Archives for posts with tag: what are you practicing?

Coffee #2 going down easily after dropping a couple ice cubes in it. I didn’t really want iced coffee, but I also didn’t feel at all like waiting for it to cool to “drinking temperature” – or burning my mouth. So. Ice. Easy solution.

It’d be super handy if more shit were that easy to resolve. I’m just saying, from the small painfully tedious bullshit we’ve each got to overcome, master, or endure, to the globally-scaled huge threats to humanity’s survival (or quality of life), there often seem damned few things that fall into the set of “things that are easy to resolve”. It’s annoying. I’m sitting here sipping my very drinkable coffee feeling annoyed by a seeming plague of petty b.s. aggravations that lack easy resolution. I am very skillful at feeling annoyed, unfortunately, and less skilled at letting shit go.

I got some gardening done. Planted fall bulbs. Thinned some seedlings I hope to winter over. Watered. I’m in the middle of doing laundry, too. It’s a task that easily “stacks” with other things that need to get done. I look over my garden notes, still hoping to make my way to a less annoyed state of mind.

Just keeping it real, all these years of practices and progress (and there has been tremendous progress) don’t amount to a “cure” for an anxiety disorder (cPTSD) on top of a brain injury, and I still deal with my “issues” rather a lot. I don’t despair often, but when I do it can seem just as hard to claw my way out. I don’t feel mired in sorrow or a sense of futility or learned helplessness much these days, but when I am, it’s still brutally difficult to pull myself out of that spiral. My lack of skill with my anxiety, frustration, or anger can too easily result in an unexpected explosive temper tantrum – and trust me when I say there are no good outcomes from that sort of thing, it’s just messy and unpleasant all around. The lingering cognitive challenges of surviving head trauma (and a handful of transient ischemic attacks over the years) can wreck my ability to communicate well – and that is worsened when I’m under stress, or fatigued, or swamped by emotion.

Not one fucking thing I’ve learned, practiced, or changed, has amounted to a “cure” for cPTSD, or wholly resolved the consequences of my head injury. No one ever promised that they would, but damn I had sure hoped for a very long time that they might.

I’ve tried a lot of things to keep my background anxiety managed and to reduce the risk of panic attacks, or “funhouse mirror effects” on my perception of an experience. Some of them have worked, most haven’t – or only for a short while. Each incremental improvement is a pretty big deal, but they still don’t yet add up to “enough”. I put constant pressure on myself (that I simultaneously manage to resent) to take any steps available to minimize the impact on other people; I don’t honestly believe 100% relief is even possible for me, myself. Not gonna lie; it’s a fairly bleak perspective some days. I kinda figure I’m “stuck this way” – improvements are possible, nonetheless, and I keep at it. Every improvement matters. A lot.

It’s been a very long while since I was willing to rely on Rx relief of anxiety symptoms. I didn’t have a great experience of prescription anxiolytics. I experienced exceedingly uncomfortable side effects that while not life-threatening, were uncomfortable to the point of me being unwilling to continue down that path. I’ve tried using Benadryl for my anxiety; it worked very well for me, but the effect doesn’t last indefinitely. I’ve tried very low doses of nicotine, too (we’re talking single puffs from a 1mg concentration of “vape juice”, not whole 24mg cigarettes here). That worked too, but again, the effectiveness quickly diminished over time, and the side effects (on my voice mostly) were unwelcome. I gave that up, too. Herbal tea? Valerian was good… but not reliably effective. Same thing was true of lemon balm, although just cup-of-tea-wise I enjoy that one very much. Cannabis? Sort of helps. Sometimes doesn’t. Reliably leaves me feeling somewhat stalled and stupid, and because of that I’ve given it up as a mood stabilizer; the trade-off cognitively and intellectually isn’t worth it. Meditation helps, reliably, but… not enough, and not always when I need it most. I can’t fucking sit on a cushion all damned day. Controlled breathing? Super helpful if I’m having a panic attack, but with my brain injury being what it is, now I’ve backed myself into a corner where I am prone to inadvertently slowing my breathing when I just relax to a point that I start depriving myself of adequate oxygen (verifiable on a pulse oximeter). Fucking hell. Not one god-damned thing is easy about this shit. I’m annoyed by that, too. Buuuut, anxiety being the monster she is, I’m faced with returning to therapy to work on it, and bracing myself even to request Rx support (if only short-term). I’m frustrated by that.

…I am also angry, but my anger is a story for another time, perhaps…

I think I’m just putting words around this annoying observation that I still struggle. I’ve got a lot more “tools in my toolkit” for dealing with my anxiety than I ever have before. I’ve still got to deal with anxiety. It fucking sucks giant unwashed balls. I’m not feeling any despair over it, presently, though I sometimes do. Today I’m just annoyed. Lovely sunny day. I’m annoyed. It blows. I feel almost as if I “need something to be properly angry about” in order to release this energy, but that’s a shitty approach to doing so; it puts other people’s joy at risk and that’s really not okay. So, I focus on my to-do list and get a few things done. Try to focus on the positives as I experience each moment. I keep taking a new breath, exhaling that, and letting go of my irritation. I know it’ll likely be an all day sort of thing I’ve got to do, but facing it for the day is a whole lot less irritating than facing it for (the also likely) lifetime of work that may be ahead. One bite at a time.

The sunshine on the leaves of the pear tree beyond the window remind me that this is a lovely lazy Sunday. My list of housekeeping I’d like to get done keeps the day framed with productive tasks and wholesome distractions. I hear my Traveling Partner in the shop doing his thing and staying as far from my bullshit as he can easily do. I’m grateful he has that to turn to. I hope it’s enough to satisfy his needs. I keep working on me.

Time to begin again.

I got a walk in this morning. The mornings are cooler. The sun rises later. I felt rather as if I “slept in”, but it’s more that the sunrise has shifted and affects my timing. I haven’t used any sort of alarm, not even my artificial sunrise on Home Assistant) since I left my previous job. It’s lovely.

Tuesday sunrise.

I sat for a moment watching the sun rise. Today is a work day. No need to rush, though. I have a handful of meetings on my calendar, related to onboarding in this new job. It’s a relaxed, very organized experience without being stifling or rigid. Yesterday was excellent as first days go. There’s a lot to learn, a lot to sort out and understand more deeply, and quite a handful of new tools to msster. No objection from me; there is a lot of opportunity for growth in this.

So far, this is a very good week in a choice new role. Lovely morning, too.

…This cup of coffee is about gone, and I would definitely like another. Sounds like a reasonable point for a new beginning…

Note: I’ve referenced a bunch of roses by name in this one, without adding pictures (in most cases) – it may be interesting to open a second tab and google them to see what they look like or to read more about them. 🙂 If you put the word “rose” in front of their names, you should get images that are the correct rose without a lot of b.s. (I didn’t feel right linking to point of sale pages on all these, as it might have given the appearance of an endorsement.) Ready?

In my garden, the roses (and some flowers) are selected with great care to fit a theme. The theme? Love. Passion. Romance. A story of lovers over time. So, a rose named “The Alchymist” (a Kordes cross of R. eglanteria and a climber named Golden Glow from 1956) lives in the garden representing my Traveling Partner (it makes sense if you know him). “Baby Love”, (Scrivens, 1992?) was a gift from my Traveling Partner when we moved in together and he started a wee garden for me out on our balcony – “baby love” is also one of his pet names for me. So sweet. 😀 This year, close to “The Alchymist”, I’ll be adding “Baltimore Belle” (Feast, 1843), a nod to my home state of Maryland and recollections of many happy visits to “Charm City” in younger years.

Over the years, roses have come and gone. My first roses were “inherited” when my then-spouse and I bought a little house in Texas. Later, my first “proper” rose garden started with a Jackson & Perkins collection, before I had discovered the robust lasting beauty of roses on their own roots.

As gardens came and went with various moves, only those roses that could survive well in containers stayed “in my garden” as it moved from place to place, but I knew what I wanted, and the vision lingered. I want a garden that wraps me in love. 🙂 So, the roses are selected with great care, right down to the names. “The Alchymist” and “Baby Love” are currently joined by “Nozomi” (“Pink Pearl”, Onodera, 1968 – the rose that has been with me longest), and “Easy on the Eyes” (Carruth, 2017 – my “youngest” rose), and “Sweet Chariot” (Moore, 1984 – one of the first miniatures I ever purchased). I had a few others suited to my theme at my last address, but they weren’t doing well, and I decided not to haul their fungi, pests, or health issues to the new address. Starting fresh seemed the wiser choice. Some I’ll for sure replace (I miss the lovely “X-rated”, “Irresistible” and “Ebb Tide”) others maybe not (many of which I suspect just weren’t a good choice for container life…). We’ll see.

Soon three new roses will arrive: “Baltimore Belle”, along with “Golden Opportunity” (Carruth, 2012?), and “All My Loving” (Fryer, 2011). Roses have more than beautiful forms and captivating scents – they have provenance, history, and stories to tell. Some of my fondest favorites achieved their place in my heart because of the stories they have to tell. R. gallica, for example? It’s the oldest known rose, ever, anywhere. Wow, right? What must this rose have seen of human kind and histories gardens? I often consider planting her, just because… “history“.

I have a two long-time favorites I may never plant into this garden. They’re huge. Truly grand in size, and both are very thorny, too. I don’t have the space without a lot of strict pruning two or three times a year. lol One is R. eglanteria. One of my fondest favorites (also called “sweet briar” rose) she smells of green apple, and has so many adorable “wild rose” type flowers in a cute pink color. I often think that the Sleeping Beauty’s thorn-bushes were likely a mix of wild blackberries and R. eglanteria. 🙂 It’s a whimsical notion that delights me. The other? “Sombreuil” (unknown breeder, 1880, and previously sold as “Colonial White” in the US) – a massive and impressive climbing rose with enormous saucer-sized white blooms that are exquisitely fragrant and temptingly numerous – she guards them fiercely with her plentiful nasty thorns. Every year that I owned her, my arms told that the tale of keeping her pruned back. lol Worth it, though, and I daydream of adding her to my garden for that heavenly tea rose scent. She really doesn’t “fit the theme”, though… but oh I do miss her so!

…I could add either or both, but I can’t do so without acknowledging the challenge involved in keeping them to a manageable size in this climate; I’ve experienced that first hand. They were genuinely too big for container gardening, and I knew that back in 1998, when I moved them from Fresno, California, to Portland, Oregon. Back then, I had a community garden plot in the big community garden on the campus of Reed College. So… I planted them in my community garden plot. Why not? Well, I’ll tell you why not – about 7 years later, the college decided to reclaim the space the garden occupied to build new dorms. Those two roses, by that time, were so insanely large I could not move them at all! The college “kept them”, and indeed they are growing in the locations they had been planted (at least that was the case last I saw). My R. eglanteria was easily half the width of my plot (about 5′ wide) and twice that high. “Sombreuil” was similarly wide, on the other side of the plot, and far taller, with long sweeping canes curving downward gently, extending her visual width, each cane weighed down heavily with those big blooms. I only have one “sensible” location for either (or both) of them here, and that would be just on the other side of the retaining wall, instead of those invasive non-native blackberries (although that would be replacing a non-native with non-natives…so…). Then I could just let them do their thing over the years, taking space and being lovely. Getting them planted there, though, would require many days of intense labor clearing out those fucking blackberries by hand. Worth it? Maybe not…?

Where was I going with this? Love. Gardening. Roses. There are definitely roses I’d like to add, but limited space and a thematic commitment shorten the list quite a bit. 😀 What do I have in mind, as of this one moment on this particular summer day?

Love at First Sight – I mean, yeah, our “origin story” has a real hint of that “love at first sight” kind of experience.

Ebb Tide – the tides come and go. Emotions, too. That, and my Traveling Partner is a Navy veteran – there aren’t many roses with nautically relevant names. lol

Bliss – because love can be so much bliss, for real. 😀

You’re the One – well, yeah, that’s how it has played out for both of us. This unexpected lasting commitment and affection for each other has been significant.

Crazy Love – also, yeah, we both bring the fucking crazy to this rollercoaster. LOL

Orange Honey – okay, so, not “on theme” but another rose that was one of my earliest choices for my first rose garden. I fell in love with the trailing habit, the sweet fragrance, and enjoyed my friendship with the breeder Ralph Moore. It’s just a rose worth having. 🙂

Cutie Pie – my partner is my best friend, my “prince charming”, and for sure a “cutie pie”, so this one makes sense to me. 😀

Realistically, I have doubts that I could fit another 10 roses to my wee garden, after the 5 I’ve already got, and the three that are on their way right now. LOL I could probably do 10-12 (total), though, without looking like a mad woman… So, as with so many things in life, it’s about selection. Choices made with care. It’s about sufficiency. “Enough”. It’s about overcoming a very human inclination to acquire and to accumulate. Greed is not a character trait I want to develop (quite the contrary, I practice sufficiency).

How best to narrow down my list of 10 to 3-4? Well, one way I do that kind of thing is to let circumstances call some of the shots; I go to the website that I’m shopping from, and narrow things down (see list above) based on what fits my theme and appeals to me… then, that is likely further limited by what is still in stock. LOL This is how I selected the three that are headed my way now! If I look at the website this morning at my wishlist of 10 roses above, just two of them are actually available. This is sometimes frustrating, but it also prevents my garden from being too structured by introducing a certain not-quite-randomness. It also slows me down quite a lot. I’ll just add the three I’ve ordered for the 2023 garden – next year I’ll be looking over the options available then.

In the meantime, I entertain myself thinking about gardening and roses and searching for just the right rose to add here or there… and wait for new roses to arrive to be planted. Each one is a new beginning all its own. 🙂 Roses and gardens make beautiful metaphors. 😀

I’m sipping coffee and thinking over my actual garden, while also entertaining the notion of the garden-as-metaphor. It’s a lovely summer morning. My Traveling Partner and his son are in the shop together, doing shop things. I’m in studio thinking about bulbs, roses, and garden paths. Nice start to the day.

This week I’ve been out in the garden more, now that the worst of the heat as abated (at least for now). First year in the lovely raised bed out front that my partner and I built (celebrating our anniversary, back in May). I love it… but my results were less than ideal.

  1. My melons all failed, mostly due to the neighbor’s cat using that side of my raised bed as a great new litter box. I think I’ve now successfully discouraged that bullshit. (Also, I’ve never had luck with melons ever, in the Pacific Northwest, but that could be due to being a fairly half-assed, kind of terrible gardener…?)
  2. My beans gave up a great little harvest. By great, I mean quite plentiful and tasty. By little, I mean just the one harvest.
  3. When it gets seriously hot, I am inclined to be absent from the garden when it needs my daily attention most. I gotta work on this!
  4. The container, grow bag, and hydroponic gardening are relatively high maintenance here in the this location, and a bit distant from anything like “convenient”. They are a poor fit to the gardener that I clearly am.
  5. I love fresh produce. I really like things that are “easy”. These ideas do not complement each other.
  6. My carrots, radishes, and daikon were awesome – until they bolted in the heat while I was sick, in July. I managed some further success by harvesting the resulting seeds. 😀
  7. My eggplants are doing super well, but they don’t have much fruit on them (see “heat” in item #3). The couple of fruits maturing on them now look like they will be excellent.
  8. I have a lot to learn.

I think that last item is my key takeaway; I have a lot to learn. Working in the raised bed is easier, for sure. Having the gardening all right out front is very convenient. No real excuse not to get the work done; I walk by the garden multiple times each day, and I think I need to rebuild old habits of deliberately visiting the garden each day, in the morning and in the evening, just walking, looking, and taking it all in. Being “present” in the garden requires me to be literally present in the garden. lol No surprise there.

In the heat of summer, I let the lawn die back rather than use the quantity of water to maintain it that it would require. It comes right back with the rain in autumn.

I spent the week tidying up the garden beds, and adding fresh compost before doing some fall planting. I find myself thinking over low-maintenance garden paths (reduces the amount of wasted space given over to lawn grass, too). I think about where the next raised bed could go, and what it might look like. I consider the question of whether to cover the raised bed to keep things going through colder months, and how best to do that without looking messy. I’m inclined to provide cover for winter… extend the growing season, and get a better start to the Spring growing season here in our chilly-Springs climate. There’s time to figure that out to ensure I also maintain a pleasant curb-appeal aesthetic (that matters to me).

I pause my writing to enjoy a break with my partner and step-son, then head out into the sunny garden to water and look over “next steps” – time to prune the roses, and there is some weeding to do. Probably a good time to sow more Russel’s Lupines in the bed under the kitchen window (I’ve apparently settled on lupines and nasturtiums for that one…).

Gardens are very much a “I get out of it what I put into it” sort of thing. The effort I make on things like weeding, watering, giving seedlings the very best start, and pest control, directly effect the outcome at harvest time. That’s just real. Being there, present and engaged, observing and aware, makes so much difference. I make a point of walking the perimeter of the garden and flower beds as I water. I look at weeds and reflect on pulling those out – but no amount of reflection or observation will change the number (or vigor) of the weeds in those beds. There are verbs involved. I’ve got to do the actual work required to get the result I most want. True in life and in gardening.

It’s time to begin again.

I’m not a perfect person. (Who is, though?) I need practice – at most things, honestly. I have an idea who the woman I most want to be might happen to be. I can “see her” in my mind’s eye. I hear her voice as an echo; something I could have said better than what I chose to say, or speaking truth to power in a moment when I failed to do so. I hear her speak up for herself, when I don’t. I hear her set expectations and boundaries more skillfully than I often do. I have a sense of “who she is” and the values she embraces. Me? I’m still practicing all of those things. She listens well and deeply, with real attention and consideration. Her answers are thoughtful – and insightful. She’s clearly well-informed on the issues that mean most to her – and she’s kind about education and informing others. She’s patient with people, even when she’s in pain. She’s no saint, she’s lived a real life and she owns her mistakes. She takes time to reflect on her thinking, instead of following the crowd on commonly accepted opinions. She’s fearless about disagreeing – and committed to collaboration and skillful communication. She likes to be on time, but she’s not a jerk about people being a few minutes behind on plans. She’s fucking amazing.

…She’s the woman in my mirror – mostly. She’s who I see in my best moments. She’s my destination, and when I stay on top of my self-care, and committed to healthy practices for emotional regulation and communication, she’s my journey – walking with me, guiding me, picking me up when I fall and lighting my path. Of course I am “a work in progress” – we all are, if we are wise about being and becoming. 🙂 That’s my thought on it, anyway. I keep practicing. Keep walking my own mile. I’ve got choices, and there are verbs involved. I know my results will vary.

This isn’t an awareness that makes anything any “easier”. I am prone to being deeply disappointed in myself (to the point of catastrophizing, sometimes) when I fail to meet the rather high standard I’ve set for myself. Being practical and kind to myself, and allowing for my own humanity is all part of that journey, too. More to learn. More to practice. Keeping it real? I fail all the fucking time. LOL I’m very human. I pause to reflect. Begin again. Continue to practice. Seems a worthwhile way to spend a life. 🙂

Yesterday in the evening, for some reason I don’t recall right at the moment, tempers flared between my Traveling Partner and myself. Raised voices for a moment, a few spilled tears, some impatience, some anger, some frustration… we got past it, it was just emotional weather. My partner pointed out some things that matter to him a great deal. I swallowed my pride and listened; it’s always hard to hear I’ve failed as a partner or lover in some way (however small). Yeah, I still need practice. Even the fundamentals of living well and treating others well can easily erode and slip away from me without practice. Doesn’t matter at all if the speed and ease with which my habits quickly extinguish with even brief lack of practice is related to my brain injury; the solution is to continue to practice (and that includes self-compassion), and to begin again when I fail myself. That’s enough. It’s all there is. 🙂

Being between jobs is an interesting space to grow within. That 40+ hours lost to employment every week, generally, becomes time for study, for practice, for growth, for exploring the unknown, for trying things out… in that respect, it’s a wonderful opportunity. Today, I spent much of the day with my camera, and learning related software. What about you? What did you learn today? 🙂 It may keep you young to keep learning. It may keep you alive (depending on what you learn, and what life throws your way).

I notice that the interface here in WordPress looks… different. I find myself wondering what I clicked on, although it could be that the user interface actually changed, again. Not ideally helpful for folks who are “other than neuro-typical” (probably pretty aggravating for just about anyone who has mastered some software or other previously, and logs in to find it changed). It’s weird and annoying, and I let myself be distracted by music videos, instead, and wander off for a few minutes of conversation with my partner. Life. No pressure, just living. 🙂

It’s time to begin again; there’s so much to practice. 😉