Archives for posts with tag: totally wide open

Be kind. It’s a simple enough suggestion. It’s not expensive to be kind to people (or animals, or celebrities, or nice things you may have acquired along life’s path). Further, what good reason is there to be unkind? Oh sure, there’s a lot of wiggle room between ‘kind’ and ‘unkind’ that isn’t so clearly defined. Can we accept that both kindness and unkindness are likely active choices or processes, rather than just fumbling along doing and being? If so, and we also recognize that most of us living in the U.S. probably heard the ‘be kind’ message, the ‘play nicely’ and ‘do unto others’ messages pretty repetitively growing up…what the hell is the matter with us as adults? Have you seen the way people treat each other? The nastiness? The negativity? The vicious unending criticism of self and others? The callousness and cruelty built on foundations of self-righteous entitlement and us/them thinking? So…um…if this is our idea of ‘kindness’ or ‘good treatment’ of our fellow man…maybe we would do well to be kinder than that? Seriously.

Sorry. I’m sick with a head cold, and feeling out of sorts. Life’s day-to-day bullshit and drama are more easily tolerated, avoided, or managed more skillfully when I’m not ill. My emotional resilience is limited – and when I’m sick, my default reaction is often anger; I honestly just want to be treated gently, supported, and cared for – because I’m sick.  Of course I’m not alone in that; it’s spring, and the second significant wave of illness has hit the area (there’s ‘flu’ season, then just as spring gears up, we often see a major short-term increase in people out of office with colds).  I’m pretty sure I picked this cold up either in the office or on the commute. (Cover your coughs/sneezes, people, please!) Hell, I’m not even the only person in the household who is ill this week.

Here’s the thing about kindness that I notice most often; people aren’t doing it. A lot of people, totally not investing even the slightest effort to be kind, and instead actively investing will, intent, emotion, time, choice, and action into treating people poorly – not just any people, the people they say matter most! I regularly see or hear people being total dicks, seriously hurtful and unkind, to friends, lovers, even family. What the hell? These are people we care about? What’s the thinking there?

What does kindness really look like?

What does kindness really look like?

I’ll take a real-life example – a stranger from a recent bus ride – to illustrate. A woman gets on the bus, she is on a phone call. She is talking very loudly, and it is not possible to avoid overhearing every word of her phone call (at least her end of it). So, okay – that’s our first moment of unkindness; she seemed utterly unaware that this behavior could be disruptive or unpleasant for other passengers at all. As the call progressed I learned way to much about her, but it fuels the writing this morning. 🙂 She was angry, and venting to a friend about her resentment that her current lover expected her to shower before sex (note, this is happening late in the afternoon on a Wednesday) and observes “I just had a shower on Sunday morning, and it’s not like I’ve had sex since then!”. I’m struck by her resentment… we live in a pretty hygiene conscious society, and my own perspective in this context was to feel just a little shocked that she’d admit to ‘being so nasty’. lol (I am aware that different standards exist in other cultures, and that the frequency of bathing in other circumstances could reasonably be quite different.) She goes on from there to rant about his many other lovers that she is sure exist, and all manner of vengeance she is inclined to enact due to the existence of these other lovers. The conversation continues. In the space of a few minutes she rather self-righteously exclaims a variety of fairly criminal acts to be within reason for her, in her circumstances: stealing her lovers phone to go through his address book without his consent, contacting people she doesn’t know to say derogatory things about him (specifically untrue, and she’s quite clear about that, too), physical violence against her lover or his potential lovers, arson, homicide, assault, gas-lighting, stalking… and all delivered in a tone of utter self-righteous entitlement, and clear anticipation that her position is rationally supportable and justified. It was actually pretty  horrifying to listen to. I could not help but wonder why anyone would have sex with someone who would say such things about them, or potentially behave in any of those ways! She directed an equal measure of implied invective toward herself stating assumptions about other women with similar characteristics reflecting her self-defined short-comings, and the imagined advantages held by women of others sorts. (She was very concerned about the weight of her lovers potential paramours, and made it clear that ‘skinny girls don’t have these problems’ – which goes well beyond any acceptable lack of social awareness for an adult, I think.)

Am I gossiping? I hope not… I am also doing my best to avoid being (or sounding) judgmental… I’m trying to get around to making this point; be kind. Treat yourself and others well. Sure – but if you don’t understand that being loud on a cell phone on the bus is unkind to other passengers, will you know not to do it? If I don’t understand that making threats of violence when I am angry is unkind to people for whom that level of acting out causes anxiety, will I know to work on handling my volatility differently? If we live in a culture where we regularly see people treated as property, will we understand that people are not property – and that assault and arson are not appropriate responses to another human beings sexual decision-making? That it isn’t okay to kill people because we’re angry with them? The woman on the bus very clearly believed in her cause, and that she had been wronged, and that any action she might take to redress that wrong would be acceptable – who taught her that? Who taught her that her lover becomes her property because they have a sexual relationship? Who taught her that someone else’s needs are of less importance than her own? It really got me thinking about me – about what I do or don’t expect from people, and what I find appropriate day-to-day – and why. I can do better, day-to-day, to be kind. I can’t find any reason not to.

Many years ago I was admittedly not particularly concerned about kindness. I didn’t ‘get it’. (Righteous rage doesn’t make much room for compassion or kindness, honestly.) I think about kindness a lot now. I am not able to make a good argument against being kind – but I see a lot of ‘traps’ along my journey; it is tempting to rationalize very good sounding reasons to exclude one person or another from being treated with kindness. It isn’t easy to maintain kindness toward others when I’m having a difficult moment, or feel angry at that person I am tempted to be unkind towards. It is sometimes difficult to be skillful at not permitting myself to be taken advantage of or treated badly in the face of kindness; I know I have much to learn, and I also know that kindness is possible without sacrificing good self-treatment, consideration, and self-respect, too.  Life’s curriculum is rich, complex – and rewarding. I am still a student. I am still a beginner. “I am only an egg.”

What does it take to build a beautiful life?

What does it take to build a beautiful life?

Today is a good day to be kind. It’s also a good day to be kinder than that. It’s a good day to take being the woman I most want to be to another level. We are each having our own experience; a kind moment might be all that other person needs to thrive. It’s a good day to be the change I wish to see in the world.

This is a very different morning experience I am having today. I am the only one at home this weekend. I wake in the usual way – ahead of the alarm by a few minutes, after decent enough night’s sleep, with a moment of wakefulness in the night, but mostly uninterrupted. I am, however, as individual as any one other human being. My experience is changed by solitude. We are each having our own experience. My solitary morning experience is still leisurely, still what I myself consider ‘quiet’ and lovely…but my second choice upon rising was turning on the stereo, checking that the volume was not set on ‘stun’ and the bass level wasn’t going to annoy the neighbors, and I turned on Legion of Boom by The Crystal Method.  It’s almost like a secret identity; I make different choices when I am living alone, however briefly, than I do when I live with other people. The music is the big give away. I rarely begin my day in silence when I live in solitude. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the silence…I just like to start my morning with some rambunctious beats. lol.

Yoga feels different listening to house music, or nerdcore,  or punk, or industrial. Music is a mind-altering drug.

So. This morning the house is filled with…well…’house’. LOL My yoga sequence felt powerful, and strong. I ‘find myself’ differently, and experience different facets of who I am with the music playing in the morning. Sometimes when I enjoy the morning with my partner, we have some music quietly in the background, once ‘everyone is awake’. When it’s just me? Cranking the bass, and starting the morning with sound, and motion, is the way it’s done, and I almost dance through my morning.  I find myself wondering if we can ever really know each other; there is so much beyond the moments we share, and the choices we make when we do. The precious depths of the wellspring of who we truly are can be incredibly difficult to fathom in the company of others.

Getting close up and personal...with myself.

Getting close up and personal…with myself.

When my partners are home, starting the day with loud music, amazing beats, and a bit of volume on the bass isn’t appropriate; people are sleeping. Consideration dictates other choices. It’s not about repression, loss, fairness, or giving anything up; it’s not a martyrdom, it’s just one of love’s many choices to compromise to enhance the experience we share. Love itself makes these solitary mornings incredibly precious to me; they are a rare gift from my partners, to me, and it would be disrespectful and ungracious not to turn the stereo up first thing this morning and enjoy the moment. 🙂

"...you don't get open, you just are open...but open like what?...

“…you don’t get open, you just are open…but open like what?…

This morning? Definitely having my own experience. I am. This fragile vessel of flesh and heartache isn’t ‘me‘ anymore than my dreams and nightmares are ‘me’. I’d love to learn emotional intimacy so well, and become so skilled with my relationship building, and connecting with others, that I could easily share ‘who I am’ when I am alone, with everyone I love. This is a very cool part of me to know…

Like a flower on a sunny day, like a child's mind... totally wide open.

Like a flower on a sunny day, like a child’s mind… totally wide open.

Today is a good day to begin with music. Today is a good day to be who I am. Today is a good day for wide-eyed wonder, and all the hope and promise in new choices. Today is a good day to nurture the best within myself, and share that, too. Today is a good day to change the world.

I personally find feeling ‘inspired’ to be a strange state that is neither cause nor effect in any clear and specific way. Sometimes I am inspired by something…which seems an effect, obviously, but I’m not always certain what inspired me. Other times, although I feel inspired I don’t act on it, and it causes nothing, existing merely as a state of being, or sensation. I’m often deeply inspired. I write. I paint. I take photographs. I craft small sculptures. I organize objects in space in a visually pleasing (to me) way. I build and craft things. I am a creative being. I consider myself an artist, and a writer. I write and take pictures pretty nearly every day that I am awake… painting is different. I am often moved to paint, but I only follow through when I have the physical space to work in comfortably, the time to set up and tear down and clean up afterward (having no permanent studio space), and exist in the context of an emotional experience that feels consistent with the inspiration driving my desire to paint; it’s that last one that makes or breaks whether I paint. That last one is as non-negotiable as breathing, and is less a choice of will than a limitation in ability.

Inspiration takes so many forms... flowers...

Inspiration takes so many forms… flowers…

---landscapes...

…landscapes…

...a quality of light...

…a quality of light…

...a metaphor...

…a metaphor…

...an emotion.

…an emotion.

This weekend I am painting. I’m excited about it, and my consciousness is saturated with inspiration – paintings and ideas that have been lurking in the shadows waiting their turn, queue up with exciting new ideas that arose in the hours since it became a certainty that I’d have the time and space to paint in solitude. At least for now, solitude is the only assurance of having that elusive emotional context within which I paint.

I’ve got inspiration…images…canvas…paint…time…space… and no idea of what will have come of it, when I shake off the drop cloths, fold them up, put away the paint and brushes, and acknowledge that the weekend has ended.  I know I am excited, now. I enjoy the feeling of anticipation, and the internal pressure of increasing inspiration, ideas on ideas, and the fun of making quick notes – not wanting to let a moment of further inspiration ‘get away’.

This will be my first serious exploration of mindfulness, perspective, and sufficiency in my work as a painter. I don’t know what it means to make that observation, and I don’t know what it will mean for my art. I haven’t done much painting living in this particular location, a mere handful of paintings over almost 3 years, and my last productive opportunity to paint was before I got to where I am, now, as a person. I am approaching the weekend with a beginner’s mind, and wide-eyed wonder. What will come of this? I guess I’ll know on Sunday. 🙂

There's always time for a moment of wonder.

There’s always time for a moment of wonder.

Today is a good day to try something new. Today is a good day to be eager, to be delighted, and to share the moment. Today is a good day for art, a good day for journeys, and a good day to love. Today is a good day to change the world.

I was recently meditating, in a moment of doubt and hurt, and in the stillness found an odd question sort of dangling in mid-consciousness, just waiting. “What would I have wanted to be taught, differently? What other things would I have exposed myself, too, had I know more than I did?” That’s not verbatim; it seemed both simpler and more encompassing, but the words are lost now.

The path isn't always paved...

The path isn’t always paved…

It got me thinking, over days, about who I am, what makes me thus, and what sorts of things I was taught, shown, lead to, and what people and ideas I was encouraged to pursue, favor, and build upon. I couldn’t help but observe that years of far right conservative thinking and values, in my teens and twenties, align to the thinking of my parents and many teachers, my culture at large at the time, and even the larger portion of my military peer group. This was the thinking I was taught, immediately after my TBI. I considered the gaps, too. Thinkers and ideas I had not been exposed to, or had been actively discouraged from considering suddenly have profound value for me; they are an unknown. They predictably and reliably have something else to reveal than what I see now.

I timidly and carefully explored the corners of my heart that most need support and nurturing these days, and smirked at myself; my education feels pretty directed and rather worthless.  I dredged up what recollections I have of authors, philosophers, educators, speakers and people of renown, that I had been actively discouraged from reading, or listening to. Would I be very different if I had read Timothy Leary and Ram Dass with the same devotion with which I read Ayn Rand? It took a very long time for me to ‘move left’, as an adult.  I giggle when people make jokes about politically conservative thinking and brain damage; I have no argument to offer.

I remember a conversation at the kitchen counter with my Dad late on some muggy summer night. We spoke of utopia, and ideals, and making the world better. I was young. Before my injury, maybe? No younger than 9…no older than 13.  I passionately spoke in favor of action ‘for the good of mankind’. My father countered cynically, and equally passionately, that mankind is a lost cause, unable to appreciate the effort or value, and that the better choice would be action in the favor of the individual. I don’t recall my father reading, aside from some sporting and gun magazines, but he was quick to quash the words of thinkers he didn’t approve of, whether he’d read them or not.  His bias quietly crept into my programming, with all sorts of other nastiness to untangle over time.  I realized, with some astonishment, that an entire era (genre? category?) of philosophers and thinkers had somehow quietly been locked out of my experience. How strange. I read so much… how is it that I turned so firmly away from the psychedelic thinkers and philosophers? Oh, not all of them, not all their work… I read Castaneda. I flipped through enough pages of Leary to pat myself on the head and move on, having learned nothing. I let some words in through my eye holes; I was not hearing what was being said. I wasn’t listening; I was checking off the box on a reading list intended solely to validate my educational requirements, and ego.

We choose who we are. Through our choices, we also choose who we become.

Yesterday I began reading Love. Leo Buscaglia definitely finds his place among authors, philosophers, and thinkers of whom my father did not approve. Writing about Love? Teaching Love? I actually finding myself pausing now and again, anticipating mockery. Yes, the things we teach children go that deep. I struggle with some of the language, too… the casualness of it, the 70s vernacular, the emphasis on love. But I am also moved, caught by the wisdom of some of the words, and inspired by others.

“First of all, the loving individual has to care about himself.” Wait…what? I could have used this information sooner! Another lesson, another exciting adventure, another step on my path… Everyone has a story. Everyone has something to offer the world in the way of wisdom. I’m a little irked that some of this was withheld from me, and that I myself chose to reinforce that with my own will for so long, failing even to recognize that there was a bias in play. Pop quiz aced – I have more to learn.  I smile, planning to ‘sneak’ a real book into my camping gear tomorrow, adding to the adventure.

Today is a good day to be open to the unknown. Today is a good day to recognize bias and choose differently. Today is a good day to embrace Love. Today is a good day to change the world.