Archive for the ‘one good thing’ Tag

Meandering Thoughts

Here are some vaguely-related things that have been on my mind lately:

  1. Silence is inestimably valuable and wonderfully versatile. Silence creates space. Space in which to think and breathe and be still. Space for new emotion, new words, no words, and new silence to provide relief and meaning. Silence can soothe and help heal the hurts of a rough day. But silence can also be sharp or unsettling, and can just as easily agitate as placate. But the loaded, heavy, weaponized silence – whether used in battle between two people or just between a person and her own brain – is something to be avoided.
  2. It’s sometimes very hard to resist the temptation of feeling that you are owed someone’s time and energy. But remembering, consciously reminding yourself, that that person (regardless of what your relationship with them might be) doesn’t owe you their time, attention, energy or regard, makes receiving those things from them all the sweeter.
  3. Remaining intentionally and actively, mindfully positive is a challenge at the best of times. It’s rewards are many and varied. But when there are long, gloomy, cold days and lassitude seems to outweigh initiative and imagination, active, intentional positivity can seem an impossible task.
  4. The pace by which thoughts, emotions, connections build and reform is sometimes staggering. I’ve written before about how my brain tends to connect (sometimes conflates) certain ideas or events or emotions or experiences and then stubbornly refuses to revise or release those connections. That doesn’t seem to be the way a lot of other people think or the way the world at large works. So the dizzying pace of change all around me can seem overwhelming. I often feel like an anachronism, that I’m falling behind, or that I’m too slow and clunky for the world around me. That’s part of why I work so hard at positivity. I want to at least be a bright spot in the world if I can’t be the most modern or interesting.
  5. There is beauty in the chaotic, fractal, irregularity of bare tree branches in relief against a snowy field or overcast sky. I find myself looking out my office window at the nearly monochrome winter landscape, white snow melding into white clouds at the horizon, interrupted only by black tree branches weaving lacy patterns in undulating patches here and there. Sometimes I think if I watch long enough the wisdom they’ve encoded in their branches might reveal itself to me.

Investment

Here’s something I’ve figured out and that I want you to know:

Often it is difficult to tell when someone genuinely cares about you. Other times it’s crystal clear. One thing that makes it easy to tell is investment. When someone is invested in you, your interests, your feelings, it becomes clear and undeniable that they care for you and about you.

Investment, to me, is more than mere affection. It is effort and time. It’s listening and reflecting back what you hear in words and in deeds. It is communicating as well as communing. It’s empathy and enthusiasm and encouragement. It is stomping the brain weasels when the other person can’t make them behave. It’s being vulnerable and letting that person in. It’s being brave and letting that person see parts of you that you’re not proud of having. It’s trusting so they’ll trust you. It’s being a safe and soft place for that person to land

When it matters that you care about someone or that they care about you, being invested in their happiness, their interests, their feelings is the surest way to overcome that internal saboteur’s voice that tells them not to believe, that they’re not worthy of such regard, that they don’t have value.

Being invested in someone, putting in that effort and showing them your investment…that’s one of the rarest, most potent, most beautiful gifts you can give to another person.

Still No Context

Some things that are in my head, in no particular order, and for no particular reason:

⁃ Lyrics that speak to me lately:

  • Delicate by Taylor Swift: “Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate”
  • In the Middle by Jimmy Eat World: “Hey, don’t write yourself off yet…It’s only in your head you feel left out…Or looked down on”
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cindy Lauper: “Oh girls just want to have…That’s all they really want…Some fun…When the working day is done…Oh girls, they wanna have fun”
  • Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake: “I got that sunshine in my pocket…Got that good soul in my feet…I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops…I can’t take my eyes up off it, movin’ so phenomenally”

⁃ Getting asked to participate in a substantive way in a conversation among people you respect and admire, and having those people demonstrate courtesy and respect to you for your contribution, is a pretty great ego boost.

⁃ There’s an indescribable elation that comes when you stop listening to that inner saboteur, who coats every thought and feeling with doubt and negativity, and start believing, deep down and without reservation, what caring and well-meaning friends have been telling you: you matter, you have value, you are enough.

⁃ Taking joy in small, seemingly insignificant details of life brings perspective to my world and a joy all its own. Things like the rough, unconventional beauty of a gnarled old tree silhouetted against the rising sun; misty skies and hoarfrost on the trees; the spark of excitement in seeing a text notification from a fun friend; the glow of satisfaction at achieving a personal goal; the warm comfort felt when you find kinship in the mind of friend; and the thrill of discovery when reading a brand new book or seeing a new episode of a beloved tv show.

⁃ Effort, intelligence, transparency, kindness, humor not at the expense of others, and authenticity. These are among the sexiest traits I can name in any human.

⁃ Recently discovered (only mildly) guilty pleasure: assigning a secret name inside your head to the people around you, especially those that vex or try your patience. Thinking of them with that name, and with that certain mental inflection as you pronounce it, brings a tiny sly grin to the face that others want you to explain. Don’t. It enhances the enjoyment if you keep it a mystery.

#nocontextforyou

New year, new approach to posting to this blog. I hinted in posts a few weeks ago that perhaps the purpose this blog serves in my life is evolving and that I might not need or want to be so regimented in what, how and when I add posts here. Since then, I have all but convinced myself that assessment is accurate and a change is in order.

What that change entails, its scope, and how it manifests may evolve over time. But the immediate change, likely only I will notice, is that I’m letting go of the revered weekly posting goal. I think it served its purpose and I’m happy that I was able to maintain that streak for basically the whole of last year. But the psychic pressure that has put on me is beginning to outweigh the benefits that I saw from maintaining that discipline. So, if it happens weekly, all to the good. But I’m shifting my focus to being more deliberate about posting things that have meaning for me, even if that meaning isn’t obvious to anyone else.

Apropos of that, I’m making my first 2020 post a no-context list of thoughts that are loosely related to each other and very closely tied to what’s been most on my mind the last few weeks.

In no particular order of which I’m aware:

⁃ “But in that stubborn, nearly irrational way that liars often refuse to lie to themselves, my brain, so full of lying anxiety readily dispensed in cruelty, refuses to tell me comforting lies about how safety can be achieved. Instead, still out of cruelty, it bludgeons me with the harsh truth that safety is unreachable, has dropped beyond the horizon and the only remaining path is forward through the perils.”

⁃ Sometimes perilous things are exceedingly pleasant and enjoyable.

⁃ A broad, richly detailed and imaginative vocabulary is an exceedingly beautiful thing.

⁃ Those things…or that person…that randomly pops into your mind, that instantly refocuses your attention whenever encountered, that so fully possesses your imagination and consumes your consciousness that you lose track of time? That’s your passion. Pursue it, even if you might fail. Even if failure is certain. It’s the pursuit that matters.

⁃ Rancid brain-weasels don’t deserve your attention. “Stomp them” mercilessly, as I have recently been wisely advised. Preferably while wearing some devastatingly stylish “stompy boots”! Codicil: stomping brain weasels for a friend is a kindness and a mercy.

⁃ There are few things in this life more satisfying than letters from a smart, witty, incisive, and honest correspondent.

⁃ Making room for mystery and magic in your life is never wasted effort.

⁃ Sharing your view of a colorful sky and sitting quiet and still together is among the best kinds of comfort you can find in another’s companionship, even from afar.

Last one…

It’s the last day of the year. Last chance to post a blog in the twenty-teens. Here it is, for what it’s worth.

I’m at my office engaged in my least favorite activity – waiting for contracts to come in and counting down to the last one that can be reasonably expected to close. Always a mystery until it happens.

So, while I wait, I do little things here and there that are not terribly vexing when interrupted for things like absurd emergency approvals and grumbling visits from my irascible boss. One of those things is personal writing – just random jottings of thoughts and recountings of daily occurrences that are mostly mundane but have meaning for me in some way.

One of the several running entries in this log I keep now hosts a bit of writing of which I am particularly proud. It has the makings of a good story, of sorts. I imagine it as one of those gritty, atmospheric type tellings, a glimpse into the narrator’s world, full of their emotion and internal dialogue. We’ll see how it works out. It might never see the light of day, but it might become something. Who’s to say?

Also in between last-day crises, I have been chatting with friends via text. I like that medium of communication. It makes up for a lot of the faults I suffer from in face-to-face conversation, like nervousness, brain freeze and stammering. But what it doesn’t do well is convey expression of tone. I’m constantly worried that my comms will be misinterpreted as curt or snarky or disrespectful because of my word choices or sentence structure. But by and large, it’s nice to have free, instantaneous communication with fun conversationalists right in the palm of my hand.

Friends, my hope for you and for me is that the new year is gentle on your heart, mind and body, that it’s myriad opportunities also come with the courage for you to seize them, and that your peace is full, abundant, packed down and overflowing.

Happy New Year, all!

Portents

Sometimes there really are coincidences and inexplicable juxtapositioning of separate things in life. Not every seeming pattern is actually a pattern or a sign from the universe, spirits, ancestors, angels or demons that may have the ability to communicate such things.

And sometimes they are.

Lately, over the last several months at least, I have seen an uptick in the frequency with which I have encountered certain phenomena, most especially in the frequency of the feeling of anticipation, of something impending, coming my way.

With most feelings and phenomena, the over- or under-tones they bear can fall anywhere on a spectrum from wildly hopeful and positive to abysmally bleak and dreadful. This feeling of pendency, of possibility and opportunity is mostly hopeful and positive. Occasionally, it acquires an ominous flavor of apprehension, presentiment, augury and foreboding. Other times it’s somewhere in the middle resonance, tasting of expectancy, chance, suspension, and promise. And at still other times the prickly, eerie aura of divination, foreshadowing, premonition and prophesy are most prominent.

But at all times in this recent surge of this anxious foretelling is a strong sense that every instance of it is a genuine portent of things to come.

I struggle mightily with this, as my logical, linear-thinking brain has no framework of scientific analysis in which place this phenomena to satisfactorily explain this possibility. While I am not so arrogant as to believe that I know all that is knowable about analysis and examination, I have ample evidence that my application of these fundamental cognitive tools is usually effective and accurate. So, when faced with the inexplicable, my inquisitive mind fritzes over its thwarted desire to explain the why and how of a thing.

Indeed, in the last 48+ hours I have confronted two very big and significant portents that have had my guts and grey cells tied in knots trying to rationalize the utterly irrational, as well as internalize the surprisingly rational. In particular, my instinct to uncover the logistics of how these things might come to pass has occupied many hours and much of my energy that I would otherwise have spent sleeping or in more productive pursuits.

Working through some of these puzzles with friends, I’m challenged by the repeated advice to let go of the “how”, the “why”, the urge to control logistical outcomes, and simply trust that the universe will bring about what is meant to be. I have been reminded by multiple sources that it is faith, and not logic, that is the ideal tool for dealing with this impending advent. Scraps of scripture learned in my youth concerning the nature of faith…substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen…are on infinite loop playback in my head. And the war between logic and faith, will and willingness, rages in my chest.

I wonder if that isn’t the ultimate, meta portent? What if the pattern of prescient contemplation is not only a tool to prepare for whatever is coming, but is also the substance of the impending revelation. If the universe wants me to see that the logic and reason I treasure and rely on is not a pathway but an obstacle, what better way to show me than by filling my life with phenomena immune to logic and only discoverable by faith?

That’s some epic, angsty, emo, existential crisis-driven fever dream right there.

Maybe I should just stop looking for patterns and methods and answers and explanations. Maybe being “blown about by every wind of change” is the best policy – going with the flow, as it were. But I don’t know how to do that, either.

So what’s left? If logic is unavailing and extracting the how and why of something impedes the advent of the portent, yet passively floating from swell to swell on the ocean of chance is not possible, what’s next? Is it simply doing nothing?

Can anything that results from such a process have lasting value? Will whatever emerges from such inactivity be salubrious, nourishing? Doesn’t the lack of effort to bring about the outcome necessarily diminish it? Does accepting such a windfall call into question my personal standard of ethics and integrity?

All these questions arise from the values with which I was reared, and they are evidence of the challenge to these values that this policy of inaction incites. I don’t have answers. I suspect they cannot be answered this side of the outcome being realized.

Which begs the question: Can I perform this experiment, sticking it out until the end, or will I retreat to the safety of my illusion of control and forego the chance to know the outcome?

Achievement Unlocked

I have spent a full week in my new house. Spoiler alert: It’s awesome!

Here are a few good things that have happened this week that make me happy and feel accomplished:

⁃ I have mentioned my new dressing room a couple of times. It’s so nice having a separate room for all my clothes and to get ready in. Separating the sleep and relaxation space from the storage and dressing space has made my private space feel enormous and very grown-up. This week I have refined the initial layout, arranging folded and hanging clothes and boots in an efficient pattern that makes dressing enjoyable. Today I assembled a laundry cart with three hanging hampers – so cool! I’ve added hanging organizers for my bow ties, too! Geeking out over this space has consumed a lot of time and has been so fun!

⁃ It’s been really nice parking in my garage at this house. It’s a little detail, but not having to scrape frost or get rained on going to or from the truck has made my morning and evening so much less stressful.

⁃ Although we’re still looking for the correct bolts for hanging the living room tv in the bracket that came with the house, I am feeling smug about setting up the cable today. The supposed installation early this week was actually just a surly technician coming in to drop off new cable boxes and be rude to my sister in law. So I took it upon myself to figure it out. It wasn’t really hard, just a little tricky to reprogram the remote to operate the tv and the cable box. Still, I did it and feel accomplished. 😎

⁃ I also completed my first load of laundry in this new house’s main-floor laundry. The new appliances are user friendly and don’t make a lot of noise. And I LOVE not having to haul heavy clothes baskets up and down stairs!

⁃ And even if it is just the newness factor, I am particularly proud of myself for making my bed every single day so far in this house. I really like how nice the room looks with it made up. And since there’s only a reading chair and side table in addition to the bed in that room, it somehow seems necessary to keep it neat.

⁃ Finally, while I was enjoying football on my newly set-up tv, I finished wrapping Christmas gifts today. It was fun taking care of that chore while enjoying the clean, open, comfortable new living room.

My friends, I hope the coming week, and the holiday it brings, finds you warm and fed and healthy and blessed with many good things to make you feel happy and accomplished.

It’s All Good!

Been an especially busy week since I last posted, filled with really good things!

  • New furniture was delivered to my new house. It’s beautiful and comfortable and looks amazing in the new rooms!
  • My custom closet system was installed in my new dressing room. I don’t have words to adequately describe how great this feels! I have wanted a dedicated dressing room since I was a teen. Now having the dream become reality is way better than I hoped! Of course, the first thing I moved into it was my entire compliment of bow ties.
  • The beds and main pieces of furniture from the old house was delivered yesterday. The guys who did it were awesome and took great care with our things. In under four hours we had it all moved in and the bed frames rebuilt. I was surprised at how comforting it felt to see the familiar furnishings among the new. It was grounding, somehow.
  • Last night was the first night sleeping in the new house. I was too wound up and didn’t get to sleep until later than I wanted. Also, as expected, the noises the new house makes are way different from the ones I’m used to in the old place. But it sure was nice to have all that space in which to acclimate!
  • Finally, after having used my new bedroom, bathroom, and dressing room for the first time, I have to admit that I’m surprised at how much the new configuration of space affects my morning routine. Timing and rhythm of my ablutions, the newness of where things are placed, the new, larger scale of my personal space, all really impacted how I got ready this morning. But it’s all for the good. Having the luxury of so much room to myself is a blessing that makes learning a new routine fun and exciting.
  • Bonus: I think I’m going to like being able to park inside the garage!

Good morning, my friends! I hope your day is full of discovery and delight.

Salvaging the Streak

Didn’t want to bust again so soon, so here’s a quick listy post of great things in my life over the last few days:

  1. Going to visit friends is life-giving, especially when they welcome you into their home, introduce you to their friends, and treat you like you matter.
  2. Celebrating your friend’s birthday with your presence and presents and a chocolate piñata makes for a wonderful time had by all.
  3. Rest, not just sleep, is good for the spirit.
  4. Courteous and respectful security screening staff at both ends of my trip made this adventure 1000x better than the awesome it already was. Not getting groped and humiliated and triggered just to get on a plane should be the norm, not an exception to celebrate. But I do absolutely celebrate it.
  5. Good food, good movies, good games, and tons of laughs made this trip an energy-restoring, spirit-feeding, wonderful experience.
  6. And now…to get ready for the move!
  • My friends, I hope your week is full of blessings big and small.

    Now For Something Completely Different

    Lately, my posts have been about me, my struggle with anxiety and sleeplessness, my elation over my new house, my continued attempts to be positive and find at least one good thing in every day. Those are good things, mostly. Also, predictable and likely boring.

    So today, I’m writing about something different: me. Oh, right. That’s not different at all. What is different is the aspect of me that I’m writing about: writing.

    I’ve revealed here before that I’m working on writing and being creative, generally. I even crowed about one of my short stories being selected for publication in an anthology to be released this coming spring. Writing beyond this blog and unrelated to my profession is, to use a hackneyed phrase, a passion of mine – a quiet, unassuming passion, but passion nonetheless.

    It’s an area of my creativity that is fraught with complex emotions. As a student, the mechanics of writing, especially sentence structure and composition, were challenging for me. I encountered a lot of harsh criticism that I really didn’t understand – much of it seemed to tell me to do what I had already done, without acknowledging that what I’d written already met the edicts my critic was imposing. I felt stifled and inadequate, though without any clear reason why my writing failed to please.

    And then there’s the self-criticism, borne of insecurity and reflecting that formative experience, that’s at least as harsh and confusing as any external commentary. Constantly worrying about whether someone will “get it”, will appreciate the thoughtfulness and creativity I’ve poured into a given piece, has been a significant hindrance to my creative productivity.

    Putting something out there for someone else to consume and comment is a risky business. Egos can get bruised, feelings can be crushed, confidence can be scorched. All for the thrill of taking thought from ether, putting it into words in an order and structure unique to its form, and setting it free to become an entity unto itself. Big payoffs and big disappointments abound. Which it will be is a mystery until it happens. Sometimes it’s worth the risk. Other times…not so much.

    When I get lost in the conundrum of weighing those risks, I often resort to the safety of retreat. Simply putting the questions – what if, why, when – out of my mind and focusing on the how. What is the next step? If this story or essay or blog post is going to happen, what’s the next thing to be done? That works for most writing problems I encounter. Giving me a finite goal and a short horizon to view usually lets my brain work the problem.

    That trick doesn’t seem to be effective on a real block, however. When I’m struggling to plot a story or even come up with a creative idea, “the next thing” is hidden and out of reach. It’s maddening.

    I’ve been battling such a block for a while now. At first, I thought it was a combination of work stress and personal disappointment after a fairly ignominious and humbling dating experience. But as I have experienced a lot of emotional highs and great blessings since, prompting a few good blog posts and a lot of easing of stress, the expected lifting of the block hasn’t occurred. I keep starting to write and either I spend hours with nothing but a blinking cursor on a blank page, or scribble frantically and end up with nothing but some disjointed, crumpled handwritten notes to show for it.

    So, in an attempt to break the block, I’m combining tactics: naming the demon to sap it’s power, while narrowing the focus to a single step. This blog admitting to the problem is the naming: I have writer’s block.

    The single step I’m contemplating to break that block is writing by hand. It’s not a new, revolutionary tactic. It’s been done throughout history, literally. Since humans began recording, we’ve been writing by hand. And yes, technically, even electronic writing is mostly done by human hands on a keyboard (though dictation by voice isn’t “by hand”, it still usually requires a human action to get started). But there’s something alchemical about taking a pen in your hand and moving it across the page in a rhythm of strokes to form words. For my brain, this magical transmogrification of the staticky, noisy thoughts into ordered, coherent thoughts is activated by the physical movement of the pen in my hand in a way that doesn’t happen with my fingers on a keyboard.

    Maybe that’s got something to do with the fact that most of my work is done by computer keyboard. Maybe the change from typing to old-fashioned writing shifts my brain to another gear? I don’t know. But I’m not going to question it. I’m just going to do it.

    I’ve got a brand new notebook, sized just right to keep with me everywhere, and a pen. I’m going to commit to writing down thoughts and snippets and ideas as they occur, not obsessing over order, chronology, neatness or coherence. I’m just going to write what occurs to me when it occurs to me for an entire month. Then, the following month I’m going to take the time to read through the notes, mark what I think goes together, and decide if it can become a finished work. If so, I’ll also decide when and how long I’ll take to pull it together.

    That’s the plan. Let’s see if I can pull it off. But I’m not going to be a stickler about precise dates or number of words to write or topics to cover. I’m going to let my spirit be free in this experiment. Even that’s a stretch for me, the linear-thinking, logically-driven, ordered lawyer. But this isn’t about the lawyer in me. It’s about the creator in me who longs to be legitimately regarded as a writer. To achieve that, I need to write. And to write, I have to kill this block.

    Wish me luck.

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