Stretching for more

April first. Surprise. I have a noontime appointment scheduled with my neuropsych today to follow up on some things we didn’t get a chance to talk about on Tuesday. I’ve got the time, so why not use it? Except that the weather is bad. And I’ve got things I’d like to do with the three hours it would take me to drive in, consult, and then drive home. Like sleep. Seems to me, sleep might actually help me more than driving through bad weather, sitting and talking, and then driving back.

It might shake me out of my funk. I have to admit, I’m not very good at vacations. I like my schedule, my routine. It has been good, getting out of the schedule-driven mainstream for a week, but I’m ready to get back into work. I’m ready go back to my job, my office, my roster of duties. I don’t quite feel like myself, when I’m off my schedule. I have more time, but I get less done.

Still and all, it’s been good to get out of the frantic go-go-go of the daily grind. Working in technology sets a grueling pace, which is promoted by people of a distinctly darwinian bent, who think that the better you are, the faster you’ll go. Hm. Not sure about that. Seems like speed is its own justification, at times. They just want to feel like they’re doing something. They just want to feel like they’re making progress.

Hm.

Anyway, the weather is letting up, but I think I’m going to cancel my appointment. I have a standing appointment on Tuesdays, and I’ll be closer to the neuropsych’s office on Tuesday than I am today. Time savings. Life savings. I just don’t want to wear myself out even more than I already am. Didn’t get my nap yesterday. Got busy running around in the evening. Also didn’t get things done that I need to get done.

At three years into my active recovery, I’m finding that I need to make some substantial changes to how I go about living my life. Discovering that mild traumatic brain injury was the cause of many of my difficulties throughout the course of my life was amazingly freeing and totally unexpected. It set me loose in the world, the way few other things have. It gave me a framework to understand myself and my own personal situation, and it gave me a route to follow to address specific issues I had in a systematic, common sense way, rather than the scatter-shot trials and errors of my life to that point.

Discovering the root cause of my issues gave me the means to address them. And address them, I have. Now that I’ve made all this progress, a different approach is called for. It’s about using the tools I have and the knowledge I’ve gained, to take things beyond the basic survival tactics I’ve employed for the past three years. The basics are pretty much in place — being, my understanding of my history and how it’s affected me — and I have the tools to address my issues, like fatigue, irritability, anger, aggression, and memory issues.

With these in place, it doesn’t make sense for me to keep subsisting at a fundamental level, “just happy to be alive”. Sure, I’m VERY happy to be alive. Don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want to fall into the rut that some acquaintances of mine are stuck in. They’re my “recovery friends” on the mend from histories of violence, abuse, addiction, and other things that strike at the core of who we are and what we think we’re all about. They literally tell me, “I’m lucky to just be functioning at a basic level,” and they mean it. But from where I’m sitting, it seems to me they’re capable of a whole lot more than that. They’re just not taking that chance. They’re not testing their own limits. They’re sitting in their stuff, feeling sorry for themselves or telling themselves they’re really badly off… when they’re really no worse positioned in the world than most of the other non-recovery-focused people I know and work with.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dismiss their troubles and their issues. Lord knows, I’ve got my fair share — we all do. But that’s the point — we all have our issues, and nobody goes through life without some measure of pain and suffering. Even the richest and most entitled people in the world experience excruciating pain — which must actually be worse than being in pain as a “normal” person. It must be awful to suffer, when you’re well aware that all of life is arranged around you to minimize, even prevent, any sort of pain at all.

But who can say why or how or for what we experience what we do? Lessons, I suppose. Just a lot of lessons.

Which is where I find myself now, on the last day of my official vacation. I’ve had a lot of time to think and ponder and examine my life, and while I’ve come away with a pretty good sense of being in a far better place than I was three years ago, something is missing. Something more. Maybe it’s in my nature, being the sort of person who is always looking for what’s next and what else is out there. Maybe I’m just naturally inclined to push the envelope. Bottom line is, I need more challenge. I need more living. I need more life. I need to get beyond this immediate situation of mine and look to the future, with my tools and strategies as a good foundation for moving forward.

More life. Different life. I’ve been spending more time stretching, the past few days, and I’m realizing that I probably need to shift my daily routine away from straight weight training and more to strength-building yoga. Lifting weights is great, but it also shortens the muscles (when you build bulk), and that may be contributing to my pain. Also the tightening causes me to tense up. I’ve been tense for a long, long time, and I need to find a different way of living in the world.

I have to say, I feel much better when I stretch. I steered clear of yoga for many years, because it was painful for me to do the stretches and hold the poses. But I’m at a point now where I’ve done enough stretching on my own to get past that excruciating pain. Stretching on my own, taking it easy, and being focused on my own movement (rather than a roomful of people) has been good. And I really need to do more of it — in a different way… in my own way.

{Pause to stretch}

Stretching… yes… in more ways than one. Physical stretching, as well as mental and professional stretching. I’ve had a lot of time this week to contemplate my work, why I do it, what it means to me. And I realize that the “career path” I’m on is less about climbing the ladder and more about having a quality experience… and sharing that experience with others It’s all very well and good for others to chase after the brass ring and climb over each other to reach the top, but that tends to be pretty debilitating for me. All that adrenaline pumping all the time — the constant go-go-go is all very well and good, but where does it eventually take you to? And once you get there, is that really where you want to be?

In the years before my last TBI, I was living that life. Fast and furious. Fiercely driven. I was a force to be reckoned with, and I was alternately feared and respected by my peers and highly valued by my employer. Then I fell, and it all fell apart. Then someone close to me died, and I sat and held their hand as they slowly slipped away from a life they had dearly loved and hated to leave. Then someone else close to me became seriously ill, and I was their caretaker for about a year. Three big hits in about three years. Even one of those would have been plenty to handle. But no, there had to be three.

Anyway… Coming out on the other side of it, now with three years of active rehab under my belt, I see how those experiences changed me, and how they have shaped my attitude towards life and my work. I know, having watched the young children and loving spouse of my loved-one who died all too young, that none of us has any guarantees in life. Even when the doctor gives you a clean bill of health and tells you to expect to see your kids graduate from college… they could be wrong. Even when you think you’ve got it all together, something as simple as a fall down the stairs can wipe out some of your most prized, cherished coping mechanisms. Even when you’re locked on target and think you’ve got your path figured out, serious illness can manifest and leave you feeling and acting like a six-year-old child, with all certainty erased.

And I realize — with the last week’s perspective — that no matter how hard I work, no matter how hard I push myself, it will never be enough. Not for me, anyway. And it will never be enough for the world. There will always be other things that need to be done, other endeavors to perfect. I also know for certain that the most important thing to me in my work is not the work itself, but the experiences I have in that work. That’s something that can’t be taken away. I need depth of experience. I need the kind of engagement and connection that makes memories for years to come. In the past, I have been so focused on getting things done, that I never stopped to fully experience what it is I was doing. I was so driven by results, that the process got lost along the way.

And that’s a shame. Because my memory is already iffy — why make it even worse?

Indeed.

The ironic thing is, when I take my focus off the delivery dates and bottom lines and pure results, and I focus on the core essentials — doing good work for the sake of doing it, and sharing the success with others to really create a working environment that, well, works — the results turn out even better, the bottom line is fed, and the actual results are longer-lived and more sustainable than ever. Getting the focus off the short-term, and putting it on the long-term, creates success not only in the present, but in the future as well. In the process of transcending the bottom line and delivery dates, those very things are fed. And it turns out better in the long run. For everyone. And I have real memories of live to look back on, later, not just a handful of deliveries and goals achieved.

Well, despite the weather, it is a beautiful day. I think I’ll step away from the computer now and have a good stretch.

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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.

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