Okay, so the past couple of weeks have been an exercise in … well, everything. I’ve been working my ass off since March 26, really cooking along at this project, trying to explain to the people around me why I actually need to work at this (hint: it’s not because there’s anything wrong with me — people just have no friggin’ idea what it takes to do this job and get things done) … then I tried to take a day off a week ago Saturday, got sick as a dog the next day… and I’ve been slogging along like a manic drone, just trying to get everything done that needs to get done. And I’ve got another five days to go till the bulk of it is out the door.
Then we have Phase II. Good times.
But in retrospect, I can see how I made this a ton harder for myself than I “needed” to. My first mistake was to underestimate the amount of work. The second was to not lay out all the moving pieces and figure out how they were all going to fit together. I just assumed (BIG mistake, as usual) that things would work when they were put together. But I should know by now that I work with a bunch of folks who love their shortcuts and they love to just get crap done and off their plates, with no view of the future and no consideration for anyone past their own little cubicle-verse. It’s not their fault. They’ve been working for a relatively small company on relatively small projects for the past 10 years. Now they’re being asked to build enterprise-class applications that will be reused over and over and over again in a thousand different ways before all is said and done. They’re not lazy (well, some of them aren’t). They just don’t quite get it. Yet.
It’s not my intention to blame them for the fundamental instability of this whole thing. That’s my bad. Because I know better, and I can work around them when I put my mind to it. I just didn’t do that. And I waited too long to get a jump on things. Because I was too busy being pissed off at the other folks, to actually dig in and make my life easier.
It took me about a week to get my sh*t together — on Sunday/Monday when things started getting really dicey at home, with me being woken up at 3:30 a.m. by someone in an uncontrollable weeping anxiety-induced rage attack who just couldn’t handle having to learn some new things about the new computer I hooked up over the weekend. I mean, just total meltdown — all because things weren’t working the way they wanted them to.
And at 4:00 a.m. as I realized I was NOT going to get the full night’s sleep I really needed to be viable and competent at work in a few hours, it occurred to me that I was probably acting just like this — and I decided to stop.
So, I did. I just buckled down and got down to work. And seriously folks, I have done some super-human work in the past week. Of course, it’s not done yet, and I have a bunch of outlying issues to deal with, thanks to my poor planning and whiny-ass behavior, but I have done a truly stellar job. And I’ve managed to eke more cooperation out of colleagues who are not only down the hall but all over the world, than I realistically expected to get.
It’s all working out. At a price, sure, but it’s all working out. And these are lessons I’m not likely to forget next time. Or maybe I will.
Looking back on the past couple of weeks, I try to find the ways that I could have made my life easier. And I look for my blind spots. I think back to my list of 84 ways TBI can make your life really interesting, and I think about the things that have contributed to this situation. Viewing the list, it looks like a ton of issues have all come up:
[x] Impulsiveness – check
[x] Aggression (verbal/physical) – check (my apologies to my coworkers)
[x] Raging behavior – check (again, my apologies to my coworkers)
[x] Trouble being understood – check
[x] Trouble understanding – check
[x] Trouble finding words – check
[x] Trouble communicating in general – check
[x] Agitated, can’t settle down – check
[x] Angerrrrrr!!! – check
[x] Anxiety – Feeling vague fear, worry, anticipation of doom – double check
[x] Depression, feeling down – check
[x] Excitability! – check
[x] Everything feels like an effort – check
[x] Feeling unsure of yourself – check
[x] Feelings of dread – check
[x] Feeling like you’re observing yourself from afar
17. Feelings of well-being
[x] Feeling guilty – check
[x] Feeling hostile towards others – check
[x] Impatience – check
[x] Irritability – check
[x] No desire to talk or move – check
[x] Feeling lonely – check
[x] Nervousness – check
[x] Feelings of panic – check
[x] Rapid mood swings – double-check
[x] Restlessness – check
[x] Tearfulness, crying spells – check
[x] Feeling tense – check
[x] Feeling vague longing/yearning – check
[x] Being overly busy (more than usual) – check
[x] Feeling like you can’t get moving, you’re stuck – check
[x] Feeling like you can’t get anything done – double check
34. Altered consciousness
35. Aura or weird reverie, trance
[x] 36. Trouble concentrating – check
[x] Trouble making decisions easily – check
[x] Trouble reading – check
[x] Analytical skills suffer – check
[x] Trouble telling what’s real or not – check
[x] Being easily distracted – check
[x] Being forgetful, can’t remember – check
[x] Nightmares – check
[x] Worrisome thoughts – check
Physical – Eating
[x] Food cravings – check
[x] Eating less / more than usual – check
[x] Heartburn / indigestion / upset stomach – check
48. Losing weight
Physical – Head
[x] Headache(s) – check
[x] Stabbing pain(s) in your head – check
Physical – Hearing
51. Hearing music others don’t
[x] Ears ringing (tinnitus) – double check
Physical – Pain
[x] Backache or back pain – check
[x] General body aches – check
[x] Joint pain or stiffness – check
[x] Neck pain – check
[x] Touch feels like pain
Physical – Sleep
[x] Waking up too early – check
[x] Being fatigued / tired – check
[x] Difficulty falling asleep – check
[x] Waking up during the night
62. Sleeping too much
Physical – Vision
[x] Trouble seeing at night – check
[x] Being sensitive to light – check
[x] Double/blurred vision
66. Spots, floaters, or blind spots
Physical – Sensations
67. Your skin feels like it’s crawling – ironically, not
[x] Feeling like you’ve gained weight – check
[x] Sensitivity to cold – check
[x] Sensitivity to noise, sounds – check
71. Smelling odors / fragrances that others don’t smell
Physical – General
[x] Feeling dizzy / have vertigo – check
[x] Your heart races or pounds – check
[x] Hot flashes or sudden feelings of warmth – check
75. Losing consciousness / fainting
76. Metallic taste in your mouth
[x] Muscles spasms or twitching – check
78. Muscle weakness
[x] Nausea – oh yeah – check
[x] Sexual desire feeling “off” – check
[x] Skin breaking out / acne – check
[x] Hands or feet swelling – check
84. Vomiting – wish I could
So, it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. And times like this I’m not sure if my issues are directly TBI-related or just life in general. Everybody feels this way at times — but all at once? See the image at the top of this post for a 1,000-word replacement description of how it’s felt.
All I can say is, I’ve been in countless situations like this in the years prior to my most recent TBI, and while I didn’t particularly care for the experiences, I never had this level of off-the-rails panic, anxiety, aggression, frustration, etc. And being aware of the fact that I have not been handling this well has not helped me at all. That is what’s been the most dispiriting of all. Just that feeling of not being able to handle sh*t, not being on my game, not being able to handle anything — at the get-go. And really beating myself up over this whole thing. Like it’s an unredeemable mess.
But what I need to remember is that NOTHING is an unredeemable mess. It’s just not. So long as I keep going, so long as I continue to observe and learn and find workarounds — and don’t isolate myself from outside help — and I can manage to accept myself and not get rigidly locked into thinking that I have to be one way and one way only, then I can make room for more in my life — more experience, more wrongness, more rightness — than I would have, if I were completely focused on everything being perfect all the time — OR ELSE.
In the spirit of being truly human, here’s OceanLab with a song that fits my life pretty well this morning. Just beautiful.
So, the thing is, when I look back on my life, the hallmark of my experience has been being wrong — over and over and over again. I have been wrong so many times, I have all but give up on “getting it right the first time” as is so popular and lauded by our dominant paradigm. I mean, countless small details escape me. Or I’m so focused on paying attention to the small details, that the big main ones get lost in the shuffle. And when I try to write things down and keep track of them that way, I rapidly lose my place and everything gets even more jumbled up.
What a mess things can be.
Then again, in the spirit of “failing early, fast and often” as a paradigm for continuous, incremental improvement, I absolutely utterly excel. I don’t know anyone who fails early, fast and often as much as I do. And when I think about it, it seems to me that the ideal of getting it right the first time is pretty unrealistic. You’re going to fail, if you live life right. And you’re going to fail a lot, if you don’t hold back. That’s what I do — I don’t hold back. I dive right in. And I learn as I go. If I don’t, I’m screwed.
Maybe that’s one of the benefits of having had so many concussions/mild TBIs — I’ve acquired the ability to adjust rapidly to being utterly clueless in countless situations. Seriously, friends, when I’m in high-stakes situations, my impulse control generally goes right out the window, and I often end up in the midst of a terrible, terrible mess. The only redemption for me is to dive deeper, drive harder, and hack my way through the weeds, till I come out on the other side. I’m in the underbrush as often as not, and since I usually can’t tell what I don’t know till I get there, I often end up standing at the edge of a proverbial cliff with the local law enforcement at my heels — complete with barking dogs and loaded guns.
Such is my life of adventure.
Of course, a lot of this I could avoid, if I could just calm myself down and think things through rationally up front. And I often can do that. But every now and then, I get hit with something like this project that totally blindsides me and throws me off. I get angry. I get aggressive. I get hostile. And I get physically ill. I go into a tailspin, and I have to pull myself out of it quick, before I end up like an F/A-18 fighter jet crashed in a Virginia Beach apartment complex courtyard.
Of course, I’ve got plenty of experience doing this. I’ve messed up more times than I can count — and if my memory were better, I’d have lots of great stories to tell. The problem is, I don’t always remember the things that have happened before — if someone sits with me and talks them through, I can often piece together what once was. But when I’m on my own and there’s no one available to talk to — and when I don’t take the time to sit myself down and intentionally work my way through the scenario and get my head on properly — things get ugly. I just didn’t do that, this time. I was too busy being pissed off about the timing of this and being upset with my boss and my boss’es boss who signed me up for this jungle march.
I really need to watch more adventure movies. Old movies about WWII. I should also go back to reading military histories like I was before. They really help me.
Yeah — what ever happened to me reading my big book of Samurai legends? I recall that it was helping me immensely before. Did wonders for my attitude and outlook. Gotta dig that book up and start reading it again. Like a Bible of sorts. Yeah, do that, why dontcha.
After I finish the work I’m doing today. No, wait – while I’m finishing the work I’m doing today. The stories are short, so I can read them in the midst of my slog through the jungle — the jungles of this project, and the jungles of my brain.
The thing I have to remember through all of this is that it’s a learning experience. Everything is a learning experience. Without exception. The difference is with me — will I make the effort to learn what I need to learn? Will I have compassion on myself for screwing up and find ways to redeem myself, even after the worst sort of behavior possible? Will I have the wherewithall to adjust and adapt — often in mid-stream — so that I don’t get hung up on rocks like a cruiseliner sailing too close to some Mediterranean island? What will it be? Will I decide that my brain is too broken to handle anything well, or will I realize that my brain is constantly relearning how to do things — over and over again, sometimes the same lesson repeatedly — just like everyone else who bothers to pay close attention to their life?
What’s it gonna be? Am I gonna settle for being wrong, over and over again? Or will I see this as a chance to figure it out differently and get it right the next time — over and over again?
It’s up to me. I have a choice. So, it’s time to make the better choice of the two. And it’s time to get back to work.