Day out – and about

A lovely day to be out and about

Yesterday was a pretty good day. I was up early — couldn’t sleep past 4:45 a.m., and it was the first day of the long weekend, so I thought, “Screw it”, and got up to just get into my day. I had a really good morning — juggled a bit, had my breakfast, did some research for a project I’m working on, ran a bunch of important errands, took a nap, and then went to a nearby vacation area with my spouse.

I hadn’t expected the place to be crowded, since we were getting there late and the day had been gorgeous, giving people lots of reasons to be out in it, from early morning till late afternoon. The traffic was heavy, getting to the middle of the town and down to the beach, but when we arriving, people were already leaving the area in droves, heading out to dinner with tired kids.

We found a spot to park, pulled out our lawn chairs, and then I went for a walk down to the water. Got my feet wet. Splashed around a bit. Ran with the waves. And just chilled.

We spent a few hours by the water, my spouse getting some sun, and I getting some exercise. We brought snacks, and I ate too much. Then we went and got some dinner, and I ate too much again. There was a lot of fatty fried foods, and my stomach started to hurt. Gall bladder. Not too bad, but noticeable.

After that, it was getting late. We decided to go exploring a bit, so we took the long way home and took a side road back to an overlook that was marked as “scenic”. We wound around through dark stretches of backwoods, and eventually came out to a vista overlooking a wide valley with towns far off in the distance. Overhead we could see the milky way and more stars that we’d seen in a long, long time.

It was beautiful, and a lot of other people thought so, too. There were lots of cars parked in the lot, without a lot of people in sight. Every now and then, we’d see people emerge from a trail with a flashlight. There must be trails down below that give you an even better view.

We took note of where we were, and we resolved to come back again in the future – during the day, so we can explore the trails and see what everything looks like broad daylight.

Then we found a place that sold coffee, got a couple of cups and a blueberry muffin, then hit the road and got home around midnight. Not bad for a day trip. And on this trip, there was no yelling, no fussing, no arguing. Just me and my spouse making an effort to really have a good time.

I went straight to bed, when we got home. I was bushed, and I fell asleep with my bedside lamp on. Around 2:30 in the morning, I woke up with a terrible stomach ache, feeling like I was going to throw up. Gall bladder.

I got up and went downstairs to find the Pepto Bismol, which is the only stuff that ever truly works for me. There was only a little bit left, and I drained the bottle. I went back to bed, my gut still aching, feeling like I was going to throw up. I did some acupressure points I found that let you stimulate your gall bladder, so it can do its job better. Thankfully, after a few minutes it worked. My gall bladder gurgled, and I felt a little whoosh of gall bladder emptying, and my stomach ache started to ease up.

I got back to sleep and slept till 8:00, which puts me at nearly 8 hours of sleep, last night.

I’ll take it.

My gall bladder is still bothering me a bit, but I did the points on my hand, foot, and belly, and I’m starting to feel better. I need to be careful of my gall bladder, because I’m drinking my butter coffee “rocket fuel” on a daily basis, and the fats don’t always sit well with me. Yesterday, I had several servings of “rocket fuel” at two different times in the day, I ate a bunch of potato chips, and I had fried fish and french fries for dinner. And I finished up the evening with some dark chocolate and part of a blueberry that was really rich — delicious, but still more fat. Yeah, not so great.

So, I’m taking it easy today with the food. I’m eating light, because I’ve been really eating a lot, lately. More than usual. And the wrong kinds of foods. I sorta kinda went off my routine, over the past week, eating McDonalds once for lunch, and snacking on more junk. I also started eating grains again, which is not good for me. I’m sensitive to the gluten, and it messes up my stomach.

So, no wonder I was in rough shape last night. I was afraid I’d gotten food poisoning. But once my gall bladder kicked into action, I was good. So, obviously the food was not bad — just not the right kind for me.

I’ve really got to watch my eating, these days. I’ve got a lot going on at work, so I’ve been eating more for “energy”, when what I really need is more sleep. And exercise. I haven’t been getting out as much as I should, and it’s showing. I’m not gaining a ton of weight, but I’m still feeling like pretty much of a lard, which doesn’t do much for my attitude and energy levels… so I eat, to pick myself up… which is even more problematic.

So, rather than sitting here feeling bad about everything, I’m going out for a walk. I’ve got another couple of days off work, so I’m going to make the most of them.

Onward…

Quiet is good

Long walk, down a country road…

I’ve had a very quiet few days… when I’ve been at home, that is.

This past week has been crAYzy, and I’ve spent my time at home relaxing and just enjoying the quiet.

Interestingly, these days, I don’t have much interest in going online, when I’m not at work. I think it’s about just being all maxed-out with the computer — all day, every day — and really enjoying not having to type anything…. or be in front of a humming electronic box, when I don’t have to.

So, I’ve been spending time reading and thinking… sketching out some ideas I’ve been having, and just working through a lot of logical problems in my head.

That’s my new thing — exercising my brain on “problems” I invent, and then try to solve. Some of the problems are very practical and everyday — like, how best to organize people at work to get all the jobs done, without completely frying their systems. Some of the problems are very abstract — like, what do we really experience, and how do we know what we know?

It’s good practice for me. And it gets me thinking in all new ways.

It keeps me honest and it keeps me humble. And it also keeps me on my toes and reminds me to take care of myself and my brain. I tend to wear myself out a bit, when I think too much about things.

That’s another thing I’m working on — patterns of thinking that move me forward, instead of wearing me out. What’s the best “cadence” for me? How do I best function? When is the best time of day for me to “do thinking”, and how can I organize my day, so that I can put my brain to work on different problems, and still have a life?

I think I have some good ideas around this. I pace myself. I also think up to a certain point, then step away and do something completely different. Like today — I read about a new type of computing, and then I cleaned the bathrooms. My spouse has mobility issues and cannot get down to floor level, or lean over to clean under the commode basins, so that was my “quest” for this morning. I promised myself I wouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes on the task, because I have really bad recollections of being forced to clean toilets when I was a kid, and I am also sensitive to the cleaning supplies. So, I worked as quickly and as efficiently as I could, and I was done.

And then my mind was clear again to go back to what I was reading before, and come at it from a new angle.

Now I’ve been reading and researching and thinking for another half hour and it’s time to go for my long walk again. I walked for 2 hours yesterday, and I got some great ideas, along the way.

Time to walk again — this time in a different direction. Who knows what will come to me then?

And this afternoon, while I have the house to myself, I’ll take a nap, then get up and do some chores… make some supper… and get a good night’s sleep.

I’ve got a good cadence going. Last night I actually got in bed before 11:00 p.m., and I got over 8 hours of sleep.

It’s amazing what a little balance will do for you. That, and exercise.

Onward.

Working on foggy and dull

I’m a little low this morning. I got a full night’s sleep – almost 8 hours – but I haven’t been sleeping well for a number of days, so I have some catching up to do. I also have been kind of stressed at work, concerned about missing some dates — when it’s my job to keep everyone on track and make sure we don’t miss dates.

I have been feeling foggy and dull — not at all like myself — for some time, now. I can’t remember whether it’s been weeks or months. I think it’s actually been years. I feel so dense and dumb, sometimes… like I’m walking around in a daze. The only times I don’t really feel that way, are when I’m a little stressed over things — when the pressure is on, and I have to dig a little deeper inside to make things happen.

I realize I’ve been chasing that experience for as long as I can remember — at work, and in my personal life. My “best friends” were always folks who treated me badly, and I chose one job after another that would stress me out. In fact, the most stress the better.

Now it’s all catching up to me — I’m in a job that has a lot less environmental stress, the commute is shorter, the team is stronger, and the company culture is words better. And I’m having difficulty adjusting to the good circumstances. I’m feeling dull and blah and bland. Like there’s not much excitement going on at all.

Here’s the thing, though — I could create my own excitement and “get the juices flowing” on my own, by stepping up and pushing forward just a little bit harder. I could apply myself more, step it up just a bit, and thereby give myself the pump I need. Only this time it would be in positive conditions, which I am setting — instead of chasing something or playing catch-up.

It would appear that’s the key — to be the driver behind the action, rather than the reactor. I have been working in reactive situations for so long — where management tells people not to think, but to react — that I’ve gotten acclimated to that way of doing things although I never wanted to in the first place.

Funny how that goes.

Anyway, now I can work on that, and get ahead of things a bit. I have an old bad habit of not taking action and just reacting to things happening around me, and I have to change that. It’s a lifelong tendency, which needs to go away. I can do this.

But I need sleep to do it. I need to be rested. I need full nights of sleep, and I need to work at relaxing again, like I used to do.

I could really use some relaxation down-time around 2:30 p.m. each day, to get myself geared up for the late afternoon, which is go-time for me. It’s the time when I’m most productive, when I’m most clear, when I can focus most fully. The rest of the day is a wash for me. Not until around 2:30-3:00, do I start to really come to life. Then I’ve got about 4 hours of goodness, before I start to wane again.

Getting used to this job is a lot about getting used to a new routine and a new cadence. Part of that new cadence is being able to sleep, and not being ON, 24 hours a day. That’s going to take some recovery time — and more than 6 weeks, that’s for sure. It’s probably been a good 15 years, since I could relax and settle into my job. The TBI in 2004 didn’t help anything, but the years immediately prior to that were pretty much of a test, too.

So, here my life is, in really good shape, and I need to restructure my life so that I can be in really good shape, too — and keep my life this way. Things are pretty simple and straightforward at work. Keep people on schedule. Deliver things on time. Communicate news — both good and bad — as honestly and clearly as possible. And don’t be afraid to ask for support from management, because they can — and will — help.

So, I got a full night’s sleep, and it’s time to get ready for work. I’ve got some good blocks of time today through Friday, when I can really kick it. So, I shall.

And get some good rest, in the process.

Onward.

Downtime and Uptime

I’ve been having a really excellent weekend, which just got better, thanks to cancelling plans that would have taken me and my spouse into a nearby city to run errands and deal with traffic, lots of people, and a lot of excitement — all on top of making some big buying decisions.

What a pain that would have been. We both have a lot we want to do at home today, so we tabled those plans till later this week, when it fits our schedule much better.

This gives me time today to catch up with old friends I haven’t communicated with for several months. I am also sorting through pictures I took over the past several years, which I threw onto my hard drive without really organizing very well.

It’s wild, taking the trips down memory lane.

I’m due for a nice long walk. I had thought about going for a bike ride, but I haven’t been feeling all that great, and I don’t want to ride out when I’m not feeling 100%. I’ve been feeling about 75%, lately, for some reason. Foggy and dull and anxious. Things at work have become challenging for me, but fortunately, folks there have my back, and they’re making some accommodations for me — I’m new, after all, and the things they’re giving me are not small things.

So, it’s good to feel supported in that.

It really is a beautiful day. I’ll have my lunch, go out for a walk, then get up and take care of some things. I feel so much better, not having to drive into the city. What a relief.

I do hope I start to feel better… Maybe a nap will help.

 

 

 

 

I didn’t fail. I just got tired.

So much depends on your outlook

I had a revelation this morning, as I was waking up. In the space of a few seconds, it turned an imagined failure into a chance for long-term success.

It was the realization that when I started to lose my temper with my spouse last night, it wasn’t a sign that I was failing at my attempts to be more level-headed and calm, no matter what the situation. It was a clear sign that I was tired, and that my brain needed sleep.

I have been working on being more level-headed — no matter what the situation. This is a lifelong pursuit, actually. I saw the need for it, when I was a teenager and a young adult… as an adult in the working world… and it continues to be important to me. It’s not that I want everything to be perfect for me all the time and give me no trouble. What I want, is to be able to handle my circumstances, be okay with them (within reason), and make the best of any situation’s opportunities, no matter now “bad” it may look at the time.

I have had some good success with this approach over the years. After all, I have seen the ill-effects NOT having a level head in challenging circumstances, and the results are rarely pretty. I have had plenty of opportunity to witness this in the people around me — in my family, especially, when my parents could not hold it together with one of my “problematic” (that is — drug-addicted, alcoholic, sleeping-with-anything-that-moved, drug-dealing) siblings. It was bad enough that my sibling had all those problems (which were signs of something far deeper going on with them). But my parents could not maintain their composure or clarity of thought when it came to my sibling, so that made a bad situation even worse.

I’m not judging my parents — they were not equipped to handle it, and we lived in an area where any problem with kids was a reflection on the parents, so they went from being respected members of society to being “those people” who everybody handled very gingerly.

Anyway, I’ve seen many examples in my own life, where keeping a level head and a calm demeanor helped me through tough times. I actually credit my many TBIs (I’ve had 9+) with helping me with this, because they slowed down my processing speed. When your processing speed is slowed down, it makes it pretty difficult to get on the same wavelength with everybody else… and in case you haven’t noticed, being on the same wavelength as everybody else leaves a lot to be desired.

Everybody gets so worked up over things. But when you’re not thinking as quickly as everyone else, you can’t jump to the same conclusions and get to those snap judgments that can send you careening into HOLY SH*T WHAT THE F*CK land. Everybody else is freaking out — oftentimes about something that isn’t worth freaking out about — and you’re still trying to figure out what just happened…

So, if you think about it, slower processing speed isn’t always a bad thing. And equanimity… peace of mind… level-headedness in the face of a crisis is a definite advantage. Especially when everybody else’s “normal-fast” thinking is vectoring off in a really unproductive direction.

Anyway, that’s one half of the story. The other half of it is less cheery — that’s the aspect of my thinking that is WAY more reactive than others’. It’s the instant-freak-out part of my experience that has made me nuts for years. At an instant’s notice, I’ll suddenly FREAK OUT over something. It can be a dropped spoon, or a missed channel that I’m trying to change with the clicker, or something my spouse says or does that rubs me the wrong way.

When things go haywire in my head, they go really haywire. There’s no middle ground. Everything goes nuts. I know I’m being unreasonable, I know I’m being crazy, I know there is no logical reason for me to be freaking out, but it’s happening anyway. And it’s never good for anyone. I’ve lost more relationships than I can say, because of this. That includes a really good job I lost in 2005 after my TBI in 2004.

People are afraid of me, when I start to get agitated and aggressive — which may have to do with me, or may have to do with them. I don’t want to give anyone any reason to be afraid of me. It’s counter-productive. And it hurts everyone involved.

So, there’s all the more reason to keep tabs on myself and foster a calm demeanor, a cool head, and a self-possessed state of mind. And with that goal in mind, I have pursued a number of different practices and philosophies that might help me with that. I have worked on practices that emphasize acceptance, calmness, not reacting to things around me, and philosophies that teach about how transitory life is, and how important it is for us to understand what we can and cannot change, and not make ourselves nuts trying to alter things that can’t be changed.

Like the serenity prayer:

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.

This has been a very powerful concept in my life, and I have it displayed in my kitchen where I will see it each morning when I get up and make my coffee.

Along the way, I have had many surges in interest in deepening this practice — in really getting to a place where I can make peace with the things I cannot change, and make the most of the opportunities that are hidden there. I’m a big believer that some of our worst hurdles and challenges offer us the greatest rewards — and when we resist those challenges, we miss out on the chance to become bigger and better than ever before.

Some things I can accept and work with — political changes, cultural changes, relocations from one area to the next, and small-scale changes at work. Other changes I have a harder time with — job changes, especially. The ones that make me the craziest are the ones I feel like I cannot understand or control — or that go off in a direction that is completely different from the direction I see myself headed.

Other things I cannot seem to accept, are the foolishness of others — the stinkin’ thinkin’ that my spouse indulges in, their constant anxiety, their devotion to drama, their bad habit of telling everyone exactly what they want to hear instead of the constructive truth. I have trouble with the attitudes of people at work, who can be cliquish and juvenile. I have trouble with the judgment of Management at work, when their decisions seem counter-productive and get in the way of us doing our work. My siblings also depress the sh*t out of me, with their choices and their prejudices and their holier-than-thou attitude. My parents are a little easier to deal with, because they are many hours away, and I don’t see them that often.

It’s the people who are closest to me, who I have the greatest investment in, that get me with their unhealthy habits of thought and action, their outlooks, their attitudes, and their behavior that seems to serve no useful purpose, other than to make them feel good about themselves — at the expense of everyone else.

The thing is, their behaviors and beliefs and actions have almost nothing to do with me. Even my spouse’s bad habits have more to do with them, than with me — no matter how much they may blame me for their anxiety. I am making myself unhappy over things that are far beyond my control, and it’s not helping me at all.

So, there is all the more incentive for me to calm myself down, not react to what they are doing, and step back and look at them and everything from a distance.

I have found some philosophies and outlooks that can help me do that, and I have pursued them eagerly, on and off, over the years. The thing is, I get to a certain point, then everything falls apart. My equanimity dissolves. I melt down, inside my head and heart. My temper explodes. And I end up feeling worse off than when I started. I feel like I’m back to Square 1, without having made any progress at all.

But in fact, I have made progress. My meltdowns and explosions do not mean that I have utterly failed at learning a new way of thinking and being and relating to others. They do mean that my brain has been working hard, so it is tired. And I need to rest it.

Because changing yourself and your brain and your patterns of thought and action and attitude is hard work. It doesn’t happen overnight. And the fact that I am getting frayed and losing it, actually means that I am making progress — I just need to take a break, rest up, learn what I can about what sets me off, and resume learning again, once I am rested.

This realization is just what I’ve been needing — for a long, long time. Getting frayed at 10 p.m. over someone being a pain in my ass is NOT a sign that I’m failing. It’s a sign that I’ve been working hard all day at changing my mind and my brain, and that it’s time to rest. It’s not a condemnation — it’s a diagnostic tool. And far from being an indication of my inferiority, it’s evidence that I’m actually making progress.

The simple fact is, I’m a brain-injured human being. If you think about it, there are a lot of people who are injured in one way or another, and we are all working our way through the maze called life, trying to find a better way to live. And because of my injuries, because of my history of experiences, my individual makeup, and all the different things that have made me what I am today, I have certain limitations I need to be mindful of and accommodate, so I can work around them and not let them get to me.

Fatigue and the irritability that comes from being tired are a couple of those limitations. So is:

  • a sharp tongue — over little things
  • a hot temper — at an instant’s notice
  • slower processing speed than one would expect
  • the almost constant pain that I’ve become resigned to living with, the rest of my born days
  • perpetual, never-ending tinnitus
  • light-sensitivity
  • noise-sensitivity

And so on.

It’s not that my life is awful. It’s pretty sweet, to tell the truth. I just need to be aware of these issues, not forget them — or when I do forget them, find a way to remember that the things I’m doing and saying are about my brain injury, NOT about my character.

So, there is hope. There always is, so long as I don’t give up.

And speaking of not giving up, I’m going to get ready for work and get into my day, knowing that I didn’t fail last night, when I got cross with my spouse. I was just tired, and no animals were hurt in the filming of that movie.

Onward.

Adapting… and realizing how much good it does me

I have had a few days to “decompress” after my trip to see my family. Two full days of driving — 8 hours there, 8 hours back — did a number on me, and I’ve been foggy and dull since I got back. Also, the pace was relentless while I was there. My family goes at top speed, pretty much all the time (except when they’re sleeping, which fortunately happens more often, these days).

So, all in all, it was a very challenging time — a challenge which I nonetheless rose to, with all good results.

The thing is, now that I’m back, I need to re-acclimate to my everyday life, which is very, very different from how things are at my parents’ place. It’s much quieter here, much less active, and a lot more contemplative. It’s ironic, because my family is very religious, and they consider themselves very spiritually connected. Yet they are so busy going-going-going, they hardly have any time to deeply consider their thoughts and their actions and the consequences of them. I love my parents dearly, and it pains me to see them declining — a little more, each time I see them — because they simply won’t take a close look at what they are doing and eating and drinking and living, and accept what it’s doing to their health and well-being.

My father considers himself a self-made man, which is true in that his diabetes has worsened because of the choices he makes. He thinks he can wish the condition away, but his actions and choices of foods make that all but impossible. My mother considers herself a socially connected person who cares deeply about others, while at the same time she buries herself in busy-ness whenever close friends of hers are in trouble.

I got a good look at my potential future, visiting my parents. And I also got a good look at how things could have turned out for me, had I taken the same path as my siblings. My brother has done well for himself and his family, yet he’s living in a place that is hostile to his deepest beliefs and convictions. My sister-in-law once had big dreams, though over the years she’s limited herself more and more and more, till the thing that means most to her is having a part-time job that lets her take care of house chores. Their kids are doing great, which is gratifying, so there is a whole lot of good that’s come out of their choices. And yet, I wouldn’t trade my life for theirs for any amount of money. Parents make sacrifices for their kids all the time, and I have no argument with that. I do have a problem, though, with completely throwing big parts of yourself and your hopes and dreams and internal convictions out the window, to fit in and be safe.

Of course, people do that all the time. That’s for them to live with. It’s not for me to judge. For myself, though… I choose something different.

And coming back from the trip, I look around and realize that the life I have really does fit me exactly. I’m doing great. I have my limits and my challenges, but I can adjust to overcome them. I have been in a lot of pain for the past few weeks — not headaches, but a lot of back and leg pain — and my mind has been foggy and dull. I have forgotten some things I really needed to remember at work. Other people needed me to remember them, too.

I made a couple of really unfortunate choices at work, the day I was back, and I feel like I’ve been scrambling to catch up, ever since. I mean, one of the mistakes I made was the exact opposite of what someone had asked me to do — and entrusted me with — just 15 minutes before. And I dropped the ball. I was supposed to “buddy up” with someone new at work, and have lunch with them. Their usual buddy had a lunchtime meeting they had to attend at their desk, so they couldn’t do lunch. I managed to keep it together and get the new person down to the caf, then for some reason I spaced out and went to sit in a different area — completely forgot about them and my mission to buddy up… I basically left them to fend for themself among virtual strangers, which would have been a crappy thing to do if I’d intended to do it.

Of course, I didn’t. But that’s what happened. Instead of staying down in the caf, I went back to my desk… across from the person who had asked me to sit in for them. And I didn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing until after I sat down at my desk and realized that I was sitting across from the person who’d asked me to fill in for them.

So, I was feeling pretty stupid at that point. Talk about dull and clunky. And then I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to make up for it. I still am. I can’t very well go to the person and say, “Dude, I totally forgot all about you,” because how would that make them feel? Un-memorable, that’s how. And I can’t explain that I have short-term memory issues, especially when I’m exhausted, because that’s going to hurt my prospects at work.

All I can do now, is adapt and go out of my way to be helpful as best I can, and hope that I can develop a decent working relationship with this new person — despite that first faltering interaction.

Realizing how dim and dull I have been, I’ve been turning to my lists again for help, and it’s really doing me some good. I’m actually getting things done, that have escaped me for weeks. I finally got my COBRA insurance papers together and sent them off with the check, so my coverage is re-instated. I had read the paperwork when I first got it, but I missed the part about how you’re not actually covered by ANY insurance, between the time when your coverage ends, and it’s re-instated retroactively. So, the doctors visits that have been happening may not be covered by my COBRA. And I may need to pay out of pocket for them.

That really upset me, and I was thrown off all day yesterday. I also got anxious about the possibility of some medical emergency happening. I expect my coverage to be reinstated next week, and the idea that something serious could happen between now and then was weighing heavy on me.

Then I decided to just roll with it and let things happen as they will. I’ve got no credit card debt, and if I need to set up payment plans, I’ll do that. I’ll figure something out. I’m making enough money now to hold me in good stead.

I also need to sort out some other medical coverage stuff that is so confusing to me, I don’t even know where to start. I have been sweating it out, thinking I’m never going to figure any of it out, and it’s kept me from stepping up and doing something about it. The thing is, I’m not alone in figuring it out — at least, I don’t have to be. There are toll-free numbers for people to call, and I am planning to do that. I just need someone to walk me through the details and explain them to me. It could be that I incur a penalty because the timing of leaving my job and terminating my regular coverage and getting signed up for new plans is all screwed up, but at this point, I’m not sure I care. I’ll just make the money I need, to get by.

Or I’ll adjust in some other way.

The idea of having someone to talk to about this, is really helping me a lot. I’m not alone. I don’t need to figure it out by myself. Nobody is going to know how impaired I am, if I’m asking for clarification. I’m sure even the most brilliant people need help with all this insurance complexity. The whole system is convoluted and filled with veritable land mines, and it’s been that way for a long, long time. I just have to use my head and keep moving — and use the help that’s offered.

That being said, I need to set up time for my spouse to give permission for me to talk to the insurance folks on their behalf. I have to figure things out for both of us, and since my spouse is a few years older than me, issues like Social Security and Medicare are on the horizon. Not sure how that happened so quickly, but there it is. It’s hugely confusing for me, but I have to handle it, because my spouse cannot even begin to approach all the details — they’ve got even more impairments than I do, and their biggest one is panic-anxiety, which pretty much keeps them hostage and immobilized in a self-perpetuating prison.

So, I need to get on the horn with the SSA and other folks to talk about what’s to come on down the line, eventually. There are fees and penalties or some-such, if we do things wrong, and I think we already have stepped over the line. Oh, well. I guess I’ll pay the fees and penalties, then. The good news is (I think), my spouse has been so marginal for so long, not paying into Social Security, but 10 years out of their entire “career”, so that if the government takes a percentage of their SSI payments, it’s going to be close to nil. There are some benefits to living on the margins, I suppose.

Anyway, it’s all a grand adventure, and even if I am dull and foggy and in pain and out of sorts, I have tools I can use to get me by — making lists, and also getting someone on the phone to help me understand everything. There’s also the Web… there’s that.

Speaking of which, I need to sign off now and go check out some websites, in hopes of making sense of things. I suspect I’m going to be a bit screwed by the system, because I don’t know the ins and outs and I don’t have a lot of people in my life who are in the same situation who can help me avoid penalties and fines and all that. But I’ll adapt. At least I have my life, I have my independence, and my life is pretty much how I want it to be.

It’s all good. It really is.

Onward.

Hard work – and stress – paying off

Yeah, it’s paying off :)

I don’t want to sing the praises of stress right now, because I don’t want anyone getting the idea that I think stressing yourself out is a great idea. I will say, however, that the added strain of working long hours, this past week, is paying off — in terms of a full day off work, so I have an uninterrupted day to do some things I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

I’m getting my neck worked on. The left side is very sore, and the tightness there is translating to a right hip that feels arthritic. I know it’s not arthritis — it’s muscular, because of the location of the pain, but it’s keeping me awake at night, and it’s making my life more difficult.

I’ve been trying to do physical therapy and acupuncture, but the results have been slow. I need to have someone just work on my neck and get my back and shoulders loosened up. Kind of fast-track it.

I also worked out this morning more than I have in months. I actually got on the exercise bike for 10 minutes. I rode easy for 5 minutes, then I did a few 30-second alternating intervals of fast/easy, and I finished up with 2 minutes of slow and steady. Then I lifted slightly heavier weights than I have been, in the past – fewer reps, more weight, with tons of attention to form.

And it felt great. Just working up a sweat felt great. It’s been a long time, since I really pushed myself — partly because I’ve been having headaches when I push myself while exercising. I do have a slight headache now, but I can live with it. I’m just drinking extra water and stretching my neck and shoulders.

I’m also taking some time to get on Facebook and reconnect with my friends there. I miss my coworkers from my last job. Well, some of them, anyway. I think the thing I miss most is their predictability. My brain and system got used to dealing with them, and it developed behavioral habits that I came to depend on, to add structure and meaning to my life.

One thing I do NOT miss about them, is how young and frivolous they can be. I really could tell that most of them were 20 years younger than me, and it’s nice to not have to deal with them anymore.

I’m also getting my head on straight about my new job. Turns out, the crowd I’m working with is about 10-15 years younger than me, which has also turned out to be a bit of a pain. Their priorities and interests are completely different from mine, and frankly I can do without every singe conversation centering around who’s getting pregnant, who’s having kids, what their kids are doing, if their kids are sick, the dance recitals, the summer vacations. There are a few folks there who don’t live their lives around “little ones”, so I’ll need to seek them out more actively. The team I’m working most closely with is quite focused on child-rearing, and I’ve got nothing to offer there.

So, I’m going to take some time today and over the next few days to do some heavy-lifting thinking and really dig into some of the writing I’ve been doing, lately. I’ve got a handful of projects I’m working on, and some of them are very demanding, mentally. It’s like I’m going down a rathole of abstract concepts, and each one leads a little bit deeper in. So, it feels like I’m “flying blind” into the abyss… and I love it.

I’m the only one who knows the details about the abstractions I’m exploring. I’ve tried to explain them to others, but I haven’t had much luck communicating. They’re “thought experiments” of sorts, just exercises to tweak my thinking process and help expand my working memory capacity.

The main thing with these thought experiments, is that they really excite me and delight me. So, there’s a real motivation and impetus to explore. To expand. To see how much I can extend my own abilities. Of course, I need to balance this out with plenty of rest and recovery, so the connections I’m building in my brain have a chance to “set” before they’re tested, again.

That’s what the past week or so has been about. I really pushed myself cognitively for a few weeks, back when I was changing jobs and everything was in flux. It was a great way to both take my mind off the stresses of my daily life transition, and also get some new types of activity going on in my brain. I really need that — new activities that test me.  Sometimes I may overdo it, but that’s where rest and recovery come in.

And it’s good. It’s all good.

So, stress… I’ll write more about that later. I am a firm believer in periodically applying stress to test the system, then backing off to let the system recover and recuperate. I believe that’s what makes us stronger — for me, with my TBI symptoms, I need to be careful about over-doing it. Obviously. But if I can realize — and remember — that added stress is the source of my issues, and then take the edge off when I need to… it doesn’t have to doom me.

The main ingredient is mindfulness. And responsibility. And being realistic about my limits and working with them so that I can expand them, rather than trying to avoid/deny them and then shooting myself in the foot.

It’s really a balancing act. And now it’s time to balance out my day with some reading, juggling, and a bit of relaxation.

On the mend, bit by bit

Patching myself up again

Wow, I have been wiped out this past week. For two reasons:

First, I’m completely depleted by the past years of BS that I’ve been wrangling on a daily basis. It’s just insane, thinking back to how relentless that pace was. Sure, it was invigorating at the start, and it really gave me a lot of energy, but geez… it was artificial and completely needless. And it’s going to take me a while to get my balance back and restore my depleted reserves.

Second, I’m learning a new job, new people, new place, new routine, and that’s taking a lot of energy, too. I’ve been wiped OUT at the end of each day, even though I really do enjoy my new gig, and it’s vastly better than what I’ve known in recent memory.

But I’m getting better. I’m on the mend.

I’m making sure to get plenty of rest – going to bed at a decent hour (9:30 last night, on a Friday night, of all times), and being able to “sleep in” till 7:30, without the whole world falling apart around me. I’m still able to make it to work on time. And I’m looking forward to getting to a point where I am rested enough to be able to wake up at 5:30 or 6, get an hour or two of reading and thinking and writing in, before I head off to work.

That’s the thing that really excites me about this job — not only the fact that it’s a great company and has wonderful opportunities for me, but also that it’s not running my life.

The thing is, no matter how wonderful the opportunity is, it’s still a desk job… indoors… working for someone else on their own time. So, there’s only so much unbridled enthusiasm I can muster. Maybe I’m just getting older and more mellow, realizing that it’s not worth getting all woo-hoo about these things, because they change, they morph, they shift and alter, and not always in ways we like.

Also, the days of me putting any stock in a “good job” providing me with the personal fulfillment I need, are pretty much behind me. This is a job — it’s a means to an end. And its main purpose is to provide me with a decent living, while not interfering too terribly with the things that matter the most to me.

It’s a job. It’s a good job with a good company. But it’s not the only thing I do with my life, and in fact, one of the biggest draws to it, is the fact that I’m NOT deeply invested in it, thinking that this is the be-all to end-all that’s going to make my life complete.

The last job I had, provided a sort of “emotional paycheck” at first. Of course, after we got relocated in 2011, that all changed, and that part went away. Overall, though, there was some sense of investment in the experience, in the role, in the team, that kept me there for nearly four years.

Now, I’m in a much better position, but I don’t feel that deep connection to the role itself. I feel a deep connection to my overall life, and the ways that I can use that role to express parts of me in a meaningful way. But it’s not about the role. The role is a means to an end, not an end in itself, as it used to be.

So, while I am so very grateful to have this fantastic opportunity, I’m feeling neutral about the work and the position. Which is good. When I feel passionate about the work and get invested in outcomes, that’s when I get on a roller-coaster that takes me in directions I don’t want to go. Being neutral frees me up — it doesn’t get me all fired up, but that’s a good thing. Being fired up is accompanied with getting burned… both from within and without… and I’m pretty much done with that.

What I’m really focusing on now, is my whole life. Reading. Writing. Public speaking. Research. Developing new ways of relating to the world around me that add meaning and value to my overall experience. I’ve got a birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, and it feels strange. I don’t really have a sense of being a certain age… just a sense of everything I have been through — which is far more than lots of people my own age, and far less than lots of people of many different ages.

This shift away from getting caught up in my job has been possible because I am not wasting a lot of time traveling to and from. It’s also possible because I’m on a contract, I’m not an invested employee whose fate is determined by corporate overlords. I can come and go as I please, and not have to sweat the changes. I’ve got plenty of opportunities around me, and now that I’m back in the flow of contracting, my world has just opened up again.

Also, I’m not permitted to pursue my own personal activities without repercussion from my employer. I gave my new agency a list of all the things I’m currently involved in, and they didn’t have a problem with it. No more of that you-work-for-us-so-we-own-your-ass intellectual property protectiveness. The things I’m involved in, personally, have nothing at all to do with the company where I work now, so there’s no conflict of interest. At all.

Which is nice.

I’m free.

It’s going to take some time for me to re-acclimate to having my life be my own, but I’ll adjust.

No worries.

Onward.

Tired, but still feeling good

A vastly better cup of coffee

Something has really turned around for me. I have been noticing it recently – I have not felt that same bone-crushing fatigue that used to just Wipe. Me. Out. I used to feel so awful, if I had not had enough sleep — even if I did get enough sleep, I still felt awful. It was like I was constantly running on fumes.

But ever since I started drinking coffee with grass-fed butter and MCT oil in it, it hasn’t felt that way. I can feel tired, sure, but not like I’ve been flattened by a steamroller. And when I do feel tired, I’m able to take myself to bed more easily.

Each morning, I start my day with this special mix of coffee — I call it rocket fuel. It’s pretty phenomenal. And it seems to really be affecting me for the better. I’ve also been taking some capsules that have butter oil and cod liver oil in them — more oils the body needs. In fact, there have been documented cases of people literally coming back from their deathbeds, thanks to that combination of butter oil and cod liver oil.

That’s kind of how I feel. Like I’m back from the dead. I feel like I’m actually capable of participating in my everyday life, even though I’m behind on my sleep. In fact, I don’t feel like I’m behind on my sleep at all.  I mean, I know I have not gotten a full 8 hours of sleep, and I know that I should, and I’m dragging a bit (sometimes.a lot) now and then, but it’s not that old killer exhaustion that just fried me like nobody’s business.

Plus, even when I’m tired, I’m still thinking more clearly than I have in a long time.

And it makes me think that when it comes to brain injury recovery, good nutrition — especially getting the nutrients your brain and body need for energy — is key. Without the proper nutrition and sources of energy for your brain and body, how the hell are you going to heal and improve? Brain training is all very well and good — I love doing it. But if my brain doesn’t have the proper support to make those changes and physically alter itself for the better, building up different synapses and connections, then WTH?

Why even bother?

And that’s the thing that has really eluded me, all these years — the proper nutrition that zeroed in on the specific needs I had that were not being met — certain kinds of oils and fats that my body and brain needs for energy. For so long, I relied on carbs to keep me going. Carbs and sugar and unhealthy fats.  That, in my opinion, is the biggest culprit that prevents TBI recovery — poor nutrition that puts you on a physical and emotional roller-coaster, and keeps your mind and body stressed for the sake of cheap energy.

That energy always goes away. It always disappears. We have trained ourselves — individually and as a group — to revel in eating and drinking that cheap energy that weakens us, instead of making us stronger. It literally is killing us, in so many, many ways. And it’s keeping a lot of us from getting better from the things that are doing us in.

It’s funny — I’m sure that I’ve heard a lot of people say this, over the years. But not until I had the personal experience myself, did it sink in. Having other people tell me things just isn’t the same as me experiencing things for myself. I have a kind of “expert filter” that’s hyper-active, because in our marketing-driven world, where everyone is selling something, and everyone is billed as an expert in one thing or other, I tend to actively discount their input. It’s all very well and good for someone to present themself as very knowledgeable in certain areas, and hearing what they say can be compelling. But unless I can have the experience myself and find something that works for me, all their expertise doesn’t impress me terribly much.

Or maybe it’s because I’ve been knocking around on the planet long enough to know lots of things for myself.

Anyway, whatever the reason, I rely on my own experience. And I’ve got plenty.

My most recent experience has to do with simply feeling better.

Getting a new bed. Drinking my rocket-fuel coffee in the morning. Juggling. Doing my brain training exercises. Cutting out sugar and carbs. Eating right. Eating less. Intermittent fasting. Doing all these things to support my physical health has really improved the state of my brain and mind. It’s all good.

And I feel a lot less tired. It’s amazing. I know I’m tired. I’m just not wiped out and really struggling like I have been for years. I have energy. I’m alert. And even when I know I am tired and feel it, it’s not killing me like it used to. It’s just there, and I can function anyway.

Oh, sure – there are those times when I am really struggling with fatigue. Yesterday I had to step away and sleep for 20 minutes. I was completely wiped out by mid-afternoon. But I was able to actually remove myself from my work space and chill, without getting all tangled up in a foggy brain and indecision.

I knew what I had to do, and I did it.

There it is.

The day is waiting. ON-ward.

Rest is my friend – five things that changed my habits for the better

Go to sleep, I’m a bear… Wake up, I’m better.

Today is another “on” day for me. Yesterday I had to step away from my LIST of to-do items that I’d put together on Friday, and just move at a more restful pace. I’ve been pushing pretty hard all week, with a lot of good ideas which promise to bring good things to me.

But by Saturday morning, all the Activity caught up with me, and I had to just back off a bit. I juggled a bit in the morning, wrote a little bit, then got together with friends, took a long nap, and got up to do a little bit here and there in the evening.

All in all, it was a good day. There were some things I was really hoping to get done (some that I really needed to get done), but I didn’t. And that’s that. I don’t really care, right now. The main thing was, I got some rest, caught up with myself, and gave myself some breathing room.

That’s important. I tend to push myself so hard — overachiever that I am — that I don’t give myself enough down-time to recoup. And that is far more damaging than any lack of ambition or “failure to launch”. Overwork and overtrainng are all very well and good for the short term. I almost have to do it, sometimes, to get things to lodge in my brain permanently.

But every single day of every single week of every single month of every single year?

Thankfully, I’m learning to do things differently.

It’s interesting, what changed that mindset for me. Most of the time, I try to overpower my unhealthy tendencies with raw, brute force. Willpower. Resolve. Even a bit of guilt. But that doesn’t work. What does work, is introducing a new piece of information into the mix that provides a better Idea about what will be most effective.

Case in point: Rest. And its importance.

I have intellectually “known” for a long time that rest is important. It helps the brain consolidate memories. It helps the body remove toxins from the brain. It is important for rebuilding the capabilities that you’ve fried, in the course of everyday overwork.  I know that rest helps me keep emotionally centered, as well. It keeps me from snapping out. It keeps me from getting depressed. It gives me a great sense of well-being and ability.

But have I made a point of getting to bed at a decent time and sleeping all the way through the night?

Until recently, not so much. I “knew” I was supposed to, I had the whole raft of ideas about how helpful it was. But not until I had an Experience of the incredible help that rest gives me, have I enthusiastically gone to bed at a decent hour — during the week before 11 p.m., on the weekends, before midnight.

What changed things? Having a bunch of good great experiences with Rest, that really brought home how much it helps me.

First, actually being able to rest in bed has been huge. I bought a new bed a couple of weeks ago, and ever since then, I have not had any trouble falling asleep. I used to lie in bed for hours, unable to sleep. I couldn’t afford a new bed. And I had to make do with what I had. But it was rough. I never actually put it together that the problem was the bed. I figured it was just how things were. For some reason I didn’t get that the lumpy mattress that wasn’t flat and forced me to balance my weight in different ways was keeping me up. Now that I have a new bed which is exactly flat and very firm, I have been falling asleep almost immediately. The only times I don’t, are when my body is seizing up from not stretching enough. But when I get out of bed and stretch, I’m able to relax, and I fall right to sleep. And I sleep pretty much through the night — except when I wake up in a sweat, which has been happening lately, with the change of seasons and the stresses at work. Now, when I think about going to bed, I don’t dread it because I expect to lie there for hours, unable to sleep.

Second, waking up rested is a whole new thing for me that puts a whole different spin on my day. I’m actually semi-functional, first thing in the morning. And with my rocket-fuel coffee that gets me going, my mornings are now something I look forward to, and get myself out of bed for. I wake up feeling so great, that I can’t wait to get to bed at night, so I can have that feeling again.

Third, getting a little bit of rest at work in the afternoons, has completely transformed my days. I used to really dread my days, because I would burn through all my energy by noontime — if not before. Then I’d spend the rest of the day scrambling to keep up, feeling like crap, eating junk food that would rev me up and make me crash, offsetting that effect with more coffee… and more coffee… and more coffee… and ending up so wired by the evening, that I could not fall sleep, even if I was on a decent bed. Taking a quick power nap for 20 minutes in the afternoon, when I just can’t go on anymore, has completely turned that around. Now I know the pressure is off, and if I need to step away and take a nap — or just close my eyes for a short while — I can do it. I generally keep a couple of hours open and free of scheduled meetings, most afternoons of my week, just so I know I can step away, if need be. And I do it. It makes all the difference in the world, to sleep — or simply relax. The boost I get, coming back after a nap, not only makes me more productive, but it makes me feel so much better about myself and my abilities, that I actually don’t mind being at work. I don’t dread and resent it the way I used to, which is a real blessing.

Fourth, learning to juggle much faster than I thought possible — after giving myself time to rest in between practice sessions — is truly inspirational. I love having this feeling of surprise and delight that I can actually keep more than one ball in the air. I never thought I could juggle. I tried many times in the past, and it never “worked”. But now I am learning pretty quickly, and the thing that seems to make the difference, is Rest.

The first day I was trying to keep a couple of balls in the air, I did it for a count of 42, max.

Then 37 times.

Then 35.

Things were clearly not improving, so I lay down and took a nap.

And when I got up, I kept the balls in the air for 135 tosses. That’s quite the improvement. What a confidence-booster! And I credit Rest for that.

Last but not least, I like myself a whole lot better when I’m rested. I am much easier to live with — both inside my head and outside. I have a higher tolerance for frustration. I can think more clearly about things to come up with good solutions. I don’t have the same temper flares, my fuse is a lot longer, and I don’t have the extreme outbursts that come when I’m really wiped out. Just the other evening, after helping a friend move, I started harassing my spouse about something they had done that was troublesome, but not exactly catastrophic. I had it in my head that if they kept doing this, Something Would Go Terribly Wrong, and I needed to “nip it in the bud”, so to speak.

The net result was that we were both pretty unhappy by the time the conversation was through, and I felt like sh*t as a result. There was no need for me to go off like that, but I did. Because I was tired. Getting more rest over the next few days did wonders for my mood and my stability. Too bad my spouse is the kind of person who holds grudges. They’ve recovered less well than I have. (But that’s on them – I’m not responsible for their state of mind, much as they’d like me to be.)

Now Rest is my friend. We’re on good terms. What a difference Good Rest makes.