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

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… 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). 🙂

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.

Journey’s are fraught with obstacles. This one, too. This morning I am feeling a bit ‘stuck for a topic’, not because there is nothing worth writing about, more because there are so many splinters of issues, small things, and bits of background anxiety this morning it’s simply difficult to determine what I can most productively put my attention on, for myself.

The work day yesterday was complete turmoil and not very productive due to a system outage. The transportation to/from my appointment was notably unpleasant with rude people, ludicrously heavy fragrances, loud voices, and emotional content. I spent much of the day in pain, with both a headache, and my arthritis giving me grief. Therapy itself was disruptively powerful, and as efficient as it was effective – thought-provoking? Eye-opening? Forward progress. Incredibly emotionally painful. I arrived home with an aching jaw having spent the ride gritting my teeth and avoiding lashing out at hapless fellow travelers unaware how urgently I needed quiet to get myself back together. Just as the evening began to wind down it was shot through with intense anxiety and… more stress. It wasn’t about me, and no threat to love or family harmony, it was ‘just a thing’, but I wasn’t at all up to it. I held my own, avoided any nasty drama or emotional bullshit, and retired for the evening at more or less the usual time. My sleep was restful enough, but I woke already filled with anxiety. The day begins, lacking in enthusiasm and joy, and filled with lingering stress over so many things…real? Imagined? Mine? Other?

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

So…now what? From a practical perspective, I address the stressors where doing so can fairly easily be done. I work on ‘letting go’ of what isn’t actually mine and trust that things will work out, rather than borrow additional stress, and worry obsessively over things I can’t ‘fix’. It’s a very difficult practice, as practices go – “let it go” sounds so simple. I struggle with it this morning. I keep practicing. Work related stress I examine with some detail, finding it useful for sorting out what I really want from employment, adjusting my resume to more clearly reflect utility, vision, purpose and personal fit for work I might enjoy more.

I consider how the stillness both highlights the anxiety, and allows it to more easily dissipate. I breathe. Relax. The anxiety comes and goes. I spend some time in quiet reflection. More time meditating would be good this morning… My perspective could use some re-calibration. I would benefit from being more present in this moment, and more easily able to tap into the day-to-day positives, and some measure of gratitude. There are verbs involved.

I allow my anxiety to climb into the front seat long enough to deliver a powerful worst-case scenario. I breathe calmly and let it unfold in my imagination as fearlessly as I am able to allow. Could I cope? Strip it all down to the basics, and most likely outcomes, would I be able to get by? I consider it point by point, allowing myself to recognize that change is, and that even if every possible thing went terribly wrong, I would most likely be okay (for some values of ‘okay’). There really are verbs involved, and how I feel about my experience is something I have a lot of choice in. I remind myself simultaneously how damaging it can be for my ability to feel content, to burden myself with comparisons. I remind myself, too, of how much of what I love and enjoy I could also comfortably do without…even this blog, and the internet connection that makes it possible…well…I wrote using ink, on paper, for so many years, right? I smile, recognizing the differences between ‘want’ and ‘need’ more clearly, and the anxiety recedes for the moment; I am okay. My head is still fairly busy with weird nagging details and subtle stress, but even in my worst case scenarios, contentment is possible – and contentment is powerful.

This is a good morning to fall back on The Four Agreements.

Stick with the basics - it's a great place to start.

Stick with the basics – it’s a great place to start.

I read the brief statements, simple, encompassing, and deeply relevant. I fill up on a sense of adequacy, sufficiency, and self-acceptance, and prepare myself for the day to come. This journey isn’t always an easy one, but it is mine – and that is enough.

 

It’s a bad idea to get inadequate rest with a brain injury (new or old). I worked hard on the move, and did a lot more manual labor than I am used to at this time in my life. There were deadlines to hit, and there was a cost to my general well-being; I am tired. Less so this morning than I was at the end of a busy work week. Friday night I slept about 12 hours. Yesterday  I added two decently long naps to that – and still crashed for the evening quite early. This morning I am up before 6:00 am, and feeling actually fairly rested. Certainly, I was not able to return to sleep, and the day begins.

"Morning" came early today. :-)

“Morning” came early today. 🙂

Truly excellent self-care requires considerable self-awareness. I feel fairly rested, and I know that once my coffee hits, and I have a shower and start my day in earnest, I may have the energy and enthusiasm to feel impelled to head out for adventure: a hike, some shopping, a visit elsewhere, or just to go or to do. It’s tempting just to think about it, and let my consciousness move beyond the planned additional rest, and mundane tasks that support self-care less directly, like housekeeping and laundry, and preparing for the next work week. This rested feeling, though, is misleading; I’m only barely there, yet. If I grab hold of this rested energy now and run with it, I will predictably run out of steam by midday or so, and when Monday morning comes I’ll have done myself no real service at all. I so commonly miss on this detail!

Today I remain committed to taking care of this fragile vessel and doing all I can to make a really good recovering from the laborious move. That much is behind me. There’s very little yet to be done at all, aside from hanging paintings (a time-consuming slow project that builds on ‘vision’ and settling in over time), and putting the studio in a state of artistic work readiness. There are curtain rods to go up, and curtains to hang. Those are the sorts of details remaining, and I think I may have listed them all. lol The stereo is hooked up, too, except the sub-woofer, which needs a cable end put back on properly. All so very much within reach. I’ll easily be busy enough today doing some housekeeping, and perhaps hanging some paintings, and baking some cookies. 🙂  The goal, though, is not busy-ness – it’s rest. Whatever I do end up doing today, I’ll do it gently, and take care of me.

Coffee time...as with moments, each cup is its own experience.

Coffee time…as with moments, each cup is its own experience.

I am listening to music this morning, and enjoying having an empty unit next door for the time being; I can play the sort of music I like to wake up to at a volume that feels very appropriate to being awake for the day, even though it is not yet 6:30 am. The community here has a firm noise control standard, stated as ‘not loud enough to hear outside your own unit’, with quiet hours from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am, daily. I’m very strict with myself to stay within those guidelines; I calibrate my environment with care, checking and checking again, and at different times of day, then marking the face of the amplifier around the dial with markers for max volume settings. It’s handy, and no one has ever complained about my music, which is sometimes playing comfortably loud for my enjoyment, even at odd hours in the night, and frequently early in the morning. I am fortunate that the shared wall, in this instance, is living room to living room, instead of living room to bedroom, or bedroom to bedroom. I enjoy being considerate of my neighbors; they respond by being considerate of me as well. It’s a community – we build it ourselves. 🙂

Yesterday, I took the recycling out, and on the way back in I met one of my new neighbors. She is an immigrant, from Libya. She gave me a friendly hello, seeming ever so slightly self-conscious, as if uncertain of my response. I made a point to cross the parking lot to be at a friendly distance to build a connection, and we exchanged names, and some conversation. My new neighbor is pleasant, educated, and every bit human. She is part of my community. We talk comfortably together. We recognize cultural differences without focusing on those; she asks if I have children (I don’t), while keeping a close watch on her young daughter at play. I see her assess my solitary living as something noteworthy (an artist? a childless woman living alone? a former soldier in a Middle Eastern conflict?). I notice the headscarf and make a point of respecting her religious freedom (and privacy) by not asking personal questions; I know that people open up when/if they choose to, and that we are each having our own experience. She politely refrains from asking probing questions about my military experiences; she seemed pleased that I know where Libya is, had heard something about the circumstances there. I offer my help if she needs it while settling in, and she invites me to come have a coffee some afternoon, interested in my art and writing. We are people, only that. We come from many places. We all live on this one round speck of molten metal, rock, and mud, hurtling through the cosmos so much faster than our finite lives can truly embrace. It’s all so very temporary, and there is no time to waste on being dicks to our fellow human beings; we’re all in this together. Becoming.

When we limit our perspective on the world, we put ourselves at risk of living in fear.

When we limit our perspective on the world, we put ourselves at risk of living in fear.

My coffee is nearly finished. The clock tells me the day is begun, although the sun is not yet up; it’ll be almost another hour to daylight. Seems a nice time for meditation, for yoga, a shower, and a second coffee… It’s a very good day to take care of the woman in the mirror.

 

I am sipping my coffee after a very good night’s sleep, and waking with relative ease to the sound of the alarm. I am in pain this morning, and so stiff that I’m more than a little grateful that my bed doesn’t rest on the floor – how would I get up? Sometime after the shower that eases some of the stiffness, and the yoga that moves that process along, and the meditation that insulates my nervous system and emotions from the battering the world may (or may not) deliver later, I am sipping my coffee and letting my mind coast…

Humble beginnings; the herbs in my garden have the power to change an entire meal.

Humble beginnings; the herbs in my garden have the power to change an entire meal.

I find myself considering how often the movies deliver to us a Hero (or more rarely a Heroine) who is somehow ‘The One’ – the only being in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills and a dash of good fortune and great sidekicks. They rarely seem aware they are The One. It takes persuasion, convincing, sometimes even force to get them to understand that ‘everything’ depends on them. Heroes are humble like that. At some point in any good tale, the Hero has some sort of awakening moment, at which point he (or she) recognizes ‘the truth of it’ and goes forth to save the day – with some luck, and the help of their trusty sidekicks. Most of us have a sidekick or two in life, someone – a friend, a family member, a work buddy, a lover – who is reliably ‘there for us’ when we need emotional support. Most often, we (and by we I mean ‘me’) don’t seem aware that we’re the hero of the story…that we are, in our own narrative, The One. So far so good in hero territory, I suppose…only…where’s that moment of awakening, when we each take on the world – or at least our own circumstances – and solve the puzzle, master the challenge, clear the hurdle, or conquer our foe? There’s a metaphor here, but there is also something very directly real and true in it. We do well to be our own heroes, and to embrace our opportunity to be The One in our own experience.

Remember Keanu Reeves, in The Matrix, that moment where he begins to do his virtual training in the matrix, learning to fight, to fly, all that? When did you last take your own education so seriously that you plugged into a machine and just went for it – for hours, or days, or years if it takes that? (It’s those damned verbs, again!) How much time do you put into becoming the person you most want to be, investing  your will in that endeavor with mindful deliberately chosen actions? I know I could do more, myself, and within the thoughts I find the questions that light the way along the path ahead.

Be ‘The One’. Be ‘The One’? What does that even mean, really? I hear it, and I feel a certain implicit understanding of the thing…but that’s hardly enough to manifest a change, is it? Being ‘The One’ in my own narrative, the hero of my own experience, implies that I value myself as worthy – even in my humblest bumbling and fumbling and inept moments, even as I learn things I didn’t know previously, even as I swing and miss, even as I try – when I meant to do. Being ‘The One’ in my own story means trusting the hero to save the day – all the while aware that I am my own hero, and saving the day clearly means there will be verbs involved, and as in any exciting hero’s tale, I will likely get it wrong once or twice, bring my world to the brink of disaster perhaps, but always finding my way at the last minute. Or something very like that.

Isn’t it okay to grow and learn and change? Isn’t incremental change over time part of the process of healing and growth? How much more easily will I make progress if I am seeing myself as the hero of the story – and actively investing in my further growth, trusting that the journey will take me where I most need to go, and accepting my missteps along with my great triumphs as being part of the experience all along? Yes, it is okay – totally okay. I know the truth of it, even as I struggle sometimes with the reality of how many damned verbs really are involved, and how relentlessly continuous the journey can sometimes feel. Being ‘The One’ has immense power to heal and transform and bring change…but there’s rarely a great prophet around to tell us who we are when we most need to hear it – making us, once again, ‘The One’ – the one with the message to the woman in the mirror.

A beautiful sunset, a cherished experience.

A beautiful sunset, a cherished experience.

I enjoyed last evening in the company of a friend. The conversation went a lot of places, and as with some friends more than others, the conversation was fairly ‘deep’. I woke this morning from dreams filled with reminders of things said, feeling inspired, and experiencing a deeper understanding of what being ‘The One’ in my own experience may require of me in will, and in action. I’m not likely to save New York City from disaster…or to save the world from alien invaders…but I very easily could be ‘The One’ who saves the day – my day – probably from me. 🙂

I take a moment, sipping my coffee, to appreciate how many times friends become sidekicks when I most need one, and how often sidekicks turn out to be great prophets revealing that particular truth I most need to hear. Today is a good day to be grateful for the connections I share with people – we are each so very human, each having our own experience – each the hero of our own adventure story – it’s quite wonderful when we connect, overlap, share the moment – and save the world.

It’s Mother’s Day. It could as easily be Father’s Day, Family Day, or Administrative Professionals’ Day; we make a point to set aside time to appreciate what we value…or do we? Do all these seemingly celebratory days exist on the calendar because we’re so fired up to appreciation one another that we need additional time to do so? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t see many people celebrating the experience of motherhood with the enthusiasm of Mother’s Day very often. Hell, I don’t see people show appreciation for each others efforts openly very often, whatever they are. I see a lot of coaching, a lot of feedback, tons of criticism, plenty of boundary setting – although I’m not sure I see that last one done well very often out in the world – and just maybe, once all that is behind one human primate or another, the occasional thank you, or expression of regret. I guess I’m not surprised that learning to treat myself well has been such slow going, or is so fraught with anxiety sometimes; the messaging received from others is so often lacking in appreciation.

Today is Mother’s Day. It’s safe to appreciate mothers today, and thank them for the effort involved in motherhood. That’s a lovely thing. What about the other 364 days on the calendar? Is motherhood only worthy of appreciation 1/365 of the year? That hardly seems reasonable, considering the work involved. I thought about making a cheeky joke right about now…something about the bad moms out there bringing down the global average appreciation due to mothers everywhere, but even considering it, and knowing that there really are some less-than-ideal mothers in the world (and some human beings who ought not have undertaken the matter at all), it smacked of disrespect to the multitude of fine mothers everywhere, doing their best but being appreciated, often, just the once each year. So…no jokes, because actually… It isn’t funny.

"Circus Clown" ... ...A picture of a rose won't set off my Mother's allergies. :-)

“Circus Clown” …
…A picture of a rose won’t set off my Mother’s allergies. 🙂

Seriously? Saying thank you more often than we offer criticism seems likely to create a more pleasant world we can all enjoy a bit more than the one we’ve got. “Please” is another nice useful word. I’m also a big fan of “I’m sorry” – although it is currently somewhat out of favor, with articles queuing up about how women ‘apologize’ too much. (Has everyone forgotten that “I’m sorry” may also be a simple expression of sympathetic regret, not exclusively a statement of responsibility? Is being terse, dismissive, or rude about painful experiences that we didn’t personally cause actually a good thing?) I also feel appreciated when I hear kind words, words of recognition and acknowledgement, and insightful questions that foster deeper dialogue about topics I find engaging, novel, or create an intimate connection. I enjoy being invited to share time or experiences – and I feel valued and appreciated to be invited. Feeling appreciated, like ‘contentment’, is a powerful positive emotional experience often overlooked while I am tromping around life and the world seeking ‘happiness’.

Appreciation is a big deal. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in feeling nurtured by the feeling of being appreciated. I found myself contemplating the nature of appreciation, and these many assorted appreciation days on the calendar for this group or that one – each and every one seems reasonable inasmuch as appreciation, sincere, genuine, real appreciation can’t be ‘overdone’. There is, I assure you, no surplus. The thing is, though, it doesn’t seem to truly elevate or value anyone to set aside a single day to say ‘oh, by the way, thanks for all that…’ and then return to treating people poorly, without regard, dismissively, discourteously, or simply overlook them for the rest of the year.

Sitting here wondering about all that and I return to thinking about how I treat myself, how I appreciate my own efforts, how far I’ve come as a person… It suddenly struck me that I tend to treat my own birthday as a sort of ‘Me Appreciation Day’ each year. I can do better than that. Today is a good day for appreciation – every day is. Today is a good day to enjoy the things I do well, and appreciate my skills in life, and the qualities that make me who I am. Today is a good day to appreciate love and kindness and the new start presented with each dawn. Today is a good day to treat myself with compassion, and take good care of this fragile vessel I live within.

Today is a good day for Mother’s Day, and I will most certainly appreciate mine. Today I will honor her work further, by also appreciating myself – the woman I see in the mirror certainly puts in the time and effort to be worthy of my every day appreciation, too, even if she only has one day on the calendar. 🙂