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.

 

 

Everything that makes up the day

It’s not always clear

Today’s Fog Factor: 70% “with it”

Well, I’m glad I had a nap yesterday. I got a little less than 7 hours of sleep last night, but I got right up, a little after 6 a.m. I really wanted to get into the day — get my exercise, eat my breakfast, and get some writing done before I get into my full-time packing.

I started to get a headache when I was riding the exercise bike, and now my head hurts. I am supposed to get headache specialist info from my neuropsych, but they never got back to me, even though they promised. This isn’t the first time they’ve forgotten about me. Ah well, I may be better off taking care of things myself. I would like to see a neurologist or someone who can tell me if it’s a structural issue with my brain, or if it’s more about my neck and my stress level. I start to get a headache when my spouse is going on and on about some drama at work, so I’m guessing that it’s a stress thing — at least in part.

I guess I need to get back to my meditation exercises again — just training myself to keep calm in the face of whatever comes my way. Things at work have been intense, and that’s not helping. I need to improve my skills at handling what comes down the pike – no matter what that may be.

I did a little bit of writing and reading, this morning, and I’m about ready to start packing my bags for the trip. I need to collect my clothing, do some laundry, and get my pieces all squared away. I have a list of things to do and take care of.

I’ve got about 7 hours before I need to leave for the airport. I have to check in when I get there – I can’t check in online, unfortunately, which puts a real crimp in my plans today. I need to give myself an extra 30-45 minutes, so I’ll need to leave the house earlier than planned. I need to review my list of everything that needs to be done, so I don’t miss anything.

With any luck, this will be my last trip in a while. They are cutting down on travel at work, so that could relieve me of the constant pressure to get ready to go away, and then recover from coming back. What a waste of my precious — and very limited — energy.

I really just want to devote as much time as I can to my own projects and not have my job take over my life, as it has in the past. It’s bad enough that it already consumes so much of my time and renders many other hours pretty much useless to me — because I’m so tired.

I’m making the best of things, of course. I’ve given up fighting it, and now I’m just going to get into my day and live it as fully as possible, whatever comes down the pike. Whatever the day brings, I need to be fully involved in it – not just up in my head, and not standing at a distance. But in it.

This is really the thing that saves me in my TBI recovery — being involved in my life – up close and personal – and not letting setbacks keep me from making progress. There is so much that is a lot more difficult for me, than I’d like, and I really hate my life, some days. I think back on how things used to be, and everything now just feels so strange and foreign. Things used to feel like they flowed. I had what I thought was a very fulfilling life, with hobbies and pastimes that really gave me a sense of belonging. Then I got hurt, and everything changed, and getting back to some semblance of normalcy — at least feeling like there’s some semblance of normalcy — has been a daily challenge.

Now, though, it’s feeling more “normal” to me, and I’m finding my way back to things that used to be part of my everyday life. Reading. Writing. Being active in my community and having friendships to fall back on. TBI can be so very alienating, because of the personality changes — people who used to like you for who you were, no longer have that same person to like. So naturally a lot of them move on, because you’ve almost broken a promise to them about being the kind of person you are “supposed” to be.

Also, your tolerance for the way certain people are can change a great deal. I noticed that in my own life, a lot of the “endearing” characteristics of other people, which I could accept and gloss over, became glaring points of conflict with me. And I became a lot less tolerant of other people’s flaws and foibles, so I couldn’t bear to spend waste more time with them.

As an example, I used to hang out with a lot of people who had a real victim mentality — like all the world was against them, and they had to constantly struggle against the dominant paradigm to just break even in their lives. I used to hang out with a LOT of escape artists — devotees of role-playing games, computer games, renaissance faires, comic books, and other alternative culture types. That was my world — all full of arts and music and imagination. But it became pretty apparent to me, after I got deeper into my TBI recovery, that so much of that was a convenient way to avoid dealing with harsh truths about oneself, instead of taking action to make right the things that were all wrong.

And I realized, too, that so much of the world that my friends thought was out to get them or designed to make their lives miserable, was a result of how they were thinking about those circumstances. They kept telling themselves that “the mainstream world” was designed to destroy them, and they were in a constant state of conflict and antagonism. So, small wonder that they couldn’t get ahead in life. They came across as angry and aggressive with everyone who wasn’t just like them, and they boxed themselves into a version of life that only existed in their minds.

And because I realized more and more, just how much of what they believed was originating within them… and I saw how much that was costing them, in terms of time and energy and positive living… I just couldn’t spend a whole lot of time hanging out with them anymore. That, and the fact that I was so wiped out after working all week, and I just needed to have time to myself to regroup and recuperate. I just couldn’t stand their bitching and moaning and blatant assumptions about life, which only served to get in their way.

The world wasn’t the problem. THEY were the problem.

And so I dropped a lot of them and I’ve gone my own way.

It’s been kind of lonely, to tell the truth. It’s tough to connect with other people like you, when you all have so little energy to spare, beyond basic survival. And the people I’ve tried to stay friends with and tell about my TBI issues… well, they just weren’t having it. They were so convinced that “there’s nothing wrong” with me — and a lot of them still are. They can’t see the internal issues I have to deal with, each and every day. They can’t see the struggles, the pain, the frustration. There’s not much point in trotting them out for others to see, because they just get nervous if they don’t know what it’s like. And they don’t know what to say.

So, it’s complicated. And it’s challenging. But in reality, is sustaining a TBI and not being able to shake the symptoms really that different from any other kind of loss? Losing your home, or your marriage, or a child, or a loved one, or a job? Or any other things that make up part of your identity in the eyes of others? People fall out of your life, they move on, they don’t know what to say to you… and sometimes they are never replaced. I think it comes with life. And getting older. And realizing who you are and what you will — and will not — tolerate in your life.

So, while I have a lot fewer friends in my life, and my activities have really pared down to the most essential of activities, and I’m not nearly as social as I used to be, that’s all fine. Because I’m fine.

I’m fine with how my life is now. I’m fine with things being so much quieter, and having a lot more time for the things that matter most to me. I’m fine with not being surrounded by people who are convinced the world is out to get them. And I’m fine with what the day has to bring.

Because being in the midst of my daily life — all the little details, as confounding as they can be — and experiencing it all, fully alive and engaged in my own life, is what brings me back to myself.

For many years after my various TBIs, I held back and was off by myself in a world of my own inventing, like so many of my ex-friends. And I didn’t really let life in. It was safer, but it was no way to get myself in shape to live my life. I avoided a ton of experiences, because they were too overwhelming or too confusing for me. And I thought I could avoid all that and prevent the anxiety that came with it.

Now, I generally accept that I’m going to get confused and overwhelmed, and I can plan for it. I expect it. So, it’s not such a terrible thing. It’s just one more aspect of life I have to manage. And so I do.

All that the day brings — all it has to offer — it’s there for me.

Now, what shall I do with my life today?

Let’s find out.

Onward…

 

 

 

Learning along the way

Getting back to my regular life is hitting me, about now. Thank heavens it’s a long weekend. If I had to go to work tomorrow, I’m not sure what I’d do.

No, I know what I’d do. I’d go to work. Because that’s what I do.

I’m really feeling the effects of jet lag, right about now. Yesterday was a really challenging day, because I was starting to really get hit hard by the fatigue, the change of time zones, the change of pacing to my everyday life. I can function, absolutely. But it knocks the stuffing out of me, for sure.

Not that it stopped me, yesterday. I had a really good, fully day, actually. I did a lot of cleanup around the house, and I spent about 4 hours helping my spouse pack for a short business trip that they needed a lot of supplies and equipment for. It seemed to me that the amount of work going into preparation far exceeded they payoff, but from what I hear, the trip was a success and many of the goals were accomplished, so maybe it was worth it, after all.

I started to seriously run out of steam around noontime yesterday. That was with 2-1/2 hours of intense preparation still to go. I had been going since 10:00, and I was beat. I just wanted to lie down. Crash. But I kept going. I focused on what needed to be done, and I did it. And I didn’t get all caught up in my resentments and tiredness and anxiety and frustration about being back from a really demanding trip and having to do even more work for someone else — work that had nothing to do with me, really, but that I had to help happen, or it wasn’t going to happen at all.

In the past, I have gotten dragged down in that thinking, and that head trip just pulls all my energy away from what really matters and what’s most important. The important thing is to just get things done, just do the job, just get everything squared away, as only I can. I can’t let anger and resentment and fatigue get the upper hand. I just have to buckle down and push on.

Which is what I did yesterday. And even though I was even more beat, by the time I was done, I actually felt really good about it. I had gotten a ton of exercise, after a relatively sedentary trip. And I had definitely gotten the blood pumping, which I’ve been needing. All the activity got me out into the day, doing something constructive, and it got me moving in my own space, at my own home, on my own turf.

Which was nice. Because I have really missed my home, while traveling. I miss my schedule, I miss my own bed, I miss my routine. I am such a creature of habit, that when I have to turn everything upside-down, it turns me upside-down, as well. Finding my balance again, during and after travel… well, that’s a challenge. But I’m learning better all the time about how to do this thing.

After all, it really is a learning experience. I’m learning how to handle things better and better. I’m developing new skills in adapting and finding opportunity that I can make the most of. And I’m acclimating to the idea that all of life around me is really a classroom I report to each and every day. I have to go to class, but it’s my choice how much I engage, and what I learn along the way.

I tend to think about change with a mixture of dread and hostility. Because it’s threatening my way of thinking and living and my sense of self. I have never been a fan of change, but I think that’s because I always saw it as something that either happened to me or was done to me. “Change” is something I usually think of as separate from me. It’s a set of circumstances beyond my control that I have to adapt to, or else.

Change has long been a sword of Damocles hanging over my head, suspended by a very thin thread, with no guarantee that I’ll be able to successfully adapt to it.

That’s not been particularly helpful to me in my life. It’s made me brittle and rigid and inflexible, and it’s helped make me a lot less happy than I could have been, all these years.

But in fact, when I think about it, change is really nothing more than a learning experience. It’s just a shifting set of conditions that we can learn to maneuver through, just as we’d learn to drive a car or ride a bike. Driving a car and riding a bike are two things many of us learn to do, as a matter of course in our lives. And there are a ton of other things we need to learn, in order to be happy and productive in the world.

We don’t kick and fight and scream about learning to do those things — like ride a bike and drive a car and read and write and (some of us) swim. We go through the steps we need to take, to learn to do them, and some of us learn to do them better than others. Some just show up and put in the minimum required effort and come away with some modicum of ability. Others really apply themselves and think long and hard about the best way of doing things and develop mad skills that put others to shame. In any case, it’s up to us, what level of effort and attention we put into mastering our new skills. Even those who struggle to learn and adapt, can find ways to do so — or find compensatory techniques to aid them in the absence of innate ability.

The same is true of the changes that take place in our lives and our circumstances. We have to re-train ourselves and our minds. We have to learn how to do different things in established ways, or do old things in new and different ways. We have to acquire new skills and perspectives that help us make sense of our circumstances. We have to learn what doesn’t work, as well — what holds us back and drains our energy.

In any case, it’s all learning. It’s identifying new patterns and developing new ways of dealing with them successfully. The changes we face are not life conspiring against us to make us miserable. They’re not a plot by some nefarious foe who seeks to do us harm (well, sometimes it is, but it’s not very productive to dwell on that — fixating on that just takes up more time and energy, which makes it harder to come up with new and different approaches). They’re opportunities to reset our mindset and develop new abilities that make us more complete human beings.

So, that being said, I have a lot I need to learn and re-learn, these days. The big lesson at this moment right now, is how to deal with jet lag. I think I’m dealing with it pretty well, but I feel terrible in the process. I’m functional and I’m able to work pretty well, but I feel like crap, which is a real challenge for my frame of mind. Maybe I just need to expect this, and plan for it. Not get too much on my plate, and be sure to take time to rest and relax.

Yesterday was a hard day for that, because I had so much to do. And I have a lot of catching up around the house. It will get done. I have to believe that. I just can’t skimp on my sleep. Gotta take care of business — and that includes resting up. A lot. Because this coming week is a short one, but I have even more to do.

So, there’s another opportunity to learn.

Onward.

 

Figuring out what matters

Find what matters and focus on that

One of the big differences between the conference I went to last week, and the first time I attended, about four years ago, was that this time, I could tell what I needed to focus on, and what I needed to ignore to conserve my energy.

Part of the challenge is usually figuring out what matters the most, and that comes with experience. When you’re new at something, you often feel like you have to do everything (or at least try), so that you have all your bases covered. You don’t want to leave anything unchecked, you don’t want to be under-prepared, you don’t want to get taken by surprise. Especially when you’re new at something and you’re just learning those particular ropes.

That’s how it was, four years ago, when I first worked that conference. I was a nervous wreck, for weeks in advance. I was way over-prepared, with a clipboard full of printouts with notes and all sorts of color coding for where I was supposed to be, and when. And I ran myself ragged. I helped out anywhere I could — at registration, behind the scenes, running errands and interference for people. I was completely baked, by the end of the six-days I was there. It took me days (maybe weeks) to get back to normal.

The next year, it was a little better. I had fewer notes, and I relied a lot more on the vendor I was managing to do their job. I was there for five days, and I picked up some work here and there, to help out. I was tired at the end, but not destroyed, like I’d been the first year.

The year after that (last year), I was too sick to go to the conference. I was just getting over the flu, and there was no way I was going to make it in one piece.

This year, I went for four days, which was plenty, and I came out of it in good shape. I will need to catch up with my sleep, of course, but that will get done. I feel a tremendous sense of comfort and satisfaction at how things went, and I really got a lot out of the interactions with people there. It was more than I usually do, but it wasn’t enough to completely wreck me.

Probably the biggest difference between this conference and the last ones I went to, was that I didn’t get all worked up over every little thing. There was very low drama for me — some people had a lot, but I kept it pretty mellow, overall. I didn’t micromanage my staff, I just checked in, now and then to shoot the sh*t and make sure they had what they needed, and I let them do their thing. We know each other by now, which is a big help. And we trust each other, which is even better.

I also didn’t push myself to attend every last session that was offered. This conference is typically chock full of workshops that are interesting to me, but there was so much going on, and the sessions were about things I am interested in, but don’t do on a daily basis, so whatever I would learn, would have evaporated, anyway. I saved my energy. I hung out with my teammates. I mended bridges and talked some of my higher-strung colleagues down from their drama highs (and also pushed them a little to do the right thing they didn’t feel like doing). And I generally had a good time. I didn’t set all kinds of impossible goals for myself, and I didn’t measure my success based on how many strangers I talked to, or how good of an ambassador for the company I was.

My spouse also got to come with me, which was both a blessing and a challenge. They got pretty irritable at times because I was working so much and I didn’t have all the time in the world to spend on leisure. We also didn’t have the money to stay a few extra days in the warm, sunny weather, which was disappointing. But in the end, it was all okay, because they met up with friends who lived in the area, and they had plenty of time to kick back and relax in that beautiful place… which was good.

I also didn’t get waylaid and sucked into the drama when they would get angry at me in the mornings. They’ve got their own brain injury issues from several minor acquired brain injuries, a few years after my own last TBI, so much of what applies to me in the irritability department, also applies to them. When they are tired — or just waking up in the morning — they can be hell to deal with — very demanding, accusatory, needy, and pulling on me like crazy, while I’m trying to get out the door and go to work. This is especially true if they start to get anxious, which is frequent.

The difference between us, is that I know what it’s about and I manage it. But my spouse doesn’t see it as being anything unusual or irrational. They figure, they have every right to be irritable and to vent. And so they do. They just want to be “free and unfettered” and “let it all hang out”… and if I “cramp their style”, they lash out in anger. They get anxious and demand to be settled down and soothed, while my own plans are more and more delayed by their games. They don’t actually want to fix any of their anxiety — they just want to be soothed, calmed, feel like they’re being taken care of. Meanwhile, I’m running late… and getting more and more delayed all the time.

It’s very unpleasant. Some days, it just sucks.

But this vacation, I didn’t get pulled into the drama of them dragging me down and holding me in the hotel room in that choke-hold of “anxiety bartering”. I just kept saying, “I’ve gotta go…” and managed to extricate myself from that choke-hold. And I got myself out the door in one piece, in good shape. This is something I’ve been working on, and it went pretty well. I felt a bit guilty, as I was leaving the room, but that’s just the old routine wearing on me. I’ve got to break that cycle of emotional manipulation and control, so I can just get on with my life.

This trip, I managed to do that, and it worked out well. My spouse was not harmed by the experience of me leaving when I needed to go — they just rolled over and went back to sleep. And I made it to breakfast with a colleague on time… well, almost. I was a few minutes late.

The point is, I managed to figure out what was happening, when it was happening, and I figured out how to block out the anxiety static that was just standing between me and my goal of getting out the door. I was able to not get sucked into things that don’t have any reality and that don’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things (problems that are self-invented fall into that category), and just get on with my day. And I think, in fact, my spouse was better for it.

Anyway, I’m back now, and speaking of being on time, I have some things I need to do by a certain time. Gotta get my mail from the post office, where they’ve been holding it. Gotta take my trash to the transfer station. Gotta get this day rolling in earnest.

Yep. Onward.

 

Another year of living dangerously

Making some lemonade out of the situation

So, things are shaken up a bit at work. I have been moved up in the hierarchy by new folks who have no reason to fear or distrust me. Now, I just need to prove their trust is worth it. I don’t want to be cocky, but I’m sure this is going to work out well. I just need to be mindful and chill about things, and not let all the head games get to me.

Other people in my group, including my former boss (who is no longer my boss, praise be) are jockeying for position and subtly undermining others to shore up their own positions. Needless. All we need to do is really promote each other, find our places, and just do all the jobs we’re given to the best of our abilities. There’s no need to be undermining each other and operating behind each others’ backs.

Some people will chose to do that, of course, but I just can’t be bothered. I have so much on my plate, now, I need to focus on my own work and just do my thing. I can’t worry about what others are doing. Frankly, they’ll probably hang themselves with all the rope they’ve been given.

And things will shake out as they will. Some will win, others will be phased out, and others will move on of their own accord.

As for me, this is going to be a really challenging year. I’ve now got some people reporting directly to me, which is a change from having 10 people reporting indirectly to me (sort of “dotted line”). I may “get” 6 more dotted-line reports, but we’ll see. A lot will depend on my performance over the next six months.

So, it’s time to step things up a bit… Get myself in a real groove, take care of my health, get plenty of rest, keep my wits about me, and not let myself go off the rails. I have some travel coming up, which will be a challenge, and it may really test me. But I can’t let it throw me off. I need to just step up and get into it, rather than holding back.

Right before things were 100% finalized, I was getting a bit freaked out, mainly because my spouse has been having health issues, and there is no one else they have to assist them when I am traveling. They are really upset at the prospect of me traveling more frequently over the coming year, and their intense emotional storms about changes (even if they are good changes) hangs over my head, poisoning the whole experience for me. It’s like I can’t even enjoy my new promotion, because they are so desperately afraid of change. I end up spending so much time trying to calm them down and reassure them, I can’t even enjoy my moment.

Sad.

So, after 24 hours of being anxious and dreading their tirades and outbursts (which did happen, but not as explosively as they have in the past), I decided that if I’m going to do this thing and step up to the promotion and improve my standing in the world, I’m just going to do it. I’m going to just enjoy myself and make the most of the opportunity and get as much out of it as I can. I have passed up opportunities to advance in the past, because of my trepidation and pressure from my spouse to not change things too much, and my career has suffered for it.

That’s no good. I can’t let my spouse limit my possibilities. As much as I love them and am devoted to them, I can’t let their fears and insecurities and anxieties become my own. That’s just toxic. So, I’m going to actively manage my situation at home, by having a plan in place, sticking with it, taking steps to strengthen myself and also support them, and really let them know that I support and love and am committed to them. Heck, we might even take a foreign language class together, so they can feel part of my new life and new career direction. Just so they don’t feel so left out and abandoned, as my career takes off.

The thing is, their career is really taking off, too. It has been, for the past couple of years. And I have been 100% supportive — 500%, in fact. I have gone above and beyond to help and support their career — making sure they have everything they need to move up, giving them space to travel and experience new things, giving them room to grow personally and professionally, and really bending over backwards to help them along.

Now it’s my turn. I have an incredible opportunity ahead of me, and it’s just getting better.

So, it’s time to step up and forget about the comfort zone. Get on with it, and see what can be done in this new world. Live a bit closer to the edge… but not so close that I lose my balance and fall off. Realize this is a greater challenge, and I’m going to need to step things up a bit… but that I’ll be able to do it. I have a lot to learn… and I’m looking forward to it.

Onward.

Food fix for feeling better

This can help… the right food is never wrong.

So, I’ve been tweaking my daily diet somewhat, and I can already feel the difference. I’ve just been making some small changes — eating a banana each morning with my cup of coffee, eating nuts and other foods that are specifically for increasing the amino acid L-Tyrosine in my system, which can help improve my dopamine levels.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s connected with a “rush” of good feelings — the reward system in our brains and bodies. Having whacked-out dopamine levels (either very low, or when your system is desensitized to it) is tied to attentional issues, as well as drug addiction, pain, and Parkinsons. And since the part of the brain that produces a bunch of dopamine — the substantia nigra (Latin for “dark matter” because it’s darker than the surrounding tissue) — is particularly vulnerable to concussion, then it makes sense to me that that might apply to me.

I’ve had a bunch of those, after all.

And while I can’t confirm for sure that I’ve got low dopamine levels (you need a blood test from a doctor do do that), I know that having low dopamine levels is a problem I need to address proactively, whether I have specific confirmation or not. Hell, I have a bunch of symptoms that correlate with low dopamine levels.

Over at Livestrong, there’s an article about foods that increase dopamine and serotonin levels. It says this:

Low dopamine levels can cause depression, a loss of satisfaction, addictions, cravings, compulsions, low sex drive and an inability to focus.

Check, check, check, and more checks on each of those.

Also, another article describes how dopamine levels affect things like cognition, memory, attention, movement/coordination, social functioning, and pain. (read it here)

Now, what to do about it? Returning to Livestrong, It says this:

Tyrosine is another important amino acid (a building block of protein) found in dairy products, meats, poultry and nuts. It encourages your brain to release dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters act as stimulating substances to the brain and can help perk you up by making you feel more alert and sharpening your thinking. In addition to meats and dairy products, other specific tyrosine-rich foods that help increase dopamine levels are almonds, avocados, bananas, lima beans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

And that interests me even more, because some of the meds they give folks with attentional issues increase both dopamine and norepinephrine levels in brain.

So, if I can increase the Tyrosine levels in my system, that might get my dopamine levels up — meats, poultry, nuts… specifically, almonds, avocados, bananas, lima beans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds (and more that I’m finding listed online under “dopamine diets”), and my body is still doing what it’s supposed to do… then I should be able to improve my dopamine and norepinephrine levels, and create pretty much the same results that meds will.

Maybe even better — because my own body will be doing it at the rate that I need it to.

So, I’ve been giving myself regular food fixes for the past few days — having an egg, first thing in the morning, as well as a banana (eggs and bananas are both high in Tyrosine)… eating nuts and blueberries, apples, and prunes, as well as drinking peppermint tea instead of coffee. I’m also exercising more regularly, to get things moving.

I have to say, I’m feeling better already. And I don’t have as persistent a fog over me that keeps me from knowing when I’m tired. The last few days that I’ve been having a banana and eating nuts and fruit during the day, I’ve really felt good. Later I’m going to go out and see if I can get some supplements that are supposed to help me further — some straight Tyrosine, as well as oil of oregano (which is supposed to slow down the degradation and re-uptake of both dopamine and serotonin). I know there’s always the chance of me overdoing things, so I need to be careful. But if I keep things simple, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to make even more progress.

For the time being, I’m going to focus primarily on foods — cooking up nutritious alternatives that not only taste good, but ARE good. I’m going to keep on with the research and experimentation, and I’m going to pick up more varied foods which are supposed to help. I’m hoping this will also help my spouse, who has their own set of issues which appear to be directly related to dopamine levels, as well. In fact, in some ways, I’d say they have even more serious issues than I — and I might be able to really help them with the right foods in the right amounts.

Anyway, it’s worth a try. And I’ve got plenty of time to experiment, too. So, onward.

 

 

 

Diving into my brain

Check out what’s in there…

Time to break out the old MRI again. About five years ago, I had a series of weird experiences that other people assured me were seizures. I honestly didn’t know what to think — my eyes would start jumping rhythmically back and forth, I couldn’t keep them focused on any one thing at a time, and I had these extreme and overwhelming floods of emotion that really leveled me. I even went blind for a few minutes, one afternoon while I was spending time with family.

After talking to a bunch of folks, including epilepsy doctors, I had an MRI and an EEG, and nothing came back definitive, other than a pineal cyst — which is common in the general population. About 40% of autopsies uncover a pineal cyst, but it doesn’t seem to make a ton of difference in quality of life, other than headaches and other issues in extreme cases. My pineal cyst was fairly small, so the doctor just told me to keep an eye on it and get re-scanned every couple of years to make sure it’s not getting worse.

I haven’t been back since, as I’m not having any symptoms or issues that seem worth the trouble. Also, the contrast agent they pump into you to make things light up made me sick, and there have been lots of reports of bad side-effects, so no thanks.

Anyway, reading about dopamine and how it’s produced in the body and the parts of the brain that are involved, I’ve dug up the old MRI files to look at, and it’s as fascinating as ever. The thing is, my brain doesn’t look like the textbook images — I must have lay on my back a lot as a baby, because the back of my head is flattened and the cerebellum is pushed forward and up. I have found other images on Google that look like me – and we certainly don’t look like what’s in the Netter’s anatomy book I have.

Fascinating. Not that this means there is anything wrong – it’s just different.

So, anyway, I’m looking at the physical structure of the brain, trying to see where all the action takes place. There’s a ton of stuff going on in there – it’s hard to distinguish between the different pieces, based on my limited knowledge, but I guess the most important thing is that everything is intact — and I have the capacity to explore and question and discover for myself.

That, in itself, gives me a rush, which is exactly what I need.

I need a rush that is for something meaningful and useful. For years, I devoted hours and hours of my time to activities that just took the pressure off and distracted me from what was really going on — writing for hours and hours in journals which never served any useful purpose, other than providing a rhythmic, solitary activity that would soothe my jangled nerves… studying history and obscure facts in order to better understand life around me (had limited success with that)… and drifting from one project to the next, each time convinced that I was going to hit the big time and make a fortune, then dropping each undertaking in due course because I got bored or it didn’t pan out the way I expected. I was really quite aimless — in large part because I only wanted to take the pressure off my head and my heart… not actually do anything with my life.

I suppose it was good for something. The interests and the discipline I developed over the years have stood me in good stead, with researching my TBI issues and figuring out how to address them. So, it wasn’t all for naught. But I spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of nothing — mainly because I just needed to take the edge off my anxiety and depression and low energy levels.

Now I’m able to focus that attention and activity in a productive direction. And getting the hang of tweaking my dopamine levels and increasing my general feelings of well-being, is just the ticket. It’s fascinating to me, and that can’t hurt.

So, the day is waiting. The brain is an enormous domain that’s full of all manner of fascinating areas and abilities. Looking at the anatomy can be overwhelming, but when I think about the dynamics of it — just how it works, and how I can better use it — a lot of it makes more sense.

Time to dive back in and get fascinated again.

Onward.