Taking a much-needed break today

So, I had a good session with my neuropsych yesterday. We ended up running pretty late, because there’s a lot to cover. As much as I have rebuilt my basic functionality, I still have work to do on my decision-making.

I may be at a point far beyond what I ever believed possible, in terms of human relationships and daily functioning, but I’m still really lagging, in terms of thinking things through. Prefrontal cortex and all that.

As it turns out, I’ve been making some really dangerous choices. I know I make iffy choices on a regular basis, but a lot of them I haven’t thought through well enough to realize just how dangerous they are. Driving down the road in undriveable conditions… having conversations with self-identified criminals, in relatively secluded areas… jumping on the back of a motorcycle with someone whose skill level I don’t know, and who pulls some extremely dangerous stunts along the way to where we’re going.

Thanks, mild TBI, for making my life so exciting.

Actually, it has made my life very exciting. And there are a lot of things that I’ve experienced, that most people wouldn’t, because their decision-making abilities are much better than mine.

So, yeah. I have some work to do. And when I got home last night, instead of exercising or reading or even watching television, I did a little bit of work to get oriented to a really challenging job I have on my plate. I didn’t overdo it, either. I worked for 45 minutes, while I ate my supper, and then I closed up shop and went to bed.

Smart. For once.

In the past, I would work till midnight, pushing through to make good headway — all the while producing work that was not nearly as excellent as it seemed at the time. I would waste a lot of time. I would also tire myself out more than is healthy, and I would suffer for days after that.

And so would my work.

It’s a multi-part conundrum. First, I’m not thinking things through as well as I might. Second, I get caught up in the work and feel so energized and alive, that I don’t want to stop. Third, I “get in a groove” and stop being responsible about how I use my time and energy. Another component of this, is wanting to wake myself up and feel more alive, feel more like myself, so I stress myself like crazy to get to a state that feels “normal” for me.

The only problem is, my “normal” is everyone else’s extreme.

And that doesn’t help.

So, today, instead of pushing myself to ACCOMPLISH THE IMPOSSIBLE this morning, I’m easing into the day. I worked out pretty thoroughly yesterday, with a longer bike ride than I originally planned, and some good all-around exercise, going pretty close to failure a couple of times. My body needs a break, to rebuild and recuperate, and I need a break to ease into my day. The nice thing is, I got a good night’s sleep last night — close to 8 hours — so although I am feeling foggy and a little dull this morning (and I can’t seem to spell to save my life – thank you spell-check, for helping me), I don’t have that crazy sense of being all jammed up that I often get to.

I really need to take a break. And I’m getting better at it. I’m actually able to consciously relax — which I am doing right now with my breathing and my state of mind and body — and it feels pretty awesome. This is a new skill for me — relaxation. And with practice I get better. So I’d better practice.

Taking a break is not, as I used to think, an interruption. It’s actually a chance for my whole system to catch up with myself. I’ve been juggling intermittently – not daily like I used to – and my skill level is actually improving each time. I don’t have to push myself past my limits every single day, in order to make good progress. If anything, pushing myself, then backing off for a little bit, then coming back to push myself, is working out much better.

And it feels fantastic.

I’m really looking forward to this day.

Onward.

Three days of freedom. Absolute freedom.

Time to just chill with the reading list

I’m OFF this weekend. That is to say, I have an extra day off work, which I will value and use to the best of my ability:

  • I’ll read whatever I like, wandering the internet (especially the free text sites — the Internet Archive, and Project Gutenberg)
  • I’ll write whatever I like, typing up the handwritten notes and thoughts I’ve collected over the past week
  • I’ll sleep whenever I want, taking plenty of naps and resting up from the past week
  • I’ll eat whatever I want, whenever I want — and I’ll fast, too. For the record, eating whatever I want means I’ll make healthy choices of the foods I have in my refrigerator and cupboards. At work they have a good salad bar, but that’s about all I can really eat in their establishment. Everything else is “standard fare” that doesn’t do me (or the other overweight people around me) much good.
  • I’ll exercise however I want. I had extra time this morning to lift heavier weights and get my blood pumping. It feels really good, right now, after that workout. And I know I’m on the right path.

The great thing about having an extra day off — especially with it being the holiday — is that all my noisy neighbors are gone. They’ve all gone off to their families’ lake or beach cottages to gather with their own friends and family. That means the neighborhood is

.  .  .  q   u   i   e   t  .  .  .

Deliciously, restoratively quiet.

There isn’t all sorts of random racket from my over-achieving Type-A uber-adult peers who can’t seem to leave the power tools alone on the weekends. There isn’t all sorts of activity, with cars and pickups and minivans pulling in and out of their driveways. And there isn’t a lot of yelling and screaming and banging and clunking coming from kids who are just doing what kids do, and have every right to do it… but who drive me nuts with all their noisy activity.

It’s good for everyone. Everybody else gets to do what they want to do, and I get to do what I need to do — rest, relax, take plenty of time to unwind and let my mind off its leash… And nobody has to be held back or put down by what anyone else is doing.

That’s all I really want — the ability to be free to be myself and pursue my own interests without having to waste time on interacting with other people who seem mainly interested in proving what fine citizens they are. I don’t need to prove that. Before I fell and hit my head in 2004, I needed to do that more than anything. I was in competition with the rest of the world to show that I was worth something, that I could do anything I set my mind to, that I was worth noticing and taking seriously.

After I fell — and my world fell apart — I learned the hard way, how important it is to not let that drive me. Now my life and my priorities are very, very different.

One thing about TBI, is that it teaches you to stand on your own, regardless of what others think. It teaches you to stand up for yourself and not take things for granted. It teaches you to keep a level head and just be who you are and how you are, regardless.  And it teaches you to value the simple things in life — a quiet long weekend, when the neighbors are all gone, the area is quiet, and you don’t have a million people clamoring for your attention and energy.

Now… what shall I look up on line…?

A regular week — hooray

………………….Please do!

Well, I learned my lesson, last week. I worked extra hours to make up for the time I was missing when I took the day off on Friday. And it was not fun. I really enjoyed my three days off – it was bliss. At the same time, when I was at work, it was extremely difficult, and I don’t care to repeat the experience. I did enough years of 12-14 hour days, and it’s time for me to be done with them.

So, the next time I take a day off work — a week from today, when I travel to see family members I have not seen in several years — I am going to make up some of the time, but not all of it. Plus, I was given an amazing gift of two days’ pay, totally out of the blue. So, I have some extra wiggle room. And I’ll now have money for gas.

I’m settling into my routine, now. I get up early, I exercise and have my breakfast, then I read for a while and write and think. It’s heaven. I am thinking in a much more focused manner, nowadays, which is nice. I’m just focusing on getting clear, on simplifying my thought patterns, and fine-tuning the way I reach conclusions.

This might sound heady and what-not, but for me and my TBI recovery, it’s really important. I believe — based on watching my life and the messes that I’ve been bogged down in, over the years — that many of my troubles happened because I was not thinking properly. My cognition (being able to pick up clues from the world around me, sort them out, and do the right thing with what I figure out) has been totally screwed up.

It’s been screwed up because my senses have been off. My wiring has been frayed and connected wrong. When I fell in 2004, I had no idea how badly I was hurt — or that I’d been hurt pretty badly a bunch of times over the course of my entire life. I had no concept of how much my brain and my thinking had been affected by all those TBIs (9, by my last count — possibly more, because my memory is so spotty in so many places).

But my wiring was screwed up, which stressed me out.

And when I am stressed, it’s hard for me to handle a lot of sensory input. I get extremely sensitive to sound and light and touch, and my system is so busy trying to sort out the sensations and keep myself from freaking out, that I can’t think clearly about the “higher level” stuff. At all.

So, calming down my system so it’s not so stressed out, has been a big part of my recovery. Just taking the edge off the stress has become a top priority for me. That helps me think, because it tones down the sensory issues, so my brain can actually figure out how to do things — and do them better. It’s a whole lot easier to think, when your body isn’t screaming in pain over every little thing.

Y’know?

The other thing that’s done wonders for me, is starting out slow and methodical with everything I do, building up the right habits to follow, one step at a time, and then repeating those steps over and over and over, till they become ingrained habit that I don’t have to think about anymore. Making a list of steps to follow in the morning when I get ready for work, and then sticking with that list for six months, made all the difference. Even when everyone around me said I really shouldn’t need that list, and they got upset seeing me use it, I still stuck with my list, and it trained me to do things in a specific way that I am still doing today, years later. It routinized my daily life — the parts that should be routinized — so I don’t have to think about them.

I’m in the process of re-routinizing my life again — a new schedule for my daily work. A new direction and focus for my mind. And I know that this is the right thing for me to do, because going back to how things were before was brutal. And it sucked. So, I’m not doing that again. Not if I can help it, anyway.

Speaking of new routines, it’s time for me to get ready for work.

Onward.

Not giving in

Ha – just try me ;)

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about my processing speed. I’ve been feeling dull and stupid — probably because of my new job that has me sitting on the sidelines and training, before I dive in — and I’m not putting 2 and 2 together quite as well as I’d like.

At least, not yet.

I know I’ve only been on the job three weeks, but I feel like I should be more coherent. I’m having a lot of trouble expressing myself, and I have to really think about what I’m going to say before I say it. I’ve been looking around online to find sites that can teach me how to organize my thoughts. This is getting on my nerves, and I’m starting to get a complex about it. I want to be in the flow, getting live experience… but they have me sidelined, just watching, as though that’s going to help anything.

I know I’m not the only one who’s feeling this. The other two folks who joined when I did are also feeling sidelined and underutilized. We all want to get going and make things happen, and we don’t have that opportunity just yet. We have to learn by doing, but everyone is so afraid of making a mistake, we can’t move forward.

Argh!

My processing speed, as I mentioned, is really troubling me. I know I have a lot of new information I need to integrate and learn to use. So, I need to cut myself a break, relax and recuperate, and give myself time to breathe and settle in. I’m doing that this weekend, occupying my attention with things other than work, relaxing, taking it easy, getting some exercise (which really helps), and checking in with myself about what matters most to me in my life.

I just need to trust the whole process and know that in time I will learn, things will make sense to me, and I’ll have sufficient experience to draw on to make the right decisions about the right things. I need to keep my spirits up, not let on how dejected I get, and keep positive, no matter what. The people around me at work are typical Americans — they need me to be positive and up-beat and can-do, use all the catch-phrases and industry jargon. There’s no room for realism and acknowledging human limits as just part of everyday life. That’s just depressing! And it’s not how Americans are supposed to believe and behave!  At least, not the overachieving top performers that they all aspire to be.

One of the things that makes this job more challenging than need be, is that everyone there is convinced that their company is special and unique and totally unlike anything else on the planet. Silly. They remind me of plenty of other companies I’ve worked for — and they start to squirm when I say so.

I suppose having that sense that they’re unlike any other company helps with fostering a sense of community and “tribe”. Us against them. All that. The thing is, they’re not really that essentially different from other companies. They have their way of doing things, which is just a learned thing. And they have their specific “pain points” that they need to deal with. They design and produce technology. They’re very successful at it, but really, they’re in the same business as countless other technology companies, and they can simply get over themselves, as far as I’m concerned.

Well, fortunately I’ve got two more days before I go back to work AND I only have to work 8 hours a day, this coming week, instead of 10-11. So there. I’m expecting to work longer hours a couple more times in the next month, but then again, maybe I don’t need to work ALL those extra hours. Doing the 10-hr thing gets old. I did it before – for years – and it’s a relief to not have to do it.

Plus, what a huge deal, to get to have an hour or two in the morning to work on my own projects, before going into the office. And getting home at a decent hour… Truly awesome.

So, maybe I put in an extra hour or two, when I have to take time off. Maybe I don’t. Either way, I need to just do what I need to do, to keep my system balanced out. Just relax. And not give in to the anxiety and neurosis. Just let myself be. And be done with it.

I was getting a little peeved at a coworker who’s supposed to be training me. Rather than training me, they’re avoiding me, and they have not been inclusive at all. It’s a little annoying. They think they’re just supposed to be my “buddy” and answer questions when I have them. But our boss says I’m supposed to shadow them. I’m not keen on making a nuisance of myself, but I do need to get trained, and I do need to shadow them. They’re not inviting me to the meetings they should be. They’re actually cutting me out. So, I need our boss to clarify and make sure everyone is clear about what needs to happen.

It’s almost like they just want me to go away, which doesn’t make any sense, because they’re overworked and they need the help. I’m not going to be any use, if they don’t make the effort to train me.

But I can’t give in to paranoia. They don’t even know me yet, and a lot of people don’t think much of me when they meet me the first time. They just don’t realize what I can do, what I’m capable of achieving — and how it benefits them. I’ve got to give it time. Most people I work closely with develop issues with me until they get to know me, so I’ll just need to keep steady and let them sort out their own personal problems.

They’re not my problems.

So, that being said, I’ve had enough of thinking about that person and the situation. The weather is clearing, and I’m going to the beach later today. I’ve got some excellent reading and writing slated for this morning — I’ve gotten some great ideas from a book I’m reading… and I’m writing something to go along with it, to help me understand my own viewpoint on the subject.

It’s all in the spirit of kick-starting my brain and getting myself back into the groove of critical thinking and organizing my thoughts more clearly. Much of what I’m writing these days — aside from this blog — is personal and private and I’m not sharing much of it with anyone. I do share some of it with my spouse, and if they understand it then I know I’m on the right track, because they don’t get caught up in all the mental gymnastics that go along with intellectualizing and what-not.

So, it’s all good. I’m getting good rest and taking care of myself and easing off on the anxiety about my performance at work. For the first time in probably ever, I feel like I’m really at the right place in my life at this time — and I’m right where I always dreamed I would be, at this point in my life.

I just realized that the other day — I’m actually right where I wanted to find myself, on down the line. I’m at a place that I envisioned for myself, when I was a kid mixing up home-grown chemistry experiments in my basement, and recording the results in a composition book (note to self: I really need to find that old chemistry experiment notebook – it’s in storage somewhere). I’ve got a study of my own, with books I love and can turn to. I have a desk with a great view of my back yard, and I have the time in the day and week to really dig in and tease out the things that fascinate me. I have room to move and explore, and I’m not tied down by any licensing body or regulatory commission that’s going to stop me from pushing the limits of my understanding.

It’s all good. I was lost for a long time, dealing with life and all the challenges that came with health issues, money issues, family issues, relationship dramas, and so forth. I’ve been through a ton of sh*t that a lot of people never encounter till later. And while I might not have it all figured out, I have sufficient experience to know how to begin approaching the Big Problems of my life.

It’s all good. It truly is.

Now, onward….

Setting a new pace

Picking up the pace – just the way I like

For the first time in months, I got up this morning and exercised. It’s been way too long. I’ve exercised on and off, over the past couple of years — more off than on.

And I’ve missed it.

A lot.

The thing is, I don’t realize how much I miss it, until I’m doing it again and I remember. It’s getting me doing it again – just starting – that is the monumental challenge. I feel like I’m delaying getting on with my day, and I’m not using my time productively — though for what reason, I cannot tell.

I think it has had to do with the fact of my commute. And the feeling that I’ve had for years, that I am behind on my work, I am not making any progress, and the life force is being sapped out of me, slowly but surely, but the frustrations of that job. I’ve felt like I’ve had so little bandwidth, so little time and space for myself to just think, that I’ve coveted every last moment of free time to spend on myself and my own activities.

I think another factor has been starting to read again. Now that I am reading again, I just want to spend all my time reading, thinking, writing… My short-term working memory feels like it’s improved dramatically — or at least I’ve come up with new and different ways to think about things, so that I can remember them that much better. In any case, I don’t feel confused and feel like I’ve permanently lost my way when I’m reading, anymore. When I feel like I’ve lost the train of thought, I just back up to where I remember having read something, and I just re-read.

And if I find I’m getting pulled off in all sorts of different directions by a lot of conflicting distracting thoughts — or my head is going nuts with thinking about a ton of different stuff that’s related to what I’m reading and builds on it further in new directions — I just take a break. Or I write things down for future reference.

Now that I’m reading again, and I’m retaining it — or at least have the sense that I’m comprehending what I’m reading — it’s all I want to do. Read and write. And share.

My presentation at that community gathering went extremely well, last week. I nailed it, I do believe. And I am looking forward to doing more public speaking in the future. It really gives me a lot of energy, to stand in front of a room of people and present on something I know about. I get so excited about it, and others pick up on my excitement, as well. It’s really gratifying to share what I know with others — and to realize that I can actually do this.

It’s massive progress, compared to where I was just a few years ago. A few years ago, I was so deep in muddling through the disconnects in my brain, that I could not begin to even think of doing public presentations. I had done presentations at work in the past before my fall in 2004, and they went well, but I never actually thought much of them. They were just one more blip in the sea of churning input and data that made no sense to me and had very little rhyme or reason. After I fell, my thoughts became so disorganized, the idea of getting up in front of anyone and speaking — even according to a script — turned into an impossible prospect.

It’s taken years, but I am finally past that. Even better, I am really presenting and interacting with my audience — not just talking to a script and getting the hell out of the room as quickly as possible. I spent much more time last week on taking follow-up questions and discussing my presentation with people after the meeting, than I did actually making the presentation. And that’s a HUGE sign of progress for me.

HUGE.

I was able to not only present, but also really flow with it — improvise when I came to a slide and I couldn’t remember the exact words I intended to say. I had intensely practiced my presentation a lot over the past days, and I had practiced recovering from flubbing up many times, too. So, I was able to keep going. After all, whatever I said that seemed “wrong” in my head, was perfectly fine with everyone else, because they didn’t know what I was “supposed” to say, and the things I did say were relevant to the discussion.

After the presentation, we had Q&A, and I took a bunch of questions. Probably about five or six. And I did them so well, that the questions kept coming and they had to cut me off, to make room for everyone else. I was able to then sit down and pay attention to what the other speakers were saying — there were two that followed me. I didn’t let anxiety about how I did distract me. I didn’t sit there and fret about whether I did well or not, what I remembered, what I forgot, and those places where I stumbled and messed up. I just let it go, and I moved on to the next experience, trusting that I had done my best and it was perfectly fine.

After the meeting, I chatted with a number of folks, who had interesting things to say and some useful information to share.

It was a good meeting, it was a fantastic experience. And I am really looking forward to more opportunities to speak in public.

What a hoot. When I think back to five, six years ago… there is no way I felt that being a public speaker was in reach for me. No way. I dreamed about it, I thought about it, but I didn’t actually have the sense that it would ever truly happen for me. I was too caught up in my issues, too muddled, too confused, too insecure and frazzled by everything life threw at me. There was no way I would have guessed at the time that I’d actually be standing up in front of a room of 70 strangers, talking about something that meant a lot to me.

I had actually tried to do that sort of thing, several years before. I think it was not long after I had fallen and got all jumbled up. I actually had a pretty successful presentation, but the whole experience was so overwhelming for me, I effectively went “underground” and never dared venture forth again. There were too many people, there were too many questions, there was too much energy. I just couldn’t deal. At all.

This time was nothing like that. It was the complete opposite.

And it feels like a stepping-stone to the next stage for me… a gateway to what else is possible in my life. I have a new direction, I have a new sense of what I’m truly capable of, and with my new job and new schedule, I can truly take the steps I need to take, to move in a different direction with my life, at a pace that suits me — not that’s dictated by the outside world.

It’s all good.

Onward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Finally got to sleep last night

Getting ready for action

I’m giving notice today.

This weekend has been a tough one. Looking back, I can think of 20 different things I could have done differently to make it easier and more enjoyable for myself, but I did the best I could, under the circumstances. I really should have exercised more… but that’s water under the bridge, and I was so stressed and nervous about how I will handle myself today when I give notice… I could really feel it, with my blood pressure surging, my anxiety at an all-time high, adrenaline pumping through my veins non-stop, and all the thoughts in my head going wild — not a good feeling.

I’ll be very happy when today is over, and I can start transitioning to my next job.

Last night, I started to bed early-ish (10:30) and had every intention of getting to sleep as soon as possible. I was so tired — wiped out — I thought I’d be able to easily fall asleep.

Untrue.

I tossed and turned for another hour… then past that… all the anxiety pumping through me, the sadness, the upset, the frustration, the anger, the resentment, the regret, the loss… all of it. I could not get comfortable AND my head would not shut up.

The same thing happened to me earlier on Sunday, when I tried to take a nap. It just wasn’t happening. So, I just lay there and tried to relax. It was something. But I really needed the sleep instead. Oh, well.

So, last night (or rather, this morning) as the clock ticked farther and farther past midnight, I read my Legends of the Samurai book. That always helps me put things in perspective. Reading about warriors who overcame odds and did an elegant job of it (or who screwed up and were disgraced, but still survived) is a great mental tune-up for me. The stories are so basic, so fundamental, so human. Stories of courage and cunning, betrayal and defeat, uprisings and victory… just the sort of things I need to read about, to put my own mind at ease.

The main thing is finding a way to not feel so alone. When I read about the obstacles those warriors had to overcome, all those hundreds of years ago, it reminds me that I’m not the only one who has to face these sorts of things — and yes, it can be done with intelligence and skill.

I don’t know how today is going to go for me. I’m sure it will be challenging.

If nothing else, it will be an experience.

I just need to stay strong, not let others beat me down and treat me like crap and take out their frustrations on me. I need to stand my ground and just do what needs to be done. And be quit of this multinational corporation that cares about me even less than it cares about its office furniture.

Onward.

Rest is my friend – five things that changed my habits for the better

Go to sleep, I’m a bear… Wake up, I’m better.

Today is another “on” day for me. Yesterday I had to step away from my LIST of to-do items that I’d put together on Friday, and just move at a more restful pace. I’ve been pushing pretty hard all week, with a lot of good ideas which promise to bring good things to me.

But by Saturday morning, all the Activity caught up with me, and I had to just back off a bit. I juggled a bit in the morning, wrote a little bit, then got together with friends, took a long nap, and got up to do a little bit here and there in the evening.

All in all, it was a good day. There were some things I was really hoping to get done (some that I really needed to get done), but I didn’t. And that’s that. I don’t really care, right now. The main thing was, I got some rest, caught up with myself, and gave myself some breathing room.

That’s important. I tend to push myself so hard — overachiever that I am — that I don’t give myself enough down-time to recoup. And that is far more damaging than any lack of ambition or “failure to launch”. Overwork and overtrainng are all very well and good for the short term. I almost have to do it, sometimes, to get things to lodge in my brain permanently.

But every single day of every single week of every single month of every single year?

Thankfully, I’m learning to do things differently.

It’s interesting, what changed that mindset for me. Most of the time, I try to overpower my unhealthy tendencies with raw, brute force. Willpower. Resolve. Even a bit of guilt. But that doesn’t work. What does work, is introducing a new piece of information into the mix that provides a better Idea about what will be most effective.

Case in point: Rest. And its importance.

I have intellectually “known” for a long time that rest is important. It helps the brain consolidate memories. It helps the body remove toxins from the brain. It is important for rebuilding the capabilities that you’ve fried, in the course of everyday overwork.  I know that rest helps me keep emotionally centered, as well. It keeps me from snapping out. It keeps me from getting depressed. It gives me a great sense of well-being and ability.

But have I made a point of getting to bed at a decent time and sleeping all the way through the night?

Until recently, not so much. I “knew” I was supposed to, I had the whole raft of ideas about how helpful it was. But not until I had an Experience of the incredible help that rest gives me, have I enthusiastically gone to bed at a decent hour — during the week before 11 p.m., on the weekends, before midnight.

What changed things? Having a bunch of good great experiences with Rest, that really brought home how much it helps me.

First, actually being able to rest in bed has been huge. I bought a new bed a couple of weeks ago, and ever since then, I have not had any trouble falling asleep. I used to lie in bed for hours, unable to sleep. I couldn’t afford a new bed. And I had to make do with what I had. But it was rough. I never actually put it together that the problem was the bed. I figured it was just how things were. For some reason I didn’t get that the lumpy mattress that wasn’t flat and forced me to balance my weight in different ways was keeping me up. Now that I have a new bed which is exactly flat and very firm, I have been falling asleep almost immediately. The only times I don’t, are when my body is seizing up from not stretching enough. But when I get out of bed and stretch, I’m able to relax, and I fall right to sleep. And I sleep pretty much through the night — except when I wake up in a sweat, which has been happening lately, with the change of seasons and the stresses at work. Now, when I think about going to bed, I don’t dread it because I expect to lie there for hours, unable to sleep.

Second, waking up rested is a whole new thing for me that puts a whole different spin on my day. I’m actually semi-functional, first thing in the morning. And with my rocket-fuel coffee that gets me going, my mornings are now something I look forward to, and get myself out of bed for. I wake up feeling so great, that I can’t wait to get to bed at night, so I can have that feeling again.

Third, getting a little bit of rest at work in the afternoons, has completely transformed my days. I used to really dread my days, because I would burn through all my energy by noontime — if not before. Then I’d spend the rest of the day scrambling to keep up, feeling like crap, eating junk food that would rev me up and make me crash, offsetting that effect with more coffee… and more coffee… and more coffee… and ending up so wired by the evening, that I could not fall sleep, even if I was on a decent bed. Taking a quick power nap for 20 minutes in the afternoon, when I just can’t go on anymore, has completely turned that around. Now I know the pressure is off, and if I need to step away and take a nap — or just close my eyes for a short while — I can do it. I generally keep a couple of hours open and free of scheduled meetings, most afternoons of my week, just so I know I can step away, if need be. And I do it. It makes all the difference in the world, to sleep — or simply relax. The boost I get, coming back after a nap, not only makes me more productive, but it makes me feel so much better about myself and my abilities, that I actually don’t mind being at work. I don’t dread and resent it the way I used to, which is a real blessing.

Fourth, learning to juggle much faster than I thought possible — after giving myself time to rest in between practice sessions — is truly inspirational. I love having this feeling of surprise and delight that I can actually keep more than one ball in the air. I never thought I could juggle. I tried many times in the past, and it never “worked”. But now I am learning pretty quickly, and the thing that seems to make the difference, is Rest.

The first day I was trying to keep a couple of balls in the air, I did it for a count of 42, max.

Then 37 times.

Then 35.

Things were clearly not improving, so I lay down and took a nap.

And when I got up, I kept the balls in the air for 135 tosses. That’s quite the improvement. What a confidence-booster! And I credit Rest for that.

Last but not least, I like myself a whole lot better when I’m rested. I am much easier to live with — both inside my head and outside. I have a higher tolerance for frustration. I can think more clearly about things to come up with good solutions. I don’t have the same temper flares, my fuse is a lot longer, and I don’t have the extreme outbursts that come when I’m really wiped out. Just the other evening, after helping a friend move, I started harassing my spouse about something they had done that was troublesome, but not exactly catastrophic. I had it in my head that if they kept doing this, Something Would Go Terribly Wrong, and I needed to “nip it in the bud”, so to speak.

The net result was that we were both pretty unhappy by the time the conversation was through, and I felt like sh*t as a result. There was no need for me to go off like that, but I did. Because I was tired. Getting more rest over the next few days did wonders for my mood and my stability. Too bad my spouse is the kind of person who holds grudges. They’ve recovered less well than I have. (But that’s on them – I’m not responsible for their state of mind, much as they’d like me to be.)

Now Rest is my friend. We’re on good terms. What a difference Good Rest makes.

After this long week…

I am ready for a break. Not so much a break from work, as break from pointless stupidity. What is wrong with people, that they must create so much drama? I just don’t know.

But I don’t need to think about that for another two days. So, I won’t.

I really need to focus on what I want, what interests me, what I enjoy, what makes me happy, what makes me better. I have spent way too much time in my life struggling and battling my demons, working so hard to overcome obstacles, and just trying to get some semblance of normality back in my life.

I’m now dug out from under mountains of old debt that got racked up from bad decisions and lousy impulse control. I have a much clearer vision of what I can do for work, and I have some projects which are really helping me get my act together, hone my thinking, and build self-confidence and resilience.

I’m still going to work on myself — only now I’m working to get better, not just get back from being bad.

And all this work requires rest. I have been reading a lot, I have been working a lot, I have been planning and learning and dreaming a lot.

Now I need to rest. To give it all a break and let my body and brain regroup and recoup.

But before I go, let me share this with you – it’s a game that supposedly improves your intelligence. It’s called Dual N-Back, and it’s about remembering sounds and positions of items. It’s free, and it’s at http://www.soakyourhead.com/Default.aspx. You have to have a web browser that has Silverlight on it, but that’s not hard to get — unless you’re at your local library or on someone else’s computer.

I’ve been playing a little bit, and I’m surprised at how well I’m doing.

But seriously. I need to take a break now.

It’s been a really, really long week.

More later…

Onward.

 

 

 

 

Making the most of my time

I had a very interesting experience yesterday. And today. I started practicing juggling a couple of balls, to rewire my brain and explore some neuroplasticity. I thought it went pretty well. I was able to juggle two balls for about 40 tosses. Then I would find myself getting distracted, and I would drop one of the balls. I noticed my scores were getting worse — from 42 to 35 to 34…

So I stopped for the afternoon and took a nap.

When I got up, I tried it again, and although I wasn’t counting, I was able to juggle the balls much more fluidly, much more easily, and I’m sure considerably longer than 34 tosses.

I practiced a little bit yesterday, then I tried again today.

And this morning I was able to juggle two balls for 136 tosses.

That’s amazing progress.

And the best part is, I didn’t have to force it, I didn’t have to push it. I just relaxed and let the muscle memory that had built up yesterday take over.

Sweet.

I have half of Sunday left, to rest and relax. I didn’t get as much sleep as I wanted, last night, so I do need a nap. I’ve been reading some motivational info this morning, and it’s been really good. I’ve also been taking a long, hard look at the ideas I have about myself that hold me back and seem to be killing my dreams on a regular basis.

A lot of what I believe seems rooted in past impressions — not memories, exactly, because my memory is kind of crappy. But impressions and emotions I have about who I am and what I am capable of doing with my life.

At this point, I the best use of my time is to take another nap. Let the information sink in. Let my brain catch up. Don’t push myself so hard, as I usually do. Just let myself be…

And rest.