Archives for posts with tag: what are you practicing?

I’m sipping my coffee, quietly reading some news. I give up on it quickly; most of the news is at best a bit of a downer, and at worst holds some amount of potential to be a significant mood-wrecker. I stifle a sneeze, and wonder why I haven’t put a box of tissues in my studio, yet? No, I’m not ill. It’s just a stray sneeze. Dust? Or allergens of some sort. I return to my coffee and my thoughts.

Where does this path lead?

I took my first walk in the countryside since the move, on Saturday. It was a lovely day for it. The entire weekend was sunny. Saturday was pleasantly warm and somewhat mild. Sunday was ferociously hot for the area. I enjoyed both days quite a lot. The walk was lovely, and I am glad I got out on the trail, although most of the walk was simply around and about the new neighborhood. πŸ™‚ Plenty to see, all of it new, most of it entirely ordinary. πŸ™‚ Small pleasures still count as pleasant.

There is the usual assortment of roadside flowers in bloom to be seen along the way.

I walked a bit more than a mile. Far enough to walk a new path, to see some new points of view, and to wave at new neighbors.

I crossed a small foot bridge passing over a small branch of the creek that flows past our house.

The walk was enough to make my ankle ache, by the time I had returned home. Still, I wasn’t in much pain this weekend, and as improvements in quality of life go, a reduction in pain is a good one to enjoy. So, I spent the weekend enjoying that. πŸ™‚

I sip my coffee, now, enjoying my recollections of the weekend just past, and thinking about the day ahead. Later on, I’ll drive “into the city”, which I’m not looking forward to at all. It’s just a necessary errand. Portland is seriously “stirred up” right now, and I’ve no interest in becoming mixed up in that chaos. I looked over my route, yesterday evening, and verified it does not need to take me through the heart of things, down near the courthouse, before confirming my plans. Portland, Oregon, has a lively protest culture, and I have long respected and valued the willingness of Portland’s citizens to take a stand against injustice. That feeling does not diminish the experiences of profound inconvenience and considerable risk that go along with attempting to pass through an area filled with protesters, counter-protesters, and aggressive law enforcement. I make a point of keeping my distance, unless I am intending to be an active participant. Safer.

I notice that thoughts of protests, protesters, and conflict, have caused my heart to pound and my breathing to become shallow. I take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and relax. There is no threat here, just me and this cup of coffee, which I am enjoying very much. I think about my Saturday morning walk, instead, and feel my shoulders relax, and my heartbeat slow down. I sip my coffee and begin to plan my day.

…Pretty routine stuff, but I’ll point out that generally speaking, on the average, things tend to be pretty routine, day-to-day, most particularly if I allow them to be so. I could keep myself constantly in a state of tension, ready for a fight, poised on the edge of drama, constantly examining my experience for threat of danger, or revisiting past conversations looking for an enemy to confront… I know people who do. I once did, myself. It’s not actually a pleasant or comfortable way to live, and it didn’t seem to enhance my quality of life at all – and it didn’t reduce the danger or drama in my life, or do much to actually prepare me to deal with those sorts of things, in fact. It was just uncomfortable and emotionally messy. I’m glad I gave up those practices (and they are experiences that do require practice) in favor of practices that tend to tilt life more in the direction of contentment, joy, ease, and satisfaction in life. Turned out that life itself did not need to change much – it was more about my perspective on life needing a change (and how I treated myself in the context of the events of my life). πŸ™‚

I finish this cup of coffee, on an ordinary enough Monday, beginning a routine sort of day. It’s enough. I begin again. πŸ™‚

This morning starts gently. The promise of every new day is a new beginning. Even in the time of pandemic, every dawn begins a new day (so far…). I start the morning with meditation, yoga, coffee… and this peculiar beautiful strange celebration of what is human. I love this video version of The Real Folk Blues. I’m not certain I can be clear about quite why. It isn’t the “original version”. It’s one created by artists (during the pandemic) inspired by that original for reasons of their own. It reminds me that even our struggles – maybe especially our struggles – create moments of profound beauty, wonder, and power in our experience. Anchors created in our memory that tie us to events, places, people, experiences… good or bad, lost or found; our hearts beat to these rhythms. Pieces of “who we are”.

Poetic musings and a bit of music, a cup of coffee, a sunrise… there are worse ways to start a day. πŸ™‚

My mind wanders through recollections of recent special moments. Like light and shadows, reflections on water, or catching sight of a finished painting with completely new eyes, the memories are meaningful to me, in a fleeting moment, the significance easily lost if I “overthink” them. There have been some lovely moments during the move, and yes, during this time of pandemic. I sit with those, sipping my coffee, insisting that my restless mind pause and focus on what is sweet, and merry, and good, and uplifting. Love and loving, and what matters most. The things I want to characterize my day-to-day experience. I pause not to celebrate those experiences so much as to savor them, and “lock them into” my implicit memory and experience of life “generally”. The wellspring of my positivity and fairly reliably good outlook on life, these days, is, I suspect, rooted in this one simple practice. It’s not “mine” – I learned it elsewhere. Here’s a great explanation of how to “take in the good”. Your results may vary. (We become what we practice.)

It’s a good morning for coffee and sentiment. Such a human thing. What’s so special about being human? I’m not even certain that it is special… there’s not much I can know about “the life of the mind” for a turtle, an ant, a hummingbird, or a house cat. I only know what I know – and that’s such a pitifully small amount of knowledge, even among human primates, that it can be a bit of a downer now and then. I queue up another favorite song, sentimental, encouraging, and very human. I smile while silly sentimental tears spill over for no obvious reason. Also very human. Also totally okay.

Perspective matters.
“Emotion and Reason” acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow 2012

Another day. Time to get on with another beginning. πŸ™‚ What sweetness and wonder might today hold? Time to find out… If things go wrong, I know I can begin again.

I’m sipping my coffee, watching the dawn become day. I can’t honestly say the morning is “routine”; the move into this house is still quite recent, and a great many of my routines are altered, or broken. The “new normal” is still developing, and I don’t really know what that will look like, in days or weeks, or months, or two years from now. I breathe, exhale, relax, and let that go. The new normal does not need my help, it’ll be what it is once it becomes so. πŸ™‚

…This coffee is fairly terrible…

There is a work day ahead of me. I’m struggling to fully embrace that. I’m tired, as a result of sleeping… poorly? That’s not wholly accurate. The sleep I got was deep and restful. It was just interrupted, a lot, and it takes a lot of 90 minute to 2 hour naps to achieve a restful night’s sleep. lol I feel distracted by tiredness. (I also feel acutely aware there is another, more appropriate word for “tiredness” that I can’t quite recall…) I’d very much like the day to be over, so I can go back to sleep. LOL It’s not quite 6:00 am. So unlike me.

This morning I am lost in thought, contemplating “fairness” and “unfairness”, and what it means to have a “level playing field” in life (or love). I am giving thought to how easily I take things personally – even knowing that generally speaking, “it isn’t personal” applies to most situations. Even those few that are direct, targeted, willful acts (or words) of aggression between human beings aren’t really “personal” – they have ever so much more to do with the person doing the thing than they are ever about the person against whom the words or acts are directed. I mull that over awhile, and drink my coffee.

recommended summer reading

I sit quietly with this moment, and this fairly terrible cup of coffee. I feel fortunate in life (and in love, if I’m being real). I feel grateful for what I have, how far I’ve come, and how much chaos has been transformed into order, and yes, even how much healing has occurred, over time. I sit quietly, and let the scales gently balance, metaphorically speaking. It’s so easy to become entangled with a partner’s experience, or to internalize world drama or conflict. It’s easy to take small things personally, or to make much of something small. It’s easy to wreck the experience of a singularly pleasant moment with a harsh word, a misunderstanding, an erroneous assumption, then place the blame on the circumstances, or some other human being… I sip my coffee aware of the quizzical look on my face. No answers, just questions, and a handful of useful practices. It is, at least, a starting point.

The minutes tick by. The blue morning sky hints at a hot summer day ahead. I wonder what I’ll do with it? Will I be my best self, from moment to moment, or create an emotional inferno of small shit to apologize for, instead? Something in between? (There’s very nearly always “something in between” any two extremes, just saying, “don’t succumb to false dichotomies” is very good advice.) I remind myself that life (and love, and emotion) are very nuanced, filled with subtleties and hidden information. I remind myself to slow down, to be present, to stay centered in my own experience, and in this moment, here. I’m tired… which puts me at risk of drama and bullshit and chaos, but none of that demands that I be a shitty human being – it’s a new opportunity to practice doing a bit more/better at being the woman I most want to be. So… there’s that. πŸ™‚

I notice the time… time to begin again. Again. πŸ˜‰

Boundaries are funny things. Relationships are fraught with things to do with boundaries: tested boundaries, inadvertently violated boundaries, well-intended willful transgressions of boundaries, and failures to set and manage boundaries with care (or skill). I have, more than once, been situations such that I’ve set a boundary, unsuccessfully reinforced that boundary, and later found myself in violation of my own boundary/limitations! I’ve received firm “push back” regarding a thing I did/said or did not do/say that seemed, in the moment, unreasonable to me, because I’d been letting that person “off the hook” on something very similar that mattered to me, and subsequently feeling a lot of resentment when they undertake to set that boundary, themselves. Instant drama. I mean, for real – this is a major shortcut to conflict, strife, and unhappy discourse. It can develop into a serious see-saw of repeatedly broken “rules” in a relationship, and result in resentment building up over time, even though in some cases it would certainly appear that all concerned want the same basic outcome, and are setting a same/similar boundary on a single clear concern. 0_o

…Humans being human…

I reminded myself, yesterday, to “get off the see-saw” when my partner approached me courteously and set a clear simple boundary (that I had, myself, set at some previous time, under other circumstances). I felt my annoyance flair up. Didn’t I say… I stop myself. Here’s the thing; my Traveling Partner was only asking of me something that I myself want to see be our shared routine. So… what’s with the aggravation? Isn’t a cheerful “sure thing!” more appropriate? If something matters to us both, enough to set boundaries to support it, aren’t we in agreement on the value/importance of that thing or practice? It would seem so. Do I really need to “have my moment” on it? Isn’t it enough to appreciate that we’ve had a meeting of the minds on the topic? Do I actually also need to have “credit” for “coming up with it”? For real?

…Why do I care who gets “credit” for a quality-of-life-improving idea, within the context of a healthy partnership?

Clinging to our righteous position on some detail or another (particularly something as facile who suggested what first) when all seem to be in agreement on the basics of what has value and what is to be done about that, well – it’s just stirring up drama. lol I don’t much care for pointless drama. I really don’t. So, I took a breath, offered my enthusiastic agreement to the requested boundary, and moved on with my day. Why would I choose any differently? πŸ™‚ In relationships in which people have shared values, similar (or the same) ideas, and yes, even boundaries, are highly likely. Staying focused on the outcome instead of the request (or suggestion) makes so much more sense than fussing over being asked to do what we, ourselves, would ideally like to see done. lol

I smile to myself over my coffee. Sure, sure, changing a habit, and building a new practice is a lot of repetition. Being responsible, accountable, and aware of my actions is routine stuff (and yeah, sometimes challenging) – ideally, I catch my own mistakes and correct those, and move on. No fuss, no bother, no nagging, no turmoil. πŸ™‚ Practices need practice. I’ve got time for practicing. The same is true of my Traveling Partner. We’re both equally human. My TBI doesn’t make me more (or less) human – it just requires me to be mindful, to need a few reminders, a bit of patience, and a lot of practice. πŸ™‚ We have time for that.

I listen to birds seeing beyond the window, and let my thoughts wander to mornings at the new address… what will those be like? What birds will be seeing? Will there be squirrels on the deck there? I was out there yesterday, briefly, tape measure in hand. The neighborhood is quiet. I could hear birdsong and breezes. It’s exciting to contemplate this move… another beginning. πŸ™‚

…I like beginnings…

 

Every day I am trying to walk my path with my eyes open. I don’t always succeed, but then, few things manage to achieve “always”, or, for that matter, “never”. Those require an unrelentingly high standard of proof. lol I do okay, generally. One step at a time. One practice at a time. One beginning at a time. I just keep starting over, and keep walking. Somewhere along the way, I’ve managed some personal growth. I’ve managed to develop some interpersonal relationship skills. Hell, I have even managed to develop some tact, though I use it less often than would perhaps be welcomed. I am very much a “work in progress”, and my perspective on that, these days, is that there is no “final exam”, no “finish line”, no end in sight – it’s all about the journey. The walking of the path, itself, and the living of this life, is the point. No destination matters as much. I’ll get where I get. I’ll get there when I get there. I try to do my best every moment I can, along the way.

…Still totally human… My results vary.

Today, I write at the end of my day. I’d forgotten I hadn’t written, until the work day ended, and I went back to my blog to review what I wrote in the morning, from the often weary perspective of the other end of a busy day. How’d I do? That’s sort of the point of “checking back”. πŸ™‚ That – and catching spelling mistakes I missed. lol (For real – totallyΒ  human.)

My thinking is sometimes very different later in the day. Real life has had a chance to take the shine off my morning optimism, perhaps, or the day has frustrated or amazed me. Sometimes, I’m so groggy in the morning that my thinking is clouded, simple-minded, or my meandering musings fairly pointless, and my afternoon or evening perspective is sharpened by events that have been more fully considered since the morning. My perspective changes. My results of the day vary. I’ve wrestled with emotion, or found myself struggling with reason, or failed to find a balance between the two. Today, though? Just a day… room to grow.

My Traveling Partner sticks his head into the studio “Do you want to play a cool game and kill some time?”, he asks with a smile. “No,” I smile back, “I want to finish my writing.” He sticks a playful tongue out at me, and closes the door. I’m suddenly stricken by intense anxiety – baggage. Personal demons. Personal demons carrying my baggage. Seriously? This, again? Even knowing my partner has occasionally nagged me for not taking time to do the things that help me maintain balance – and sanity – and that he loves to see me invest some portion of my effort and energy in doing things I love doing, because they are part of who I am; I’m sitting here terrified that he may be hurt and angry, feeling rejected, because I did not drop everything immediately to rush to his side, this time, right now. I don’t berate myself over it. I go gently; there’s real damage here. This? This is scar tissue from decades of abuse in other relationships. This is what surviving sometimes looks like. There’s still “clean-up” to do. Still some healing self-work that needs to be completed. And that’s okay. It’s certainly very human.

I correct my posture. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I imagine myself gently-firmly taking heavy bags from the hands of the exhausted demon carrying them, and setting them down (really imagining it very clearly), on a curb perhaps, or next to a dumpster. I imagine walking away – away from this baggage. Away from that exhausted, defeated demon, standing alone, and a tad puzzled.

…We get to choose our path. We get to choose over and over again. We become what we practice.

I smile to myself. It’s clearly a good time to begin again. πŸ™‚