Beauty in the Ugly

Life is messy. Specifically, my life is messy.

I have a good job, but I haven’t managed my finances well. For years, I had nothing to manage, so I went a little crazy when I got this job. But I can get by, and there is an end to paying for that mistake.

There is stress in my job. All jobs have it. Mine is no exception. Since I live with bipolar disorder, I am highly sensitive to stress. I think I’m allergic to it.

Psychologically, I’m a wreck. My mind races. It invents lots of catastrophes that won’t happen, but my gut reacts to the imagined disasters like they’re happening now creating a lot of anxiety.

Romantically, this year has been tumultuous. I dated a man and fell in love and then broke up and went through heartache and now we’re dating again. It feels good right now, but there’s been a lot of upheaval.

Despite all this, I wake every morning and get up out of bed. I have a morning routine that I really like. I drink a cup of tea and briefly scroll through Facebook, and then I meditate. This morning’s meditation was a good example of the beauty in the midst of the turmoil. My mind was racing, so I started counting my breaths on my fingers. The counting aided my concentration, and I was soon simply breathing.

Of course, my mind still wandered, but it wasn’t racing. I was able to bring it back to the breath easily. Then it would wander again, and I’d bring it back to my breath. It’s a very beautiful process. Wandering. Breathing. Wandering. Breathing. Over and over.

Despite the fear I have of rejection, I’m still pursuing a romantic partnership. I put effort into cultivating a good relationship. Last Friday, I was honestly terrified waiting for him to come to dinner, but I didn’t cancel it. I walked through the fear. I was rewarded with a delightful evening, and last night, I was rewarded again with an easy chat by text. It feels good knowing I’m walking through my fear.

I am an imperfect man. I have emotions that get out of control. I’m not always able to react with equanimity to life events. I have a lot of fear and anxiety that almost – almost – debilitates me.

The way I walk through my imperfections is very beautiful. In my head, I’m leaping over them, but in reality, I’m taking just one step at a time. There is real beauty in a single step. Sometimes there is enormous courage in a single step, and courage is beautiful. One single courageous step is the most beautiful thing in the world.

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Dating Again

Last night, the man I call my ex came to dinner. I invited him earlier in the week, and he agreed.

I didn’t cook anything elaborate: pasta with pesto, garlic toast, and salad.

I began to get nervous in the morning yesterday, and by the afternoon, I was scared. The fear was coming out in lots of very odd ways. It was focused on all different kinds of objects. I was afraid of stuff at work. I got worried about retirement, which is a long way off.

I was able to chat with my best friend, and just being heard helped me calm down for a while. Then, I got home, and I was honestly panicking. I was certain I was going to lose my job and live on the streets. I was positive that all the changes I’ve made in my life in the past 3 or 4 years were disasters. I told myself I should have never taken my present job and should have stayed on disability.

All of this was redirected anxiety about the date. The truth was I was scared of seeing him again. I was scared of rejection.

My best friend helped me remember to concentrate on one thing at a time. All I had to do was prepare the garlic toast and salad and cook the pasta. That’s all I had to do. So I concentrated on preparing dinner. It was very simple to cook the pasta. The whole thing was easy, but it felt good to get into the actions in the kitchen.

And it paid off nicely. We had a good evening. I kept the conversation light. We had some laughs. The whole evening was good.

The result is he’s no longer my ex. We’re dating. Now comes the hard part for me. I have to allow this relationship to develop slowly and at its own pace. I can’t rush.

I’m going to have to allow. Allow. That word is foreign to me.

Allow.

I’m going to have to use meditation techniques to the fullest.

I’m going to have to breathe through this.

Stability

This afternoon, an old friend arrives to stay for a week. I’m really looking forward to seeing him after eleven years. It will be fun. I have to work while he’s here, but we’ll have evenings together and one weekend.

I was thinking this morning about how quiet my life is right now. I’m really happy with that. I don’t have a lot of stuff going on. I wake early and meditate and exercise and go to work. I relax when I get home from work.

My sleep is not the best, but it seems to be adequate. I’m limiting my caffeine to two cups of tea each day.

I have some good friends that bring me joy. My children are all doing well at the moment, so that feels really good.

My ex is slowly becoming not-an-ex. We’ve only been on one date because of his schedule, but I’m not worried about it. The right thing will happen.

My meditation is good these days. Years ago I used guided visualization, and I highly recommend it. I’ve evolved to something closer to traditional meditation where I just concentrate on my breath. My mind wanders naturally, but I don’t judge it. I just calmly bring it back to my breath. I do it as often as necessary.

My life is quite boring right now. I feels really good.

Feeling It

I had dinner last night with my ex. We talked for an hour and a half about all sorts of things. The topic of my childhood trauma came up. It felt very tender for me, but I talked. We discussed a lot of pleasant things, too. There was talk of current affairs and the tragic fires in California.

It’s too early to say we’re dating again. We both enjoyed last night a lot. We both said so, and he said he wants to do it again.

Now comes the tricky part for me. My nature is to rush in and flood him with love. I want to wash over him with goodness – with what I perceive as goodness. That’s my attachment style. I’m like a wave from the book I read recently – Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin.

Now is when I get to practice a bit more patience. I get to breathe and pace myself. What does going slow look like? I think I’m going to be answering that question over the next weeks and months. I’m going to be breathing and walking through the feelings.

Breathing.

My meditation has changed this week. I’m doing less and breathing more. The words still pass through. They’re always there. My goal each time is to get just three good breaths, but while I’m concentrating on the rise and fall of my diaphragm, the words are still there. It’s quite humorous. They’re mostly words about whether or not this one is a good breath, or I’m counting this breath. They’re very quiet words, but they are there nonetheless.

I wonder what it’s like to breathe with a still mind. To be fully present in the breath. Even one would be a great accomplishment for me.

My mind is definitely quieter than years ago, but it still chases thoughts. It’s fine. It’s not a worry. It’s doing its job. I just want it to be a little quieter.

Self Study

I should probably call this “Studying My Self.” I’ve been in therapy for 32 years. Off and on. More on than off, but there were some short periods when it wasn’t possible. Therapy is basically the study of self.

I’ve learned a lot, and therapy has helped me put some demons to rest that were the result of a messy childhood and adolescence. It has been very valuable.

I tried to cope with all the crap in my head by drinking to excess. That did not work, and I eventually had to get help to quit drinking. AA taught me well, but it did nothing for the demons. Therapy helped me unmask those and take their power away. After 19 years of sobriety and 32 years of therapy, I can honestly say I never think about drinking. During the pain of the break up last summer, drinking never once crossed my mind. I’m grateful that’s over.

I saw my ex yesterday, and it brought up a lot of emotions that I didn’t know what to do with. I had therapy this morning and was able to talk about them.

Last week, my therapist recommended a book that I bought and devoured: Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin. I highly recommend it. It talks some about the biochemical processes that happen during dating, but the bulk of the book is about how we attach to people in our lives. I learned a lot about my way of attaching, and I was able to see my ex’s way, too.

In therapy this morning, I was able to see how I had triggered my ex, even though that was not my intention. I was also able to practice some ways of saying things that won’t be as triggering.

I was also able to see that I tend to get very hot in the early stages of the relationship, and that might scare a partner. Since my ex and I are talking again, I’ll get to practice moving slowly. We’ll see what happens. It might work out; it might not. I can’t predict.

I am really grateful to have my best friend who reminded me yesterday that emotions aren’t permanent. I’m grateful to have a good therapist who helped me work through how I can trigger other people. I’m grateful to have meditation that lets me release so much fear. I’m grateful for all my tools.

I’m grateful for you readers. I’ve had some comments in the past few weeks, and it really is nice to know that a few people really connect with some of the stuff that gets written here. Thank you.

sigh

I feel awful today.

I’m grieving, and I’m not being kind to myself about it.

I have therapy tonight thankfully. I’ve got lots of notes to talk about. I take notes in my phone for my therapy sessions so I don’t have to try to remember everything. I’m going to talk about these feelings.

I meditated this morning, and I got some exercise.

Grief is not fun.

A Question

Grief comes in waves, and yesterday, I was experiencing a wave of grief for my relationship that ended 2 months ago. I chatted with my best friend about it. I had questions about my ex-boyfriend and his feelings that, of course, my best friend could not answer. I didn’t expect him to. I simply wanted to express my thoughts. He answered with a question:

Why is everyone broken?

And it stopped me in the middle of my stream of thoughts. It was the perfect question.

We are each one of us broken. We have all experienced pain.

My next question is more important:

What are we doing about our brokenness?

Being broken is not the real problem. What we are each doing about it is. I have been actively working on my brokenness for more than 30 years. It has been a long process. I can honestly say that I’ve healed some truly big traumas. I can say to anyone who needs to hear it that healing is possible. It really is. I did it. The work is worth it. There were times the work was painful, but the reward is so good. I feel whole today.

I’m still healing more broken bits that I find under the healed places. It never ends, but it truly does get better.

My healing comes through meditation, therapy, medication, exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet. Your healing will come through ways that are appropriate for you. If you need guidance about how to start, I recommend talking to a doctor or therapist first. You’ll know what’s right for you. Use that.