Help for a racing heart rate

This post How I learned to slow my heart rate is by far the most popular one on this site, and it has helped a lot of people, from what they tell me. Folks have shared links to it, and hundreds of people see it each week, which makes me very glad.

Some have even said it helped “save their life” — and that makes me even happier :)

It’s actually a really short post, so I have written an extended PDF version of this that you can download and save to your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can also share it with others. It’s free.

Here it is: How I slow down my heart rate (click here to download)

Please remember: I am not a doctor. I am not qualified to give medical advice. I have just found a technique that works for me and helps me get my heart rate under control in a few minutes. I hope it helps others, but it’s not a substitute for medical care. See your doctor if you have issues and/or concerns.

Thanks. And be well.

What do I want for today?

The days just keep slipping by…

So, it’s Friday. Finally. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it is a huge relief to be done with the week. On the other hand, I have so much to do and so many deadlines, that taking a few days off just makes me dread next week.

I’ve been doing a lot of dreading, lately. I am behind on a number of of my projects – there are just too many of them, and they are all TOP PRIORITY in the eyes of others. I’m keeping things running that need to keep going, and I’m also working on building new pieces of the puzzle that is my occupation. And the new pieces are getting intense push-back from people who want things to stay as they were.

Which all seems pretty unfair to me – it wasn’t my idea to make all these changes. My job is just to make them happen. But I get the brunt of people’s objections and opposition, while management sits back and lets the underlings duke it out. Which is incredibly uncomfortable and bothersome for me.

Really, what I want for my life is some peace. I have had a hell of a decade, and I value peace and common sense a whole lot more than I did when I was in my 30′s. I’m nearing the end of my 40′s, now, and I feel it very strongly. I have changed. My injuries have changed me. The upheavals of my life have changed me. All the drama I have gone through in the past ten years since my TBI in 2004 has changed me. It’s almost like life was on the lookout for my 40th birthday, and as soon as it was in sight, all hell broke loose. It didn’t even wait for my 40th birthday, because everything started to come unraveled a few years before… which contributed to my fall down those stairs in ’04.

Interesting… I’m seeing a lot of 0′s and 4′s in the last paragraph. Not that I’m superstitious or anything…

Anyway, enough bitching about how hard life has been. Everybody has it hard, in one way or another, and it’s really up to me to decide what to do with it. Rather than fighting things and resisting them and wishing they were different, I could be facing up to what’s ahead of me and just going for it, treating it like a learning experience, rather than proof that I’m a screw-up and will never get anything right.

When I approach everything like a big ole learning experience, so much the better. Teach this old dog some new tricks, and see how far it can go.

It really does take the pressure off.

And that makes all the difference in the world. It changes the tone of my whole experience, which is exactly what I need. The longer I’m alive, the more I realize just how elusive true happiness can be, and I value inner peace and equanimity all the more. I understand more than ever just how destructive unchecked anger can be, I know from experience just how much time is wasted by indulging fleeting emotions and giving them the ability to mushroom into Major Events. I have watched the last 10 years of my life be undermined and shredded and dragged down by rage and anxiety and poor self-management, and I have seen years of quality experience prior to that go wasted, because I was too busy being angry or hurt or confused or frustrated or worked up about something, to make the most of my past.

And today, as I look ahead to a day I’m not looking forward to, when I’m going to be working with people who are NOT on the same wavelength and revel in all sorts of discord and disruption and downright treachery, the painful truth about what my TBI cost me, is very clear to me – front and center.

Days like today are one of the big reasons I am so intent on my TBI recovery — regaining my equilibrium… mastering my emotions… taking care of my physical health… fine-tuning my behavior and how I think about myself and others. I don’t much care for the situation I’m in, and I need to build up the resources and the ability to extract myself from this situation.

The first step is extracting my mind from a situation of dread and avoidance. I hate dealing with some of the folks I have to deal with… come to think of it, I hate dealing with just about everybody I have to deal with. But the thing that makes it harder, is avoiding and refusing to engage with them. When I just step up and do what needs to be done, the wheels start turning, and the anxiety and frustration really decrease. Even though I’m not happy, and I really dislike dealing with these folks, still, I’m doing what needs to be done … to get the hell out. I have to deliver a project before I leave, and there is a big-ass deadline on it. And I need to have so much done before that date. Crazy. But as long as I hold back and don’t do what I need to do, it’s even crazier.

So, enough procrastinating, enough avoiding. It’s time to get on with the day, go deal with these … people, and take yet more steps towards getting the hell OUT. Time to make this day what I want it to be.

Onward. Oh, yeah. Onward.

Everything in its proper order

Everything has its place. It fits.

I’m taking the opportunity tonight to put my situation in order. I haven’t been feeling well for the past couple of weeks, but people are counting on me… so I am taking some extra time to get my ducks in a row before I travel again next week. I’m doing laundry, sewing a rip along the pocket of my good overcoat, and collecting all my gadgets for the road. I didn’t  take my tablet with me, last time I went, and I regretted it during all flights, both to and from.

I really don’t want to go on this next trip. I want to stay home and rest, not hob-nob and network. I want to go for long walks in the woods and contemplate abstract concepts, not wrangle with taxi drivers who don’t speak any English. I want to lie around the house in my sweats, read books, and cook good food to eat, not live out of a suitcase and have to steam the wrinkles out of my suits by hanging them on the door while I shower.

There are a million different things I would rather be doing, including feeling strong and rested and good about myself, instead of tired and weak and harried and frustrated over the concealed slowness that always threatens to derail my progress and expose me. Expose me.

I’m feeling pretty exposed, these days. My head hurts. A lot. And I haven’t been moving and exercising the way I should. I just don’t feel like it. I don’t want to slow down and mindfully “move into my day”. I just want to get up, eat a little something, and dash off to work. I want to get moving, I want to jump into the flow, not pause and concentrate on my motions, my form. I want to just go. Just do. Just roll on into what comes next.

Which is a positive sign, I suppose. It’s not just me wanting to escape what’s in my mind — although that is part of it. It’s also me realizing that there’s a whole world out there, and I want to be part of it.

If only I weren’t so tired.

But I do tend to be tired, so here’s my conundrum — hold back because I’m beat, and take care of myself so I feel better… or just keep on keepin’ on, and make the best of things as they come.

Better yet, I could decide not to choose. I could do both. I could look for balance.

Yes, balance. I’ve heard of that.

Let’s try balance.

Balance, plus a little bit more. Seeing as I’m back to reading again, I feel this intense need to read about and to study as much of life as I can get my hands on. Books by heretics. Books by brown-nosing sycophants. Books by partially talented (though who am I to categorize anyone?) writers who long to take wing and burst into song, and give it their all in the process. God, but I need to “un-couple” — you know, lift the linchpin out of the coupling that binds me to the train of boxcars that rolls through my ordinary life, and really — by all that’s right and fair and wrong and unfair — let myself slow. Or jump the tracks. Or simply break pace for even just a few seconds from the momentum of the day-to-day.

Drink bitter tea that will kill my cold before it gets hold of me. Eat spoons full of honey that take the bitter edge off my frustrating days. Lie down on the couch and look at the whorls of the ceiling while my spouse talks to their family about the latest kindred drama. Pick up a thick pen and feel the heft of it as I scrawl across a piece of paper.

This, all, is what makes it all worth it for me — so much in the details, so much to be felt, seen, thought, sensed, lived. So much in the cracks and corners of life — the sight of a wide open field under the morning sun, as I roll by on my way to work, the sound of one of my favorite songs that Pandora just happens to play, the creak of that janky strut in the back of my car… All of it adds up to one big — well, life.

And here I am, back to the balance idea.

Because it’s all there, you know. It’s all there for us to see, feel, think, sense, taste, touch, hear. To live. I can let the fatigue knock the stuffin’ out of me, as it almost did on my way home from work tonight. Tired… so very, very tired… and the darkness all around me streaked by the lights of cars and houses passing by…

Into the night… through the night… there is dark and there is light and there is everything in between. It all has its place, and my own place seems to be as much about getting out of my own way, as it is doing anything at all with what I’m given.

I’ve been given a lot. I’ve also lost a ton. I can read again. That is something. It’s really something indeed.

And for that, I am very grateful.

Onward.

Movement is the key – feed the good wolf

Gotta keep moving. Some way. Some how.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is not good.

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving

We all have much to be grateful for. And in spite of the odds, so many of us find a way to not only move on, but grow stronger in the process.

Here is a video that has been on my mind ever since I saw it the other day. It is a huge boost for my appreciation of what I have, as well as the power of a courageous spirit. I hope it does the same for you.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Gratitude adjustment

Indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All. The. Time.

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

Geeze. What a rotten way to start the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onward.

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

Finding full range of motion

This week has been crazy. I’m six weeks away from leaving this wretched job, and I’m full-speed-ahead on finishing everything that I need to finish, so I can go in good conscience. I friggin’ hate the company and its hare-brained policies. Not the people.

Well, most of the people I work directly with. The folks at HQ elevate being an a$$hole to an art form. They really seem to delight in it and take pride in it, which is not very smart on their part. I guess they didn’t get the memo that you can’t treat other people with disdain and disregard, and still be productive and get things done.

A$$holes.

Anyway, enough about them. I’m done with them in seven weeks — less than two months. Ha. No longer will I need to be hindered by their lack of vision and foresight. No longer will I be held back by their delusions and autocracy. No longer will I be subject to their silly little games and jockeying for position in a domain that is nothing to get excited over.

Seven weeks, and that’s it. I’m done. Finis.

I’m back into doing my daily exercises, with a somewhat different approach than before, when I was really focused on cardio and strength training and specific exercises to strengthen specific parts of my muscular structure. As it turns out, even though I am stronger than the average desk jockey, my range of motion sucks. I’ve got a lot of pain that I need to get rid of, so I’m taking time in my mornings and evenings (when I get home from work), to stretch and do some light yoga and body-weight-bearing exercises. I’m making it a priority to MOVE first thing in the morning, no matter how creaky and painful I feel. Just moving, getting the blood going, getting the muscles moving over bone, and getting all the tendons and ligaments engaged… it’s made a big difference in how I start my mornings.

Back a few years ago, when I was working out every morning, it really gave me a boost. Then I hit a plateau and I didn’t want to shake things up. I was comfortable and familiar with the routine I had in place. It helped me get going, and it was a valuable jump start. But after a while I got locked into that routine, and it actually started working against me, limiting what I was willing to do, physically, first thing in the morning.

Now I’ve got this focus on movement. On seeing how my body feels, first thing in the morning, and doing something about it, if I’m not liking how I’m feeling.

The first step is being able to tell how things are going with me, physically. In the past, I have had a hell of a time actually feeling what was going on in my body. I tend to be so “up in my head” that I don’t pay any attention to how I’m feeling physically. This is also the case because I have been in pain for so long, and I haven’t been able to do anything about it, so I just ignore it and move on. Seriously, what’s the point in “getting in touch with my pain,” as so many have encouraged me to do, when there’s not a damn’ thing anyone — including doctors and chirpractors and all sorts of experts — can do about it?

Trust me, I’ve checked. They either don’t believe how much pain I am in each day and tell me I’m exaggerating, or they launch an all-out pharmaceutical offensive on the offending experience, doping me out of my mind in the process — and accomplishing nothing, other than destroying what quality of life I have left.

It’s infuriating — not least of all, because they have a mixture of hubris and cluelessness about how the body actually works, that makes them uniquely qualified to completely f*ck up my life, along with the lives of countless others who have the great misfortune to cross their path. And magically, it doesn’t seem to bother them that they’ve done far more harm than good. Hey, at least they tried, right?

Idiots. The scary thing is, I have relatives who are freshly minted doctors, and you can see the “Stepford” progression with them — they just become so taken with themselves and so enamored of medicines and chemicals and what-not, that it totally blinds them to any real ways they could help.

But enough of my ranting and venting. That’s just how things are, and the one thing I can do about it, is remove myself from the presence of any offending individuals. I’m actually in a good space today, and I’ve got a ton of energy (hence the energetic ranting).  I have a full list of activities planned for this weekend, that are all interesting and engaging and will take me down a path to something better than where I’m at today.

Now, plenty of people will pooh-pooh me and say, “Be careful what you ask for… things don’t get better, they just get different” but they can go pound sand.  My life is getting better. My memory is for shit, I’m completely wiped out half the time, and I’m having a hell of a time following conversations, but that’s largely a function of me putting a whole lot of my energy in specific areas and not really making the effort to pay attention to the same-old-same-old that I’m getting away from. I’m nominally functional in tons of ways each day — but that’s for a very good reason: because I’m hyper-functional in a few select ways, and I need to save my energy.

Save my energy and build it up, too. With my morning (and evening) exercises. I also nap regularly — not for long periods — maybe 40-60 minutes at a stretch, tops. I just step away, lie down and crash into darkness, then get up and get back into everything. It makes a huge difference, and when I come back from my naps, I feel like a whole new person, ready to do what needs to be done.

You know, it’s funny. It’s nearly 10 years after my last TBI — the one that nearly did me in. I still don’t really “feel like myself” and half the time I feel like I’m walking around in a daze, trying to figure sh*t out on the fly. Nothing I plan actually seems to turn out the way I plan and expect it, but I am adapting much better and much more quickly than ever. And in a way, I feel like I’m adjusting to that state of being. It’s not throwing me for a loop anymore. I’m learning to expect it. I can’t say that I’m all that happy about it, and I can’t say that anyone is actually helping me deal with this loss of my old self and the experience of walking around in a life that feels so foreign to me, nearly every waking moment. But it’s not taking me by surprise anymore. And I’m finding moments where I can have some actual peace in the midst of it all.

What’s more, I’m finding ways to get where I want to go… I’m discovering new ways to identify and pursue my dreams, and deal with the surprises that crop up, every single day — sometimes by the hour. And despite not feeling like “myself” anymore, and not recognizing the person I have become, I am a whole lot more functional than I was 15 years ago, when I was struggling on a daily basis with the long-term after-effects of multiple mild traumatic brain injuries. I was really, really struggling. Even though I was making good money at a good job, and I had all these “secure” situations around me, my head was a mess, my relationships were superficial and extremely rocky, I got roped into doing a heck of a lot of crap I had no interest in doing, and I struggled on a regular basis with debilitating panic/anxiety, violent mood swings, crippling depression, and suicidal thoughts.

I was no friggin’ fun to live with, at times, I can tell you that.

Now my situation is completely different. Learning about TBI and how it affects me, has literally turned my life around.  It gives me information I can use to manage my situation, know what to look out for, and continually improve. It’s not just learning about TBI and all it brings with it — it’s also learning how I individually experience and react to my TBI symptoms, and learning how I can do something about it. There’s a ton of room for creative problem-solving in this new world, and the results I see are often instantaneous. It’s really gratifying — like mowing my lawn and seeing how much better everything looks after the fact. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of effort to make a big difference.

That being said, this morning moving exercise routine of mine is really working out well. I do something different each morning and evening. I have a few core exercises I do, and then I improvise around the others. It gets me out of my head and gets me “in touch” with my physical sensations — which in turn helps me for the rest of the day, because the clues that I am becoming tense or stressed or frustrated, are physical clues — before anything else.

So, knowing how my body feels and being able to “check in” to see how I’m doing, helps my mental health and my interactions with other people. Each and every day. So that my range of motion improves — not only physically but also socially as well.

Speaking of motion, it’s time to get going. The day is waiting.

Onward.

Always beginner’s mind

Perspective makes the difference

I’m taking another shot at cleaning up this hard drive on my “old” computer. I think there are still components that can be un-installed, to reclaim even more space, not to mention speed. The more programs you have running on your computer, the slower it tends to go — if, that is, you’re a “mortal” like me, with a serviceable but far-from-top-of-the-line model.

I start my vacation today. Just two days off, before the onslaught at work begins. I have a ton of stuff to do, and in the past I would have declined to take time off, because I take a lot of pride in my productivity, and I don’t want to leave my co-workers hanging. It’s a terrible spot to be in, and Lord knows I have pulled out all the stops for them in the past, so they wouldn’t be left hanging.

But you know what? The Company is doing a lot of things that say loud and clear, “We don’t really care about your productivity and your team, and you better do what we tell you – or else.” They’ve pushed this agenda for the past 2 years, and I hate to admit it, but it’s worn me down. Also, my co-workers are just a little shy of insane, with their go-go-go mindless reactivity that dashes madly from one task to the next, without ever actually finishing anything. They’ve worn me down with their multi-tasking mediocrity.

Now, in the back of my head I have been thinking that I don’t want to trash my reputation with poor performance. I don’t want to alienate people who could do recommendations for me. But the people whose recommendation I care about have either left the company already, or they are on their way out, and all of us are going to say super nice things about each other, because it’s a small world, and we know that if we do good for others, there’s a chance it will come back to us. The people who are staying, who are invested in me super-performing for them and The Company, aren’t the sort of people I need recommendations from. So, I don’t feel like my long-term prospects have been that jeopardized by this environment and this organization. It’s all good. And anyway, I’m going to go back to contracting, once I’m done here. There’s a lot less pointless drama for me, when I’m not “permanent full-time”.

So, I’m not getting concerned, and I’m not letting  myself worry. Today and tomorrow is “me time”, and I’m looking forward to just kicking back and enjoying things. Running a few errands this morning… taking a trip to a museum I’ve been wanting to visit… heading out into nature to just relax. They’re calling for rain tomorrow, which could put a damper on things, but my spouse and I are fine with that. We’ve got rain gear. We also are taking books to read, and if we spend the day sitting in the car reading and resting…. away from the hustle and bustle, that’s just fine with us.

The point is getting away.

It’s funny, though… for me, getting away is less of a necessity than it is for a lot of people. Yes, it is good to take a break from it all, and yes, it does help me “reset” my mind and give me a different perspective on things. But I don’t crave it like some people. I think it’s because each day literally seems like a whole new one to me. Every morning when I get up, things feel new. Hopeful. Like there’s something else out there to discover and learn. Sometimes I wake up with a terrible sense of dread, but that’s usually due to fatigue or a physical feeling. When I’m feeling sick and foggy, and I’m in pain, I really do get depressed. But when I’m well-rested, not much can get me down.

In this respect, I think my crappy short-term working memory actually helps me. Because I forget so much, and I lose my place so often, I have had to learn how to keep an open mind and perspective, and watch for clues and opportunities. When much of your daily experience that’s more than 20 minutes old seems to evaporate behind you as you walk through your days, you learn to keep going and keep your eyes open for clues about where to go next.

Literally. I mean, my memory for how things were and what I was doing, just an hour ago, tends to be pretty vague. I have to think hard to recall what I did just half an hour ago. And who has the time and energy for all that work and thinking, every minute of every day? If I focus too strongly on the past, I lose sight of my present and where I’m going in the future. So, I have to keep going, keep moving, keep growing and improving.

Some people would get pretty upset, if this happened to them and that’s how their life turned out. For me, I can’t remember anything different. I just never realized that this was unusual, until I did my neuropsych testing and learned that I have the short-term working memory of a chipmunk. Things get lost for me after a surprisingly short period of time. They start to dissolve and disappear on me, leaving big gaps in what I think I remember about what just happened.

That was an eye-opener for me, and it threw me for a loop. But then I realized that it wasn’t all that catastrophic — I’ve managed to put together a pretty excellent life, despite all that “disability”, and frankly, a lot of stuff that people insist on remembering simply isn’t worth hanging onto. I have several really good friends who are ultra-invested in nursing grudges and remembering every single slight and hurt that’s ever been done to them. I can honestly say that that kind of mentality does NOT make you a happier person, than someone like me who has no “storage space” for that sort of stuff. I mean, I couldn’t remember it, if I tried, but why bother trying? It’s much better, in my opinion, to start fresh each day.

Obviously. I mean – compare… I cannot retain much of anything, and I bounce out of bed on many days with a great sense of expectation and anticipation. While they remember each and every instance of insult, slights, hurt, inconsideration, offense… you name it… and they literally can’t get out of bed a lot of days. They don’t want to live their lives, they’re afraid of living their lives. They expect bad things to happen to them at every turn, and a lot of times, that’s exactly what happens. But the bad things happening is not the problem. They get stuck in those bad things and cannot work through them, so they get stuck. Because their minds are stuck in that place. They’ve fallen, and they can’t get up.

I’m sure a lot of it is neurological. One of these friends was routinely knocked out on a regular basis by abusive adults their parents hung out with. There’s also the one-time drug abuse that left its mark, long past their last drink or drug. It’s also biochemical — one of the most hard-up friends I have simply refuses to eat responsibly. They live on coffee and chocolate and rarely eat a real meal. Small wonder they’re screwed up. They just won’t take care of themself. It’s heart-breaking to watch, but that’s their choice, and no matter how I try to reason with them, they just can’t seem to get it.

The thing that keeps these friends of mine going is drama and stress and adrenaline. They’re always getting themselves into some sort of mess — probably because it makes them feel alert and alive. I know for a fact that a lot of them have “tonic arousal” issues, as a result of brain injuries. But they can’t hear me talk about it. They just can’t get their head around the whole TBI thing, which is a shame, because they could really be helped if they would just admit that that’s the issue. But they’re more interested in proving that the problems come from outside them, not inside their head. There’s a whole mindset there that just kills. And it’s a shame.

But enough about them. For me, beginner’s mind is the only way to live. I start fresh each day, mostly because I have to. It’s way too much work to try to remember everything — that’s where my lists come in. Most of all, it’s way too much work to try to remember all the emotional and mental experiences I’ve had lately — even if those experiences were uplifting and encouraging. When I think about it, I realize that I’m constantly orienting myself to the present and to “what’s next” — not so much to the past, because that is dim and fragmented for me. And when I interact with people, I really follow their lead when I socialize and take cues from them, and I rely on them for reminders of what I’m supposed to remember and think about.

It’s a good thing that all of this happens inside my head, because if people new just how reliant I am on the people around me for even the most basic conversation topics and direction, they’d think I was a complete idiot.

On the other hand, when I look around at people who supposedly “know” how things were or what happened once upon a time, I see a lot of people who have very different perspectives about exactly the same thing, and who have completely different recollections and interpretations of “reality”. It’s like they’re all living in their own worlds (I guess most of us are), and they believe with all their hearts that their version is the right version. And they’re willing to defend that interpretation with their very lives — as a result, we’ve got wars and conflicts and political parties.

So, maybe having a “good” memory isn’t so great after all.

And maybe it’s actually better for me, that my past becomes just that — a faded, fragmented, distant past, about so much of which I’m uncertain. Maybe it’s better that I don’t remember all that much from my childhood, aside from shadowy memories and a bunch of brightly shining times when I knew I was okay, and new everything was going to turn out alright. Maybe it’s a blessing, that I can’t retain all the kinds of crap that my friends are so adept at remembering.

Maybe beginner’s mind is exactly the right thing for me.

I know it’s what a lot of people strive for. They actively seek to put themselves in that frame of mind. But I’m there by default, thanks to at least nine mild traumatic brain injuries that had progressively negative impacts on me. Each time I got clocked, a little more of my brain changed. And now here I am… beginner’s mind. Some people would (and do) pay tons of money to learn how to get there, but I learned for free.

NOT that I’m advocating repeat concussion as a route to enlightenment. Far from it. The thing is, for all that I’ve lost as a result of mild TBI, life hasn’t turned out to be a total waste. I’ve been forced to acquire new skills and adapt — or else. And all the hard work has been worth it. If I ever get concussed again, I’m not sure what will become of me. Maybe my memory will be completely erased.

Who knows? All I know is, right here and right now, I’m feeling pretty good. I have a few days off — a four-day weekend, which I’m looking forward to. I am practicing relaxing and getting back to my “happy place”, and the world looks pretty promising to me — despite all the international upheaval and what-not.

Bottom line — life is good. Onward.

Cleaning up and clearing out

Ah, the sound of an old computer cranking away in the background…

I have unearthed an old computers that I never threw away, and I’m cleaning out the hard drive – putting all the extra files on a portable hard drive, so I can open up some more space for doing audio and video. I’m working on a project with some friends, and the project calls for a video. We’ll see how this goes. It’s the first I’ve really worked with video, but I think I have some good ideas, so I’m optimistic.

We shall see.

Right now, the hard drive is defragmenting and is at 87%. It’s taken it about half an hour to get this far. I pulled a lot of stuff off it, and now it has to think about what to do with all that extra space.

It’s kind of a metaphor for my life. I’ve been culling a lot of non-productive activities out of my life, focusing my attention and energy on doing the things that are the most relevant for my current life. A lot less noodling around, and a lot more actual work. Cleaning out the garage. Working on the yard. Fixing things. Organizing piles of supplies and hardware into containers with actual dividers in them, instead of one big pile of stuff.

Getting to bed at a decent hour, and getting a lot done each day.

And learning as I go.

I’ve had a couple of really big realizations, lately, and it’s given me plenty to think about. But I haven’t been thinking too hard. I’m pacing myself. Taking things slow, or sometimes not taking them at all. I’ve stopped worrying about things being wrong and out of whack, in a lot of ways. They are what they are. Oh, well. Yes, I had a sick headache all day today. But I’ve also lost 5 pounds in the past month or so. And yes, I have had some weakness in my arms and hands. But my back is more limber than I can recall in recent memory. I haven’t been sleeping well, and I am pretty wiped out, pretty much all the time. But I’m feeling really positive and relaxed, overall. Whatever happens, I’m going to be okay.

It’s summertime, and it feels like time to clean out my study again. I have new projects to work on and think about, and I need to clear out a bunch of stuff that no longer serves any useful purpose in my daily life. It really is time to clean house. My study is pretty cluttered — not “Hoarders” cluttered, but still piled high with papers and books and correspondence and old bills (and some new ones) that need to be taken care of. That needs to change.

Likewise, I need to close down a bank account I opened about ten years ago, which made good interest, back in the day. It’s just been a placeholder account for me, for some years now — a way to move money from one bank account to another. But now I don’t need it anymore. Plus, the account got sold to another bank, and that new bank sucks. They hold my money and won’t let go of it. Ten days to complete a money transfer and make the funds available to me? Really?

Yeah, not so much. Good bye, bank. I like your commercials, but as a bank, you really suck.

And it feels good to do this — say “No” to people and things and situations that are no damn’ good. Half of my team got hauled off to HQ on a day’s notice, because the People In Charge can’t manage their time or their projects, and now they’re stuck away from their families, off in the middle of nowhere, doing the job(s) that others should have been doing months ago. Oh, well… So it goes. It’s easy for me to say, being here – I really feel badly for them, but what can you do?

I’ll be they’ll be glad when they are home.

Anyway, it feels really good to not be worrying about this the way I was, when I didn’t think I could get out. Now I know I can get out, and I’m going to do exactly that. I figure I have maybe 3 more months there. I start my job search in earnest in July/August, with a September timeframe in mind. I’m sure it will be stressful at times, but I’ve gotten to this “zen” kind of place that just flows with it.

Of course, I say that now… the night before I go on vacation for a few days…

My computer is still thinking. I’m now cleaning up old files and compressing to save space. By the time all is said and done, I’ll have a huge honkin’ hard drive where I can mix up all the video I like.

Life is good.

And now, it’s time for bed.