Rise and Shine – At last, a reason to get up in the morning

It’s a new day. Literally

Today’s Fog Factor: 75%

I woke up at 5 a.m. again today. It was not because of an alarm, and it was not because I jolted awake on adrenaline that won’t quit. I just woke up. Because I was done resting.

I lay in bed thinking for a while, then I talked to my spouse who was also up at the same time, and we sorted some things out that they’ve been mentally wrangling with for some days, now. Then I had my exercise — just a little, not too much that messes up my head — and I made my breakfast at the same time. Making coffee fits in well with me riding the exercise bike, and frying an egg fits in well with my leg exercises. I didn’t do any lifting today, because I’m a little sore from yesterday, and the point was really just to move, not to overdo it. I may go to the gym later today. I have my gym bag in the car, so I can do that. It’s been a while since I got on the machines, and I actually miss it.

So, I’m going to go ahead and spend a little bit of time in the gym at work.

So, I woke up early and got up early, too. I’ve been waking up around 5 a.m., ever since I got back from my last trip. Having only a couple of weeks between international trips makes it hard to get back to a regular schedule I also feel like I need to shift my sleeping schedule up a bit, anyway, because I was getting too lax before… too lazy, too in love with a leisure that I cannot afford to indulge. I was getting to bed too late and getting up too late, too.

In the past, I was also pretty depressed about my job situation, to be honest. It just dragged me down terribly and now that I think about it, as valiant as I tried to be to keep on keepin’ on, it was a total friggin’ drag. Small wonder I didn’t want to leap out of bed in the morning. I was reporting to a nincompoop… who was following on the heals of a jerk… who was following on the heels of a real d*uchebag. I haven’t had many decent bosses at all, in the past almost-4 years at this company, but now at least there’s a (relatively) competent person at the helm of my group. It would be an understatement to say I’m glad that the organization has changed and I am no longer stuck in that old situation, reporting to those old bosses.

At the same time, I’m also really glad that I have this new situation. It’s more than being glad I’m out of that old situation. I’m really happy to be in new circumstances. It’s a relief, to not have to fend off idiots all the livelong day. And better yet, it’s positioning me well to move into a different and better line of work than I’ve been in for almost 20 years — a line of work that can translate across a number of different industries and disciplines — not only technology.

That new direction is project management. I’ve talked about this before as something I wanted to move towards, but there was something that always held me back. Project management is actually something I’ve been doing for years now. However, because I’ve always had a hands-on role in the projects I’ve been involved in, and I’ve always had to report to some d-bag who tried to undercut me because I threatened them, I was never considered (or permitted to be) a 100% project manager — just a coordinator or a producer or a “lead”.

That’s changing, now, as I move forward. And I can detect a distinct change in the way I’m relating to my work and going about my business. I’m thinking bigger picture — because I can. I’m not being blocked anymore. I’m a lot less hands-on than I’ve been in the past. And I’m a lot better able to step back and just let others take over doing the hands-on work.

This is a big change for me. For so many years, I was deeply invested in being THE ONE who did the work. I had to be the one who took care of things. I had to be the one who got everything squared away. I didn’t trust anyone else to do the job, because I didn’t believe they could do it as well as I could.

And back in the day, that was accurate. I could do my job better than anyone else, and it was extremely painful to see people struggling through, trying to get things done, which I could take care of far better, in a fraction of the time. It took forever. They didn’t know how to do things properly – they still had to learn. And my anxiety was out of control, to the point where I couldn’t even begin to step back and let someone else handle things — because they would do it wrong, and that was unacceptable.

Now things are very different. First off, because of my learning and reading and comprehension and memory issues, I can’t retain and process information nearly as fast and as capably as in the past. This has been an incredibly difficult thing to take. Not being able to read and retain what I read… not being able to think fast on my feet and adapt instantly to changing conditions… not being able to adjust and switch gears… it’s really been a hard pill for me to swallow. But that’s how I’ve become. And while the past 10 years have seen improvements with me, I am nowhere near as capable of picking things up quickly and adapting to ever-changing conditions, the way I was before.

I have fought and struggled against this for years, but in the past year, I seem to have finally given up on the idea that I can ever get back to my old level. That’s just gone. All the attempts at keeping up, at getting my abilities back up to snuff… well shit. That capability is just not there anymore. I’ve got to move on. I see that now.

The thing is, moving on is the best thing I can do under the circumstances. Because frankly, it gives me the opportunity to effect change at a much higher level than I’ve been able to, before. Changing my career direction makes it possible for me to actually stop things from being chaotic and frenetic and stupidly “dynamic” for no other reason than the thrill of the chase. Being in a project management position allows me to change the culture at a fundamental level and create the kind of environment that I know is productive and helpful for everyone — and that supports positive change, instead of driving everyone ahead like mad little animals being herded into a truck and shipped off to God-knows-where.

I’ve chafed against conditions of confusion and frustration and ambiguity for years. And now I get to change that — for the better. I may not solve every single problem, but I can at least make a dent.

I’ve also been given a really huge task to take on at work – and it seems well nigh impossible. So, I have to let go of my need for control. It’s impossible for me to control alone. It is simply too big for me to make happen all by myself, and I have to step back and let others handle things. It’s not optional. First, I don’t have the time to follow every single detail of every person’s activities. Second, I don’t really want to. And third, it lets me focus on the bigger picture and providing leadership to folks who are struggling to find their way.

A coworker of mine is trying to manage everything personally, with a hand in every single thing that happens, and it’s driving them crazy. It’s making them ill. It’s painful to watch, and I am learning a lot from their mistakes.

I just don’t have the time and the energy for that level of involvement. I need to find another way. So, that’s what I’m doing.

And it’s funny — all of a sudden, I want to get up in the morning. I want to wake up. I want to move into the day. I want to turn my life around.

Because on the one hand, I finally have a job that is a real intellectual challenge for me — it’s stimulating and invigorating and frustrating and confounding, and it’s just the sort of impossible mess I specialize in handling and setting to rights.

On the other hand, I can’t wait to get the hell out of there and get my life back. I can’t want to find a job doing project management that’s within 15 miles of my home, which doesn’t kill me with the commute, and leaves me time in my day to do the things I love to do — write and read and relax. I’ve had precious little of that, ever since my job moved 20 minutes east, into the thick of the worst commuter traffic in the region.

I also look forward to finding another job which all takes place here in the United States. I do like my international colleagues, and we get along pretty well. However, traveling overseas on a regular basis is, well, hell. It destroys the quality of life I have worked so hard to create, and the fatigue and logistics are serious issues with my mental and physical health. It’s taking a toll, and I need to stop it.

Plus, the people I work with stateside are unprofessional pains in the ass. Seriously, I haven’t heard this much bitching and complaining since high school.

Of these three issues, the last is probably the least likely to go away. People will be people, and no matter what the circumstances, they’ll tend to act like adolescents. But the first two, I can control, and there is hope for me there.

So, that’s my plan. And I’m sticking to it. Do my job to the best of my ability, make my internal “customers” happy and discharge my duties with professionalism and capability… and prepare my exit strategy. It makes no sense for me to continue like this indefinitely. I’m not getting any younger, and I’ve got better things to do with my time than sit in my car, wrangling with traffic. I can think of a number of better uses of my time, energy, and money, than commuting.

So, that’s where I’m going to put my energy. Just take care of what I need to take care of, and set myself up to move on with all due haste.

It’s a plan.

And it has me getting out of bed in the morning. Because I want to. Because after so many false starts, now I can truly see the end of the road ahead of me. There’s only another 8-10 months I have to do this, and things are so insane and so fast-paced, I’m sure the time is going to just fly by. I figure it’s going to take about that long to get my current situation squared away sufficiently to show results, fill out my resume, and position myself well for my next steps. I just need to study up on what I’m doing and figure out the best way to do it. I need to get clear on my abilities and interests, and just move forward with them, all the while keeping things moving along in my neck of the woods. I’ll focus on acquiring the skills and experience I need to transition into my next position, and not worry about how things are right now.

They’re going to change. It’s my job to change them. So, I’m going to do exactly that.

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.

Hacking the dopamine drought

Food should feel good

So, I did some research on the medication my neuropsych has recommended, if I can’t get my irritability under control. It’s a dopaminergic substance that supposedly takes the edge off fatigue-based irritability and can keep me from freaking out over every little thing.

That’s fine, but I would rather manage this without pharmaceuticals, really.

Now, I have nothing against people using meds when necessary. I believe they can save lives.The thing with me is that I don’t think my irritability is so extreme or beyond my control that I have to have a medication to chill. And I am deeply concerned that relying on a medication will decrease my innate ability to cope, making things even worse, if I go off the med. I don’t want to be that dependent – especially if there is the chance that I may not have access to the meds for ever and all time. I could lose my job and lose my benefits, and end up without needed medications, and then what would I do?

Not good.

Also, if the core issue is fatigue as well as a problem with low dopamine levels in my brain, that’s something I believe I can fix on my own. I can “hack” into this system — as in, figure out how things work, understand the inner workings of it (like you’d figure out the inner workings of a computer program) — and then design a better solution, using tips and tricks picked up here and there to fine-tune the overall system to work better.

I did some research, and it seems pretty clear to me that one of my big issues is low dopamine levels. I haven’t been tested, so I can’t say for sure, but the way my neuropsych talks about it – and the way I am reading information – it sounds like that is a core issue with me. Too little dopamine in my system can lead to depression, irritability, weight gain, a feeling of blah-ness, etc. Not much fun at all.

So, to up my dopamine levels, I am focusing on diet and exercise and a supplement (an amino acid) called L-Tyrosine, which the body converts to dopamine. Ripe bananas and eggs are a good source of L-Tyrosine, and beets, almonds, avodados, meat, fish, and artichokes also help boost dopamine.

There’s a whole bunch of foods I can eat, to help my body produce more dopamine, so that’s what I’m going to focus on, rather than pharmaceuticals. I’m just going to have to be pretty deliberate about it, and also watch myself to see how it is working.

Also exercise. I’m not getting enough of it — so I ran stairs today at work — up and down four flights… twice. It actually felt really good to do it — wore me out a bit, but it’s a small price to pay. Plus, it took the edge off my antsy-ness, which was helpful.

I’m also working on my rewards system. Dopamine is connected with rewards and that sense of fulfillment and excitement that comes along with it. Frankly, my rewards system is for shit — I never really developed a good sense of rewards, so that’s something I need to work on, as well.

I don’t know how I’ll do it, but I’ll figure something out.

But for now, it’s all about the food, baby.

Onward.

Rest up… then decide

Time to go down for the count

I’m in a pretty dark place, right now… Feeling down and alone and just not “into” living my life. Everything feels so overwhelming and confusing and like there is never an end to … well… everything.

I know that I’m tired. I know I’m physically and mentally tired. The upheavals of the past week have really taken a lot out of me. It’s been constant drama with my spouse, as well as their business associates. Everybody is so busy being wounded and slighted and outraged, that nobody has any bandwidth left to just take care of things.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it all. And it’s good I realize this. Because I have been feeling more and more like the problem is with me, that I can’t keep up, that I can’t seem to keep an even keel with all this around me.

Earlier today, I just felt like leaving. Packing my bags and hitting the road. This is my go-to fantasy for when things feel too difficult for me to parse through, and I can’t seem to make sense of anything. I imagine what it would be like to pack a small bag with only the essentials, go to the bank, withdraw the maximum on my debit card, gas up the car, and hit the road… and not look back.

I could totally do it — if I didn’t have such a strong connection with my spouse, and if nothing else in my life were right. In fact, if my spouse passes away before me, that’s probably what I’ll do. Just take what I absolutely need, lock up the house, and hit the road for a while. Quit my job, tell my family I love them, cancel all the bills and accounts and contracts that make up the fabric of my life, and go.

Just go.

Where would I go? Probably deeper into the mountains… near here or farther to the North and West. Where there is lots of snow, big bears, mountain lions, and eagles. I might take to running a trapline in Alaska. Or just survive on my own. Build a cabin. Or build one of those self-contained houses that has a greenhouse built in. Take my time. Build it right.

Or alternatively, I’d put in for a transfer at work and move overseas for a few years. Transfer to a city in Europe. Maybe France. Or one of the northern Germanic/Scandinavian/Baltic countries. Learn French. Or German or Swedish or Danish or Norwegian or Lithuanian. And spend my life working a day job for a European company that gives me 6 weeks paid vacation, and spend my time off exploring the European continent. The Fjords. The Hebrides. Somewhere north. With mountains. And snow. And cold.

Where the nights are unbearably long in the winter, and the days never end in the summer.

Anyway, now that I’m thinking about making that kind of a change, my depression is lifting. I’ve got some creative juices flowing, and it’s entertaining me right out of my funk.

I think depression just goes with this time of the year, since it is a time of short days and long nights, and that SADD business kicks into gear right around this time. I also know that I am very, very tired, and feeling despair tends to go hand-in-hand with fatigue. Especially when my days are unstructured, such as today…. and when I’m feeling bad, physically, which I am.

Today is not a day for me to be making any major decisions, such as what I want to do with my life. Of course, when I am tired, I am particularly prone to wanting to do that. I start to mull the big picture of my life, I get depressed, and then I start to come up with all sorts of bizarre ideas about how to make it all better. Like changing careers without having any formal training in the new field I want. Like leaving my spouse. Like quitting my job — and quitting work completely. Like buying a new car and going on a driving tour to see all my relatives in all those different states, couch-surfing for a few decades, till my Social Security kicks in. Like writing a tell-all memoir that reveals intimate details from the lives of little-known people whom nobody cares about. Like writing an edgy novel, full of violence and sex, that will get people’s attention and make me famous — and a fortune.

Any number of things run through my mind.

The thing is, as I’ve said, I know I’m tired, so there’s no point in me going on about this right now. I need to just finish off the leftover hot and sour soup, drink my tea, and take a long nap. I’m on my own today — flying solo — so I have another 10 hours of solitude till my spouse returns with three other friends who need a place to crash for the night. I have a handful of things I need to get done, but for the next few hours, I need to just settle in, get some rest, and then figure out one thing to do – at a time.

See, that’s the deal — it’s not only that fatigue makes me want to make big changes in my life. Fatigue makes me want to make big changes that should never be done, instead of making little changes that need to be done. It seeks out the most exciting, most dramatic, most powerful sources of stimulation, in lieu of the regular, everyday ones, and it blinds me to the little things I can do each day to make my life better.

That being said, now it’s time to chill, take a long hot shower, and lie down for a long winter’s nap. I’ll decide what to do when I wake up.

It’s now officially winter, and I’m ready to hibernate.

Good night. For now.

Fantastic night last night

Beautiful moonlight

What a beautiful night it was, last night. The moon was full and casting bring shadows across a quiet earth… beneath a starry sky. On nights like last night, I’m glad I live in the country – I have lived in cities about half my life, and while there is much beauty to be seen there, too, there’s nothing like a full moon night in the silent wintertime.

And it isn’t even officially winter, yet.

I didn’t get to bed as early as I was hoping to. I had a late night at work, and I only finished up a little after 10, so small wonder it took me a few hours to wind down. I actually did well, under the circumstances, and I got in bed a little before midnight. I was up a little after 6 a.m., so I got about six hours of sleep, which could be better. But I’m working from home today, so I can take a quick nap later on.

I’m still feeling the burn from the weekend’s work, and I’m taking it easy with the early-morning exercise. I just need to keep moving today, to keep from getting locked up. I actually have a good mix of things I need to do, including a few out-of-the-house errands.

So, things are good today. Not perfect, but still working out.

I’ve got a nice block of free time coming up this coming weekend. My spouse is going to be away working pretty much all weekend, so I have uninterrupted time to focus on some projects I’ve had going. I’ve needed to do a number of things, but it’s been slower going than I expected. Everything seems to take sooooo loooooonnnnnggggg with me, at times — much longer than I plan and anticipate. So, that kind of takes a bite out of my self-confidence. And I feel like an idiot – even more than usual.

I know I bulk up on a lot of things to do — I do that on purpose to put the pressure on, because I work better under pressure. But it also sets me up for failure, just about every day. So it’s a balance. I guess the thing I need to do is really take the time to savor the times when I get things done, and get them done right. I tend to bounce from one activity to the next, just taking my successes and little victories in stride, rather than really stopping to enjoy them.

It will be good to have the time to myself, this weekend. It will give me time to think. Or not think. I’ve been dogged by a sense that I’m not nearly as sharp as I wish I were, and I have to struggle with a lot more things than I would like to. Nobody likes to struggle with things, I’m sure, but it seems like some things should be a lot simpler than they are. It’s so convoluted. I think I have things figured out, then I find out I don’t. And I have to start from scratch again.

It can be exhausting. The daily discovery that I didn’t get it right… again. Or that I was completely wrong in my thinking… and I have to try again. Can’t I just get it right the first time… just once?

Well, anyway. I’m sure there are lots of people out there who feel this way. I just get depressed when I think about it. So, my solution is to not think about it — just keep going. And try to get plenty of rest in the meantime, so I don’t wear myself out with all my mental concern.

Maybe that’s the key for me, to stay happy and healthy and productive — not think so much about things, and use the energy I have to keep trying, keep refining, keep growing. I can’t just sit and noodle about things all day — that in itself is depressing. I have to use my energy — the anxiety, the sadness, the frustration, the anger — as a source of fuel for my life. Keep going, keep growing, keep moving. And not stop to think about what it means in the grand scheme of things, or let it take on qualities that make it seem like it’s depression.

Now that I think about it, this seems to be the key for me — it’s what works best for me, and it’s what has made it possible for me to function at my best for so long: using the energy I have for positive, productive activities, rather than for negative ones. I mean, seriously — I have so much frustration and anxiety and anger and nervousness, if I don’t do something productive with it, it all just eats me alive. And that’s no good.

Last night, before I stopped in to get food for dinner, I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and started to cry. All the frustrations of the day, the energy, the conflict, the upheaval that’s going on now (with yet another re-org on the horizon) was getting to me. Big time. And I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I started to feel really sorry for myself, becoming angry at my spouse, my family, my employer, my co-workers, my neuropsych, my bank, and myself… and feeling like the whole world was against me, and there was no way I was going to dig myself out of the abyss of money troubles and job troubles and pain that have dogged me for over 45 years.

It has never, ever been easy for me, and nobody seems to really appreciate just what I have to go through each day. Nobody can see my issues, most people don’t seem to believe I actually have them. And if I told anyone about what’s really going on with me, they’d probably be shocked and dismayed.

And last night, it all just welled up and got the best of me. I couldn’t see past my immediate troubles — even though things are really turning around for me — and all I knew was trouble, struggle, and pain.

This morning, I can’t say that that’s changed. People are still clueless about my situation — but that’s how I want it to be. I don’t want people to pity me, to feel sorry for me, or give me special consideration because of what I’m experiencing. I need to be fully functional, regardless, and I need to just get on with my life. Even if it hurts. Even if I’m foggy and out of it. Even if I feel like I’m going to fall over, or the lights are too bright or the noises are too loud. I need to keep moving, even if I’m tired. I can’t live any other way. There’s just no point. I need to do constructive things with my life. I need to be active, even if I am in pain and hurts like hell just to stand up and walk across the room.

I’m not sure my life is worth living, if I can’t do the kinds of things I feel compelled to do. That’s what makes me who I am, and if I’m not myself, then who the hell am I? And what the hell is the point?

Well, anyway, enough navel-gazing. It’s time to get on with my day and use some of this energy for something productive.

Onward.

 

When things turn around – for the better

I recently realized I needed to change my tax withholding information for work. I wasn’t taking enough deductibles each year (as evidenced by the refunds I’ve been getting for years), so I submitted a new W4 form a few weeks back. The results are in, and it’s pretty amazing – I actually got a 10% “raise” in the process.

If I were my mother, I’d be shouting “Praise God!” to the heavens, Praising His Name to everyone within earshot. And I’m almost there, myself.

It’s just now sinking in. The more I think about it, the bigger news this is for me. This changes everything. It’s pulling me back from the brink in so many ways. Even just that little boost is making the difference between a barely-scraping-by subsistence frame of mind, and actually feeling like I can plan my life.

It’s pretty phenomenal. I have now gone from being strictly hand-to-mouth… pinching pennies each week, sweating it out about how much I run the heat and electricity, driving on fumes till I’m almost out of gas by the side of the road, postponing necessary car repairs that will prevent larger problems later, and buying those $2.94 lunches at work each day.

For the record, it’s actually pretty filling, considering how cheap it is, and I can buy at the cafeteria cheaper than I can make it myself, but now the thought that I actually have a choice, is just phenomenal.

Holy crap. And all of a sudden, the world looks that much more friendly. I have been seriously stressed about money for years, now, and after realizing my mistake, I did something about it. This is all coming from my troubles after my TBI in 2004, when my brain stopped working the way it was supposed to… and it’s coming at a time when my spouse and I have been pushed to the absolute limit of our endurance. The money situation has been literally tearing us apart, and this break comes at a critical juncture, when we are going into a winter season that promises to be cold, with neither of us able to afford getting sick from not having enough heat.

Now, with just this little boost, I can quit hovering over every cent they spend, harassing them over every cup of coffee they buy on the road, instead of making it at home, fussing over ordering a large size versus a medium or small size, and worried over which utility is going to threaten us this month with shutoff.

Just a little bit can make a huge difference. And looking back at my tax forms, I realize that I didn’t do the math correctly there, either, and I did not get the full refunds I was entitled to. So, I’m going to be refiling my taxes from the past three years in the coming weeks, and it looks like I’ll get something from that as well.

Which means I can pay off some debts that are sucking us dry each month, a little bit at a time. I just might be able to fix my 15-year-old car with the radiator problems, iffy starter, and bad struts. I might just be able to have an electrician come in and fix the wiring in the dining room that’s been out for the past several years, because we didn’t have the money to get it fixed. And I just might be able to buy some new pajama bottoms — the ones I wear are about 10 years old, and they’re getting threadbare. When I look around the house at everything we have here, most of it has been given to us, and the rest has been cobbled together, piece by piece. We have very few truly nice things. We don’t live like paupers, and we have almost everything we need to live like normal human beings, but it’s a humble existence, truly.

I’m not complaining. I’m just noticing.

And the thought of things turning around… well, that’s just phenomenal. Indeed, coming out of the past three years of severe lack and limitation — every “extra” dime we’ve had has gone into paying off the mountain of debt we acquired over the years (especially since my TBI in 2004), and it has been hard. We have done without so very much. So very, very much. Basic medical care. Basic necessities. And the opportunities to see family, who are all several states away. I’ve had to pass up job opportunities, too, because I did not have the extra money to front the airfare to go to the home office and get “face time” with the higher-ups. It’s been hard. Really, really hard.

But this is changing. Which means I need to shift my perspective away from just survival, to how to manage this new “windfall”. 10% more money in the bank might not seem like a lot, but it’s actually even more than that, relatively speaking. See, a good 2/3 of my paycheck goes to paying off the mortgage as well as old debts, each month. So, that leaves 1/3 of my paycheck for us to live on each month. (Nothing like trying to buy groceries, the night before payday and having the cashier tell you your debit card was declined. Horrible.)

But now with this “raise”, taking the amounts set aside for mortgage and debt payments out of the picture, I am actually seeing over 40% more takehome pay, each paycheck. That puts it in a better perspective. Relatively speaking, after the money is allocated to the house and those creditors, I am seeing almost 1-1/2 times as much pay, as I was seeing before.

Yes, that makes all the difference in the world.

And that means I need to make some adjustments. I need get out of the hand-to-mouth way of thinking, and squirrel some of this money aside. I need to beef up the house and car repairs fund that we had (and drained) earlier this year. I need to look at the long-term plan for getting rid of the debit load and saving for the future. I know I need to get a new (to me) car, because my trusty little commuter car is having more and more problems, so I need to plan for that, as well.

Long story short, I have some thinking to do. And planning. My spouse and I need to sit down with the numbers and make a plan — that’s based on future prospects, rather than just a knee-jerk reaction designed to ease the pain of daily existence (as has been our tendency for many years, now). I’m coming out of a very dark place, and things are turning around for me, and I need to adjust accordingly.

So, it’s time to sit down and look at numbers. And get priorities together. And move ahead. Just move ahead.

The crazy thing is, I woke up early this morning – around 4:00 a.m. – feeling incredibly down. I was so depressed and felt so hemmed in, it brought me to tears. I felt like there was no way out, that I was stuck, and I was never going to get free… and that part of my brain that loves to give in to despair started thinking about how much my life insurance was worth, and how I was worth more dead than alive. That comes up, every now and then, when I am feeling stuck in a corner with no way out. It’s horrible.

Then I called my bank and checked my balance, since my paycheck went in at midnight. And everything started to look brighter. As in, blindingly.  Everything turned around, just when things were seeming their darkest. And it went from the abyss to the mountain top.

Now, granted, there are still challenges, and I still have a lot of work to do, but this is a start. It gets me out of the red and to a place where I’m doing slightly better than just breaking even. I have years’ worth of backlogged obligations to take care of, and now they don’t have to hang over my head anymore. I can take care of these things, one at a time. Systematically and regularly and with a good plan that makes sense and as my spouse’s cooperation. I don’t have to live in horror and dread because of a bad credit rating, because now I can suddenly afford to pay for things when they come up.

And life is good again.

How quickly things can turn around. How quickly they can change. I just need to keep steady and not lose my head over things… and make sure my spouse is in synch with reality. Already, they’re starting to talk about skimming a little bit off the top, here and there, so I need to nip that tendency in the bud, before it puts us back where we’ve been.

I’m tired of being here. I need to get out. I need to move on. Make the most of what I have — however much or little that may be — and get back on the good foot.

Use my head. Be smart about things. And go. Really go.

The bottom line is, I must never give up. Because things might just turn around radically without me ever expecting it. Never give up. Never, ever, ever give up.

Movement is the key – feed the good wolf

Gotta keep moving. Some way. Some how.

I did a little yard work, first thing this morning, then took off for the trails near my place, and it was great to be out on such a beautiful day. It’s cold, but it’s beautiful. I try to get out every chance I get — especially on the weekends. It clears my head and it gives me needed exercise, especially in the winter, when the daylight hours are short, and I spend a lot of time indoors.

I needed to clear my head of the cobwebs from last weekend, and figure some things out about why it was so difficult for me to keep my sh*t together over the long weekend. I need to figure this out, because winter vacation is coming up, with twice the amount of free, unstructured time, and I don’t want it to turn into some nuclear explosion, where everybody feels like they’ve been blasted and irradiated for days and weeks afterwards.

No thanks. Gotta figure it out, so I can just live my life.

Something occurred to me today, as I was out for my morning hike in the woods. I’ve been aware of this before, but it became painfully clear today. Namely, that I am really happiest when I am moving, when I’m active, when I’m doing something constructive. My spouse likes to “take it easy” and relax. It makes them happy to do that, and they feel most comfortable when they are sedentary and just enjoying themself.

Not me. I need to be moving. I need to be active. I have a LOT of energy, and I need to use that energy for something productive, or it “backs up” on me and it turns against me. If I can ‘t use that energy productively, it feels terrible. I feel terrible. If I’m not moving and keeping my attention focused on something specific, the general pain I have just about every day becomes too much for me, and I start to snap and bite like a German shepherd (metaphorically speaking, that is – I can’t remember ever actually biting anyone).

Using that energy for something constructive is the best way I know to keep that abundance of energy from turning me into a raving maniac. And it’s also the best way for me to actually do something meaningful with my life.

I have always had a very keen sense that I am mortal, that I’m not going to live forever, and I have a relatively brief opportunity to do things that will be useful and productive, before my days here are through. This knowledge has always propelled me forward, and I truly believe that not using every chance we get to make the world a better place, is a poor use of time and energy.

Oh, sure, it is important for us to take care of ourselves and recover from our spurts of activity. But in my book, everything needs to serve a greater purpose, or it’s just a total waste of friggin’ time.

And none of us has all the time in the world to waste.

So, yeah. I need to keep my mind and body busy. I need to keep moving. I need to be constantly headed in some specific direction, or I go nuts. The pain builds up and makes me crazy. I start getting loopy.

And when that happens, I can very easily take it out on the people around me who are closest to me.

Which is not good.

So, yesterday I stayed active, and I’ll do the same today. Even when I’m not appearing to be active, like when I’m watching television at night with my spouse, I can keep a little bit of movement going. I need to get up periodically and move. Stretch. Get some blood flowing into my cold hands and feet. Just don’t stagnate and let the discomfort and negative feelings get hold of me. I need to do something constructive with my mind, so that I’m focused on something positive instead of something negative. Sitting and marinating in all the energy I’ve got coursing through my veins… well, that’s just no good.

There’s an old saying about us having two wolves inside us — the good and the bad — and we can choose which one we want to feed, so it becomes stronger. I’m going to feed the good wolf today, and try to do that every day, to the best of my ability.

When in doubt, why give a sh*t?

This is not a cranky holiday season bitch-post. It’s actually just the opposite. I’ve been feeling pretty up and down, lately, not exactly steady-Freddy. Sorta kinda roller coaster stuff.

I tell myself it’s just the holiday season, feeling depressed about family relationships, getting down on myself over this and that and the other thing.

Please. This is not worth the time and trouble. And it occurs to me that this whole depression thing is just an old bad habit, borne of days of yore when I was genuinely disturbed about my relationships and family situation and all that.

Once upon a time, it was like that. It’s not like that, anymore. I’m on good terms with my parents. I am on fine terms with my siblings. I really don’t want to spend a lot of time around them, because they are making such bad decisions, these days, and I literally cannot sit through another story about how bad life is treating them.

Because they’re doing it to themselves.

So, anyway, I was running errands earlier today, feeling a bit tense about money and family stuff and getting all bent out of shape about, well, just about everything. On top of the usual holiday stresses, this is the anniversary of my TBI in 2004 that almost took me out. So, there’s some residual crap there, too. This is the time of year when I wonder what-if… I had never fallen… I had never made all those stupid-ass decisions… I had not lost my job… my money had not all gone away… and I curse my awful fate for having dealt me this crappy hand.

Oh, please.

This is just silly. Nobody has any guarantees, and nobody knows when something or other will happen to them. I’ve had a ton of good luck in my life that has turned out well, and I don’t sit around mooning about what would have happened if I’d never had those lucky breaks.

Times like this, I can be a real mealy-mouthed milksop.

But it’s just a bad habit.

Bottom line is, it’s the holidays. I have more to do than usual, because of all the events. I also have a lot of maintenance work to do around the house, which means I push myself and then end up sore for days, and that wears me out. And I don’t sleep so great, because of work stresses. And I eat too much crap — sugar and cookies and pies and all that Christmassy junk food — which also messes me up.

And I end up in pain.

Yah, no kidding, I’m in pain. I’m eating sugar and drinking coffee and pushing myself like there’s no tomorrow. And I’m not getting enough sleep.

No wonder I’m depressed.

Please.

So, here’s the plan – just let it go. Drop the old bad habits of feeling like crap at the holidays, and quit giving a sh*t about what people think — including family. Just do what’s in front of me and take care of business, and screw it, if it doesn’t turn out the way my soul was longing it to turn out. I’m just so sick of my head running in circles and making up stupid crap for me to get all tweaked about. It’s quite freeing, when I think about it.

Hmmmmm… how would it feel to not give a sh*t? Oh — that’s how :)

My life is actually good. I have a new strategy for work that has legs and a real future for me — and it can take me farther than I can go under my current situation. My marriage is hanging in there, and despite the money issues, things are working themselves out. I’m feeling good enough to be active, and I’m active enough to get sore. I’ve got a roof over my head, and I’ve got a job. Enough complaining and making crap up and giving a sh*t about things that either don’t matter or are going to change, anyway.

Enough.

No more doubts. No more denseness.

At least, not any more tonight. Tomorrow is another day.

Onward.

 

Wake up call #392

Time to sit up and pay attention

Okay, it’s been a few months since I really applied myself to one of my big projects, and now that I’m back in the swing of things, I can really tell I’ve been away. I had to produce a little side-project, this past week, and it turned out to be a lot harder than I remembered it being, a few months back. That’s basically because I stepped away from that activity for a while — and anytime you’re away from something that you do, even daily, you get rusty.

And rusty I was. It was a pretty humbling experience, and I was definitely feeling the burn 48 hours ago, because it turned out to be a challenge I hadn’t counted on being that hard — and I almost didn’t get it done in time.

That’ll teach me to wander off and distract myself with other side projects, while I’m getting the Big Project up to speed.

You know, it’s funny. I made really rapid progress with my Big Project for about 10 months running, then everything ground to a halt. I made great strides, and everything was looking awesome. I mean, I was booking. Seriously. People I talked to were amazed at how much progress I was making. I was focused, I had a vision, and I had the drive to make it all happen.

Then I hit a few big bumps in the road, things got crazy at work, and everything with my Big Project stalled. Just stalled. Like I threw a rod or something. The work, the thinking, the progress, the innovation… everything… suddenly, where there was once focus and drive and determination, there was nothing – zip, zilch, nada. 

And I went into a kind of hibernation — a sort of depression — not feeling up to much of anything, and just wanting to hide from the new world I was moving into, and resuming residence in the old world where I lived for so many years… a world of books and reading and writing and words and thoughts and plans and very abstract, non-solid kinds of thinking. Fluid… general… pie-in-the-sky, without much actual work going along with it. Just thinking in the abstract, high-level. I went back to my books, back to my studies, back to writing pretty much non-stop about new ideas I had.

Comfort zone. Sweet spot. And it felt great to be away from all the new-to-me activity I’d been caught up in. It felt great to take a break from that new sort of busy-ness, the anxiety of figuring things out from scratch, and get back to the old familiar. Ironically, it wasn’t a slowing down of my pace — if anything, it speeded things up. But it was a different kind of speed, which was familiar to me and gave me some relief from the stress of newness and uncertainty.

I actually did do a lot of really good work at that time, but it had nothing concrete to do with the Big Project I started, about a year ago. I need to follow through on some important steps, to bring it to its logical conclusion, but there was nothing — and I mean nothing – happening.

So, anyway, after 2 months away, I got a new client who wanted me to do some work for them related to my Big Project, and I said, “Sure – I can do that.” I had a hard and fast deadline to meet, and I had every confidence I could easily do it.

But — surprise — it took me about three times as long as it used to take me, when I was still in practice. I thought it would take me a day, at the most, and it took me three days of regular work, some of it really frustrating because things were not fitting like I expected them to.

And in the end, some of the results were not ideal. I also found some holes in the process I was following, and I needed to scramble a bit to get them all in order.  I can check in with my client later, to see how my product is working out for them, and I can certainly make needed adjustments, no problem. But it was a wake-up call for me, to see how much I was struggling with things that I was expecting to be very easy.

Without getting into a lot of fine detail, basically, I need to follow specific steps to deliver my new “product” — and if I do the steps out of order, it screws everything up. I have a number of different pieces that need to fit together, and I was having a hell of a time seeing how they all fit, and figuring out where to start.

It was the weirdest thing – I could see it all in my mind, at a high level, and I knew this was all very straightforward and I’d figured things out. But when it came to actually doing it, things just didn’t “gel” the way I expected them to. And I got so overwhelmed with the jumble of details and steps, I hesitated and held back on moving forward as quickly as I could have, and I lost a lot of valuable time in delays, as well as confusion.

So, the one day turnaround that was logically realistic, turned into three days of recalculating and reconfiguring and hassling over details I thought I had worked out.

The thing is, I had worked out those details. I know how to do this stuff. I’ve done it tons of times in the past, with great success. I was just out of practice after two months of not much thinking about it and even less doing it… and I underestimated the degree to which that time off affected my performance.

Well, now I’m back. And I’m practicing anew each day. After working hard for the past few days, I’ve got my motivation back, and I’m moving forward. I have my ducks in a row better than in a long time, and I’ve made some important decisions about how to move forward, that will help me in later times.

I’m also back into getting as much practice as possible, doing and doing and doing some more — at a steady pace, instead of fits and starts — so I won’t get into the situation I was last week. This has been an important wake-up call for me, and yes, now I’m fully awake and alert and back “on point”.

I’ve got my notebook with the steps I need to take each day, and I am taking them, systematically and regularly. And it feels great to see how much I’m able to do each day. I’m getting more organized every day, and I’ve got a clear path ahead of me.

So, it’s good. I’ve taken my lumps — which fortunately were only my lumps, not someone else’s — and I’ve learned my lesson(s) so I can keep going, regardless of bumps in the road.

Yes. Onward.

 

Gratitude adjustment

Indeed.

Today has started out on the rough side. I got in bed before midnight, but I wasn’t able to sleep past 5:00. So, here I am, operating on about 5-1/2 hours of sleep, with a full day ahead of me. Oh, well, I guess I’ll do the Thomas Edison thing and take a long nap later today. By his own admission, the inventor of the light bulb considered sleep to be a waste of time and missed opportunity to work and invent. He once wrote that he considered people who slept 8-10 hours a day to be “never fully asleep and never fully awake — they have only different degrees of doze through the twenty-four hours“.

Of course, he did nap an awful lot (and there are lots of photos showing him taking “power naps“), so that’s where I’m putting my focus — on just getting a nap later today when I can. I’ve got the whole day — and I’ve got tomorrow, too — so waking up early isn’t such a terrible thing.

So long as I use the time productively, of course. The thing that actually got me fully awake after I woke up was not such a great thing. It’s something I don’t often have trouble with, but today, it’s a big ole burden — Jealousy. Frustration. Feeling like a relative failure.

See, yesterday afternoon I called a creditor who I’ve been paying off for the past couple of years. We arranged monthly payments which have been pretty intense to meet each month, and according to my notes, I was going to be all paid up as of this coming January. Well, in talking to them, I learned that I’m nowhere near being fully paid up — I have about another year to go at the current rate — before I’m all paid up. This puts a huge kink in my plans. Having $400 less each month that I have to pay out has been a huge part of my planning for 2014. It was going to free me up, let me pay off other things that have been hanging over my head, and open up the options for work I can take on.

Because if I need to spend $5000 less each year, that means I don’t have to earn Top Dollar for my work, and my options for what kind of work I can take in, will expand. I hate to settle for less, but in my discussions with recruiters, I haven’t been very encouraged by what they’re telling me I can make. Times are tough all around, that’s for sure. And that $5000 break was something I was banking on.

Then my mouse died — the left button doesn’t click. And I realized that I have a lot of things I need to take care of this weekend, which I did not do for the past few weekends (I forgot I had to do them). And money is very tight – the mortgage is going to be paid a month late for the next three months, by my calculations. And the bank loves to call me, even though I technically have a 60 day grace period before they send me to collections. Last night, it was all starting to come in on me, and I went to bed feeling overwhelmed and generally put-upon.

I woke up this morning in a funk, pissed off at myself for not having called the creditors sooner and basing my future plans on a mirage… pissed off at myself for forgetting the things I needed to do… pissed off at TBI for screwing up my life back in 2004 so much that it’s taken me almost 10 years to get back to some semblance of normalcy… pissed off at how hard I have to work at things, how much I need to constant re-think, how much energy it takes, and how overwhelmed I feel.

All. The. Time.

I feel like I can never catch up, and it makes me crazy. No sooner do I come close, than my goal moves out of reach again, and I have to work all the harder.

Geeze. What a rotten way to start the day.

But it gets better (not)… then I got to thinking about an old friend of mine who has really been pissing me off, lately. I first met them when they were an admin at a massive, faceless, soulless corporation, just putting in the hours and hating their life, and longing to do more. They had some health issues and left the 9-to-5 for a while, then they returned to the workforce… and then married someone with a great job, and moved out to the country where they were going to focus on their writing and try to become a published author.

We kept in touch now and then over the years, and one day I was messaging back and forth with them, and they were saying how they wished they could get feedback from other people for their writing. They were enjoying being able to write all the time, but they felt very isolated in the country, just doing their own thing by themselves. They weren’t working a regular job, because their spouse made enough for them to stay home, but the solitary life was not for them.

I suggested they start a blog — blogging was brand new, back in 2006 — and they said, “What’s a blog?” I told them about blogging, how awesome it was, how liberating. They could write each day, work on their style and their “voice”,  and they could get feedback from readers.

So, they did just that. They started a blog. And within a few years, they had a regular readership of thousands of people each day, they had advertisers, and they were starting to get requests from magazines to write for them. Big magazines. Well-known magazines. Jackpot. One thing led to another, and now they’re working on their third published book, they’re doing international book signing tours, and they’re leading online classes that are in high demand.

Holy crap. What an amazing success story. They literally did everything right, and I’m really proud that I helped make that happen, because a lot of people have benefited from their blog and their work.

On a good day, that’s how I feel — proud of them and gratified and in awe of how well they’ve followed through on everything.

On a bad day — like today — it bugs me to no end. Because despite the fact that I’m the one who encouraged them to follow their dream and I’m the one who told them about blogging in the first place, never ever have they actually thanked me for that tip. They did thank me once for supporting them with a little pep talk atta-boy email I sent to them, but other than that, it’s been crickets. I guess they’ve been so busy, they may have forgotten about my tip. But in other ways, they’ve just kind of brushed me off, whenever I’ve reached out to them as a peer.

Like I’m not good enough for them anymore. Even though I was there for them, when no one else could be bothered.

In fairness, I didn’t do myself any favors in our friendship. When we were still in regular contact by email and IM, I was a few years out from my last TBI, and I was pretty erratic and unpredictable. They actually sent some business my way that I couldn’t follow through on, and I think I kind of screwed things up for them and the people they referred to me. I also posted some stuff on their blog that was a little “out there,” and I’m sure it made them wonder if I was right in the head (for the record, I wasn’t, at that time).

Even so… it sticks in my craw that I have to really work at the most basic things, while they seem to be swimming right along. And when I read their Facebook posts and their blog posts about how fantastic everything is… how awesome their life is in their bright new apartment that’s getting new hardwood floors and has plenty of sunlight… and how exciting life is in their very popular, up-and-coming locale…. how connected they are with their professional connections and their readers… how stimulating it all is… how much they love their spouse… as well as the next member of their perfect family who’s on the way and due in just a few months… God, it really works my last nerve.

Okay, I get that we all make our choices. I didn’t get where I am totally by accident. But this is one of those mornings, when everything feels terribly unfair. The main reason they were able to do all they’ve done, is they’re married to someone who has made it all possible. They haven’t had to work for anyone else for close to 10 years, and they’ve been able to travel all over the world, because of their spouse’s connections. They’ve gotten insider tips on places to live and business connections, thanks to their spouse’s connections, and they’ve had the freedom to make plenty of mistakes along the way, without it hurting their work, their business prospects, or their vision.

It is really unlike me to be all pissy and envious like this, and it doesn’t feel good. I know that comparing myself to anyone else is a losing proposition, and it just drags me down for no reason. I don’t know what kind of pain and suffering they’ve experienced in life, I don’t know the reality underneath the facade of perfection they put forward, and who can say if they are anywhere near as happy and truly successful as they seem to be? Heck, for all their books that have been published, who knows if they’re even seeing much profit from it? And who knows how much creative license they’ve had to part with, in order to work within the system?

Who can say if they’re even that happy? I know they seem to have all the ingredients in place — attractive spouse, trendy house, new baby on the way, world travel, a successful blog, and a string of publishing credits that keeps getting longer — but who can say what their actual experience is?

Heck, they might be even worse off than I am, on the inside, whilst putting forth the right impression on the outside.

Who knows? All I know is, there’s this thought in my head that they have it so much better than I, that they’ve had it so much easier than I, and that they’ve succeeded as a result of others’ help, which they aren’t even acknowledging.

But that’s an ugly way to start the day.

I’ve known that since about 5:15 this morning. I’ve also known I needed to change my attitude, one way or another, since about 5:17 a.m.

Thinking through how I felt about that old friend of mine this morning, I gradually found my thoughts turning to another old friend who’s on the other end of the spectrum. This is someone I became good friends with, several years after the above-mentioned Friend No. 1 disappeared from my daily life. Friend No. 2 and I were great buddies for years, working closely together and producing some great projects on a regular basis. We’re very simpatico, with similar world views and values, and we’ve kept in touch intermittently over the years. Whenever we’ve caught up for coffee, we’ve had some great discussions, and we’ve talked about collaborating on a number of projects — none of which ever panned out… but oh well…

Anyway, Friend No.2 and I caught up about four months ago, when I told them about a project I was launching – starting a new business on the side – and I showed them my product. They were really impressed and we had what I thought was a great conversation and a jump-started connection.

One thing that really struck me, though, was their attitude. After years of what most would consider a very successful career, a solid marriage, and the ability to take time off work for a few years, thanks to smart investments and prudent savings, they seemed… well… bitter. Like life had been unfairly unkind to them, they’d been used and abused, and they were running out of options. They didn’t seem to have a whole lot of enthusiasm for their future, and they seemed a bit depressed when they talked about their general situation — which to me looked pretty good.

I mean, seriously — they have a really nice car that’s paid for, their marriage is strong, their house is paid off, they’ve got an amazing new riding mower with all the tools to keep their lawn in tip-top shape, they know who they are, and they know what they love to do. They have a lot of the things I lack — and am suffering for pretty intensely at times.

And yet, they’re bitter. They can’t do some of the things they used to do all the time — like go out to clubs every weekend and listen to live bands because it’s way too loud. They have ideas for inventions, but they can’t figure out how to turn them into money. They’re brushing up on their technical skills, but they can’t seem to find an exact match for what they want to do. They’re feeling used and abused and washed up, like their life is over and there’s nowhere else for them to go.

It really surprised me to hear them talk about the things that get to them. It’s like they were just settling for turning into a curmudgeony old coot without even putting up a fight. They’re about 15 years my senior, so they are getting older, but still… I’ve got relatives who are in their 80′s, 90′s, even past 100 years old, and they’re still going, still engaged, still enjoying their lives.

After what was mostly a good meet-up, Friend No. 2 disappeared. I gave them a call a few months later to see if they were interested in helping out with this project. When we met four months ago, they said they’d love to help with it, but when I called them again, they couldn’t talk at the time and said they’d call me back. I never heard back from them, and frankly I’d be surprised if I hear from them ever again.

Friend No. 2 is gone. By their own hand. It’s a loss for me, because when they were “on”, they were great to talk to and hang out with. But if they’re not going to be “on” and they’re just going to be bitter and resentful about every little thing that doesn’t work out for them, I really don’t need that in my life. And I doubt they’re going to come around.

So, there’s my tale of two old friends. I’m probably going to un-friend Friend No. 1 on Facebook, because their self-congratulatory tone just rankles me and serves no purpose in my life. Friend No. 2 is out of the picture, probably for good. And here I am in the middle, looking for a way to find gratitude to buoy me up out of my morning funk.

Comparing myself and my life and my success to others makes no sense. I can only compare myself to myself — and when I do that, I can see how incredibly fortunate I’ve been to receive the gifts I’ve gotten over the years. The TBI in 2004 could have ruined me, no doubt. But through divine grace, a bunch of risks I took that worked out, and a ton of hard work, I’m back on track and moving towards something truly fine. I’ve got love in my life and a spouse who is still with me, even after 23 years of some very challenging times. I have a house, a commuter car and a late-model minivan, I’ve got a regular job with a regular paycheck (which I’m probably not going to be leaving soon, because of the change in my financial timeline), and I’ve got my health. I have personal projects that keep me engaged and involved in my own life, and our local libraries have amazing collections which I can request from anytime I like.

I really do have so many blessings in my life, and considering where I come from, I have every reason to start the day feeling grateful and proud.

So, that’s where I’m at — having a gratitude adjustment, so my day doesn’t need to fall prey to bad thinking habits and mental laziness about things that may or may not be true. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I’m disappointed that my financial plans for 2014 have been altered. Yes, I have to work a little bit harder than I’d like, today, go buy another mouse, and try to catch up with things I forgot to do for the past month.

But life doesn’t happen by itself, and things happen for a reason. It’s dawn. The sun is finally coming up. Time to find my reasons, and help things to happen.

Onward.