Learning along the way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, there’s another opportunity to learn.

Onward.

 

Another Simple Day

Back to basics

Well, I simplified my day yesterday, and no animals were harmed in the process.

I went back to sleep in the morning and got another couple of hours rest, then after I woke up, I laid in bed and checked in with friends on my smartphone. If it weren’t for my job, I would not have a smartphone. I don’t have the money to have one of my own, I don’t generally see the need for them, and I’d just use my computer for Facebook and email and whatnot if I didn’t have one. But the smartphone makes it so much easier to keep in touch – especially via FB. So, I do. When I need to.

Even when I don’t need to, I am getting in the habit of reaching out, just to stay connected with people. Usually, I keep to myself and isolate. A lot. But having social media makes it easier for me to keep in touch. I also have made a point of taking out the “friends” on FB who drag me down, are negative and whiny, and I’ve liked a bunch of positive motivational pages, as well as amazing pictures pages, so I have a steady stream of optimism and encouragement and downright beauty in my life on a regular basis.

It really is addicting, the beauty and joy. In the best of ways. Whenever I’m feeling down and lost, I check in with FB, and the pictures of nature or the positive sayings lift my spirits. If nothing else, they get me out of my own head, which is a dangerous place to be.

I’m feeling better this morning than yesterday. It was a little rough at first, but I got myself up, had some breakfast, moved around a bit, had some vitamins, a warm drink, and some Advil. Now I’m working on my cup of coffee, slowly… thinking about how I want the rest of my weekend to be.

I was feeling incredibly low, on Friday night. Just burnt out and wiped out from drama at work and how hard it has been to actually connect with other job opportunities. This is a tough job market, if you don’t have easy-to-plug-in skills or a degree, and that’s me. I have been doing what I do for a long time, but I’m not some easy-to-pin-down, cookie-cutter worker bee anymore. And I don’t have a degree and all sorts of certifications, so that disqualifies me in the running, from the get-go.

I was reading an article last week, about how the automation of job searches is passing over some really great candidates. I think I’m falling into that category, and I suspect that I’m getting passed over because I don’t list any degrees on my resume. The thought has occurred to me to just make something up and lie about my qualifications, to get past the automated “gatekeepers”. People would probably believe me, too. But with my luck, I’d get caught. And anyway, I can’t live with that hanging over my head.

All that thinking and reading about how bad things are didn’t actually help me. And it really dragged me down. I get locked into one way of thinking a lot, which is not good, and then I get stuck. It’s worse when the one way is depressed and suspicious and anxious.

So, I broke it up yesterday and got out and did things. I wrote down a lot of my frustrations and got them out of my head and onto paper, and that made me feel much better. Then I took care of some chores and just tended to the day-to-day, and that felt better, too. I moved, I took action, and I did a few things for my Big Project last night, that I’ve been meaning to do. It felt good to finally check them off my list.

By the end of the day, yesterday, I was feeling much better. In spite of simplifying my day, I got a lot done, and I made steady progress. And I even had time to watch a little television before I went to bed.

An interesting thing happened last night as I was getting ready for bed. I looked outside, and it looked like it was still evening, with the sky still light and the world around me still lit up. I could hardly believe it — it was nearly midnight, and it looked like it was 4 p.m.

I went downstairs and walked out on the back deck, and the full moon was bathing the whole world in a bright silver light. It was much milder last night than it’s been in weeks, and the stars overhead were phenomenal. So, I pulled on a couple of layers, got my hat and gloves and a flashlight, and I went for a walk.

The evening was so quiet, the roads were empty, and the moonlight was just amazing, flooding the world with silver light. Everything was lit up, and shadows of great trees sprawled across the road in sharp, craggy relief. Outdoors it was totally silent, except for the sound of distant traffic and the rustling of little creatures under the autumn leaves in the woods along the road. It was as though the whole world were there for me alone, with all my neighbors either tucked in and lights-out for the night, or staying up late with all their house lights on.

What an amazing walk it was. I wanted to keep going, but I was really tired and I hadn’t had a nap yesterday. I needed to get back, and not so far off in the distance, I could hear coyotes calling. So, it was probably best that I head back. The coyotes in this area don’t usually bother people, but why take a chance of surprising them at midnight.

Back home, I could feel myself so much more relaxed after my walk. Just having the silence and the space and the room to move — all under the brilliant moon and stars — what a gift it was.

Which brings me around to the topic that has been on my mind a lot, lately — gratitude. I’ve realized that with all the changes at work and all the reorganizational challenges, I’ve lost sight of the good that’s come with the changes. There are a number of things that have gone away, that we’ve lost — a lot of autonomy and freedom to move and make our own decisions, as well as the amazing commute that was a real blessing when I had it. In the midst of seeing all the things that are wrong, I’ve lost sight of the things that are right.

A part of me has been stubborn about admitting that some things are right, because part of me thinks that will validate the stupidity that seems to reign supreme, and somehow make it alright. It’s not alright, and there are some serious issues at play in that place, but when I focus on the bad, it blinds me to what good I can find. And it drains me. It doesn’t only hurt the company (which many folks at work would actually like to hurt), it also hurts me. It saps my energy, it taints each and every day with bilious resentment, and it makes the already difficult things that much harder to handle.

And that will never do. So, I’m finding a new way of approaching thing — Seeing the bad (the awful, actually) and seeing how it can lead me to something new and different. There are so many different options available to me — new paths to explore, new ways of interacting, new ways of working, new projects — why get dragged down by the sh*t, when I can be looking to a new way, a new approach, a new chapter of my life?

Indeed, the fact that things are so bad right now, can actually make my life better. I can see them for what they are, not fight and resist and resent them, but simply see them for how they are — plain and simple. I don’t need to complicate matters with all sorts of mental gymnastics that keep me locked in place because I’m gyrating through all kinds of emotional drama. I can simply — very simply — see things as they are, accept that they suck, objectively move on to what is next in my life, and be grateful that they provided the impetus for me to do more with my life.

It is taking me a long time to move along to what’s next, but maybe that’s for the best. Maybe I have not been thinking about things as expansively as I should be. Maybe I have not been considering all the options in front of me. Maybe I really do need more time – and I need to stretch.

These are all things that have been rattling ’round in my head for some time, now. Plain and simple, I’m in a kind of a holding pattern, and I need to find ways to use this time wisely. I’m not sure that making myself more “plug and play” is the answer — I’m capable of more than that, and being slotted into a cookie-cutter position is not going to do it for me.

The thing I also need to remember is that I have a number of different projects in the works, and some of them are really taking off. So, if I start a new job, that’s going to suck a lot of time and energy away from my overall “supplies.” Yes, it will stress me and “wake me up” and make me feel alive again, but long-term, this is not sustainable, and it’s a recipe for eventual pain and suffering.

So, simplify, simplify. Keep things basic and focus on the fundamentals. Apply myself in intelligent ways, and don’t get caught up in distractions that feel like they’re “taking the pressure off” when they’re just distracting me and interfering with what I should really be doing.

When I think about it, I have plenty to keep myself occupied, plenty to add meaning and purpose to my life. I can let the job situation just BE, for a while, focus on other things, and think about where else I want to go with my life.

It’s all good. I just need to stop complicating things for the sake of the drama adrenaline rush, and let myself be grateful for what I have.

It’s not all about what I’ve lost. It’s also about what I’m gaining.

And another simple day is waiting.

So, onward.

Finding the energy

I’m about the last person who likes to admit that I don’t have the energy for something. It’s like a dirty little secret I carry around with me, that I rarely, if ever, discuss with others. When I tell people I’ve run out of steam and I can’t manage to do something because I’m beat, they often look at me like I’ve lost my mind – how could I run out of energy before the day is through? How could I fizzle out when everyone else is going strong?

Yah, well, they must not know what it’s like to work their ass off at just about every little thing that comes across their path. That’s what it pretty much feels like for me, day in and day out — a whole lot of energy being expended on things that others just take for granted. Everything from getting out of bed in the morning to making breakfast to figuring out what to wear, takes a monumental effort.

And it’s not that I’m coming up with anything exotic. I eat the same breakfast each morning. I have my routine that I follow. I have five work outfits, which I wear on the same days of the week. It’s all very boring and predictable, but it’s super easy to deal with, first thing in the morning when I am getting ready for work. Especially when I’m tired, this predictability is very important. Even when I’m not tired, having the same routine each day relieves my brain of the need to have to think through everything.

Now, the problem is, I don’t want to have fatigue run my life. And it’s seriously bothering me, that I’m so down and dragging all the time. So, I’ve been on a quest – of sorts – to find a way to tap into the energy that I know I have in my system — in my cells, in my muscles, in my bones — and put it to better use. I feel like I’ve been wrangling with details and annoyances and surprises and problems for so long… all my life, really… that my system is a bit tangled up overall. And I have the sense that within me there is a LOT of stored energy that I just can’t get to for some reason. It’s out of reach — because my way of living has been so geared towards troubleshooting and damage control, that I’ve been more focused on fixing what’s wrong, than making things right.

So, on this quest, I have been looking around for ways to free up the energy. Morning exercise is probably the best way I can think of. The thing is, I need something I can do every single day, the same way, but the exercise routines I did before led to over-training and over-use, and I ended up feeling bad — no, crappy — and also getting strains and pulls that held me back. With those kinds of exercises I was doing — lifting weights and bodyweight exercises — I needed time off to recover.

And that interrupted my daily routine.

So, I needed to find something new…. which I did, totally by accident last week.

I have a new exercise routine — the Five Tibetans — which I have been doing each morning for about a week and a half or so. There’s a video of it at the top of the page, but the version I do it not quite as formal as that. Basically, I follow this fellow’s description and instructions: The Fountain of Youth - http://members.ozemail.com.au/~clauspat/spincop.htm. It’s actually made a huge difference.

Now, I don’t know about the fountain of youth claims, but I do know this: since starting to do this each morning, I am feeling world’s better, and I actually have more energy, I’m less tired, and I am doing things that I didn’t feel like I had the energy to do before — like get up at 6 a.m. and go for a walk under the moon and stars.

The best thing is, the exercises don’t take a long time to do, but they are sufficiently strenuous that my muscles are a little sore, and by the time I’m done, I’m warmed up… even a little tired. Then after I make my breakfast and recover, I feel a whole lot better, and I’m ready to take on the day.

This is pretty much what I’ve been looking for — a simple, predictable way to warm up my body without undue stress and strain and a whole lot of time. For folks who spend hours at the gym, God bless. But I have a lot more important things to do with my time than work on my form and get a good pump going. I’m busy. Pumping iron for hours and hours each week, while appealing to part of me, is just not practical for me at this point in my life.

Now, while I’m not sure about all the chakra and energy body stuff that goes along with this, the simple fact is, The Five Tibetans are exercises I can do easily and without rushing myself in the morning. And since I started doing them each morning, I have to say my energy has really improved.

It’s pretty amazing, really. I feel a lot more stable and calm, and I don’t feel thrown off by things all the time. And if these exercises will help restore my youth, so much the better. I’m a skeptic by nature, but I’m seeing results I can really relate to, so I don’t need to over-think this. Just do it. If it works, great. If not, move on to find something that does.

It seems to be working. And it seems to be doing exactly what I need to do — unlock the latent energy that’s in my system so I can access it and use it through the course of the day. I can do this simple-style, or I can do it complicated like the guy in the video. Either way, it’s helping me, so that’s fine. So long as I’m feeling more energized and more able to keep up with everything around me on a daily basis, I’m going to keep doing this. Apparently, doing it over the long-term has been hugely beneficial for people, changing their energy levels as well as their confidence and self-image.

I could do with improvements in all those areas.

So yeah – I do believe that there is a ton of energy we all carry around inside our cells, our muscles, our bones, our minds. Tapping into it and unlocking it is the first order of the day, for me. I am so sick and tired of my own personal energy crisis, and I’m so sick and tired of being told a million different things by a million different people. I found something that works for me. And that’s okay.

Onward.

 

Up early again – with some choices to make

My plan last night was to sleep till 8:15 this morning. I don’t have any meetings at work till afternoon, and I have some leeway to work with this morning.

However, what really happened was, I woke around 5 a.m., and after lying in bed for about 15 minutes, I decided to get up and do some writing and reading before I get on with my day.

I’m back to my regular life, now, and with it comes a lot of concerns that I had before I drove away last Friday. And with those concerns come early waking, as well as plenty of ways to use the extra hours I have when I’m up several hours before I planned.

I can use those hours fretting about not being able to rest well enough.

Or I can use those hours doing something productive.

This morning, I fretted briefly, then decided to get up and use the extra time for something productive — like reading and writing for a bit before I start my work day.

So, I got some reading in, as well as some writing, and even though I am still pretty tired from the craziness of the past months, it was still good to get some of my own work done.

Tonight I will sleep. Get in bed at a decent hour and just let it all go. Just let it alll…. goooo…

 

 

 

Beyond the stigmas of brain injury

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I keep this blog. Someone who’s been a reader here for a while has commented that I spend too much time over-analyzing and thinking about brain injury, and that I should just be thankful for what I have, live my life and get on with it.

That’s been a challenge for me to digest, probably because there’s some truth to it. It’s partly true that I do spend a lot of time thinking about brain injury and how it affects me, and sometimes it keeps me from just living my life. At the same time, one of the driving forces behind keeping this blog is the deafening silence out there about brain injury, from a personal point of view. When I first came to terms with the fact of my history of TBI, it was all but impossible to find *anything* personal about TBI — there were just a bunch of “scientific” sites, many of which were selling or promoting something — with objective, impersonal information.

And I felt completely alone.

I still feel alone, but a lot less so, since I’ve been blogging about TBI. Something about just writing this all down and putting it out there, is not only cathartic but also helps me put things in perspective. I don’t have many friends or social interaction outside of work — I get too tired to maintain friendships for any length of them. And I don’t keep in regular touch with my family, in part because they exhaust me with their attitudes and their choices and their drama.

More than anything, fatigue has changed the face of my life, since I fell down those stairs in 2004.

And there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight.

But I digress.

One of the things that a few people are saying that I really agree with, is that it’s not concussion/TBI that’s the problem. It’s mismanagement of concussion/TBI that gets us in trouble.

The Concussion Blog is one of those places where this is talked about. The blogger/author there talks about management from the perspective of an athletic trainer. And I talk about managing TBI/concussion from the “inside” — the personal perspective of someone who is dealing with TBI on a regular basis. I do this because I want to demystify the world of concussion/TBI recovery and put human face on something that usually pulls people into the shadows to hide “until they’re better”, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as we’d like.

When it comes to TBI, there are tremendous stigmas attached. Not least of which comes from inside our own heads. We become different people. Our lives can be turned upside-down. It may look like there is no end in sight, and we can lose hope. Simple fact of the matter is, it is not easy, dealing with TBI, and that’s just a fact we need to accept and work with.

For many, this can be tremendously unsettling, and we may want with all our might to just put it behind us and get on with our lives, not worrying about what was before, but trusting that we will get the help we need as we go on. That help may be from within, from God, from family and friends, or from an agency or rehab. We don’t want TBI to stop us, and we want to just have the best life possible, without staring at our navels all day long.

For others, the many phenomena around TBI may be a source of fascination, even compulsion — some might say obsession(?). When something nearly takes you out, and it’s so big and undeniable, it can be a source of intense scientific interest. Sometimes people turn to studying the very thing that nearly killed them — like people who have close calls with snakes or sharks or other threats as kids, and then become scientists who study them.  I fall into that category — especially because I was raised around scientists and I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandfather, who was a college professor in natural sciences.

For other people, they may never be able to put TBI behind them, and they may struggle for years and years — alone, misunderstood, discriminated against, and marginalized… and never fully understanding why. It’s my hope that some of what I write reaches those people and helps them feel less isolated and alone. Life can be rough on all of us, and TBI folks especially.

The biggest problem that I can see is the isolation and the feeling that nobody understands you, nobody can help you, nobody gets it, and you’re just a freak who’s good for nothing. When you feel that way, it’s easy to let others marginalize you and mistreat you, which does not help your ability to self-advocate and get the help you need. And it just feeds the vicious cycle that pulls us into the progressive downward spiral of TBI. So things can get a lot worse, before they get better. If they get better at all. What happens inside our souls after TBI, can be even more harmful than what happens inside our heads.

So, if I come across as egotistical, self-consumed, and perseverating… it’s all in the interest of being real about my own condition. I don’t want over-analyzing TBI to stop me from living my life — and in fact, it doesn’t — but I also don’t want to pretend that everything is hunky-dory and there are no issues in sight. For years, I was totally focused on barrelling through all the hurdles along the way and leveling every barrier to my success. But lately, I’m just too tired to keep up that charge. And I’ve got to get real about my situation.

So, that’s it for today. I hope it has done someone somewhere some good.

Onward.

Back in the swing of things

So, it’s Monday, and I have to say I’m relieved. This past weekend was kind of sh*tty, and I didn’t get much of anything done that I had planned, which is a bit of a problem, because I have a lot of things I need to get done, and I had two whole days to do them.

Oh, well. Next…

It’s always interesting, seeing how my best-laid plans turn out. I mean, I had the whole weekend choreographed within an inch of its life, and then Friday I flared out and spent the weekend feeling like crap, fighting with my spouse, recovering, and just trying to feel like an normal person again.

Now it’s Monday, I’m back in the swing of things, and I’m actually feeling better — even though I am still foggy and dull and not nearly as sharp as I’d like to be.

The thing is, during the week, there’s all this energy, all this activity. And on the weekends, there’s not. It’s a massive disconnect, and I think that’s what makes me sick — just not being able to keep moving. My spouse has a lot of issues with my “energy levels” — they say I make them anxious, and I’m “too kinetic”. Yah, well, whatever. Kinetic gets the bills paid, you know?

At the same time, they do have a point — I do push myself too hard at times, and I burn out. That is my doing, and it’s the result of me not taking sufficient breaks and not allowing myself sufficient recovery time to come back from my flurries of activity. I need to do a better job of that, and I’m working on it.

One other piece of the puzzle, though, is how much my spouse has slowed down over the past years. They’re a few years older than me, but they act like they are a LOT older than me. We each have very different ideas about lifespans and quality of life — they are convinced that they’re going to live only a few more years — as long as their parents (who both died years sooner than they should have) — and at the same time, they’re terrified of dying. I, on the other hand, believe I’m going to keep going for decades to come, and my main concern is keeping myself mentally sharp and active and able to be involved in my life for the many coming decades. So, I’m ramping up at the same time my spouse is slowing down.

Total disconnect. It’s pretty tough to see someone so close to you, who has been such an integral part of your life for the past 25 years, just giving in to the hype and giving up hope of anything different happening. They say they don’t want to die, and they say they want to live a long time, but they actually don’t act like it. Actions speak louder than words, and their actions say they’re getting ready to pack it in and pass on. The bitch of it is, at the same time they’re doing less for themself, I’m required to do more.

Yet another reason to keep my strength up and keep fit. I can’t imagine the next 10-20 years with them (if we have that long) is going to be a cakewalk.

Well, anyway, what can you do? I’m just glad the weekend is over, and I can get back to my regular routine, taking care of what needs to be taken care of.

I did my warm-up exercises this morning — some weight lifting and some balance work and some coordination footwork. I’m focusing less on building strength and endurance with extended workouts and focusing more on warming up, feeling good, moving, and getting in the swing of things. Waking myself up, and feeling good at it, too. Just moving. Getting the blood pumping and getting a bit out of breath. Pushing myself a little bit, and then giving myself a chance to recover.

I’ve got my list of things I need to do, and I started on one of them this morning. Having my list makes things so much easier — I don’t have to keep things in my head, and I can put everything in perspective by seeing it all on paper in front of me.

That helps. When I try to do it alone without any tools or props… look out.

Speaking of looking out — the day is waiting. Gotta get a move on and see what the day has to offer.

Onward

Push hard, then let it go

Yeah – push it

I’ve come to realize that, in the course of my life, I’ve acquired habits of mind and action that have really worked against me, time and time again. Most of us have. I’m not alone in that. And I’ve also come to realize that those poor habits have always seemed to work for me because I was fairly functional and I didn’t have a lot to lose. The stakes weren’t particularly high, and I didn’t have much motivation or reason to change the way I thought about and did things.

Prime Example: My old plodding “slow and steady wins the race” approach, which saw me spending years upon years moving steadily towards a distant goal, only to give up at a certain point… for some reason or another. My intention all along was to keep things at an even keel, to not let things get out of hand and not to feel out of control, and to move forward slowly, putting one foot carefully in front of the other. The problem was, when I did that, I didn’t develop any tolerance for stresses and strains, and I became more susceptible than ever to the ups and downs of life. If things went “too fast”, I would freak out. If things didn’t go according to plan, I would lose it. I was in a perpetual state of anxiety, because I feared with all my heart those ups and downs that are in fact a normal part of life. And with nearly every major undertaking of my life, where I had a dream I wanted to realize with all my heart, I gave up when the going got “out of control”. I just let things drop, because the anxiety was too intense for me.

It’s become painfully clear to me in the past couple of years that if I continue to follow those habits of mind and action, I’m really not going to get anywhere. I’m going to stay stuck in that same-old-same-old world and I’m not going to live the life of my dreams — I’m going to just keep dreaming about the life of my dreams. I need to be more resilient. I need to be less fragile. I need my life to be less dependent on things be exactly as I envision them. I need to learn to handle those ups and downs a whole lot better. I need to actually welcome the unexpected and see where it will take me.

I think I’ve figured out how to do it. This new technique of mine involves treating unexpected things — and a lot of the things I used to fear with all my heart — as welcome challenges, not dreaded threats. It’s about walking straight into situations that normally terrify me, and taking them as they come — as a warrior, not a worrier.

See, here’s the thing… I need to be more resilient. I need to develop more ability to handle anxiety-producing situations. I need more practice dealing with those things in a positive way.

That takes practice. It takes a constant, regular willingness to step up and go into situations where I am not 100% confident of my abilities, but I am 100% confident that I will build up my abilities through this practice. It takes a willingness to look stupid, to look foolish, to possilbly be taken advantage of, and the understanding that I’m not going to be perfect the first time out, but I will get stronger. And better. And smarter, along the way.

Of course, this involves added stress — in moderate doses — followed by ample rest and relaxation. It means I need to push myself a bit, then back off and let myself digest everything. It’s like having a good workout and wearing yourself out, then resting and eating well for days afterwards, giving your body a chance to recover and bounce back — stronger than before.

The hard part in all this for me is the resting period. I’ve never been big into relaxation, and in fact, I’ve only learned to consciously relax in the past couple of years. There has been so much stress in my life, for as long as I can remember, just getting through each day, and the costs of me not being “on” have been high. Nobody likes to be attacked — physically and verbally — and nobody likes to be ridiculed. If I wasn’t paying attention and wasn’t on the defensive, that’s exactly what would happen to me, when I was a kid. And that pattern persisted over the years, in some cases becoming self-fulfilling.

So many times, we get exactly what we expect, and my expectations were very low.

Very low, indeed.

Now, though, it’s just not cutting it for me anymore. I am so sick and tired of the mediocrity around me, and the company I’ve ended up keeping over the years. I am sick and tired of being at the mercy of employers and C-level execs and managers who care more about themselves and their own little empires than the welfare of the whole company. I am sick and tired of being pushed and pulled around and used like a tool by people who have no ethics and certainly no apparent morals. I’m not getting on my high horse. I just get sick and tired of having my life influenced by people without vision and character, whose values bear no resemblance to mine.

And I’ve had enough of working for people who will happily throw me under the bus for their own short-sighted agendas, which cause so much pain and suffering to their employees and direct reports.

They don’t care about me. They don’t care about anything but themselves. Why should I care about them? And why should I keep being stuck with them and their hare-brained schemes? Makes no sense.

So, to pull away from all of that and make my own way in the world, I need to be a lot more resilient and a lot less fragile. I need to see challenges and failures and necessary and important steps along the way to making my life what it should be. I need to stop seeing things in terms of “shortcomings” and “failure”, anyway. They’re all lessons. Plain and simple. Just lessons — and opportunities to grow and learn and be better tomorrow than I am today.

All that being said, I really need to change around my approach to how I do things. Rather than mapping things out, slow and steady, and plodding through them, I need to get some fire into it. I need to push myself hard to get through the challenges, with my attention trained on what’s going on. And then I need to let it go. I waste waaaay too much time worrying about the results of my actions and choices, concerned that they may be harmful to others. It’s good to desire positive relations with others, but not at the expense of doing what you need to do.

I’m way too haunted by the “terrible” things I’ve done. Plenty of people over the years have accused me of hurting them, doing and saying “awful” things that cut them to the quick. Okay, maybe I have been on the rough side at times. I admit that. At the same time, I realize I’ve taken way too much flak from people for their own problems, their own weaknesses, and their own unwillingness to take responsibility for their own B.S.

Seriously, I have had it with people who make me responsible for their pain. I’ve wasted way too much time on people like them, thinking I was going to help them or make things easier for them. Silly. All I did was drag myself down. They weren’t interested in lifting themselves up. They just wanted people to feel sorry for how “down” they were… and then stay stuck in that pitiful state. And the more I tried to help them, the more they turned on me. Because they couldn’t stand the idea of things actually working out for them, and if my example and my words and support threatened what they knew, they would actually turn on me and punish me for trying to help them.

What a waste. I feel really bad for folks like them. But is it worth me holding myself back for them? No. Not at all.

So, here’s my new approach — push hard and just do what I need to do. Be clear about what I need to do, both for myself and others. Be totally honest with people and let them know where they stand with me, and let them worry about how they handle it. Quit taking responsibility for things I cannot control (like other people’s state of mine), and take full responsibility for myself. And treat challenges and “threats” as chances to learn important lessons. The harder things are for me, the more necessary the lessons. And the more I walk right into those lessons — face forward, standing tall — the more I have to gain.

I’m going to get knocked down. I know that. I am going to take heat, and I’m going to be threatened by people who seek to undermine me. But if I stay strong in my mind and keep focused on what it is I am doing and how I am going to do it, that can get me through. And if I keep flexible and open to change, and if I get plenty of rest and good sleep, then I can take whatever comes.

That much is clear to me, after I got 5 hours of sleep in my nap yesterday. I had a bunch of things planned, and I had a very busy morning. After my lunch and shower, I lay down “for a little bit”. I didn’t set the alarm. I just let myself sleep. And when I woke, it was 5 hours later. And I felt phenomenal. Really, really good. The best part was, later when it was time for bed, I didn’t stay up. I actually went to bed. And I got some more good sleep. I pushed myself hard, then I rested.

And today I feel like I can handle just about anything. I had my morning workout. I had an idea for a new project that’s about 5 years out (and depends on my current projects going well). And my day does not look as terribly overwhelming and daunting to me, as it often does, when I have just one day left in the weekend and there’s a lot I haven’t accomplished that I intended to.

I have a plan put together for how to handle everything, I know most of what needs to be done, and I’ve learned some incredible lessons in the past couple of weeks that will help me a whole lot later on. I’ve made some expensive mistakes in the past months, but those are not likely to happen again, and that’s worth more to me than all the easy “success” in the world.

I’m just starting out down this new road, and I am very hopeful of the good that will come of it. If nothing else, having this new approach and new attitude will help me feel better along the way, instead if burdening me with all sorts of heavy concerns about things I cannot control and am not responsible for. It’s good. It’s really good. Plus, taking my lumps and learning as I go will only help me across the board, as I move forward.

I just need to give myself ample time to rest. And now that I have that critical piece in place in my life — knowing how to relax, and realizing just how good it feels — I’m one step closer to having that be a reality for me on a regular basis.

It’s all a process of course. I will make progress, then I will lose ground. That’s just how things go. But I will keep moving and I will keep progressing. It’s all good — and it’s just getting better.

 

A little nap – a lot better

So, I went out to my yard to do some work for an hour. Took the timer with me and set it for an hour. 60 minutes later, it went off, but I didn’t feel like I was done yet. Not even close. There is a lot that needs to be done, and it turned out to be a beautiful day. So, I set it for another hour… and when it beeped again, I just turned it off and decided to keep going till I was really done.

My yard has suffered terribly from neglect over the past years. The grass is patchy and in need of help. I have a lot of weeds that need to be removed by hand, because spraying isn’t an option, and mowing doesn’t get to the roots. So, I spent a lot of time bending and standing up straight, walking around, piling up weeds… and by the time I was done, I was really having trouble keeping upright. When I was focused on something in front of me, I was fine, but when I just stood up and looked around, I literally felt like I was going to fall over.

I staggered back into the house, dropped into a chair, and proceeded to mix myself a lemonade – for the hydration and also a little extra with the lemon. That was helpful. Then I took a shower — still dizzy and all get-out — and had some lunch and ran a quick errand.

Back from my errand, I lay down and took a nap while listening to my stress hardiness recording. It really did the trick. The slow, measured breathing and the relaxation and the quiet music in the background were just what I needed.

Now, two hours later, I’m back on my feet and feeling pretty good. Had some fresh fruit and goat cheese and some more water.

Yeah. Now we’re talking. I’m feeling the best I have in days, and it feels really good to have some of those errands from the past days out of the way. They had been on my mind, distracting me, so I just took care of them last night and today. I wasn’t feeling up to it, but as it turns out, the uncertainty around them was contributing to my feeling out of control and out of sorts. Now I have them taken care of, and I can get on with the rest of my day — and weekend.

I think I’ll update my resume this coming week and start contacting all the people who contacted me earlier this year, and tell them I’m ready to start talking to folks over the coming months. It may take me that long to find something that works for me, but at least I’ll have the ball rolling.

I’ve got to be careful I don’t get ahead of myself, though. I have other things I need to focus on for the other projects I have in the works. I don’t want to overwhelm myself too much.

I’m just now getting back to balance. Why push myself over the edge – yet again?

That’s the thing with me – no sooner am I recovered, than I tend to push myself back towards the edge I just came from. Patience, patience. Take the foot off the pedal, already.

All will happen in good time.

First steps – next steps – one at a time

So, I’ve reached a milestone with my project — a big piece of it is done – and a few days before originally planned, which is great.

Now, I have more to do later today, but first I will take a break.

The wild thing is, there are a number of non-optional things I need to do – that’s right. Non-optional. Required. Time-sensitive. But I have a hell of a time getting them started. I can be a total head-case at times, which really only hurts me.

I know that. But I just can’t seem to start those things. I HAVE to answer emails from project teammates. I HAVE to get back to them with details and responses. But I avoid doing so like the plague. As though that’s going to help me.

So, to get started, I make a deal with myself — I will only answer ONE of the many people who have emailed me. Just ONE. No more. At least for starters. I will demand only that of myself.

The thing is, once I get going, and I get warmed up with answering that “one and only” person, then I actually feel like answering everyone else. And I start to enjoy myself, remembering the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from following up and making contact with people.

That is a huge stumbling block for me. I am just not comfortable with people a lot of the time. Even more-so, I am not comfortable with the prospect of dealing with people. That’s what stops me. The prospect. Once I get going, I feel so much better, I get into the swing of things, and I really enjoy myself.

But the dread… oh, the dread…

Some days, it is insurmountable.

Like yesterday. I had a bunch of people contacting me, needing feedback, but I focused on the other tasks I had, and I didn’t get back to them till this afternoon. Once I got going this afternoon, though, I realized just how much I enjoyed it, and I was sorry I hadn’t done it sooner.

No time to waste on regret, however. At least I did what I did, and I hope the results will be good.

So, yeah — in order to take many steps, I need to take the first. Just do that one thing. Just make a deal with myself to do ONE thing, and not require anything more. Make the rest optional — and then I will want to do it.

Weird, how that works. But at least it works.

Now, onward…

Steady as it goes

The long way through is sometimes the best way

It’s Thursday and I am a *wiped out*. I’ve had an action-packed week, with so much to do at work, and so much upheaval and uncertainty in the workplace… as well as so much to do at home with my own projects. One of them is coming to a head, and I’ve had to spend a lot of time emailing other people on the project, clearing up misunderstandings, getting clearer communications, and just keeping a cool head, when everyone around me is going wild like crazy jumping beans.

I’ve been a little crazy, myself, but I’m happy to report that I have actually been able to keep folks pointed in the right direction when things have started to go off the rails. It’s probably because, compared to the daily dose of fatigue and sensitivities and wild emotional roller-coasters that are a part of my everyday life, problems that can be solved are a lot easier to deal with. At least, with these kinds of project problems, there’s an end in sight. With the fatigue and intolerance of noise and light, not to mention the cognitive mix-ups that dog me, there’s no foreseeable end. The best I can do is take care of myself — and I do — and hope for the best.

Because I never really know if what I’m doing for myself will help, or work. I never know if getting 8 hours of sleep is going to make me feel more rested, or make me feel worse. I never know if a day is going to be rough or easy — it’s usually a mix, and I don’t always know which is coming ’round the bend next.

Given the choice between the TBI-related difficulties and the everyday life challenges, I’ll take the latter. At least then there can be some resolution, some sort of relief. But I don’t actually have a choice between the two — I get both. Each day.

Still and all, it beats the alternative. I just heard this morning that an acquaintance of mine is in hospice. I don’t know them that well, but a week ago, they were telling everyone on Facebook about their new projects, their new activities, their new travels. And now they’re in hospice. Bizarre. I know they had been sick, years back, but this is quite sudden and unexpected. Makes me value the life I have, while I have it.

My daily life also makes me value the difficulties I’ve been through, because honestly, it has prepared me for dealing with other loads of crap. I don’t always do the best job, and the preparation has had more than its fair share of embarrassment, frustration, turbulence, and upset. None of the lessons have exactly been easy. Then again, I remember the hard lessons the best, so it’s not all bad. It’s just not all easy.

The main thing is to just keep going. Steady as it goes. Level-headed (as best I can be) and relaxed, so I can roll with whatever comes my way. Things can — and do — come my way, that I’d rather not see at all. But we don’t always get to choose the path through the woods. Sometimes it takes us on winding roads, sometimes it takes us straight to our destination. But frankly, the winding roads are probably better, in any case.

It’s like a quickly rushing forest stream, or a river. Have you ever seen the effects of quickly rushing water that goes in a very straight line? Not good. It doesn’t leave much in its wake — just washes everything away. Where a quickly rushing stream that has a lot of curves and bends and eddies and waterfalls, not only gets where it’s going — it also creates a lot of beautiful life in the process.

So, I have to keep that in mind, as I chafe over things not being perfect and ideal, the first time through, every single time. I have to keep flexible and adaptable and look on the bright side when things get “effed up” — which isn’t always the case, much is it may seem like it. I need to keep an even keel and a level head and not flip out on people when things don’t go my way. And I definitely need to step back and take a second look, before I open my big mouth about things.

And send shorter emails. I almost went off on someone the other day over them not answering the question I asked them in an email. It was a very simple question about something very important to me, and they got distracted and talked about something that was completely unrelated to what I was discussing. Clearly, they were not paying attention. Probably had too much to do. But instead of flaming them and going off, I cut my response in half and kept to the point.

And I actually got a decent response back from them. Not the answer to my original question, but at least a civil response.

Anyway, my restraint paid off. And it occurred to me the other day – I can’t remember ever regretting being restrained in my responses. But being unrestrained… I’ve rued that, plenty of times, no matter how great it felt to “uncork” in the moment.

Steady, steady… I’ve got a lot of activity ahead of me this summer, and I need to keep my head on.

Onward.