Just being grateful solves a lot

I’ve been struggling a bit, lately, with some resentments and frustrations. Starting a new job and feeling like I’m new all over again has been a little tough. I want to know what I’m doing. I want to have expertise. But I have to go through the process of doing that. And after being alive and learning so many lessons for around 50 years, now, there’s a part of me that feels like I *should* know more than I do.

I know I need to learn in my current position. I need to learn who the people are, how to use the technical tools, how to navigate the political landscape, and so on.

I just get tired, I guess. I’ve been having some long days, lately, and things at work have been quite frantic, with a deadline suddenly looming, where none was just a week ago. It’s been a bit of a fire drill, to tell you the truth, and it’s taking a lot out of me.

I am also going to be traveling this weekend, so that means I have to do more to get ready. Sigh. At least I slept till 6:30 this morning, instead of waking up at 5:30.

Of course, I didn’t get to bed till after 11:00. Oh, well. At least I got about 7 hours of sleep. That’s better than I’ve been doing regularly, for quite some time.

So, the good part is, I’ve gotten some sleep. And another good part is, this seems like a company I can be productive and happy at, for the long run. It doesn’t feel like a contract, right now. It feels like the beginning of a permanent spot, and for the first time in years, I’m happy for that. I did feel that way, to some extent, at the last company I worked at… until they moved the office farther away, mixed up the organization, and screwed everything up.

I actually do miss my old friends from there — I’ve really been feeling that, lately. But I don’t miss the company. I’m just so glad to be done with them.

Anyway, back to the present. I’ve realized that with all my struggles and difficulties — feeling tired and disoriented and harried and a bit stressed over adjusting, not to mention a bit of political drama (already… it only took me 2 weeks to screw up) — the one thing that helps the most is gratitude. Sleep helps a bit, but it can wear off. Fatigue or restedness are not things I can will into or out-of existence.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is something I do have control over. I can change my frame of mind and change my attitude, and reach a place where I am really, truly grateful for everything I have around me. I look for the good, and I look for the benefits to the situations I’m in, and it really turns around my outlook and mood. In my darkest times, making a list of all the things I’m grateful for — especially good things that are buried in the midst of tough situations — brightens my outlook and lifts me up out of my funk.

Things at work right now are pretty challenging. I have a bunch of things on my plate that I need to sort out, and it doesn’t feel like I have the time or updated ability to do them properly. But they are big opportunities. So, today I’m starting out with gratitude and focusing on the things I can do, the lessons I can learn, and I’m concentrating on the positive things that will come out of it.

People at work are starting to warm up to me. And I’m learning the lay of the land. So, things are looking up. I just can’t let myself fall into a funk over stuff that’s transitory. The sources of stress and strain right now — the unfamiliarity, the uncertainty, the lack of connection with people — will all sort themselves out over time. I just can’t let the tone for my work be set by that temporary state. Not when a better permanent state is just around the corner.

I never know when things will turn around. So, I’ve got to keep steady and positive. And look to the brighter tomorrow. For so many good things that haven’t even come to me yet, I am truly grateful.

 

Not giving in

Ha – just try me ;)

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about my processing speed. I’ve been feeling dull and stupid — probably because of my new job that has me sitting on the sidelines and training, before I dive in — and I’m not putting 2 and 2 together quite as well as I’d like.

At least, not yet.

I know I’ve only been on the job three weeks, but I feel like I should be more coherent. I’m having a lot of trouble expressing myself, and I have to really think about what I’m going to say before I say it. I’ve been looking around online to find sites that can teach me how to organize my thoughts. This is getting on my nerves, and I’m starting to get a complex about it. I want to be in the flow, getting live experience… but they have me sidelined, just watching, as though that’s going to help anything.

I know I’m not the only one who’s feeling this. The other two folks who joined when I did are also feeling sidelined and underutilized. We all want to get going and make things happen, and we don’t have that opportunity just yet. We have to learn by doing, but everyone is so afraid of making a mistake, we can’t move forward.

Argh!

My processing speed, as I mentioned, is really troubling me. I know I have a lot of new information I need to integrate and learn to use. So, I need to cut myself a break, relax and recuperate, and give myself time to breathe and settle in. I’m doing that this weekend, occupying my attention with things other than work, relaxing, taking it easy, getting some exercise (which really helps), and checking in with myself about what matters most to me in my life.

I just need to trust the whole process and know that in time I will learn, things will make sense to me, and I’ll have sufficient experience to draw on to make the right decisions about the right things. I need to keep my spirits up, not let on how dejected I get, and keep positive, no matter what. The people around me at work are typical Americans — they need me to be positive and up-beat and can-do, use all the catch-phrases and industry jargon. There’s no room for realism and acknowledging human limits as just part of everyday life. That’s just depressing! And it’s not how Americans are supposed to believe and behave!  At least, not the overachieving top performers that they all aspire to be.

One of the things that makes this job more challenging than need be, is that everyone there is convinced that their company is special and unique and totally unlike anything else on the planet. Silly. They remind me of plenty of other companies I’ve worked for — and they start to squirm when I say so.

I suppose having that sense that they’re unlike any other company helps with fostering a sense of community and “tribe”. Us against them. All that. The thing is, they’re not really that essentially different from other companies. They have their way of doing things, which is just a learned thing. And they have their specific “pain points” that they need to deal with. They design and produce technology. They’re very successful at it, but really, they’re in the same business as countless other technology companies, and they can simply get over themselves, as far as I’m concerned.

Well, fortunately I’ve got two more days before I go back to work AND I only have to work 8 hours a day, this coming week, instead of 10-11. So there. I’m expecting to work longer hours a couple more times in the next month, but then again, maybe I don’t need to work ALL those extra hours. Doing the 10-hr thing gets old. I did it before – for years – and it’s a relief to not have to do it.

Plus, what a huge deal, to get to have an hour or two in the morning to work on my own projects, before going into the office. And getting home at a decent hour… Truly awesome.

So, maybe I put in an extra hour or two, when I have to take time off. Maybe I don’t. Either way, I need to just do what I need to do, to keep my system balanced out. Just relax. And not give in to the anxiety and neurosis. Just let myself be. And be done with it.

I was getting a little peeved at a coworker who’s supposed to be training me. Rather than training me, they’re avoiding me, and they have not been inclusive at all. It’s a little annoying. They think they’re just supposed to be my “buddy” and answer questions when I have them. But our boss says I’m supposed to shadow them. I’m not keen on making a nuisance of myself, but I do need to get trained, and I do need to shadow them. They’re not inviting me to the meetings they should be. They’re actually cutting me out. So, I need our boss to clarify and make sure everyone is clear about what needs to happen.

It’s almost like they just want me to go away, which doesn’t make any sense, because they’re overworked and they need the help. I’m not going to be any use, if they don’t make the effort to train me.

But I can’t give in to paranoia. They don’t even know me yet, and a lot of people don’t think much of me when they meet me the first time. They just don’t realize what I can do, what I’m capable of achieving — and how it benefits them. I’ve got to give it time. Most people I work closely with develop issues with me until they get to know me, so I’ll just need to keep steady and let them sort out their own personal problems.

They’re not my problems.

So, that being said, I’ve had enough of thinking about that person and the situation. The weather is clearing, and I’m going to the beach later today. I’ve got some excellent reading and writing slated for this morning — I’ve gotten some great ideas from a book I’m reading… and I’m writing something to go along with it, to help me understand my own viewpoint on the subject.

It’s all in the spirit of kick-starting my brain and getting myself back into the groove of critical thinking and organizing my thoughts more clearly. Much of what I’m writing these days — aside from this blog — is personal and private and I’m not sharing much of it with anyone. I do share some of it with my spouse, and if they understand it then I know I’m on the right track, because they don’t get caught up in all the mental gymnastics that go along with intellectualizing and what-not.

So, it’s all good. I’m getting good rest and taking care of myself and easing off on the anxiety about my performance at work. For the first time in probably ever, I feel like I’m really at the right place in my life at this time — and I’m right where I always dreamed I would be, at this point in my life.

I just realized that the other day — I’m actually right where I wanted to find myself, on down the line. I’m at a place that I envisioned for myself, when I was a kid mixing up home-grown chemistry experiments in my basement, and recording the results in a composition book (note to self: I really need to find that old chemistry experiment notebook – it’s in storage somewhere). I’ve got a study of my own, with books I love and can turn to. I have a desk with a great view of my back yard, and I have the time in the day and week to really dig in and tease out the things that fascinate me. I have room to move and explore, and I’m not tied down by any licensing body or regulatory commission that’s going to stop me from pushing the limits of my understanding.

It’s all good. I was lost for a long time, dealing with life and all the challenges that came with health issues, money issues, family issues, relationship dramas, and so forth. I’ve been through a ton of sh*t that a lot of people never encounter till later. And while I might not have it all figured out, I have sufficient experience to know how to begin approaching the Big Problems of my life.

It’s all good. It truly is.

Now, onward….

Setting a new pace

Picking up the pace – just the way I like

For the first time in months, I got up this morning and exercised. It’s been way too long. I’ve exercised on and off, over the past couple of years — more off than on.

And I’ve missed it.

A lot.

The thing is, I don’t realize how much I miss it, until I’m doing it again and I remember. It’s getting me doing it again – just starting – that is the monumental challenge. I feel like I’m delaying getting on with my day, and I’m not using my time productively — though for what reason, I cannot tell.

I think it has had to do with the fact of my commute. And the feeling that I’ve had for years, that I am behind on my work, I am not making any progress, and the life force is being sapped out of me, slowly but surely, but the frustrations of that job. I’ve felt like I’ve had so little bandwidth, so little time and space for myself to just think, that I’ve coveted every last moment of free time to spend on myself and my own activities.

I think another factor has been starting to read again. Now that I am reading again, I just want to spend all my time reading, thinking, writing… My short-term working memory feels like it’s improved dramatically — or at least I’ve come up with new and different ways to think about things, so that I can remember them that much better. In any case, I don’t feel confused and feel like I’ve permanently lost my way when I’m reading, anymore. When I feel like I’ve lost the train of thought, I just back up to where I remember having read something, and I just re-read.

And if I find I’m getting pulled off in all sorts of different directions by a lot of conflicting distracting thoughts — or my head is going nuts with thinking about a ton of different stuff that’s related to what I’m reading and builds on it further in new directions — I just take a break. Or I write things down for future reference.

Now that I’m reading again, and I’m retaining it — or at least have the sense that I’m comprehending what I’m reading — it’s all I want to do. Read and write. And share.

My presentation at that community gathering went extremely well, last week. I nailed it, I do believe. And I am looking forward to doing more public speaking in the future. It really gives me a lot of energy, to stand in front of a room of people and present on something I know about. I get so excited about it, and others pick up on my excitement, as well. It’s really gratifying to share what I know with others — and to realize that I can actually do this.

It’s massive progress, compared to where I was just a few years ago. A few years ago, I was so deep in muddling through the disconnects in my brain, that I could not begin to even think of doing public presentations. I had done presentations at work in the past before my fall in 2004, and they went well, but I never actually thought much of them. They were just one more blip in the sea of churning input and data that made no sense to me and had very little rhyme or reason. After I fell, my thoughts became so disorganized, the idea of getting up in front of anyone and speaking — even according to a script — turned into an impossible prospect.

It’s taken years, but I am finally past that. Even better, I am really presenting and interacting with my audience — not just talking to a script and getting the hell out of the room as quickly as possible. I spent much more time last week on taking follow-up questions and discussing my presentation with people after the meeting, than I did actually making the presentation. And that’s a HUGE sign of progress for me.

HUGE.

I was able to not only present, but also really flow with it — improvise when I came to a slide and I couldn’t remember the exact words I intended to say. I had intensely practiced my presentation a lot over the past days, and I had practiced recovering from flubbing up many times, too. So, I was able to keep going. After all, whatever I said that seemed “wrong” in my head, was perfectly fine with everyone else, because they didn’t know what I was “supposed” to say, and the things I did say were relevant to the discussion.

After the presentation, we had Q&A, and I took a bunch of questions. Probably about five or six. And I did them so well, that the questions kept coming and they had to cut me off, to make room for everyone else. I was able to then sit down and pay attention to what the other speakers were saying — there were two that followed me. I didn’t let anxiety about how I did distract me. I didn’t sit there and fret about whether I did well or not, what I remembered, what I forgot, and those places where I stumbled and messed up. I just let it go, and I moved on to the next experience, trusting that I had done my best and it was perfectly fine.

After the meeting, I chatted with a number of folks, who had interesting things to say and some useful information to share.

It was a good meeting, it was a fantastic experience. And I am really looking forward to more opportunities to speak in public.

What a hoot. When I think back to five, six years ago… there is no way I felt that being a public speaker was in reach for me. No way. I dreamed about it, I thought about it, but I didn’t actually have the sense that it would ever truly happen for me. I was too caught up in my issues, too muddled, too confused, too insecure and frazzled by everything life threw at me. There was no way I would have guessed at the time that I’d actually be standing up in front of a room of 70 strangers, talking about something that meant a lot to me.

I had actually tried to do that sort of thing, several years before. I think it was not long after I had fallen and got all jumbled up. I actually had a pretty successful presentation, but the whole experience was so overwhelming for me, I effectively went “underground” and never dared venture forth again. There were too many people, there were too many questions, there was too much energy. I just couldn’t deal. At all.

This time was nothing like that. It was the complete opposite.

And it feels like a stepping-stone to the next stage for me… a gateway to what else is possible in my life. I have a new direction, I have a new sense of what I’m truly capable of, and with my new job and new schedule, I can truly take the steps I need to take, to move in a different direction with my life, at a pace that suits me — not that’s dictated by the outside world.

It’s all good.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing why is half the battle

Take a closer look and get clear on why

It’s been said that people take a job for the company and leave because of management. They join up because of the company reputation and all that being part of that team promises… and then they decide to leave because their boss is a nightmare.

With me, it is kind of the opposite.

Oh, to be sure, I have had my differences with management. But the real reason for my leaving is because of the company itself. The way things are done, the way decisions are made, the way people are hired and fired and promoted and demoted and paid and given (or denied) bonuses… it’s just ridiculous, looking at it from an American standpoint.

The company is based overseas, and the way they do things is fine by their standards. It works for them, within their own cultural framework. But it’s not up to my standards, and I’m not about to change what works for me and my undertakings — and has worked for 25+ years — because the overlords are in love with themselves and want to prove how fabulous they are.

Heaven help us.

Actually, heaven help the people I’m leaving behind.

Because I am out of there soon enough.

And I know why.

It’s not personal, it’s professional.

It’s not because everything is horrific, but because there is something much better for me.

It’s not because I think it will solve other people’s problems (that will never happen)… it’s because this will solve some of my problems and make it easier for me to deal effectively with other people’s problems.

I’m working through all my reasons for moving on, this weekend, so that when I sit down to talk to folks tomorrow, I will be clear and confident. I am doing my training this weekend, then I am going to trust my training tomorrow and just let things flow.

My focus is this: To not get all worked up. To not get all emotional. To not allow them to stonewall or bully me or get me upset, which is something they are pretty good at doing. I have some strategies in my back pocket to use — like making sure that HR is involved in every discussion I have with the uber-boss, who is a bully and has a bad habit of saying one thing to one person and something quite different to someone else, and doing it in a very threatening way.

Come to think of it, I’m going to make sure HR is involved in discussions I have with my immediate manager, as well, because they have a bad habit of saying one thing to one person, and then saying something completely different to someone else. And they love to say things that upset other people, because it gives them a psychological edge.

I’m not going to have any private conversations with anyone who’s proven themselves untrustworthy. That’s a given.

Obviously, I need to give notice in person to my immediate manager, but after that, HR is going to be involved. No behind the scenes operating. No testing my limits. None of that. I’m going to spare us all the conflict and drama around mixed messages and maneuvers, and keep it clean and clear.

As much as possible.

So, for today, clarity is the top priority. Clarity and calm. I’ll be writing things down and thinking about things throughout the day today, always with a mind towards keeping things clear and clean. And making this transition out of my old job to new one as smooth as humanly possible.

I’ve learned a ton of things over the years, all of which I can put to good use tomorrow and for the next two weeks.

Knowing that — and knowing why I’m leaving — and being able to communicate that clearly and calmly … that’s half the battle, right there.

The littlest change is setting me off

Ooops – they did it again. “Upgrading” something that seemed fine to begin with

Okay, now I know I am tweaked and nervous about my upcoming job change. Firefox has just updated their browser style / interface, and I am freaking out on the inside. I try to stay calm and take things as they come, but this is yet another change I was not expecting, and as good and fine as it might be, it’s still pissing me off.

Why does everyone have to change everything… all the time?!

I mean, c’mon people – we don’t always have to have the best and brightest and newest and improved-est thingamajiggie on the face of the planet. Some continuity might be nice. Some of the old stuff still works fine, and we stick with it, regardless of your “Upgrade Now to Get What’s New!” prodding. I still like Windows XP — it just works. I still prefer music on CDs — the sound is better and richer than MP3s. I and many others still love classic Coke… in classic style glass bottles. People actually LIKE having some things stay the same, and from where I’m sitting, Firefox was working just fine, the way it was before.

Okay, so maybe there are additional enhancements that took place behind the scenes that I don’t know about. Maybe this new look is more “modern”, and it makes all the magpie-minded hummingbird-memory-span teenagers of the world take Firefox more seriously, but is that who should really make the decisions about what works and what doesn’t? Heaven help us.

Anyway, enough of my rant. I am stressed, because of the crazy movies I’m playing in my own head about giving notice tomorrow. I am really doing a number on myself, and it’s got to stop. I need my strength for tomorrow — to be calm and centered and confident, and have a plan that will show the way forward in the transition time. I need my strength for the next two weeks — and beyond — so I can navigate this change and do it well.

There are going to be a LOT of people who are extremely put out because I’m leaving, including some who consider me a mentor and an advocate for them. In fact, I AM a mentor and advocate for them, and when I am gone, who will be on their side? A lot of folks are going to be going through a lot of grieving emotions, so I’ve got to stay strong, keep my strength up, keep my head on straight, and steer a direct course through the storms to get through this transition time in a calm and centered manner.

The good/bad part about this, is that there are folks whose future success depends on my performance. And now I am leaving. At a very critical time. But that will never change. Folks are locked into a continuous cycle of perpetual agitation and upgrades and improvements and radical changes that require everyone to be ON … all the time. If I use my current status as a reason to stay, I will never, ever have a chance to move on. Because my situation will never be any different. At all.

I’m not the one who decided to have only one person in charge of any given critical function in the organization. It makes for a lot of personal power, but it’s not very practical. I don’t want to be part of an organization that depends so heavily on the “Army of One” mentality, where one person handles everything in one specific “sector”. It’s actually an organizational issue — there are multiple instances where the company has only one person (manually) doing a job that is critical to the business, but nobody thinks of adding staff. The company is more geared towards individual wishes and whims and consolidating personal power and influence, than collective success.

That’s a recipe for disaster, from where I’m sitting.

So, there’s really nothing I can do to save them from themselves. I’ve never been able to do that — though I’ve tried.  God knows, I’ve tried.

Anyway, eventually I will calm down about the Firefox change. In my experience and observation, it’s still the best browser around.

IE is a horror and has been slammed by many security experts, including the Department of Homeland Security. There are so many things wrong with Internet Explorer, I don’t have room to list them all here.

Chrome is all very sexy and whatnot, but it eats up so much memory on the system. Every time you open a new tab, it adds a process to what the computer is doing behind the scenes, rapidly eating up memory. It’s a system resources hog. And all the “intuitive” Chrome features are … well… not. Plus, it can be hard to customize. It’s fine, if you’re a web developer — it has a lot of features you need when you’re building websites and apps, especially mobile apps. It’s great for that. Then again, Safari is even better, so I’m not sure why Chrome is so beloved — perhaps for the same reasons GoDaddy is beloved. Awful product with real limitations, but the sheer force of numbers of people who don’t know anything better, who are suckers for a good marketing campaign, and who just do what everyone else is doing has made them into pet favorites.

That’s fine. It’s actually always been that way. The mob has typically ruled, and decisions in the market-driven world are dictated by sheer mob numbers. I’ve never been an integral, integrated part of the mainstream world, I’ve never listened to the mob, and I’ve always been on the outside a bit, so there are a lot of things that I’ve disagreed with over the course of the past 48+ years.

And I’ve always had difficulty with change, which is ironic, because very little has ever staid steady in my life. I’ve changed schools and classmates many times, I’ve moved around a lot, I’ve had a bunch of different jobs (close to 20 employers, total, over the past 25 years), and people and situations have come and gone from my life like a cosmic revolving door. I’ve also had to adjust to a bunch of TBIs in my life, and there’s no change like a brain change to make your life more interesting.

So, one would think I have gotten the hang of it by now.

At least, I would.

And in fact, maybe I do have the hang of it, but I’m just in this old, outdated mindset that tells me I still have a problem with change. Yes, I am sad to see things change. Yes, I am sad to be leaving a lot of people whom I’ve worked with very closely and very productively over the past four years. Yes, I’m concerned about what this might mean for my future prospects, and I’m concerned about backlash at work and possible retribution by people who are upset.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to do a bad job handling this change. Being uncomfortable and nervous doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of making the switch. No matter how good the circumstances, there would never ever be a good time for me to go, or conditions where everyone around me would be fine with me leaving — unless, of course, I was doing a truly shitty job. And I would never willingly let that happen.

So actually, now that I think about it, the fact that this is so hard, is a sign that I’m doing something right. It means that I am a top performer, and I am a valued and trusted member of the team (at least, I’m trusted for now). It doesn’t mean that I’m doing something wrong — on the contrary, it means that I’m doing something right. And in fact, it’s time for me to do something right for myself, not only for the company.

I really have sacrificed a great deal for this company over the years. In the start, it was worth it to me, because there were benefits and payoffs, and I had very little to do with people on the other side of the world who had their own ideas about how things should be done. But over the past year and a half, things have gone rapidly downhill, and things seem pretty much unredeemable to me. If they were redeemable, I’d hang in there.

But now I have an opportunity to go somewhere else. Somewhere better — in significant ways. I know there will be some things that will be the same, or worse, but at least I’ll be doing it only 20 minutes from home, with ample time in the mornings and evenings to catch up with myself. So, whatever foolishness happens at work — and there usually is a lot of foolishness, since people work there — having the extra time to rest and relax and have some time to do other things for myself, will go a long way towards buffering all that.

I’m still feeling conflicted about leaving, as you can tell… talking myself through what I already know to be true. I just need to settle my mind, and calm myself down. Do some measured deep breathing… and trust my own judgment. Not get set off by all manner of distractions, settle into a “trusting mindset” like pro athletes and top performers do, when they are facing an extreme challenge, and rely on my inner resources to guide me through.

Overthinking this is not helping. It’s tweaking me even more than need be. Things are probably going to be pretty challenging for the next couple of weeks, so I’ll just have to settle in and do my best under the circumstances, not drive myself crazy trying to solve everyone else’s problems, and make what recommendations I can, to move things forward after I am long gone.

Once I start this process moving, and things are rolling right along, I’m sure I’ll hit my stride. As is often the case, the anticipation is even worse than the real thing. So who can say what will happen?

Just gotta stay positive, focus on what IS, instead of what movie is playing inside people’s heads. And be smart. Use my noggin.

Calm down. The new Firefox isn’t so bad, after all.

Onward.

Back from my 2-day reboot

Ahhhh… that’s more like it.

I just got up from a 2-hour Sunday afternoon nap, feeling like I’ve gotten the reset I’ve been needing.

My parents came to visit over the weekend, and we three really good days together. I took Friday off, and we hung out, roamed around my area, spent some time on Saturday with friends they’ve never met, who are more like extended family to my spouse and me, and made and ate good food.

I tend to really dread their visits, because there tends to be a lot of tension with my spouse, who doesn’t see eye to eye with them, politically or socially. This time there was some tension, but I spent a lot of time alone with my folks, while my spouse slept or did other things, so we didn’t have too much overlap.

And the times when there was tension, we managed to diffuse it pretty well.

Overall, I handled things pretty well. Both my spouse and my parents are very high maintenance, so I have to actively manage their activities. I have to manage my spouse, keep them relatively calm and not panicked, jump in and help them with different physical activities, and make sure they feel like they’re involved. And I have to manage my parents, because they have a tendency to pick up tools and start to cut and trim and “fix” things that don’t actually need fixing, which leaves more work for me to do later.

In the past, we’ve had a non-functioning bathroom faucet for several months, because my father decided to fix the drip without having a seat wrench.

Took me a few months to get the seat wrench — I kept forgetting to look for one — and then took me a little while to figure out how to properly use it and fix what my father broke. I felt pretty stupid wrangling with that simple tool, but there it is. What can I say? I’d never used a seat wrench before, let alone looked for one at the local hardware store.

My mother has a green thumb, and she loves to prune and dig and rearrange plantings, which is great, so long as she’s supervised. Once, she “went rogue” with a clipper and pretty much denuded one of my spouse’s favorite plants — one they’d been given for their birthday.

So much for the prized birthday present. That was a sore spot for months, because the plant in question was a centerpiece in our home and became a constant reminder of the havoc my mother can wreak, if left unattended with a clipping implement.

This time, I was “riding herd” on all three of them — parents and spouse — because my parents are starting to slip a little, mentally and physically, and my spouse has been increasingly unreasonable, hyper-sensitive and aggressive… and I didn’t feel like dealing with yet another Clash of the Titans, like we’ve had in prior years. In years gone by, they’ve practically come to blows.

And that blows.

But this time, we kept peace pretty well, and we left things on an up note, when all was said and done. My dad got to fix something that needed fixing. My mom got to plant some perennials we’ve been meaning to plant, and my spouse got to sleep almost as much as they wanted to, as well as spend some valuable time with our friends on Saturday.

Coming off the weekend, I’m feeling pretty good about the whole experience. My parents are utterly exhausting — they are go-go-go, non-stop, all the time. They’re like sharks. They never stop moving, and they can never sit still for longer than an hour. An hour is long for them. In the past, I’ve completely melted down with them, because of the constant activity, the constant movement, the frantic pace they keep up. It’s generally too much for me, and it sets off all my issues — irritability, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, sensitivity to touch, distractability, fatigue, anxiety… you name it, they set it off.

But this time I did well with them. I kept up. And when I felt like I was starting to wear thin, I stepped away for a little bit. I went to bed early. I took breaks from them all, now and then, and I was pretty good about watching what I was eating. I ate more than I should have, that’s for sure, but it was all healthy food, so that’s something.

Yes, that’s something.

At the end of it all, I’m feeling like I did a good job of handling myself and the challenges of the past three days. I had a lot of trepidation and anxiety about how I would handle things, because in the past things have been very tense, there have been a lot of fights and tension, and for days afterwards, my spouse would go on and on about the things that my parents did and said “to” them.

But we’re all slowing down, and none of us has the old intense edge we used to. My parents have pretty much “gotten” that they don’t have the answers to everything, and now their priority is on enjoying the time they have with the people they love. Their friends and peers are getting sick and dying. Members of our family are going through very hard times. And it’s like they finally got their heads screwed on straight with their priorities in life.

That’s a relief.

And my spouse has lost a lot of their hell-bent momentum, since they got really sick about seven years ago. They’ve also been declining, cognitively, so they’re less able to kick ass and take names like before.

Basically, everyone’s decline is working in my favor. I hate to say it, but it is.

And now, as I look back on the non-stop action of the past 2-1/2 days, I feel a great sense of relief and relaxation that my parents have returned home, and I can get back to my regular life.

Of course, “regular life” means going back to work to deal with all the bullsh*t at the office, the politics, the jockeying, and all the stupid-ass competition between co-workers (who should really be collaborating, except that they don’t seem mentally capable of doing that). Well, that’s tomorrow.

Right here, right now, I’m getting my act together, figuring things out, and pretty much settling into what’s left of my weekend. It’s been a good couple of days, it’s reset my priorities again, reminded me where I come from and where I want to be heading in my life, and it’s good.

It’s all good.

 

 

 

 

The most magic 30 minutes of my day

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

Yesterday I had a nap. I stepped away from my desk for about half an hour to recharge my batteries. I walked 5 minutes to my car, which was in underground parking quite a ways from my office, put the seat back, put the headphones on, made myself comfortable, and I did my progressive relaxation.

I even got about 15 minutes of sleep in the process.

And when I woke up (which was 2 minutes before the alarm I’d set), I felt amazing. Refreshed. Alive. Human.

Then I collected myself, walked the 5 minutes back to my office, and I got on with the rest of my day.

I have heard it said that naps can disrupt your sleeping pattern, and it’s better to keep yourself awake and go to bed early. They obviously do not push themselves to perform at the level I do, from the moment I wake up in the morning. From the moment my feet hit the floor, I’m in GO mode. I have to be, because getting myself up in the morning is a monumental task that takes everything I have, some days.

Anybody who thinks I can make it through my day on a night’s worth of sleep has obviously never experienced the kind of exhaustion point I get to, around 2:00 p.m. each and every day. It is pretty brutal. By the time the afternoon rolls around, I’ve been going full-tilt-boogie for 6-8 hours. I can continue push through, sure, but I am good for nothing, the rest of the afternoon. Seriously, good for nothing. Even the things that I love doing — and that I push myself to do — turn out to be a waste of time.

Wheels spin. But they get no traction.

But if I can sleep… that is another story.

Knowing that I can sleep later on, and that I’ll be able to recharge my batteries, also makes it possible for me to push harder at the beginning of the day. When I think I’m going to have to pace myself… that my energy stores from a night’s sleep are going to have to last me all day, I hold myself back in the mornings. I’ve just now realized this, actually. When I wake up tired

Today is a completely new day — or so I keep telling myself. I’m a little tired this morning, to be honest. It’s been a long week, and I’m tired already at 7:00 a.m. I will pick up speed later today, when I am working. I’m not going into the office, so I have more time to focus on working, and less to spend driving. I also have more time to spend thinking about my own projects and making some good progress on them — without the pressure of daily performance of way too much work in way too little time.

So, there is hope for me today. I don’t have to be subjected to the upset and uncertainties of all the people around me (I came back from my nap yesterday to find my teammates huddled in a corner bitching and complaining about working conditions.) I can set my own pace and do my own work, without others interfering with their emotional incontinence.

It’s a relief not to be at the office, because the environment there is pretty depressing. It’s just a constant pressure cooker of uncertainty and chaos. When I say “chaos”, I mean there is a total lack of recognizable patterns to anything that happens. That is to say, there is no regular cadence, no regular pace, not much that’s predictable at all, from a day-to-day standpoint. It’s constant interruption and constant uncertainty. It’s not like I need any guarantees in life. But it would be nice to be able to not have everyone around me intent on interrupting my train of thought to ask me questions they can answer themselves.

It’s almost as though they are just stopping by to feel a little relief from their uncertainty.

As a matter of fact, I think that’s exactly what they’re doing — just stopping by to get a little boost to their self-confidence and sense of belonging. Because that’s what I bring to the table — respect for others, the ability to calm people down when they are all worked up, and a certain sense of calm in the center of the storm.

On the bright side, it’s great that I’m able to do this for people. On the downside, it doesn’t help me get my work done… and it’s actually keeping me from making progress in my own workload. Other people not being able to manage their own internal state, is probably the biggest hurdle to my own productivity. It’s not that their frame of mind is upsetting me. They are literally keeping me from doing my work, because they keep running to me and interrupting me and hijacking my workflow, to answer questions they never should have had to ask.

Sigh.

Anyway, in another 13 weeks, this is going to cease to be my problem. Oh, hell — if I can get things wrapped up before then, I’ll be free to go even earlier. I don’t have to be locked into a specific timeframe. I have had this July deadline in my mind, because that’s when I’m scheduled to be done with my big-ass project. But I might get things done even before that.

So, there’s some leeway there. And I’ve just thought of a way I can speed things up — some of the stuff I’m depending on others to do for me, I can do myself. They’re not experienced (or actually smart) enough to figure it out. Plus, they friggin’ hate my guts for reasons that are all about their crappy self-regulation, their incompetence, their jealousy, their brown-nosed politicking (which cannot stand the glare of objective scrutiny), and their sad work ethic (or lack thereof — I actually expect them to do their jobs, ogre that I am)… as well as shoddy management which just lets them get away with anything they damn’ well please.

So, the inmates are running the asylum. In a very big way.

And I have less than no confidence in them.

But the happy and sane part is, it doesn’t matter. They can be all pissy and pitch their hissy fits from their corner of the corporate cosmos. I can just work around everyone, and actually get sh*t done. I don’t have to be dependent on them to get their acts together, in order to move forward. And on top of that, I can be sharpening some excellent skills of my own in the meantime.

This task is a huge opportunity, but those idiots are not seeing it. I can see it plain as day, and I can hear the trumpets from heaven loud and clear. Their ineptitude is opening a door for me to step through, and that makes me incredibly happy, now that I think about it. For that matter, I can spend my weekend working on this, and actually get it all done in time for Monday — AND have it be an excellent investment in my future.

So, that’s good. And it’s giving me a big boost. It’s not all a waste of my time. It’s not all an exercise in futility. Far from it. It’s actually a positive thing, and turning it around in my mind to see the opportunity and the door opening a little more to my fantastic future is the first step in the right direction.

As long as my head is clear about this, and I’m rested and energized and keeping my batteries charged, it’s all good.

Later today I will have my nap. My magical 30 minutes to recharge my batteries. But for now, it’s…

Onward.

 

Getting used to good

Coming out the other side

I’ve been under tremendous stress, for the past … oh, decade… dealing with all the TBI fallout — money problems, marriage problems, job issues… It has been one long slog through one problem after another. Getting hauled into court. Being threatened by all sorts of folks. Bouncing from one job to another, without any sense for what direction I wanted to go… and losing it big-time with people all around me.

I swear, I have been pounded down, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year… for at least the past 10 years, and it has taken a toll. For sure, it has taken a toll.

But now I’m starting to come out of the woods. I can read again. I can joke again. My thinking is clearer and better organized than it’s been in as long as I can remember. It’s pretty friggin’ amazing.

Now with this newfound space to move in, I have an abundance of energy. And there’s a bit of a danger in that. Because I am so used to pushing through when I had nothing left, that I’m still pushing through, even when I have resources. And as it turns out, my resources are not infinite, my energy is not geysering up from a bottomless well, and I have a real knack at wiping myself out.

Lesson learned. Dude. Chill.

And I look around me, now, at everything my life has turned into, over the past ten years. I look at all the things I was doing with myself before the last ten years. And the closer I look, the more I realize how much it pulled me down. I can see it all from the vantage point of someone who has been shot out the other end of the cosmic blowhole like one of those surfers who gets pushed on through the pipe by the sheer force of wind and wave, and what I see is, well, telling.

And I can’t believe it’s taken me nearly 50 years go get it.

Well, in all fairness, let’s forget about the past 10, because I’ve been half out of my mind for most of that time, and I haven’t been myself — at least, not a self I would recognize as “me”.

Anyway, what I see is someone who has spent a ton of time and energy just scrambling to tread water. I haven’t even been swimming in any one direction, let alone surfing anywhere fast. I’ve been treading water double-time, because all around me nothing made any sense, and my brain was playing tricks on me, every time I turned around.  Hell, it was playing tricks even before I turned around. I didn’t have to do anything or even move a muscle, for my brain to play tricks on me.

And it effin’ sucked. I mean, it blew chunks like nobody’s business.

And now I’m tired. Worn. Out. And all the stuff that I thought meant so much to me over the years… a whole hell of a lot of it was just me trying to direct my anxiety, my angst, my nervous energy, my craziness, in some direction that wouldn’t kill me. I was so driven, so propelled, so utterly possessed by a horde of demons that nobody could see — sensory issues, noise and light sensitivity, tactile defensiveness, confusion, frustration, never being able to get my words to say exactly what was in my head, being constantly misinterpreted — both myself and my words — and scrambling… always scrambling… just to keep up.

Of course, how would anyone ever know that? After all, I not only could pass as normal (when I was anything but — I was way ahead of normal), but I could also hide what was going on with me, because showing it meant ridicule and ostracism and being treated like I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

That’s no way to live, so I’ve just covered it up for years. All my life, really. It wasn’t worth it, to let on to others what was going on inside of me.

And it took a hell of a lot of time and energy to keep going under those conditions.

The thing was, I was so busy scrambling, so frantically treading water, trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, that the fear and anxiety fueled me — and it felt like I just had a lot of energy. For everything.

Now, though, things are different. I’m coming out of the “pipe” of my crashing wave of a life, and I can feel myself coming into the clear. And with that clearing, comes a ton of energy and the ability to do things I never thought would be possible.

So, I want to do them all. And I try to do them all. Because I’ve been blocked and stopped my entire life from doing the things I wanted to do, and now that I have the capacity and the capability… well, I’m overdoing it a bit.

Speaking of overdoing it, I am about wiped out from writing this. I’ve had a long day. I’ve had a long week. I am beat. And I need to sleep.

So, I shall.

Onward.

What do I want for today?

The days just keep slipping by…

So, it’s Friday. Finally. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it is a huge relief to be done with the week. On the other hand, I have so much to do and so many deadlines, that taking a few days off just makes me dread next week.

I’ve been doing a lot of dreading, lately. I am behind on a number of of my projects – there are just too many of them, and they are all TOP PRIORITY in the eyes of others. I’m keeping things running that need to keep going, and I’m also working on building new pieces of the puzzle that is my occupation. And the new pieces are getting intense push-back from people who want things to stay as they were.

Which all seems pretty unfair to me – it wasn’t my idea to make all these changes. My job is just to make them happen. But I get the brunt of people’s objections and opposition, while management sits back and lets the underlings duke it out. Which is incredibly uncomfortable and bothersome for me.

Really, what I want for my life is some peace. I have had a hell of a decade, and I value peace and common sense a whole lot more than I did when I was in my 30′s. I’m nearing the end of my 40′s, now, and I feel it very strongly. I have changed. My injuries have changed me. The upheavals of my life have changed me. All the drama I have gone through in the past ten years since my TBI in 2004 has changed me. It’s almost like life was on the lookout for my 40th birthday, and as soon as it was in sight, all hell broke loose. It didn’t even wait for my 40th birthday, because everything started to come unraveled a few years before… which contributed to my fall down those stairs in ’04.

Interesting… I’m seeing a lot of 0′s and 4′s in the last paragraph. Not that I’m superstitious or anything…

Anyway, enough bitching about how hard life has been. Everybody has it hard, in one way or another, and it’s really up to me to decide what to do with it. Rather than fighting things and resisting them and wishing they were different, I could be facing up to what’s ahead of me and just going for it, treating it like a learning experience, rather than proof that I’m a screw-up and will never get anything right.

When I approach everything like a big ole learning experience, so much the better. Teach this old dog some new tricks, and see how far it can go.

It really does take the pressure off.

And that makes all the difference in the world. It changes the tone of my whole experience, which is exactly what I need. The longer I’m alive, the more I realize just how elusive true happiness can be, and I value inner peace and equanimity all the more. I understand more than ever just how destructive unchecked anger can be, I know from experience just how much time is wasted by indulging fleeting emotions and giving them the ability to mushroom into Major Events. I have watched the last 10 years of my life be undermined and shredded and dragged down by rage and anxiety and poor self-management, and I have seen years of quality experience prior to that go wasted, because I was too busy being angry or hurt or confused or frustrated or worked up about something, to make the most of my past.

And today, as I look ahead to a day I’m not looking forward to, when I’m going to be working with people who are NOT on the same wavelength and revel in all sorts of discord and disruption and downright treachery, the painful truth about what my TBI cost me, is very clear to me – front and center.

Days like today are one of the big reasons I am so intent on my TBI recovery — regaining my equilibrium… mastering my emotions… taking care of my physical health… fine-tuning my behavior and how I think about myself and others. I don’t much care for the situation I’m in, and I need to build up the resources and the ability to extract myself from this situation.

The first step is extracting my mind from a situation of dread and avoidance. I hate dealing with some of the folks I have to deal with… come to think of it, I hate dealing with just about everybody I have to deal with. But the thing that makes it harder, is avoiding and refusing to engage with them. When I just step up and do what needs to be done, the wheels start turning, and the anxiety and frustration really decrease. Even though I’m not happy, and I really dislike dealing with these folks, still, I’m doing what needs to be done … to get the hell out. I have to deliver a project before I leave, and there is a big-ass deadline on it. And I need to have so much done before that date. Crazy. But as long as I hold back and don’t do what I need to do, it’s even crazier.

So, enough procrastinating, enough avoiding. It’s time to get on with the day, go deal with these … people, and take yet more steps towards getting the hell OUT. Time to make this day what I want it to be.

Onward. Oh, yeah. Onward.

Letting things just be

You gotta know what’s what – for real

I had a long weekend, with a lot of work of all kinds. I did some work for my day-job, and I also worked with my spouse to help them with a business trip on Saturday. Then I spent most of Sunday with a house guest, who stayed until 5 p.m.

I typically prefer to have time to myself on the weekends – to be alone and undisturbed by others. I had a lot to do, and interacting with other people takes time. It takes a lot of time. And energy. And attention I’d rather put somewhere else.

One of the things that makes interacting with other people difficult for me, is that I really expend a lot of energy when I’m interacting with them. I really make an effort to see their points of view and to just let them be who and what they are. It’s a fair amount of work for me, because most of the things I see and hear and watch people doing, saying, choosing, really conflicts with what I would do, say, or choose.

But it’s their choice and it’s their life. Even if I can see that their deeds, words, and choices are going to lead them down an unfortunate path, I have to stand back and let them do it. It’s not up to me, to save them. Or even to give them a clue about what’s ahead. That’s for them to find out. If I didn’t care so much about the sufferings of others, my life might be considerably easier.

But I do care. And it is extremely hard to watch people do the things they do.

Who am I to take them to task, though? Who am I to step in and draw their attention to things? We all have to walk our own paths, and we all have to make our own mistakes.

I just don’t much care for being pulled into the foolishness that they propagate. When the people doing the ill-advised things are in charge, and they are affecting the lives of countless others on a very large scale, well, that’s a problem. Especially if one of those people is me.

So, in that case, standing by and doing nothing, saying nothing, never speaking out and never raising any questions, is negligent on my part. We all have responsibility for certain things that happen around us. The real puzzle is knowing which of those things we are complicit with, and choosing the right path to take.

For me, the right path is (ultimately) off into the sunset — toward the horizon — and away from the situation where I now am. There is so much more that I can be doing with my skills and abilities, and nobody I work with is actually mature and experienced enough to recognize that. So, I’m limited by their lack of vision and experience.

It really does boil down to experience. And there’s not a damn’ thing I can do about that.

So, in the spirit of picking my battles, I’m working on stepping back and letting things be. I need to observe them and figure out which things I want to dive into, and which things I want to leave alone. A whole lot of drama can be alleviated by just being still and letting it settle down. Then the drama dissipates. The swirling mud sinks to the bottom of the pool, and we can get clear again.

The main thing is to just remain calm and allow it to be. Just be.

And in those times when I let things get the better of me, and all the dust and muck gets kicked up and swirled into a muddy mess, I need to just step back, step away, and let myself settle down… so I can stop stirring the pot, myself.

Half the time, the pot doesn’t need to be stirred, anyway, and all the drama and kerfluffle has nothing to do with what’s actually going on at the moment. It has to do with everything else in the world that people are experiencing — the imaginary past, the elusive present, the anticipated future. And it has nothing to do with reality. At all. Things would be so much simpler, if we could just let them be, but no… people seem to be hard-wired to dive head-first into drama.

Of course, I know exactly how that works. For sure. It’s a mix of biochemistry, neurology, and the combination of fear, anxiety, fatigue, pressure, stress… that whole big mess o’ things that — for some reason — we seem to think life has to be.

It doesn’t. We’re just trained that way. Everything from our media to our interpersonal relationships, are marinated in drama. It wakes us up. It makes us feel alive. It makes us feel important, or right, or righteous, or powerful. It makes us feel as though we alone know “what’s what” in the world, and it’s comforting that way.

But ultimately, all that amounts to is drama. Biochemistry. Neurology. Habit.

It’s not real.

And that’s the thing I need to keep in mind and remember. I did an okay job of remembering it this weekend, when I started to get all OCD over my work situation and started to get all worked up over scenarios I was imagining. The imaginary scenarios were both historical (they had happened, and I’d decided what they were about and what they meant) as well as anticipated (they hadn’t yet happened, and I was pretty sure they would). And I was getting really worked up over them, while I was trying to fall asleep last night.

But I got a hold of it and remembered that I was frittering away precious time on what was basically an illusion — something I made up in my mind about what was happening/going to happen, and what it all meant — and there was not much reality to it, other than the sensations that were coursing through my veins and making my heart rate go nuts. It wasn’t serving any purpose and it wasn’t helping me at all.

So, I stopped. I just let it be. I reminded myself that the only thing that was giving any of it any reality, was me and my conviction that I knew what was what.

Silly.

Once I stopped, and I got myself calmed down, I went right to sleep. Which is what I was needing to begin with.

And that’s progress.

It’s also progress, that I’m seeing more and more clearly each day, just now made-up our world really is. We invent all these interpretations of how things are and what’s happening and what it means, and then we leap into action without checking it out first. We “jump on it” and make a mess of things, and then we run around like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to fix what we screwed up in the first place. It’s all very exciting, and it makes us feel like we’re making progress, but we’re doing the opposite — creating a lot of drama and suffering for ourselves and everyone around us.

So, in that spirit, I’m going to start my day. I’m working at home today, because I’m finally able to get a plumber in to fix a leak that has gotten progressively worse over the past two months. At last, I have the money to pay them, and I have the time for them to come to the house. Those two things have been sorely lacking in the past months.

Speaking of sorely lacking time, I think I’m going to take a day off, pretty soon. All this working, all this pushing, all the interactions with house guests and visitors and new co-workers has kicked the crap out of me, and I need a day to myself. I need some silence. Just silence.

So, I’ll look at my schedule and pick a day that works for me to just check out. Every now and then, I need a break. From everything.

But for now, it’s into the day for me.

Onward.