Archives for posts with tag: you’re not my supervisor

Journey’s are fraught with obstacles. This one, too. This morning I am feeling a bit ‘stuck for a topic’, not because there is nothing worth writing about, more because there are so many splinters of issues, small things, and bits of background anxiety this morning it’s simply difficult to determine what I can most productively put my attention on, for myself.

The work day yesterday was complete turmoil and not very productive due to a system outage. The transportation to/from my appointment was notably unpleasant with rude people, ludicrously heavy fragrances, loud voices, and emotional content. I spent much of the day in pain, with both a headache, and my arthritis giving me grief. Therapy itself was disruptively powerful, and as efficient as it was effective – thought-provoking? Eye-opening? Forward progress. Incredibly emotionally painful. I arrived home with an aching jaw having spent the ride gritting my teeth and avoiding lashing out at hapless fellow travelers unaware how urgently I needed quiet to get myself back together. Just as the evening began to wind down it was shot through with intense anxiety and… more stress. It wasn’t about me, and no threat to love or family harmony, it was ‘just a thing’, but I wasn’t at all up to it. I held my own, avoided any nasty drama or emotional bullshit, and retired for the evening at more or less the usual time. My sleep was restful enough, but I woke already filled with anxiety. The day begins, lacking in enthusiasm and joy, and filled with lingering stress over so many things…real? Imagined? Mine? Other?

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

So…now what? From a practical perspective, I address the stressors where doing so can fairly easily be done. I work on ‘letting go’ of what isn’t actually mine and trust that things will work out, rather than borrow additional stress, and worry obsessively over things I can’t ‘fix’. It’s a very difficult practice, as practices go – “let it go” sounds so simple. I struggle with it this morning. I keep practicing. Work related stress I examine with some detail, finding it useful for sorting out what I really want from employment, adjusting my resume to more clearly reflect utility, vision, purpose and personal fit for work I might enjoy more.

I consider how the stillness both highlights the anxiety, and allows it to more easily dissipate. I breathe. Relax. The anxiety comes and goes. I spend some time in quiet reflection. More time meditating would be good this morning… My perspective could use some re-calibration. I would benefit from being more present in this moment, and more easily able to tap into the day-to-day positives, and some measure of gratitude. There are verbs involved.

I allow my anxiety to climb into the front seat long enough to deliver a powerful worst-case scenario. I breathe calmly and let it unfold in my imagination as fearlessly as I am able to allow. Could I cope? Strip it all down to the basics, and most likely outcomes, would I be able to get by? I consider it point by point, allowing myself to recognize that change is, and that even if every possible thing went terribly wrong, I would most likely be okay (for some values of ‘okay’). There really are verbs involved, and how I feel about my experience is something I have a lot of choice in. I remind myself simultaneously how damaging it can be for my ability to feel content, to burden myself with comparisons. I remind myself, too, of how much of what I love and enjoy I could also comfortably do without…even this blog, and the internet connection that makes it possible…well…I wrote using ink, on paper, for so many years, right? I smile, recognizing the differences between ‘want’ and ‘need’ more clearly, and the anxiety recedes for the moment; I am okay. My head is still fairly busy with weird nagging details and subtle stress, but even in my worst case scenarios, contentment is possible – and contentment is powerful.

This is a good morning to fall back on The Four Agreements.

Stick with the basics - it's a great place to start.

Stick with the basics – it’s a great place to start.

I read the brief statements, simple, encompassing, and deeply relevant. I fill up on a sense of adequacy, sufficiency, and self-acceptance, and prepare myself for the day to come. This journey isn’t always an easy one, but it is mine – and that is enough.

 

I find waiting both difficult, and peculiar. Sooner or later, I find I am waiting…for something. Like change, waiting simply is. It wasn’t that long ago that I used to say “I suck at waiting”, and if you understood me to mean “I wait in frustration and make no effort to wait skillfully” then it would also be true that I sucked at waiting. Seriously, though, it generally sucked most when I invested in making it suck more than it had too, which is to say ‘at all’. Waiting is another practice wanting an opportunity to be practiced. Waiting gently, calming, and without investing in some moment beyond now is a good practice for building emotional resilience, strength of will, and perspective.

Do roses wait to bloom?

Do roses wait to bloom?

I am waiting, today. I am waiting gently, skillfully, and with contentment that the outcome is inevitable – at least, the result of there being an outcome is a given. What the outcome will be, in fact, is the thing on which I wait. It’s rather annoying, sure, and I feel impatience to be on with things come and go, increasing in moments of distraction, dissipating when I am focused on other things. There aren’t really a lot of words (of my own) to write about waiting – and it is such a common experience for humanity that I have nothing noteworthy to share. I wait. I breathe. I consider the moment when waiting is ended, and endeavor to take a practical approach that prevents my daydreams from escalating and causing disappointment when the waiting ends – real life is still on the other side of the waiting, and it cares not one whit what I am daydreaming about. 🙂

It’s been something like…2…almost 3 weeks, I think, of contentment. Sure, emotional weather comes and goes, but the climate in my own experience is quite nice. Some part of that contentment is a byproduct of standing on the threshold of an important change, embracing this moment eagerly, and even more eagerly looking ahead to the next experience. I am walking a path that I am paving myself, one choice at a time, and although this is generally true…I rarely feel it so fully. I could get very used to this feeling of being capable, calm, and content. (I hear the demons sniggering in the dark; their turn will come, and they know that’s true – because this too shall pass. Learning the practices to disarm them is part of what this whole journey is ‘about’.) I tend to be a woman of action, as much as I am ‘a planner’, and I’ve done some first-rate planning here – and now I am moved to take action. Waiting comes first. Waiting always goes to the front of the line, and waiting is. So, I meditate. I breathe. I walk. I smile. I consider the moment. I consider others in my experience. I consider my experience. I practice practices. I commit effort to other tasks. I follow through on details. Then there’s more practice… and still I am waiting.

Although waiting often feels endless, I am finding that my own tendency is to exaggerate the wait, and to run it together with other waiting; I’ve only been waiting to hear back on my lease application since Friday…only…realistically I knew I would not hear anything over the weekend (the office is closed), and the paperwork was submitted late in the day. So… waiting since…yesterday. It’s hard to fuss over a one day wait that I knew was coming. I still find that I do. It is the nature of eagerness to provoke a sense of waiting. I am learning to wait with great skill and contentment, certain that an outcome is an inevitability and that I am capable of turning the outcome – whatever it is – to an advantage.

There is tremendous freedom in connected self-reliance, and finding contentment instead of chasing happiness. I am surprised every day how much ‘contentment’ feels like what I thought I was seeking when I sought ‘happily ever after’. There is confidence in good planning, and security in knowing that the plan has a back up, and a back up to the back up, and alternatives to preferred choices that are every bit as comfortable for me as the choice I favor. It’s hard to ‘fail’ when there are so many possible successes in front of me.

So, I wait. Today is a good day for waiting, and waiting is. Today is a good day to enjoy this moment, now, unaffected by waiting – because it is a moment every bit as worth savoring as any moment to come, and it is mine to enjoy. Today is a good day to enjoy the journey – and the waiting.

I intend to approach this one somewhat thoughtfully, and with great care, perhaps working on it through the day rather than dashing it off in-the-moment, over coffee.

Pausing to reflect on what is, what isn't, and what has changed.

Pausing to reflect on what is, what isn’t, and what has changed.

Yesterday was an interesting mix of personal achievement, small stressors, emotional moments, and OPD; it was short on connection, and long on opportunities to practice good emotional self-care, without being tragic, or overwhelming. The challenges of yesterday didn’t linger, or carry over to this morning. I am smiling, even though I slept poorly and too little, plagued by nightmares so vile and personal that more than once I sat quietly for many minutes, trembling, controlling my breathing and reassuring myself that it would be safe to return to sleep, while the denizens of The Nightmare City mocked me in the background. I woke this morning, free of any strain or lingering suffering, any hint of nightmares behind me; they were only dreams.

My Big 5 relationship values haven’t changed much since I recognized their importance and framed them up in simple words. The importance of Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Openness, and Compassion still seem obvious to me and still feel non-negotiable.  I’ve changed some, though, and grown as a person. I am more easily able to live up to my own values, even in relationships where those values are not shared, and in associations in which emphasis is placed on very different values than those I find comfortable, myself. I am more easily able to refrain from taking someone else’s values personally, too, a necessary skill in a world where free will offers so many options. My will to live my Big 5 is strong; I still need lots of practice. I am learning to treat myself with great kindness when I don’t live up to these profoundly powerful values in some moment; they are a lot to live up to, and I am quite human. There are more opportunities to grow, to improve on how I live my values, and most importantly – on how I communicate those values to others, set limits and boundaries relevant to my values, and express what I need from others to feel well-treated, appreciated, and heard.

There are going to be moments, and relationships, in which my Big 5 values are not shared, not honored, not valued – or just not reciprocated (as in those among us whose approach is ‘sure, I like it when you are considerate to me, but I have no intention of being considerate to you’ – a circumstance that plays out in the world with unfortunate frequency, in a variety of interactions). Commonplace, really, and an experience that tests my ability to be accepting and content, compassionate, and attentive to the actions that support my needs; being treated poorly can be very distracting from the things that matter most.  Why someone else has the values they do, why they take the actions they take, or make the choices they do aren’t really my concern. How I treat myself matters a great deal.

The path is mine to choose... or not.

The path is mine to choose… or not.

The journey from The Big 5 to The Art of Being is an exciting adventure. The path veered sort of suddenly, it seemed, and metaphorically I found myself at an unmarked trail-head, wondering whether the sudden feeling of panic and dread were just demons howling within; it’s not a journey my demons can make with me, and one by one as they fall, or take a more subdued tone, the load lightens enough for this more challenging – and more rewarding – change in direction. I am ready to enjoy me, myself, so much more than I knew I could, before now.

Opening the next door...

Opening the next door…facing the next mystery…taking the next step.

Let’s be clear; there are still practices to practice, self-care needs that require continuous awareness and management, choices to make, verbs to put into action… none of this is ‘over night’ or even ‘easy’; the most profound epiphany is simply a door left ajar, and it remains a matter of intent, will, and action to step over that threshold.  Progress often comes with new hurdles – moments of recognition that not only am I walking my own path (and must) but also that the direction I take is so exclusively my own I am also having to learn new skills to cope compassionately with relationships straining under the weight of change. Any increase in autonomy, in self-direction, and in improved boundary-setting hold the potential to be met with resistance, objections, a lack of understanding, or a lack of support; knowing this does not make those moments less challenging, and it does not direct my decision-making. So often it is tempting to yield, to give up, to say ‘okay, you win, I’ll just…’ – only… I won’t ‘just’, anymore. I have chosen to live my life, mindfully by preference and intention, practicing the practices that make that a reality – and like solar walkway lights in the garden, the small improvements in the quality of my experience over time, the improvements in emotional resilience, and those powerful ‘aha!’ moments when something works just as I had hoped it would, add up to something pretty wonderful, illuminating – and incredibly encouraging when I face the darkness that sometimes still catches me unaware.

Mistakes will be made.

Mistakes will be made.

The Art of Being is like an exotic destination vacation; I dream of reaching that place, I study, I explore the options for getting there, I investigate what it may be like before I get there… I practice the skills, thinking, and behavior that are most likely to take me there, with the fervor of saving up for a long-desired vacation; incremental change over time is a reliable mode of transportation on a journey of personal growth. I smile more, lately, as though sharing a precious secret with a very close friend. You know where this is going, right? That precious friend is the woman in the mirror; without her, not one step of this journey can be made.

Today is a good day to face the world with a smile, making my own way, on my own terms. Today is a good day to be able to count on myself to treat myself well. Today is a good day for change.

I woke gently this morning. I woke slowly. My consciousness unfolded in a lovely way, without anxiety or stress, or residual negative emotions left over from unremembered nightmares. I woke feeling very little pain, minimal stiffness, and feeling comfortable in my body. I woke feeling beautiful, well, and pleasantly sensuous, enjoying the sensations of skin against sheets, blankets, pillows, and the softness of the morning air. No headache. Heart soaring. Feeling inspired and eager to face the blank canvas on my easel – and metaphorically, the blank canvas of my day, and my future. I woke loving, and feeling loved, in the quiet solitude of comfortable surroundings, content and aware that love does not require proximity outside my own self-imposed attachments.

I woke to a quiet household. I contentedly made my coffee, contemplating what things I might get done today, and feeling artistically inspired – today is a good day to paint, and I’ve got a number of concepts sketched out that I am ready to make come alive, even some new notions this morning that I am eager to sketch and get started on. It is, in nearly every respect, an ideal day to paint. Currently, there is simply no room to do so. The space set aside for me to work has filled with another project, which has stalled temporarily due to real life happening, in spite of plans. On some other day, this could result in a lot of suppressed resentment festering in the background, and find me feeling unimportant, lacking in value, not well-cared for, and not understood.  Today is different. Sure, it’s frustrating, and I earnestly want to live in an environment that truly supports me creatively, one in which ensuring I can paint when I am moved to paint, write when I am moved to write, listen to the music I love, sing, dance, and simply be this specific human that I am, is among the highest priorities of the household day-to-day.  As with so many things, there are verbs involved, choices to make, and I am my own cartographer on this journey.

I am working on getting into a live/work space that really meets the needs I have at this point in my life; choices are made, verbs are verb-ing in an appropriate order, and at a reasonable rate of progress. In the meantime, rather than blow a lovely day feeling creatively frustrated, I am feeling strong, feeling creative, and feeling joyful now, with what is.  It’s a lovely morning. My coffee is hot and tasty. I feel inspired – and I am not limited to canvas and brush; I have all these lovely words, and ideas, and broad blue skies, endless paths to walk beneath them. It is a lovely Sunday to rise from the wreckage of my chaos and damage, and practice the beautiful Art of Being.

The humble dandelion stands out in a crowd; her strength unmistakable, her beauty her own.

The humble dandelion stands out in a crowd; her strength obvious, her beauty her own; it is no concern of hers that some see her as ‘a weed’.

Today is a good day to bring order to small corners of chaos. Today is a good day for good practices, and good self-care. Today is a good day to treat me well, and enjoy who I already am. Today is a good day for sketching, and laundry, and photographing the very first roses in my garden. Today is a good day to be, and to become, and to celebrate personal rebirth. Today is a good day to practice the Art of Being.

Disclaimer: This post is about emotions. I sometimes work through them more easily with words, in text, that I can see reflecting the experience back at me. It is a way of getting perspective. This post, though, may be a downer – I say that before I even write it, because I am having my own experience, and I feel what I feel in this moment. I am so very human. So…do yourself a huge favor, take a moment for ‘informed consent’; if you are in a place emotionally where someone else’s pain and struggling may wound you, throw off a good vibe you are enjoying, or change your experience for the worse, I recommend skipping this one. Hey, if nothing else, the writing is likely to be of poor quality, and angst-y, and rife with spelling errors and weird grammar fails – who needs that on a Friday morning? I’ll understand, I promise.

Still here? Okay…

Some other morning, a coffee.

Some other morning, a coffee.

I woke crying this morning. I fell asleep crying last night. In between, I found myself ambushed by Demons in The Nightmare City. This is not an emotional space I want to occupy. I am frustrated by my lack of resilience, my lack of emotional regulation, and my lack of perspective. I feel sad. I feel angry. I feel resentful and let down. I feel. Yeah. I definitely feel. I feel mistreated, and mislead. I feel set up and I feel sabotaged. I feel hurt.

“That’s a whole lot of feelings there, lady, what gives?” I’m a human primate. I am an emotional being more than a rational one – it’s a balance. Today it isn’t balancing as well as I’d like. Stress kicks my ass, being hurt kicks my ass, abrupt change kicks my ass – and it takes me a little time to recover, even with some support. Emotions are not criminal actions. Assaulting people with them is, I hear, avoidable. That sounds like fine thing to me, and I turned the little sign on my door this morning to ‘do not disturb’, meditated a while, had a shower, meditated some more… I still don’t want to be as disturbed as I feel, right now. The sign didn’t do much to help with the feelings, but by design it may prevent anyone else from walking through the mess I woke to, within, this morning.

Meditation, mindfulness practices, good basic self-care are all going a long way to improve my experience of me, very nicely. I feel a momentary hurt, recalling with sadness how quickly encouragement turned to criticism, a few months after I began this journey. I was taking a moment to feel proud of my progress, and I was feeling pretty impressed with new tools and practices being effective at helping me on a level nothing else ever had… I got called ‘smug’. I was incredibly hurt. Admittedly, I had been foolishly trying to explain or share the experience with someone else… maybe they hadn’t asked? (I suck at that – put a person in front of me and I will probably just start talking. Are you aware that your executive function manages that for you?) It hurt, nonetheless, and since then I am self-conscious about feeling encouraged by progress, and reluctant to share positive feelings about it in conversations. (Sticks and stones? Fuck right off; words matter.)

I feel confused. “Emptied out”. I feel overburdened by unmet emotional needs piling up over time. I feel like I am not making the progress I could be, right now. It’ll be okay, I think – I hold on to that tightly. I’ve got the hotline number in my pocket, just in case it gets too hard.  I lost a beautiful niece to suicide this year, and I see how it hurts my cousin every day she is without her daughter; I won’t put my traveling partner through that, and I can take the steps to avoid it. Despair is a motherfucker – it is part of our human experience.

...and another...

…and another…

I can’t be certain that the intensity of my emotions this morning reflects something ‘real’ or necessary; they are only emotions. For all I know, this is a 100% bio-chemical experience with no grounding in events or experience. Does that matter in the moment? Well, sure. It matters the way anything true ‘matters’. One true thing is that my emotions are this intense, and unpredictably so. Another true thing is that my emotions, and lack of top-down control, are incredibly uncomfortable for some people to live with. (I don’t get a choice, myself; this is my experience and I live it.) Unfortunately, in a live and unscripted real-life environment, I also don’t get much compassion specific to the ‘invisible’ issues associated with my TBI or PTSD. I rarely fight for it; if it isn’t there to be offered, begging for it, pleading for it or wishing it were there will not make it appear. Compassion can be taught – but that phenomenon also requires an active learner. Change is, but forcing it on someone isn’t appropriate – and generally isn’t effective.

My traveling partner encourages and supports me – he frankly provides a level of emotional support that I can only describe as ‘super human’ – but the environment in the household, generally, is unhealthy for me. I feel aggravated and moody about looking for a place of my own, because I’d honestly prefer to continue living with my traveling partner – he’s wonderful to live with [for me]. I am painfully aware, though, that living with me can be hard on him. Right now so much of what I am working through touches on sexuality, gender, individual identity, boundary setting/management, and relationships with others that it’s harder to treat each other gently in moments when we need it most from each other. So…yeah. I need to be on my own a while – not a break up, not even a separation, just a different living arrangement. It still sucks to hurt over it. I hope by day’s end I am embracing it in good spirits.

I leave other household members out of this, generally; I am writing about my own experience and the other people in it are entitled to be free of public scrutiny of their values and choices filtered through my chaos and damage. But…I am not willing to continue to over-compromise my needs, or undercut my values to keep peace, and the time I spend in the arms of my loves is too precious to taint it with OPD, or games. As a population of individuals, we don’t want or need the same things, and at 52 I have no time to waste on fighting to get the most basic emotional needs met; we are not all equally committed to that endeavor. I don’t yet have the emotional resilience to hold enough in reserve to continue to take care of me when common place bullshit goes sideways, and often find myself without any emotional reserves left to care for me, myself, by the time I have a moment to do so. I feel positive about the choice to get my own place…and for the moment, sad that it is necessary at all.

You know what I don’t feel? I don’t feel guilt or shame over the choice to move out, it needs to happen; I don’t thrive in an environment in which my emotional quality of life is poor. Hell, right now in this moment… I’m okay. (Thanks, Dearheart!) My tears have dried. I’m not feeling social, but I’m not enthralled by Demons in The Nightmare City.  (If I knew that I would have the kind of nightmares that I had last night, in nights to come, I’d never sleep again.) I don’t have the headache that followed me around all day yesterday, which is a huge improvement.  My coffee tastes good – I feel a pang of sadness sweep over me when I realize I won’t have an espresso machine in my kitchen for some time to come after I move; it will be a frugal lifestyle, focused on painting, meditation, and love. Wow. Suddenly that sounds fucking amazing – and all over again I wonder why this hurts at all. I enjoy solitude. I dislike drama. I have musical and culinary tastes that are not shared in the household at large… and I miss a good French press in the morning; it’s a lovely ritual to prepare coffee that way, time it carefully, enjoy the outcome at leisure… I miss living a gentle life. (The most humorous thing about that is how little time I have ever spent living that kind of exceptional quality of life – across years and relationships, I can’t really pin down more than a total of about 18 months that qualify as ‘gentle living’ in 52 years!

I’ve already found my way to a better place. It’s nice. No rushing, either; I’ve made changes to my schedule, effective this week, intended to dial down some of the fatigue-related stress, and don’t have to rush off so soon on Friday mornings. Have you actually read this far? Are you okay? Thank you for being interested, curious, or concerned enough to come all this way with me – whether just this morning, or over these past couple years. I appreciate it. You help me feel heard.

Yeah. Some days, the nightmares win. Today they didn’t. 🙂

Because love matters more. "Emotion and Reason" 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

Because love matters more.
“Emotion and Reason” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic details and glow 2012

Today is a good day to put down some baggage. Today is a good day to practice good self-care. Today is a good day for self-compassion – first, not last. Today is a good day to enjoy this amazing woman I am becoming without competition, dread, or games. Today is a good day to treat others well, and understand that they are walking their own path; their story, and experience, are not mine to endure, to manage, or to criticize – and participation is a choice.