Our Reactions To Our Reactions
So last Monday I was going to write about our reactions to our reactions. But then I changed my mind. I wasn't in the mood. I didn't have the focus or - honestly - the interest at just that moment when I was writing my writing to delve deep into something that demands a necessary introspection that I was so not up for. And so I skipped the writing of it and wrote about other stuff instead.
But then, all this week, this concept kept coming up for me.
Like I had this amazing conversation with my dad. I have an amazing dad. I wrote (with my sister) about him here if you ever feel the need to read up on him. I think you should. He's pretty friggin' awesome.
So, I had this conversation with him. On the phone two days ago. He was talking about mindfulness and how he is practicing this practice, this mindfulness practice, and one of the things he is doing is noticing his reaction to things. And then, instead of reacting to how he reacted in that moment and letting his mind do all that self-talk that is often filled with negativity - because we often react to something in a way that we wish we did not and so we shame ourselves and berate ourselves and tell ourselves that we did it wrong - instead of doing any of that he is just sitting in noticing what his reaction was in that moment. And then letting it go.
Like this is what he is telling me over the phone and I was like did you read my writing on Monday? because this was what I avoided writing about because I was not in the mood to work that hard.
The best thing was he had not read my blog yet. And so the fact that he brought this up, and I had been thinking of this, well really, the serendipitousness of this is just too good. (and yes, I know that I should use "serendipity" but it just doesn't capture the bigness of this coincidence enough)
And then it came up again. This reaction to our reaction idea. It came up again. And again still. In conversations that I had with other people. All week. And so I knew that it was time, in this Monday's writing, as in today's writing, to delve on in and explores this more.
You already know what it is as I so succinctly explained it above in the paragraph about my dad. So what I really want to talk about is those beautiful lessons that come out of being able to notice our reactions to our reactions.
Do we berate ourselves? Do we tell ourselves that we should have done it better? Do we then think about it over and over and over again because we are disappointed or angry at ourselves? And why do we do this?
These are the big questions. And this is where the lessons live.
I do this. A lot actually. Much more than I thought I did until I started to notice. And not only do I self-talk myself into a really lousy mood by reacting negatively to my reaction but I do it for a really long time. Ten, fifteen, could be twenty minutes that my not so nice voice in my head goes on and on about how I really fucked it up and didn't do it good enough. She is persistent, I'll give her that.
But now, now I am aware of this and noticing my extremely obstinate and tenacious, negative voice in my head.
Wait, that is not exactly true.
I have always been aware of her. But until recently I engaged with her. I interacted and listened and responded back sometimes in conversations in my mind that took over my spirit and prevented me from moving on from an incident that happened so many moments ago and was over long before my conversation with my self-talk was.
But now, now I don't engage. I notice. And then I reflect.
What pain happened way back in my life that she grabs onto to try and keep me from growing forward? What pain and how do I heal from it?
What pain and what shame?
What stories does she keep repeating to me because she wants to keep her footing in the door to my soul?
What stories does she find and then retell and why do they work so well?
I notice all of this. I notice and explore what she is saying without feeding her my attention which is fuel for her fire of negativity and blame. It is interesting to notice what she says. And, because I can see her from this distance now and hear her without taking in her chatter and making it mine, I can reflect on her words and her stories and her blaming and think back to where she may have found them in the first place.
For you see, they came from inside me, those parts of me that I still need to nurture and forgive, to accept and to love. She sees them as opportunity for pain. But now I see them as the opportunity to grow.
And this is what is happening now: when she shows up I take her in my arms in my minds eye and I tell her that it really is ok. That I know that she hurts and that I know that its hard but really its all good. And she quiets down. Not completely silent yet but not as loud and not as long. The lessons are being learned and the hurt is being healed and soon she'll get to rest.
What I Really Want To Write About
Ok, so I was going to write about our reactions to our reactions and... credit where credit is due: I first heard about this concept - paying as much if not more attention to your reactions to your reactions than to that first reaction you have to a situation - from Kelly Schwegel. You can check her out here.
It's an interesting concept to explore. That self talk we do after we have reacted to a situation is where so many of the lessons really live. Think about it.
But not now.
Because as I sat down to write about this I realized that I really didn't want to write about this. I kinda wanted to write about lighter things. Like my walk this morning with my dog (what a surprise) and the personal satisfaction I am feeling having drafted new By-Laws for the theater that I am the Board Chair of (I love writing documents like this).
I want to write about the anthology that I am creating with a becoming-a-new-friend woman that I met over social media. It is book about the Thomas Fire that circled our valley - we are a valley surrounded by fire - and then swept north becoming that biggest wildfire in California history. This book is a collection of photographs, artwork, poetry and prose from our Ojai community. We are still in the submission phase and are receiving such amazing images and writings. This book is going to be beautiful as it honors the loss and grief and strength and possibility of our community.
So this is really cool.
I want to talk about the fact that I have had to restart my computer like three times in the space of writing this writing because it is old and slow and freezes up and I need to buy a new one but this stresses me out. All my stuff is on here. All my documents and passwords and pictures and stuff. And I know, I know, I know all about backing things up and I am doing this. I have a OneDrive account with everything in it. I have Carbonite on my computer which backs up things automatically. And I also email myself the things that are really important (yes, the old fashion back-up system). But still, technology stresses me out. Like A LOT! And so this is tough.
But the new computer will be fast and speedy and I can write my writings and draft my documents and sign into sites and not have to wait like four minutes for something to load.
So this is really cool, too.
And finally, I want to talk about where this picture above was taken. Take a guess. You'll never get it!
I Missed My Monday Writing
I missed my Monday writing. And now it's Wednesday. This picture was taken on Tuesday. When I was lying here, in my warm and cozy bed, I had to pee really, really badly. But I couldn't get up because look how sweet they both are and how could I disturb them!?
I was on telephone with my sister at the time and said just this, and we remembered together when our babies were babies and not these big people that they are now and we would sit to nurse or because they were sleeping and so perfect in our arms and we would sit ourselves down and get all comfy and the phone and tv remote and our cup of tea or glass of water was over on the table, or even on the couch but all the way over on the other side and there we were. We could not move. How could we move?
That is just like what this was yesterday with my cat and my dog. And I was so happy to be between them that it was worth it not to move. Just like with my sleeping babies all those years ago.
But this writing is not about this. It is about the fact that I missed Monday's writing. Fuck.
I have been late for writings before. There was a time that my Monday morning writing was actually a Sunday morning writing and then a Sunday night writing before becoming it's Monday thing. Because I had too much going on, on Sundays, to write in a timely way. And so we moved to Mondays and, though there were times that it was a Monday afternoon (sometimes late afternoon) writing it still was a Monday and I still remembered. For this past Monday, I have nothing. I just missed it. Fuck.
And then I got an email from a dear friend and he said: There was no Monday writing, working on something else, or too busy? And I emailed him back: Oh shit. Fuck Fuck. I didn't write :-( And then I signed onto Weebly to write this.
So. there is a lot going on. And so this writing is about giving myself a break. Because I have gone from retirement, and really having my days be my days only with me and my perfect dog and walks and ball playing and more walks and naps most days and maybe I'll read a book or have lunch with a friend or watch the entire series of The Secret Life Of The American Teenager because my daughter was watching it and so I watched it, too and got sucked in and so for like two straight weeks all I did was watch this show. Which wasn't even that great. It was good. I digress.
So, I had that, that simple life and then I started up my mediation practice again, and I started working again on a TV show I had written with a writing partner that is now garnering some interest, and I am the board chair of an amazing theater in Los Angeles called the Echo Theater which, if you live in LA, you must check out and you must come to our shows because we are the best theater in town. And so yeah, I have a lot going on. I am sure there is more, I cannot remember.
Oh yes, I am editing another book for a dear friend and have a second editing job as well with a beautiful writer who's work I really love and so that is something more, too. Did you know I was an editor. Here is my site, just in case, you know, you need me :-)
And so that is why this is now Wednesday and here is my Monday morning writing. And I am going to take a deep breath now. Because I have not since I heard from my friend that I forgot until I got to this place of almost finishing this piece.
And I am going to take a moment and reflect on the beautiful walk I had this morning with my sweet and perfect dog. We walked very quickly along the edge of the grove and then got in the car and went to the dog park which was open early and we played ball and then we walked along the horse trail that runs along the park, in the mud, behind the fence. And that was lovely, too.
Thank you for reading my Monday on a Wednesday which happens to be Valentine's Day writing today!
We went to the beach both mornings this past weekend. My husband and I. It was sunny. And warm. I wore light pants and a shirt without a sweater and Garth wore shorts. Our feet were bare to the sand and the water felt cool against our toes as it rushed up against the cluttered beach, the remnants of the Montecito mudslides still coming up onto the shores of the neighboring beaches.
We went both mornings without our dog. Just us, with warm drinks in hand and the opportunity to walk slowly and talk deeply. To take our time and take the morning in. And take each other in, too.
This photo above is not from either of these last two mornings. The photo is from an early winter morning - of which there are many - when Nava wakes me up close to 6:00 each day and I dress quickly in layers of winter leggings and sweatpants, three shirts, a fleece jacket, a hat and mittens and my hiking boots. Garth comes with me when he can. When his mornings are not full with calls to India or consulting meetings in Australia or Canada. Then he too dresses in his layers against the cold, before the sun rises, and we take our alert and ready to play Doberman and walk the barren beach.
I love the beach on mornings like this. We are the only ones. Either Garth and Nave and me, or just me and my dog. Sometimes there are fishermen there, perched up above the sand when the tide is so high that there is no place to walk without the ocean covering my shoes with salty water. Sometimes the fishermen settled closer to the sea, in low tide then, spaced apart as if they measured their distance to each other though I know they did not.
Nava pays no attention to them. She is more interested in the smells that wash up from the beach each night waiting for her gifted nose to track them down. And always, as in every time, she finds a tennis ball which I quickly hide in my pocket. Our walk comes first, then we play ball.
So in this photograph above, which looks cold not just by my bundled up husband but by the colors of the sky and sea, it is a before the ball playing part of our morning walk together. I wanted a photograph of my husband by the ocean as I wrote about our weekend together. But I did not bring my phone with me to the beach this weekend to capture him there.
So here you have this one instead.
This was a special weekend for us. We had those kinds of conversations that are sweet and honest. It started with an acknowledgement that we were in our thirtieth year of marriage. That this July 3d, this would be thirty years since I wore a dress that I picked out because it reminded me of what someone would wear during the civil war and that was the look I was going for. Thirty years since I looked out the window from the big house as I was getting ready to walk down the aisle, only to see my husband-to-be swimming in the ocean. Thirty years filled with the gift of three miraculous children and infinite adventure and challenging times and poignant moments and so much laughter. And lots of dancing.
But this is not what I spoke about when we spoke this last two days on our walk in the warmth of the mid morning beach sun. I spoke about our last year and a half.
Marriage is funny. We mark each year and honor that date that started it all and fall into our cultures boundary of how we celebrate. And so the counting of the years is a big thing. A milestone that we reach each year and that we then check off our calendars, whether real ones or the one that keeps track in our minds. And we hold significance to that which the world holds significance, too.
But that did not resonate with me this last two days on our walks and talks as the sun warmed our hearts to each other. Yes, being married thirty years is very cool. A long time, a lot of compromise, an awful lot of growing that wasn't always at the same time or in the same direction or sometimes something neither of us liked very much about the other, and still we were right here, walking this beach. And so to notice the length of time together, I am not saying that this is not something special to do. But what really makes me proud, and what I spoke about aloud and shared with this man that I love more today than any day before, is who we have become this last year and a half.
We became our own people this past year and a half. We learned that we were not merged. That those images and words that are used to connote the success of a couple - the "you complete me's" and the "we are one" and the "I can't live without you's" are not the images and do not capture the essence of who we are or who we want to be with each other.
This year and a half was an amazing year for us because we held space and allowed each other to grow in our own ways, with no expectation from each other. There was no judgement. There were no shoulds. We just were. And we shared the journey with each other. We shared how we felt. We tried out new things and explored when the other got triggered. We took self-care and spent a lot of time alone. And we sat together, practicing breath work so that the taking in and letting go of air matched the intention of our hearts and the merging of our souls' song.
We learned vulnerability. He is better at it than me. But I am getting there, too. Especially when my heart is open and I have the time to just let it stand there, beating without worry and warmed by the sun.
And so it was this weekend on these two beach walks. My open heart met his as we talked the length of the sandy tide, and found a rock that was a bench and held our backs just right as we held the sun on our faces and his knees burned because his skin is too fair for sun of any kind.
We walked and talked and sat and our hearts held gently the beating of the other. And we honored this last year and a half. A small part of the length of the entirety of our thirty year marriage and the biggest part of all.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Rower, Runner, Dog and Cat lover.