Archives for posts with tag: what do you value?

It was a generally lovely weekend, and I enjoyed it greatly. The one or two isolated moments of disharmony were too human, and too brief, to make much of and they quickly passed. It was a weekend to connect, to bond, to listen, and a weekend to be very aware of how much I also needed my own attention, if only for a few hours.

Meditation continues to be a key practice supporting my emotional wellness.

Meditation continues to be a key practice supporting my emotional wellness.

This weekend I took time to continue to ‘move in’ and get more settled; I’d only begun that process when my traveling partner unexpectedly landed on my doorstep for an extended stay. I had halted the process of ‘getting all moved in’ without really noticing I had. Providing him with support and care, and seeing to his comfort is also a high priority, and I attended to it immediately – then forgot I still had quite a lot to do for me, as well. One of the many valued opportunities for me in living alone has been learning to take care of myself, and to be more reliably self-sufficient, specifically because I do tend to ‘overlook myself’ in the context of cohabitation with intimate partners. This weekend I attended to a great many more ‘me-centric’ details, and put some effort into continuing to get moved in, myself.

My favored spot to meditate has been in front of the patio door, and living alone it hasn’t been a headache to simply leave my cushion sitting right there; I step around it. Living with my partner, the comfort of ‘having to step around it’ was no longer exclusively about me, and the cushion was somehow ‘in the way’ – funny how perspective changes on such details. Living alone, meditating in the living room  works beautifully. In a shared living space, the living room is now a busy common area, home to the stereo, television, video games, and fireplace – as well as the door to the patio garden, adjacent to kitchen and dining space – and no longer seems a good fit for meditating at some points in the day, there are too many distractions. Choosing to meditate less frequently, or on a schedule, doesn’t work for me, so I put time into rethinking where I meditate during those hours of the day when doing so may conflict with my partner’s activities, and decide to make sure my bedroom is also set up to be a convenient and inspiring place for meditation.

My studio quickly filled with paintings that are not yet hanging, many of which had been stacked in my partner’s bedroom, because it was an empty room when I moved in. Paintings not yet hanging in my own bedroom contributed to the disarray, as well as projects in progress. Painting rails for temporary displays and drying space have not yet been installed. Soon. This weekend I focused on hanging paintings in my bedroom, making that space ‘more my own’. I walk around the apartment quietly with my coffee, smiling at how much got done with weekend, and feeling very much ‘at home’.

This morning felt very natural. I woke a bit ahead of the alarm, not uncommon, and shut it off, choosing a few minutes more time meditating, rather than attempting another 15 minutes of sleep. It was nice that my cushion was already there, and the walls hung with carefully chosen art work on themes that tenderly guide my thinking toward perspective, balance, sufficiency, and mindful awareness. My stiff aching spine benefits from ‘sun salutations’ before I consider myself really ‘up’ for the day. By the time I got to the kitchen to make coffee, I was feeling fairly awake, and ready for the day. I quietly emptied the dishwasher while I waited for the water to heat for my coffee, feeling generally very comfortable, and very much at home. I had been concerned that I would feel less at home here, myself, with my traveling partner moving in. It seems I have learned some things about taking care of me, over the past year. I realize with some astonishment that, in fact, I lived alone for less than a year…

In the not-quite-a-year that I have lived alone, I have learned a lot about the details that matter most (for me) about cohabitation: the intimate friendly presence of a lover so near, the hellos and good-byes, the day-to-day graciousness and shared delight, conversations, planning for the future, shared tales of time apart shared more frequently in greater detail involving less time, the humor, the support, the availability of hugs, shared problem-solving, teamwork, and sure – sex, too, but surprisingly (to me) that isn’t the most singularly important detail…turns out that the most important details are about emotional intimacy, rather than physical intimacy. There remains so much to learn about life, about love, and even about the woman in the mirror. I am eager to share this piece of that journey, and see where it leads. There are a lot of verbs involved…

Sharing the journey? A good opportunity to be love.

Sharing the journey? A good opportunity to be love.

Today is a good day to start a journey. Today is a good day for love.

It’s earlier than necessary. I’ve been awake since 3 am. Returning to sleep wasn’t successful this morning; I was too wrapped up in the discomfort of scratching at fleas. Oh, not actual real insect fleas one might encounter at home if the family dog, cat, or other pet potentially interesting to fleas brought them indoors. I mean metaphorical fleas of the sort that nag and irritate and bite at my consciousness in the background, until the background becomes the greater portion of my thinking, and rest is no longer easily within reach.

I enjoyed a pleasant weekend with my traveling partner, and a great deal of it was spent simply enjoying that time together in a positive connected way. Some of it was spent being a supportive partner, providing a listening ear, maintaining my individual perspective based on my own experiences, ensuring he felt heard and cared for nonetheless… I find myself thinking I spent a lot less time than usual on the things that generally fill my weekends these days: long walks, yoga, meditation, reading, writing, relaxing lost in thought over a hot coffee and gazing out at the clouds passing by over the park, painting, drawing, taking photographs, cooking, keeping my place orderly…only… I did those things. I think, actually, I did all those things this weekend…so…why this nagging feeling that something is missing, or didn’t get handled, or… and why the hell am I so cross this morning now that Monday has come?

I’m scratching at fleas, that’s why. It doesn’t need more thought or fancy language or additional analysis. Some of the things my partner is going through with his Other are just that fucking aggravating to even hear about. From afar, some human being I no longer have a direct connection with of any sort has managed – likely without any awareness or intent, let’s be rational – reached across time and distant through the magic of relationship drama and primate behavior to successfully get under my skin without even being here. Ick. As with real fleas, the temptation is to take immediate action – flea by flea initially, until it becomes clear there is ‘a real problem’. The larger mistake is allowing any such assumption that there is ‘a real problem’ to stand on its own merits; it’s mostly likely emotional bullshit and baggage, safe to let go of without further attention, the better choice being to continue to practice emotionally healthy practices moment by moment.

Some of life’s fleas come in the form of well-meaning loved ones suffering with the bad behavior of others slowly starting to demonstrate extreme reactivity to those sorts of things – or more unfortunate still, doing those actual very things that have hurt them so much, in interactions with other people. It’s very human, and pretty sad, and hard to endure, and very unpleasant. I am pretty sure it’s one of those so very human things that few are immune to it – I’ve been there myself, and I’m still scratching at a few that hang on so doggedly (lol) that I can point to the relationship they came from with certainty.

It was a bite from a metaphorical flea that messed with my sleep this morning. I woke in the wee hours, got up to pee and returned to bed. I noticed my throat was dry and my head was stuffy, and had a drink of water on the way back to bed. Just as I dozed off, I recalled a conversation the night before; my traveling partner expressed concern about my snoring, and my weight (they are related; I don’t snore much at all unless I am carry extra pounds). The conversation wasn’t an attack of any sort, and was clearly well-intended. It was practical, and also gentle. I don’t know that how the conversation was handled has anything at all to do with it holding my attention and keeping me from sleeping at 3 am… but I felt sufficiently self-conscious about the possibility I might snore that I couldn’t go back to sleep (even though no such thought prevented me from sleeping when I went to bed).  So, I am up early, writing, and wondering which of many practices for building perspective and finding balance are the ideal fit for flea bites… Because I do want my partner(s) to be easily able to come to me with their concerns, and I want to be comfortable hearing what they have to say, as well as able to sort out what matters most, and whether there is any need to take action, without that process being disruptive… or keeping me awake.

I managed to prevent my fleas from taking over my morning, which is nice, although I ended up missing out on 2 hours of sleep I might otherwise have enjoyed. My thoughts tried to get me to become invested in scratching those fleas on a whole other level. I found myself feeling cross about how much time was spent discussing his other relationship – I restored balance with gentle awareness of how much time he spent listening when I went through a bad break up, myself.

Reciprocity isn’t a ‘tit for tat’ thing like a tennis game where moment by moment everyone gets a ‘turn’; reciprocity trends over time with day-to-day shared consideration, deep listening, participation in shared activities – like folding the laundry together and talking, playing a video game together, figuring out dinner together and sharing the cooking and clean up. Reciprocity isn’t “I made this coffee, now you make that one” as much as it is a commonplace exchange that results in coffee reliably being made – by someone – and cleaned up – by someone – and everyone involved satisfied that the arrangement is comfortable, perhaps because even if I am generally the one making coffee, you are the one generally making tea; and we share both experiences. That very loose and easy notion of reciprocity only works in practice, as it turns out, when all participants are equally investing in equanimity, balance, and mutual support. It breaks down quickly if anyone involved feels entitled, deserving, superior, or ‘in charge’; reciprocity requires a lot of boundary setting, compromise, and ground rules in relationships that are not between (among?) adult equals. People who are in crisis, emotionally injured, or suffering great pain or grief are sometimes not easily able to reciprocate emotional support moment-to-moment; like a marathon runner with a broken leg, they may be very skilled at what’s needed, in principle, in training, in experience – but in that moment that they are working to heal a broken leg, they are not running any marathons, and it may be some time before the reciprocal nature of the relationship is fully restored live-in-real-time. It’s a reciprocal relationship, if everyone can count on each other ‘down the road’ as much as right now – that marathon running is a recurring or ongoing experience, and one day I may be the one with the broken leg, myself. Is this metaphor played out? Probably – I’m still scratching at fleas this morning.

Begin again? I think I shall.

Begin again? I think I shall.

I hear my partner up early, too; we are sensitive to each other’s moods beyond what seems common (or necessary, frankly). It may be that my wakefulness has messed with his sleep in turn. We’re very fancy primates, emotionally complicated, very responsive to our environment and our tribe. I hear him make coffee, and find myself distracted from my writing. I feel it as eagerness to share his company, and a subtle concern in the background. I remind myself to continue my best practices, regardless of his considerable charm; if I don’t take care of the woman in the mirror, and this fragile vessel, I am not so easily able to provide him with support and care when he needs it, too. Balance, perspective, and love – a good salve for flea bites.  🙂

Still… today is a nice day to begin the morning with love. 🙂

Well, or consider anything, actually. Consideration is one of my Big 5 relationship (and life) values. I’m thinking that one over this morning, and why not? I could do worse on a Monday, with partners waking feeling poorly this morning, than to contemplate consideration.

We choose where to direct our attention and our efforts; there are a lot of options.

We choose where to direct our attention and our efforts; there are a lot of options.

When I first recognized what a big deal the simple value of ‘consideration’ is for me, I went looking for a properly clear definition, something more nuanced and detailed than ‘to consider’. Of my Big 5, ‘consideration’ is the most poorly defined in both common use and in the dictionary, which seems strange since I have the subjective sense that I understand precisely what I mean by ‘consideration’, myself. The simplest definition seems to be “thoughtfulness and sensitivity towards others” (at least in the area of meaning I intend to focus on; like many American English words, it is a multi-purpose word).  This seems more or less what I mean by it, too, inasmuch as ‘careful’ might mean ‘with care’; it’s true enough, it’s accurate, it just isn’t quite the whole of the meaning I find within my own understanding.

So, what do I mean that is more than “thoughtfulness and sensitivity toward others”? Maybe an order of magnitude more, rather than a real difference in meaning in an additive or subtractive way, I suppose; consideration seems a bit of an ‘old school’ value that limits allowable public rudeness and casual disregard of one’s fellow traveler’s on life’s journey. Embracing consideration as a personal value means really giving up a seat on the train for someone who appears to need it – and maybe not more than I do, but just needs it on a day I know I can stand awhile longer. It means taking a moment to listen to the check out girl chatting with me, and really hearing what she is saying, however busy and rushed I am, because she’s a human being and worth of a moment of my time and attention; her words matter, too. It means setting aside my writing on an autumn morning when I feel rather urgently that I have something to say, because my partner wants to hang out and our time together is precious and limited, and words keep.

Consideration is that ‘extra mile’ people talk about going. It’s the pause before an irritated comment. It’s the hug goodnight when I’m still angry. Consideration is about the small stuff: cleaning the espresso machine before anyone else makes coffee, without bitching about the mess someone else left behind, or taking a moment to toss expired stuff into the trash that I notice lurking in the fridge. Consideration is sharing a relevant news article on a busy day and letting it go at that, because it is a busy day and no one has time for chit-chat over email. Consideration is thinking just for a moment about needs beyond my own, and taking the time to do one or two helpful things to keep things on track, and comfortably so, for everyone I interact with – not because I have to, and not because it is expected, but because it is kind, compassionate, and can generally be done fairly easily with minimal effort beyond that moment of awareness that some small action, intent, or communication* would be a value add.

I am not the most considerate human being I’ve ever met. I noticed at some point a few years ago how incredibly inconsiderate I did happen to be, every day, in every relationship I had – both personal and professional. It was… callous. The time and effort I may have thought I could be saving by not taking a moment to consider the other person didn’t contribute any increase in my own well-being, happiness, emotional balance, productivity, good times, prosperity, or even minutes of precious time to use for me. It adds nothing to be inconsiderate. Once I figured out that there was no value in the lack of consideration (neither to myself, nor to the world) changing it became relevant and to me, personally, quite necessary. I’m still working on it. Learning to be aware of the experience of others. Learning to act on that awareness in an appropriate way. It sometimes feels a bit complicated; there is a lot to notice. The word itself tends to be my guidepost, and my map. “Considerate”. Consider it.

When I miss, I try again.

Today is a good day to consider that we’re all in this together, each having our own experience. We all value being heard. We all value a moment of consideration. Today is a good day to practice treating myself, and the world, truly well. Consideration is a good place to start. Today is a good day to change the world.

*A footnote this morning, and an interesting coincidence; I was enjoying conversation and espresso with my traveling partner before I head to work, and he shared an article with me. Why am I taking time to add this footnote, and this link? I’m adding it because it is relevant, or seems so to me, to this morning’s post on Consideration as a value; each of the individual intimacy impeding conversation stoppers discussed in the article could be resolved, eased, addressed,  or done away with entirely through well-applied, and consistently practiced consideration of one’s loves. Just saying. If nothing else, the article is to-the-point and very clear in spelling out some critical fails in relationship dialogues that I know I, myself, will be working on most diligently – love is too important to fail on the stuff that is easy to change. 🙂