Second chances – found by accident

I have a full day ahead of me. And it’s all good. I have some programming techniques to learn and test out, and I have some documentation to write. I have some busy-work to do for my day job, and I have another set of house chores I need to take care of.

The beauty part is, I can get it all done. I can do the programming for a few hours this morning, while everything is quiet… then I can move on to the chores that need to get done. Then I can have my lunch and a nap, and then move on to the other things for work-work. I’ll get a little bit of exercise, while I’m running my errands, and I’ll get out and about a bit. Heck, I might even be able to catch up with some friends for lunch.

On second thought, I need to not cram too much stuff into my day. I need to keep things simple, because life will become complicated enough on its own. Just because it does.

I feel incredibly hopeful, because I know that I don’t have to run out of steam and drag through the second half of my day like the walking dead. I don’t have to live that way anymore – especially because today is Saturday, and I don’t have to be anywhere, or do anything that I don’t choose to be or do. And tomorrow is Sunday, which gives me yet another day to move at my own pace, get things done, and really take good care of myself and my life.

Now that I have figured out how much just a 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon helps me, and I have found a way to make sure I get a nap in regularly, it’s like I have a whole new lease on life. Seriously. It makes all the difference in the world, to not have to cram all my important activities into the first two hours of each day, and then spend the rest of the day worried that I’m not going to have the energy or the resources to make it through in top shape.

Having a nap in the middle of the day is like having two days instead of just one. It’s like that stock split at Google, which has pretty much cemented the two founders’ control over the company. Having some more rest in the middle of the day, when I have completely wiped myself out with all my going… and then having a second chance to pick up where I left off.. or just start something completely new… THAT is an amazing thing.

The other amazing thing is that having a nap in the afternoon actually helps me get to sleep at night. I can just allow myself to feel tired, not push myself through like a crazy person. I can just let myself feel exhausted, not force myself to be ON, like I used to have to, before I got into the whole nap thing. And when I really get into feeling how I feel, and I allow myself to just feel tired, then I can call it quits for the day, when it makes sense to do it, and just get myself to bed.

I did that last night, when my spouse wanted me to stay up and watch more episodes of a show we both really enjoy. I wanted to stay up a bit longer, and they wanted me to do it, too. But I just couldn’t do it. So I turned in at 11:30 — later than I wanted to, but earlier than I might have. After all, it was Friday night, so I “deserve a break” and should stay up as long as I damn’ well please, right?

Wrong. Staying up that late does a number on me. And today I woke up at about 5:30, so that means I got maybe 6 hours of sleep, if I’m lucky, which is not enough.

The pressure’s off, though, because I can always nap later. And because I have been getting more sleep lately, and I know I will have time later to nap, I don’t feel this intense pressure to be ON for the next four hours — or else. I can relax. And that’s so important.

Another benefit of getting additional sleep is that I have been making better choices with the time and energy that I do have. I have a number of new things I need to learn, and it’s easy for me to spin my wheels and run in a million different directions, but I’m better able to stop myself from getting too distracted, and I’m finding it easier to just choose to NOT do or learn or try certain things.

Life is better with naps. And I realize how much it was stressing me out, to feel like I only had about four good hours each day to work with. Nobody really gets just how exhausted I am — all. the. time.  They just seem to assume that because I can keep going, I should keep going. That because I don’t complain or draw attention to my exhaustion, it must not be that bad.

It has been bad. The fatigue has been crazy. And it really screwed up my life for years and years.

But now I have alternatives, and it’s good.

Onward.

 

 

 

Spring is sprung, and it’s time to clean house

I’m not THIS bad off, but I could do better

That pretty much says it all. Spring is up on us, and with it comes a certain urgency with me to clean house — to clear out all the leftovers from the past year that have nothing to do with me, any more, and really put my current interests and affairs in order.

I am making the somewhat radical decision today, to not file additional federal paperwork on a project I started up last year. The paperwork would be all about registering the intellectual property of my project, and it would ensure that I have the right to sue other people for stealing my ideas.

In theory, that sounds like a good plan. It protects my rights and makes it possible for me to profit from my inventiveness and creativity.

However, in practice, it’s not very workable. Say a big company comes along and likes my idea and decides to steal it. I would need to launch a big-ass legal action on them and be willing to go through all the drama around lawyers and court appearances and filings and whatnot. I’ve had enough of courts in my past several years, and the last thing I want — even if it’s to protect my intellectual territory — is to spend any more time in court or around lawyers.

Not only would I need the right legal help, but I’d also need the time and energy to pursue all recourses, and God only knows how long that would take, and how much energy it would demand. I just don’t have that kind of bandwidth available, and the stress of it… well, that’s just not worth it to me.

I’d much rather have a good and settled life that has a good balance between challenging work and having enough time to blog on the side. That’s what I really want — to refocus my energy and attention on TBI recovery solutions, and make a positive difference in people’s lives.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. My study is chock-full of all kinds of materials — some of it junk, some of it gold. I have a ton of old bills lying around in stacks on my two desks, and I have a bunch of unopened junk mail that I thought might be interesting… but hasn’t appealed to me enough to want to open it. I’m feeling a bit blocked in, to tell the truth, and I need to free up some space for the things that matter most to me:

  • Sitting/breathing meditations
  • Stress inoculation / hardiness development (strength and endurance training in all aspects of my life)
  • Learning new things and relearning old things I lost
  • Sharing what I’ve learned so that others can benefit as well

I have been thinking long and hard about what I want to do with myself and my life, lately. I have really thought hard about my Big Project from last year, and whether I need to continue it. As much as I want to follow through as planned, upon closer examination, I now realize how much time and energy it has consumed from me, and what a source of anxiety and worry and stress it has been for me. I really learned a lot from it, but in the end, it’s really not what I want to be doing with my life, so I’m letting it go.

And when I consciously let it go in my mind, I feel this enormous rush of relief that opens up all sorts of other possibilities for me.

Like another more technical project I had started about 5 years ago, which I let go because I was having so much trouble with the work involved in making it happen. It was a good project, and I hated having to let it go, but my brain just wasn’t up to it.

My brain was too scattered, to easily distracted by all sorts of peripheral details that had nothing to do with what was actually going on. I had trouble interacting with other people, because my moods were so crazy, I would get pretty aggressive with folks, and my anxiety was out of control. It’s kind of tough to lead a project and present yourself well, when you’re a heap of frazzled nerves and you’ve got hair-trigger reactiveness. Plus, the technology I needed just wasn’t there, yet, and because of that, there were a ton of legal and federal regulation issues that were insurmountable hurdles for me, at that place and time in my life.

Now, though, the technology has matured, and I want to re-start that project. It was a good one, and the initial version of the program I wrote actually helped me with my recovery a great deal. So, I want to re-start that and take it to the next level. I have had many good ideas for how to simplify it, over the past years, and I’m ready to start again.

Which is good.

And which is why I need to clean my study. All these books and papers and bills and leftovers… There’s just so much … stuff … that I haven’t used in years, and I’m probably not going to use again. At the same time, buried under that stuff is a lot of material that I need to excavate and restart, because that is what matters most to me, and that’s where my passion lies.

Moving forward is really as much about figuring out what you don’t want to do, as it is about figuring out what you do want to do. And making the choices to NOT move forward with certain things, and to clear the decks of all those things, is a major step towards making some real progress.

Spring is in the air. And it’s time to make a new start. The winter has been long and grueling, and I’ve learned a lot of good lessons.

Now it’s time to put those lessons into action… and move forward with the best of what I have.

Onward….

 

Doing it for myself

Just trying to enjoy the ride…

It’s been a roller-coaster at work, lately. I’m in that weird in-between place where I’m smack-dab in the midst of some very exciting times… and at the same time, I’m lining up all my ducks in a row to get the hell out.

Things have been very “eventful” at work. People are going to great lengths to be difficult, and scuttle each other’s projects. There’s all kinds of maneuvering, and part of the problem is that my interim boss is a people-pleaser and also is an operator and manipulative little shit person who creates drama so they can “solve” it later. What an ever-lovin’ waste of precious life force. I mean, it’s just ridiculous, and everything they do and say just throws more gasoline on the fire of an already difficult situation.

Divide and conquer. Well, at least I see what they’re about. And I see how ambitious and self-serving they are… how willing they are to just push others out of the way for their own gain. I used to consider this person a friend, but no more.

I am glad I found out now, instead of investing yet more time and energy in that relationship. Looking at the connection I thought I had with them, I see yet another one-sided “friendship” that serves them more than it serves me. This person has a habit of screwing other people and stepping on them to get where they’re going. They also think that “doing you need to do” to get ahead is the way to go. Fine, you can do that. But when you’re later in life — and completely alone — how much good is that going to do you? People can tell who has a good heart, and who doesn’t, and if you keep up that kind of behavior, you will eventually train your heart to not beat with a good sound.

And people will avoid you like the plague. Which is about the last thing you need when you are alone and old and vulnerable.

Do I want that kind of person in my life? Nope. Not now, not ever.

I think that everyone at work realizes I’m getting ready to go. They just don’t know when that’s going to be. I’ve really disengaged with a lot of the drama — although I’d do that anyway, even if I were staying — and I’m doing my best to keep a pretty even keel about things.

As much as I can, anyway.

The past week has been extremely demanding on my time and my energy. In fact, the past months have really put some miles on me. I took a good look at myself in the mirror last night, after I got home from work, and I looked like hell — haggard, pale, dark circles under my eyes… an ashen, drawn look that could have fit right in, superimposed on an Industrial Revolution background, or in a WWI foxhole.

And it kind of pissed me off. Because all of this was for what? What was the friggin’ point? I’m leaving this job, I’m getting the hell out, and I’ve only got four more months here, anyway. Why wreck myself over this?

The thing I have to remember, through all of this, is that I’m not wrecking myself for “this” — meaning a job for someone who owns the most productive hours of my day. I’m working for myself. For my future. For my peace of mind. For the experience of doing a good and thorough job with my energy, each and every day. I have to stay engaged in my current job, because that’s the only way I know how to live. I can’t just shine everything on and skate to the end. It’s pointless to do that. No matter how long I have in a position, I need to be involved in it. I need to be involved in my own life.

It’s for me, not for “them”, that I’m doing this. And if I let the alienation and disengagement get to me, then I am cheating myself of the kind of experience I want in my life. It doesn’t do them much good, but it does me even less.

I also need to remember that no matter how taxing things are right now, tomorrow may be a very different experience than today. I need to not get completely derailed by upsets that happen at one particular moment. I can’t let temporary setbacks balloon into permanent situations. I really have to work at that. My head gets locked on what’s happening NOW, and I can’t seem to get free of the idea that whatever sucks at this particular moment is going to suck forever. I need to work on that.

At least I’m aware — which is a good place to start.

So, yeah. It’s a new day. Saturday, to be exact. And I’m actually feeling pretty good about things, my work life notwithstanding. When I think about it, pretty much everything is temporary, anyway. I need to remember that. Things pass. Events come and go. Situations rise and fall. And it doesn’t make much sense to get all worked up over it, when everything is passing, anyway.

It’s kind of a relief.

The one continuous aspect of all of this, is me. It’s my experience. It’s my peace of mind (such that it is). No matter what happens with jobs and work and what-not, as long as I’m around, I still have myself. And that’s the thing that matters.

So, today, I’m off to a good start. I have a full day ahead of me, with running errands, picking up friends at the bus station, shuttling some people around, doing some grocery shopping, and taking care of some important stuff that has to get done. Some of the things I need to do are time-sensitive. Some of them are due in a week. Others are overdue. It’s been a hell of a week — exhausting and depleting and demoralizing. But it’s my own damn’ fault if I let it get the best of me. And it’s my own damn’ fault if I let things get out of hand.

So, I’ve got to get things back in order and clean up my act. I need to rest, most of all. That’s the one missing thing in all of this — good rest and serious sleep. I need to beef up on my energy reserves, so I can live better with myself. Doing that becomes that much easier, when I’m doing the right things for the right reasons — taking care of myself for myself, just for today.

Onward.

Everything that makes up the day

It’s not always clear

Today’s Fog Factor: 70% “with it”

Well, I’m glad I had a nap yesterday. I got a little less than 7 hours of sleep last night, but I got right up, a little after 6 a.m. I really wanted to get into the day — get my exercise, eat my breakfast, and get some writing done before I get into my full-time packing.

I started to get a headache when I was riding the exercise bike, and now my head hurts. I am supposed to get headache specialist info from my neuropsych, but they never got back to me, even though they promised. This isn’t the first time they’ve forgotten about me. Ah well, I may be better off taking care of things myself. I would like to see a neurologist or someone who can tell me if it’s a structural issue with my brain, or if it’s more about my neck and my stress level. I start to get a headache when my spouse is going on and on about some drama at work, so I’m guessing that it’s a stress thing — at least in part.

I guess I need to get back to my meditation exercises again — just training myself to keep calm in the face of whatever comes my way. Things at work have been intense, and that’s not helping. I need to improve my skills at handling what comes down the pike – no matter what that may be.

I did a little bit of writing and reading, this morning, and I’m about ready to start packing my bags for the trip. I need to collect my clothing, do some laundry, and get my pieces all squared away. I have a list of things to do and take care of.

I’ve got about 7 hours before I need to leave for the airport. I have to check in when I get there – I can’t check in online, unfortunately, which puts a real crimp in my plans today. I need to give myself an extra 30-45 minutes, so I’ll need to leave the house earlier than planned. I need to review my list of everything that needs to be done, so I don’t miss anything.

With any luck, this will be my last trip in a while. They are cutting down on travel at work, so that could relieve me of the constant pressure to get ready to go away, and then recover from coming back. What a waste of my precious — and very limited — energy.

I really just want to devote as much time as I can to my own projects and not have my job take over my life, as it has in the past. It’s bad enough that it already consumes so much of my time and renders many other hours pretty much useless to me — because I’m so tired.

I’m making the best of things, of course. I’ve given up fighting it, and now I’m just going to get into my day and live it as fully as possible, whatever comes down the pike. Whatever the day brings, I need to be fully involved in it – not just up in my head, and not standing at a distance. But in it.

This is really the thing that saves me in my TBI recovery — being involved in my life – up close and personal – and not letting setbacks keep me from making progress. There is so much that is a lot more difficult for me, than I’d like, and I really hate my life, some days. I think back on how things used to be, and everything now just feels so strange and foreign. Things used to feel like they flowed. I had what I thought was a very fulfilling life, with hobbies and pastimes that really gave me a sense of belonging. Then I got hurt, and everything changed, and getting back to some semblance of normalcy — at least feeling like there’s some semblance of normalcy — has been a daily challenge.

Now, though, it’s feeling more “normal” to me, and I’m finding my way back to things that used to be part of my everyday life. Reading. Writing. Being active in my community and having friendships to fall back on. TBI can be so very alienating, because of the personality changes — people who used to like you for who you were, no longer have that same person to like. So naturally a lot of them move on, because you’ve almost broken a promise to them about being the kind of person you are “supposed” to be.

Also, your tolerance for the way certain people are can change a great deal. I noticed that in my own life, a lot of the “endearing” characteristics of other people, which I could accept and gloss over, became glaring points of conflict with me. And I became a lot less tolerant of other people’s flaws and foibles, so I couldn’t bear to spend waste more time with them.

As an example, I used to hang out with a lot of people who had a real victim mentality — like all the world was against them, and they had to constantly struggle against the dominant paradigm to just break even in their lives. I used to hang out with a LOT of escape artists — devotees of role-playing games, computer games, renaissance faires, comic books, and other alternative culture types. That was my world — all full of arts and music and imagination. But it became pretty apparent to me, after I got deeper into my TBI recovery, that so much of that was a convenient way to avoid dealing with harsh truths about oneself, instead of taking action to make right the things that were all wrong.

And I realized, too, that so much of the world that my friends thought was out to get them or designed to make their lives miserable, was a result of how they were thinking about those circumstances. They kept telling themselves that “the mainstream world” was designed to destroy them, and they were in a constant state of conflict and antagonism. So, small wonder that they couldn’t get ahead in life. They came across as angry and aggressive with everyone who wasn’t just like them, and they boxed themselves into a version of life that only existed in their minds.

And because I realized more and more, just how much of what they believed was originating within them… and I saw how much that was costing them, in terms of time and energy and positive living… I just couldn’t spend a whole lot of time hanging out with them anymore. That, and the fact that I was so wiped out after working all week, and I just needed to have time to myself to regroup and recuperate. I just couldn’t stand their bitching and moaning and blatant assumptions about life, which only served to get in their way.

The world wasn’t the problem. THEY were the problem.

And so I dropped a lot of them and I’ve gone my own way.

It’s been kind of lonely, to tell the truth. It’s tough to connect with other people like you, when you all have so little energy to spare, beyond basic survival. And the people I’ve tried to stay friends with and tell about my TBI issues… well, they just weren’t having it. They were so convinced that “there’s nothing wrong” with me — and a lot of them still are. They can’t see the internal issues I have to deal with, each and every day. They can’t see the struggles, the pain, the frustration. There’s not much point in trotting them out for others to see, because they just get nervous if they don’t know what it’s like. And they don’t know what to say.

So, it’s complicated. And it’s challenging. But in reality, is sustaining a TBI and not being able to shake the symptoms really that different from any other kind of loss? Losing your home, or your marriage, or a child, or a loved one, or a job? Or any other things that make up part of your identity in the eyes of others? People fall out of your life, they move on, they don’t know what to say to you… and sometimes they are never replaced. I think it comes with life. And getting older. And realizing who you are and what you will — and will not — tolerate in your life.

So, while I have a lot fewer friends in my life, and my activities have really pared down to the most essential of activities, and I’m not nearly as social as I used to be, that’s all fine. Because I’m fine.

I’m fine with how my life is now. I’m fine with things being so much quieter, and having a lot more time for the things that matter most to me. I’m fine with not being surrounded by people who are convinced the world is out to get them. And I’m fine with what the day has to bring.

Because being in the midst of my daily life — all the little details, as confounding as they can be — and experiencing it all, fully alive and engaged in my own life, is what brings me back to myself.

For many years after my various TBIs, I held back and was off by myself in a world of my own inventing, like so many of my ex-friends. And I didn’t really let life in. It was safer, but it was no way to get myself in shape to live my life. I avoided a ton of experiences, because they were too overwhelming or too confusing for me. And I thought I could avoid all that and prevent the anxiety that came with it.

Now, I generally accept that I’m going to get confused and overwhelmed, and I can plan for it. I expect it. So, it’s not such a terrible thing. It’s just one more aspect of life I have to manage. And so I do.

All that the day brings — all it has to offer — it’s there for me.

Now, what shall I do with my life today?

Let’s find out.

Onward…

 

 

 

Being all here

Right here, right now

Fog Factor Today: 70% with-it

I’m 70% “with-it” this morning – I got 7 hours of sleep last night, which is pretty good, considering my recent track record, and I woke up without an alarm. I’m doing better about heading to bed when I need to, rather than staying up to watch a little late-night talk show joking around, as I often do. The really funny people come on around 11 p.m., which is when I should be in bed.

Last night, I peeled myself away from the television and headed off to bed at 10:45, which is real progress for me. And although I felt like staying up and reading and keeping my brain in motion, when I got into bed and relaxed, I was too tired to do anything else.

I simply slept. Through the night. And woke up feeling pretty danged good, if I say so myself.

So, that’s progress. It’s been hard-fought, but I’ve done it. Yeah.

It’s a start.

I really didn’t feel like exercising this morning, but then I realized that I was lying in bed checking Facebook, when I could have been riding the exercise bike and checking Facebook, so why didn’t I just get up? So, I did, and I rode for 10 minutes and 2-1/2 miles — pushing myself a little harder at the end, without too much of a worsening headache. I also did my knee exercises while my coffee brewed and my egg cooked up. I worked on my balance while I did those exercises, and I realized that my balance is much better than it was, just a few months ago. Something is working better.

I’m feeling pretty good this morning, Fog Factor not withstanding. I’ve been fighting off a cold for a few days, and it felt like it was getting the better of me, first thing this morning. Now, though, it feels like it’s backing off, so that’s good.

Unfortunately, I’m probably not going to feel this great for another couple of weeks. I’m going on another business trip this coming week. Then comes the jet-lag. Then comes the pretending that I’m not jet-lagged. Then comes the extra work in the midst of jet-lag and meetings with people who speak other languages than me, and figuring out how to navigate the world far from my home. Last trip, I fought it tooth and nail, melted down over the prospect of going, and I had a really rough time just prior to going.

This time, I’m doing better at accepting the situation and seeing what I can get out of it. I’ve got a much better attitude, and I can see some saving graces.

It’s just tough, having to uproot myself for all this time… and then have to struggle through the return with the bone-crushing fatigue and disruption to my sleep schedule.

The good (no, great) part is, this will probably be my last big trip for quite some time. Just like last year, and the year before, we have to travel a few times at the beginning of the year under stupidly demanding circumstances. I consider it a test by management to see how on-board we are with their authority, and to test us about how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the team — pretty much a stupid-ass macho display of strength. woo. effing. hoo.

Rant alert: Let’s see who can put their family through the most hardship during the months when things can be the toughest at home — especially for folks who live in snowy areas — and let’s see who can show up at work the most bright-eyed and busy-tailed. Like I said, a bunch of macho crap — aging warhorses who feel the need to exert their authority over the minions. 

I hope they feel good about themselves. /End Rant

But those displays of uber-capability don’t usually last long, because – you know what? – hauling staff all over creation is expensive, especially with air travel and accomodations as pricey as they are today, so corporate predictably put the kaibosh on that. Serves ‘em right. Of course, there will be eager little keener brown-nosers who will suck up and “do whatever is necessary” to book more miles and hot-foot it all over the world throughout the course of the year. Congratulations. Bully for you. You win the prize for Most Cooperative and also Most Gullible. If you think for a moment that you won’t get tossed aside if you prove un-useful to the overlords, you have another thing coming.

Once upon a time, I was a Believer, too. And I found out what that gets you, if you aren’t vigilant or evil enough to beat the bastards at their own game.

It’s sad, really. I hate to see other people find out the exact same thing. And here I am counting down the hours till I have to go — 31-1/2, right about now.

But I’m making the best of the situation, which is progress. I’m not harboring any illusions that I’m going to be able to magically transform my life through abject obedience to task-masters, and I’m going to just enjoy things as they are, for what they are. I’m going to get what I can out of the circumstances, having some thorough travel experiences, and learning what I can along the way. It’s all a learning opportunity, resentments aside. It’s a chance for me to step outside my everyday life and see what I can make of things. It’s not going to be forever. So, I might as well enjoy it now.

I’m just going to BE here — all here. And see what comes of it. The older I get, the more precious life is to me. Everyday life. Boring old life. Regular life. It’s just so fascinating, the more I know about what all goes into making it everyday and boring and regular. It’s not run-of-the-mill at all. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

So, in pursuit of my own miracles, I’m getting myself set up properly, so I have all the tools to make the most of my trip. I have a checklist I follow for what to take, and what NOT to take. The last time I went, I did not take my personal tablet, because A) I didn’t have a keyboard for it, so I thought it would be of limited use to me, and B) I didn’t think I’d need it. I was wrong on both counts. I could have really used my tablet on the last trip, if only to do some personal work and have a connection with my own world, where I didn’t have to rely on my work-issued devices for contact with MY world.

I learned my lesson from that experience. It was so dreary and limiting, to not have any personal contact with my world, but to have to go through my work devices for everything… to not be able to blog or look at my personal email, to have to work around all the policies and limitations on personal use of work equipment.

This time, I am taking my own personal tablet with its new keyboard. I am going to spend time writing and also collecting notes and observations from my travels. I’ll have time at the airport and on the plane to do some reading and writing, which is good. It’s all good.

I have really noticed that since I’ve gotten back to reading, I am feeling much better about myself and my life. Ironically, having a way to escape the pressures of the day-to-day makes me feel so much more better about tackling those pressures. Even if I just read for a little bit each day, it soothes me and it gets me out of my own head.

Writing helps me, as well, because it gives me some distance from my “problems” and it helps me put things in perspective. It also helps me organize my thoughts — I can tell a huge difference between how I was processing information five years ago, and how I’m processing it now. I’m much better at staying on topic, and I’m much better at getting some distance. When I can’t get distance, I end up running away from everything in my mind, distracting myself and keeping myself busy and occupied with any old crap that comes along.

By giving me a way to think through my life in an organized fashion, this blog has helped me tremendously.

It keeps me involved in my own life, as I think through the details of my life.

It keeps me all here.

So, today, it’s steady-on. I have a short list of things I need to do, to prepare for my trip. I’ve already done a bunch of things to prepare, so I have a more civilized approach this weekend. If I get some of these little to-do items out of the way, first thing, then I can kick back the rest of the day and just relax, which is cool. This is my new thing – doing things ahead of time, so I have big chunks of free time later on, when the Must-Do items aren’t hanging over my head. I have been a chronic procrastinator for a long, long time, but now I “get” the value of clearing my plate and clearing my slate, so I have free and open space to think and just BE.

Heck, I may actually be able to take a walk later today and really get my blood pumping. The woods are a little mucky right now, so I’m probably not going to go for a hike, but I can definitely get out on the back roads. And wear my bright red coat when I do, because it’s a little gray today, people don’t always pay attention when they drive around here, and I don’t want to blend in with the mid-winter gray landscape.

So, yes. Onward. I’ll go take care of those odds and ends, and have the rest of the day to myself. My spouse is going on another business trip today, so I’ll be flying solo. It will give me time to relax and sleep and clean up some of my work clothing, and maybe even watch some Kung Fu movies this evening while I have dinner. I haven’t watched any Zatoichi movies on Hulu since I was violently ill with the flu, this time last year. I miss just lying around, watching tales of the Blind Swordsman without a care in the world.

Today is a day when I can dispense with my cares and just go about my business. I may do some business preparation for my trip, or I may not. I have a presentation I need to refine, so I may work on that. And I have an internal newsletter to write, so I may start drafting that.

Or I may not. We shall see.

As I was saying… onward.

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

It’s a new day. Literally

Today’s Fog Factor: 75%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a plan.

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

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

Onward.

 

Exercise and Rest – Back to the most basic of basics

It’s not going to get stronger on its own

Today’s Fog Factor: 65% of where I could (and want to) be

I’ve really been struggling, lately, with the sense that I’m falling behind mentally, that I’m not getting things I should, and that my emotional stability and ability to cope are eroding. I’ve been feeling like I’m on a downward slide for some months, now.

Small wonder, I feel like I’m slipping. Small wonder I feel dull and dense and impaired, sluggish and “fall-behind”.

I haven’t been exercising regularly for quite some time. It goes in fits and starts, and then it stops. I go in fits and starts… really sticking with my routine and doing it religiously on a regular basis. And then for some reason I stop. I get tired. Or I am rushed. Or I don’t feel like picking up the weights. Or I don’t feel like I have to. Or I feel like I need to rest for a day… or two… or three… or a week.

And I wonder why I feel so out of it all the time.

Several critical ingredients are missing from my life — adequate rest and regular exercise. On the nutrition front I’m doing pretty well, but rest and exercise… they’re a problem.

The two are really mutually constructive/destructive. When I’m doing well with one, I do well with the other, and it pays off. In the past, when I was making amazing progress and really kickin’ it with my recovery, I was exercising on a regular basis. I was actually not as strong and as limber as I am now. I was actually in worse shape, in some ways. And I was definitely less “put together” — I was pretty scattered, pretty confused about a lot of things (which I didn’t realize I was confused about), and even though I really felt like I was getting it and getting on top of things, when I look back — years later — I see how far I still had to go.

But when either exercise or rest is really lacking, it pulls the other one down, too. When I’m really fatigued, I don’t always feel like exercising. And when I haven’t been exercising, I don’t really feel like I need to rest. And when I’m not rested and I also don’t have the energy pump and improved communication of all the different elements in my system, my thinking really falters. That sluggishness pulls everything in me down, including my alertness, my processing ability and speed, my ability to just keep up.

It’s a vicious cycle, and I need to stop it.

So, yes. Stop it.

I get tired of hearing myself whine. I get tired of hearing myself bitch and complain (inside my head and on this blog) about how I’m slipping. “Mentally, emotionally, and physically, I’m declining… Oh, woe is me… What ever shall I do? Life is stacked against me, and my TBIs have ruined my life.

It’s ridiculous. I have a way to stop it, which I have in the past before with great success. I know what will slow the downward slide and get me on the good foot again. I’ve done it before — rested plenty and exercised a lot — and it helped me a great deal. It got me from struggling… to so-so… to standing on my own two feet again. And it was good.

It really encouraged me and it kept me going. And that was when I was even worse off than I am now.

Imagine what it could be like for me, if I poured that same amount of enthusiasm and intention into my recovery now… not giving up, not deciding that because I’m nearing 50, I am inevitably going to decline. That’s ridiculous. I have plenty of relatives who lived well into their 90s, and even beyond past 100 years of age, and why shouldn’t I, too? I’m not content to give up like so many others around me, and just accept that things are going downhill from here.

I guess maybe I’m at that oh-so-common juncture in “mid-life” when you have to recalibrate and refresh your world view. I’m also at the age when a lot of my peers are starting to give up on the idea of constant improvement and life enhancement. I’m at the point of the “great dividing”, when my peers peel off in one of several directions:

  1. towards sad resignation that they’re not going to live forever…
  2. towards resentful defiance that they’re not getting any younger and the young guns coming up are trying to push them out of the way, or…
  3. towards a point of redefining themselves based on new understandings of who they are and how they want their lives to be.

I seem to have slipped into the first group, without even realizing it. And I’ve spent a few too many hours in the second group, over the past couple of years. The third group is where I find myself heading, now — into a zone where I realize that I know myself a whole lot better now than I used to… even a few years ago. And into a zone where, based on that new information and understanding, I need to redefine my life and — oh, hell — just get on with it.

Get on with what?

That’s the question. I realize now that it’s been nagging at me for a couple of years, now. I’ve been struggling with my work situation, hitting a lot of dead ends, not able to make any headway with changing jobs, bumping up against all sorts of folks who are mis-matching me to what they think I should be doing, based on what I did in my past. I’ve reached a point in my work life, where I need to peel off in another direction and do something different. I’ve talked about this before, many times, and I’ve always lost my nerve — especially when under pressure by people who look at my illustrious past resume and try to fit me into a mold that they provide for me, based on limited information and their own agendas.

Now it’s time to quit losing my nerve, and just get on with doing what I want to do next.

What will that be? That is the question. And the question won’t be answered by me, based on my present state of mind. I’m too stressed by fatigue and not feeling well, to think clearly. I’m too out of shape and too “blob-like” to engage in any sort of existential self-determination. I’m just not at the level I want/need to be, and that’s got to change.

So, I’m changing it. I exercised this morning — 11 minutes on the exercise bike for 2.72 miles, followed by a “circuit” of light free weights lifted in all directions. It wasn’t the most strenuous session, but the point was to just get started, not blow the lid off. And I didn’t get a splitting headache after the fact, which was good. I just did it. And I did it for a reason — because I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired — and letting that stop me.

I need to get my head together — literally and figuratively, and exercise and rest are key components of that. I slept like the dead, last Saturday, and with any luck I’ll be able to do that again this weekend, before I fly out on my next trip. I got some exercise today, and now I’m motivated again to get myself going with the exercise. I have a reason. I have a cause. And it ties in with a larger picture that will lead me to my next steps and help me get on with my life… whatever is next. Whatever is coming ’round the corner.

Because something is coming. I can feel it. And I want to be ready — and recognize it — when it shows up.

 

 

 

Gotta get moving again

Ouch. The past short week with all the long hours — 5 a.m. till 7 p.m., most days — has been kicking the crap out of me, and I woke up this morning feeling like I’ve been beaten with a stick. It’s all those old sports injuries from my past, including a very sedentary lifestyle in my present. I do manage to get up and move, throughout the course of the day, but lately I’ve had to do work that has me sitting for long periods of time, just hunched over the keyboard, and that just plain sucks.

So, I’ve got to do something about it. I have been going to physical therapy to help with my neck and shoulder, which I injured a few months back and has not quite healed yet. I’ve learning some exercises to do, and I have a printout to follow. Now, I just need to put it where I can find it and remember it. I got it a couple of weeks ago, but it ended up on a pile underneath some other papers — out of sight, out of mind. No matter now often I tried to remember to dig it out and consult it, I kept forgetting.

That being said, I just retrieved it from my pile and it’s sitting here on the desk next to me. That’s an improvement already.

I also did some exercises this morning while I was making my breakfast — not the usual exercises 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 and repeat… that gets boring — but just moving around, loosening up, getting my bones cracking and my blood pumping. I get a little too staid with my exercises, first thing in the morning, and they don’t feel that great, so I back off. And then I end up doing nothing… Unless I’m doing chores around the house and yard, in which case I’m moving a lot, lifting and pushing and pulling and really testing myself.

Feast or famine. And then I end up with a lot of pain and stiffness and I get sedentary… and I end up like I am now — stiff and sore and one bit instance of ouch.

Ah, well. So it goes. At least I know I’m alive, right?

I’ve heard a lot of friends say that this is the year they get their act together, health-wise, and I’m in the same boat. I feel like the last few years were just all about survival — hunkering down and keeping a low profile and just soldiering through. Just staving off disaster, nothing more, nothing less.

This year, it feels like things are loosening up, all the upheaval in Ukraine and Venezuela notwithstanding. All kinds of crap is breaking loose all over the place, but in my little corner of the world, things are actually normalizing. Granted, I have come to detest my job all over again, and I can’t even begin to say how crazy it makes me to work with people who are arrogant, entitled, and utterly incompetent because their bosses have been letting them slide, lo these many years. It’s truly pathetic. There is a cost for coddling slackers. And I’m sick of paying someone else’s bills.

On the bright side, this motivates me all the more to step up and actively manage my own career and make some inroads where I can. I’m just going to keep steady with my own work and my own path, and let everyone else figure it out. Seriously, it’s not my job to win the hearts and minds of everyone around me. They can manage their own damn’ selves. I’ve got work to do, and I’m going to do it.

Now that I’m looking at my printout of exercises, it’s coming back to me… my physical therapist showed me some good stretches to do, and some of these I can do at my desk, as well as in the car while I’m driving. Or I can just step away from my desk for 10 minutes, every couple of hours, and do them. It actually wakes me up a bit, to stretch, and it frees up the blood flow and energy — gets everything “talking to each other” much better. So, it should help me in the course of my daily work.

Despite my bitching, the simple fact remains that people who can do difficult work get paid the big bucks. Those who can take on impossible challenges and deliver, are the ones who are most valued in a large company, and rather than dreading and avoiding challenges like the ones I face each day, I should be welcoming them as a chance to grow and improve. There are a number of things I really dislike about this job — the workforce, the arrogance of management, the overwork and underpay, as well as the travel which destroys my quality of life. But if I can work around those things and focus on the parts of it that I want to really emphasize, then I can make this work for myself.

Having to soldier through all the muck and weeds is incredibly taxing, but that’s just part of living and working. I need to just suck it up and get moving, make the most of the situation where I find myself, and really focus on the gratitude for what I do have.

And take care of my health. I’m going to see my doctor today about my headaches. I suspect they’re just tension headaches, but it could be something else. And they come on when I exercise — I can start out feeling pretty decent (headache at a 2/10). Then I’ll start to exercise, and when my heart rate goes up, my headache kicks in harder — going up to a 6 or a 7 out of 10. It makes it a little difficult to get excited about exercising. I thought it would just go away over time, but it hasn’t. And so I need to check with my doctor.

This coming June, it will be four years since I started at this company. It has been a wild ride. I’m not sure how much longer I should stay, actually. And later this year, when I have revised my resume and goals and objectives, and I am more clear about the new direction I want to go in, I can start looking. Right now, it makes no sense for me to move. I just need to stay focused on what I am doing and stay true to myself.

And not let others hold me down or cloud my judgment. I’m surrounded by people whose judgment doesn’t seem to be that sound. I can’t let that affect me and blur my own vision.

So, yeah. Onward.

 

 

Finished another book! Woo hoo!

The books are back!

Holy smokes – I actually finished another book! It’s called “Who’s Pulling Your Strings?” and it’s about how to deal effectively with manipulators. I have had issues with getting involved in relationships with manipulators for as long as I can remember. When you have skills and talent and energy, and you don’t have a lot of real direction and you haven’t developed the ability to clearly focus on what you want and how you’re going to do/get it, it makes you very vulnerable to the manipulations of others.

Because the control they exercise over you and their ability to get others to do what they want them to do, can be very attractive to someone like me, who wants to be effective, but doesn’t always have the attentional ability or sustained focus to make things happen reliably.

And being manipulated doesn’t feel like manipulation – it just feels like you’re making progress in the world, and it can feel really good. The only problem is — it’s not your progress. It’s someone else’s idea of progress.

So, over the years, you can find yourself drifting farther and farther from where you want to be, and the life you want to live. And eventually, you can even forget what it is you originally wanted to do.

That has happened to me a lot over the course of my life. I haven’t even minded it, until the past few years, as I’ve gotten clearer about my own abilities and interests, versus the interests and agendas of everyone else. I was so mired in TBI and attentional issues, that I was an “easy mark” for people who wanted to use me for their own purposes.

A great example is my job — I got into my current line of work because it fit the definition of a “real job”, with the regular schedule and seat at a desk. I have never, ever longed with all my heart to sit at a desk all the livelong day, working for someone else, and hoping to be noticed by the “right people”. That just kind of happened because I needed to make a living, and this line of work was the path of least resistance.

It was originally interesting to me, and I turned out to be pretty good at it, but I have felt the burn of carpal tunnel issues, back issues, and all sorts of physical issues, in the past 25 years of being a desk jockey.

And while the money was good, and the rewards were there, I have still ended up entangled in a way of life — being sedentary, primarily mentally engaged, sitting at a desk from 9-5 each day (or more like 10-7) — that has never, ever appealed to me, and which I used to cringe when I thought about doing it. 30 years ago, I would have sooner killed myself, than been consigned to the life of a desk jockey.

That’s probably the best example of my life going off the rails, that I can think of. And manipulation has played a large role in getting me where I am. The coworkers who maneuvered and schemed with or against me, the bosses who tried to control me, the whole system, which threatened and rewarded and has pulled out all the stops to keep itself in place… Also, my spouse is a masterful manipulator, and they have roped me into doing a ton of things that I did not want to do. The big reason we have been so deeply in debt, is that I gave into their pressures to spend money on things that we did not need, or that were massively over-priced. I have only myself to thank for that… and I have actually used the last three years of lean living as an example of what can and will happen, when we live beyond our means. It has been hard on us both, but mostly for my spouse — who then in turn has taken it out on me.

I don’t want to sound like a whiner or a victim. I am neither. I am just seeing clearly the manipulating-capitulating patterns that got me where I am today. I have willingly participated in this kind of relationship, at home and at work, for the sake of the rewards. And now I am seeing that something else is possible.

I really need to escape this way of life for the sake of my sanity and physical health. This manipulation-capitulation will not stand. I’ve already started taking steps to stop the momentum of those moments when I’m urged to do such-and-such right away, even though it’s not the right thing to do. And I’m turning things around at home. My spouse manipulates for their own reasons — largely out of anxiety, because not having things all set and figured out and exactly “just so” makes them intensely uncomfortable, and they don’t do well with discomfort.

I myself am working on becoming inured to discomfort. I try to condition myself a little more each day, and it’s working pretty well. But my spouse… that’s not their “thing”, and they chase after relief for their self-induced discomfort, just about every waking moment. Their habits of mind are what hold them hostage, and everyone around them pays.

Reading the “Strings” book has helped me see things more clearly. And it’s also validated the steps I am already taking to shift the balance of power in my marriage. I know my spouse loves me with all their heart, as I do them, so I have hope that things can turn around. I just need to be more clear about what I want, and what my agenda is. That’s something my spouse understands — a self-centered agenda. So, if I can invent one (even if it is not 100% accurate, seeing as I have very few agendas in my life, period), that changes the dynamic, and they respect that.

Reading this book has been both eye-opening and validating. And it has kept me engaged throughout. I actually read almost 200 pages of it yesterday afternoon, while I was resting. I had a very active morning and I needed to rest, so I just read… and read… and read. The amazing thing was that it went very quickly. I could follow what was being said, I could remember what was on the previous pages, and the flow of the book made sense to me. I could even tell when the author was repeating herself and over-simplifying things, so I just skimmed some parts.

The skimming is probably the biggest sign of progress for me. It shows that:

  1. I can read and comprehend what is there at a glance.
  2. I can get the “gist” of what’s in the paragraphs without needing to digest every single letter of every single word. I can understand what’s being said on the page, without needing to consume every single paragraph.
  3. I am not nearly as obsessive-compulsive about every single little detail that’s being communicated. I am not spending 15 minutes on a page that should take me 2 minutes to read and digest.

Only a few years ago, I wasn’t able to even get through an entire page without losing my way and having no idea what was being said. I would forget, from one page to the next, what I had read, and I would give up after a while. That was so demoralizing. I grew up with books as my best friends, my only solace in an otherwise overwhelming and hostile world. Books where my refuge, my safe place, my domain. And I would write my own stories and invent my own worlds, when books fell short. Books surround me in my home and my study — there are shelves full of them, in every room of my house. My bedside stand has a stack of books 8-high on it, and my spouse’s bedside stand has even more.

Books have been the cement in many a relationship. Having my parents read to me was a way for us to bond when I was very young. Reading the same novels smoothed over interpersonal conflicts with my parents later in life, seeing what books others were carrying and reading helped me figure out who could be my friend, and showing others what I was reading let them know if we had common interests — especially with regard to science and non-fiction. Sharing things we read has joined my spouse and me together, and bookstores have been one of my favorite places to meet interesting people.

So, when I was no longer able to read, and I lost all interest in writing, I lost a huge chunk of my life. I lost my safe place, my solace, my refuge. I lost my best friend(s) from before I could even read. It wasn’t just words — it was any story line, any collection of ideas that I needed to keep in my memory for later. I just couldn’t follow. I just couldn’t manage it. Everything just evaporated so quickly for me… and it was devastating and left me feeling left out in the cold.

The weird thing was, it didn’t even register as that huge of a loss to me. Maybe there was part of me that couldn’t face up to the intensity of the loss, and it was so potentially devastating that I could not even really think about it. Or maybe I was just too busy keeping things in order and trying to keep my life in some semblance of togetherness, that I just didn’t have the time to read. That could be part of it.

But whatever the reasons, it was tough to lose that part of my life.

And now it’s back. If I can find a book that deals with something I am intently interested in, that is relevant to my life, and that gives me good food for thought and tools to use in my everyday life, that is a huge help. It keeps me engaged. It keeps me coming back for more. I have another book called “White Coat: Becoming a Doctor at Harvard Medical School” that I am also reading, because I wanted to be a doctor when I was little, and I am fascinated by what makes doctors the way they are. This book is helping me to understand the process people go through to be enculturated into the medical community, and I am getting lots of useful tips about the mindset and the orientation of doctors.

That’s always helpful. I read this book while I am riding the exercise bike in the morning, and I’m about 1/3 of the way through. It’s a little slim on substance, but it’s an entertaining and informative overview of the kinds of experiences that make docs how they are.

I also have another book which my neuropsych loaned to me several years ago. It’s called “A User’s Guide to the Brain” by John Ratey, and it’s all about how our brains work.  I have not been able to finish it — I read it 3/4 of the way through, years ago, then I put it down when I got too confused and overwhelmed by all the information. I want to finish it and return it to my neuropsych before spring comes. It’s a goal. If things are going really well, maybe I’ll just start from the beginning and re-read it. I think that would be a good exercise, because it will show me how much I retained over the years. And I think it will also help me better understand it this time, because my comprehension is better and I’m better able to get the gist of things.

Now, I’m not sure how things are going to be tomorrow… or the next day… or the next.  It could be that I’ve maxed out my reading-with-comprehension muscles for a little while, and I need to rest for a few days or weeks to rebuild my resources. I do feel a little tuckered out, to tell the truth. But for today, by God, I have finished a book, and it feels pretty damned good!

Now, it’s time to go outside, to get my blood pumping and get some sun on my face. I’ve got a whole Sunday ahead of me, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.

Onward.

Diving into my brain

Check out what’s in there…

Time to break out the old MRI again. About five years ago, I had a series of weird experiences that other people assured me were seizures. I honestly didn’t know what to think — my eyes would start jumping rhythmically back and forth, I couldn’t keep them focused on any one thing at a time, and I had these extreme and overwhelming floods of emotion that really leveled me. I even went blind for a few minutes, one afternoon while I was spending time with family.

After talking to a bunch of folks, including epilepsy doctors, I had an MRI and an EEG, and nothing came back definitive, other than a pineal cyst — which is common in the general population. About 40% of autopsies uncover a pineal cyst, but it doesn’t seem to make a ton of difference in quality of life, other than headaches and other issues in extreme cases. My pineal cyst was fairly small, so the doctor just told me to keep an eye on it and get re-scanned every couple of years to make sure it’s not getting worse.

I haven’t been back since, as I’m not having any symptoms or issues that seem worth the trouble. Also, the contrast agent they pump into you to make things light up made me sick, and there have been lots of reports of bad side-effects, so no thanks.

Anyway, reading about dopamine and how it’s produced in the body and the parts of the brain that are involved, I’ve dug up the old MRI files to look at, and it’s as fascinating as ever. The thing is, my brain doesn’t look like the textbook images — I must have lay on my back a lot as a baby, because the back of my head is flattened and the cerebellum is pushed forward and up. I have found other images on Google that look like me – and we certainly don’t look like what’s in the Netter’s anatomy book I have.

Fascinating. Not that this means there is anything wrong – it’s just different.

So, anyway, I’m looking at the physical structure of the brain, trying to see where all the action takes place. There’s a ton of stuff going on in there – it’s hard to distinguish between the different pieces, based on my limited knowledge, but I guess the most important thing is that everything is intact — and I have the capacity to explore and question and discover for myself.

That, in itself, gives me a rush, which is exactly what I need.

I need a rush that is for something meaningful and useful. For years, I devoted hours and hours of my time to activities that just took the pressure off and distracted me from what was really going on — writing for hours and hours in journals which never served any useful purpose, other than providing a rhythmic, solitary activity that would soothe my jangled nerves… studying history and obscure facts in order to better understand life around me (had limited success with that)… and drifting from one project to the next, each time convinced that I was going to hit the big time and make a fortune, then dropping each undertaking in due course because I got bored or it didn’t pan out the way I expected. I was really quite aimless — in large part because I only wanted to take the pressure off my head and my heart… not actually do anything with my life.

I suppose it was good for something. The interests and the discipline I developed over the years have stood me in good stead, with researching my TBI issues and figuring out how to address them. So, it wasn’t all for naught. But I spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of nothing — mainly because I just needed to take the edge off my anxiety and depression and low energy levels.

Now I’m able to focus that attention and activity in a productive direction. And getting the hang of tweaking my dopamine levels and increasing my general feelings of well-being, is just the ticket. It’s fascinating to me, and that can’t hurt.

So, the day is waiting. The brain is an enormous domain that’s full of all manner of fascinating areas and abilities. Looking at the anatomy can be overwhelming, but when I think about the dynamics of it — just how it works, and how I can better use it — a lot of it makes more sense.

Time to dive back in and get fascinated again.

Onward.