Archives for posts with tag: we are each having our own experience

We’ve all got them, right? Challenges. Things that are “hard” for us, as individuals. Those don’t always make sense to anyone else – we are each having our own experience. Some things take time, or practice, or self-work overcoming some internal resistance to change. Some things are just… complicated. We have baggage. History. Perspective that is uniquely our own, however much someone else feels they “get it completely”, we have to do the work to “get it” ourselves.

…We have to do the work ourselves. Yep. There are verbs involved. πŸ™‚

I’m looking at playing a new (for me, sort of) video game, with the intent of later sharing that experience with my Traveling Partner. I don’t expect this to be an “easy” undertaking. It is a game that requires specific things of me that I am not very good at, and also struggle to learn or master because they land right in the “thinking holes” that result from my brain injury. Some things I learn pretty well and easily. Some things I learn with effort, over time, with considerable repetition. Some things… I learn, eventually, then lose almost overnight if I am not practicing every day, then learn all over again… with effort… then lose… then learn it again… then lose it, again… over and over until finally pure frustration with having to explain to yet another person, one more damned time, that no, I don’t remember how to do that, and yes, I’m aware we “used to do this together all the time” and no, I don’t expect to pick it up again immediately… and omfg. Shit. I’ve got baggage full of this particular… challenge. lol I gotta let that go.

The peculiar learning challenges that result from my brain injury are weird and persistent, and in a small way part of the awesome that – taken as a bundle of characteristics – are part of this person I am. Over time, I’ve learned to accept that some things are potentially forever out of reach simply because the investment in time and repetition to learn and relearn them as often as necessary to ever become “learned” exceeds the value in the resulting knowledge.

…I’m hoping this particular game is worth overcoming the challenge. I am eager to enjoy the shared experience doing so offers. I’m less eager to deal with the frustration of having to explain my frustration. I’m less eager to listen attentively to someone else’s pointers on overcoming this particular challenge, most particularly when they don’t have this challenge, so… how do they expect to share something with me that overcomes what they don’t experience? It’s a very human thing to want to say “I know exactly how you feel…”. It’s rarely true. As commonplace as so many experiences actually, we each experience those quite differently. Part of being individuals is… being individual. Unique. Being different from one another in small ways, even though we share so much DNA in common, is also an exceedingly common human experience. πŸ™‚

So… I face the challenge with some eagerness, and also with some reluctance – it’s the nature of real challenges, isn’t it? I take a deep breath, and a sip of my coffee, and prepare to begin again.

…I’ll probably have to begin again a bunch of times. I’m ready for that – it’s part of the experience. Well… no more stalling. It’s time to begin again. πŸ˜‰

 

By now, you’ve probably found yours, right? Productive distractions that pass the time during pandemic “stay at home” orders, or worse yet, during actual quarantine. A productive distraction staves off boredom, and prevents looming chaos from overtaking everything. Mine has been my aquarium, generally, and books. My Traveling Partner has been focused on games and gaming, and tweaking the pc that drives that experience. For us, it’s been helpful that we each have our own “thing” to focus on, the result being we generally have something fun to talk about, any time.

Consideration matters so much right now, for those who are “sheltering in place” with or among other people. Tempers can fray so easily. Letting small shit stay small helps a lot. Mostly it’s all small shit. It’s the letting go that requires the verbs. lol

…My experience this morning “feels different”… I am typing on a different keyboard. My steady regular keyboard is badly in need of cleaning, and I disconnected it to do that. My Traveling Partner said “here, try this one“, and it remains in place, even this morning, loyal favorite forgotten over there, by the stack of things-yet-to-do. This one feels similar-but-different, softer, somehow. Tolerant of my heavy key-stroke, but quiet. Tactile, without being very “click-y”. The strike of each key is vaguely muffled. The “click” is more a “tap” than a click. The keys respond to my touch so fast that I feel as if I am typing “as fast as I think”. It’s nice. Also… the numbers on each key light up. (lol Why does that delight me so?) I enjoy the sensation of typing on the new keyboard. (How many millions of key strokes have I dropped on my old keyboard in the past 6 years of heavy use?) I decided yesterday to stick with this one, and programmed the keys to be illuminated in a lovely dark-ish lavender hue, which changes to a bright greenΒ  with each keystroke, quickly fading to teal as I continue to type. So fun. πŸ˜€

I am distracted by the novelty of typing on a new keyboard. It’s a pleasant distraction.

We meant to watch a movie together yesterday… we spent the day on our projects, and in between (and later on) watched tech videos of various sorts. It was a delightfully productive and fun day together. I mention it because, seriously, this “life in the time of pandemic” gets pretty fucking “real” sometimes, and it has made a lot of difference to my experience to find moments of joy and delight, and to savor those, rather than sit around staring into the maw of media talking heads regurgitating COVID-19 content. I’ve no idea whether we’ll watch that movie tonight… I know we’ll find something fun to share, whether or not it is a movie isn’t very relevant to the shared experience of joy and love. It’s just one way to get there.

What if I were alone, though, how would I “find moments of joy” then? Probably still in the pleasure of caring for my aquarium(s), and reading still more books, honestly. πŸ™‚ I don’t find myself all that complicated, generally, I suppose. Small things delight me (a new fish, a new keyboard, a favorite book), and I entertain myself pretty easily (books, writing, painting, gardening, aquarium keeping… it’s a long list). I fret for a moment, trying to imagine being truly bored right now, and what it would take to lift myself from that boredom. What would I do? I think I would still read books; I can’t really imagine what it would be like to be someone who “doesn’t read”. Lots of libraries are making audio books available for free, too… it is a great time to catch up on reading. lol Online learning? Plenty of that to be had, too. Online travel? There are some very interesting documentaries and streams of a variety of exotic locations. Museums have streamed walk-throughs of their collections, and those are available online, too. Not so interested in someone else’s words, thoughts, or perspective? Pen & ink, my friend – say what you’ve got to say. Self-publish on Amazon. Become the author of the narrative someone else will read. πŸ™‚

I sip my coffee, taking a moment to appreciate the grocery delivery service that keeps me supplied, the farm workers who harvested the beans, the shipper who transported them, the roaster who roasted them, the distributor who supplied them to the grocery store… How can any one of us not recognize how interconnected we all are? We are all in this together (even though we are each having our own experience). Even our own individual experience is built upon more than the mere sum of our own individual decision-making; there is, too, the matrix of coincidences and circumstances that is the combined force of what happens, and what is chosen, out of reach of our own consideration, in every moment. It’s not all “about us”, regardless who we are. This is a great cup of coffee. In a very real sense, I did not “make it all by myself” – all I did was grind the beans, and pour water over them. A rather small contribution to the outcome, frankly. lol

I find myself appreciating how fortunate I am in these challenging times. I miss my friends, though. I miss brunch on Saturdays. I miss shopping together over a lunch break and laughing about something silly. I miss dinners out. I miss strolling a crowded farmer’s market. I miss “community”. Yep. Even me. I do miss the presence of other people. Part of feeling fortunate right now, is about simply not being alone in this. Again, I find myself feeling fortunate. I remind myself to write letters, emails, and send texts to friends. We really are all in this together, and distance is not always about miles. πŸ™‚

Another day of living in the time of pandemic. Another opportunity to begin again. πŸ™‚

I enjoy the thought that my Traveling Partner and I are sharing this journey, walking a shared path. Now and then I am reminded that it is, however pleasant, an illusion. We are each having our own experience. We walk our own path. Survive our own hard mile. We endure our own dark night of the soul. We, each, alone care for our innermost heart, and nurture our tenderest wounds. The reminder was powerful, and I am so grateful I was merely a bystander to two paths that suddenly diverged on a Saturday morning. I don’t know if this is a sad story or not, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t – certainly it is a story of change.

I was having coffee with a friend. We get together now and then, on a Saturday morning, and catch up on life and things. A couple, strangers, came in shortly after we sat down, and sat near us, sort of off to the side, definitely within our view, and close enough we could not avoid hearing their conversation, which I’ll share as accurately as memory permits…

He held her chair. This ordinary looking man of apparent middle-class means, allowed his companion to get seated, and they ordered. She thanked him for picking her up from the airport, and for taking her to breakfast. How thoughtful. She smiled. He shifted uncomfortably before speaking.

“So… welcome back..?” He laughed uneasily. His smile was fleeting, and somewhat nervous.

“Are you okay?” she asked, without looking up from her phone. This seemed somehow significant to her companion, and his posture straightened, and the look on his face became resolute, and more sure of himself.

“Yeah. So, about that. I’ve decided to end our relationship.” She laughed with a bit of disbelief, then looked into his eyes and her face sort of… froze. “I wasn’t sure how you’d take this, so… the least I could do was take you to breakfast…”

“You wanted to be in a public place so I couldn’t make a scene!” she hissed, leaning in close. Her face was tight with tears she was fighting. He… was still calm.

He inhaled deeply and sighed. “You’re right of course. I’m sorry. I needed to feel… safe. This is hard. Hard for me, too.”

“Why?” she demanded with a quivering voice, “someone else…?”

“No.” He sounded sad, and lost. “I just… there’s a lot I want to do for myself, to explore on my own. I just… I want to be myself, no compromise, no obstacles, no negotiation, and I haven’t felt able to. I’m sorry.”

They both sat quietly for some time, just drinking their coffee. My friend and I sat drinking ours. Occasionally looking at each other in a soft, sad, “what the fuck?” sort of way, each in our own thoughts, about our own partners, our own paths, our own lives.

Eventually, the man at the nearby table busy quietly breaking up with his partner spoke again. “So… I’ll need the keys to the apartment before I go. I … um… I had your stuff packed up and put in storage while you were out of town, and… um… yeah. I don’t want you to come back to my place, at all. I packed your clothes and things and they’re in your car… I’ll… I’ll just pay the check and take a car service home… is… what I planned.”

She sat looking astonished, helpless… I sensed that it might turn to frustrated fury at some point, and hoped that everyone would keep their heads, and find that calm center in their storms. “Is this happening?” she said quietly, in a child-like voice, as if disbelieving. “Five years, and then… this?”

“Yeah.” he said, “It’s happening. I’m going to go now. Please don’t call, I’d like this to just be… over.” He hands her an envelope, and her numb hands accept it.

“What is this?” she asked.

“It’s an inventory of your things. Please email me if I missed anything. Also… I, uh, paid off your car. I mean… I bought it, but, um… it’s yours.”

“You’re not taking it?” she accused, almost snarling the question.

“No. Why would I?” he asked patiently, “I don’t hate you. I’m just… done. Okay? I mean… I hope we’ve over this really fast, and we both move on with better… other things. …I’ve got to go.” He put his jacket on, and looked around as if he did not expect to see the place again, ever, and left.

The woman sat quietly, staring into her coffee. The other customers seemed also uneasy. Conversations seemed quiet, muted, as with a respectful silence. I know I was, myself, uneasy. I sat with my friend, each of us taking a turn at small talk, both of us thinking about two people – any two people – at any airport, seeing each other again, after some time apart, and suddenly, one path takes a sharp turn for a very different destination. Now and then I glanced her way, although I don’t know what I was trying to see.

My friend and I finished our coffee. We hug and agree to “do this again soon”. We both know we don’t really want it quite as it was, this time… I walk away feeling introspective, and a little bit blue. What if it had happened to me? What about you? What would that be like…? What would you do? I sigh, as I unlock the door of my car, ready – so ready – to return home to see my Traveling Partner, again…

…My “Traveling Partner”… nonetheless, we each walk our own path. We’re fortunate, any of us, to share the journey for a while, aren’t we? It’s not likely we’ll share the journey “forever” (that’s a child’s fantasy, I suspect). I spend the drive home contemplating love, thinking about what it takes to build, maintain, sustain, and nurture love. Thinking about what I’m good at love-wise, and what I still need so much work on. I think about all the things in the world I would like to see and do and be and experience along the way… and I think about sharing it with my Traveling Partner. I think about not sharing it with him. Would I love life any less if our paths diverged? I like to think not…but it would be so painful to find out. I put myself in her shoes, imagine myself sitting with my coffee, alone unexpectedly, no plan, no place,… I breathe, exhale, and relax, grateful that my path, for now, is different. No assumptions. No expectations. Aware that change is a thing that can happen unexpectedly, to anyone, at any time. Firmly, studiously, I am not taking love – this love – for granted. There are verbs involved. Choices. No map.

I took comfort in arriving home to welcoming arms, and a chance to begin again.

I woke early this morning. Like… really awake. Rested. Alerted. Not sleeping. Inconveniently enough, at 2:17 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I wandered around the house in the darkness for a few minutes. Finally decided to go ahead and just be up and retrieved my glasses from the nightstand. I am up too early to take my morning medication. I make an iced coffee, black. I set a reminder about the medication.

I scroll through my “news feed” on Facebook and wonder if maybe Facebook should stop calling it that? I close the app, done with it, and committed to avoiding the old practice of just… endlessly scrolling. There’s nothing new to be gained in doing so, and much time to be lost. I sip my coffee. Cold, refreshing, served in a wine glass.

3:00 a.m.Β It has its own feel, doesn’t it? It does for me. The “quietest point in the night”. Stillness. Darkness. It’s rare to live with people who are awake at 3:00 am. I often am. I knew someone once who referred to it as “the bottom of the night”. I don’t remember who.

Other people feel differently about “the strange hour” of morning. Is it night? Is it morning? Should I be wakeful? Oh no, I’m not sleeping! I used to find maximum anxiety sleepless at 3:00 am… that was rather a while ago. Maybe a long time. These days… if I’m awake, I’m awake. I’ll sleep another time. Clearly not now. I sip my coffee in the studio and look over the work I have laid out, work in progress, the open sketchbook on the extended work surface created by storage cabinets filled with paintings. I smirk at my artistic productivity and feel a moment of sympathy for whoever has to deal with that when I’m gone. I make a note to keep better notes, to archive more meticulously, to practice better practices as an artist, not just as a human being. I am awake, being me, at 3:00 am. Who else would I be?

My open inbox on an alternate browser tab sits ready in case my Traveling Partner is also awake. It is undisturbed except for the trickle of spam emails from businesses and whatnot, arriving one by one during the wee hours. As they come in, conveniently one at a time, I unsubscribe. It seems too much effort when faced with a full inbox at 5:00 am on a week day. 3:00 am on a Saturday morning, one at a time? Ideal for unsubscribing (your results may vary).Β  (Turns out my Traveling Partner is awake, and he pings me back cute loving emoji; he’s working the trailing end of a Friday night gig, too busy for more, even at 3:00 a.m.)

This delicious quiet time took years to develop; it exists beyond the anxiety about sleeplessness, beyond the anxiety about “why am I awake?”, beyond the anxiety about “how will I go on?” and beyond the anxiety about all the things that plague a tired mind struggling to sleep at 3:00 am. This delicious gentle peaceful quiet time only exists because I created it for myself. Yep. You get to create this experience – choose it, build it, enjoy it – if you want it. Or, alternatively, you can also choose to dwell in anxiety in the wee hours. πŸ˜‰ Not my call to make for you.

There are other versions of 3:00 a.m., of course. The Party People know what I’m talking about. The performers know. Ravers. DJs. Bands. The graveyard workers know too. The breakfast cooks and bakers getting the day started before the dawn, they know. So many versions of 3:00 a.m. Sitting in the quiet darkness of suburbia, windows dark in the neighborhood, and only the eerie light of occasional streetlights glowing, marking the way for the stray early morning traveler, all I hear is quiet. The busy street at the end of my driveway is silent. It won’t last. The Saturday adventurers headed for fishing, hiking, camping or road trips, will begin to make their way up the road around 4:00 am. The community will slowly wake, a bit at a time, as the dawn unfolds. But right now? The stillness wraps me, effortlessly. I linger in it, luxuriously.

Coffee #1 for the day is almost gone. Coffee #2 is only a daydream, a hint of a plan, a thought that perhaps a lovely hot mug of coffee out on the deck, in the chill of pre-dawn darkness, listening to peeping frogs and early birds waking, would be a nice start to the Saturday. I laugh, realizing I started Saturday some time ago. Before 3:00 am. I hear the traffic begin and notice the time – 3:56 a.m.

It’s time to begin again. πŸ˜‰ It’s 4 in the morning.

I am in a fairly crappy mood this evening. No particular obvious reason stands out. Nothing really seems to be wrong. The work day wasn’t bad. The commute wasn’t bad. Just my mood. The headache isn’t helping, but I’ve taken something for it, had a big glass of water, and made a healthy evening meal of left over acorn squash stuffed with kale and quinoa. Pretty yummy. I’m okay. The house is secure and warm and quiet… so… what’s this bullshit about? That’s not really a rhetorical question – and I do know the answer. Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage “you’ve gotta pay for your thrills”?

I’m managing a smile in spite of my crappy mood, and feeling sort of… accomplished? I broke all my routines celebrating the new year with friends and loved ones. Late nights hanging out, listening to music, celebrating or grieving change, all of us together, enjoying irregular meals that didn’t conform well to specific dietary needs (sugar!!!!) – and all the over stimulation a great house party can provide have finally taken a real toll. I’m not just tired. I’ve gotten some good rest, and my sleep cycle already seems pretty well restored to the usual sleeping/waking timing, so no, it isn’t that – or, that’s only part of it. It was a damned good time, and I’m finding it hard to “come back to real life”, in the sense that merry-makers making merry don’t find much cause to have to “manage their time” – and I was really enjoying that. lol Now it’s back to planning, managing, and dealing with a steady grind that – however pleasant – is not built on my agenda, and over which I have very limited power to influence the course of events, or decision-making. Honestly, I’m just an analyst. A cog. A worker. A human being converting precious limited life-force into cash money for later use elsewhere.

Sure, beautiful…but… it isn’t “home”.

I sigh aloud in the empty still room. This too shall pass. I’m feeling a bit moody, but not particularly broken; this seems a positive change. I’m not angrily protesting the status quo, or furiously ranting about the unfairness of it all (the status quo kinda sucks, for a lot of people, and worse than for me – and frankly, we’re all pretty fucking familiar with unfairness, too). I’m calm and quiet, just sort of irritable – and I guess I’m even okay with that, sitting here quietly, after a nutritious meal, thinking of “home” – is it? Out there in the quiet countryside… among friends… out in the trees…Β Is it “home”? It could be. God damn it, I very much want it to be.

More than a beautiful view. A life.

What if I don’t live that long?

Okay, that goes too far, Brain – what’s with the vicious attack in the middle of a quiet evening? I catch myself tearing at my cuticles. So human. Shit. My mood wobbles toward frustration, fear, despair. I’m still okay right now. There is nothing going in this immediate moment that puts me at any greater risk of imminent death than I’m in at any other moment. We will all die at some point, and it is the rare circumstance when the end comes at a planned time. I sneer angrily at the lame attack on my emotional balance by my irritable brain. I seethe over my own bullshit. I’m not having it tonight. Another sigh punctuates the quiet, and I switch up my approach; I decide to “be here” for me – because I am literally the only person here right now. lol Maybe I can cut myself some slack? I really did throw self-care into the waste bin for 4 days, in the sense that my effort was half-assed at best (it’s still a lot of ass, just less than usual). πŸ™‚

I take a minute, remind myself “this too shall pass”, and think back on other disruptions to routines, other trips away with challenging emotional outcomes. That trip to Vegas? The meltdown after that must be legendary – I haven’t had to face anything like that, this time. I’m just a little moody – and not even a lot. Just headache-y, a bit irritable – and still totally okay right now. I smile, noticing how heavily I am reinforcing that awareness. Practices take practice.

Sometimes it isn’t even obvious if there’s a path to be on.

One step at a time, we each walk our own hard mile. Tomorrow, I’ll begin again.