Archives for posts with tag: use your words

I woke in a cold sweat this morning, heart pounding, feeling that sensation of “being late” and feeling massive amounts of anxiety over that very subjective (and in this case wholly illusory) feeling. There wasn’t anything at all amiss. I was not “late” – and didn’t have anything scheduled on my calendar with other people on this particular work day, to even be late to. I got up and took a leisurely shower before greeting my Traveling Partner (already awake, though I didn’t realize it when I got up) figuring I’m might be walking around in a cloud of stress pheromones. His greeting was soft, pleasant, and merry. I made coffee. We enjoyed taking our morning coffees together. It was quite lovely.

…My anxiety was pretty serious that entire time, though I initially said nothing about it. I could feel myself fighting with the physical features of anxiety while we chatted over coffee together: tight chest, shortness of breath, feeling vaguely nauseous, increased awareness of arthritis pain, a subtle feeling of having trouble breathing – and a not-so-subtle feeling of wanting to bolt from the room. I kept “letting it go” – more accurately, I kept suppressing it each time it surged, hoping it would just go away. Finally, I mentioned it out loud. Just observing the experience, and sharing those observations with my partner. We talked a minute or two about the anxiety, then moved on to other topics. I noticed every few minutes after that, my partner kind of “checked in” on how I was feeling, what he could do to assist, what kinds of things were adding to my feeling of pressure or anxiety? I shared and we talked, and the morning seemed fine honestly. No tears or tantrums, no escalation of some small misunderstanding. No impatience. No frustration. Just two adults aware of each other’s baggage and limitations helping each other through dealing with that shit – together. It was… productive? That seems to under sell the value in just speaking up in an open and trusting way. But, sure, let’s go with “productive”. My day was off to a good start.

I decided to go to the co-work space to work, just based on how bad my anxiety felt, and my desire to work skillfully in spite of it – which I know can potentially reduce my ability to interact with others comfortably, and I for sure did not want to start my partner’s work week mired in my bullshit & baggage. We missed each other almost immediately… and also found ourselves each working on our own work at a high level of efficiency. Win.

It can be seriously uncomfortable to talk about how we feel. Emotions can be complex and very subjective. Individually, we’re not all equally comfortable with emotions (our own, or other people’s). Still worth it. I feel like I understood myself a bit better, and that my partner understood me better, too. Worth it, worth it, worth it.

…Then I began again, and it was easier, and the day so far has been a good one.

“Lazy” Sunday morning sipping coffee, feeling the lift of recent inspiration, and contemplating a recent discussion with my Traveling Partner on the topic of “second hand stress”. It’s a thing, Google it. (I got 462 million hits on that search term, with the first page of links mostly being pretty useful and informative – at least as of October of 2022). Here’s one article. My partner shared this one with me. I found it decently informative, with some useful suggestions for observing and managing second hand stress. Cures? lol. No. There is no “cure” for stress, if by “cure” you mean “some reliable means to wholly and permanently eliminate the subjective experience of stress”. That’s not a thing. Stress, in general, is something we experience for reasons. It has a purpose. There is no “make it go away” approach that suits every need in every moment, there just isn’t. I definitely recommend letting go of that notion. It’s not helpful.

“Anxiety” 2011

Learning to differentiate between stress (and anxiety) that rises to the level of becoming disordered, from the useful experiences of stress or anxiety that could prompt us to make a change, follow through on circumstances, or move away from danger, is an important bit of growth and personal development. For those of us with already-identified anxiety disorders of one sort or another, it becomes doubly critical to be able to distinguish between needed, useful, “positive” stress, and the chronic disordered sort that creates so much chaos and unpleasantness. Saying so doesn’t make it easier. (Keep practicing.) It’s fucking hard.

Learning to skillfully practice non-attachment and to avoid becoming fused with the emotional states of those around us is another incredibly useful (necessary?) skill for managing stress and anxiety. This is definitely an area that I personally need improvement on (for real). The very same love that draws me to my Traveling Partner and fills me with such delight and warmth and affectionate regard also (sometimes) sucks me into the trap of becoming fused with his emotional state – and when that emotional state happens to be one of frustration, annoyance, anger, sadness, or other “negative” emotional experiences, it can result in my becoming mired in despair and sorrow, or fear, or feelings of inadequacy (when I find myself unable to “fix it” for him). That is the sort of thing that can quickly build a mood-wrecking spiral of emotions in our relationship, as we trigger each other, back and forth, our individual experiences of anxiety and stress feeding on each other and just making things so much worse. Becoming skilled at emotional non-attachment without having to “run away” from an uncomfortable experience has the added result of making us that much more able to support one another.

…I gotta work on that…

Listening deeply is a skill that can be helpful for sorting out whether an experience of stress and anxiety is entirely my own… or a mix of my own and my partner’s emotional experience, or actually just nothing to do with me at all. Sometimes it is hard to listen to someone (particularly my partner) tell me that I’m causing their unpleasant emotional experience – but that doesn’t take away from the truth of it. Sometimes that’s just real, and saying so has nothing to do with intention or blame-laying. On the other hand, it’s their emotional experience, and regardless of cause that’s theirs to manage.

Because love matters more. “Emotion and Reason” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

We’re each having our own experience. We each have our own “emotional climate” and “emotional weather”. We each live our own life, alongside those we love. We are not the being others see us as; we’re who we are. Individual travelers on life’s sometimes-shared journey. The perceptions of others don’t necessarily align with our perceptions of our self. Similarly, those people so dear to us, that we love so much..? They aren’t who we think they are, or even who we see them as; they are their own unique self, independent of our impressions, experiences, assumptions, thoughts, or recollections. Funny how often we think we “know” someone “better than they know themselves” and funnier still how rarely that is actually true. Worth thinking about.

The tl;dr? “Second hand stress” is a real thing. Our partners deal with it. We deal with it. Our colleagues deal with it. We deal with it. Every one of us. All the time. Our results vary. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let it go.

Begin again.

We’ve all got a story (or stories) to tell, haven’t we? (It’s a rhetorical question. We do.) So often, it also feels as if “no one is listening” – even if they just fucking asked for a bedtime story. LOL Being human sometimes seems needlessly complicated.

My Traveling Partner stopped into the studio with chocolates and a smile. I’d just finished with a phone call he’d earlier expressed interest about, wanting to know the outcome. So… okay… I start to share, but the timing is a poor fit – he’s livestreaming, and needs to get back to that rather promptly. I’m invited to come along to where he’s sitting, to share any relevant (to his experience) information. Cool. Awesome – I do that. Only… I’ve misread the moment and begin to go down the path of “sharing my story”, instead of simply “answering his question”. Those are rather different things, in any conversation. 🙂 I get it wrong a lot, and I work on it often. Story-telling is about a carefully crafted narrative with a “larger purpose” (sometimes educational, sometimes entertainment, sometimes something else) than just answering a simple question. Stories have meaning and context and plot and are about more than one question, one answer. He sets a clear boundary in the moment; he’s not available for a story right then, and recognizing that is already a win for me. 🙂 I answer the simple question and walk away, and although I still needed to deal with my momentary hurt feelings (no one likes rejection, and being shut down pretty much reliably feels like rejection, regardless of the intent), the interaction felt like a “win”, generally.

I get over my emotional moment pretty quickly. Realistically, his idea of an interesting story and mine are quite different, anyway, and I too-often overwhelm him with narrative details that are neither useful nor actually interesting to him. Better communication skills are still something I work on – a lot. Every bit of progress I make is useful in all my relationships (personal or professional).

I turn my head left, to my other monitor. Another sort of “carefully crafted narrative” is unfolding there, and I watch the video as it does. The work day is already over. I think about the afternoon ahead. Other moments. Other stories to tell. More opportunities to practice skillful communication, and more chances to be the person I most want to be. It’s a journey. I take a moment to think about the many miles I’ve walked on many trails… and the stories I could tell. They don’t all need telling. They don’t all have an audience, if they do. 🙂 Figuring out the difference is one more thing to practice.

Weird few days. Headaches. Neuralgia. Vertigo. Not my best experience, honestly, but I’m fortunate to have it in the context of being loved and supported, so… there’s that. It could be so much worse. I hold on to that and sip my coffee. Sunday morning. Low key day to chill and get some housekeeping done, gently, patiently, and with self-compassion and respect for my present limitations. I can do this. 🙂

“Doing my best” is a slippery construct, sometimes, and I’m often hard on myself when I fail to live up to my own expectations – which are sometimes higher, sometimes lower, that the expectations other have of me may be. Very human. I don’t “look unwell”, generally. I’m going about my business, often smiling, probably seeming relatively relaxed. It’s an appearance. I put almost as much effort into “being okay” as I do into getting shit done when I’m not entirely okay. I don’t guess that’s a requirement, it’s just something I’ve tended to do. Admittedly, it doesn’t always serve me well, but it does tend to improve shared experiences, mostly. It has the major drawback, though, of routinely putting people in the position of expecting more of me than I may be up for. I think about that as I sip my coffee… how to balance “transparency” and openness with staying positive, and enjoying life every minute I can… it’s tricky.

I listen to the rain fall. It’s not “my” rain. It’s not actually raining this morning. It’s a video of rain, soothing and beautiful.

My Traveling Partner has been kind and helpful, and maintained considerate awareness of my current health concerns. It’s hard to keep those things in mind, I know. We had a great day out and about yesterday, a rarity in the pandemic to go out at all and together has been rarer still. Yesterday was fun, and also exhausting. We napped after dinner for awhile, and enjoyed a relaxed quiet evening of videos later. I smile every time I think of some detail of yesterday. Good time together.

I’m trying to stay out of the news feeds. I’m frustrated by that. I enjoy reading. I value being “current” on important affairs. The news industry has become so tainted by social media practices chasing likes, clicks, views, engagement, and ad revenue that I don’t get much positive value from reading the news. Repeats of repeats of shares of Twitter quotes masquerade as “news”, with click-bait headlines and thumbnails that often have no relationship at all to the material in the article is not a useful way to stay in touch with the world; it just drops of fuck ton of emotional baggage on me in my own living room. I’m very much over it. It’s not good for my emotional wellness, and life is too short to waste it in that way.

I am already thinking about the holidays. How best to spend limited holiday funds is on my mind. What does my partner truly want, really need – what would delight him on a Giftmas morning? (Yes, dammit, I’m thinking about Giftmas already. I blame big-box home improvement chains, but also? I plan ahead and with the postal service being slowed down intentionally, I don’t think I should wait until December to order anything that would need to be delivered.) Something big? Something small? Blow all the funds on a single item? Several somethings? Something practical? Some luxury doo-dad he might not buy for himself but would enjoy? (I mean, “luxury” is relative, obviously – there is no sports car on this list, no diamond cuff-links, no Saw-Stop table saws; all of that it entirely out of reach, for now, but there is no shortage of smaller luxuries left to consider.)

…And “what about me”? What do I want for the holiday? What I’ve got, really. A bit more of that, a bit easier, a bit more relaxed, more laughter, more smiles, more hugs, more loving… I’m at a weird unsettling place in my life where more good exists than bad, more comfortable moments than uncomfortable ones, trauma being healed rather than inflicted, and generally, day to day, enough of all that I need to thrive. I often feel a bit of a jerk when I’m having a rough go of things (emotionally or physically) because of that; it seems unreasonable to struggle when things are so generally good, you know? That’s what got me thinking about “taking it easier on myself” and being kinder to the woman in the mirror. Treating myself badly because it “doesn’t seem right” to have a rough time with something in the context of a good life only leads me down the path toward treating others similarly poorly. Not helpful. This year? I want a kind, loving, genial, tasty, joyful holiday characterized by appreciation of the small details and shared experiences that make is so warm and wonderful. It’s the sort of gift that requires my own effort and consideration as much as anyone else’s. That’s okay with me, too.

Seems a good day to tidy up, and maybe to bake something. It’s certainly a lovely moment to begin again.

Always with the taking, eh? 😉

I’ve got a couple days off ahead of me, and a long weekend to enjoy with my Traveling Partner. I hope we do. We’ve had a couple heartfelt, heavy conversations about intimacy (in general, and specifically) recently, and it’s on my mind. I don’t question that we love each other, or even that we’re “right” for each other. Love simply requires some work and attention and there are verbs involved, even in matters of love and loving. It’s not a romantic crisis, so much as a reminder to put in the time, the attention, and the work that love requires to thrive. Coasting on the magic is unfair to a partnership, and it’s a poor way to treat love. The pandemic has been hard on the two of us. We are each having our own experience, walking our own path, and sharing a complex journey. It takes some balancing, some yielding, some compromises, encouragement, connection, and willingness to repeat what works, and also to face what doesn’t. 🙂

I may not write much this weekend. I don’t know. I guess I’ll see where the days take me. I have this interesting intimacy-building exercise tumbling about in my thoughts… maybe “cocktails and questions” would be a fun pandemic date night? There is a whole universe of classic and modern cocktails I’ve never tried (I don’t drink much)… could be fun.

My vertigo seems to have cleared up. I just have this headache, now, and it is familiar. My arthritis pain is also as comfortable as an old friend in comparison to the frightful chaos of the vertigo. I’m almost happy to “just be in pain”.

Anyway. The days ahead are likely to be introspective, intimate, and deeply personal. Maybe romantic. I’d rather enjoy those wholly that attempt to juggling reflecting on them with the real-life experience of enjoying them, so I may be quiet for a few days. That’s a good thing. 🙂 Another way to begin again.