Cleaning up and cleaning out

Okay, it’s officially been spring, now, for a couple of weeks, and that spring cleaning bug I’ve been hearing about (but which has rarely bitten me in the past) has clamped down hard on my behind.

So, I’m getting my ass in gear and making some changes.

I’ve started ditching piles of old magazines that have been seriously taking up space. I swept out dead leaves and winter dust from the garage. I have been working on my lawn, getting the old dead grass and fallen limbs up. And I am also going through my files, removing everything that means nothing to me anymore, and just dumping it. Or, in the case of things that others might use, I’m stashing them in one of the many boxes I have around my workspace. There’s a whole lot of crap I don’t care about anymore. Not really, when I really stop to think about it.

I just don’t care. And I’m not making space for it anymore. It’s not paying me rent, after all.

I’m also clearing off one of my work tables in my office, filing the old bills and papers and tossing out stuff I know I don’t need.

It’s amazing, how much genuine crap I have had around me for so long.

In all fairness, that cacaphony brings variety and interest to my life. A lot of stuff I’m just rearranging because I know myself well enough to tell that some of it I’m going to be looking for, sooner or later. But I’m also doing really well with moving crap out of the way — out of sight, out of mind — if it’s not directly related to what I’m doing with my life today… what I want to do with my life today.

A lot of this work is about priorities. And realizing that I cannot — and will not — ever do everything I want to do. I’m making choices. I moved a whole truckload of stuff off my hard drive over the past two days, and now I feel a lot less harried. It feels strange, to see so few choices of things to work on, but it’s also a good change. I figure, if something is truly important, I’ll dig it up and work on it later.

But for now, I’ve chosen just a few things to work on, instead of having a whole smorgasbord of choices to pick from. That, quite frankly, was driving me crazy.

I still have a ways to go, mind you, but I’m a lot better off now than I was, just six hours ago.

I’m better off now, than I was just six days ago, actually. I have been reading a lot, lately, about how when you exercise you need to change up your workouts, so you don’t get bored and/or plateau, and find yourself unable to make progress. I kept coming across people saying this, and I always dismissed them — bah! — because I do love my routine, and I have gotten really comfortable with my 20 minutes of riding, 5 minutes of rest, 10 minutes of stretching, 5 minutes of rest, and 15 minutes of lifting. It’s predictable and I don’t have to work hard to get my head around it, each morning.

But then I had some early-morning commitments that left me half the time to work out. And then I overslept one day, and I had to rush off to work without working out. So, I shifted my routine, and lo and behold, it really energized me and gave me this edge I’d been missing, but wasn’t able to identify missing.

All of a sudden, my workouts have a new immediacy, and I’ve been changing them around a bit from day to day — changing the weights, changing the reps I do, changing the duration, and the intensity. Yesterday I did a high-intensity workout that launched me into the day. And today, I backed off and did lighter movement — almost not a workout at all. And you know what? I feel great! My morning workouts have taken on new life that brought me back from a slight doze I’d been drifting into.

My spouse has noticed a difference. They tell me I’m more present and with it and I have more energy, which feels true.

Also, I’ve dropped a few pounds, after being stuck at a constant weight a few pounds above where I want to be.

Change, change, more change…

This whole spring thing feels like a big ball of change. Unpredictable and fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. Just kind of going from thing to thing, calling the shots myself, and sorting everything out as I go. Of course, it’s pretty disorienting for me to be calling the shots myself and stepping up to take care of various and sundry matters in my life and my work. I used to be a pretty accomplished order-taker and I took all my direction from others. But now, I’m the one in the driver’s seat, and it’s pretty exciting. I guess.

My neuropsych has been trying to explain to me that this is how other people live and this is how my life is supposed to be, but it feels unusual and unfamiliar. I guess I took on a lot of crap that people put on me all through my childhood, and I never gave myself the chance to have a truly self-directing life of my own. I’ve been selling myself short for an awful long time — and plenty of people have been more than happy to call the shots for me and tell me what I’m supposed to do. Marketers. Bosses. Salesmen. Doctors. Lawyers. Other professionals. Family. Friends. Just about everybody I’ve met has been more than happy to step in and “help” me make decisions that favored them a lot more than me. “Oh, and that’ll be $49.95, while you’re at it. We take Visa, Mastercard, Discover, AmEx, and feel free to write us a check, so long as your phone number is on it and we can see your license.”

Now that’s changing. And I have to admit, it’s uncomfortable for me. I know it shouldn’t be. That’s just how things are supposed to be/feel when you grow up, right? Well, maybe I never really grew up in some ways. Maybe I got “stuck” in some places and got comfortable with how it felt to be stuck. I didn’t get all worked up over people running my life for me, ’cause it freed me up to do other things like read and research and dabble and fiddle and tinker. I just let the rest of the world set the pace, and I did what I could to keep up, thinking that I was supposed to keep up.

After all, everyone else was doing it, so I guessed I should, too. Everywhere I looked, it seemed like that was the thing to do. So, I did it along with everyone else.

Hmmm… Well, anyway, it’s all experience. And these are good lessons.

The biggest lesson I’m getting out of this is that a whole lot of my arrested development has probably been based on anxiety — not daring to step out, because those internal signals would fire off like crazy Warning, Will Robinson! Danger! Danger! and I would back off of whatever I was doing, unable to think for myself, the rational part of my brain shutting down, unable to function… just glad to have someone else step in and tell me what to do, and how.

Ever since I started doing this conscious breathing, however, I’ve been able to get some distance from the anxiety. Calm it down. Chill out the fried SNS and let the PNS kick in. Take a few deep breaths, count the breath, pay very close attention to something other than the anxious drama going on inside my head… realize that it is just anxious drama, in the first place, and talk myself back from the edge…

There’s a fair amount of literature about anxiety after tbi, and there is a fair amount said about prescriptions and whatnot. But I’d much rather breathe deeply, gather my energy, and then attack the problem that has me cornered (or is trying to corner me).

A part of my cleaning up my act and cleaning out the crap, is a new high-intensity approach to things.  I’ve known (and said) for years that I like to sit back and examine a situation before I fly into it. But in the past years, I’ve stopped launching myself into the challenge before me. I would get stuck in the “regarde” position and never get around to going on the offensive. It’s like I would get distracted and forget to go after what I wanted.

But I also played the “I’m planning my approach” card a bit too often. And I got caught up in planning everything out way too much. Some people like to be systematic and steady and take their time, and logically, that appeals to me. I do like my routine, and I like to be studied about things. But at times — like with my workouts — I need to change things up a bit, stray from my plodding pace, and just take on what comes up with full-force, full frontal attack.

‘Cuz you know what — when I do take things on, full force, full frontal, totally exposed and vulnerable to all the terrible stuff that I imagine could happen to me, and I come out on the other side (relatively) unscathed, it’s a huge rush for me. It’s like bungee jumping, without having to find a bridge high enough and a harness strong enough. It’s like driving 120mph down a desert highway at 2 a.m. with your headlights off. It’s a rush. A thrill. Who knew real life could be so exciting?

Yep, when I overcome — or just disregard — my fear of the “worst” (that thing being the chance that things won’t turn out the way I want/expect them to, and that I’ll have to get my head around the new version of reality… and I might fail) and I step up to whatever is in front of me, and I take that on with all my might, I come away feeling like I’m superhuman. When I fly in the face of the ogre slobbering and growling outside my cave, and I either beat it to smithereens or outrun it to the river or realize it’s not an ogre — it’s a German shepherd puppy, I feel like I can do anything. Because I probably can. Within reason, anyway.

I’m sure this sounds pretty run-of-the-mill to some folks. Most folks I know are capable of taking on the crap they can’t avoid. They may not like it, and they may resent and detest it, but they still do it… whereas I have tended to rationalize avoiding it, and I built fairly elaborate ruses around why I didn’t do such-and-such, like everyone around me did and expected me to. But this “approach” approach is new for me. It’s consciously new. There have been plenty of times when I’ve done it in the past, but it was unconscious. And in the past 5 years, I haven’t done a whole lot of taking-on that I could/should have.

In fact, I’ve used “planning” as a poor excuse for not doing what I needed to do. I got so busy thinking everything through ahead of time, that I never realized I was just covering for my anxiety. It wasn’t prudence, most of the time. It was fear. That, and my tendency to get stuck in a constant groove and go over and over and over and over the same point(s) again and again and again. Between the anxiety and the perseveration, I was toast. No, there was nothing particularly noble about that, though I told myself plenty of times it was. And I wasted a whole lot of time fretting over details, details, details… For what? Jeeze. For what?

Anxiety and fear and borderline panic and a non-stop determination to cross every “t” and dot every “i” before commencing to get a thing done, that’s what.

No more. I’ve got a new way of doing things, and I’m doing them.

Thank god it’s changing, is all I can say. It’s like roto-rooter for the spirit. Yaaaah baby.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

One thought on “Cleaning up and cleaning out”

  1. Sounds like you are making a lot of improvements in your life. Physical clutter is related to mental clutter and sometimes body clutter (weight). Sometimes tackling one area gives us the inspiration to keep going. Keep up the great work!

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