I took a break from public life for the past week to recalibrate and re-balance, and I have to say, it’s been heaven.
I ducked out of sight from all my social circles (including this blog), and I worked on developing some ideas that have been coming to me — fast-n-furious — for about the past month. I haven’t been able to think this clearly since I don’t know when. And the beauty part is, I can both feel the gears turning more cleanly, and it shows in what I’m getting down on paper. I’ve probably written at least a hundred pages of notes over the past week or so, and it’s not bad stuff. It needs a lot of thinking and re-thinking, but the process is good, and I both feel and sound a hell of a lot more clear than I have in many years.
What a relief, to just step away from all the exterior work – even if just for a few days.
I did minimal email checking and answering, I did minimal discussions with recruiters, I kept my head way down at work and just focused on getting things done, and I didn’t pour a whole bunch of time and energy into some of the more social projects I’ve had going on.
The most “extroverted” thing I did all week, was go out on almost-daily walks. Either first thing in the morning before work, or mid-day, when I worked from home or it was a weekend.
I was almost totally focused on “internal” work for the past stretch of days — the kind of introverted thinking and writing that I used to do constantly, before I got hurt in 2004. I used to spend hours and hours, each weekend, just reading and studying and writing and figuring out my world view — a cosmology, if you will — that helped me make sense of my world. Granted, I spent an awful lot of time writing down blather that was very repetitive and not nearly as ground-breaking as I thought at the time, but I do believe that all that soul searching and exploration of the mind really helped to mature and develop me in ways that I don’t see many other people developed. Most people I know actually aren’t much interested in developing their minds and spirits; they’ll settle for being comfortable and feeling loved.
After I fell and injured my brain in 2004, things went haywire. The weird thing is, they didn’t fall apart right away. They gradually came undone over the course of a few years, and by the end of 2005, I had lost my ability to read fluidly — and with it went a lot of interest in things that used to captivate me. By 2007, I wasn’t writing much anymore, and my mind was becoming seriously unhinged.
Fortunately, I got help within another couple of years. If I hadn’t gotten help, I don’t know what would have become of me.
I thought about this a lot, this past weekend. Especially during my walks. I remember all too clearly, how lost I felt, how disconnected, how fragmented I felt. It was like I’d been dropped from the top of a tall building and cracked in a bunch of different places, but those cracks didn’t show up until I’d stressed my system and some of them started to show more than others. Some of those “cracks” were pretty serious, too. There were some parts of my life that I was sure were gone for good, and I’d never get them back.
Reading was one of those things. Studying. Writing, too.
I said good-bye to a lot of friends and activities I regularly participated in, and I thought for sure my job situation was going to suck for the rest of my born days. I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t recognize myself, and I thought I was a goner, for sure.
But over the past while things have gotten so much better, to the point where I’m actually feeling like myself again. At least, to some extent. There are still parts of me that are missing in action, and I stumble over them now and then — usually when I least expect it. At first, I get angry with myself because I’m clumsy or I can’t think of something or I’m freaking out over stupid stuff.
And then I remember — Oh yeah, I got hurt…
It’s hard to put my finger on that feeling of losing parts of myself and describe it exactly… It comes and goes, but it’s like I don’t recognize the “sense” of myself — like I’m living in someone else’s skin. I don’t have that old sense of self-confidence, self-assurance, that I always had. It feels very uncertain and unstable, like I’m walking across a bog and I don’t know if I’m going to fall through the crust on top and be swallowed by the swamp.
I look around me at things I recognize, but they don’t “feel” familiar to me. They just look like things I recognize, without a sense of where they fit in my life. Some things I’ll pick up — like the items on my desk — and I’ll remember what they once meant to me, but it’s like I’m looking at a movie of my old life from a distance, and I don’t have that same sense of connection with these things anymore. Some things around me, I know I picked up along the way and they used to mean a lot to me, but now I can’t remember where they came from, or what they once meant. All I know is that I recognize them, they are familiar to me, and they give me a sense of continuity and familiarity in my work space. Other things, I’ll suddenly remember — hey, I was looking for that a while back — and I’ll feel better, because I found them. But all in all, my experience of the things in my life is pretty strange.
And I feel completely cut off from what has meaning in my life.
I can’t spend all my time feeling isolated, though. I’ve got to live my life. So, I turn my attention to other things, and I get down to work, creating a new life for myself. That’s what I’ve been doing, lately — creating a new life for myself, and re-learning what parts of my old life I can still use.
Taking time away from the rest of the world, this past week, was part of that process. I got to “reset” my internal compass to match what I wanted to do with myself, instead of being in constant interaction with the “outside world” and all the people around me who don’t share my views, my perspective, my values, or my priorities in life. I’m realizing more and more that the people around me — at work, mostly — are living in a world I left behind years ago, chasing after the trappings of success and money and all that, as though it’s going to save their asses. Looking at their words and actions and priorities, it all seems so futile to me — largely because I went through what they’re going through about 10-15 years ago (unrelated to TBI, by the way), I figured out that I wanted something very, very different for my life, and I diverged from that world of chasing-after and started blazing my own trails.
I’ve been really making an attempt to connect with the people I work with, to give them the benefit of the doubt, to see their humanity, to appreciate their points of view, and to just be kind and gentle with them as much as possible. That’s fine. But where does that leave me? Extending myself a whole heck of a lot, without much reciprocity. My attempts to see their points of view and relate to them, seem to have convinced them that I agree with their points of view and that I share their same value system.
I don’t. They are locked into a self-destructive, petty, irritating way of life that is fragmented, disjointed, conflicted (inside and out), and is making them all very stressed out. They appear to get a charge out of the stresses, and they don’t do much to prevent or mitigate it. They actually seem to thrive on it, which I can relate to — because I was once the same way.
And every day, it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that “getting in synch” with them for the sake of team spirit, is a soul-sucking, mind-wasting frittering away of my time and energy.
So, needless to say, it was a most welcome “reset” for me this past week, when I was “unhooked” from that collective stress feeding tank. I really took a lot of time and space for myself, I didn’t get all worked up over TO-DOs that had to get done. Screw it. That can all wait. I didn’t spend a ton of time explaining myself, I didn’t spend a lot of time chasing after my dreams. I just focused on getting my head on straight, I spent a lot of time thinking in ways I haven’t been able to think in years, and I made a ton of progress, just in terms of getting my self back. I can feel it.
I was so busy doing, I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about doing — I just did. And it reminded me how good it feels to take action, instead of talking about the action I’m going to take. It reminded me how good it feels to think things through in the silence and privacy of my own head. It taught me that I can indeed build myself back, piece by piece, till I have a version of myself that I truly feel comfortable with. I can live in my own skin again. It might not be the exact same skin as before, but at least its mine.