Tern to the present

This is the third major purge of my possessions in 7 years. 

The first time, I decided that anything that I was keeping for sentimental value had to trigger only good feelings; I’d keep nothing that made me unhappy.

The second time, I moved onto the boat, so everything had to have at least two uses.

Now, I’m eliminating everything that isn’t easy to handle, as well as being useful and pleasing.

That meme is extending into the realm of perception. Images and events that used to trigger emotional cascades, because of memories and associations, are finally losing their sickening zap. Associations fall away, and images and events stand out  in simple splendor as just what they are: unlayered, transient, colorful, done.

For instance, I used to hate terns, because their cry sounds exactly like a drowning cat. I blame their awful caw for my not being aware that my cat was in jeopardy when he died. For a couple years now, I’ve gotten snarly at tern-time, when they come here to breed. But, with this shift in my perspective, a tern is just a tern. My excellent companion was still an excellent companion — and, obviously, a kindred spirit.

A tern is not about the past or the future. It’s here now. It’s just that, at this moment, one is floating past with its strange sharp wings twinkling; then it hovers and wiggles for a moment; twists, plunges, spears the water; bobs up again, looking smug, with a little fish in its mouth; takes off and disappears.

Usually, there is no fish. But right now, there goes a pleased tern, enjoying the moment.

It’s just a tern, and it’s doing tern things in a ternish kind of way. Tomorrow it will do tern stuff in a slightly different, but still ternish way. Doesn’t matter. It’s just a tern — nothing more nor less.

There is no furry friend dying alone.

There is just a bird.

Gorgeous photo: Geert Wilders at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2426290/posts

And I want credit for resisting the obvious urge to make a crack about taking a tern for the worse.



I stumbled across a quote that seemed shiningly appropriate:

“To live here and now, you must train yourself: in the seen there will be just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the sensed just the sensed, in the thought just the thought. That is the end of  sorrow.” – Gautama Buddha

I don’t know about the end of sorrow, but it’s true that it is far easier to manage my moods, notice my body’s signals, and do what I need to do, when I keep things in this charmingly simple, deceptively rigorous perspective.

It’s rigorous because it goes against all my socialization about the importance of hair-trigger reactions and emotional responses: Am I an ice-queen? Don’t I care about things? Aren’t I human? What’s wrong with me?

I’ve gotten all of those remarks in my time, when I strove for calm in former years — especially from mere acquaintances and random strangers, which always shocked me. How I, and those around me, survived my 13th-23rd years is unimaginable at this distance of time and self-certainty, but falling into the reactivity trap was one good way not to get verbally assaulted.

One advantage of being plumply middle-aged is that, for one thing, people watch you less; for another, a degree of equanimity seems to be less … annoying.

Exqueeze me?!?

I’ve had it up to here with emotional reactions. CRPS is a roller coaster par excellence, for emotional reactions. I’m quite done, thank you, and I’d like to get off now.

Actually, I think I just did.

And now, a tern is just a tern. For better … or worse.

Share this article:

6 Replies to “Tern to the present”

  1. Love this! Definitely agree on the quest for emotional balance being crucial to RSD control, but boy, it ain’t always easy… I have my moments of triumph, but usually alone or with animal friends only, and almost always outside. Having a typical Cancerian (western astrology) temperament, I am a walking bath of reminiscence and connection with the past… all human and earth history, even geological, but especially mine own (which is chequered and layered and crossed over with hard times and hard memories to the complex Harris tweed point) and even though I now know that a little forgetfulness might be my friend I am blessed (or cursed) with a beyond photographic long term memory easily triggered by sensory input (and truth be told a little addicted to it, and to the process of story telling if mainly internal, I guess)… soooooo, it’s a battle not only against human nature but my own peculiar twisted wiring. Such a challenge. I guess it’s also partly why I am addicted to the story telling (verbal, written, theatrical or technological) of others, especially stuff that is steeped in past (imaginary, fantasy, historical or any combination thereof) or reaching out to future (SciFi, even fairly cheesy stuff), or the personal and well crafted (like yours!); it helps shut my own persistent story teller up. I have to acknowledge that my desire for Serenity (couldn’t help the capitalization in honour of my beloved Firefly) is so at odds with that sentimental weaver in my brain, the one who loves to dip into all those old threads to link this experience with this image, this sound, this scent, this new or old data and I am so conflicted in it I don’t know if this is a battle I can win without losing myself…. In the meantime, I choose to limit my interaction with major triggers of outside stress: mainstream media (especially “the news”… I let my consciousness of current events, especially stressful ones be filtered through my news hungry young adult kids and only take the tidbits they toss my way in the course of our daily conversation…. but also advertising, magazines steeped in the more grotesque elements of human and commercial expression, and the lower forms of “entertainment” out there, “reality” shows, death pornography (CSI and the like) excess audio visual extravaganzas of the violence (no need to elaborate there, I guess) or negative “sex” (non-consensual, heartless, pointless fashionable heaving backs that do not contribute to story line or otherwise yucky exhibits of pseudo sexuality ), difficult people (nasty mother-in-laws and such… and yes, much as I hate to contribute to an unfortunate stereotype, they sure do exist), areas of high density humans (cities), well, let’s be honest, much of the human race ( though that particular current avoidance is in many ways situational I have always had a little crusty hermit at my core), and focus on the day to day small beauties and challenges of my life. A baby goatling suckling my finger, loving greedy dogs surrounding me when they see I have a cracker in my pocket, roses and rhodos and wild cherry blossoming or making buds for future glory, peas pushing up out of brown soil, scolding squirrels and exultant sparrows, ripples in the stream and the sound of waves and seagulls in the distance, the love and comfort and daily-ness of my life with my family (people fate has blessed me with as I could have chosen no better companions for my isolated life)… I let all these things take precedence as much as I can, (which calms the central nervous system and helps keep the beast of RSD at bay) and only let my compulsive story-telling connection weaver have centre stage in my brain for part of the time… For now it’s the best I can do.

    1. Lili, I noticed from the get-go that you have a wonderful “voice” in your writing. I think you’ve just said why 🙂

      Many of us are prone to nattering narrative, I think. In any case, it seems to be a common problem among professional writers; it’s useful in some moderation, but it tends to be tiring to the creative muscles in excess, and it interferes with authorial control when it’s intrusive. In excess, of course, it becomes schizophrenia, which runs in my family and which CRPS might be implicit in triggering; data are still accreting around some interesting findings among the returning veterans.

      Because of this disease and my family link, I took controlling that nattering narrative perfectly seriously, early on. I’m very glad I did, because it’s a lot more peaceful in here!

      Meditation helps, but it’s not enough by itself — and it’s practically impossible when the nattering is really on a roll. Because of our verbal bent and intelligence, those of us who have this characteristic also have a need to find a way to safely validate and release the narrative without letting it take over. You’ve obviously cottoned onto that.

      I’ve found two tools to be massively useful, and if you have dictation software, it’s a practical solution: mental floss and journaling. More on those in a sec. These strategies also help train your software, and also help discipline your narrative mind since you have to frame the whole phrase before speaking it. It really helps calm things down in there.

      Mental floss helps calm the chatter. It’s the single best tool I’ve ever found for releasing it safely and letting my brain get a damn rest. Journaling provides a great sandbox for narrative and gives you a great place to throw your mental compost. I suspect you already journal quite a bit, from your clear and confident voice, not to mention your thrillingly apt powers of description.

      Together, these tools are fantastic for developing an internal agreement with your subconscious and preconscious mind that lets you move more gently and peacefully through mental and emotional life, with your inner weaver and your basic self better able to dance gracefully and appropriately together. I wrote about all that in more depth here: http://www.problemchilde.com/writing/writinglikeyou-pcp.htm

      Personally, I can’t wait to see what you produce when you’ve developed authorial control to match your insight, observation and wit! It’s an eternal lesson that we keep learning anew (as any regular reader of any blog, including this one, is well aware) but it really does continually get better over time.

  2. Hey, Isabel! Thanks for all your thought provoking comments to my comments! I really enjoyed you article on writing, as did my daughter who is a wonderful writer. I love the mental floss concept, that’s my type of thinking. Also we were both intrigued with your ideas on journalling… we are both failed journallers. Naomi tried for years in her teens but would re-read with harsh judgement and destroy. She says she also imposed strict rules on herself re “documenting the day” etc. Where as I was extremely sporadic, too secretive to like the concept of written disclosure and inclined to doodle.(We are a great pair…very similar minds in some ways, but she is very “left brain” and sometimes rigid and I am excessively “right brain” and have difficulty with following patterns, recipes, arbitrary rules, etc…) Any how, it was interesting, and both of us were rather inspired to give it another go. I went one step further to your ideas and suggested that we decide ahead of hand that when the journals were filled we would go through and rescue any rough gems(should there be any) from the compost and then in the tradition of some of the real jerks through out hisotry..burn those books! Figured that might entice a little more freedom of expression for both of us… wonderful article! Oh, yes, 3 out of 4 at our house are recreational dictionary readers too! I’m also presuming you are a another appreciator of “Good Omens”, one of our most re-read and best beloved books.

  3. That’s a novel approach to conquering your journaling barriers. How wonderfully freeing! I’d be delighted to know how it goes 🙂

    When I kept my journals in longhand, I’d go through them every 5 years or so and skim them:
    a. for patterns — what recurring issues did I keep knocking my head against?
    b. for arc — am I really any better/smarter/wiser, or do I need to start paying attention here?
    c. for, as you say, rough gems — which I’d transfer into soft copy in the “snippets” folder on my computer, a good place to look into when I’m stumped or bored.

    Then I’d recycle them. But burning sounds like a lot more fun!

    For the curious, here’s the writing article Lili refers to:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *