Archives for posts with tag: values

I spent some minutes marveling as my brain lied to me about the lovely dawn beyond the window, hinted at through closed blinds. Looks like it’s going to be a warm, late spring day… but… it’s the Winter Solstice, so… no. I sit, drink coffee, and contemplate how easily I am fooled by a trick of light – and lighting. I recently changed the bulb out there on the stoop, and the light is a different color. I even know this. I am aware of it… and yet… it definitely looks like a pearly dawn, of the sort that precedes, perhaps, a slightly humid, warm-ish sort of clear day… maybe on the coast somewhere, or in the desert. I can see that. I can know it is not a real thing, and only a trick my brain and senses are playing on me.

I open the blinds, after a time, to see what is really beyond the window, in the way of morning light. Only the chill steely blue-gray of winter dawn, well before sunrise. Through open blinds, the porch light is just a porch light, perhaps a somewhat peculiar choice of bulb, but certainly nothing any stranger than that. What special tools these brain things are. lol 😀

A lot of our experience is like that; built on assumptions, sensations, perceptions, corrected through fact-checking, “double-checking” experiences, verifying what isn’t clear, and allowing ourselves to adapt to what we have learned, to hold a more accurate picture of the world in our mind’s eye. Not everyone is good at it. Yep, one more thing that takes some practice. 😀

When was the last time you over-reacted to something? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to just… not? To see things accurately, hear what is being shared with you with a clear understanding, to respond to the world – and your relationships – always in a wholly appropriate way? It’s definitely a goal, for me. I work at it every day. Every day, I see some tiny improvements. Every day I see room for more improvements. Every day I practice. That first reaction to an experience is nearly always driven by “unseen forces”; implicit values, assumptions, disappointed expectations, misunderstandings, miscommunications, unexpressed needs, unstated boundaries, physical comfort (or lack of it), emotional state of being in the moment, the fucking weather… the list is pretty long. I continue to practice being accepting of my first reaction to things, but not allowing that reaction to lead my decision-making, or ideally even also preventing it from coloring whatever the fuck is going to come pouring forth from my face holes as a stream-of-consciousness rant of some sort. I definitely also really have to work at this; however much I’d like it to feel (and become) quite natural, I very much have to practice… very much. lol So human.

That fancy brain is just trying to help; it’s so much faster to put reactions on our internal “automation” – that’s what makes them “reactions” rather than responses (measured, well-considered, thoughtful, appropriate). It’s sort of a bother that our reactions are not all that helpful, and are often just entirely incorrect – they are definitely faster than our ability to reason clearly.  Emotions generally get to the party ahead of our ability to reason clearly. It would be more efficient to fall back on our reactions in the moment, but honestly, they are often only useful in emergency situations – the rest of the time it is definitely worth slowing the fuck down and giving every-damned-thing a second thought.

…On second thought…

(You knew that was coming, right?)

…We’re also not actually very astute about what, specifically, in this modern century of humanity, actually amounts to an “emergency”. We get seriously jacked up about the dumbest shit. TV shows. Petty resentments. Who ate the last treat. Territorial disputes. Money. In a world literally covered in resources, more than adequate for everyone, we’re all very busy fighting over crumbs while a handful of dragons sit on hoarded wealth… and we distract ourselves from all manner of things that really matter a great deal – by reacting to shit that does not. (So human) We seem, often, largely incapable of honest collaboration and community, prone to viewing all of life’s challenges as tiny zero sum adventures in greed, “being right”, or “winning”.

What matters most? (The question does not go away, simply because answering it is uncomfortable.)

Today is the Solstice. The longest night. A celebration (for me) of contemplation, of wonder, of silence in our own personal darkness – and of waking up to the light.

A wintry sunrise is imminent. The dawn is a bleak pale gray with a hint of blue. The traffic on the road outside reminds me that I am not having to join them on the race to beat the clock to the office this morning. I take my time with my coffee, considering my experience and my plan for the day, thinking ahead to sharing the holiday with my Traveling Partner.

It’s been a peculiar year, and much has changed. I’ve made some interesting new friends. Broadened my social network both geographically, and in the variety of new human beings in my experience. I’ve ended some relationships – including one that reasonably ought not have been given another chance at all – and moved on with my life. There’s been some turmoil, some drama, and some major headaches (both literal and figurative). The world has strained with the pain of watching civilization heave, and perhaps fall… no way to know, quite yet. This moment? Right now? I’m okay. There aren’t a lot of extras. It won’t be a lavish holiday. I have what I need, though, and that’s enough. 🙂

I welcome the Solstice this year, as a season of change, and of reflection, and a time of vision. It’s definitely time to begin again.


I intend to approach this one somewhat thoughtfully, and with great care, perhaps working on it through the day rather than dashing it off in-the-moment, over coffee.

Pausing to reflect on what is, what isn't, and what has changed.

Pausing to reflect on what is, what isn’t, and what has changed.

Yesterday was an interesting mix of personal achievement, small stressors, emotional moments, and OPD; it was short on connection, and long on opportunities to practice good emotional self-care, without being tragic, or overwhelming. The challenges of yesterday didn’t linger, or carry over to this morning. I am smiling, even though I slept poorly and too little, plagued by nightmares so vile and personal that more than once I sat quietly for many minutes, trembling, controlling my breathing and reassuring myself that it would be safe to return to sleep, while the denizens of The Nightmare City mocked me in the background. I woke this morning, free of any strain or lingering suffering, any hint of nightmares behind me; they were only dreams.

My Big 5 relationship values haven’t changed much since I recognized their importance and framed them up in simple words. The importance of Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Openness, and Compassion still seem obvious to me and still feel non-negotiable.  I’ve changed some, though, and grown as a person. I am more easily able to live up to my own values, even in relationships where those values are not shared, and in associations in which emphasis is placed on very different values than those I find comfortable, myself. I am more easily able to refrain from taking someone else’s values personally, too, a necessary skill in a world where free will offers so many options. My will to live my Big 5 is strong; I still need lots of practice. I am learning to treat myself with great kindness when I don’t live up to these profoundly powerful values in some moment; they are a lot to live up to, and I am quite human. There are more opportunities to grow, to improve on how I live my values, and most importantly – on how I communicate those values to others, set limits and boundaries relevant to my values, and express what I need from others to feel well-treated, appreciated, and heard.

There are going to be moments, and relationships, in which my Big 5 values are not shared, not honored, not valued – or just not reciprocated (as in those among us whose approach is ‘sure, I like it when you are considerate to me, but I have no intention of being considerate to you’ – a circumstance that plays out in the world with unfortunate frequency, in a variety of interactions). Commonplace, really, and an experience that tests my ability to be accepting and content, compassionate, and attentive to the actions that support my needs; being treated poorly can be very distracting from the things that matter most.  Why someone else has the values they do, why they take the actions they take, or make the choices they do aren’t really my concern. How I treat myself matters a great deal.

The path is mine to choose... or not.

The path is mine to choose… or not.

The journey from The Big 5 to The Art of Being is an exciting adventure. The path veered sort of suddenly, it seemed, and metaphorically I found myself at an unmarked trail-head, wondering whether the sudden feeling of panic and dread were just demons howling within; it’s not a journey my demons can make with me, and one by one as they fall, or take a more subdued tone, the load lightens enough for this more challenging – and more rewarding – change in direction. I am ready to enjoy me, myself, so much more than I knew I could, before now.

Opening the next door...

Opening the next door…facing the next mystery…taking the next step.

Let’s be clear; there are still practices to practice, self-care needs that require continuous awareness and management, choices to make, verbs to put into action… none of this is ‘over night’ or even ‘easy’; the most profound epiphany is simply a door left ajar, and it remains a matter of intent, will, and action to step over that threshold.  Progress often comes with new hurdles – moments of recognition that not only am I walking my own path (and must) but also that the direction I take is so exclusively my own I am also having to learn new skills to cope compassionately with relationships straining under the weight of change. Any increase in autonomy, in self-direction, and in improved boundary-setting hold the potential to be met with resistance, objections, a lack of understanding, or a lack of support; knowing this does not make those moments less challenging, and it does not direct my decision-making. So often it is tempting to yield, to give up, to say ‘okay, you win, I’ll just…’ – only… I won’t ‘just’, anymore. I have chosen to live my life, mindfully by preference and intention, practicing the practices that make that a reality – and like solar walkway lights in the garden, the small improvements in the quality of my experience over time, the improvements in emotional resilience, and those powerful ‘aha!’ moments when something works just as I had hoped it would, add up to something pretty wonderful, illuminating – and incredibly encouraging when I face the darkness that sometimes still catches me unaware.

Mistakes will be made.

Mistakes will be made.

The Art of Being is like an exotic destination vacation; I dream of reaching that place, I study, I explore the options for getting there, I investigate what it may be like before I get there… I practice the skills, thinking, and behavior that are most likely to take me there, with the fervor of saving up for a long-desired vacation; incremental change over time is a reliable mode of transportation on a journey of personal growth. I smile more, lately, as though sharing a precious secret with a very close friend. You know where this is going, right? That precious friend is the woman in the mirror; without her, not one step of this journey can be made.

Today is a good day to face the world with a smile, making my own way, on my own terms. Today is a good day to be able to count on myself to treat myself well. Today is a good day for change.

I woke early this morning.  It was uneventful, and mostly due to my failure to shut off my alarm clock the night before.  I enjoyed the luxury of loitering in bed, wrapped up on warm blankets, enjoying the freedom to daydream, and muse about what matters to me. I further enjoyed the freedom to let my thoughts be on their way when I was sufficiently entertained, rather than getting caught up in a moment of distress, or allowing myself to succumb to some attack on my serenity from lurking personal demons. Eventually, morning won over additional sleep, and I have enjoyed watching the dawn unfold gently through the windows, thinking about my upcoming birthday, my life, my loves, my values, my needs, my humanity, my will, my intentions, my desires… it has been a very think-y morning.

I got done with that, soon enough. Since then, I’ve been sipping my latte and watching a misty rain gradually develop into quite a rainy morning, a drenching Oregon downpour, in fact, of the sort that defines our reputation for changeable wet weather. I love the rain. I rarely feel anything but soothed and peaceful on rainy days, and that has been part of who I am since I can remember.

“…Since I can remember…”  I can’t always, you know. My memory has been crap-tastic, also ‘since I can remember’.  That’s the TBI making one of its contributions to my experience, most likely.  Almost 50 (25 days to go) and headed for menopause, and being an artist, people in my life tend to accept the memory issues in a matter of fact way – it was by far more awkward and embarrassing in my 20s, when I was regularly accused of ‘not paying attention’, ‘not caring’, or ‘lying about not remembering’.  That would be one of the many reasons I’m quite happy not to be in my 20s anymore! lol

My birthday means more to me than makes any sense to me… 50 really seems like a big deal.  I mentioned it to a friend who is older and she smiled at me with the patience of a mother looking at the simple progress her child makes growing up; tolerant, understanding, compassionate, and from an entirely different perspective in life. I wonder if, at 70, 50 will still seem like it was a big deal? I also wonder why we tend to be so committed to a base 10 number system – so much so that we tend to benchmark our ‘decades’ as somehow more significant than other divisions of time on our lifeline… I mean… 14 was damned important to me… so was 5… and 11… 27… 9…32…40…47…clearly not all about 10s. Just a random musing on a rainy Saturday.

Someone dear to me hurt me incredibly deeply, recently.  My heart still aches with it.  The conflict between that person’s values and my own seems to stand out like a an Exit sign in a dark corridor.  It’ll have to be discussed at some point, because it is the sort of thing that matters, and speaks to the core of who I am as a being. I find myself touching the moment gently, tenderly, in my recollection and wondering ‘was that it, was that the end of a friendship?’  Not something to be taken lightly, at all. Something to ponder carefully.  I consider it, and let it go for now.

The rain falls, the household wakes… time to enjoy a rainy Saturday. 🙂