St. Barbara of Arrowsmith-Young

Thanks for the help this past Sunday

So, on Sunday I spent the afternoon reading Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain”, about how she learned how to identify the underlying issues beneath her severe learning disabilities, which had made her life a living hell for 26 years of her life. I found the book for free on Scribd.com — my new favorite place of all time. You can read the book for free here: https://www.scribd.com/book/224350322/The-Woman-Who-Changed-Her-Brain-And-Other-Inspiring-Stories-of-Pioneering-Brain-Transformation - you just need a free login.

Anyway, I am finding a lot of similarities between her situation and mine, despite obvious differences. And it occurs to me that after hearing a number of accounts of her hitting her head (running into things, banging her head before she started to study, etc.) TBI might just factor into her account. She focuses on the learning disabilities parts, rather than the root cause, so that makes the book more accessible for folks who have had any kind of difficulty with learning and understanding and communicating — me included.

One section in particular jumped out at me yesterday:

I recall a twelve-year-old student with average intelligence but whose severe weaknesses in both the left and right prefrontal cortexes left her as compliant as a young child — so compliant that other children would toy with her and order her to stand and sit on command or to stay in the schoolyard long after recess was over or to surrender her Nintendo game. Her neurological weaknesses had robber her of her ability to evaluate a command and decide whether it should be obeyed. She addressed her problem areas and eventually was able to say no.

That’s pretty much me — but in very different kinds of situations. I didn’t have a problem with being compliant and going along with others as a kid. If anything, I was defiant and went against what anyone and everyone told me to do (except for my love interests — they could always boss me around).

The compliance and obedience and lack of questioning happened in adulthood. And I wonder if the three car accidents, the fall off the back of the truck, and the occasional head-banging — all in my early adulthood — might have affected my prefrontal cortexes to the point where I would just compliantly do whatever my spouse told me to do.

If that’s the case — and my compliance has been neurological, rather than emotional or character-based — then that’s a huge relief. And it means I can do something about it. For close to 20 years, I pretty much went along with whatever my spouse told me to do. It wasn’t so pronounced in the beginning, but then it got worse.

I had a car accident in 1997 where I was rear-ended, and I couldn’t read for several days. The letters swam on the page, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I recall feeling weird and shaky and being a bit “off” for some time after the car accident, and I wonder if maybe that affected my prefrontal cortexes and made me more compliant. People around me thought my spouse was bullying me, that they were being abusive and domineering, but honestly, I just went along… because it was the only thing that seemed useful to me.

I need to check around to find out more.

Anyway, that’s just one part of the book that I’m really enjoying. There are a number of different places where I recognize myself — the hesitance, the inability to get things done, the self-regulation problems… I’m not sure I want to think about them in terms of learning disabilities, but rather brain capabilities. And they apply to all kinds of situations, not just educational ones. That’s something that the author talks about a lot — how addressing these learning disabilities will improve functioning in the rest of life.

What Barbara Arrowsmith-Young has done is remarkable. She’s really figured it out — and from the inside, not from the outside. It’s amazing. I’m a huge fan, and if I were religious, I’d recommend her for sainthood. Her story is one of the reasons I got myself into neuropsych rehab, in the first place — when I read Norman Doidge’s “The Brain That Changes Itself” her story stood out for me more than any others. Because she took it on herself, and she did the work, instead of having someone else do it for her. And now she’s passing it on to others. She does public lectures. She has her Arrowsmith School. She’s written a book.

Unfortunately for me (and probably many others), the Arrowsmith School is expensive. And it’s in Canada, which is not an impossible distance from me, but still… I have to go to my job each day, I don’t have a lot of money to spend, and I’m thinking there must be another way to get this kind of help without being locked into a specific location, or paying someone to get me on track.

Again, I come back to living my life as the best recovery. Living fully and reflectively. Mindfully. Engaged. All those catchwords that basically say,

Do the best you can each and every day…

Be honest with yourself about what’s going on…

Learn from books and movies and the world around you, your experiences, your teachers and your mistakes…

Change what you can so you do better next time…

And share what you learn with others.

Absent the resources to enroll in the Arrowsmith School for months (if not years), and with the help from a handful of competent professionals, I seem to be making decent progress.

Speaking of which, I’ve got some chores to do.

Onward.

Amiss, but getting better

On second (or third) thought… no thanks

I’m scrapping the idea of going to the ER today. I stretched and moved yesterday, and I took a real break — spent the afternoon napping, reading Barbara Arrowsmith-Young’s “The Woman Who Changed Her Brain” (more on that later), and just puttering around the house, taking it easy. I’m going to mention the left-side weakness to my counselor, just so someone else knows about it. And I’m probably going to check in with my neuropsych on Wednesday. I do feel better, after taking some time off, and now the idea of embarking on a medical adventure doesn’t seem like a good use of energy.

Oh. My. God. When I think about having to explain my situation to doctors all over again… Yeah, no thanks.

So, a big shout-out to those of you who talked me back from that edge. I owe you.

It’s Monday. Only two more days in the office 20 miles from home. Then I move to the office 5 miles from home. It’s exciting. Also, I’m barrelling down the road towards a couple of big-big deadlines this week. That makes things easier.

It’s interesting — I’m gradually getting the hang of living by deadlines and holding people to them. In past situations I’ve worked in, there were two kinds of situations. Either

  1. The deadlines were fluid and there wasn’t a hard-and-fast rule about when things got done, and in what order. People were sort of lackadaisical about doing their jobs, and if it got done, then woo hoo. But if it didn’t get done, oh well.    Or
  2. Deadlines were in place, but everybody was a top-notch over-achiever who would have sooner cut off their left hand, than not do their job.

Now, everything is about the deadlines… but I don’t have a top-notch gang of over-achievers available to me, to get the job done. I have maybe one or two, who are usually overworked.

Sigh.

Well, it’s all very educational. Now I get to learn how to motivate people who have no real reason to be motivated at all. They don’t report directly to me, they aren’t all that thrilled about their jobs, and the burning desire to excel doesn’t seem to light up their days and nights.

Interesting.

So, now I get to learn how to make it all happen. And in the end, that’s going to be a valuable skill. I just have to acquire it.

I’ve got some more work to do on restoring a sense of self after TBI. I’m also restoring a sense of my own self — as much by slogging through the tough times, as experiencing the good times.

In a way, slogging through the tough times is even more useful to me than having everything go well. It shows me that I can do this thing, called adapting and overcoming. And it teaches me valuable skills along the way. I am extremely rigid and uncompromising in some ways, which can come in handy, when it has to do with personal integrity and delivering on my promises. When things come up to oppose my grand plans — as they invariably do — I can either buckle and fall to pieces (that sometimes happens), or I can learn from it and add to my overall knowledge and skill in handling those types of situations.

I choose the latter. And instead of tearing myself down — e.g., beating myself up for going off the deep end yesterday with the sensations I’m having on my left side — I can learn from the experience, chalk it up to, well, being human, and move on with a little more information under my belt.

And when I focus on learning and growing from experience, that builds up my feeling about who I am and how I handle myself.  Getting bogged down in despair and frustration is not how I want to be. It’s now how I understand myself to be. So, I have to find a better way. And recognize my limits — my tendency to go all catastrophic on things that happen with me — so I can keep them from taking over my life. I have limits, just like anyone else, and they are part of me — but only a PART of me, not all of me.

Having a broader sense of myself as a collection of many features and qualities, as well as a lot of strengths along with my weaknesses, makes all the difference in the world. I can’t gloss over the tricky parts, but I sure as hell can emphasize the cool stuff, and make the most of that.

Speaking of making the most of things, I need to really focus on getting into my day. It is SO HARD to get going for work, this morning. Mondays have been very difficult for me, lately. Transitioning into work and really getting invested, has been a monumental task. I dread everything about it, and I can’t seem to get into the day, no matter what I do. I know why, though. It’s old patterns from many years of bad experiences that are cropping up again, just at this point in time. Four months into just about every endeavor, this happens with me. Like clockwork. More on that later.

Anyway, the day is waiting, and I have a lot to get done today. Things are looking up, and that’s a good thing.

Onward.

New season, new ways

Handle stress better with these exercises – click the picture to learn more

So, I’ve started to begin my days with a new routine — getting up and doing some meridian exercises, to get my internal energy flowing better. I’ve also been lifting weights. I haven’t been doing so much riding of the exercise bike, because I get headaches when I really push it, and then I feel bad the rest of the day.

At the same time, I still need to get my energy going in the morning, and this new routine seems to be doing the trick.

I found a book of meridian exercises for self-healing, and I’ve been doing all-over-body patting, as well as stretching exercises to get my “chi” moving. Then I lift weights for a little bit… have my breakfast of a banana, toast, butter-coffee… and I’m ready to start the day.

With everything going on, what’s become very clear to me, is that I need to improve my energy, my stamina, my ability to hold up under stress and strain. It’s no good, if I buckle under the pressures that are around me. Life is going to do what it will, so I need to strengthen myself to face up to it.

We all have within us massive stores of energy, and we can also draw energy from the world around us – if we simply let it flow. We get blocked up and stop the energy from coming in and going out and moving freely through our systems. And then things start to fall down. They start to come apart. That’s where I was last week, when I had my crisis with my spouse. What became so very clear to me, was that I was missing the opportunity to access all the energy that’s around me. And I needed to find a way to get to it, to use it, and to make the most of every situation, no matter how hard it might appear.

It’s no good for me to be falling apart — and it’s no good for me to be wrecking my rare vacations by melting down. I can’t let it all get to me the way I did last week, and I’m determined to keep my act together better than ever.

I also realize how much pressure I put on myself to achieve. It’s like I still have the old Type-A personality, but my abilities are different now, than before. I still use stress and pressure to wake myself up, but I don’t have a balanced enough approach to it, and I get tired… and end up using more stress and pressure (and sugar and caffeine and junk food) to keep myself moving.

And I need to factor that in. Over the past few days, I’ve been longing for the “good old days” when I could still do programming and learn new languages easily. That’s not the case anymore. None of it makes sense to me the way it used to, and it’s depressing as sh*t. So, I need to get that out of my head and focus on things that matter to me now. And that I can do now. And that give me good quality energy, not the adrenaline-rush of stress and pressure, which ultimately bogs me down.

The days are getting shorter, and fall is definitely on the way. I do feel more energy these days than I have in a long time, and I credit the exercises for that. I’m also taking the pressure of myself for the projects I’ve got going — somehow, they ballooned into massive undertakings that “had the potential to be huge”. For some reason, I’m always thinking BIG, which is fine — except when it involves every single aspect of my life, making my existence into a total slog through mud.

I invent the pressure for myself — I think to keep myself actively engaged in my life. But it tends to get blown way out of proportion, in many, many aspects. And my quality of life goes to hell. And for what?

Well, anyway, I’ve gotten a head-start on the day, checking in with work early, so I can get some questions answered by colleagues over in  Europe. It’s been about four months, since I had regular dealings with colleagues in Europe — in my last job, it was most of what I did, but in this new job, there hasn’t been much of that. Now I’m getting more integrated with the European crowd — and also folks in Asia. So, that old routine is coming back — but this time with more sanity, and more of a collegial sense. In my last job, there was a lot of antagonism between the US and everyone else, and it wasn’t helpful. In this job, there’s a very collegial feel, although there is some naturally occurring cross-cultural tension. Different ways of doing things… But I’m very comfortable with the European ways of working and structuring things, so that’s a big help.

Who knows? I may even get to do some international travel. This time it will be very different, though, because I have past experience under very trying circumstances. So, the second time around promises to be better. At least, that’s what I’m hoping.

Anyway, as the seasons change, I am more focused on really strengthening myself from within, to handle whatever comes my way. I now feel at peace with my surroundings, for the most part, and that’s because I’m putting the focus on taking care of myself, strengthening my system, keeping stable and firm under challenging circumstances. Everything I do in my life, I consider a training for something else to come later, so really bringing focus to it and doing my best, no matter what, is my #1 Priority.

That being said, it’s time to get ready for work and head into my next stage of the day. I’ve had a productive morning, already, and this job is turning out to be pretty darned cool. Instead of being pressed to produce-produce-produce, racing the clock on limited resources and never enough time… I’m getting paid to manage projects at a higher level and motivate my team members. And so far, it’s working out well.

Even when things are very tough, it’s still good. It’s very good, indeed.

Just keep your spirits up

Create something to believe in!

I woke up this morning having the keen sense that over the course of my life, I’ve come through a huge number of obstacles. Emotional swamps, mental jungles, physical minefields, and logistical nightmares.

I’ve been on the wrong side of the law, and I’ve been on the receiving end of foolishness at that hands of those who have been far outside their rights.

I’ve been up, I’ve been down, I’ve traveled my own path, and now I find myself actually doing better for myself… happier, healthier, more content, more optimistic… than most of my peers. I also have a much more engaged and involved relationship with my life and everything in it, than 90% of the people I know.

Despite the pain and suffering — some of which may never actually go away at all — I am here, and I’m in a very good space.

What’s the secret?

Keep your spirits up. Do whatever you need to do, to keep your mind and spirit alive and involved. Keep your body in good condition and don’t abuse it with bad food, drugs, too much drink… too much anything. But most of all, keep your spirits up.

Someone once told me that my journal writing over the years was a “Proustian” waste of time — a lot of navel-gazing that provided no apparent benefit. Likewise, I have launched many, many projects which ultimately came to naught. For years, I felt like I was a failure because I could not “make it happen” for myself, and I struggled constantly with so much. I thought for sure that if I did things the right way, I would eventually be rid of the pain, the suffering, the hardship, the challenges.

And my life would get better.

Now I realize that even though all the pain, suffering, hardships, and challenges are still around, the thing that has really changed is me. I have acquired the skills I need to meet the hardships that come from TBI … and to figure things out as I go. I am still learning — and each day offers me one more way to make right the things that are wrong in my life. I didn’t get here by accident. I got here by keeping my spirits up, by staying interested in life, by always having some activity going on that keeps me intrigued and engaged.

Even if I don’t “make it” with my projects and end up rich and famous, the simple fact of the matter is that it keeps my mind fully occupied, and it keeps me from sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I come up with some crazy concepts, too — many of them far beyond the scope of my actual interests and abilities. But I dream big, and I chase after those dreams as if they truly will come true.

When they don’t… and they often don’t… well, that’s not the point. The point is that I have been engaged on a very high level, and my energy has been good, and it has kept me from being my own worst enemy. Maybe someday some of my grand plans will pan out. But the main thing is the working towards them, and keeping my spirits high in the meantime.

Most of the things I dream of, I don’t tell anyone about, because they’re really just for me, to keep me going — and when others get involved, they tend to dilute the process and hold my mind and heart back.

To each and every one of you reading this right now, I encourage you to pick something big and crazy to dream, and keep that dream alive in your mind. Pick something that would give you so much pride to accomplish, and then secretly set about making that dream come true. Don’t tell anyone else about it — just figure it out for yourself, dream it big in your heart, and let that carry you through your days.

Any kind of recovery — whether it’s TBI or not — requires a huge amount of energy and stamina. I can take a monumental effort each day, just to keep going. So, find something to spark your spirit, then dwell on that, feed on it, let it bring you joy and happiness and encouragement, and stick with it like your life depends on it.

Because maybe it does.

Onward.

When bad things happen to good people

The road ahead is not always clear

The road ahead is not always clear

Oh, this is upsetting. My neuropsych is having potentially serious health issues, and we won’t be meeting next week.

The upsetting thing is not so much that I won’t get to meet with them. It’s that they are having health issues. Their situation is not certain. You like to hope for the best and stay positive, but with the healthcare system as it is, you never know…

I really got thrown for a loop yesterday. When I first talked to them to cancel our appointment, I was fine. I was feeling very positive and supportive, and I think I helped them feel better. I made them laugh a little, which always helps. Then I took a nap later in the day, and when I woke up, I was very, very sad. Because if something happens to them, so they can’t work anymore, I had the distinct impression that I will go back to being alone.

And that made me so sad, I started to cry. I hate when that happens. I suddenly felt so alone, so small and so vulnerable. I felt like I was five years old again, being left behind as the school bus going home pulled away from the curb, leaving me alone and not able to get back home from my first day of kindergarten. In the past six years that we have worked together, my neuropsych has really been the only reliable person in my life who has not judged me for being different, who has understood the challenges I’m up against, and who has really cheered for my advances, instead of just treating them like something I should have been able to do, all along. If I lose their regular presence in my life, it’s going to be a real blow.

I felt kind of crappy, feeling that way, because it was all about me. I’ve been working on that tendency to always think of myself first and not pay any attention to anyone else’s needs. But I’m also feeling upset that this is happening to them, because they are a really good person who has been on the business end of life’s cattle prod many times too often, and I hate that they have to go through this — especially as they are nearing retirement age, and no one should have to spend their later years in terrible physical condition.

I wish there were something I could do, but my neuropsych is a private citizen, and it would be inappropriate for me to try to contact them outside our clinical relationship. I feel very helpless – life is just doing what it’s doing, and I can’t really do anything to stop it. All I can do is adjust. And take care of myself.

I hate feeling selfish like this. It really bothers me, that my first thought is “What will happen to me?” I know that is not a reflection of my “highest self”. I am better than that.

So, I am doing something about it, and I am searching online for volunteer opportunities, to reach out and help others. I don’t want to be “that person”. I want to be better. I know how good it makes me feel to be reassured and assisted with things I don’t know about. I’m very independent, and having additional help from experts gives me some measure of reassurance I need, in the midst of what can be a very confusing and disorienting world. I have skills I can pass along to others who want to learn, and by offering others what I myself seek to have, that can get me out of my funk and keep the focus off me-me-me.

In all honesty, I need to be thinking this scenario through, anyway. My neuropsych is at the end of their career, and they’re not going to be practicing forever. I’m fortunate/unfortunate enough to have worked with them when they are at the high point of their professional practice, having spent decades refining their approach and having already had tons of experience with what works — and what doesn’t.

I’ve had the good sense to avail myself of their help when I’ve needed it. The thing is, I’ve done so much of my work by myself — and then checked in with them after the fact — that it’s not their guidance I rely on; it’s their assessment and feedback about what I’ve done and whether or not the result is what I was hoping for.

It’s been one big, fantastic science experiment, in all the best senses of the word, and I’ve really benefited. And to be honest, so have they. They’ve never directly told me the details about how my work has helped them, but they once mentioned to my spouse that it’s hugely encouraging for them to work with me, as I’m so intent on getting better and really putting in the work. They said that most of their brain injury survivor patients aren’t willing to do the work to really get better. How depressing that must be…

The working relationship has been mutually beneficial for sure. I know they’ve gotten better, themself, because the difference between how they are now and how they were when I first met them, is significant. When I first met them, they were much more tentative, spacy, and absent-minded. They would forget appointments with me, they seemed more hesitant in so many ways, and they didn’t have their act together with billing and business management details.

In the past six years, they’ve really stepped up their game, and I like to think that working with me has helped. In, fact, I’m sure of it. And the time when I went to meeting with them every other week, instead of every week, they seemed to regret not checking in with me each week.

I guess one of the things that’s kept me motivated over the past years, has been knowing that my progress was helping another person. Knowing that getting better myself was helpful to my neuropsych — which then made it possible for them to help others — has been a driving force behind my recovery. It’s not just about me. It’s about all of us.

This blog, too, has been a big part of my recovery, and hearing from folks that I’ve helped them, or they respond to things I write, has been a real boost for me in so many ways. My TBI recovery doesn’t just belong to me. It really belongs to all of us. I happen to benefit from it — and so do many, many others.

So, that keeps me going.

And I wish I could do more. I really do. There are so many brain-injured people suffering and alone and afraid, because of what’s happening inside their heads — and bodies — that they don’t fully understand. That goes for strokes, acquired brain injuries, and traumatic brain injuries, alike. We’re all a little bit different from each other, yet we have so much in common. And we need to focus on that commonality. The professional community stands to gain from divvying up our issues into different categories and disciplines, so they can mobilize their resources to address each aspect. But for those of us suffering from the symptoms and after-effects and ripple-effects of brain injury, this segmentation just makes things worse.

Those of us who have experienced brain injuries need to be connected with the larger world. We need to be involved in a community. And the way brain injury recovery is set up in this nation, is the worst way to handle things for us. It’s limited by insurance and the abilities and knowledge of people who are not adequately trained in brain injury issues, and who frankly run out of steam, because brain injury does such an unpredictable number on its “recipients”. Also, our loved-ones get the brunt of things, because they’re ultimately our last line of assistance, but nobody out there truly understands

Lord, we are exhausting.

So, those of us who can, need to do something about it. I have posted the Give Back training I downloaded to my site here http://brokenbrilliant.wordpress.com/brain-injury-association-resources/give-back-tbi-education-for-survivors-and-families/ I hope people will make use of it. The information has helped me so much, and I do need to go back to it… and I shall. With a fresh look, years after the first time I downloaded it and started to read it.

I have some other ideas about how to help… including more ideas for this blog. I’m getting a bit long-winded here, so I need to wrap it up… and also get on with my day visiting my family. I don’t get to see them that often, so I need to take advantage, and get on with my morning.

I’ll be driving back home later today — and it’s another gorgeous day — so I need to get my act together, get off my damn’ pity-pot, and make the most of what I have. Each and every day.

Onward.

Just being grateful solves a lot

I’ve been struggling a bit, lately, with some resentments and frustrations. Starting a new job and feeling like I’m new all over again has been a little tough. I want to know what I’m doing. I want to have expertise. But I have to go through the process of doing that. And after being alive and learning so many lessons for around 50 years, now, there’s a part of me that feels like I *should* know more than I do.

I know I need to learn in my current position. I need to learn who the people are, how to use the technical tools, how to navigate the political landscape, and so on.

I just get tired, I guess. I’ve been having some long days, lately, and things at work have been quite frantic, with a deadline suddenly looming, where none was just a week ago. It’s been a bit of a fire drill, to tell you the truth, and it’s taking a lot out of me.

I am also going to be traveling this weekend, so that means I have to do more to get ready. Sigh. At least I slept till 6:30 this morning, instead of waking up at 5:30.

Of course, I didn’t get to bed till after 11:00. Oh, well. At least I got about 7 hours of sleep. That’s better than I’ve been doing regularly, for quite some time.

So, the good part is, I’ve gotten some sleep. And another good part is, this seems like a company I can be productive and happy at, for the long run. It doesn’t feel like a contract, right now. It feels like the beginning of a permanent spot, and for the first time in years, I’m happy for that. I did feel that way, to some extent, at the last company I worked at… until they moved the office farther away, mixed up the organization, and screwed everything up.

I actually do miss my old friends from there — I’ve really been feeling that, lately. But I don’t miss the company. I’m just so glad to be done with them.

Anyway, back to the present. I’ve realized that with all my struggles and difficulties — feeling tired and disoriented and harried and a bit stressed over adjusting, not to mention a bit of political drama (already… it only took me 2 weeks to screw up) — the one thing that helps the most is gratitude. Sleep helps a bit, but it can wear off. Fatigue or restedness are not things I can will into or out-of existence.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is something I do have control over. I can change my frame of mind and change my attitude, and reach a place where I am really, truly grateful for everything I have around me. I look for the good, and I look for the benefits to the situations I’m in, and it really turns around my outlook and mood. In my darkest times, making a list of all the things I’m grateful for — especially good things that are buried in the midst of tough situations — brightens my outlook and lifts me up out of my funk.

Things at work right now are pretty challenging. I have a bunch of things on my plate that I need to sort out, and it doesn’t feel like I have the time or updated ability to do them properly. But they are big opportunities. So, today I’m starting out with gratitude and focusing on the things I can do, the lessons I can learn, and I’m concentrating on the positive things that will come out of it.

People at work are starting to warm up to me. And I’m learning the lay of the land. So, things are looking up. I just can’t let myself fall into a funk over stuff that’s transitory. The sources of stress and strain right now — the unfamiliarity, the uncertainty, the lack of connection with people — will all sort themselves out over time. I just can’t let the tone for my work be set by that temporary state. Not when a better permanent state is just around the corner.

I never know when things will turn around. So, I’ve got to keep steady and positive. And look to the brighter tomorrow. For so many good things that haven’t even come to me yet, I am truly grateful.

 

Getting into my routine

Feels really good. I managed to get to bed at a decent hour, last night, which was fantastic. I also took care of some chores around the house that needed to be done, which also felt good.

I’m settling into a daily routine I can live with, and it feels pretty awesome. Like I’m hitting my stride. It takes a while for me to get to this point, but I can be disciplined when I put my mind to it, so…

I’m figuring out the best way to exercise in the morning. I have to do at least something every day. Ride the exercise bike. Lift weights. Stretch. Do something. I work with people who are a whole lot healthier than the folks I worked with before, and it’s inspiring for me to see them being healthy and happy.

I’m also getting the logistics down. Learning my way around. I’m figuring out the best routes to drive to work… knowing when to get off the freeway and when to just hang in there, because traffic will ease up in another mile or so… finding my way around the building… getting to know the ins and outs of everything.

So, it’s starting to really come together, and I’m incredibly grateful for this.

Speaking of routine, it’s time to get ready for work.

Homing in on what’s been missing

It’s been a busy day. All of a sudden, it’s like the flood gates have opened on some creative impulses, and I have been in a bit of a writing frenzy, with the words just flowing onto the screen in front of me. I didn’t even realize just how much I’d been carried along, until I looked at the clock this morning around 10:40 and realized I needed to hustle before places closed early for the Memorial Day weekend.

So, off I went. To the stores. To the libraries. I picked up some books I scoped out online — and I decided against some others that seemed like they were good when I was looking at their listings on the library website, but turned out to be duds, when I held the real thing in my hands and paged through them.

Funny, how you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Or its write-up from Publisher’s Weekly.

I got home in the late afternoon, then I went to bed for a while. I napped for a little while, then I read for a little while.

Looking at my list of things to do today, it looks like I’ve been very, very busy. But it doesn’t feel like it. I’ve just been going along, doing my thing, enjoying the space to move in — space I haven’t had for years. I have another couple of days before I start my next job, so I have some time to spend on things I haven’t been able to think long and hard about for some time.

One of the things that really strikes me, right now, is how much freedom I’ve had to give up, for the sake of holding down a job. The position I had before was so demanding of my time and attention — it taxed me on every conceivable level, and I can’t say that the rewards really justified the effort required. On the other hand, I did develop a lot of ninja coping skills — especially for someone dealing with TBI — so I’m stronger now than I’ve been in a long time. Maybe ever. So, it’s not all been a loss.

But still, it’s really nice to not have to hassle with all that, anymore. I have some space and some time to really think things through — ideas I’ve been working on for a long, long time. Years, really. Ideas that came to me five, six, seven years ago, but never got a foothold because I was such a wreck, back in the day, and my last job gave me no time or space to work through them in depth.

It’s pretty tough to not be able to complete a complex thought all day, every day, in the workplace. It’s exhausting. And then I needed to recuperate on the weekends, with no hope of ever catching up. Not for real.

So, I’ve been in a holding pattern with regard to these projects. A serious, big-ass holding pattern. And it has sucked.

But it doesn’t have to suck anymore.

Now I can stretch out my cramped “wiring” and settle down for some serious thought. In ways that I haven’t been able to think in a long, long time.

The nice thing is, my ninja coping skills have toughened me up. It’s seriously like I’ve been pushed to the wall, week after week, month after month, year after year… and now my reward is… NOT being pushed anymore.

At least, not till Tuesday. Who knows what will happen then?

But I do know this — I will not be working 50-60 hours a week. I will not need to wake up at 5 for some damn’ conference call. I will not need to stay up till 10:30 at night troubleshooting stupid-ass technical problems with a rickety old system that was for sh*t. And I won’t have to drive all over creation to get to an office that’s wide open, incredibly loud and active and distracting… and then drive all over creation to drag my ass home again at night.

Now I can think.

Now I can ponder.

Now I can get back to being myself, instead of some corporate drone with no prospects other than what was right in front of me.

Now… what shall I do?

I guess my first undertaking is to figure out what’s really important to me. What needs to be worked on? What needs to be finished? What are the prospects of each of my projects, and how can I complete them and pass them on to other people who may find them interesting?

I actually have an old buddy at a prestigious university who is studying and teaching in an area that interests me — and which I’ve been writing about. I’ve read some of their work, and frankly it seems stunted. Defensive. Small. I’d like to write up some of my ideas and pass them along to them, for a slightly different perspective on things. I think it could enlarge their view.

It’s just my perspective, of course, and they may not think much of it. But we did have some very interesting exchanges when we were kids. We traded ideas like some kids trade baseball cards. And it was good. We both have fond memories of those discussions, and those memories have sustained us both into adulthood.

We got off to a good start.

So, now it may be time to jump-start that connection again. I’ve got lots of notes, many of which have been organized and typed up into coherence. With some rest and some reflection, I believe I can refine them even further, to make more sense to someone outside my head. The best part of this is that the discipline of organizing my notes for another person also helps solidify things in my mind, so I get clearer as well — and I find more practical use for the ideas I organize.

I’m being vague, I know. Sorry about that.

Bottom line is, I’ve now got some bandwidth to go back to thinking at length about things, and it’s good. I also feel much more confident about communicating with other people, so I can do something with the ideas I have… not just keep them locked up inside my head. I have some organizing and experimenting to do.

That’s whats been missing. And getting that part of my life back online is what matters most to me now.

So, onward.

Two more days… two more days…

It's moving behind me

It’s all quickly moving behind me

Whew. I am exhausted. I have been exhausted all week. Last week, too. The weekend was good – but then, I didn’t have to be at work. That’s what’s been so tiring — wrapping up, trying to tie up loose ends, and realizing that the amount of work they gave me and the conditions they had me working under, are still going to keep me from completing everything to my satisfaction and standards.

Still.

Which is one of the big reasons why I’m leaving. Maybe the biggest reason of all. That career-killer job is fading into the past — and I feel like I’m out in the West, flying along in a late-model convertible under wide blue skies, racing alongside a miles-long train, the cars all stretching out behind me in my rear-view mirror.

It feels like I’ve been the engine at the front of that train, and to lay that burden down now, is such a sweet relief.

Two more days… two more days… till I am free and clear and don’t have to do that commute, don’t have to work in that space, don’t have to constantly struggle with being the only person who does what I do — which is a critical piece of things, in fact.

Only two more days till I can be free of these particular inexperienced managers, the surly coworkers, the constantly shifting priorities that have dominated my working life for nearly four years. It seems like an eternity. Not four years.

But I only have to deal with these folks and the conditions they create for two more days.

Of course, the next situation I go into will have its share of challenges and problems. For sure. But I don’t have to drive an hour each way to get to and from the madness. And it’s amazing what you can do with some extra sleep — and exercise.

I’ll have more time in the morning, so I’ll be able to add the exercise back in, a couple of days a week. I have been so slammed with doing e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, that I haven’t had much room to breathe. Or exercise.

One of the other excellent things about my new workplace is that they are located in a huge, expansive corporate campus, which will give me room to move and breathe. I’ll be able to go out for a walk — and get somewhere. I’ll be able to get away from the office just by walking. No more claustrophobic feeling stuck and trapped.

Again, there are sure to be challenges and issues with the next situation. I’ll just have to roll with it. There are so many aspects of this new situation that suit me better, I can absorb the challenges along the way. No worries.

And I think about where my life can go, now. With extra time. With extra sleep. With extra movement. With a future. The company I’m leaving has absolutely nothing to offer me, that interests me. I’d have to do too much travel. I’d have to put up with too much crap. No way, no how, am I going to do that. It’s just not worth it to me. And too much competition. In my new spot, I’m there on a 2-3 year contract, so politically I’m out of the loop, and I don’t have to worry about who feels a certain way about me, and who doesn’t. I just show up, do my work, show results, and go home.

And get paid for the hours I work, without having the whole bonus thing hanging over my head.

It’s all good. It’s all very, very good.

So, now the challenge for me is keeping focused on the final things I need to sort out before I go. I have a lot that needs to get done, still, and the next 30 hours are going to be quite full. We don’t have a full day of work tomorrow, because of the long weekend, and I’ll be spending so much time saying good-bye to people, cleaning out my desk, etc., that I probably won’t get much done tomorrow, anyway.

So, I really just have one more day to get things together. A day and a few hours…

Unfortunate. But in anther 30 hours, that’s going to fall into the category of “Not My Problem”.

And that makes me very, very happy.

So, what do I need to do in the next 30 hours?

  • Write down the ways I do things and the urls for tools and sites I use, so others can have them to learn.
  • Make some videos of things I do, so people can watch how I do them.
  • Collect all the old emails that could be useful to me in the future, and forward them to myself.
  • Notify everyone I’ve been in touch with over the past five months that I’m leaving, and who they should contact in my stead.
  • Finalize some project plans that I’ve been working on.
  • List any outstanding items that need to be seen to.
  • Prepare my good-bye letter to everyone and collect all the names of people I need to communicate with.
  • Make a list of the all the people I want to stay in touch with (including folks who have already left), collect their personal information, and get in touch with them directly.
  • Do my regular breathing exercises to calm myself down and stay chilled out.
  • Stretch and maybe take a nap later today. No, scratch that – I just checked my calendar, and there will be no time for that.

I’ve got my hands full. But it’s all good. Today is one last push, where I’m totally focused on what is in front of me, and I’m doing my best to just hang in there while I can. After today… well, that’s it, really.

Then tomorrow at 1 p.m., it’s time to turn in my laptop, phone, badge, and say Adios, Amigas y Amigos!

At 1:15 p.m. tomorrow, it’s on to the next adventure, with three days of chilling out to do the things I love to do, and also prep for my new life. Do some laundry. Iron some shirts.

Which is much more like the old life I used to know, and loved so much.

Yes. It’s all good.

Two more days… two more days…

Onward.

Focusing on better things

Lose some... and win some too

Lose some… and WIN some too

This is my last week at the hell job I’ve been stuck in for the past four years. In so many ways, it has tested me. That’s not a bad thing, and maybe I needed to be tested in a lot of those ways.

But I’m done with that particular gauntlet now, and I’m ready to move on.

Before I go, though, I need to do what I can to really remember the good that has happened to me as a result of working there. That job gave me stability and a sense of continuity with the people around me (if not with the company as a whole) that was a good foundation for me.

I did an awful lot of recovering there — getting on my feet logistically… and socially, too. The environment is highly social, so I was really forced to connect with people in ways I had never done before, and on a scale much wider and deeper than I ever needed to before.

There’s something about everyone battling the same obstacles that brings a team together… though I think that it’s more effective to have actual obstacles, rather than artificial ones. Focus on the real enemy — the competition — rather than manufacturing artificial obstacles, such as an inefficient workspace, a long commute, difficult working conditions, inadequate budget, and a “lean” workforce that is so over-taxed, they don’t have time to actually enjoy the goodness of life.

But I’m skewing to the negative again.

Of course I’m doing it because I’m regretting having to leave. Or am I?

I know I’m regretting that I’m leaving my colleagues in a really tough spot. They have to do even more with even less, and it’s bothering me that they’re not getting the help they need. Then again, they’re all free to go as well. Anytime they like. Nobody is keeping them there, and they can leave, as well. It’s their choice. We all make our choices.

And in looking back at the last four years, I need to remember that — it was my choice to stay there, it was my choice to keep making a “go” of it. I could have thrown my full attention into developing the skills and abilities I needed to leave. It would have been slow going, but I could have done that and really made that the focus of my attention and energy.

But I didn’t. I chose to stick around. I chose to stay and make the best of it. And the opportunities that came my way… I said “no” to a lot of them. That was my choice. I had my reasons. I might not remember exactly what those reasons were, on down the line, but I have to trust myself that there really was a reason for staying.

Indeed, there was. And up until a month ago, plan as I might, there was not a good exit path open to me. I was actually committed to sticking out the summer with these folks — and possibly beyond — to get those major projects off the ground and to help with the usual summer rush work. The summer is an intense time at that company, because there are huge projects in the works that have a September deadline, and people all over the world have to pull together to make it happen. I have been sacrificing my summers for the past three years, to help make that happen, and I can’t say it’s been all that gratifying. It’s been good experience, which has paved the way to this new job. But it wasn’t much fun when it was happening.

Still, it served its purpose, and that’s what I have to believe about everything I’ve done at this company for the past four years. It’s all served a purpose, teaching me hard lessons, and paving the way to what’s next. For all the difficulties, I’ve become more resilient and resourceful. And for all the challenges, I’ve come to appreciate the good things in life all the more.

Before I started at this company, I just took certain things for granted — like technical expertise, adequate resources for critical positions, executive recognition of What Matters Most. And autonomy. I really took that for granted, because I’d been working in self-directed circumstances for over 20 years.

Seeing the other side of things, and realizing that no, things aren’t always organized in effective, efficient ways, has given me a new appreciation for those things — teamwork amongst team members… everyone pulling together as one. And now I value it so much more. Going on to this next job, I’m incredibly excited to be back in my “natural habitat” again — back amongst my professional peers who aren’t all making the same mistakes I made 15 years ago, and wondering “why did THAT happen?”

Oh, god…

Anyway, that’s rapidly disappearing into my rearview mirror. I’m sure there are things about the company I’m leaving, that I’ll really miss, later on. Or perhaps not at all. Who knows? All I know is, I’m moving on, and I have the whole world ahead of me. I have a new lease on life, and my other projects are picking up steam in a very big way. In another week, I won’t be glancing at the clock, dreading an hour-long commute. I won’t have to juggle my morning to schedule my drive to the office at a time that will strike a balance between minimizing my time in traffic and maximizing my productive time at work.

And I won’t have to hassle with that horrific open space plan.

Holy crap, those two things alone will make it more than worth the change.

Now I’m even more excited… and I’ll start getting ready for work in a few, to make one of my last drives into that office. I’m only going into the office one day this week, so this is #4… 3… 2… 1…

Time to get the game-face on and get into a good mindset. The past four years have seen tremendous growth for me, and I’ve come so far — in no small part because of my coworkers and the pressure they’ve put on me to integrate and socialize and be a real part of their team. They really have been a huge part of my life — my only social life, in fact. And I will miss them.

Well, some of them, anyway…

Regardless, in the next week, my primary purpose is to look for the good, find the good, see the opportunity, buckle down and finalize things that need finalizing. And do my best to tie up whatever loose ends I can, so I can leave my soon-to-be-former teammates with at least a fighting chance.

The day is waiting. Onward.