I read trip reports by other hikers, and articles from the Forestry or Park service overseeing the area. I outline the route, and study alternate routes and connecting loops that may offer scenic opportunities also worth exploring. I make a plan, and share it with my partner. I pack, inventory my gear, re-pack, try it on for size, and double-check my choices against recent experiences in similar areas – I’ll ask myself what I have overlooked, more than once. I’ll ask friends to share stories of recent camping or hiking outings to glean likely circumstances I may not have considered from my own experience. When I am finally ready to put boots on the ground, I generally feel very well-prepared, and by day’s end sometimes find myself wondering why I ever bother to take some of the things I do – like an emergency shelter. Really? Even hiking a nearby park, wrapped entirely in suburbia? More than once I’ve laughed at myself for being over-prepared.

Some time after noon, the snow flakes had plumped to the fat fluffy sort that splat on impact, my glasses were no longer helping my vision, and I had removed them. Visibility – with or without my glasses – is about the same forward, as it is looking down at my feet, and the muddy trail beneath my feet is slippery – another opportunity to be very happy to have my hiking staff; I really need it as the trail turns, twists, and heads down hill. This is no time for photographs – and I had already determined some time ago that the wet cold was not ideal for camera or camera phone – I stay focused on the trail, a dark line ahead too muddy for snow to stick to. I stop at a trail crossing, rest a moment, check my map and finish the last of the still-hot coffee in my hydro-flask (another piece of gear to appreciate today). My hands are not cold; my gloves keep them warm and dry. My feet are not cold or wet; I chose my hiking boots with great care and they serve me well. My rain gear keeps most of the rest of me dry, too, but the flakes of wet snow have begun to sting my cold face, and I think of gear I don’t yet have that would do nicely right then, and even consider whether I am prepared, at any point, to admit I can’t proceed and take shelter. I breathe the winter air deeply and smile; if I need to set up an emergency shelter, I’m ready for that, too. I walk on.

I stood some wet tedious minutes waiting for the bus that would take me out of the woods. I exchange messages with my traveling partner so he knows I am safe, and heading home. I keep thinking about life; it’s a hell of a journey to have to take without a map, without ‘all the right gear’, without feeling prepared…without even the certainty that our experience is a shared experience that will be understood in the telling of the tale; we are solo-hiking through life, and we do it without a map, making it up as we go along, and hoping for the best. Hell – sometimes we start the journey without having even a destination in mind at all! It’s no wonder life can be so confusing, so surprising, so difficult sometimes.

The tea has taken the chill off me as I write. I smile, and think about the ‘gear’ I now ‘pack’ on my solo journey through this wilderness, life: mindfulness practices, meditation, a healthy approach to fitness and to food, an understanding of my physical needs day-to-day, and some ideas about what it takes to be the woman I most want to be, like emotional self-sufficiency, critical thinking, perspective, and an understanding that contentment is an excellent stepping stone to happiness, and more sustainable. I still don’t have a map – but this journey isn’t going to take itself, and it’s time to get going; the journey is the destination. The map is not the world. One year ends, another stretches out in front of me, an unexplored trail – it’s time to plan the next hike! 🙂