Archives for posts with tag: what are you practicing?

It’s a new year, eh? New cup of coffee here on my desk, too. New morning, new day – a Saturday. The season has turned, and Winter is truly upon us. Here that mostly means cold, wet, and rainy, with occasional flooding, and the sounds of trees cracking when the wind blows on a freezing day. Other places, other weather.

Out on a nearby trail, taking note of the recent winter storm damage; fallen trees open up new views of the sky.

It’s been a few days since I sat down to put words to a blank page. The holidays passed, as holidays do, and this is a time when best intentions set boldly of a New Year’s Eve begin to fall to the mundane, the routine, and the unexceptional – change is quite a bit of work. Did you commit yourself to some specific change or improvement in life for this new year? Are you already frustrated? I try to avoid “resolutions” – it just hasn’t been a successful approach for me, personally. Still, this year I do want to “do more, better” – and be more that person I most want to be. It wants a new beginning, though, because I am deeply flawed, fundamentally very human, and entirely capable of bad decision-making, errors, and falling short of expectations and commitments. I’ve disappointed myself a number of times this year, once in a serious, significant, and painful way. So, as is so common, I set myself to putting things right as the new year approached, and tried to sort out what really crap-tacular shit is holding me back, and what baggage I can maybe put down , and what things I can do better, generally. I’m back in therapy, working on difficult specifics.

What sorts of changes am I looking for, this year, myself? It’s an assortment. Last year I got in 1 mile per day (average) over the second half of the year (started in July, finished on 12/31/21). This year I’m going for 2 miles per day, all year. 730 miles. On foot. I mean… it’s not “all that”. People do through hikes that are far longer, and conquer those in shorter time. 🙂 For me, working from home full time, during a pandemic, 2 miles a day on foot still manages to feel like a (healthy) stretch, particularly if I am making a legitimate attempt to do some portion of that every single day. So. I’m doing it. I’ve at least started. I sip my coffee and wonder if I’ll give up, or feel inclined to “cheat”. (There is no “cheating” on such things; either I succeed or I fail. Miles on foot are miles on foot. Doesn’t mean there won’t be something within me inclined to wonder if I could “find an easier way”. I’m very human.) Various other small things; get more done with less bitching (housekeeping shit, I mostly mean), really embracing the direct personal value to my quality of life that those efforts have, and maybe stop fucking resenting the necessity. That gets super tedious for me, even from within. “Do more, bitch less” seems a good place to begin. So far this year, I’ve been hitting the mark there pretty well, just making a bit more effort, with a bit less resistance to the effort required. It does seem to make things actually easier.

I’ve got bigger changes in mind, too. This partnership means the world to me. My Traveling Partner is special in my heart. Surely I could be a better partner? Better friend? Better human being to make a life with? I mean… there may be some things about me that may not improve much, however I fuss and practice, but that can’t be what stops me from growing and improving in all the ways I can improve, right? PTSD and brain trauma are for sure ass-kickers, as life challenges go, but I’m not without potential, and I’m pretty wonderful in so many other ways – there’s no legitimate reason to allow my issues to define me, or hold me back from making more progress, and walking my path with future successes in mind.

I wrote a bunch more words, deleted those when I noticed that my mind was wandering, and my words had become… unfocused? Purposeless? Too… something. My Traveling Partner stops by to invite me to share an experience with him later – doesn’t matter what sort, really, it’s the invitation to enjoy each other that matters most. Sounds like fun. I enjoy his company, and sharing time and activities. I smile after he walks away; we’re both pretty grumpy first thing in the morning, and don’t always want to “deal with people” – including each other. It’s a wonderful morning when we’re already exchanging smiles by 8:00 am on a Saturday, and making suggestions for shared experiences to enjoy.

Other than one errand I plan to run this morning, I’m hoping to spend most of the day here in the studio (painting, instead of writing). It’s a good day for it, I think, rainy, cold, dreary… the bright lights in the studio are probably good for my emotional wellness in winter months. 🙂 I’ll make cocoa… and begin again.

I’m annoyed over my morning coffee. It’s not something major, and a “more reasonable” person might not have reacted to this small detail the way I have. I’m working on letting it go. Anger “goes bad” – becomes toxic, generates problematic outcomes, that sort of thing – super easily, compared to so many other emotions. (I take a sip of my rather ordinary cup of coffee, and wonder briefly why that is.)

This morning I’m irritated – well, I guess that’s a step down from being angry, so… progress? It’s at least a start. A beginning. Another one. (Another sip of coffee, too.)

My Traveling Partner opens the door to the studio – and to reconnecting – and apologizes crossly for being cross with me. He makes a point to describe his experience to me. He makes a point to affirm his love, too. I make a point to listen. I make a point to demonstrate that I hear him and understand. Clear communication doesn’t feel particularly “easy” or “natural” this morning. I still feel fussy and irritable, rocked off my contented center by a moment of unexpected irritation first thing in the morning. We both do the things it takes to check in with each other, hear each other, and support each other. The verbs matter.

…I continue to reflect and sip my coffee…

I sat down to write, aware of my anger, aware of my frustration and irritability, and also aware of my affection for my partner. I sat down grateful, too; gratitude is my “go to” emotion-of-choice for a quick reset when my temper flares up. It’s super hard to be both angry and also grateful, in the same emotional moment. 🙂 With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, the timing is good for gratitude.

Wait…wait… what? What about… pilgrims? What about the heinous land grab that is our nation’s “original sin”? “Thanksgiving”??? Yes. Thanksgiving, which is to say a holiday on which I sit down to give thanks with those dear to me (I mean, yeah, when there’s no pandemic). I don’t place a positive personal (or historical) value on the celebration of Thanksgiving as some kind of glorification of genocide, at all. I do like the idea of a harvest-season feast day with gratitude as the theme, though. On its own, that’s a beautiful notion. It’s a lovely start to the winter holiday season. I celebrate that. I also acknowledge (and respect) the National Day of Mourning that also occurs on this date. There are for sure no pilgrims sitting down at my table. Genocide is a terrible violation of culture, and waste of human potential.

Anyway. Yeah, I do find that gratitude beats anger – every time. I’m grateful for so much this year. I feel fortunate. Good quality clean drinking water flows from indoor taps. The house is cozy and warm – and ours. The pantry is stocked and there’ll be no need to leave the house for shopping, tomorrow. I’m wearing comfortable clothing, appropriate for the conditions – and I had choices for what to wear this morning. The heat kicks on, and the soft sound of the fan blowing reminds me yet again, how fortunate I am. Comfortable bed…clean linens…a safe, secure place to live. Stable employment. I’m fortunate indeed.

I sip my coffee and think contented grateful thoughts – no anger to be found anywhere. Season’s greetings, y’all. Happy Thanksgiving. Here’s hoping you have much to be grateful for, and very little to be angry about. I take a calm breathe, and prepare to begin again.

This morning is weird. I woke early, no idea why. Maybe I just had to pee? I feel generally okay as the morning begins. The usual amount of pain, in the usual amount of places, and I feel decently well-rested in spite of the short night. The weekend was strange. Strained in some moments, infused with a too-fragile joy in others. I struggled to find balance. From my own limited point of view, it seemed my Traveling Partner did, too.

…Very human…

I wanted to spend the weekend painting; I’ve got some good ideas and feel inspired, but that intent went awry, skewered by other moments. It’s a routine Monday, today, and my to-do list is a mix of errands, phone calls, and shit left from the weekend that didn’t get done – and work. I’m not bitching, just saying that is where things stand today, on a chilly damp autumn Monday.

I pull my attention back to me. My focus back on this moment, here. I lift myself more erect, correcting my posture to preserve my comfort. I take a deep breath, listening to the sound of it mix with the sounds of the house. I feel where my pain is. I make a point to also feel where it isn’t. I take a minute to reflect on the things I would like to get done today. I’m hoping that by doing so, I’ll be more likely to remember them all and get them done.

I’ve “lost some progress” emotional-health-wise over the course of the pandemic. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m back in therapy. I’m not saying that with any particular sense of failure (although I sometimes feel a certain pervasive sense of “catastrophic futility” when I’m taken by surprise in some bleak moment); it’s a complicated journey, and realistically, there’s a high probability that I’ll sometimes struggle with some trauma-relevant detail of my experience or another, now and then, all my life. If I set the emotional wellness goal at “just as perfectly whole and well and balanced as if I’d never experienced any moment of trauma ever at all”, I’m guaranteed a lifetime of struggle, failure, and futility. It’s not a realistic goal. That’s why I focus on contentment – which I can build – rather than chasing “happiness”, which is not only fleeting, but also damned difficult to define clearly. I have at least learned to avoid setting myself up for failure. Mostly.

I finished the book my Traveling Partner recently gifted me, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?“, by Alan Alda. First rate work on communication, and I plan to read it again, immediately, and maybe also buy the e-book so I can easily highlight passages I’d like to study further, savor, or share. It’ll go on my Reading List shortly (yep, it’s that good).

I take time with my coffee to properly reflect on my recent business trip. I think over what I learned (about various things, including some travel practices that could improve my experience if I am to do this sort of thing regularly). I think over even details like “what I packed that I did not need” – there’s an art to traveling light, and still having “everything I need”. I’m rusty. The last job I had that required regular travel was… the Army. Trust me when I say that it was a very different style of travel! I’m surprised to find that I genuinely enjoyed being in the office for a couple of days – and I got a lot done. I also enjoy working from home very much, and find that day-to-day my “baseline” productivity is generally much higher working from home. It’s the “living life” part of work-travel I haven’t figured out; I finish those work days wrung out, in physical pain, and cognitively exhausted, just as I often do at home, and lacking any reserves with which to do anything much recreational. I got my walking in. For now, that’ll have to do, and I guess I’m okay with it.

I sip my coffee and consider what value my Traveling Partner may get out of my occasional business travels. We miss each other so much when we’re apart, but it seems to have a healthy positive value to get that “bit of space from each other”. How to do that in a way that does not create moments of insecurity and doubt would be helpful as a skill. I think more about what he may want and need out of life, generally, and ask myself some hard questions about whether I provide those things, and how I could do a better job of that? Then I turn a mirror on that question, which is super hard for me, and I ask myself what I want and need out of life generally – and whether I am providing myself with those things (or communicating them skillfully to my partner), and how can I do a better job of that, too? It’s a profoundly different question – and deeply relevant to my emotional wellness. In a very real way, I can only treat people around me as well as I treat myself. I’ve been letting myself down rather a lot, sacrificing pieces of myself to the job, to the world around me, to the household, to my partner, and to those vacant slack-jawed moments of cognitive ease that end up being my inadequate substitute for legitimate self-care, too often, lately. (I could “blame the pandemic”, but I recognize it is more complicated than that.)

…Damn, I’m glad I got back into therapy…

Here it is, the edge of a new day. The beginnings of a beginning. There are so many other things to reflect on, to consider, to handle differently, to work at… it seems like a lot, taken as one colossal single monolithic unsatisfying uncompleted “project”… I sigh, sip the last swallow of my first coffee of the day. One step at a time. One task at a time. One reminder at a time. Eventually, things get done, and incremental change over time becomes part of the here and now. “Could be” becomes “is”. It still takes so much practice. So many new beginnings. I stare into my empty coffee cup. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

I enjoyed a lovely handful of days out in the trees. Relaxing? Sure. Good hikes? Definitely. Even challenging. Restful downtime? Yes. Time for deep reflection? Quite a lot. Did I write? No, not really. Read? Barely picked up a book. I mostly sat around watching the clouds drift by between naps and walks. It was time well-spent.

Here’s a question that crossed my mind rather unproductively, though… Who exactly are “the good guys”? Seriously. I don’t think a rational person can call our US government a governing body of “good guys”. The media? Doubtful. They have challenges with fundamental truthfulness, to varying degrees that seem dependent on how much profit is in the lies they may be inclined to tell, or the revenue generated by their clickbait articles. It’s frustrating to try to “read the news” these days. How about “every day Americans”? Are we “the good guys”? Considering how commonly people act a fool, or lash out violently against other “every day Americans”, it’s hard to call us, as a group, “the good guys”. Other governments? How different are they, really? People are people. Human primates are barely domesticated at all, and find endless rationalization for treating each other like crap, individually or in groups. It’s pretty horrific. We’ve done some terrible things as creatures.

…Before you go making excuses (“something, something, in the past things were different…”), keep in mind that every single day someone just straight up kills another person, often someone close to them, even a partner, a child, a lover… just… yeah. Every day. Domestic violence. Gang violence. Racially-motivated hate-driven violence. Institutional violence. “Criminal violence” isn’t even the largest portion of violent crime being reported. Shot at a gas station during a robbery? It happens. Not as often as an angry spouse lashes out at their partner. That domestic violence even exists at all still shocks and horrifies me, not just as a survivor, but also as a human being. I mean, for real? What the fuck?? Seriously? How is that even a thing, at all? How does any one human being reach a place where they can justify an act of violence against another human being – particularly one they say they love. Truly horrifying.

I’m grateful to have escaped with my life, to have survived, and to have found my way to a healthy authentic experience of love with a partner I know cares for me deeply, and truly loves me. I literally can’t imagine him ever raising a hand against me. Love feels comfortable and safe. How could it be any other way and still be “love”? 🙂

Seems strange to find it so needful, so often, to want to suggest people “stop hating”. Are we truly such barbaric vile creatures that it is necessary to point out the value of basic kindness? (That’s rhetorical; we’re obviously not drowning in kindness, consideration, compassion, and tolerance, and there just can’t be too many reminders to be better people, when being a better version of ourselves is so readily within reach for all of us.) Just… do better.

Begin again.

This is me, beginning again. Right here. Now. I take a breath. I change the playlist. I change the view. I change my perspective. I practice the practices that work best for me. I pick myself up when I fall, and get back on my path. Easy? Easy enough to do it as often as I need to (which is, I admit, often).

Sometimes just watching the clouds scoot by is enough.

My computer locks up. No, I don’t know why, I just deal with it and move on. Re-center myself after the briefest moment of frustration, and pull myself back into the pleasant moment I had been enjoying, flipping through pictures from my camping weekend…

Lovely moments spent meditating in lovely quiet places are worth savoring.

I recently read an article about the negative consequences of venting when we’re angry. I mean, sure, it feels sort of gratifying to “get it all out”, but, and this is real, it also tends to cement that negative experience in our implicit recollection and boosts our negative bias. The outcome is different when we look for opportunities to learn from challenging experiences, seek other perspectives, and “focus on the positive” (in an authentic way). That seems worth exploring…

We become what we practice. Are you practicing being angry? Are you practicing prolonged frustration? Reactivity? Shouting? Maybe practice other things… 😉 I’m just saying there are choices. We can each choose to be “the good guy” more often than we likely do.

…And we have the opportunity to choose differently, and begin again.

Happy Monday, y’all. It’s been hours since my morning coffee, and the afternoon is heating up quickly. I’ve got my bottle of cold water at my desk, and a covered mug of hot noodles for a quick lunch. My Traveling Partner is in his shop, doing shop things. I’m staring into an abyss of spreadsheets and a to-do list that is frankly embarrassing in length. I take a long drink of water and remind myself it is a job, and I’m being paid to do it. This time is not my own (well, I mean, right now is my lunch break, so… that’s mine).

I breathe deeply. My exhale becomes a heavy sigh. I’m mostly fine. I’m just sort of cross. This has, so far, been one of those days that seems as if every attempt I make at affection, appreciation, positive connection… any bid at all really, directed to my partner is met with… a surly, rather terse, somewhat parental tone. I’m annoyed with that. It’s not at all where my own head is at. I’m finding, as a result, that I’m just irked with the whole fucking day I find myself wrapped in. I’m okay with saying I’m annoyed by it. Real enough. What to do about it is another matter. So far, continued attempts are not being met well, so I’ve sort of given up on it for the time being. I’m in “task processing mode”, focused on practical matters and getting shit done, one step at a time, without becoming emotionally invested at all. Considering how much I enjoy my partner’s appreciation, affection, and approval, it’s sometimes very tough to let it go and hold on to the awareness that we’re each having our own experience.

Honestly, we’re a hilarious partnership. We adore each other, and generally manage the day-to-day with humor and delighted affection for each other. Sometimes it’s not that easy, and my brain injury definitely gets in the way of things now and then. I try to be patient with myself, even when he’s having trouble being patient with me, himself. I work hard on not taking his impatience with me at all personally; I know that it is not. I can be surprisingly clumsy sometimes, or awkward, or hapless, or somehow offset from his understanding of whatever the hell is going on at the moment. We are each having our own experience, that’s unavoidable. We are not one being, one mind. We’re two entirely separate human primates, making a go of life together. 🙂 A shared journey, not an identical one.

I give my noodles a chance to cool a bit. I don’t really feel up to adding a burned mouth to my list of bullshit to deal with today. lol I have choices. I can change my experience – and change my perspective on it (I was pretty irritable and on the edge of tears when I started this, now I’m just hungry*. lol). Resilience doesn’t seem to be about never reacting, or avoiding the occasional bad mood, so much as being about shortening that period of time between when a feeling or experience develops, and when I’ve gained useful perspective on it. It’s enough to be able to make that journey. I sometimes even feel that I’m getting pretty good at doing it with a measure of skill. 🙂

…I sure know how to begin again… 😀

*By the time I finished writing through my lunch break, and having a bit of a pleasant chat with my partner about shop-related matters, and connecting in a loving way, I was once again in a comfortable place emotionally. Feels good. Didn’t honestly take that long to get from “there” to here, and the lack of residual negative emotion clogging up my experience of self (and this Monday) speaks volumes for how far I’ve really come since 2013. I’m sometimes pretty blown away when I reflect on the likelihood that a bit of emotional weather of this sort could have been days or weeks worth of feelings of despair, futility, and irritation. That’s a long way from where I am now. 🙂 Worth celebrating. I slurp my noodles contentedly. This works.