Keeping sharp during the holiday seasons

So, I’ve had a few days to simmer down after the last weekend of blow-ups, and now I’ve got another weekend ahead of me to sort things through and do a better job.

That’s about the best that I can expect of myself, under the circumstances. What’s done, is done. And I have to just let go of it, even though it still bothers me and I get sick to my stomach, thinking back about how rough it was last weekend.

New weekend, new chance. New lessons learned.

The big lesson I learned — once again — is that “time off” isn’t always such a good thing for me to have. I can rest, certainly. And I can take some time off. But spending too much time resting and relaxing… that’s a recipe for disaster.

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, as they say, and I have so much I need to do, anyway, that taking too much time away just stresses me out and makes me even more irritable and difficult to live and work with. I need discipline, and a planned approach, which will let me not only budget my time and get things done, but also allow me to rest. It’s all a balance. It’s when I have too much time on my hands and I’m not extending myself to do something meaningful, that I get into trouble.

The same thing goes for the week between Christmas and New Years. I have the full week off — 8 days total, plus Christmas Eve, when they close the office early. So, I have all that time, and I’m not traveling anywhere. I need to keep things pretty structured during that time, and I also need to give my spouse some space and room on their own, so I’m not underfoot and they’re not walking on eggshells around me.

My spouse is convinced that I am dangerous, and that I could go off at any time. They tiptoe around me and placate me and act like I am a monster, and that really drags me down. I still feel pretty crappy from the whole thing, and them dragging it on, just makes it worse. We both try to keep it light, but it just feels like they’re back to where they were for years, not giving me the benefit of the doubt, really trying to “handle” me and keep me in check, so I don’t go off.

It just sucks when the environment is like that. It gets old quick, and I don’t feel like being around it.

So, I need to clear out, at least a few of the days. Keep busy. Keep it light, for sure. Maybe not spend that much time around them, since they don’t really want to be around me. I dunno. I just wish it were easier. But then it wouldn’t be the holidays.

Anyway, I need to keep pretty sharp during the holidays — not get sucked into the whole junk food thing, keep getting my exercise, stretch regularly, not get bogged down in a lot of busy-ness, and keep my mind and spirit clear. I can’t stand feeling rotten all the time, and I hate how I tense up, whenever my spouse is talking to me. It’s stupid and painful for both of us, and I don’t know how to make it stop.

I guess these things work themselves out with time… We’ll find out.

In the meantime, I need to take care of myself and stay as clear and cool as I can.

What my spouse does, is up to them.

Clearing out the gunk

Had a pretty fiery long weekend — and beyond. Several fights – one of them serious. That was Monday night, after the activity of the long weekend. Total meltdown/blow-up.

Felt like crap afterwards. Really awful. Talk of divorce. What else is new? My spouse plays that card, whenever they want to make me believe it’s serious. It is, and I know that. It’s just a brinksmanship thing they do to push me a little more than they already have.

Not that I would mind, some days. Some days, I wouldn’t mind just walking away from all of this — and I mean ALL of it — and starting again. There are a lot of things I would not miss, not least of which are the obligations that I am true to, for the sake of building up relationships with others… relationships which actually don’t do squat for me, because deep down inside I am a profoundly introverted person. And the social “thing” as most people do it, does nothing for me.

It’s not that I don’t need people. I do – but differently than most people I know. My life isn’t just built around a few key relationships with people with whom I’ve cultivated connections. It’s built around having good relationships with everyone I meet. That’s important to me. Because I don’t actually see a difference between all the different people I know. The “close friends” are as important to me as “casual strangers” — because I actually don’t experience people as strangers. They are just everyday people I don’t know very well yet. As for close friends, there is too much of them that I do not know and understand, for me to consider them close friends. I mean, I do see that difference, and I do feel more comfortable talking to some people than others, but my whole social world is very different from the world that I see so many others participating in.

Cliques don’t interest me. Little clubs don’t interest me. I’m not into the “membership thing”. It’s boring to me, and it shows a real lack of imagination, in my opinion. With me, it’s literally a case of all of us being brothers and sisters in one extended family (heaven help us). It’s not some airy-fairy hippie-dippie ideal. That’s literally how I experience the world.

And it is a pretty damned lonely perspective, too. I can’t think of anyone who feels the same way, who doesn’t strike me as an airy-fairy hippie-dippie poseur. They just don’t seem real. And the people who do consider me a close friend with that bond they feel… I dunno… They don’t feel any more close to me than others, most of the time. A lot of them are pretty wrapped up in their personal pain and unfortunate experiences, so they’re not even fully “there” when I’m around them. In any case, their feelings of friendship towards me just barely scratches the surface of what I feel and how I experience the world, so even their closeness is pretty much a faint shadow of what my experience is.

My spouse is the one exception to all of this. They know me better, have been with me longer and closer and more loyally, than anyone else I know, and they are the one person I actually feel a deep bond with. Everyone else in my life just flits in and out, and half the time I don’t really miss them, when they have other things to do. But my spouse has been there, through thick and thin, and they can hold their own with me, when I am at my best. Even when they don’t understand what I’m talking about, when I start going on about technology and science and what-not, they still appreciate that I have that knowledge. And they don’t push me away because of it. We have our issues, that’s for sure, and some days (like today), I can’t say it would kill me if we split up and I bought an old truck and a junkyard dog and headed out to the wide open West to see what life had to offer me there.

But to be honest, I’d probably turn around, 50 miles down the road, go pick them up… and take them with me.

We’ve been talking about doing that for a long time, now, and maybe someday we will.

Anyway, back to my present state of being. We have been under a lot of pressure around money and getting things done, for a number of years, now. It’s been over three years, since we started down the debt repayment, road, wiping out a ton of old debt that was burying us every month, and living so close to the bone for so long has really taken a toll. It’s pretty awful. When I think about how things used to be … it was much easier, when we had money, and both of us were active and really involved in our world.

But now, after years of poor decision making and relationships with troubled people, we find ourselves really stretched. Money issues can tax even the healthiest of relationships, and we’ve had our challenges along the way, in addition to the money situation.

So, it’s taking a toll. And things really flared up this past weekend. It’s the holidays, family are pulling on us, we’re doing the best we can under the circumstances, but nobody seems to understand just how broke we really are. It’s freaky, to be this close to the edge, and have nobody realize it. Of course, we can’t tell people about it, because then a hell of a lot of judgement is going to rain down on our heads, adding insult to injury.

No thanks.

So, we just keep plugging along, by ourselves… And the biochemical stress sludge builds up and up and up… until it boils over, and we both melt down — or one of us goes off, and the other chimes in. Then we really get rolling, and by the time all is said and done, we are both wiped out, feeling like crap, and feeling like we’re back where we started, all those years ago, when things were really, really bad between us.

Things have been getting progressively worse, over the past years — mostly because of money problems and also work issues. The more I am aware of how I want things to be, the more I’m aware that they’re nothing like I want them to be, and it just depresses the sh*t out of me. I used to be able to just work like a mad person and find some relief in that, but it’s not like that for me anymore. Now I’m just so tired all the time, I’m irritable, I get pissed off over every little thing, and I’m nowhere near as easy-going as I used to be, because now I have a much clearer view of my own self-worth, and I’m not willing to put up with just any old thing, for the sake of having peace.

It was like that with me for years. I didn’t make too much about getting yelled at constantly, at getting hounded and treated like crap. I was making decent money, and as long as I had enough to keep myself entertained and do the things I wanted to do, it didn’t matter how I felt about myself. The fact that I was earning a good living was enough.

Now, however, that’s totally different, and in the absence of money, I require a lot more respect and consideration, which my spouse isn’t always ready to give me. Plus, they’ve got severe anxiety issues, they don’t take care of themself physically, and that makes them even harder to live with.

So, things get bad… and then they get worse.

Main thing for me, right now, is just getting past all the biochemical sludge that’s built up over the last long weekend. And making plans for how to spend the next long vacation I have coming up — over a week between Christmas and New Years. I’m going to need to structure this time pretty well, if I’m not going to go off and get freaked out and end up in shouting matches, all the live-long day. Being off work and interacting with someone who lives like they’re on permanent vacation and expect me to do the same, is intensely stressful — especially considering the dire financial circumstances we’re in. It’s just not good, and I’m the only one here who seems interested in doing anything about it.

It’s a problem.

But I do feel like there’s a change coming. I found some errors I made on past tax returns, and I’m refiling, so I may get some money back from the government from that. I’m also collecting all my expenses and numbers from the past year, so I can do my taxes early and get a quick refund in February. That’s my plan. It’s the only one I actually have, right now, aside from some small business ideas I have brewing.

It’s all a process, of course…

The main thing, is to keep going, keep clearing out the junk, not overload my system with a lot of junk food, sugar, cheap carbs, etc. And get enough sleep.

I did that last night, and it feels phenomenal.

So, enough of all this talk of drudgery and sadness.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TBI Holiday Strategies – Rest

That -- pretty much

That — pretty much

Nothing says the holidays like the frenetic race to do-do-do, and go-go-go. For some reason, a whole lot of people think it’s important to DO MORE between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and Christmas and New Years, than they’ve done in months — and will probably do in the months after. There’s the tree setup, the lights setup, the gift buying, the parties, and more.

This year is particularly tough for me, because I have very little money and I’m unable to travel to see anyone in my family — it’s a mixed blessing, actually, since family tends to make me crazy, and being up close and personal with their decisions and the things they’re choosing to do with their lives, is incredibly painful to watch.

But the fact of not getting to see them, is also an added stressor. Strange, how that works…

There’s not much I can do about the frantic pace the rest of the world is setting, aside from closing my eyes during those manic, brightly lit commercials with everyone dancing around and singing and rushing – and looking quite happy while they’re doing it. I can mute the t.v., and I can close my eyes. I can smile politely and nod as people are pouring out their hearts to me (for some reason they do), and tune them out until they’re done, so I can go back to handling problems in my life that haven’t been manufactured for the sake of drama. I can hunker down and make sure I eat well, don’t fill up on candy and pies and such, and drink enough water.

But there’s no escaping all the frantic activity for the next month or so.

The one recourse I do have is getting added rest. I lay down on the couch early last night — as in, before 11:00 p.m. — while my spouse was watching television, and I slept for a few hours. Then I woke up for about half an hour and watched the end of a show, before going to bed. Once in bed, my head was racing with all kinds of thoughts, so I “talked it through” — not exactly a prayer, more like a kind of conversation with God — and then I felt better and went to sleep.

And I slept till 8 a.m.. Which surprised me. I usually only sleep till 6:30 – if I’m lucky. So, between the 2-1/2 hours of sleep I got lying on the couch, and the 5 hours of sleep I got in bed, I got about 7-1/2 hours, which is a recent record for me. I’ve been operating on 5-1/2 – 6 hours per night, lately. Largely because I really don’t feel like going to bed at night. And I can’t seem to sleep past 5:30 or 6 in the morning. So, there we have it.

Anyway, I’m feeling a bit better than I did last night. I’ve been increasingly agitated over a lot of things — mostly having to do with having discussions with people in my life who are usually at a distance, but this year are closer by. The friends I had Thanksgiving dinner with… family members I usually don’t talk to… not to mention folks I’m connecting with through volunteer work. It’s like I can feel their pain, and it’s pretty tough — especially since I’ve got a bunch of pain, myself, both physically and emotionally. It’s just not easy, these days, and I feel like I’m getting a double-dose of it.

This even goes for my spouse and me. Thanks to the long weekend, we have been around each other more in the past week, than we have in months, and sparks have been flying. All spring and summer, my spouse was working regularly on the weekends, going on business trips, etc, so we didn’t see much of each other. And as it turns out, having the time apart actually helped our marriage. Being in close quarters now, tempers are flaring. We’re both very strong personalities, and we have our own ideas about how things should be, and when we don’t see eye to eye, things can get very … fiery. It’s a bit touch-and-go at times, but as long as we keep talking and we keep our sense of humor, that smooths things out.

I do need to set some new guidelines for the next year, however. Some things need to change, or we can’t continue the way we are. I’m not talking about divorce — I’m talking about a business venture that they’ve had going for many years, which they have never bothered to make really profitable. It’s been sucking $$$ out of our coffers for close to 20 years, and they keep promising to take steps to make it more profitable, but they never actually do anything they’re talking about. It’s time to put up or shut up. If things don’t turn around in the next year, we’re going to stop production on it, call it a day, and that’s that. I’m the one who’s been doing the bulk of the work, anyway, and I’m tired of it running my life. For nothing.

But enough about me. The way I get past my own issues and pain, is reaching out to others to help them. In some small way… who knows how much it helps, or if anyone really notices, but at least I try. And I can hope that it will help. I also spread the word and encourage others to do the same — like sending holiday cards to our troops this holiday season. (Please join me in this – we only have till December 6 to get the cards to the Red Cross.)

The other way I get past my own issues and pain, and also see things more clearly, is getting enough rest. When I am tired, my flashpoint gets pretty hot, and my temper becomes trigger-happy. It’s bad enough that my spouse has a whole lot of bad memories of parents freaking out during Christmas time. When I get tense and angry, it just brings all that up. And that sets me off, because I’ve been told so many times by so many people, that my temper makes me dangerous, and I should not be around other people when I get angry.

It’s like a perfect storm… and it can be pretty difficult to recover from the biochemical storms that tear through us both. For days, we’re both pretty on-edge around each other.

So, the thing to do is head it off at the pass, by getting enough rest and also being smart about how I spend my time. I took the last two days OFF (pretty much), only doing a few things that had to be done. I was pretty wiped out by the time Thanksgiving came around, and I sorely needed a break. So, I chilled, read, hung around the house, did some repairs on my car, and didn’t live by my to-do list.

Today, with the past several days of rest behind me, I’m feeling more able to do the things that need to be done, and I can see more clearly what needs to be fixed in my day to day.

Sleep being the first thing. Resting. Digesting. And exercising enough that I really need to rest, by the time the day is done. Keeping moving, but at a pace that lets me get things done in an orderly manner — without exhausting myself. Intervals. Short bursts of activity, followed by intentional rest.

Speaking of short bursts of activity, I have a bunch of things I need to sort through today. So, I’ve broken them down into manageable pieces, and I’ll handle them one at a time as I proceed. And rest in between. So that I can keep going. At a decent pace that actually gets things done. The main thing is to not overwork myself, so I don’t go off the deep end over things that pass anyway.

That’s no way to spend the holidays.

Today’s a new day. Begin again. And get plenty of rest.

Considering TBI : Staying safe during the holidays

This looks familiar – and not in a good way.

Well, I almost did it again. I almost fell down some stairs while rushing around during Thanksgiving activities. Nine years ago tomorrow, I fell down a flight of stairs while packing to home after Thanksgiving. I completely screwed myself up. Trashed my life. Almost lost everything. And I didn’t even realize what was happening, while it was happening.

That fall in 2004 happened because I was standing at the top of some stairs and I turned around to do something, then my feet went out from under me. The same thing happened yesterday, while I was getting ready to head out to Thanksgiving dinner. I was starting to go down the stairs, when I remembered something I needed to take with me, and I turned around, while my body momentum was moving forward. My feet slipped on the stairs, and I stumbled down a couple of steps, before I caught myself. Fortunately, this time I was wearing shoes. When I fell in 2004, I was wearing socks. And I managed to stop myself from going head-first down the stairs, when my feet went out from under me.

Hm. Wake-up call. Time to slow down. Pay attention. Take things one at a time, instead of doing a couple of things at one time — like going down and up stairs at the same time.

Slow down. Don’t do everything at once. Just chill.

I paused for a moment and caught my breath and realized what had almost just happened. Then I slowly turned around and went back upstairs — much, much more slowly than before.

And I got through the day without getting hurt.

Even better, I had an amazing day, and everything turned out well, for a variety of reasons — including not falling down stairs and hurting myself.

As the holiday season officially kicks off, I have to really pay attention to things in the coming six weeks, to get through to the other side in one piece. I know what sets me off, and I know what makes things more difficult for me than usual, and the holidays are just the time when all those things come together in a perfect storm that aggravates my TBI symptoms and also puts me at risk for another injury (like yesterday).

  1. I need to remember that I’m dealing with TBI issues, and I can’t just push myself blindly like I have no limitations. We all have limitations, and mine are especially pronounced during the holidays. I need to be uber-mindful of my issues — not in a way that holds me back, but in a realistic way that keeps me from doing serious damage to myself.
  2. Make sure I get plenty of rest. Nothing kills the joy faster than fatigue-induced irritability. And given my history of melting down and flipping out during many holiday seasons past, my spouse is particularly on-guard around me during this time. So things can escalate quickly. And that’s not good. Shouting matches and flip-outs just because I’m tired, are no way to spend the holidays. Fortunately, staying rested takes care of a lot of this. Naps help, too, so I’ll be doing a lot of that this holiday season. Whenever I can.
  3. Eat smart.  When I get tired, I tend to boost my energy with sugar-containing foods, and the holidays are chock-full of them. Pies, cookies, candy… it’s all around me, and since I need to push harder to do everything, I fall back on them. A lot. Which just makes things harder in the long run, because it throws off my sugar and it makes my joints ache, which then makes me more irritable. AND sugar feeds infections, so I have more trouble with colds and sinus infections. I have to have a lot of willpower to avoid that stuff – and it doesn’t always work. But if I can enjoy with moderation… it’s not so terrible.
  4. Give myself time. Don’t rush around with everyone else. Give myself more time to do things like go to the library or food shopping or running errands. Just take my time, so I don’t get trampled by everyone else who’s stampeding around. Do I need to go out to the store today? Not one bit. Black Friday will be fine without me.
  5. Take frequent breaks. I get very irritable for a bunch of reasons during the holidays, so it pays to just take a break regularly, let me catch up with myself, and simmer down if I’m getting revved. It really helps for me to cut myself a break and give myself some extra time off by myself when I need it. Planning my breaks helps, too, because then I can keep from getting stuck in a “loop” and pushing myself past where I should be backing off and taking a break.
  6. Get a lot of exercise. I start my days with movement and stretching, and I get out and walk whenever I can. I also try to do some heavy lifting, now and then, as well as working around the yard and house. Yesterday I got a workout with roasting that turkey — a lot of lifting and bending and reaching. I’m actually sore, which is a good sign for me. This helps my body process all the extra stuff I’m putting into it, and it also helps clear my head. Both of these are important for being happy during the holidays.

These are things I can do, in general, to make my life better during the holidays. Not doing these things can result in experiences like falling down stairs, having confrontations with police officers, and losing it at work — none of which will add to my holiday cheer quotient.

It’s all a big-ass learning process. Onward.

Helping our troops during the holidays

Our troops helped us, now let’s help them

The food has been eaten, everyone has returned home, and the weekend awaits. For those who thrive on social activity, being alone after being with so many loved ones can be difficult.

Looking for a way to get out of your post-Thanksgiving funk?

Send a card to a service member. The Red Cross is having a Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign – get details at http://www.redcross.org/support/get-involved/holiday-mail-for-heroes – for folks to write cards to service members to wish them all the best for the holidays.

Each year the American Red Cross provides assistance to more than 2 million service members and many of our nation’s 24 million veterans. We support military families, military and veterans hospitals and provide emergency communications across the globe. And once a year, we get the joy of delivering holiday greetings to veterans, military families and active-duty service members at hospitals and installations around the world.

The cards and personal messages, sent by tens of thousands of Americans, provide a welcome “touch of home” for our troops during the holiday season.

Send a Card

Each year we collect cards between October and early December and then distribute them at military installations, veterans hospitals, and in other locations.

There are several ways to be part of the Holiday Mail for Heroes program. In addition to sending cards on your own, you may want to start making plans to host card signing parties or card making parties. Here are a few guidelines to help you on your way:

Card Guidelines:

Every card received will be screened for hazardous materials and then reviewed by Red Cross volunteers working around the country.

Please observe the following guidelines to ensure a quick reviewing process:

  • Ensure that all cards are signed.
  • Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member.” Cards addressed to specific individuals can not be delivered through this program.
  • Only cards are being accepted. Do not send or include letters.
  • Do not include email or home addresses on the cards: the program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships.
  • Do not include inserts of any kind, including photos: these items will be removed during the reviewing process.
  • Please refrain from choosing cards with glitter or using loose glitter as it can aggravate health issues of ill and injured warriors.
  • If you are mailing a large quantity of cards, please bundle them and place them in large mailing envelopes or flat rate postal shipping boxes. Each card does not need its own envelope, as envelopes will be removed from all cards before distribution.

All holiday greetings should be addressed and sent to:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
P.O. Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD 20791-5456

The deadline for having cards to the P.O. Box is December 6th.
Holiday cards received after this date cannot be guaranteed delivery.

I’ve dug up a big box of old Christmas cards that, for one reason or another, I could not use in the past. Some of the messages don’t work for my family and friends, and some of them are extras I couldn’t use. I’m going to start writing out cards this weekend, while I have some extra time. And then I’ll send them all out in a big batch next week.

It’s a start. I can also pick up those big batches of cards that are mixed collections, and send them along as well. I’ve got almost 80 cards I can use right now — I have to pace myself, because my hand cramps up, but I should be able to make good progress by December 6th.

This is a great way for me to get out of my head and think of others during what can be a very difficult time — especially if you’re laid up in the hospital and you’ve had your career cut short by a terrible event.

Being cut off from the ones you care about most — your family, your brothers/sisters in arms, your “tribe” of choice — can feel like the hardest thing in the world during the holidays.

So, reach out and send a card to someone who needs your help and encouragement. Heaven knows, there are many, many folks like that out there.

Okay, enough about me. It’s time to write some cards.

When in doubt, why give a sh*t?

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

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

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

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

Because they’re doing it to themselves.

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

Oh, please.

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

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

But it’s just a bad habit.

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

And I end up in pain.

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

No wonder I’m depressed.

Please.

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

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

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

Enough.

No more doubts. No more denseness.

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

Onward.

 

A couple of Advil and a night off

Yes. This.

Tonight I’m “off” — no chores to do, no tasks, no phone calls for work, no stuff to take care of. I’ve had a pretty good day getting a few things done at work, and after the past weekend, I’m wiped. I need a night off.

At least once a week.

Weekends are funny — they’re either hit or miss for me. Either really busy, or just an extended lazing-around session, with me not doing much at all.

This past weekend was a busy one. And I’m tired after not getting any real rest. But I did get some things done that I’d been hoping to — which is great.

Now I’m sore as anything, though. Back and legs and arms and shoulders. I worked like a mad person for hours. Like I was possessed. And maybe I was. Now I’m feeling the effects, and I am more than ready for a good night’s sleep.

I’m also ready for a long time off — Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and the holiday travel is not happening this year. It’s a year to stay close to home with friends, and just kick back and relax, rather than driving 18 hours in each direction and spending four of six days in the car.

So, there it is. I’ve also got a handful of loose ends I need to tie up — paperwork I’ve been meaning to do, that I just haven’t gotten to yet. I need some uninterrupted time to focus in on the details, and it will feel great to have it all done, once and for all.

I’m sure I’ll think of other things that need to be taken care of, but for now… it’s a couple of Advil to stave off the pain, and a night of relaxing to just let myself chill.

Rest.

And then sleep.

 

Ah, Friday…

Ahhhhhh….

It’s been a weirdly hectic week, with a combination of some days just dragging by, and others flying out of view, like they never even existed.

Today I have a handful of things I need to do — some little detail-oriented things, and some larger big-picture things. And when I think about how I view these different things, I’m struck by how much my point of view has changed, in the process of my TBI recovery.

One of the Major Issues I’ve had to deal with over the years — and which stood out in glaring detail in my neuropsych eval(s) — has been getting bogged down in details and not seeing the big picture. It’s a real problem, to not be able to see the larger picture, and it’s something my neuropsych has been trying to get me to take seriously for years – with varying degrees of success.

See, the thing is, the way my brain has worked for as long as I can remember, has been total focus on tons of minute details… becoming consumed by the identification of and thinking about tiny little details that matter only to me. Somehow, my brain was convinced that that intensely detailed thinking was important, even essential, and that I couldn’t live without it. I just had to have it. And whenever someone (like my neuropsych) would challenge me on the need to be so detailed and minutiae-obsessed, I would push back and/or dismiss them as not having any vision or connection with what was most important in life.

And in that kind of thinking, I also became really invested in work that involved minute details which all needed to be specifically accounted for.  Coding. Technical documentation. The kinds of activities that required close attention to only a small subset of the bigger picture.

The Big Picture didn’t interest me at all – I didn’t think it even mattered.

The thing is, that kind of thinking really locked me into work that was more or less a dead-end. At least, for me it has been that. Because to tell the truth, that kind of work doesn’t stay challenging to me for long. I figure out how to do things, and then I do them, and it becomes boring… and I lose interest… and then I make mistakes… and then I get in trouble at work, even though the job is super easy for me to do.

That’s been my downward spiral, time and time again. Largely because of my obsession with little details.

Now, though, things are really changing in my mind. I see that all the little details are a trap for my thinking, and I’m looking at Big Picture aspects of my work in new ways. And this new orientation — seeing what I’ve actually been doing, all these years, from a high level, instead of looking at the minutiae of it all — has given me a new boost for my career path. It’s given me a whole new direction… one that I don’t actually want to leave behind at the end of the week… one that I think about a lot, now, even when I’m not physically at work.

This is a big, significant change for me. And it’s a good one. It not only has breathed new life into my work, but it’s also piqued my interest, which had become so disengaged and downright bored, over the past couple of years. It’s a new direction, yet it’s not. It’s the direction I’ve been headed all along — I just haven’t been aware of it, because I wasn’t looking high enough. I wasn’t looking deeply enough. I was too focused on the trees, and I couldn’t see the forest.

So, this Friday comes with a mix of feelings: relief that the week is just about over, and I’ll soon be able to stop responding to emails from coworkers… anticipation of having two days to really read and study up on this new high-level career change that I’m making… and excitement that I have found a new way ahead for myself that’s not just about everyday drudgery at one job, but is about a wholesale shift in my perspectives of my work that’s independent of my job, my employer, and the fine details I’ve been fixated on for so long.

And with this new change of orientation, this new direction, I find myself feeling great about my future, regardless of who I work for or when and where I work. It’s like I have an actual career now, instead of just a job. I have a practice that I’m cultivating, and I can see a real future ahead of me. Plus, people have been really encouraging me to branch out and dive deeper into this new direction — even without me telling them about my thinking and what my direction actually is.

So, that’s another shot in the arm from independent sources.

Yes, this is good. Friday is good. Holiday travel is probably not going to happen this year, because we’re broke and can’t afford the gas money, but that’s fine. It will give my spouse and me time to spend together, just relaxing, watching movies, reading, and chilling out. We’ve both been working long hours and not seeing much of each other, so this will be a chance for us to just settle, get some things done that take more than half an hour to do… and catch up with ourselves (and our sleep) again.

I can’t wait. I haven’t been getting nearly enough sleep, lately. This will change next week, and I am really looking forward to it.

But for now… onward!

A great Christmas morning

May you have peace… or whatever else you need today

… to you and yours. I’m off to a good start, all things considered. The turkey is in the oven baking, and I’m listening to my cassette tapes of Handel’s “Messiah”. I woke up feeling really sick and not feeling up to doing the turkey, but my spouse is sick and I’ve done this before, so I hauled the turkey out of the refrigerator, to find that it was not in fact thawed — probably due to my having bought it only yesterday and not having soaked it very long in that sink full of cold water as my mother used to do. The neck and the giblets were still firmly frozen inside the cavity, so I ran hot water through the works, trying to loosen it up.

No such luck. And me feeling not very well at all… Ah well, soldier on… I finally just put the bird in the oven and set the timer, resolving to check it in an hour when the whole business had time to warm up. I made myself some hot lemon-honey “tea”, had my coffee and cereal, and did the math in my head for when I should start doing other things like start prepping the stuffing and vegetables I was going to roast.

I also did some of my leg exercises, since my knees have been giving me trouble, lately. Even though I have been going for long walks and have been pretty active over the past few days, my knees have been hurting — which happens if I haven’t done my morning leg lifts, which I haven’t been doing regularly for some time. Amazingly, when I do my leg lifts — straight-out front and back and to each side, and then front kicks and back-lifts — my knees get what they need and they quit complaining.

So, I did that, and my knees immediately stopped hurting. Nice when that happens. And important to remember, so I don’t let myself just go to seed for no good reason.

By the time I was done with my morning prep, about 45 minutes had passed, so I hauled out the bird, worked at the neck and bag of organ meats, and eventually got it all out. Salted the inside of the cavity and flipped it over and put it back in the oven, breast-down, because I did that by accident a number of years ago, and the breast meat was by far the most moist and tasty that I’ve ever tasted. I’ve heard people recommending that, also, no matter what the wrapper on the turkey says. The meat felt a bit more thawed, having been in the heat for a while. I may have to roast it a bit longer to make up for that… we’ll see. Anyway, I’m hoping I didn’t screw everything up — at least I’m not deep-frying it. When you deep-fry a frozen turkey, it has a nasty habit of exploding and catching the roof of your garage on fire. I’ve talked to folks at work about deep-frying turkeys, and they’re practically rabid about it. But it seems to me they’re more excited about the gear and the inherent danger, than cooking technique. For me, I’m old-school. It’s less dramatic, sure, but I’m not going to have to call the fire department on Christmas Day, this way.

And the breast meat will be just as tasty as tasty can be.

So, once I got the bird squared away, I felt a lot better about things. I’m still feeling sick and “off”, and I’m not sure I 100% trust my judgement (which has been a bit off, with regard to time and things I need to do in a certain order), but I’m rolling with it, and I’m just going to enjoy myself this morning.

One of the things I had been meaning to do, but kept forgetting, is pull out my old cassette tapes of Handel’s Messiah that I got for Christmas while I was in college. My parents used to celebrate the Christmas season by playing their Mormon Tabernacle Choir “Messiah” record, and it was one of my favorite parts of the season. The “Little Drummer Boy” upset me intensely, for some reason, but Handel’s “Messiah” really put me in the Christmas spirit. Each and every time.

When I got the cassettes for Christmas, it was like — well, Christmas. I had my own copy that I could listen to! Amazing. Joy unbounded. It wasn’t a big thing, and thinking back now — when we are all swimming in so much plenty and bounty and easy access to each and every thing we could ever want or ask for — it seems so small-time, so modest. But it was seriously one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received. I used to listen to those cassettes repeatedly during Christmastime while I was in school. It drove the folks on my hall nuts; they would pretty much vacate and leave me to my music, then reappear when it was safe to just hang out and drink beer again. They didn’t get it, and I didn’t care. The voices of the choir were transcendent, and it reminded me of what was actually right about my childhood — those relatively brief periods of transcendent emotion and beauty… Yes, there was something right in my world, and with those cassettes I could relive that and remember, for as long as I played them.

Well, this morning I’m playing them, and it’s pretty clear to me why the world has moved on to MP3s and digital formats — the cassettes are easily over 30 years old — copyright 1979 — and the tape has stretched and warped with age. The voices are warbling and at times halting. It’s not the smooth and easily transcendent presentation it once was. And there’s the constant worry that the tape will get wrapped around the spools and end up getting “eaten” by the tape player, the way so many cassettes did when I was much younger — and the world still had cassettes… and cassette players in all the stereos and cars coming off the assembly line.

Yeah, I must be getting old, it occurs to me, as I resolve to just not care about the sound quality, and I can appreciate the experience for what it is, rather than how I think it should be. I know what to ask for, for Christmas next year — a CD of Handel’s “Messiah” that I can listen to without the warbling and hesitating and angst over the tape getting eaten.

At the same time, though, there’s something quite poignant about this experience. It has a kind of character to it that places me in time — the natural order of things is to change and alter and become something different. Sometimes the changes mean degradation, dissolution, disintegration. Sometimes they mean entropy. And sometimes it means improvement, growth, evolution. But even the degrading, dissolving, disintegration are all part of a larger cycle, a larger set of movements into the future… nothing stays the same forever, nor should it. It’s just a little creepy, when it does. At least, I think so.

Things change. Cassettes wear out. And each year when my spouse and I put up the Christmas tree and hang the ornaments, we have a little harder time remembering where each one came from. We’ve been together for over 20 years, and each of us brought to the marriage items from our separate pasts. Did that ornament come from Before Us? Or did we buy it together early on? And where the hell are all those lights and ornaments that we both know we had three years before, but haven’t been able to locate for the past couple of Christmases? We’ve started taking turns looking for items in the basement — I go down first and bring back everything I can find, then they go down and find everything I was blind to. Between the two of us, we’ve managed to piece things together — even if we got a late start this year and didn’t even put up and trim the tree till Christmas Eve.

At least we got it done. And lots of people do it that way, too. My relatives in Europe, for example. The don’t even start thinking about decorating till Christmas Eve. So, I comfort myself with that thought and decide not to get worked up over it. There are other battles to fight, other things to correct — timing of tree trimming isn’t one I want to worry about.

And Handel’s “Messiah” warbles on. I’m almost at the end of Side Two of Cassette One. I’m not sure if I’m going to finish the music before I wake up my spouse and we go downstairs to have our morning coffee and open presents. As long as I get in the Hallelujah Chorus (and stand up while it’s playing), I’m good. My spouse is not a big fan of “Messiah” — too maudlin, they say. Well, it’s not for everyone… especially those who don’t care about hearing how “by His stripes we are healed”, which is what they’re singing right now.

There is something to be said for focusing on life, rather than suffering and death, but it all seems to get mixed together on Christmas morning, which in some parts of the world is really just a prelude to the Passion and Easter and the reminders of suffering and death that precede resurrection.

Not to get off on a theological thread… even though I am listening to “Messiah”… anyway, I’ve been thinking about how we’ve pretty much trashed the whole Christmas experience, over the past 30 years of wild, abandoned consumption… and now that the unbridled buy-buy-buy has been so scaled back for so many of us (at least, it has for me), Christmas just isn’t the same as it used to be. When I was a kid, it was a strictly religious experience, and since my family really didn’t have much to begin with, and the focus was extremely Christian and tradition, the whole gift-giving thing was not that big of a deal. If anything, gift-giving was awkward and sometimes painful, because of all the conflicts between what we kids wanted and what our parents were willing (and able) to give us, and the “outside world” commercialism competing with the “reason for the season”… the whole deal.

It was never easy to begin with. But in the past few years, it’s gotten even more challenging, as money has been such a problem with so many of us in my family… and we’ve had a harder and harder time just getting together, period. Somehow, the season just doesn’t seem the same as it once did. Maybe it’s because of my job, which keeps me out of my present by forcing me to be constantly planning the future and thinking about everything I do in terms of how it affects things 6-12 months down the line… Maybe it’s my conscious choice to refuse to participate in the wild consumption of the season, that’s changed things.

Whatever the reason, Christmas seems totally trashed in mainstream society — I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said by many, many people over the course of many, many years. It’s gone from being a season of giving to being a cornerstone of the American economy, so it’s almost like we’re obligated to spend and spend and spend (I had a good laugh at Best Buy yesterday, as I looked at headphones — headphones!!! – that cost over $200 — oh.my.god — someone must surely be kidding…) And people who build their holiday season around buying and giving those kinds of gifts (many members of my family included), seem, well, kind of sad to me. Like there’s nothing more to it all for them.

But as long as they go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, their holidays are complete.

Not so much for me. First, I don’t have the money to spend like some of my relatives. Second, going to church on Christmas Eve isn’t something I do anymore. I realized a few years back that it is in fact pretty hazardous, because so many people with colds and flu (and their kids) turn out and occupy the same space for a few hours — just long enough to share their infections with me, which has proven truly terrible in the past. My holidays are different. My Christmas is different. I don’t celebrate the way others do, but I do want to celebrate — I really do.

So, here’s what I did this year: I went about my everyday life with a real sense of gratitude and peace. Not sure where it all came from, but I decided I was going to do that, no matter what. I gave when and where I could — I did my best to be helpful to people around me without over-extending myself. I also bought extra groceries every time I went shopping, and I put them in the food pantry bin at the grocery store. It wasn’t a lot, but it was something. I also paid attention to what people were doing around me, and if someone needed help, I at least offered. They didn’t always take me up on my offer, but at least I offered. I also slowed down. I quit driving like an a**hole on my way to and from work. I took my time. I listened to music. I didn’t focus on the speedometer, and when someone ahead of me was going slower than they should have been, I either passed them when I had dotted lines, or I came up with some story about why they had good reason to go slow — and why it was good for me that they weren’t driving as fast as I wanted to.

I didn’t get into the regular Christmas spirit much at all, I have to admit. It was just pretty much lost on me — just a lot more commercials, a lot of lights, a lot of reasons to go out and spend more money, and events to interrupt the flow of my daily life. But in retrospect, I think the way I lived my life was more meaningful this year, than it has been in prior years, when I was “in the holiday spirit”.

Well, I’d better go check the turkey. And wake up my spouse, so we can open our presents. It’s Christmas morning, and it’s going to be a good one.

The best Christmas present ever…

… would be staying home. The drive through multiple states just seems more and more daunting. Both my spouse and I are sick and not getting better as quickly as we wanted, and we actually have a lot to do between now and when we are planning to leave – very little of which looks likely to get done.

I hate to say it, but not having to deal with family and pressure and all the activity would be pretty awesome. AND it would give me some quiet, uninterrupted time to focus on things I want to do — repairs around the house, studying my techie stuff, and catching up on my sleep.

At some point, I need to actually take time for myself, doing the things I want to do, at the pace I want to do them. All of my time “off” this year has involved doing things with a lot of other people and not having a whole lot of downtime. For me, that is a killer. My spouse loves to have lots of people around, most of the time, so we’d done what they wanted to do for the long vacation times. And the week I had away, traveling, was very busy with work.

This is the time of year when I like to step back, re-examine my life, and think about the direction I want to go — catch up on writing some things I’ve been meaning to talk about, and research some more things that piqued my interest along the way. It’s a time of slowing down, literally, as the days get shorter and shorter, then a little bit longer — and yet all around us, we’re being told/forced to SPEED UP!!!!

Madness.

Well, this year it’s probably going to stop. The relatives we haven’t seen in a year will be disappointed, I’m sure, but it makes more sense for us to travel to them in good weather, in any case.

Tired, tired, sick and tired. The best Christmas present of all would be to opt out of it all, just kick back, and be….

And so it shall (probably) be.