Archives for posts with tag: what are you perfecting?

My busy week has been nothing like “routine”. I’m still smiling. I did not see my Traveling Partner last night, as we’d planned, the hour of evening was later than we’d figured when my hair appointment ended, I’d started the day quite tired already, and my partner considerately suggested I get the rest I needed and embrace the late Thursday night ahead without additional fatigue. Good idea. I agreed. I’m still smiling. I’m alert. Rested. In no particular pain in spite of the rainy morning. I am ready for a late night! Bring it!

It’s been a busy week, sure. It has, however, been more ups than downs. More successes than failures. More challenges overcome, than challenges that thwarted me. More wins than losses. More beautiful moments than aggravating ones. I suspect that this is the truth of life, generally, much of the time, for most of us – if we can find the sweet spot in our perspective from which to view our experience.

This morning I sip my coffee and practice a favorite practice – I take the things I need to practice it with me everywhere I go: memory, experiences, presence, and a kindly disposition toward my very human self. I start simply enough, by remembering something, maybe looking through my recent photographs, or contemplating a moment, conversation, or experience – one that felt really good. That’s the important bit; start with something that feels amazing, before working towards transforming the perspective on a less comfortable moment. Because that’s totally possible too, and does not require compromising my values, telling myself pretty lies, ignoring painful truths, or constructing a fake narrative, it just takes some understanding, some compassion – and some practice. (I learned to transform some painful, awkward, or uncomfortable recollections into recollections with positive value more or less by accident, through the practice of “taking in the good“, and I don’t have “steps” to offer to make that a reliable thing; it requires practice, no avoiding that.)

Did the phrase “working towards” cause you to lose interest? Yeah… You’re probably going to have to get over that. Just saying. There are verbs involved. The effort must, in fact, and unavoidably, be your own. 😉

A beautiful way to say thank you (to me) (because I like flowers) (in vases) (and being appreciated). Flowers from colleagues. My work space smells like a garden. 😀

The complicated week has been dimpled with beautiful moments. A promotion. An appreciative gift of flowers. Smiles from colleagues in moments of shared success and celebration. A festive dinner out with my Traveling Partner and a dear friend. A delightful outcome on new hair color. It’s not even over yet – and there’s still more to appreciate, to pause for, to savor, to relish, to sit with in gentle contemplation over a great cup of coffee, too early in the morning. 🙂

So look, my life isn’t “perfect” (and that’s not a thing, so let that go now!) – my arthritis pain has been kicking my ass all this rainy chilly week, and I’ve had an on again/off again headache that has chased me for days. My schedule is a so far off routine at this point it is wreckage, calendar in useless tatters, which is deeply uncomfortable for me. My sleep, until last night, has been of exceedingly poor quality, offering little rest. A wee fish in my aquarium died. The first time my Traveling Partner ever saw my new place, my bed wasn’t made – which bugs me. The powerful “Me, Too.” meme unfolded on Facebook and Twitter, which although powerful and extraordinary, was also painful, uncomfortable, and saddening. Life is not about perfection. We are human. So human. Pain is a thing. Sickness is a thing. Emotional anguish is a thing. Running late is a thing. Being ditched is a thing. Disappointment is a thing. Setting ourselves up for failure is a thing. Learned helplessness is a thing. This is a “choose your own adventure” sort of experience – and you have choices. But…

It isn’t “easy”. It does take practice. It is utterly necessary to “do something” about “that” – whatever it is. 🙂 One thing at a time, and it’s okay to take it slow, to fumble, to get it wrong, and to have to begin again…

…like…

…a bunch of times.

This is your experience. The craftsmanship involved in making it a “good one” (defined by you) is yours.

This morning I’m fortunate to be sitting in the sweet spot. It’s been a busy week. I’m still smiling. That’s enough. 🙂

The weekend was busy. Like, busy to the point of not being at all restful and lacking some of the usual qualities of a weekend. It was busy, fun, exciting, and generally time well-spent. The weather was hot and sunny – summery. The performances I saw were worth seeing. I had great conversations with people I’d only just met. I got my eyes seen to on Saturday, and will pick up new glasses sometime next week. I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a very long time (years). I enjoyed an exceptional brunch. I visited the Farmer’s Market, and also the Portland Saturday Market. It was a fun weekend out in the world.

I also took time for quiet moments.

I woke to the alarm this morning. My bones ache and my feet are sore from a weekend of dancing in the sunshine. I’m not quite sunburned; I used plenty of sunscreen. I’m “still thirsty” from the days spent in the summer sun, and drinking water along with my morning coffee. I find myself trying to cram a weekend worth of “recovery” into the brief Monday morning hours before a new work week begins – unsuccessfully. It doesn’t work that way. lol

The self-care practices of the week ahead have become quite important; next weekend I will head down south to see my Traveling Partner, and I am eager to enjoy his company for a couple days, but there’s little about it that I expect to be “restful”. I expect to be joining him somewhere out in the trees for a bit of camping, but beyond that, I have no idea what the weekend holds. Love. I know there will be Love, and that’s enough. 😀

I read an article about mindfulness this weekend. I was prepared to argue with it, because of the rather confrontational headline, but as I read it, I found myself generally in agreement. It wasn’t attacking mindfulness practices, themselves. The article is critical of the commercialization of, and lack of understanding of the purpose of, mindfulness. I found the article insightful. I read it twice more. It’s not the sort of thing to change my thinking about my own practices, nor to discourage me from them, but it definitely supports (for me) a better understanding of “why it doesn’t work” for some people in the way that it does work for me. I’m specifically not using mindfulness to try to be more efficient at work, for example, or to eliminate stress from my own experience while I continue to deliver a stressful experience to others, or for financial gain. I use mindfulness to improve my emotional resilience so that I can continue to improve my emotional wellness, without turning away from the hard bits of work ahead, while also being a kinder and more compassionate human being out in the world. I use it to improve my perspective on my experience. It seems very effective for those purposes.

Mindfulness is also something that requires real practice. Daily. Not just demonstrations of moments of mindfulness (looking your way “mindfully eating a raisin” lol), I mean actual real-world practicing of practices that, ideally, result in being a better person than I was yesterday, and these are practices that require repetition (otherwise, they’d be “tasks”). We become what we practice. Sure, mindful awareness – totally worth practicing – and also “deep listening” (listening to others mindfully and fully aware and in the moment), and basic consideration. Think about that; simple considerate behavior towards others is a practice of mindfulness. We could hardly be truly considerate without being present, and being aware of that other person, and what they may need, themselves.

I start the week awake. Aware there is more to practice, and a journey ahead that is unscripted and unfolds moment by moment through my choices. (Yours, too.) I smile and sip my coffee. Mindfulness. Perspective. Sufficiency. Building blocks that led me here. Consideration matters too; I become what I practice. I am writing my own script. I am my own cartographer. Incremental changes over time built on the choices I make now. Fancy.

Practice the practices that take you closer to being the human being you most want to be.

My coffee has gone cold. I finish it off and check the time. There is time for several little chores to be handled before I leave for work. The forecast suggests a hot day, and I decide driving to the office will be the better self-care choice, when I consider getting home in the heat. Each choice matters. 🙂 I begin again. You can too.

Will you?

This weekend is planned to be about listening. Well, listening, and catching up with an old friend. I typically don’t listen as well as I could, I think, but as with so many other sorts of things, I suspect practice may help.

I’ll be intent on avoiding some of the massive pitfalls of listening poorly (which is to say, not listening), like…

  1. Waiting to talk (instead of actually listening).
  2. Hijacking the conversation to talk about me (instead of actually listening).
  3. Defending myself or making it ‘all about me’ (instead of actually listening).
  4. Trying to fix things (instead of actually listening).
  5. Making corrections to someone else’s perceptions, emotions, or understanding of themselves (instead of actually  listening).

Listening well, listening deeply – really putting my attention fully into what someone else is saying – isn’t one of those things that is difficult from any practical perspective. It is sometimes not the thing I am actually doing. So – a visiting friend is a choice opportunity to practice listening. 🙂 (Besides, he’s a gifted storyteller, why would I miss out on listening!?)

Every day a new journey.

Every day a new journey.

So… it may be that I write less for a day or two, making room to listen a bit more. I hope you don’t miss me… quite likely there is someone around who might enjoy a bit of listening, as well. 🙂  If we really took time for it… if we listened well and deeply each and every day, in every conversation, would it change the world to be so well heard?

I don’t observe the occasional utter lack of stress in a critical way, and I try to simply savor those moments, delight in them, and enjoy them while they last. My walk yesterday morning was one such experience; beautiful from end to end, with several really choice delightful moments to look back on now as memorable.

That time I photographed a hummingbird... A lovely memory. :-)

That time I photographed a hummingbird… A lovely moment. 🙂

The entire day was pretty enjoyable. I have no recollection of any difficult or challenging moments. I don’t say so to brag, or to imply that I’ve found some magic cure to being human; I make a point of saying so, because I need the awareness of it, myself. Taking time to appreciate the beautiful day, the lovely walk, the choice photographs, the conversations with friends, birdsong, merriment, a really good nap – all of it – tosses a positive pebble into the vast still waters of my implicit memory, and over time, enough of that sort of thing holds the power to reduce my “negativity bias“, generally. (It’s a great practice!)

These days, I also make a point not to dig around in my recollections to find troubling or difficult moments I no longer recall; the reward for letting them go is an improvement in positive outlook on life. Totally worth it. I can trust that they may surface if/when needed, and that they do not need reinforcement; negative experiences are sufficiently powerful without additional reinforcement through repetition or rumination. I find refraining from reinforcing negative experiences is also a useful practice. (It takes much less effort to tear my thoughts away from lingering over what sucks, or what hurts, or what went wrong than it once was; the power of incremental change over time.)

The day ended slowly, a pearl moon rising in a cotton-candy sky.

The day ended slowly, a pearl moon rising in a cotton-candy sky.

Between the start and end of the day, yesterday, life was lived, a beautiful journey was taken, and this morning I look back and recall it a wholly delightful day. Today… I get to begin again. Those beginnings? Not all of them need to be a departure from something difficult, and not all of them are. 🙂 Some new beginnings are simply next in a sequence of many. I entertain the notion that over time, many more could be delightful days with beautiful journeys than were previously, accumulating beautiful memories over time, like vast treasure, held within my heart for safe keeping… shared generously, because in sharing, love becomes multiplied. 🙂

There are days when I find myself pushing a few verbs off my “to do list” in favor of doing… less, sometimes because I’m just not up to doing more, other times… well… I’m pretty human. It feels good to slow things down and take it easy… or at least, easier. Over the summer, I found myself sometimes hurrying through my walk, sometimes skipping it altogether, not really seeing the scenery, not really hearing the birdsong, sort of stuck in my own thoughts, but committed to a process. This past week, something clicked. I began again. My walk yesterday morning built on that beginning, and this morning I find that I am similarly eager, encouraged, hopeful (hope-filled, more specifically), and enthusiastic about life and the day, and particularly my morning walk.

A tangerine sunrise infuses the morning sky with sherbet shades of orange. I smile, thinking ahead to the moment I will put on my boots and reach for the front door.

Where will the day's journey take me?

Where will today’s journey take me?

My morning walk does not require a plan – or a map – and I’m generally quite close to home. There are still so many opportunities, and choices, and verbs involved…

Will it be a narrow side trail on life's journey that entices me today?

Will it be a narrow side trail on life’s journey that entices me today?

I think about how brief lovely moments seem, and how endless my sorrows sometimes feel. I think about perspective.

Life's helpful signage sometimes isn't very helpful at all...

Life’s helpful signage sometimes isn’t very helpful at all…

We are each having our own experience. I smile thinking about the sign in the marsh, helpfully provided to caution visitors about… something; the sign points out into the wetlands, and the text is not visible to any human being walking by. It stands in a section of the park cut off from the main trail. Will the ducks and geese find it useful? I think about the metaphor, and I think about the aisles and aisles of self-help books helpfully offered up by one human being or another, who found their own way on a complicated journey. It’s nice to have a map on a journey, an itinerary perhaps, and some good expectations that compare favorably to likely real-world outcomes… we don’t, though, not in life. What works for me, may not work for you – we may approach things differently, and reading about a great practice isn’t anything like practicing it, over time. There are verbs involved. Results do vary. Most of the self-help books, and a lot of suggested practices, are like that sign in the marsh; well-intended, but facing a less-than-helpful direction. We are each on our own journey, finding our own way, doing our own best. Fortunately – and this is one of the easy bits, I find, myself – we become what we practice. We have choices. We can begin again. 🙂

I once walked the paved trail that is no longer here to walk...

I once walked the paved trail that is no longer here to walk…

We each make our own journey in life. The trail I took before may no longer remain to guide another; I may not be able to walk those steps again, myself. I am my own cartographer, because the path traveled by another may no longer remain to guide me. My choices are not your choices. My steps don’t fit neatly into the steps of someone ahead of me, and are not left behind with anyone else clearly in mind. Still, it’s a worthy journey, and although I am having my own experience, it’s easier to recognize how clearly we are also all in this together, than it once was. That’s a nice change. I used to feel (pretty chronically) so alone… that’s more rare these days, even in the stillness of solitude, and even wading through the worst of the chaos and damage that still remains.

Figuring out the obstacles is part of the point.

Figuring out the obstacles is part of the point.

Choices. Perspective. Awareness. Where will today take me?

What will I choose?

What will I choose?

Today is a good day to enjoy the journey. 🙂

 

 

 

This morning is a lovely cool sunny summer one. I’m enjoying my coffee slowly, listening to birdsong and watching the sun crawl lazily into the Sunday sky. I make a point of savoring this gentle experience, because this wasn’t likely to be the experience I’d be having this morning, just a couple years ago. This  morning, I wrote a very different post than what I might have written a year ago under similar circumstances. 🙂

A picture of night.

A picture of night.

I woke at 3:00 am to a dense core of raging anxiety consuming my breath. My body felt panic-tight. I sat bolt upright in bed, struggling for air, and wrapped in fear. A nightmare? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t remember a dream, and when I woke I was alert – too alert for sleep. Too anxious. My brain immediately attacked me with all the ‘nevermore’ idiocy available from the darkest and most insecure reaches of my consciousness, dragging me from panic to despair like a horror film monster. I sighed aloud. Got up without internal commentary, or external tears. I shuffled into the kitchen for a drink of water, like an uneasy child. I medicated (cannabis is safe to use as needed). I didn’t fight back my insecure thoughts, instead I took them with me to my meditation cushion, sat awhile watching the cloudy night sky shift and roil overheard, breathing, focused on breath. I breathed in the cool night air through the open patio door. I breathed out the anxiety, imagining it a fog that would dissipate as vapor across the meadow. I gave myself time without concern for the hour, and let myself settle down in my own time. I don’t know what time it was when I returned to sleep. The night sky was still quite dark.

Here it is, morning, and it is a lovely one. I never quite know how to communicate how much difference building a good meditation practice has been for me. Or how much difference it made [for me] to give up psychiatric pharmaceuticals in favor of improving my self-care, and getting real therapy. Pills didn’t solve anything, or even really improve anything; they slowed everything down. The Rx pharmaceutical drugs were poisoning me, impairing my ability to create, and stalling my growth as a human being. Without also having real therapeutic support of some kind they were chronically useless, and probably killing me very slowly. (My opinion here is related to my experience only, your results may vary, and I am not a medical professional; my opinion does not have the weight of scientific fact, and should not be used to make decisions about your own prescription medications and whether to take them! If you have doubts, please talk to your physician. If you don’t like their answer, please get a second opinion – this blog should not be considered medical advice of any kind!)

My first cup of coffee is finished. The sound of the wind chime through the window charms me into listening awhile. I lose the thread of my writing… I decide to move on with the day from here.

Today is a good day for a second cup of coffee, and a leisurely moment. Today is a good day to enjoy the value of incremental change over time, and a moment of celebration with the woman in the mirror. Will it change the world? I don’t know, probably not, and I am willing to wonder, and to enjoy today. 🙂