Putting Anxiety to Good Use

river winding through green landscape

I had a really good weekend. I made a lot of progress, and I got a lot of plans in place that I think are really going to help me get stuff done. I didn’t clean my gutters, which I really needed to do. And there were a few other things I need to do this morning, to catch up. But all in all, it was a good and satisfying weekend.

My top achievement was getting rid of some serious distractions that have been pulling my attention in all different ways. Those are old projects I was very fond of… and that I was very fond of thinking I’d ever finish. As it turns out, because I had too many things going at the same time, I never advanced down the path I was hoping to, which resulted in me getting nothing done.

So, that’s stopped.

And that’s a big deal for me. Because distraction and dissipate have been regular themes in my life, for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure what’s changed with me, but suddenly I don’t feel drawn to spread myself so thin.

Part of it might be getting a hold of my anxiety. Or just using it for something productive, instead of trying to get rid of it entirely. For quite some time, I’ve tried to manage my anxiety by calming myself down. But at the end of last week, I realized that anxiety is actually a really potent source of energy for me. And it’s constant. It never really goes away.

So, I can use up all my time and energy and attention trying to control / manage something that’s always there, anyway. Or I can redirect the energy into something productive. And really kick it.

That’s what I’ve been doing for the past several days. Kicking it, using my anxiety. Not trying to calm myself down, but directing my energy into something useful. Making plans. Creating a new pace for myself. Letting that old companion anxiety propel me forward…  Turning that often-unwelcome companion into a friend.

And it’s working out pretty well, I have to say. After years and years of being so dissipated and distracted by, well, just about everything, I feel like I have a much better understanding of how my system works — and how it can work for me.

Of course, none of this would have been possible, if I hadn’t worked at my TBI recovery intentionally and with a lot of trial-and-error. I can tell my brain is behaving more, these days, because I’m actually able to focus. I used to be able to do it, at will. Then I fell in 2004, and that went away. I couldn’t manage much of anything, concentration-wise. That’s something that’s come back over time, with lots and lots of practice and (again) trial-and-error. I’ve let myself make mistakes. That’s how I learn. And I gave up worrying about “failure” in the process, which always helps.

So, yes. This is good. I’ve got my mandate for the next year — maybe two. I’m only focusing on one major project, for 2019, funneling my anxious energy into taking steps to do something about each hurdle I come up against — which are many. I will keep this blog going, because it helps me keep my head on straight and also keep focused on what’s most important to me. But I’m not working on a bunch of other side projects that I had going, lo those many years.

And, ironically, that tames my anxiety. Using it for something good not only lets it just be without judgment or blockage, but it also gives it somewhere to go. Like a rushing river, when I let it just flow and direct it in a certain direction, it takes me on some really interesting turns. Instead of damming it up and trying to control it, I just let it flow… and I ride that wave.

Which is good.

And overdue.

Onward.

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Taking it easy… sort of

work sign showing person shoveling a pile of dirtI’m doing my version of “taking it easy” today.

Basically, I’m working on my projects that have been on the back burner for weeks and weeks. Five weeks, pretty much. Count them – five. Ouch. Especially considering how psyched I was about finally getting back into them, about a month ago.

Then I had to travel.

Then I got tired.

Then I had to travel some more.

Then I was exhausted.

I’ve spent the past week swamped at work – two very late-night working sessions, and both nights not getting much sleep at all.

It was really demoralizing and depleting.

But — ha! — now I’m back.

I’ve had the whole day to myself today, to do as I pleased. And it’s been good. I didn’t do the errands I typically have to do on Saturday mornings, because, well, they’ll keep. Those errands aren’t going anywhere, and I needed the down time… the time to just sink into my passion projects and not be governed by someone else’s timeframes, deadlines, limitations.

Even though I worked really hard, this morning, it was very much a vacation from all the intense work at the office, as well as the care-taking for my spouse. Oh, also, my spouse has been ill, so I’ve been doing even more care-taking this week, than I did when we were traveling. And that’s a lot. Nearly constant attention paid. Lots of interruptions. And a trip to the doctor, as well as wrangling with the pharmacist who didn’t understand why I was asking all those questions about the type of medication that was prescribed. My spouse is extremely sensitive to meds, and the pills given before made them violently ill.

So, yeah. I’m going to ask questions. Too bad. At least I kept my wits about me and didn’t yell at anyone. That’s helpful.

Anyway, I spent a great deal of time this morning (and early afternoon) mapping out specific steps I can follow to make the most of my time and not make myself crazy in the process. Now that I have it figured out (mostly), I can move forward.

I hate not knowing what direction to take. It stops me. It blocks me. I’m not a fan.

Anyway, duty calls. I’ve got some things I must take care of this evening, so I’ll sign off for now. I am very much looking forward to this next week, when I’ll have five days off work… to continue to make progress.

 

Worried… but not too bad

Namibia DesertI haven’t gotten much sleep, the past few days. Yesterday I had to work overnight, and even though the whole job only took an hour, I couldn’t get to sleep afterwards till 4:30 a.m. And then I had to get up for an early meeting. So, I’m kind of ruined, right now.

Well, it happens.

Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often. But I still hate that it happens.

I have to get myself back on track with sleeping, so I’m calling it an early night, tonight. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to sleep before 10:00. We’ll see.

Sleep is such an important thing for me. If I fall behind, I get very anxious, because I know what it does to me when I get too tired.

But I can’t worry about it. I have a full weekend coming up, then I have five days off for Thanksgiving. And I’m figuring out what I’m going to do with all that extra time.

Hint: Writing and blogging are a big part of it. I can’t wait.

Finally got this ohine business figured out…

For my work, I often need to be on the phone. And I have to do it at all hours. Sometimes I have to work overnights, which is just not good. But I have to do it.

The big problem is that I have to use my personal mobile phone (and data) for work. It’s not right, and it seems unethical to make me foot the bill for that big part of my day job. But it is what it is.

I have my work/life phone all properly configured to be secure and protected. What a pain it was to do that. It took a long time and I don’t care to set it up again anytime soon.

But that’s what I thought I was going to have to do, when I got myself a new, better phone. Groan. I just hated the idea. But I’d switches SIM cards, and there was no going back. I had yo have a new phone.

Then, lo and behold, I discovered that most of the stuff I use my old work phone for has nothing to do with calling. I use it for Skype, Whatsapp, calendar, and email. That can all be done on any old wireless connection.

I don’t need a SIM card for any of that.

So, two problems solved:

    I don’t have to use my personal plan to pay for my employer’s foolishness
    I can finally get my personal activities separate from my work.

Ha! Major bonus!

Onward!

For old time’s sake

rowboat at docksJust got back from visiting with a friend from 30+ years ago. I’m still pretty wobbly from my travels, but it was great to see them.

It’s wild, how some people can just stay so steady over time. Every time we get together – every couple of years or so – it’s like we’ve evolved in the same direction.

Cool.

Plus, they are doing some really cool research that’s taking them all over the world.

Again, cool.

I live hearing about people doing well. Especially since this friend sustained a moderate brain injury when they were young, and now – through continuous work – they are really doing some great things.

Cool.

I’ve missed this

I have to say, I have missed this blog. I’ve been so busy, over the past year or so that I just haven’t done this justice. Or maybe it just felt like I was repeating myself and I was boring my own self.

That’s been known to happen 😏

But things have both leveled out and become chaotically familiar. And I’m not as scattered as I was before. So, it’s time to go a bit deeper with certain parts of my life and really find out what’s there. We don’t have enough depth, in my opinion, so rather than complaining, I’m going to do something about it.

One of the things I need to do is get $$$ support for this blog. I’ve been wanting to do it for years, but I’m feeling even more impetus to do it now. I’ve experienced a pretty amazing recovery from a long series of mild TBIs and I feel this intense drive to pass on what I’ve learned.

It’s worked for me. I need to help others, as well.

And I need to do it on a much larger scale than I have been. So, I’m going to put some thought into how to do that.

If you have any suggestions, let me know.

And that’s all for now.

Ha! No sooner do I say I’ll be blogging more regularly, than I drop out of sight

merry go round with city in background

Think of that promise as me being on a merry go ’round and waving as I ride by… then I disappear for a while. I wanted to do better, I really did. But then life happened.

But I’ve dropped out of sight for a reason. I’ve been traveling for the past three weeks – one week for a business trip, two weeks for a working vacation with my spouse. This weekend will be the first I’m able to sit down with some uninterrupted time to blog (and think) in nearly a month. I was intending to spend time blogging over the past two weeks, while my spouse was busy at their conference, but it turned out they needed a lot more help than I’d anticipated. So, I spent most of my time taking care of them.

It takes me quite some time to get myself ready for my business trips, with all the coordination with my fellow travelers, not to mention setting up meetings with people where I’m going. And I have to get my spouse squared away with their needs and requirements, making sure they have the right food and medication on hand, making sure they have their time scheduled properly for when I’m away, and doing everything up front that I normally do while I’m home.

Nobody at the office seems to realize how much work it is to go on these trips. They all act like it’s no big deal, but it’s so much more effort and attention for me.

And when I travel with my spouse, it’s even more demanding, because they have a lot of special needs, and I have to ensure that they’re totally taken care of. Sometimes I “nail” it, sometimes I don’t. Usually, it’s a mix. And then I have to scramble all the more to make up for my misses, during the trip.

Long story short, it takes A LOT for me to travel. But I do it anyway.

And now I’m back. With lots of amazing insights from the past three weeks.

I’ll be able to say more later. But for now, I’ve gotta got get some food in the house and catch up on my sleep.

It’s good to be back home again.

Onward.

Getting my balance back — and getting to a stopping place

picture of road on wall with crackled paintWell, that was exciting… The summer (thank heavens) is over, and now I can get my life back.

I don’t do well in the summertime. It’s a shame, because everybody else seems to have such a great time with it, running around, doing so much, getting suntans and extra exercise.

I, on the other hand, am not a fan. There are too many hours of sunlight in the day. And the days are hot… wet… uncomfortable in general. I’m sensitive to light and smells and noise, and summertime is full of all of the above. Not much fun.

I also have trouble sleeping in the heat. Keeping the A/C on in my bedroom (and all through the house, for that matter) is a constant source of stress with the noise. When I’m tired, I’m more sensitive to sound, so a moderately noisy air conditioner sounds like a massive fan in an airplane hangar. And that doesn’t help me sleep.

If I can’t sleep, I become more irritable. Volatile. Raging. It’s a problem. I’m not proud of how I’ve gone off the rails a few times, this summer. Between the work stress and summer stress… it’s not good.

I’ve been keeping really busy with work at my day job (sad face) and my own projects (happy face). It’s taken my mind off many of my troubles, but it’s also tired me out. Again, the fatigue business. And that leads to me drinking too much coffee… which leads to more headaches, difficulty sleeping… the same old vicious self-perpetuating cycle.

But now summer is over. Thank Heavens. And I can settle in for the next three months of enjoyment. I love fall. I love winter. I love spring. And now I get to take a break from summer.

I’m also giving myself a break from some of the Massive Undertakings I launched over the summertime. I came up with some pretty awesome plans that I’m convinced could be Very Big Indeed. The thing is, I really don’t have the capacity to follow through on all of them. I really bit off more than I can chew, so to speak, and that’s been dragging me down. I need to pick and choose what I’ll work on… and let the other stuff go.

But it’s all for the best, because as I narrow down my activities (e.g., writing and creating great content that I can license to others, versus running an entire company based on my ideas), I am operating from an understanding how a larger company would — and could — use my content to build their business.

I’m learning about the larger context for my writing, and that’s good. It’s very good indeed.

So, yes, sometimes I need to stop, in order to go. And learning to recognize my limitations and accommodate them is the first step towards being able to make some real progress.

It’s all a process.

Onward…!

Time for some summer fun

sunflowerWell, it’s been a miserable bunch of months. The past year, actually, has been pretty bad, and I’ve had enough. I’ve come close to quitting my job a bunch of times. Of course, the need to eat and have shelter and support my household has kept me from taking the leap — not to mention realizing just how non-negotiable it is for me, anymore, to be able to work from home.

If I can’t work remotely at least two days a week, there’s no point in even taking a job.

People have reached out to me. I’ve done interviews. I even got an offer.

But I couldn’t work from home, unless there was an emergency, and the commute was just too awful.

What is it with employers, that they don’t understand just how draining it is to work in an office all day long? It makes no sense. Some grown-ups (like me) actually thrive when working on our own. And we get a lot more done when we’re able to concentrate in our own space, than if we’re stuck in some cubicle where people are constantly interrupting, talking, walking by, making noise, and so forth.

I’m as guilty as the next person for doing it. People around me have to deal with my noise, when I’m at the office. But that’s the deal when you’re on-site.

But I digress. As much as I want to quit my job (and I do), I realize that I’m way too tired and stressed to make any kind of decent decisions about what kind of job I want next, where I want to work, what kind of salary I need, and so forth. I’m too worn out. I need a break. So, I’m taking the summer to rest, relax, rejuvenate. I’m overdue for time off. Like, a year and a half overdue.

I’m not in a position to just split for a vacation, but I can change my routine to make it more civilized. Ease up on myself. Quit pushing myself like I have been. Just take some time to take stock of my life, and think about how I’d like things to be. I’m getting too old to be getting constantly sucked into all the ridiculousness that happens, each day. I can’t control what others do, but I can avoid getting too emotionally invested in it.

It’s certainly not worth wrecking my health over the poor choices other people make, day after day after day.

Nah… I’m pretty much done with that.

So, this summer is really about me. Taking care of myself. Actually enjoying myself. And having a summer.

Going for long walks and drives. Roaming around and exploring parts of the world I haven’t seen, yet, even though they’re not far from where my daily routine takes me. Hanging out and enjoying the scenery. Looking around, as I drive to and from work, and really enjoying the scenery.

Taking a big old break from the social media echo chamber, and getting some fresh air.

Ahhhhhh….

I think this is going to be a good summer.

And now I feel it for the next week

work sign showing person shoveling a pile of dirtI had a busy day, yesterday. A quiet day, too. I helped my spouse get ready for their event, drove them there, unpacked the van, chatted with people at the venue, hopped in the van, and drove home along back roads (because the main roads were packed).

I had some lunch when I got home. Nothing huge, just a sandwich, potato salad, chips, pickles. I had a handful of things to do, so I ordered them according to the weather. It was amazing weather, yesterday — sunny with passing clouds, a nice breeze, in the mid-60s. Couldn’t ask for better mowing weather. So, I pulled out the lawn mower from the back corner of the garage, topped off the gas, and got mowing. It took me an hour and a half, but I got the front and back yards done. I also raked up leftover leaves from last autumn, swept out the garage, replaced a down-spout that had fallen off my gutter, and trimmed back some underbrush that was blocking the view from my driveway.

I used the leaf blower to clean off my driveway, stairs, and deck, and then I ran my snowblower till it ran out of gas. It’s best not to let it sit with old gas in the engine all winter. I’ve had the snow blower nearly 15 years, and it’s held up well, but I need to be smart about storing it over the winter. At last.

After that, I had a snack, took a shower, and put up a new huge bookshelf in my study that I got from the neighbors for almost nothing. I’d been needing a new bookshelf, and the timing was perfect. It took a lot longer than expected, because I don’t have a lot of room to maneuver in my study, and I had to put it together in a very small space. I also had to partly take it apart, because the way I’d assembled it first made it impossible to turn upright. Eventually, I got it, but I was not expecting it to take me three hours to do it.

Ah well, so it goes. I now have enough shelf space in my study, so I can get rid of some of the piles. I also have a lot of books I want to get rid of. I was interested in a lot of stuff, years ago, that just doesn’t have anything to do with my life, anymore. And I need to get free of all of it.

I also need to get rid of some of the computers I have. I don’t need to hang onto them. There’s no point.

Lightening my load. Getting my life in order.

It feels like I’ve been doing that a lot, lately. Picking and choosing and prioritizing. As it should be. I can’t do everything in my life, and I don’t have unlimited energy. So, when I do find something I care about that matters, I need to make the most of it.

I’m also getting clear about where I want to go with my work in life. Future directions. Areas where I need to focus.

I’m sore as anything, today. Just aching. But it was worth it. I got a ton of stuff done that I’d been needing to finish.

Whatever I do, and however I do it, I just want to make it count.