Anthem for the Day – Maybe the Year…

I’ve listened to this often on my favorite Pandora station, and I just found it on YouTube – seriously good music. Enjoy.

Catching up and cleaning up

Time to clean up

Well, my tax refund came in, so now I can redeem myself in the eyes of countless people I owe money to. They’re not likely to forget how LATE I’ve been on my payments this past year, but it’s my understanding that I’m not entirely alone in this situation.

At least I still have my house, right?

Well, sort of. I mean, I have it, I’m current with my mortgage payments, and for the most part, it’s in pretty good shape (the bathrooms that need to be remodeled notwithstanding). It’s no small feat, for me to keep this house, after the drastic changes and problems I’ve been through. Everything could easily have gone away for good. I got lucky, however, and I got help when I was just about to tip over the edge. The wreckage was piling up around me, and it’s a wonder it didn’t all just go away. I got luckier than a lot of people, and I can never lose sight of that.

The thing is, I had my accident a little less than two years after moving in. Just when I was getting settled in and sorting out things like small repairs, landscaping issues, and general organization, I fell and things started to fall apart.

They also started to pile up around me. I’ve got piles of papers and things I thought I wanted to keep stashed in piles around the house. Not the kinds of piles that alarm the neighbors and trigger an intervention by your friends and family, but collections of stuff that I have no real use for. Or stuff that I should have gone through, separated out, and thrown away, long ago.

Yeah, I still have my house. But that’s not exactly the point, is it? The point is that I’m capable of doing more than just holing up in a place and paying the mortgage regularly. Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t been easy keeping the bank happy, but after six years of working my way back, it’s time I got my act in gear and started cleaning up around myself. Clearing out the stuff I don’t need or want.

Starting with my pile of bills. Things have been so tight, lately, that I couldn’t even manage to follow up on the bills, because I just couldn’t face telling each and every person I talked to that I didn’t have the money, and I wasn’t sure when I was going to have the money. Now, I can sort everything out, write down how much I owe each person, and dip into this tax return to make good on my debts.

And then there’s my study/office… an extra bedroom with a great view out the back of the house… that’s full of all kinds of stuff I may or may not want to keep. My study last got cleaned in 2007, when I was having the house painted and I was taking time off to care for a sick relation. I went through my study and cleared out everything that I didn’t want, and I made it my own again.

But in 2007, I was in some serious flux. I was still in the midst of some of the roughest years after my last TBI, and things were falling apart around me. So, I had my office organized around escape from the world — lost of art supplies, fiction books and paper about subjects that fascinated me — but which I did not understand, and didn’t realize I didn’t understand.

Crazy.

And amazing, how much my life has changed, in the past three years or so. I’ve essentially gone from being locked away in a world of my own making and imagining, to being fully out in the outside world, participating with life on life’s terms… a whole lot more integrated into regular society, than I ever was before. Thinking back, I was seriously reality-impaired, and it showed. The 30+ years I spent inventing my own version of what life was all about — by never fully engaging with real-live people who could steer me right, and keeping my head buried in books that I was either reading or writing — did not help when it came to interacting with the outside world.

I would just say and do the most off-the-wall things… and never realize just how off base I was.

But what did I know? I was off in my own private Idaho, creating my own world and my own version of reality. Whenever I ventured out, I was met by people who would ridicule or dismiss me. What did I care about participating in their world? Indeed.

So, I built up this persona and this “reality” that was structured around and informed by my own partial imaginings of how life really was and how people really were. In some cases, I could be incredibly insightful, in others I could be so far off-base, people had no idea if I was in my right mind… An interesting mix, needless to say. And I filled my life — and my office — with all the stuff that reflected and supported that persona of mine.

Now I find myself at an interesting place, where the old stuff — while it served me at the time — is no longer entirely useful to me. In fact, in many ways, it just holds me back. But at the same time, there’s part of me that wants to hang onto it, like Linus’es security blanket from Charlie Brown. It’s like all the books and items around me from years gone by offer me a way to escape, a destination to run to, if things on the outside get to be too much. So, in that sense, I do want to hang onto the old things. Just in case.

This is all probably coming up, because I watched the move “Marwencol” the other night – the documentary about the guy who got beaten within an inch of his life, who went on to create his own little world — literally — out of 1/6 size action figures in a WWII setting. Nazis and spies and witches, oh my. I had intended to watch it, but I forgot to write it down, and I spaced on the time and date, so I only caught the last half of it.  But that last half was absolutely fascinating.

It was also a little sobering, because in a way, Mark’s story is similar to my own, though his experience was more abrupt and extreme. A band of hooligans beat him within an inch of his life, and after that, he had no memory of the attack, he had hand-eye coordination issues. To deal with it all, he turned to a world of his own that would give him safety and a way to play out his own experiences and pain, in the privacy of an environment that he could control, that he made happen.

I have never been beaten within an inch of my life (and I hope never to be), and the injuries I’ve sustained have never put me in a coma. But the cumulative damage from the series of concussions/mTBIs I’ve experienced gave me plenty of reasons to pull back and withdraw from the world.

In many ways, this parallel universe of my own seeking and making has shielded me from the attacks of the outside, as well as helped me recover after the issues I’ve had. The books and items that surround me and catch my attention and imagination give me a place and a way to unwind and move at my own pace, instead of having to battle my way through. And battle is what I had to do, before I had help. I was on my own – totally on my own. Nobody understood what I was experiencing, or why. They cut me no slack, and they gave me no help. All they did was punish me and try to force “consequences” on me. What an ever-loving waste of time. Geez.

So, I withdrew. And it helped.

But withdrawing never helped me understand what was going on, or develop ways of dealing with what I had to face. It was just withdrawing. And like an addiction meant to ease the pain, not prevent it, my withdrawal made things worse, at the same time that it made things better.

Well, speaking of the outside world, I’ve got to run some errands before I run out of time.

I’ve got plenty to think about, and plenty to do. I really do need to catch up. I really do need to clean up. I just have to figure out how… and then do it.

More space needed

Onward... Upward... Outward...

I’m working from home today, and I’ve noticed something interesting – I need more space.

The office I have at home, as nice as it is, is feeling small.

The places around the house where I usually work are also feeling small.

Even the areas that I have marked out as mine (which is a rare and deeply appreciated luxury) feel cramped.

I need more space.

It’s not that I’m greedy – if anything, I like to do with less. I have always felt that the less I need, the stronger and more secure I am. But with the days getting longer and the weather getting nicer, I’m feeling this strong push to move out, to get out, to expand and extend and try new things.

Move into new and different spaces.

Do something a little different.

And spread out a whole lot more than I have ever allowed myself to do.

See, here’s the thing…

Ever since I realized that the pattern I have of not being able to stick it out with jobs was NOT about me being deficient or slacking… ever since I “got it” that the things driving my interests and intentions have been intricately connected with how my brain works, and how my body works, too… ever since I realized that I don’t HAVE to repeat all my old patterns of never being able to stay at one job for longer than a year or two, and that I don’t have to get all worked up and tweaked and bent out of shape over work-related things, as well as people-related things… Well, something has changed.

Something has loosened up.

Something has expanded.

And I don’t want to spend all my time cooped up inside a building, in an office, in one place and one place only, day in and day out. I need to move. I need to expand. And I need to do this with the work I am doing and the life I am living — not ditch the situation I’m in now, and move on to what’s next.

It’s ironic, really — the stronger my comfort level with where I am, the more I want to really dive in and expand and evolve what I’ve got. I want to add more dimensions to my work. I want to develop a deeper understanding of the people I work with and a strong connection with my work itself. I have so much going on, day in and day out. What I need most, is not so much a break from the activity, as a deeper understanding and appreciation of what it is I’m doing — and why.

I can’t see going through life with the same tightness and uptightness I’ve been caught up in, for so long. As long as I can remember, I’ve been uptight. Having all sorts of sensory issues, where my body feels like it’s alternately being attacked by the outside world, and then attacking me, hasn’t helped. Nor has the anxiety and agitation and constant restlessness and fatigue and confusion that comes with TBI and all the stuff that follows on it.

But even though I still have my issues (boy, did I ever sleep wrong last night – my neck is KILLING me! – and I’m bone-tired from not getting enough sleep), they don’t throw me like they used to. I am doing much better about just realizing that they’re there, letting them be, and just managing them. Taking a nap. Doing some relaxation. Reminding myself that it’s just my “stuff” acting up again.

And not letting it get to me.

It’s actually pretty amazing, if I think about it. After a lifetime of hassle and worry and tension and stress over this stuff, suddenly, it’s not this horrific drama anymore. After being literally locked away in habits and behaviors that I never questioned, just went with, I suddenly have choices about how to live my life, how to respond to it, how to keep myself going, in the face of even the most problematic issues. Things like trying to function on 4 hours of sleep, trying to navigate messed-up finances, trying to patch back together relationships that have frayed and strained to the breaking point, and functioning in a high-stress, fast-paced work environment… I can handle them. I really can.

Which opens up a whole lot of possibilities for me. Possibilities to just live my life, instead of having to struggle through. Possibilities of being able to actually enjoy my life, instead of laboring from one problem to the next. Possibilities of seeing what all I can get out of situations, and what all I can put into them, instead of just enduring till the bitter end.

And with this new expansiveness, I really feel the need for more space… to get out of my office and out in the day… to stop following the exact same route to work each day, and experiment with other routes on my way home… to step outside my daily rituals and routines and improvise a little. Riff a little. Kick back and innovate a little.

It’s all good, and it’s all happening.

I’m getting more space.

At last.

Getting There

The road most traveled

Of all the challenges that burn me, time and again, getting started on what I’m supposed to do, is by far the most persistent, and the most problematic. In fact, even as I type this, I’m not starting what I’m supposed to be doing tonight.

Rebellion. Resistance.

I want my time to myself. I want my life back. I don’t want to have to devote my time and energy to other people’s business. I want to have my own thing going.

Resistance. Rebellion.

I don’t want to have to do laundry. I don’t want to have to work late. I don’t want to have to register my car before the end of the month. I don’t want to have to watch what I eat.

I want to sit around and eat pie and drink coffee and watch Seven Samurai over and over and over, till I know all the words by heart – in Japanese.

I don’t waaaaaanna have to answer to anyone else, anytime, anywhere, any-how. Boo f*ckin’ hoo.

Thing is, people pay me to part with my time and my autonomy. They pay me to do things for them that they can’t do for themselves. They compensate me for my sacrifices, and they make me a part of their little tribe, in exchange for my almost-mad eagerness to dive in, pitch in, and Make It Better.

I once heard that Lady Gaga sometimes wakes up in the morning and she doesn’t know how she can get out of bed. Then she thinks, “But I’m Lady Gaga!” and lo and behold, she’s UP.

Get up, Trinity. Get UP.

Now, I’m no Lady Gaga (what a sight that would be). And that Trinity chick would probably snap me in two if she came across me in the Matrix. But I get what they’re saying. We create these personas of ourselves. And we become their agents, their servants. We become the minions of our invented selves. And that’s alright. We all do it. No shame in that — unless, of course, you craft a truly shameful persona for yourself (Jared Loughner comes to mind).

We all have our schtick. We all have some personality we project into the world — a collection of habits and characteristics that suit us and work, on a certain level.We become Survivors. We make ourselves Victims. We become Rebels. We turn ourselves into Martyrs. We serve the gods of the facades we parade before us in the world, as though that were truly US.

The other night I stumbled upon a PBS special about the Stonewall Uprising in New York City — the start of the modern gay rights movement in 1969. One more thing to be grateful for: that I was not a homosexual male living in the 1960′s, when police officers were making appearances at schools, warning children away from “choosing a homosexual lifestyle” because WE WILL FIND YOU. YOU CANNOT HIDE. WE WILL FIND YOU.

Lord, but it must have sucked, to sit in a classroom in school, having this bespectacled, pompous, white, heterosexual male preaching at you about how you should not “choose” something you already knew you were… and had known since you were, oh, about six… and looking forward to a life of hounding and serial incarcerations.

How happy I am to live when we live… in this Very Different World.

But I cannot help but think about the effect that messages like “Don’t be a queer” and “We will get you” would have on someone’s persona… their perceived place in the world. I cannot help but think about the queers and Gypsies and Jews and kids born different, whom the Nazis singled out for extermination. I cannot help but think about the rape and incest and molestation survivors who have to piece together their lives from the shattered pieces of what was once whole. I cannot help but think about the left-handed “sinister” people of the once-upon-a-time world who were literally considered evil, if they were not right-handed. I cannot help but think about all the people who have been on the wrong side of “right” — whether by choice or biology or accident or fate — and what that wrong-ness made of their own personas.

I wonder if it made/makes them tougher, smarter, meaner… different than how they would be, if they were more like everyone else, without those unnameable or unspeakable hidden aspects of themselves.

I wonder if my history of TBIs and all that I’ve been through as a result — whether it was the names and the insults rained down on my head by an impatient, disgusted, verbally aggressive father… or my mother’s tight-lipped disapproval that simmered a long-suffering while, until she just couldn’t take my shit anymore and grabbed me in a vice grip, digging her claws into me to get me to “be-have“… or the kids who hounded me and made my life a living hell for the duration of 5th and 7th grades (different schools, same types of rat-bastard kids)… or all those people who loved me so much, until they found out that their imagined version of me wasn’t very real at all, and it was all my fault for letting them down..

What-ever. Bottom line is, this is my life. And despite all my whining, I do get to do what I want with it. I get to decide for myself how I carry myself in the world. I get to decide how I interact with others. I get to decide how I walk through life, if I smile and shrug, or if I start swinging. I get to say how much of my time I spend on what, knowing what the consequences will be — for good or ill.

I get to pick and choose how I handle things — if I bitch out the woman on the phone, who screwed up my car registration form, or if I stay cool and just explain that by the time the mail gets delivered to me with her corrected form enclosed, it will be too late for me to re-register my car in the lawful timeframe. It’s up to me, whether I blame her for the problem, or if I remember that I’m the one who waited till the very last friggin’ minute before contacting the insurance company for that blasted form.

My life. My choices. I get to choose where I want to go. And I’m getting there.

Time to get back to work.

Computerized concussion testing – not such a good idea after all?

The Concussion Blog pointed the way to this excellent post by Matt Chaney, discussing the issues around computerized concussion testing, especially the ImPACT test that’s publicized by the NFL

His post discusses:

glaring faults in “baseline” testing of hot-selling ImPACT software employed by youth leagues, schools, colleges and pro sports. “The use of baseline neuropsychological testing in the management of sport-related concussion has gained widespread acceptance, largely in the absence of any evidence suggesting that it modifies risk for athletes,” Randolph observes.

Since 2005, Randolph is among reviewers for several journals who find unacceptable rates of false-positive and false-negative results for ImPACT, among popular brain assessments developed and marketed by academics and doctors associated with the NFL and benefiting from the league’s pervasive publicity machine.

“It is a major conflict of interest, scientifically irresponsible,” Randolph told ESPN The Magazine in 2007. “We are trying to get to what the real risks are of sports-related concussion, and you have to wonder why they (NFL experts) are promoting testing. Do they have an agenda to sell more ImPACTS?”

The marketing succeeds, with sales to a thousand schools and hundreds of colleges thus far, and media only increase exposure of ImPACT in the furor over concussions, especially in football.

Read the rest here (http://blog.4wallspublishing.com/2011/04/23/critics-evidence-debunk-concussion-testing-in-football.aspx) – it’s well worth the read.

What really worries me about computerized testing is what worries me about most computerized “solutions” to problems in life — they relieve you of the burden of having to really understand and think about what’s going on. A computer will give you a certain amount of information, which can be a good starting place. But it’s really up to you to figure out what — if anything — to do with the information. Most people forget (or never figure out) this important fact, and they think they can let the computer do everything for them.

On the playing field, “testing” (potentially) concussed athletes without paying very close attention — over the long term as well as the immediate short term — can have catastrophic consequences, if the test is not accurate (or fudged), and real issues go undetected and unaddressed. Again, the damage can happen over the long term, not only the immediate short term, as issues arise and become problematic beyond the playing season, even beyond school, and well into adult life — beyond any window of opportunity for ImPACT testing.

Lost income, underachievement, broken dreams, and shattered lives due to health issues, attentional issues, cognitive-behavioral problems (and more) arising from undiagnosed and untreated traumatic brain injury are something no computerized test will ever be able to measure.

Sometimes it helps to make a bit of a mess

I spilled water yesterday morning, while I was making my coffee. Twice. Oh, well. It was easily cleaned up. And when I did wipe it up, I also cleaned the counter, which had the odd spot and speck on it.

After the small pond had been sopped up, the whole counter was cleaner, and so was that corner of the kitchen.

I worked most of the day yesterday. Catching up with things I’d fallen behind on. I got an early start and worked through the evening, till late. I took a nap around 4 pm and then got up and go at it again.

It may sound like a lot to do, but it’s actually really relaxing. I actually got to sort out all the things I couldn’t get to during the week, for sheer lack of time.

I love my job. I really do. And it loves me — so much, that I’ve got this never-ending stream of things I love to do… that I need to do. It’s kind of a drag, having so much to do, that you can’t enjoy the things you’re taking care of, but that’s kind of where I’m at. Not much time to relax and recoup. Management has some odd (and fairly uninformed) ideas about what makes people effective. They seem to think that constant change and shifting priorities are exciting.

If you consider adrenal exhaustion exciting, then I suppose it is.

Anyway, I did get a lot done, and I got to do it at my own pace — thoughtfully, mindfully, with an eye on the larger picture. Good stuff. When all was said and done, I didn’t feel like I’d been working — just doing my thing and enjoying it.

I’ve got a new sleeping approach that’s working pretty well for me — not worrying about getting a full 8 hours (and stressing about it, if I don’t), but taking intermittent naps, and pacing myself with time-outs that let me deeply relax. I’ve also found some stretches and pressure points in my neck and lower back that seem to be like “switches” that put me into an incredible state of full-body relaxation when I do them. It’s pretty amazing. I do progressive relaxation at times, working from my toes to my head… but these stretches and points are like an instant shot of relaxation.

Amazing.

Another amazing thing is that I’ve realized that it’s not so much the lack of sleep that wrecks me, as it is stressing about lack of sleep. Getting all tense and uptight just wears me out even more. Of course, it’s not optimal to be running around on 6 hours of sleep each day — and running at a pretty fast pace, too, I might add. But I find that if I don’t stress over it, and I incorporate things like regular stretches throughout the day, as well as naps when I can get them, I can stay in a pretty good space.

When I tense up and get all tight, it actually drains more energy from me. Even with 8 hours of sleep, if I’m stressed and tight, I feel/do worse, than if I have 6 hours and relax into the day.

Mindfulness, too — I have to stay mindful and present and pay attention to what I’m doing. If I get 9 hours of sleep but am just driving myself mindlessly through the day, things have a way of getting completely screwed up. In fact, there’s something challenging about being fully rested. I get so amped up, I tend to overdo it.

Well, it’s all an adventure and an experiment. I got a lot done over the weekend, which makes me really happy. And I found some techniques for instant relaxation, which makes me even happier. I never thought it was possible to feel this good about such mundane things. But I do.

:)

Search terms for the day

One of my favorite things about this blog is seeing how people got here. Today, people searched on:

mental illness from a brain injury or nerologicla issue
heres my tbi journal
i’m angry about my tbi
i’m in love with my therapist
headbanging concussion
effects of anger on the brain
men punch each other in the face
vagus nerve panic attacks
head banging with tbi
mental illness causes brain damage
paranoid about concussion
i cant slow my heart rate down
what is the difference between a concussion and a tbi
concussion intelligence
what does brain tumor look like
difference between concussion and tbi
mild childhood tbi symptoms
getting my brain back post tbi
feeling good about my job
how do you feel when you have a concussion
post concussive syndrome re-injury
risk of dying extreme sports
sporadic thoughts mental disorder
clicking in my spine when lifing up my leg
broken brain
tbi and ptsd
anger physiology
keeping a journal for tbi
concussion blog
constant restlessness
broken brain brilliant mind
emotional attachment to therapist
i am in love with my therapist
broken brain test

Kind of like reading Facebook — brief glimpses into people’s lives that tell you more than just a sentence or a phrase.

Improvements all around

I've got some work to do...

It’s raining today. And lots to do. I’ve got leftover work I couldn’t get finished this past week that won’t wait — I have to square it away for Monday. And I’ve got other work I’ve got to get finished for some folks I’m freelancing for. There’s a lot on my plate, and there’s usually someone at work pissed off about things not going they way they’d like.

Not that they help. The directives tend to come from four levels above me, and they keep changing. Every week something different comes up, and I get the distinct impression that the people who are running things either don’t know what they’re doing or they don’t know what they want — or both.

This could be maddening, if I let it drive me crazy. I know my boss’es boss is easily pushed by the Person Who Is Constantly Changing Their Mind (who happens to run the show). I think most people in middle management are easily pushed by this person, who seems to have some Svengali-like hold over their minds, hearts and gonads. It’s very odd. The interactions I’ve had with this Terror have never struck fear in my heart. If anything, the “Terror” has been open to listening to what I had to say, they could be reasoned with, and when I stood my ground on principle, they backed off.

In some cases, they even told me that they would defer to my judgment, which is nice. They thanked me for keeping them honest, when I wouldn’t back down.

And yet, the folks who report directly to the Terror are all running around in a state of high anxiety and crisis, apparently due to pressure from THE TOP.

Hm.

Kind of reminds me of the Elvis Costello song – I used to be disgusted… now I’m just amused. It gets a little wearing, being so tweaked over the volatility of someone else. I could certainly do that, but what would be the point? I just need to keep steady with my own agenda and my own work. And to remember that I have an agenda… which would be looking out for myself within the context of the broader company, which spans many countries and continents, and within the context of my broader life.

There is, after all, more to my life than making my superiors happy.There has always been more to it for me, than that. It’s one of the things that’s made me both useful and a little dangerous — the fact that I stay true to myself and my vision and my goals, even in the face of external pressure. If something matters to me — and I mean really matters — I stick with it and don’t let anything or anyone stand between me and that goal. The only thing that can keep me from achieving it, is me — and I’ve done just that more times than I care to think about.

I literally am my own worst enemy, in so many ways. I’ve pushed myself, driven myself, exhausted myself, undermined myself, and done so many counter-productive things that made it much harder than necessary, to get from Point A to Point B… let alone Points C – Z. And when things didn’t work out, I was all too quick to just throw up my hands and say, “Oh, well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” and just walk away.

Crazy. What’s even crazier, is that I’ve gotten used to it and I’ve developed a whole repertoire of sour-grapes-type “explanations” for why I never followed through.

I’m working on that. I’ve figured out a bunch of issues and patterns I tend to follow, and I’m coming up with better ways of handling situations as they arise… and avoiding them to begin with.

One thing I’ve become keenly aware of is how I have traditionally made bad choices in friends — people who didn’t treat me right, who made fun of me, who gave me a hard time, who really dragged me down, and cost me a lot in terms of money and time and energy, not to mention reputation.

Thinking back, I have not had many good friends at all, over the years, who really treated me the way I deserved to be treated. And the people who have treated me well, I ran from.

I mean, it’s bad enough that I have spent so much time dealing with bad friends, but why the hell would I run from good ones?

Why indeed?

Well, I think I’ve figured it out. And it has to do with the same things as procrastination — but in a much darker way.

See, with people who treat me like crap, I’m much more alert. I’m awake. I’m on guard. Every bit of my mind and attention is pumped. And I feel alive. I feel like I’m actually with it. In fact, the worse people treat me, the better I feel like I can function. Because I’m so ON, thanks to the constant threat of ridicule and mistreatment at the hands of these “friends” of mine.

As for people who treat me well, I have almost no use for them. They don’t wake me up. They don’t make me feel like I’m “on”. If anything, they relax me and that makes me feel dull and dense and not entirely with it. Maybe it’s that general level of wakefulness that’s missing, or that slower processing speed. All I know is, people who are nice to me don’t hold my attention. If anything, they make me feel kind of bad about myself. Because I’m just not as present with them as I am in situations where I’m under constant threat.

Here’s a picture of the situation, as I understand/experience it:

Sad, but true

I hate to say it, but there’s something about being treated badly, that makes me feel good — and I really feel it’s due to the level of wakefulness, which is also connected with my agitation and restlessness that sets in even more when I’m not all awake. When I’m not awake, I become itchy and anxious and agitated. This does not make me feel good — about myself or the people I’m around. If anything, it makes me feel worse.

So, bad friends make me feel good, and good friends make me feel bad.

How’s that for a TBI after-effect?

Pain in my ass.

Anyway, at least now I’m aware of it. And now I can come up with some alternatives for handling the situation. Because you can’t go through life all alone and isolated… and surrounded by people who mistreat and take advantage of you. Something’s gotta change, so it’s time to take a look at this and see what I can do.

I think I really need to find connections with people who I can DO things with — structured activities, rather than sitting around and “relaxing” — which doesn’t relax me at all. I need to be doing something, learning something, engaged in an activity that holds my attention — but doesn’t tire me out too much.

Here’s an idea — I’ll join a Meetup for a language I’m learning — French, for starters. I’ve been checking out meetup.com and it looks like there may be some meetings in my area, which is a great thing. Who knows? I may make some good connections.  At least I’ll get out and meet new people.

And keep an eye out for the people who are pretty rotten. There are always some. Not that I plan to go into this with an attitude… just keeping in mind that I tend to gravitate to people who are not particularly nice to me, is helpful, and I can then manage to it. It’s when I’m not aware of the potential for getting caught in another web of destructive human interactions that I get into trouble.

Not that I’m very pleased about this aspect of my life. I’d like to think that I am surrounded by people who give a damn about me and will be there when I need them. I’d like to think that I have friends I can count on, who will stand with/behind me when need be. But as long as I prefer the company of people who treat me like crap, that will remain an elusive goal.

There is some good news, though.  Again, here I am looking at the fact that certain patterns in my life — which were always interpreted as being a sign that there was some deep-seated emotional/psychological issue at work — actually have a lot more to do with my neurology than my psychology. I don’t seek out the company of jerks because I think less of myself or I have some deep-seated self-loathing going on. I do it because it wakes me up and makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like myself, where being around people who relax me and don’t put me on edge, actually make me nervous and agitated.

So long as my brain isn’t fully engaged and fully charged up, I feel a lot less “human” than I would like to be.

And that’s no fun.

So the challenge now is to find ways of being fully engaged, fully awake, fully with-it, when I’m around people who treat me with respect and consideration. To find ways of being fully “on” when I’m not in constant danger. To find ways of getting myself in the game, without compromising my chances of developing positive, productive relationships with people who genuinely appreciate my company and input.

It’s a fairly tall order. Old habits are hard to break. But now that I’m aware of the fact that I need to make some improvements… well, I can.