Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

21Aug/080

Validating the Inaccuracy of Input

I was slower chanting tonight, my teacher did not actually come over and tell me to slow down although each time I looked at him he was making a gesture with his hand to indicate that I was going too fast again. What got me afterward was D coming up and telling me how much she enjoys my voice during chanting service. That she finds my voice strong but mostly just beautiful.

I felt myself stiffening up inside. The veracity of the comments before me, and similar comments from other sangha members in nearly every week prior, were undeniable. Yet the present moment is in direct conflict with all the messages given to me over and over as a child.

You couldn't carry a tune in a bucket!

No one wants to hear you making that noise, keep it quiet.

And music, other than what I could listen to in my room on a radio, was denied to me. I was always steered away from choir in middle and high school. The one time I tried out for, and made, the choir for my school's annual winter holiday production the endeavor was cut short when it meant that I'd have to pay for shoes. It wasn't until I was at college, over 2000 miles away from home so there was no way anyone could hear me, that I actually was part of a choir.

I was aware of the stiffness, of feeling a tightness in my chest. "Don't cry", I thought to myself.

CK knew, of course. Before we even made it to the car she was asking if I was alright. We got into the car and I started to cry. I immediately felt really stupid crying over a really heart-felt, genuine compliment. It had struck me, listening to that praise just how false the input given to me for so many years was.

That was hard. Maybe it is because my birthday is a week away and it has me thinking I should spend time with my Mom since it really is a special day for her. But with the terrible echoes of shame coming up and memories of non-supporting, downright invalid information it is difficult to want to spend my precious free time with her. But I still feel guilty about it.

CK asked me when I was leaving her flat if we're doing better, she can't tell. I think we are. I to her the way her actions had left me feeling really alone and uncertain. She observed that it must have been really hard.

It was so hard and I felt terribly abandoned, all the more so because I could hear her breath but not her presence. Now we're able to cuddle again, so I feel reconnected to the intimacy we share. It isn't all about sex, it is about something she said to me when we were first getting together, shared vulnerability.

I've so vulnerable, exposed really, for so long now. Losing weight pulled down a lot of the persona I'd built up to feel safe behind. If anyone laughed at that person she'd flip them off, swear, and distract herself from hurting over it. But that persona is gone and when I'm around CK it feels as though there's very little left except the vulnerability. To have her share it with me again, in any capacity, does feel like progress.

20Aug/080

The Day Turned Upside Down

Got up into half handstand more easily tonight. I didn't think I would because the front of my psoas was very tight it many of the other poses, but I was able to get up and my hips didn't spasm at all. Still hard -- whenever I try to roll my shoulders into place my feet slide down the wall! It is very surprising to find that it is easier since it isn't a pose I practice a lot.

Today had come to a more positive end than it began. I woke up at 6:25 but drifted back to sleep until 7 when I awoke groggy. My back and hips ached a lot from my class and riding home, I was pretty chilled even if I did immediately get into fleece sweats. I could feel that my sinuses were swollen as well. I pulled myself out of bed and into a hot shower. If I didn't need to be at the office to help install some software and configure it for the assistants, I'd have worked from home.
It was crazy today. I got to my desk a couple of minutes ahead of the team meeting starting. I then sat with KF to continue training on publishing reports and working both our help ticket and change requests processes. Oh do large organizations live for process. I understand why we do it and genuinely know the benefit, but sometimes it stands out as to how complicated some things are. Especially trying to teach it to a new person.
The meeting identified a need for some documentation so I was going back and forth between my desk and the desk of an assistant on vacation, taking screen captures for documentation at her desk. Questions coming in multiple directions and I was still trying to finish putting all the pieces into place for the pear libraries. Then, in a true Shiva-Destroyer moment of unix operating systems, I managed to wipe out the pear installation I'd worked so hard to get running.
A few hours and a massive tension headache later I got things running, the libraries installed, and finally, for the first time since embarking upon this in May, I was able to see some of my very basic code running on my dev/test environment. Granted, now that I know how to load my own packages onto the system things will go much more easily.
It was a rush to get home made difficult by a pile-up on the Broadway Bridge involving 4 cars. Got home and had to hurry about to get into yoga clothes and grab clothes for tomorrow before CK showed up. I was feeling cranky and tired out, my head throbbing despite taking some ibuprofen. Neither of us really wanted to go to class and had to talk ourselves into it.
I was glad we went. By the time class was over my headache was gone and I'd had the fun of practicing half handstand and feeling more confident about it. Afterwards we were unable to resist the the lure of a) not dealing with the kitchen and b) being hungry now so we went over to Dalo's for a veggie platter. The chair made my sit-bones ache so I sat on my hoodie and had a pillow behind me -- so it made it tolerable. That dinner was quick, hot and as tasty as always helped me feel more comfortable as I warmed up eating it.
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19Aug/080

Rain and Progess

I woke up feeling so tired today, still not rested from the weekend. This evening I still feel fatigued, although the yoga class tonight was fun. Due to questions from the students we ended up really looking at utthita trikonasana and ardha chandrasana. I don't often spend a lot of time on just two poses, but afterward everyone said they understood the poses better.

I also made some progress on my configuration of php5 at work! I've been fighting to get this right since may, finally figuring out how to do some of the Red Hat package installation myself and just loading a missing piece I needed. I need to add a pear package and I should actually be somewhat working again.

AM is lying next to me on the new, big sofa downstairs. We had leftover soup after I rode home from yoga. Walked over to CK's once class was done since my bike was still there. AM offered to come get me and the bicycle, but I really had wanted to try riding in the rain.

CK came downtown this afternoon and we went to Habibi again. We talked about her day yesterday, the frustration at the unprofessional behavior and how it is personal. Other than that tension and general career stress it felt for a little while like other tension was a little less. We sat in O'Bryant Square spending a little more time before I had to head in to join a meeting.

I'm still recognizing that Saturday was scary, neither of us felt supported by the other when we really needed it. Neither of us was capable of offering support beyond what was holding us up. We've never had something like that happen before and it felt very overwhelming.

I'm glad I went over there Sunday and we were able to just lay together and have it feel safe. Just the intimacy of holding each other and feeling safe is so important. I know I can only practice with the times I wake up in a panic there, anticipating punishment, and have to force myself to look around the room, listen to her breathing, and return to the present, knowing I'm safe there.

19Aug/080

Rain Ride

After teaching yoga class this evening I walked over to CK's since my bike was still there. AM offered to come get me and the bicycle, but I really had wanted to try riding in the rain. I had the new pants and jacket I bought and it wasn't pouring, just an average Portland rain. I knew the route and had my lights, so I set out.

I felt dry but chilled, I need a better shirt underneath the jacket (had a yoga top on, sleeveless). I was happy to find that my fenders worked perfectly! The hills are actually getting a little easier, it only took me 20 minutes to bike home from CK's. 5 minutes less than usual and I found that I was not gearing down quite as much on the hill. When I got to the house I stood on the porch and stamped my feet, water just pouring off of me!

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18Aug/080

Saint Monday

I went over to CK's last night around 8pm, riding over in the twilight. The air was cooling rapidly and I stopped to pull on something with sleeves. We managed to have a quiet, close night which felt so necessary after Saturday. I had planned to write about my thoughts, but we were lying together in bed and I didn't want to disturb that closeness.

It was a sweet, intimate moment before sleeping. We lay close, foreheads touching at times, while I stroked her hair, neck and face. Occasionally she'd reach out to rest her hand on my leg or side or press a kiss to some part of me, forehead, shoulder, lips. She said this morning that it had felt calming and safe, likely why she slipped into sleep so quickly.

We both had come to see Saturday as a cascade of my being overwhelmed, triggered by my grief. The grief and shame left me beyond the ability to observe what was happening around me. How unsettling this might be for CK, especially when she wasn't feeling up to the effort of being around a gathering and was trying to force herself to get through it. When I felt myself starting to panic, lying there next to her falling asleep I sat up and tried to focus on the facts. It was hard to keep a hold of them and not slide into unreasonable fear at my needing her and feeling like I was unsupported.

I finally was able to settle into doing metta practice, just focusing on the two of us and my breath. That we be free of our anxiety and fear, free of shame, free of anger, free of suffering, and that we be happy. I did this in between the times I would call the contingency planning hot line every 30 minutes for updates on the negotiations, dozing a little here and there.

Finally at 1:08AM the hot line reported that an agreement had been reached. CK woke up briefly as I was really trying to settle to sleep finally. I told her there news, unset my early alarm, and lay down. She stroked my neck and shoulders a little, dropping a kiss between them, and I again felt the intimacy of the moment, the comfort.

She awoke anxious. I awoke disoriented and exhausted through and through. The weather quickly turned into a loud thunderstorm. The claps rattling the whole flat. Atari fled and hid at first under the tub and when CK wanted to shower he hid under the sofa. When the rain came, hard, the wind blew it into the open windows which she rushed to close up.

As per normal on Mondays I did not get done what I wanted to be working on -- the error Apache gives when trying to load the PHP5 module. I ended up mostly working on reports and account issues in the new change control tool. I'd helped do a requirements meeting for some reports and having put together the notes from the meeting I wanted to work on the reports and views while it was all still fresh in my head.

Around 4:25 CK messaged me that she'd been told she was no longer going to be involved with a project. It was done in an unprofessional, indirect way, which made it even worse. Yes, I'm biased, but even if I were not I'd still find that it was not handled in a mature way. I feel such a protective emotion rise up in me when she's hurt or mistreated. There is a part of me that finds it a little silly since part of the reason I respect and love CK is her ability to take care of herself, she certainly doesn't need my protection. Regardless of that I would protect her from hurt if I were able to.

I had felt that while lying there in the dark keeping my anxiety at bay with metta practice. I have been so hurt in my past that I just want to be able to tell the world to go the hell away, pull up a big blanket to hide under. It is absolutely absurd and it is our interaction with the world that enriches us. But in feeling the hurt, all of it, there is part of me that just wants to say, "Enough!"

AM made soup, exactly the kind of meal I love when I'm tired. I sent CK a message that she was welcome to come have some, and hugs, if she wanted to. I know that both she and I withdraw when we hurt, that asking for comfort is terribly difficult if not impossible. When I spoke with her I was happy to hear that having that option was helpful to her.

16Aug/080

Hard Tension, Inconvenient Love

I am feeling compressed, compacted down. I ache physically all over and feel emotionally depleted. I am so tired of the tidal waves of grief and sorrow that is left over when I manage to talk myself out of the places of shame, fear, and anger. All that is left is absolute sorrow and I feel utterly flayed by it.

On the drive out to the monastery CK tried to get me to talk a little about what I'd been really struggling with these past several days and I stammered my way through some if it. The ugly shame pushed onto me at such a young age and seething below the surface, popping up to paralyze me in traumatic incidents. The fear the accompanies it all, that I'll be punished and/or humiliated.

We never made it inside once we arrived. Instead sneaking around the building into the gardens we went. Tension dodged our every step, biting at our heels whenever we would stop. I sat, sobbing, in the leaves by what I think of as my Jizo statue, the one that holds my messages to myself and is near to the plaques for Spalding and Buzz. The past several weeks and the stumbling on intimacy I was feeling, combined with the choking shame I had talked about in the car, the immense grief, and the consuming fear all flooded through me.

We tried to come around the kitchen side and go, but there were people there with lanterns. Nearly ran into others by the zendo. Finally we got to the gym side and I felt stricken when JH called out my name from where she stood by the greenhouse doors. I was anxious at her offering concern, compassion at seeing my face covered in tears. I feel guilty somehow for sneaking around a place so special to me, leaving the cookies I brought on the bench to be found.

The drive home was filled with tension so loud it seemed like a thing you could touch, burn your skin against. With it, for me was horrible, hopeless awful sorrow -- rushes of guilt, shame, fear streaking through it. It lessened when we talked briefly, the horrible roaring wind noise in my head let off a little, but I still felt taut with misery. I tried to just breath and feel my way towards something more real.

Once we got to the house she came in and we laid down in the relative cool of the bedroom. We picked our way through the terrible weight of the emotions that had be bearing down upon us the whole day. Finding the way back to one another through the mental noise and breathing together. Eventually, when we both felt reconnected to the present, to love, CK headed home.

And here I sit in the basement. Checking the hot line by phone and URL for news of the negotiation. I dislike these nights, the summers where August is up in the air until after an agreement is settled. More than anything, that uncertainty every two years out of three is the thing that most motivates me to want to do something else with me life.

CK is at her flat, taking care of Atari in the high heat of today. I sent her a message a little while ago that I'm still waiting. AM has gone up to bed. The room is filled with the sounds of my fingers on the keyboard and the fans stirring the air. Occasionally Bodhi moves in his sleep.

I feel still but in a tight way, not spacious. It is amazingly difficult and the timing is so bad. I found myself thinking tonight that I hadn't wanted to meet anyone at the time I was introduced to CK. I had just had an awful experience at having been triggered at work which spanned over two days and got so bad as to include an auditory flashback. Up until last October I'd felt safe at work, at least safe from my past triggering me emotionally. When I met her I was feeling so destabilized and unsure of myself. Regardless of any inconvenient timing I love her, it is just so undeniably true that I can only work from the point of that truth.

I would rather be sorting through all of this shit in my past alone, preferably in a cave somewhere so it wouldn't affect anyone around me. I wish I could either get good at this grieving stuff or just get over it. I feel like it pulls me away from the present and I resent this much additional pain in my life, having to incorporate it into the whole person I am. Sometimes, like tonight, there is no amount of reminding myself that I'm experiencing it in the present because in the past there was no safe way to express it leaves me feeling OK about it in any way.

15Aug/080

Hot

Portland rarely gets above 100, but today was one of those days. It would have been a good day to work in the office in the AC but after yesterday I felt so depleted I wanted to work from home. By noon I was down in the basement trying to keep cool.

I ended the afternoon feeling cranky and irritated. My headache from last night had moved along my right sinuses and now hurt into my teeth. I had cramps and just generally didn't feel very well at all. I was stuck on a problem at work and hadn't made nearly the progress I wanted to. In making what progress I had, in addition to being on the phone with my boss unexpectedly, I made myself late for an early movie plan with CK.
I met her at the house, AM driving me over since it was really too hot for me to be bicycling especially since I didn't feel very well already. When I got into the flat I pet Atari and then felt the need to lay down on the bed. I sprawled onto the bed, turning the sore side of my face into the darkness of a pillow. CK arrived soon afterward. We had a tense moment over my not recognizing, respecting the time and how that is very important to her.

I felt like I had tried as hard as I could and still wasn't good enough. Ultimately I just felt overwhelmed, emotionally chafed raw, and my head throbbed into my right molars & jaw. I finally said I was just going to lay down while she worked some more. At that point I took some ibuprofen to help with my headache and gave in to the desire to just lay down. I tried to explain it, that I just felt I needed to rest a little bit to do better, but I know it wasn't very skillful.

She came over to the bed and we arranged things to be able to see her computer. We watched several presentations at TED, all of them excellent. Then she motivated us to go over to Lloyd and we watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It was enjoyable to sit in the cool cinema with her, holding hands and eating far too much salty popcorn. I liked the music in the movie, the lush gardens and art & architecture that served as the backdrop. After the movie we picked up another fan and several bottles of wine; super-chilling a dry Riesling to have at home.
I need to learn how to ask her when time is important so I'm more mindful of moving things along. I just feel so depleted in so many ways that I'm operating at a much lower level of awareness that I usually do. I think this is why I ran into the car door last night while getting my phone and have managed to hit myself in the face a couple of times with things I'm carrying. The grief and anger create so much noise in the signal.
I felt angry today. The buzz of irritation. The heat seemed to intensify it too, creating additional static. It doesn't actually feel more energetic than the grief. In some ways it feels less so, the apathy the anger induces. To just throw up my hands in disgust with the world and just go read a silly novel, to sulk, to sleep. The grief feels more energetic, more dynamic perhaps because it touches into the fear and shame.
Somehow it feels easier to be angry than present with the sadness. Perhaps it is because the anger has elements of withdrawal. It is easy to move away from the enormity of the grief, even if it is to move into sleep. Anger pulls me towards the desire to distract myself.
14Aug/080

Long, hot zazen

Long, hard, hot day. Went into the office from CK's and had a busy day right up until I left at 1PM to ride home in the 90 degree weather. I went slow, took drinks of water and just kept going. My face was bright red by the time I made it home. Took a call for planning activities and then went to my appointment with my therapist.

She worked on trying to help me see that I have been making progress. That I was able to talk about the shame that comes up around intimacy. She noted that a year ago I wouldn't have been able to talk at all, my body physically was shutting me down with stuttering and terrible muscle spasms on top of nausea. The shame just feels so sticky and hard to move away from.

We also started into more stuff about my Mom, the tremendously inappropriate things she would do sometimes. While going through things this week I found the card from an anonymous bouquet she had sent to school. From her perspective she was providing me a wonderful, mysterious, romantic surprise but I recall at the time being very embarrassed and uncomfortable about it. More so when I finally figured out that my Mom had done it. She never did get why I would feel anything other than delight.

It has really been starting to hit me how not only did she try to live out the things she wanted to do as a kid through me, regardless of my desire to do the same things or not, but she tried to live out what she wanted from a romantic life using me. Pushing me towards relationships, wanting to talk about boys and that I should wear things to show off my body. All very uncomfortable for me. She played along with the "family joke" that I never seemed to develop a bust line and when I complained she was the first one to note that I was being uptight and should just learn to take some teasing.

It made for a very painful zazen. I was also acutely aware of CK sitting next to me, knowing she could tell I was hurting. And we sat. Somehow, despite a desire to run away into the night. Then I chanted and did bells, somehow.

Am going to work from home tomorrow despite the weather forecast of 100+ temperature tomorrow. Just feel a bit too exposed, worn from today to go in. Besides, if I stay home I can bake in the morning and make green tea cupcakes to take out to the Jizo-bon on Saturday.

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13Aug/080

Mere Moments

My co-workers pleasantly surprised me today. I'd been asked for input on a team appreciation lunch that some of them were working on. I said the vegan items sounded tasty, but very low in protein. When I eat that way at team events I'm often famished by the end of the day, which is bad since a few nights a week I'm going to a yoga class pretty soon after leaving work. Lunch was set up and I found that the organizers had changed the salads to include a three bean type salad as well as a chick pea & couscous salad! Lots of healthy protein and I felt really touched that they made that effort for me.

I finally made something that felt like progress on getting some software installed on the test/dev web server. Although the systems group was loading what I asked for, they would fail to load any of the related dependencies. Once this was done, I was able to configure and make the software install. It was a nice note to end the day on although it has gone so poorly for so long that I'm a little afraid I'll find something else wrong tomorrow!
I met CK over at Prananda for class this evening, biking over from the house and making it there before her. It was a small, quiet class today with one new person joining us. I'd missed classes with JW and it was nice having a fairly easy class in the cool, cinder block building. I was rewarded by getting feedback that the alignment of my shoulders and hips has been improving tremendously!
When I felt a little rush of relief at CK kissing me I realized the tension I'd been hanging onto since she went home on Sunday. After weeks of tension I've been feeling I'm enjoying spending the evening with her having dinner and some nice wine. We've talked about systems work, I've even been able to provide a couple of ideas, which feels great. There is just a feeling of finding our way back to the comfort with one another we had established.
When I feel like I lose my way, especially for weeks at a time, it begins to feel like that the comfort in our relationship was illusory.My PTSD triggers can feel so overwhelming, blinding that seeing that we're still here and together seems nearly impossible. We both have a protective tendency to withdraw in our own ways and are having to learn how to trust that it is OK to leave some openness.
And I guess for me it is time to add working on that shame into my practice. I've been coasting on the fact that my therapist and Zen teacher have said I'm good working on the grief, the feelings of injustice. I've known this is big, in the back of my mind I've known for years.
At times I almost find it incredulous that mere moments in my childhood have caused such deep, lasting pain. I think of myself as resourceful and resilient, but these moments have to potential to utterly overwhelm me as an adult. The echos of emotion around them stagger me now and I'd like to think that I'm bigger than them. But they are momentous. It only goes to prove how important each and every moment is because even minutes of trauma can reach forward across years.
12Aug/080

Injustice feels like tar

I haven't felt as much of the anger-buzz today. Tonight the discussion group at the Dharma center was on anger, the many types of it. As much as it sounded like a good evening to go since I've had this connection around it, recognizing the different ways it shows up, what I have mostly felt today is tired. It hasn't seemed to matter how much I might sleep, I'm still tired.

Tried to have my yoga class do a challenging pose tonight to end class, half handstand, but discovered that my hips and psoas were so tight I couldn't do the pose well. I think I'm feeling the lift-ups I was doing last night on the inversion table. I hadn't felt the affects of the exertion in the body until I was doing yoga this evening.

It was a good lesson regardless. the pose was difficult for everyone, as I knew it would be. Each person in the classroom discovered a different challenge to the pose. We each tried, came down, rested. I'm not sure if it helped that I had a difficult time, maybe it did. Maybe sometimes it is good to see the teacher struggle too.

I am still working out how to write about my hopes for a new home for my Zen community. I am trying to write about my views for having a space that becomes even more inclusive of people. Our sangha growing not only because of a physical space to contain us, but because we open further to see how the Dharma is lived through other ways.

I feel uncomfortable about the idea of writing about why this is so important to me. I feel the discomfort of opening up to so many people in my community about being queer and being in a state of transition from one relationship to a new one. Of course it is bigger than just that, it includes how our community grows to support several Burmese refugees regardless of of a lack of commonality over tradition, language, or religion (they are Christian). The excitement over it has included talk of Montessori classes for children, space for other groups to meet, maybe yoga classes. I just haven't felt my way with writing about it, beyond a few sentences.

There is a sticky, psychic sensation I have. When I consider the past I mostly find myself feeling the injustice of it which gives rise to the irritation buzzing in my mental space. I try to look at it and the emotions are thick, like tar -- hot, sticky, the stuff that dragged dinosaurs to their death. It seems impossible to do much with them. I don't know if there is anything that can be done with them, everything I think was unfair really was. I'm not exaggerating, my childhood was not just or right. Nothing actually changes that or fixes it. Maybe that's why it seems so tar-like. It isn't something that can be wiped away.

It is mixed in there in the terrible, wonderful rush of emotion that seems to come up at times during intimacy. I tried to put words to it -- how in the midst of pleasure I am just overwhelmed with all the grief, the injustice, the anger, and fear. At the same time I was equally feel an absolute outpouring of joy, truth, connection, and love. I feel blessed and amazed that she sees the burst of sobbing that results as just an indicator of the depth of the release.

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