On Presence.

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Photo by Korney Violin on Unsplash

“When we are too entangled in our own stories or too fixated on other people, we can’t be truly present with ourselves. When we can’t be present with ourselves, we can’t compassionately attend to others.” {Paraphrased from Tara Brach}

 

People love talking about how busy they are, especially in the context of relationship (family) privilege. Presents, festivities, stress, family, family, FAMILY, travel, gatherings.

That part isn’t all pleasant for people either—I get it. It’s a stressful time of year, even when it is also joyful.

But I notice all of this especially sharply at this time of year. And find myself feeling especially isolated. It’s deep winter, long nights, and the few friends I do have here are—well, caught up.

After some slightly off-putting interactions these past few days/weeks, I’ve made a firm choice not to devote too much time to those who have shown time and time again that they are unwilling/unable to be present, compassionate.

Those who claim to be friends, but aren’t really able to give—or receive—my presence.

When I ask for support, in a respectful way, I don’t expect people to drop everything and run to me. But, I would hope for a real answer about how much they can do this for me, realistically. Not an obligatory, distracted “half-there” reaction, but something real.

When I offer support, it is an offering, not a demand. However, sometimes I’m taken aback when the person on the other end does not receive it. I wonder what value I have to them in the context of the friendship, or maybe whether they think I’m capable of presence. Because, let’s face it, I can be self-involved too.

I often have found myself surrounded by people who are more supportive of me and don’t ask me for help often. These are the people who tend to get burnt out because they feel the need to be “needed.”

But when someone reaches out to me in vulnerability, that they require a deep listening, my advice, or something like that, feel honoured, valued, both as a friend and a person.

Not checking in with yourself and the other person in a real way leads to false promises, a lack of integrity, and generally poor behaviour. Maybe not even evilness, but being a kind of shitty friend (or lover or husband or sister or whatever).

I sound blamey because in truth I am a little angry at the moment. And I know I’m still learning too. I’m refining the process of self-inquiry on a daily basis. I have no choice but to do that in order to be a better human, hopefully, tomorrow. I’m also going to keep fucking up.

However, I want you to know, that when I say I’m there for you, I’m there. And I expect a certain level of give and take in that regard.

Idealistic? Maybe. Overly sensitive? Possibly.

But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to live a life surrounded by people who value me deeply, in that way that we can be truly present.

So this year I re-commit to myself to stick with the people who presently practice both intimacy and integrity regularly, who understand it in the context of themselves as well as with others. Who aren’t so blinded by their own relationships, conflicts, work, dramas that we can’t actually respond authentically with each other, instead of just reacting out of ego—or obligation.

I want to be friends with those who can be vulnerable with me as well, who can receive my presence in the context of self-inquiry, not fixation or attachment or some ego-based BS.

No excuses, no externalizing. These are two of my biggest pet peeves.

Sure we all fuck up, we also have times that we can’t give as much attention to one thing or person as we might like. I get that.

But when I ask, please give me a real answer. Not an excuse. Not a half-hearted brush off. Not an obligatory set of meaningless words. Because it just makes me feel worse.

I’m not even pushing for time. I prefer quality over quantity where that’s concerned. Just be aware of how you’re being, how much you realistically want to offer, and be clear about it.

Please be real with yourself so that we can have an honest relationship.

I can’t afford to waste any more time on those who don’t (appear to) be able to grasp the concept of self-inquiry and therefore can’t truly be attuned to others in their lives who they supposedly care for.

Please see me. And I will see you.

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38 Things to do when you Quit your Job (or Any Damn Time)

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Image: Renee Picard
  1. Go to the ocean

  2. Get a room with a view
  3. Eat fish and chips, mac and cheese, or whatever your favourite comfort food is for breakfast.
  4. Drink vodka, whiskey, red wine.
  5. Wear “too much” or “too little” make-up.
  6. Read Big Magic; choose to abide by it (or at least try really hard).
  7. Start a bucket list.
  8. Write a letter.
  9. Take a long bath in the afternoon with a coffee-grind mask that stains the white bathmat and will make the housekeepers wonder.
  10. When you are tired, pass out to the dulcet tones of British TV shows about antiques.
  11. Remember your Old Life—then let it go.
  12. But check in with the people you love back there, in your Old Life. Don’t let them go.
  13. Know you absolutely can do it in a new way. Then cry, because half the time you don’t believe this, really.
  14. Do yoga despite the heartburn, with a focus on the hips.
  15. Watch TV—but not for more than an hour at a time.
  16. Smile at the old people playing bridge in the lobby of the antiquated hotel, and at the mob of red-faced, navy-blazered Old Boys’ club that gathered around the bar one evening, all bald-headed and jovial.
  17. Smile at the kids playing in the sand, chasing the seagulls…until the mother pulls out bread bits to feed to the seagulls (please don’t feed the birds).
  18. Smile at the arthritic and slightly wet black lab trying to nose into your medoicre-at-best breakfast fish and chips.
  19. Re-do your website.
  20. Share a story in the secret women’s-only Facebook group.
  21. Decide to pug sit in Hollywood over Christmas.
  22. Wonder how one person could possibly be so content.
  23. Wonder how one person could possibly feel so distant from those that she loves.
  24. Go to the aquarium and simultaneously marvel while dipping into a concrete sort of sadness; you want to be with these creatures, but (mostly) not like this.
  25. Take the French lessons you’ve been meaning to take for 2 years.
  26. Practice finishing what you started.
  27. Take a social media/job-search break for 12 hours to read Beautiful Losers and write.
  28. Tell stories about the time you saw a giant tortoise eat it’s own…well, maybe not. It was more the reaction of the other observers that was priceless.
  29. Forget about how the much-younger-but-still-cold-and-overly-formal bartender kept calling you “Ma’am.”
  30. Enjoy the shit out of the complementary tea, custard creams, gingerbread and shortbread that sits waiting in every hotel room there, ’cause they just don’t do that at home.
  31. Don’t worry that you were 2 hours away from Stonehenge with a completely open schedule but still didn’t go and see it. You will be back soon enough.
  32. Turn everything off and just read.
  33. Colour with the window open, sitting on the floor, watching the sunset, with the sea breeze cooling your wine-warmed face.
  34. Wonder (stop wondering) why you can’t seem to be in love with the right person, ever.
  35. Find a new rhythm.
  36. Eat fruit slowly.
  37. Devote yourself to living by the sea in a more permanent way.
  38. Don’t let the cheapness of the combed sand or the too-small aquarium tanks or pier toll sway you from just visiting places like kitchy, old-timey beach towns.  Those are really the best, anyhow.

I Know I Don’t Want This Anymore.

Dear Human Courtney A. Walsh
Quote by Courtenay A. Walsh

I want to let go now—to finally, completely stop.

I am tired of looking at my reflection and almost breaking into tears when I see how, at certain angles (most angles) my body puckers and hangs and bulges the wrong way.

This is mostly the life I want, but my body tells me a different story. It tells me the story of my careless behaviour, of how I don’t mind for it as well as I could. I don’t feel that this body is me—which suggests that my actions are not in alignment with my values, my health. I can try to appreciated what this does for me, objectively, as a “unit,” but mostly I don’t feel that I belong in it.

So it’s not just about fat, it’s about the way I’m being with myself.

Eating and drinking for pleasure is one of my favourite things, but it can’t be my main every day pleasure. Not now. Not as a reaction to loneliness or stress or general malaise.

I do not wish to feel that whiskey-induced darkness, confusion and fatigue the morning after.

I am tired of asking questions, of wondering how they could possibly come and go with such ease, be entirely present and then forget about me. (You forgot once, and I’m sure you will again.)

I’m tired of falling into that belief that noone cares, when really it’s me that holes myself up, mostly out of healing, and mostly by choice.

I’m tired of wondering when that consistency will come, that feeling of being wholly loved, every day, of trying to reconcile that one memory from a few months or years ago, that feeling of completeness with the loneliness now. I’m tired of wondering how then and now can even be the same life.

I am sick of wondering what you are doing, thinking, feeling, of being scared to reach out and ask, because it means I want something. And that’s so obvious.

I am tired of wanting, of trying to reconcile this screened-shut world with some semblance of reality that consists of actual caring. When many of the people on the other end are basing their thoughts of me on a digital image or two, I just want to scream at them: That’s not me! Will you please step out from behind the screen and just come and just see ME, the real me, warts and all? 

Will you just love me, in real life, once and for all? 

I’m tired of thinking about this—exhausted, really. (And besides that, I promised that I would never ask for you to love me.)

I am tired of the way people seem to not want to make eye contact or small talk, day to day, maybe because I’m not French or maybe because I seem closed-off.

But I’m tired.

I will no longer fall back on nostalgia. I will not let sentimentality or some unfounded hope guide my words or my actions.

I remember how I felt beside you on that beach, you at that movie and you at that concert: I remember how complete and whole and real and present I felt during some of those times; then in other moments, I remember how my own stomach-knot screamed your feelings at me—feelings ranging from general apathy to just wanting to not be there, with me, then. 

I could sense clearly what you were(n’t) feeling, but you couldn’t—or if you did know, you didn’t  have the balls to say. So I would try to silence the knot in my stomach, to smooth everything out, to flirt and be nice and say sorry and “fix us,” but eventually that knot won out. So I had to walk away because you weren’t brave enough or strong enough, even though you were the one who didn’t want me. 

Sometimes being “nice” is the worst thing we can do.

I am sick of remembering all of these things, even the good stuff.

I am sick of the cycle of believing that this or that particular high will fix things—sometimes a high can shift things, certainly—even in positive ways—but a fix is never really a fix.

This may seem melancholy but in fact it’s not, because I am saying that I am actually done. I am coming to terms that this, me, right now, crampy and bleary-eyed in this too-expensive hotel room, writing for a reason that I don’t quite know. I am choosing to do this, now: write, hike in the sun, be somewhere new, smile at the dog, chat with a friend, swim in the pool, stretch.

I will love growing into my career and my body and will keep fighting for some semblance of active community and forget about (romantic) love for a while because clearly it’s just not showing it’s face and I have to let it go.

I am choosing to sink into the good, solid things about today, because I am done with the rest.